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How To Build a Reputation: 10 Ways to Turn from Generic to Niche Leader

how to build a reputation
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When you’re starting out in business or scaling into a new market, one of the hardest thing to do is to build a reputation.¬† It’s like we all start out as the “generic brand” and we need someone to be willing to take a risk on us.

People may know you personally for this or that, but as an entrepreneur, they’ll have questions like:

  • Will he/she be honest with my money?
  • Will he/she deliver a good product or service?
  • Will he/she waste my time?
  • Will he/she be responsible, timely, and reliable?

While you can use space on your website or on an ad you write to say you’re honest, with quality products and services, a high value for the money, and responsible, the uphill climb that you experience in the startup phase is getting the chance to prove that to others.¬† The challenge of building a reputation is real, and for some people, it may take years to build a reputation sufficient that they can earn a full-time income from their businesses if they don’t know how to build a reputation.

how to build a reputationFacts About Reputation

  • The reputation is a component of intellectual property that enables brands like Coach, Coca Cola, or Luis Vuitton to charge high prices simply by adding their brand name.
  • Reputations can be effected positively or negatively contingent on your actions
  • Warren Buffet said, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.‚ÄĚ
  • Reputations are fragile and should be protected and managed with care
  • A solid reputation lets you have more control of your pricing

What’s a Strong Reputation?

Reputation is partly composed by your actions, but also composed of what others think about your actions.  A strong reputation is when people understand what can accurately be expected from your brand.

For example, Donald Trump has a strong reputation.  People know him as a controversial speaker, actor, and President.  Despite the controversy:

  • He won the election
  • He’s still able to sell out Trump hotels
  • He generates lots of media attention
  • and, His businesses charge much higher prices for his products and services than his competitors

A strong reputation is authentic, leaves room for good and bad reviews, can be used to weed out incompatible customers, and gives enough information to clearly acquire suitable customers,

How Do You Build a Strong Reputation?

As Warren Buffet said, “a strong reputation takes years to build”.¬† You have to build trust with people and scale what you’re doing in a stable enough way that you maintain the expectations of early adopters while acquiring new customers–it’s a delicate balance.¬† Added onto the challenge of managing expectations in client fulfillment, the digital component of reputation management has added further complexity.

Now, people can post reviews on Facebook, Google, or other online platforms quickly and effect your reputation instantly.¬† In a recent study by BrightLocal, they said 85% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.¬† Unfortunately, even when the review is fake, it can still have an impact, which is why these are recommended steps you should take to build a good, strong reputation…

how to build a reputation1. Turn Negative Reviews into Opportunities

I’ve seen several times where entrepreneurs are very creative with how they handle negative reviews.¬† One such recent example is on a channel I watch on Youtube called “Income School”.¬† They teach several “controversial methods” of growing website traffic like:

Writing quality content even when you have very little evidence of traffic early on

A low maintenance technique to website building where you write 30 quality articles within a very small niche and replace your full-time income within 24 months

and, Backlinks are not necessary for traffic growth

As a result of their “controversial teachings”, many people have posted negative comments on their Youtube videos.¬† Rather than avoid the negative comments or act like they don’t see them, they used them as an opportunity in this video “Responding to our Trolls”:

Don’t Ignore Negativity

If you find that you’re the type of person to avoid negativity or try to block it out by not addressing it, I’d recommend you watch controversial people like Donald Trump, Grant Cardone, or the video I’ve mentioned above because as an entrepreneur, avoiding bad reviews seems to solidify that the review is true.

Think about it, when someone has one negative review they haven’t responded to, what do you think?¬† Do you think the review must be accurate?¬† When you go online, and you see a review like this…


Do you give the company the benefit of the doubt if there are other five-star options?  If the company turned around and responded courteously making sense of their actions, would you consider giving them the benefit of the doubt further?

Most people would.

2. Know Haters Will Come

In 2017, the Reputation Institute did a study to identify the 100 most reputable companies in the world.¬† Based on a survey done, the Reputation Institute calculated a score between 0-100 for how reputable a company is.¬† The top 100 companies are “the most widely known and easy to recognize”.

