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How To Protect Your Online Reputation for Your Business

Your company’s reputation is its most valuable asset. If it’s tarnished, you could lose customers and sales. This article shows how negative reviews are not always what they seem and what you can do about it.

In business, as in life, we stand or fall on the status of our reputation. Companies spend many years, and much money, building up a positive reputation through staff training, customer service policies, listening to customer feedback and more.

Despite everything a business can do, a reputation is a delicate object that can easily be smashed into a thousand pieces by a few ill placed words. Never has this been more true than in this modern technological world of internet review sites and mobile digital technology, where a damaging review against a business can be published to the entire world in a matter of minutes.

But is one review really going to have an impact on the way people view your business? After all, if they look around they can find other good reviews about you. But if this is the first contact a potential new customer has with your company, how is it going to look to them? Is that really the first (and most lasting) impression you want to give someone who hasn’t yet done business with you? How much harder will it be to overcome that negative awareness of your brand, especially at the start of your business relationship with that person?

Managing how your business is represented online is very important, especially as 89% of consumers around the world start to look for a product by doing a search on the internet before buying. And given the amount of competition every business has out there, if a customer encounters a bad business review about your business, the likelihood is they will simply move on to the next business down the search list rather than look for a more positive review about you.

Online Reputation Management really matters to any business. Why is it necessary to manage how your company’s business reputation is portrayed online? It is all to do with the manner in which people shop today.

It used to be that if someone wanted to buy a new product, say a washing machine, they would go into a bricks and mortar store and browse through the range they had to offer, as well as asking friends and family for advice on the best choice to make.

Today the internet has opened up not just thousands but millions of opinions that can be accessed and read in seconds from online review sites, social media chat topics and buyer reviews. An incredible 89% of global consumers will begin by making an online search to help them in their quest to decide on a purchase decision. So what other people have to say about your business, product or services will count in a big way towards them making a purchase from you or not.

So in order to keep your Online Reputation a positive aspect to your business, you should jealously guard it and take proactive steps to repair any damage you may find.

WHO MIGHT DAMAGE YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION?

There are a number of occasions when someone might be prompted to publish a bad review of your business, and it would be very dangerous just to dismiss one because you know or think it to be untrue or unfair.

You need to ask yourself ‘Why did this person feel forced to say these things?’

Whether there is any actual truth in the comment or not, clearly that person believed the reason was real to them and was compelled to let you (and consequently the rest of the internet) know how strongly they felt. So while the negative comments may not be valid, you need to remember at all times there is a real person behind them.

Customers

People love to tell businesses ‘The customer is always right’, regardless of whether they are being unreasonable, over demanding or have expectations that are greater than the promised services. They have grown up with this ‘I am right’ culture. So when things do not go to plan, they feel they have the right to say something.

While customers are not ALWAYS right, they are not always WRONG either. You need to look at the customer’s experience on an individual basis to see whether they have a genuine complaint before you decide to take any action.

Competitors

Unfortunately, it is true that some unscrupulous businesses can employ dirty tricks by deliberately writing and publishing fake negative reviews under a false name about their fellow competitors. It can be very difficult to prove that a review is not real. Sites like YELP, which actively target false positive reviews, are starting to try to identify and remove these false negative ones, but until it is shown to be a fake review, you must deal with each one as if it were a real customer regardless of any suspicions you may have.

Employees

Whether they are current or past employees, if one of your workers has a grudge or is unhappy, they can end up putting out a load of negative comments or reviews. But it isn’t always those with a grudge who cause a problem.

Everyone within your company, from the top executives down to the shop floor sales staff, has the potential to cause your business to get some negative press. It could be that someone makes a statement that is very controversial; rowdy or criminal behaviour of staff connected back to your business; controversial photographs involving members of your staff could be published on social media, reflecting badly on your business.

It is important to treat any breech by staff, or any of the other situations, in the right way. As tempting as it may be to terminate staff employments or launch a counter attack on the competitor you think is bad mouthing you, that type of action will only lead to bigger problems.

What can you do if you do come across negative comments in social media, on a blog, on a review site, or even within the comments sections on your own website?

You need to find ways of healing the wounds to your online reputation. Look calmly and rationally for a means to resolve things in a way that reflects well on you and your business. If not, you will only succeed in scarring your Online Reputation even further.

