By Samuel Thimothy, VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency, and co-founder of Clickx.io, a digital marketing intelligence platform
When you're building a business, your reputation is all you have. While flashy marketing campaigns or persuasive sales materials can help you close a deal, they're not going to be strong enough to keep your customers coming back to purchase again.
As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to separate these two ideas. If you're putting all your energy into attracting new customers, you might forget to give a customer who has purchased from you your best work.
Unfortunately, if the customer isn't happy with what you've done for them, they'll not only move on to a competitor, but they might tell their friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances about their bad experience. If that happens too often, you develop a bad reputation -- the kiss of death in the business world.
On the other hand, a great reputation can bring in new business like a marketing campaign can't. Here's why.
Customers remember a great experience and strong reputation.
If you have a reputation for going above and beyond your customers' expectations, they'll never forget. What they will forget, however, is the marketing campaign you invested in so heavily. When the ads stop running and the campaign is over, your customers will stop thinking about it.
A brand reputation is emotional. If you were there to help a customer through a difficult time or you were able to brighten their day, they'll keep that feeling with them long after the transaction is over. They'll also keep that feeling in mind as they continue to make purchasing decisions, extending the relationship with your business and giving you repeat purchases.
To improve your brand reputation, focus on giving each and every customer a positive, unique experience. Solve their problems. Listen to their needs, and find a solution that works well for them -- even if it involves a little extra work. You won't be disappointed in the results.
A strong brand reputation also means you can invest less in marketing overall. When you're able to create solid connections with customers who want to keep working with you, you don't need to attract as many new customers.
Better yet, as your positive brand reputation starts to spread, you'll get more referrals from the customers you've left happy for so long.
Customers share positive and negative experiences with their friends (and online).
You've probably encountered it before -- you're about to order a pizza to be delivered when a friend stops you. They tell you how a few months ago, they ordered a pizza from that same restaurant and had a horrible experience. You take their word of warning and choose to order from another place.
While you didn't experience the bad experience directly, you were influenced by the reputation of the business. Because your friend didn't believe the business was worth purchasing from again, you decided to purchase somewhere else.
If you're providing a bad experience to your customers, you could be creating the same negative brand reputation for your business -- causing you to lose business to competitors, even if you've never interacted with that potential client yourself.
Now, in this same example, let's say your friend offered an alternative pizza shop for you to order from. They claim to order from this location all the time, and they always have a positive experience.
If you choose to listen to your friend, you're again letting a brand's reputation sway your decisions, this time on a positive note. Since you've heard good things from someone you can trust, you're more likely to choose the pizza shop that has glowing reviews.
The same goes for online reviews. If a potential customer is considering working with you, they might jump online and see that your business doesn't have great reviews. This is a problem that no amount of marketing is going to fix. On the other hand, a number of positive reviews could be just the thing the customer needs to pick up the phone and call you or finally make an online purchase.
Build a reputation-- don't sell a product.
It's easy to get caught up in the numbers, especially when you're growing a business. But your number of new business deals or customers acquired isn't always a true indication of your success.
Instead, focus on the brand reputation you're building. Because customers tend to remember experiences (both their own and their friends') longer, your reputation will be harder to change than any marketing campaign. If you're not building a positive one from the start, it could mean your business is dead before it ever really gets started.