A glimpse of the top 21 on the list looks like this…

(Image Source: Forbes)

Even with the most reputable companies in the world, there are still people who complain about them.  

Take a look at Rolex.¬† Researchers said they’re the most reputable company in the world, but does that mean they don’t have bad reviews?¬† No, they have bad reviews…

It’s not possible to satisfy everyone, but it is possible to maintain a good reputation even after someone is dissatisfied.¬† Keep that in mind.¬† A bad review is not the end of the world, and it doesn’t have to have a longlasting negative effect (depending on how you respond).

3. Manage Your Digital Footprint

With the ease of information distribution, your name can float around online and you might not know if you’re not managing well.¬† Some common places for people to post reviews are sites like Yellow Pages, the BBB, Yelp, or Google, but there are many other ways people can distribute negative press that could tarnish your reputation.

To manage your digital footprint, you can:

  • Set things like Google alerts, Warble Alerts, or hire a company who specializes in reputation management
  • Dispute, respond, investigate, or rectify the issue
  • Request feedback and create a protocol for complaints
  • Let customers know you optimize your service with their feedback

What you don’t want to do is be ignorant or avoid knowing what others are saying about you online.

how to build a reputation4. Be Transparent

Going back to the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the best examples of the power of transparency.¬† Let me explain…

The 2017 election went deep into attacking reputation.¬† Donald Trump aired Hillary Clinton’s dirty laundry about how she handled Bill Clinton’s cheating, how she leaked information terrorist organizations, how she uses donations, the activities she does within the Clinton foundation, and how she deleted evidence when she was being investigated.¬† He went as far as renting out movie theaters to show a documentary revealing many ugly accusations against Hillary Clinton.

In response to the accusations, Clinton tried to avoid, deflect, or air accusations from Trump rather than to address the things Trump brought against her head on.

In contrast, when something was brought up about Trump, he didn’t avoid or deflect.¬† Instead, he’d say things like “that was years ago”, or he’s explain what happened head on.

Both Trump and Clinton had controversial backstories, and many people in America can acknowledge that, however, the public showed a greater comfort with a person who:

1. Takes responsibility for their wrong

2. Doesn’t deflect the blame

3. And, whose transparent

If you find yourself under attack (whether by your competitors or an angry customer), remember to take responsibility, don’t deflect the blame, and be transparent so people can gain an accurate understanding.

how to build a reputation5. Focus on Your Allies

Some companies spend majority of their time focused on reputation.¬† For some, they think by defaming others’ reputations, they will be more sought after, and others try to be so unscathed by negative perceptions, they focus all of their time on:

  • Being perfect
  • Fixing complaints
  • Throwing others “under the bus”
  • or, being a people pleaser

Most reasons why people overthink negative reviews or overemphasize people who aren’t allies has to do with a fear of rejection or a lack of confidence.

Instead of focusing on others who aren’t fans or allies, focus on your supporters, your vendors, and those who want to see you succeed.¬† Exceed expectations of those who are already satisfied, make your vendors and employees excited you work together, and improve your recommendations.¬† Go deep rather than wide with customer acquisition.

6. Invest in Your Reputation Daily

In the Air Force, there are three core values:¬†“Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do”.¬† As a military veteran, I’ve come to realize how influential each of the core values is on your reputation.¬† If you practice selflessness, and people see how you authentically look out for others, it transforms your reputation, you build trust and loyalty.

My sister has the perfect story to illustrate this…

how to build a reputationMy sister is a dialysis technician.¬† She has a patient who wasn’t motivated to be compliant with their care plan.

They wouldn’t come to dialysis appointments when they were supposed to, so as a result, their body would fill with fluid, and they were unable to excrete their body’s unwanted waste.

He would get to the point of passing out, having blood pressure issues, and having an unhealthy heart rate because he was so bloated and full of fluid.

My sister was genuinely sad that the patient didn’t care enough about their comfort and wellbeing to follow the necessary care plan, so she talked to the patient authentically.¬† They discussed self-esteem, self-worth, and the fact that she genuinely cared about his wellbeing.

Her support really made the patient emotional.  He felt that no one cared about his wellbeing, so there was no reason for him to be compliant.  In a sense, he was suicidal.

