“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently,” Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, famously once said. These words have never been more resonating than today in the age of social media, influencers, and “gotcha journalism,” where one misstep could be a business’s downfall. I’ve put together seven strategies you can use in creating a reputable business and brand your customers will trust.
#1. Convey Authenticity
In developing your brand, think about why you are starting your business. Are you tapping into something that’s missing in the marketplace? Are you responding to a consumer need or solving a problem? Build your brand around this truth, speaking to your potential customers and how your product or service is designed to help them, provide joy, or even simply add to their wish list, and do so authentically. Your brand’s visuals and messaging, including the tone and style of your content, should speak to your consumers in a way that resonates and is believable. When your brand reflects what’s in your heart and comes from your passion, customers will get it and gravitate toward what you have to offer.
#2. Make Transparency, Honesty Reign
Tell it like it is. Today’s consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Zers, want transparency and honesty. While they realize no brand is perfect, they expect businesses to respect them as informed and smart consumers. Determine from the outset what you can commit to, be able to deliver on those commitments, and then communicate honestly what your business can do. Don’t overpromise, and ensure that your advertising is not misleading.
If, along the way, something comes up that is not aligned with your brand, say so. Let consumers know about any missteps, take accountability, and apologize. You don’t want conspiracy theories floating around and a loss of confidence-building up among consumers about the services or products you offer. Remember, consumers will pay a premium for brands with integrity.
#3. Bring in the Human Touch
While your brand is a part of your business’s identity, it’s the people behind the business that consumers want to know. Bring your staff to the forefront when developing your brand strategy and marketing material. This includes having you as the founder and others in the company featured on your website, on social media channels (Instagram, YouTube, Facebook), and in local television commercials. Who better than you and your key employees to bring the human element to the story of your business in a way no one else can to your audience?
#4. Tell Your Company’s Story
Continue to build trust in your brand to help perpetuate the growth of your business by sharing stories with your consumers and target audience. Share your success and perhaps even your challenges as your business grows so that your customers can relate to your journey. Have your customers tell their own stories, too, about how they feel about your products or services, particularly as you add new offerings. Keep your brand alive to build goodwill.
#5. Focus on Relationships
You want your customers to become your advocates. Cultivate relationships with them to help further your goal of having a brand that consumers trust. Do this by ensuring your client servicing is top-notch. Deliver products and services on time, provide timely responses to client inquiries and requests, and share your knowledge. You don’t want to be the business consumers dread calling when they have a question or an issue.
As simple as it sounds, exceed expectations, and ask for feedback so you can keep on improving your customer service, products, and services. Remember, business is personal.
#6. Distinguish Your Brand in the Market
Find a way to differentiate your business among the many competitors in the market to build a loyal following and the trust that comes with it. Look at the Starbucks brand – it’s much more than just coffee; it’s also a place for people to mingle and work. Of course, everyone knows that Apple transcends its products; it’s about the brand’s design aesthetic and experience.
#7. Build a Great Company Culture, Brand Equity
A business’s social good, ethical and sustainable practices and employee diversity and inclusivity are important issues to today’s consumers – particularly for younger generations. In building a business and brand equity, you have an opportunity right from the get-go to create a company culture committed to paying it forward, mindful of corporate responsibility (no matter how big or small your company is), and putting together a staff comprised of different backgrounds and demographics.
Sustainable business values serve as a type of moral compass for a business, fostering greater employee trust and customer brand loyalty. Be sure you practice what you preach. If your company culture and commitment to social responsibility, best practices, and diversity can’t stand up to public scrutiny, any trust and goodwill you built will diminish quickly.
Written by Dr. Blake Livingood.
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