Building a reputation when starting up

“A simple desire to create a tailor-made product for the Indian consumer has grown into something beyond what we imagined,” Sachin Bansal, CEO Flipkart revealed, recalling the early days. What the Flipkart idea did, was creating history in the Indian shopping revolution.

Then there is Amazon, which was a start-up, but has reached grandiose proportions today. And Jeff Bezos, the founder, had almost overtaken Bill Gates to become the wealthiest person on the planet. Changing the way people shop – that’s what Amazon did. The story began in 1994, with Bezos selling books from his garage in Seattle. Since then, Amazon forged ahead.

It is pertinent that in each annual report, Bezos reprints the letter he sent to shareholders in 1997. The letter lays out Bezos’s approach to business. He pledges to focus on the long term, being the market leader, “rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions”.

Reputation – most valuable business asset

For most successful small businesses, networking and referrals are both the least expensive and most effective forms of marketing. Reputation is the currency of networking and referrals. Whether it is in the form of  reviews and online recommendations, a positive reputation is one of your most valuable business assets.

Happy customers

Reputation is usually built from one thing: happy customers. The bottom line is that your reputation is constructed of exceptional customer experiences. Even Bezos emphasised this point. The best way to protect the company, he said, is “obsessive customer focus”. This focus has defined Amazon.

But, what if you’re new in business, or new to a given market? How do you build a reputation without customers? And how do you get customers without having a reputation? In the long run, building your reputation is more sustainable.

Steps to build your reputation

Start-up brands aren’t built overnight. Be prepared to commit to the long-term and don’t give up. Building a brand is just like building a reputation – you need to prove yourself again and again so that people trust you and become loyal too.

Here are some steps to building reputation for your start-up brand:

  • Be clear-cut  Be clear about what your brand stands for, and know what your brand promise is, which should be precise and attainable, and you should be able to communicate it clearly. For example, if your brand stands for quality, be clear-cut – how does your brand specifically live and breathe quality? Those specifics are what will make your brand stand out from your competition.
  • Be authoritative  Once you know what your start-up brand promise is, clearly stand by it. You need to make everyone else believe you’re the leader and authority in your area of expertise and specialisation. Make sure to communicate your message confidently. Say it, powerfully with conviction.
  • Be consistent  Get your brand message out there and stick to it. Commit to your brand message, and customers will start to recognise it. A consistent message and customer experience are critical elements to building your brand. In the clutter of messages today, it’s critical that you try to stand out from the competition. Communicate your brand promise and build your brand reputation, consistently.
  • Be transparent  In today’s world, transparency is what people look for and your business will be rewarded for it. Don’t offer something you can’t deliver. Instead, deliver on your promises. We must remember that integrity goes a long way.
  • Network, network  Networking and face-to-face interaction will build stronger relationships and present opportunities. Connect with your friends and past business associates. Besides publishing your own content via social media it’s important to participate in conversations with others. Relationships are built on communication.
  • Be prepared, and follow-up Be ready for any situation. Continue with this aim: follow up consistently with the people you meet. Follow up with new people you meet (without losing time). Simply being consistently dependable will elevate you in the minds of others.

Your customers’ experience is still going to be the primary factor to reflect on your reputation. Build a reputation that will attract prospective customers and help them feel comfortable doing business with you.

Adopt these lessons to create a formidable reputation. Establish an expert reputation for yourself, and that will take the extra mile.

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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