After the conversation, he started being compliant with his dialysis treatment, and now, his kidneys have been restored to function appropriately.¬† He is very loyal to my sister to this day.¬† He brings gifts and he’s tried to help her pay her nursing tuition because he feels that she saved his life.

When you serve others even when there’s no direct benefit or calculable payment, it builds your reputation.¬† Your reputation is worth more than money, and it outlives you, so invest in it daily.

how to build a reputation7. Have Integrity

In keeping with the Air Force core values is “Integrity first”.¬† Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”, but it’s also defined as “being whole and undivided”.

Most people understand integrity and how it’s associated with honesty, but they don’t understand how it’s connected to “wholeness”.

Wholeness is being undivided.¬† It’s when you say “I like you” to someone’s face, and you say the same thing behind their back regardless of the cost.

Often times, people succumb to bribery even if it’s internal.¬† They feel like autheticity comes with a cost, so they choose to be phony to avoid turmoil in their relationships, then, as a result, they are double minded.¬† They might say they believe in you to your face, but when you turn around, they expose a pool of doubt.¬† A person with integrity is the same in your face and the same when you’re away.

Similarly, a person with integrity says the same things out loud as they feel internal.¬† Some people will tell you “I can do it”, but inside their self-talk will be complete doubt which makes them incapable of accomplishing the goal.

Integrity starts with building your personal confidence by making promises and keeping them to yourself, then it goes into building trust with others.

Some synonyms for integrity are:

honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness

If you have low self-esteem, self-worth, or confidence, it’ll be difficult to exude integrity, so work on personal development first and that will translate positively in establishing¬† your reputation with others.

how to build a reputation8. Follow Thru

Sometimes, it’s not a matter of positive self-talk or confidence, but commitment.¬† You can be capable of accomplishing a goal, confident about your performance, but later maybe you decide you’ve priced the job inadequately or a family emergency comes up, so you abandon the work.

Following thru is an essential to building a strong reputation.

If you commit to something, you should execute.¬† If you state a goal, you should complete it.¬† If you have a pattern of not following thru, then it’ll negatively impact your reputation which is like withdrawing from the most valuable account you have.

9. Take Self-Responsibility: Own and Solve Problems

No one is perfect. Things will come up. You may price too low and find you don’t have the money to complete the job.¬† You might commit to something, and realize later, the aforementioned goal isn’t attainable for you.

When you realize you’ve done something wrong, own it.¬† If you just stop showing up or disappoint a person without reason, then it lingers and can build resentment.

Own the consequences to your decisions and the consequences of decisions under your leadership or those associated with your brand name, and place accountability where it’s due.¬† Every customer wants to know their concerns are validated, their input has been heard, and wrongdoing will be handled in a way that prevents a recurring pattern.

When you own your faults and solve what’s in your circle of influence, most people can relate and extend grace.

how to build a reputation10. Lead Thru Education

The person who gives off the illusion as the nitpicker or the one who wants to be paid for any piece of advice will repel people like a plague.¬† No one wants to feel like you’re looking intently for ways to get in their pockets or constantly counting what you’re owed.

Instead, when you freely give education within your niche, you build trust almost instantaneously.¬† People can see you’re an expert, and you know how to apply your expertise to day-to-day situations.

Educating requires patience, no judgment, and the willingness to neutralize complex matters to make them digestible to people who feel unconfident, possibly irritated, or “out of their comfort zone”.¬† When you can offer valuable direction in a vulnerable time, you build trust and a strong reputation.

Final Words on How To Build a Reputation

The goal of this article was to show you show to build a reputation.  I want to close by mentioning this Bible scripture as food for thought.  It says:

Rather than wealth, choose a good reputation,
esteem over silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1 CJB)

If you have questions or concerns about this, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section.¬† I’d love to help you out! If you’re starting or growing a business, check out my free e-course. It’s a framework to grow your business: from idea to enterprise. Check my free e-course here.

Now, it’s Your Turn…

How do you manage your reputation?  How do you build your reputation?  What advice would you give about reputation building or management that I may have left out?  Leave your comments, questions, or feedback below.

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