Think about the last product or service that you paid for. How did you come to use the business that you bought from? Did you ask family and friends for a recommendation? Or, did you ask your social media followers, who they would recommend?
Referrals are a powerful tool.They can also be a big barrier to entry for small businesses with no previous track record.
So, how do you build a reputation with no track record? Here are four ways to get started:
1. Manage and Leverage Your Digital Footprint
Online reputation management is no longer a nice to have; it’s a critical part of a business. The place most people start to look for a business, or details about a business is online.
It is essential that you optimize your LinkedIn profile and gain as many recommendations from old colleagues and previous clients as you can. It’s also time to clean up your other social accounts. Decide what you want your voice to be and stick to it. This doesn’t mean you have to stop your commentary on the Canucks, or Vancouver’s cycle lanes, but it does mean you have to keep in mind who your audience is.
Sharing and posting interesting and relevant information on your industry, in the right places and using the right industry can also be a great way to connect with your potential customers or peers.
2. Be Part of the Conversation
Business, like politics, is about defining your message before you competitors do it for you. It’s time to get involved with professional organisations, Meetup groups and online forums and telling them what you stand for, why and the industry data to support your views.
Find opportunities to speak and demonstrate your knowledge. Whether it’s writing a white paper, writing in a respected journal, hosting a webinar or finding an education provider who you can run a seminar through. Find the channel with the right audience and go for it. And remember this is not to advertise your services. Give people the information they want and let them come to you for a more in-depth conversation, should they need it.
4. Improve Your Own Education
Education can also be a great way to meet new connections. Suzanne Siemens and Madeline Shaw of Vancouver-based Lunapads met while attending a leadership course. They not only expanded their education, but found an opportunity in each other to create a long-term business relationship. Just think of it as another opportunity to network with your potential customers or your next brand advocate. And remember, you’ll also have the benefit of your customers realizing your dedication to excellence and continual improvement.
Building Your Recommendations
Once you start to gain customers, ask for their feedback. Find the appropriate review sites for your industry, or even just concentrate on social, and either ask your customer to provide a direct comment, or ask if you could use their feedback and publish on their behalf.
If they don’t want to provide a written recommendation, ask if they would provide a reference should a customer contact them.
Depending on how fast your first clients come in the door, building your track record can be hard work, even if you already have the clients. But by using these four tricks, you will be on your way to creating a credible track record that will attract more business.