How to Build a Reputation for Your Small Business
In the world of big box stores and large national firms, the idea of starting a small business or home business can easily make you feel like a small fish in a big sea. With only a tiny marketing budget, how can small business compete with big business? The secret to most successful small business’ survival is their ability to build a strong reputation.
Working with a limited budget, as most small businesses do, it is important to develop a marketing plan and use your resources efficiently and the greatest resource for small business is their customers. Developing personal relationships with your customers is important for establishing trust. That is trust in you as a supplier of goods or services and trust in the products and services you supply. Customer loyalty transforms into word-of-mouth and soon news of your reputation becomes well known and your business name is not far behind.
It is important to start with your current client base. The best way to help your business grow is to establish strong ties with your already loyal fans. Always be honest and always make the extra effort to please your current customers, especially your returning customers. Sincerity, transparency and consistency and letting your customers know that they play a huge role in the success of the company are vital to establishing a solid business identity. Build from there. Once you have a strong reputation then you can use that and slowly build on your visibility.
Establishing relationships with other small business owners is equally important. Many small businesses will refer people to fellow small businesses for needs they cannot fulfill themselves. Networking with other local small business owners, exchanging business cards and attending functions or open houses that they sponsor, helps establish you in the small business community. Participating in the community is another inexpensive way to generate a good reputation and can lead to some great press releases as well. It is important to remember that volunteer work should be done with an organization that you have sincere interest in and should not be personally rewarding.
It is also important to realize that building a reputation in your local community is equally as important as starting to build your online reputation. Even your local customers conduct research online before deciding what to buy and who from. There are plenty of ways to start building your online identity without spending big dollars on search marketing. Building a blog is a great place to start and participation in some of the social networks can also be a free way to start creating a buzz about your business. It is important to remember that you must treat your online reputation just as you treat your reputation in your local community. Using online tools simply to build and drop links on forums without sharing, communicating and offering information about your business, industry and experiences is just not cool and will only get you labeled as a spammer and help you lose more business than you will gain.
Medium and large companies have the budgets to help their reputations and hire reputation management teams to monitor and protect their “good names”. For small businesses, this is not always an affordable luxury, but local and small businesses can and do survive on word-of-mouth, so take the time to give your customers the attention and service they deserve. It costs nothing and can keep your small business in step with its big business neighbors.