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  • Personal Brands: Managing Third Party Validation

    As a small business, you are out to provide a unique customer experience that will keep bringing back customers to your business.
    Banking on this is the fact that a great reputation does a lot for your business. In this digital age where a majority of consumers turns to online review sites and social networks during their purchase decision-making process, it is important for your business to maintain a great reputation.

    More important is that you as the owner and the personality at the core of your business’ brand also maintain a great reputation.

    Online customer reviews can instill confidence in customers and spur more business, or they can be your downfall if not properly managed. The following tidbits will come in handy for your business and also for your personal brand as you interact with and strive to maintain a positive reputation with your customers.

    Critics are everywhere

    At least one of every two online customers has written an online review, and a large majority of those who do share with their families and friends. They also share reviews they read with the same parties. Simply put, offer valued and good customer experiences, and you can ignite positive word of mouth.

    More than 80% of consumers today base their purchasing decisions on a positive review. If five other people liked product A and spoke highly of it, chances are a potential customer will take the recommendations seriously, and most probably try out the product for themselves.

    Just as a positive review will spur a potential customer to purchase a product/service, so will a negative review turn them off. 4 out of 5 consumers will reverse their purchase decisions should they come across negative opinions about the business. And almost 60% of online consumers look for reviews regarding a business before transacting with it.

    As a small business owner, you have to be prepared for both positive and negative reviews. Your local customer base will be your most visible critics, so aim to provide the best experience possible, and good word-of-mouth will do the rest for you.

    Handling negative feedback

    It reflects negatively on your business brand and your brand as the owner if an issue goes unresolved. When you come across a negative review on a review site or hear it from a customer, take action. Take control of the issue and respond appropriately. This will mean either a quick remedial response, or a measured approach that allows you to gather all the facts and respond later, but in detail.  And, even a response of acknowledging their concern and listening or keeping them posted of action steps that you’re taking to address their concern are more valued and positive than silence.

    Keep your responses simple. Most of the time, a negative review is simply a customer trying to get your attention to an issue or problem. Don’t complicate things by being too technical. A defensive attitude won’t help either.

    Lastly, while many might be inclined to delete any (and all) negative reviews, don’t do it. Leave such reviews up for other customers to see how you handled the situation, as your solution might even help someone else with a similar problem.

    More importantly, for your personal brand, it’s social proof of your listening and competence skills. [tweet this]

    Encouraging positive reviews

    You don’t want to be putting out fires all the time. Other times, a proactive approach to online reviews is best. Social media has made interacting with your customers much easier. So why not reach out to your loyal customers and request them to leave positive comments about the service they received at your business?

    If you have website, make it easy for customers to leave reviews, such as having space at the bottom of their order to leave a comment and a personal thank you to the person that assisted them.

    The value of a good reputation

    A good reputation is of high value to your small business, as it leads to positive word-of-mouth marketing that translates to more sales and revenue. It’s been shown that positive online reviews can increase sales by more than 70%.

    How about your personal brand?

    As the daughter of an Air Force officer, I learned as a rebellious teenager that if I caused trouble or got into trouble then not only would I be reprimanded but my father would be reprimanded by his commanding officer.

    In business, it’s much the same way.  Your small business is your “baby”.  When there’s difficulty or trouble in your business and it’s handled poorly or ignored, it will reflect on you. You will get to reap the repercussions and in the whole scheme of things your personal brand will suffer, too.

    For your personal brand, it will be the difference between the opportunity to do business with someone or not even being aware of opportunities.

    Maria Elena Duron, is managing editor of the Personal Branding Blog, CEO (chief engagement officer) of buzz2bucks– a word of mouth marketing firm, and a professional speaker and trainer on developing social networks that work. She provides workshops, webinars, seminars and direct services that help create conversation, connection, credibility, community and commerce around your brand.  Maria Duron is founder and moderator of #brandchat- a weekly Twitter chat focused on every aspect of branding that is recognized by Mashable as one the 15 Essential Twitter Chats for Social Media Marketers.

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