AVOID DAMAGING YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION FURTHER

Although it is perfectly normal to feel angry or upset about negative comments others may be saying about your business, you need to avoid doing any of these things at all cost…

1. Don’t Try To Erase All Trace

Many businesses have been caught out by thinking the best way to deal with a negative comment storm is to delete out all trace of the bad ones and then it will just go away. The unfortunate truth is that once you have published something into cyberspace, it is very difficult to remove it completely, as some businesses have found out to their cost. An incident involving one company was played out before 1.4 million views – that is a lot of customers!

Deleting comments tells potential customers you have something to hide or that there is something wrong with your business. It shatters any trust they may have in you. If you have made a mistake, don’t be afraid to own up and then take positive public steps to make it right. People respect the fact that you have owned up and are committed to getting it right. It builds confidence in your business motives and ethics.

2. Don’t Lash Out

We often take these negative comments as an attack on us personally. The human thing to do is to (over)react and send a stinging barrage of words back at the offending reviewer. These are not the actions that will lead a happy outcome in any situation.

As a business, you can easily be put under public examination by the way you react to negative comments. So you need to think before you speak. We said earlier that nothing ever truly disappears off the internet. Do you really want to publish something written in haste and in the heat of the moment that will come back to bite you again and again?

It is much better to write out a first draft, then leave it for a few hours until you can review it in a more composed frame of mind, and soften any overly harsh words.

3. Don’t Put Good Words In Someone Else’s Mouth

You may think ‘If they can write a bad review about me, then I can write a good one!’ It may SOUND like a good idea, but a lie is a lie. You may be saying truthful things about your company, but by pretending to be someone else, or by getting someone else to leave a good review written or prompted by you, you ARE being deceitful.

How could you ever trust someone again if you found that out? Deception causes even less trust in a business than reading a negative review or two. All businesses get bad reviews. Not all businesses lie to their customers, and those that do fair very badly when it is discovered.

Review sites like YELP and search engines like Google realise that fake good reviews are being placed on sites. If they even suspect that to be the case, not only will they remove the offending review but they will lower or even remove the ranking of the offending business so that they don’t show up in searches.

HOW CAN MY BUSINESS BE PROACTIVE WITH OUR ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?

Reputation management isn’t just about responding when a problem arises, but involves building up a strong foundation in the minds and trust of potential customers. The best way is to get out there and start building up relationships with your potential new customers on social media, forums and other places you can be an active participant.

By building up a strong positive reputation, you will be better equipped to weather any negative comments that come your way. If you become a business voice that is respected and well thought of, then people will be less likely to be swayed by one negative opinion and more probable to listen to your explanation, as well as spring to your defence.

Don’t be afraid of feedback – in fact as a business, you should openly invite customers to feed back as often as you can. That way, you are showing your company to be an open and transparent one, which cares about the concerns of its customers.

If you do find a negative review or have to reply to a complaint publicly, try to maintain a professional but helpful attitude. Try to resolve any legitimate issues amicably. You may want to take your initial communication with the person off the review site or forum, but publish the results publicly. Even invite the complainant to re-evaluate their original comments.

Don’t wait for someone to bring their negative comments to you. You need to be proactively searching to ensure that you can address and comment whenever you come across a bad review. While it can be difficult to constantly read through all the social media comments, there are apps that can help you to monitor what is being said out there in cyber space – apps like Trackur, Google Alerts, Sprout Social and others. By keeping your finger of the pulse of the internet, you need never be taken by surprise by what others are saying about you.

WE CAN HELP YOU

We know that maintaining a good online reputation is vital to the health of any business. But finding the time to monitor all the strands of the internet can take away valuable resources from your business.

Small Business Advice Every Business Owner Could Use

Starting up a new business in the current economic climate is not an easy task and small business advice isn’t easily accessible to help the business grow to a successful and profitable empire that you can rely on.

For every business owner, their business should be an asset, a way to plan for their future. Most business owners will rely on their business to fund their retirement in their old age, but without the right structures and knowledge in place, this is a very difficult goal to achieve.

There are a number of companies dedicated to offering small business advice, giving businesses that second chance they need to succeed. As a new business owner you are so busy concentrating on getting your name recognized, that it’s easy to bypass some of the important factors that could help your business reach the successful level you are looking to achieve.

