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The secret to building your brand and managing your reputation

What do Aviva, TSB and Bobby Axelrod (the hedge fund manager, played by Damien Lewis in Sky’s TV series Billions) have in common?

They’ve all had a tough few days managing their reputation and building a business brand.

TSB’s IT problems have caused significant difficulties for customers, while Aviva’s replatforming issues have been discussed at great length online by advisers and planners. Meanwhile, the fictional Axelrod fights to maintain his reputation in the face of an FBI investigation.

All three (as well as suggestions from Darren Cooke and Chris Budd) got me thinking about how advisers can go about building a business brand and manage their reputation.

Building a business brand

As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

He’s spot on; not that one of the world’s richest men needs any confirmation from me!

In an ideal world, managing your reputation and building a business brand should be relatively simple; do a great job and people will tell others. Of course, do a terrible job and guess what? They will also tell others. There’s an adage in the restaurant trade that springs to mind: the 10 people who have a great meal will each tell one person about it, but the one person who has a bad meal will tell 10.

So, other than doing a great job, how can you positively affect what people say about you when you’re not in the room?

That’s a huge topic and not one we can do justice in a single blog. It’s a subject we intend to come back to over the coming weeks and months, but for now, let’s start with something we believe absolutely crucial to building your brand and managing your reputation.

Building your social proof

I’ve written a lot about the importance of social proof (proving you are good at what you do) but why is it so important for building your brand?

One word…Google.

The slightly longer answer: “Think of it as building the foundation for massively scalable word-of-mouth.” (Aileen Lee, Venture Capitalist)

It’s likely that prospective clients, whether they have been referred or found you through another source, will check you out online before getting in touch with you. That means they will complete an online search, potentially followed by a visit to your website. If what they see on the search results page and your site enhances their existing opinion, they are more likely to get in touch.

The reverse is also true.

That means dominating the first page of Google for brand search results (those searches run on your name and business name) and doing everything you can to ensure the results enhance your reputation. That could mean positive PR, Google, Facebook or VouchedFor client reviews, articles you’ve written which demonstrate your expertise or simply links to the FCA register.

The same is true of your website.

The site, particularly the homepage, as well as other popular landing pages, must contain proof that you are great at what you do. How do you do that? Last week’s article explained some of the techniques you can use; click here to read it.

It isn’t just Google search results and your website you need to be concerned about. Building your social proof and managing your brand spreads to other areas too; especially social media. Just look at the Facebook and Twitter accounts of most train operators for all the evidence you need.  Most will retweet positive feedback and respond promptly to negative messages or requests for information, closely managing their social proof in order to secure their reputation as a reliable service.

Becoming the ‘go to’ adviser locally

Building the requisite social proof is never more important than when you want to work with local clients. My latest Money Marketing column explained how to make yourself the ‘go-to’ local adviser for the type of clients you specialise in working with. Building your social proof plays a huge part in achieving that aim: particularly if your local area is densely populated with advisers.

Working in a small geographical area can be immensely rewarding, but it is not without risks; reputations are hard won and easily lost. We all know how quickly bad news spreads, both on and offline. As Winston Churchill apparently once said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

It’s not just about you either

Your team are essential to building your business and therefore your brand and its reputation.

From how they answer the phone and greet clients visiting your office, to their attention to detail on reports, suitability letters and paperwork. It all reflects on your business; for good or ill.

Social proof to help reputation management

Having social proof and goodwill of your clients ‘in the bank’ will help on those occasions when things don’t go as you might have hoped. Making a mistake is one thing, but how you react and using social proof to demonstrate its rarity will help you get back on track far more quickly than those businesses that continually fail to deliver.

Building and protecting your brand includes every member of your team. It starts with the small stuff, for example turning up to meetings on time or getting a client’s name right, but will soon build in to something far more powerful. Whether that’s to the benefit or detriment of your business is down to you.

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