Someone once wrote, “A good reputation is more valuable than money.”

That bit of wisdom has been proven time and again.

From small restaurants to big car companies, nothing can affect a business’s bottom line faster than a reputation gone sour. But many entrepreneurs forget that reputation can also play a big role in a business’s “Findability.”

Being “Findable” means that a business is visible to consumers where and when they’re ready to buy.

There are four key marketing components or factors that help identify how findable a business is on and offline including:

Physical Location
Marketing
Online Presence
Reputation & Community

The degree at which a local business is engaged in each factor plays an important role in determining their overall visibility. But one of the most dynamic is arguably Reputation & Community.

For years, being involved in your local community through sponsorships, memberships, and charities was an important part of keeping up your business’s findability, goodwill, and customer loyalty. But today, there are countless online places consumers can go to generate word of mouth about the companies—big or small—that they have experiences with.

Sometimes that word of mouth is complimentary, sometimes it can be outright damaging to business. Either way, that information is out there for existing and potential customers to see and use when deciding whether to buy from you. It’s important to keep a close eye on what’s being said about your business in order to engage any damaging word of mouth in a timely fashion.

And yes, I am talking about Yelp, Google, Facebook…review sites.

The most important thing you can do in managing your reputation is to listen and respond.

Local businesses that listen to their customers benefit by not only understanding how people feel about them, but they have the opportunity to guide the conversation rather than react to it. But, in order to listen, you must know where you’re being talked about.

Today, that means monitoring social media networks, blogs, review sites and more to see what’s being said about you. That’s where the concept of “reputation management” comes in.

What are your customers saying about you?

Are you responding to these in the right way?

Everything from attorneys to zoos get reviewed by consumers these days and many times those reviews get republished on other sites. It’s more important than ever to monitor what’s being said about you.

Almost every business eventually drops the ball at some point. And that disappointed customer may vent their frustrations in ways that will be less than flattering to your business.

While you can’t control what they say and where they say it, you can control how and when you’re able to respond to it.

Reputation management provides businesses the opportunity to address a negative situation and turn it around into a positive one. You’ll look like a caring and responsive business in the eyes of other customers by making your gesture in a public forum. So, you could not only win back the customer you might’ve lost, but possibly gain dozens more with your proactive response.

Have a great weekend!

Michael