The first mistake many business owners make is they go and spend a fortune of their startup costs on expensive equipment and machinery. In fact many of these items can be leased over a set period of time. Leasing comes with its own advantages. Besides not being the owner of the equipment, when the contract period ends, you are able to upgrade the equipment staying up to date with the latest technological trends.

This is some of the small business advice you would be offered by a professional Rather than spending a large portion of your starting budget on computers, you would lease them and then upgrade them in a year, so you always have the latest equipment on hand to ensure your business runs smoothly.

The next piece of small business advice you would probably be given is about small business administration loans. These are loans which are guaranteed by the government, which means that there is a higher chance of being accepted. The additional funding can be a blessing for a new business or a small company looking to expand.

The advantage to these loans is that they have longer payment periods and they are easily accessible, even being awarded to those that have a poor credit history. This is all because the guarantor is the government, which ensures the loan will be repaid taking the risk away from the bank or lender.

Other essential small business advice that every business owner should have is how to get out of debt with ease and relieve any debt the business may have. As long your company is in debt, it will never really make a profit, you need to find a way to repay that debt in the shortest space of time to get past the red and start enjoying the rewards of your success.

One of the most important pieces of small business advice that many business owners could do with is offers in compromise. You have probably heard this term a lot lately, but are unsure on whether your business qualifies or how to go about applying.

An offer in compromise enables small companies to reduce their taxes that are due. While there are strict qualifying criteria, the right professional will be able to give you the necessary information you need which can assist your business in retaining a small cash flow to continue operating.

Lastly is the one topic that many company owners don’t really want to discuss, but it’s a reality and should be taken into consideration. That is bankruptcy. Before filing for bankruptcy and thinking there isn’t any other alternative, find a company that can offer you the information and support you need. In many cases there are other options available which won’t tarnish your own personal name.

What Are Small Business Administration Loans and What You Need to Know

A small business administration loan or SBA loan is a loan offered by banks and various lenders in the US. These loans are easily accessible for small business owners, especially those looking to start up a new business and they need the financial backing that an extra sum of cash would provide.

The small business administration loan is easier to access than a regular business loan because it comes with a government guarantee. This is a plan by the government to encourage new businesses and assist current businesses expand and grow.

The advantage to this is that these are often available with longer repayment periods and those with poor credit scores are still able to qualify, growing their business to the next level.

The loan guarantee program is the ideal opportunity for small business start-ups and expansions, but as with any loan amount, being unable to repay the amount can be detrimental to your business.

Many business owners choose the small business administration loan because they know the chances of them being accepted is high. It’s difficult to start a new business in the current economic market, so that additional boost of cash can be used to purchase stock, necessary business machinery and tools and give the business the cash flow it needs.

The problem comes in that many business owners in a new business don’t understand how difficult the market is right now. They will use the cash they receive to design the perfect website, get their office up and running and produce quality marketing material. But if the customers don’t come flooding through the door, they do not receive the cash they need to repay the loan in a timely manner.

Before applying for any financing, whether you choose the government guarantee program or not, you must be sure that you will be able to make timely payments. The last thing you want to do is dig yourself deep in debt, before your business has a chance to grow.

Every business owner should put a business plan in place to not only help them run their business, but also assist them in achieving their goals. For those who choose to take out a small business administration loan, their business plan can ensure they stay on track and will also ensure they are able to make the timely payments to reduce financial difficulty before their business has a chance to really take off.

Working on a projected income and knowing what you can expect in sales turnover each month is another way to know whether taking out a loan is the right choice for your business.

If you have struggled with finances in the past and your credit score isn’t stellar, then you need to take special care. As you will probably be awarded a small business administration loan with a poor credit history, you need to have every step planned to ensure your business isn’t too deep in debt before you begin.

Remember that with this type of financing, you are often able to take the loan over a longer period, but with every month you owe on the loan, you have interest to pay. Paying late or not paying at all will incur penalties and leave your business in serious financial distress.

Before applying for a small business administration loan, take the time to work out your monthly expenditure and your expected monthly income. Ensure you have enough to pay your mortgage or rent, your basic costs and then take the financing repayments into consideration. If you strongly believe your income will cover everything and still offer you a monthly salary, then this is the right choice for you.