Every entrepreneur understands that developing a great reputation is fundamental to business success. If you’re operating entirely, or even partially, online, the perception that your customers have of your brand, and the way you meet their expectations, is all-important.
Here are some of the steps to building a great online business.
1. Create a clear brand
When customers walk into physical premises, they get an immediate impression of the sort of company they’re dealing with. Is it highly professional, friendly, open, and welcoming or frankly indifferent to them? When the first point of contact for potential customers is your website or social media page, you need to communicate with absolute clarity what they can expect when they deal with you.
Ensure it’s clear what your brand stands for and what you value, then ensure that every aspect of your operation reflects that, consistently. Remember the adage that people may not believe what you say but they’ll always believe what you do.
2. Stand out from the crowd
There are great opportunities in the online marketplace, but competition is fierce. What do you want to have a reputation for? Great value? Amazing design? Ethical sourcing? Focus on what makes you stand out from the crowd and shout about it. Outstanding customer service is valued by many customers – so for example, if your competitors offer seven-day delivery, consider offering 48-hour deliveries, creating strategic partnerships with reliable couriers to make sure your service is ultra-efficient.
3. Make it easy for your customers
When you’re building your website or online profile, consider the design from the viewpoint of your customers. Make it clean and easy to navigate, easy to make contact, and easy to make purchases. If it needs a significant amount of effort or time to make a purchase or resolve a problem, customers are unlikely to feel positive or a sense of loyalty towards your business. There are several tools to help you measure customer effort, and therefore to minimize or redesign any ‘pain points’.
4. Take a proactive approach to online reviews
Your reputation will of course be influenced by the type of online reviews you receive. When responding, whether the feedback was positive or negative, always bear in mind that your response will be read, over time, by many potential customers. Be authentic, be transparent, and make it clear that you are taking all comments as a valuable feedback. Also, be proactive in requesting loyal and supportive customers to write about their interactions with your business.
5. An immediate response is essential
When customers take the trouble to get in contact, they expect an immediate response. Consider how long it takes to reply to an email, to pick up a phone call, to respond to a query on social media. Automated responses can help, but there’s no substitute for an interaction with a genuinely engaged human being.
Placing yourself in the shoes of your customers, letting them know who you are and what level of service they can expect from you, will be the start of building an outstanding reputation online.