Have you googled yourself recently?

As leaders of ambitious SMEs you and your brand will be searched for online by potential customers, so it is vital that what they find helps secure a sale. Whether you are targeting a global or local audience, customers need to find the right information as easily as possible, and get a positive impression from what they find.
1. First impressions count
When was the last time you Googled yourself, others in your team, or your brand? What does your ‘snippet’ say about your business in the search results? What images show up when you are searched? Are simple things such as titles, dates and brand statements consistent across all your profiles? Do all links work? Consistency in appearance and core messages across all of your channels build a better impression – increasing the likelihood of a visit to your website or that first meeting will actually happen.
2. Look, listen and be proactive
Regardless of how loved and successful your brand is, you will never please everyone all of the time, so it is vital to monitor and manage who is saying what about you online. You need to reply to messages on social media, discussion forums and respond to customer reviews promptly, so do searches and set up Google alerts to keep track. Another great free tool is Who’s Talkin which allows you to monitor social media mentions too.
3. The best laid plans make all the difference
Managing risk is not just about what you do in a crisis – it’s about creating the greatest opportunity for success. In today’s digital age opportunities and crisis can arise at any moment, not just Monday to Friday, so review your risks, create contingency plans and be clear on the decision hierarchy in case key leaders aren’t available. Having a crisis-management strategy means you can react quickly to any issues, in a positive way, creating the impression that you are in control, and prevent contagion.
4. Counteract negativity with positivity
A happy customer is your greatest asset – not only for sales but as a great way to counteract negativity. The most compelling response to a negative review or comment about your company is to allow your biggest fans to take the sting out of the attack with their positive experience. So do what you can to be transparent with handling feedback and facilitate customer comment in the channels you own, such as your website.
5. Avoid turning mole hills into mountains
There’s a time and place for battles and online is not it. If something negative comes up, act quickly, take ownership of the issue and defuse the dispute online by asking if you can contact them directly to help resolve their issue. Simply provide a telephone number with the name of the specific person who will own the solution and you can avoid further inflammation.
6. Sorry is the hardest word…but make sure it’s sincere
Even the most popular brands make mistakes and have to say “sorry” – and I’m sure we can all think of a few in recent months. Some have dealt with it well (O2, Natwest) others not so well (RIM, Barclays). The key is to be sincere, communicate well, offer a solution – without overcompensating – and where suitable offer rewards or offers to show you are sorry after the storm has passed.
If you handle an online incident with sincerity and transparency it is possible to turn a negative experience into a positive one for customers by demonstrating just how seriously you take customer feedback.
Want help building the profile of your business?  We can help – and if you’ve got the potential and ambition to grow at 20% year on year – you could access invaluable expert support and training with GrowthAccelerator too. Visit www.growthaccelerator.com for more information and register your interest, or make contact with us through our Say Hello page at www.TheNurtureNetwork.co.uk.

Christina Richardson About the author

As the first on-demand marketing department for start-ups and entrepreneurial growth businesses, our people work with you as one of your team in a flexible way – whether it is two days a week or even one day a month.