Your reputation is what people say about you when you’ve left the room. That begs the question – do you know what your customers really say about you?

How do they think about you in the comfort of their home?

In my business, we pay a lot of people money so we can run a seamless operation.

We pay for hosting, accounting software, email marketing software, advertising, and a host of other things.

The companies have one opinion of themselves and most times, I have a completely different opinion.

This is a problem.

In this article, we’ll explore practical ways to align your vision of your business with your customer opinion of you.

Get real feedback

They say you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. The first step to correct your image – if it’s bad – or keeping it consistent with what you want is to find out what people are saying about you.

There are countless ways to listen in on what people are saying about your brand.

  1. Social media listening.

Many of your customers or audience members will take to social media to praise or condemn you.

It’s up to you to pay attention. Unfortunately, not everyone will post to your Facebook wall or mention you directly on Twitter. For that, there are many tools like Mention or Google alerts.

Whenever you’re mentioned across the web, you’ll be notified. The key is not to form an opinion on a single social update. You’re looking for patterns. Make sure you have enough data points to make an informed decision before you implement or change a strategy.

  1. Implement surveys.

Surveys can be useful when you have an idea of what’s already being said about you. The problem with this type of survey is people will tell you what they think you want to hear. This is especially true if you’re offering an incentive for your surveys like a discount on your products or a gift card.

Keep in mind that your survey response rates are highest when you send them to warm audiences such as past customers or email subscribers. When you send them to other groups, expect a response rate of 10-15% and plan accordingly.

Structure your survey questions in a way that doesn’t lead your respondents to give you the answers you want. Frame them to be as objective as possible and ask specific questions such:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our customer service
  • Which of the following statements best describes our customer service

When you’re done, can compile the numbers to get a clear image of where you’re lacking. After that, it’s time to take corrective measure.

How to send out the right message

At this point, you have an idea about how your customers perceive you. If you’re like most businesses, you’ll realize many people see you in a different light.

Your messages may come off as salesy, your customer support may not be as good as you thought, and your main promise may be misunderstood.

That’s OK. You did the survey and listened in on social media to get these insights. What matters is what you do from this point on.

There are a few steps you can take to realign your messages and the perception people have about you.

1. Choose the most important promise and focus on it

At the turn of the century, there was a rapper who was crushing the charts and many proclaimed him to be the best rapper alive. He sold millions of albums, broke records, and was at the peak of his career.

Sure, he had some lyrical ability but that wasn’t the main reason he was crowned the best rapper. The real push behind his title was the message he constantly put out. He said he was the best over and over again. Eventually, people began to accept it at face value.

The rapper was Lil Wayne and the rest is history.

In business, every campaign you launch has the ability to reinforce your message or dilute it. In the pursuit of staying relevant and being everywhere, messages often get diluted.

There are too many people involved and not enough oversight. Sometimes, it ends up with brands issuing apologies and pledging to return to their core beliefs.

Any time you want to post to social media (or have your teammate do it for you), set up an ad campaign, or create content, it’s important to ask what message you’re sending.

Does it in strengthen or weaken your main promise?

If it’s the second one, go back to the drawing board and try again. There’s nothing wrong with going through multiple iterations until you get it right.

2. Create clear guidelines

It’s nice to have a culture and understanding. It’s even better when you codified the essence of your brand in a written document.

You’re aiming for broad strokes. There’s no way to create guidelines for every possible interaction. It would be a waste of time to try and probably do more harm than good.

Instead, focus on the following areas:

  • The tone and voice of your brand
  • Key values and emotions you want to trigger
  • General imagery
  • Logo treatment and placement

This should be enough to get you started. It won’t be perfect at first and it doesn’t need to be. What you’re trying to accomplish here is sending a cohesive message over time.

As you get into the field, add more to your guidelines as it becomes necessary.

3. Develop a compelling story

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Storytelling is the best thing you can do to communicate your values and message.

In a semi-famous experiment called significant objects, mundane items were purchased at the thrift store and sold on eBay. The only thing the website owners did was to create a story around each item.

The response was nothing short of spectacular. They sold out of every item and each one sold for many times the purchase price.

How to create a great story is beyond the scope of this article but there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Your customer is the hero
  2. You’re the guide
  3. The goal of the story is what’s important to them, not what’s important to you
  4. Your job is to paint the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or connect them to something bigger than them.

When crafting your story, think about how you can show as well as tell it. Incorporate real-life examples of people who’ve made it to the promised land, how you’re living your message, and how your products embody your message.

Conclusion

It’s easy to think people understand what our message is at face value. It’s even easier to believe they only need to see it once or twice to memorize it.

That couldn’t be further than the truth.

There’s a big chance that if you’re not monitoring your brand across different channels, the narrative about you is different than the one you’re pushing.

Get proactive so your message reaches your target market the way you envisioned. Monitor mentions on social media and conduct surveys to get a bead on the conversation.

After you understand what’s being said, use the tips above to take corrective measures to put forth the right narrative at every touchpoint.

Photo by Martin Damboldt from Pexels