Your reputation is the bedrock of your brand.
In the previous post we discussed how your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.
But wait, you may be thinking. If I’m not in the room, how can I know what people are saying?
In short, you don’t. Not unless you have recording equipment or spies.
This is why social media posts and customer reviews are your gold mine for discovering what both genuine and disingenuous customers are saying about you.
Strong brands use these volunteer testimonials like the tools they are to establish and amplify their reputation. They do this by determining what they want to be known for in advance and rewarding customers who chime in on all the right notes.
Your Reputation is What You Deliver
A company’s reputation is based on what they deliver for their customers day-in, day-out. This means you need to ask yourself:
- What experience do you provide that no one else does?
- What problem do you solve that your competitors fall short on?
REMEMBER: Your brand is NOT what you hope to manifest in the future, but what you can reliably deliver today.
If you’re selling something aspirational or something that doesn’t exist yet, you are an influencer or a coach. Not a brand.
Brands sell something that exists and can benefit their customers immediately.
FOR EXAMPLE: Back in the 20th Century, Nike made you a shoe and told you to “just do it.” You could go buy their shoes and immediately be better equipped to perform in athletic spaces than if you wore everyday shoes.
How well you performed in your new shoes was still up to you and your skill levle, but Nike made it so your shoes were not the excuse for performing poorly.
This is what brands do: They offer customers a concrete way to level up in exchange for money.
It sounds cold when phrased like that, but it is what it is and defining how your customers level up with you is a reputation you need to define and nurture as you start and grow.
This is why:
Establishing Your Reputation Bedrock is Important
Your Reputation Bedrock is the ground your Brand Mansion is built on. And it’s important that you establish your own solid ground because market ground is naturally shifty.
The market will toss you to-and-fro, if you let it, then trash your mansion with no regrets. The only way to stop that is to lay the groundwork for what you will be judged on no matter where the market happens to be at the moment.
The good news is:
Defining your Reputation Bedrock is easy. A child can do it.
All you need is:
- 2 pieces of paper
- A pen/pencil
- A lists of qualities you want to be known for
- Access to reviews
- about an hour of focus time
Once you have all these set aside, it’s time to run an objective self-assessment about the value you bring to your market.
START BY brainstorming answers to the following questions on the first piece of paper:
- What are the most common comments people make about your product?
- What adjectives describe your benefits your designs provide?
- How does your product make customers feel?
- In what ways do you out-perform the competition?
- In what ways does your competition out-perform you?
Treat your answers like a word cloud — writing down everything you can think of.
If a theme repeats, write it down again and again. Let the redundancy show. This is the paper where everything gets a voice. You’ll edit later.
NEXT, grab the second sheet of paper and draw the outline of a rough rock on it.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can look like this:
All you need is a simple outline of a rock to transform into a solid foundation for your brand’s reputation.
But before you you do that, you need to infuse it with your brand.
STEP 1: Go gather all the reviews you can about your brand and products.
STEP 2: Read through each review.
- If you LIKE a word/phrase someone used to describe you, I want you to write that word/phrase somewhere IN THE MIDDLE of the rock.
- If you DON’T like a word/phrase used to describe your brand, I want you to write it AROUND THE BORDER of the rock.
STEP 3: Repeat Step 2 until you have a rock containing all the keywords that accurately reflect what others are posting about you online.
STEP 4: Then pull out your brainstorming paper. Add any items not reflected in customer feedback and everything that is redundant.
Again, anything you want to keep as part of your brand, write toward the center. Anything you want gone, write around the edge.
STEP 5: Once your rock is fully filled out, start chipping away at the edges.
The outside frame of the rough edges of your rock should contain all the qualities you don’t want to amplify in your brand. So now it’s time to cut them out of your brand in one of two ways:
- Remove the cause for the experience
- Remove the expectation you will provide the experience
How To Clean Up Your Reputation
FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say a customer gave a small business owner a 3-star review because their product didn’t ship right away. Their order took 3 DAYS to ship and the customer was mad enough about this to leave an unhappy review.
How can the brand owner who has this complaint around the rough edges of his rock address the issue and limit negative reviews in the future?
Remove the cause: Change policy to always ship within 24 hours.
Remove the expectation: Create clear, branded language that items ship within 3 business days, visible both in item descriptions and at check out.
Once the issue is addressed with an on-brand deliverable, the business owner can chip that rough edge off the business’s reputation rock and move on to the next rough edge.
But let’s say there’s a negative claim that’s just a big, fat lie coming from someone looking to get something for free. Or maybe it’s a competitor throwing shade on a burner account.
These are free cuts. You’ll address these items in a different way on a different day but, if they’re not based in reality, get rid of them for now.
Only address genuine feedback with your bedrock.
AND REMEMBER: Just because someone has a critique, doesn’t mean you need to bend over backwards as a brand to address it. In each case, simply decide whether you want to:
- Remove the cause for the complaint
- Remove the expectation behind the complaint
FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say you sell hiking shoes and someone complains that they’re not waterproof. And it’s true: they’re not.
But someone bought the shoes, crossed a river in them, then had a miserable hike afterward.
To remove the cause for the complaint, you’d have to make the shoes waterproof. But that’s literally not the design of them, so removing the cause for the complaint isn’t reasonable.
Changing the expectation is. Especially if current ad copy skirts around how the shoes perform on all terrains.
To limit future negative reviews, you could change the language of the ad copy to say something like: The perfect hiking shoe in dry climates, then remove any language that implies your shoe does well in water and move on.
Make your promises simple and clear so that any reasonable customer has your back on complaints that are off-brand.
If you position your shoe as the perfect desert shoe and someone leaves a review crying that it doesn’t swim well, all your target customers are going to think, Uh. Yeah. It’s a desert hiking shoe. It’s made to breathe and wick away moisture, not swim. Duh.
And the negative review might actually end up supporting your claim and get your a sale.
You don’t need to get rid of negative reviews. You just need to be so deliberate in your delivery that all negative comments are off-brand demands.
To do this, REPEAT the refining process of removing all the negative labels associated with your brand until you have a smooth edge around your rock and ONLY on-brand words and phrases in the middle.
Once all the off-brand critiques are addressed and removed, the positive deliverables remaining represent your reputation bedrock.
Smooth the resulting shape out until it’s level and perfect to build a mansion on. Then bury it in the ground — metaphorically speaking.
No one needs to see this but you. You never need to speak of this rock or explain what’s written on it to anyone else.
You have the firm ground you need to build on. No matter how the market shakes around you, you know what you’re delivering and your customers know what they can expect when you deliver.
That’s your bedrock.
Now it’s time to build up.
Next Post: STEPS TO YOUR FOUNDATION