Though the fundamentals of building a reputation – personal or business – hasn’t changed much in the last couple thousand years; we are in a time of rapid technological change that is impacting many of the specific details of how our reputations are both built and experienced.
Thank you to reader August Lizarraga Jr. for the specific request to follow up my last article Building Your Business Reputation with some specific techniques to build a reputation and differentiate yourself (business) from competitors.
One of my mentors impressed upon me that;
“The details don’t matter nearly as much as the fundamentals. Simply mastering the fundamentals of anything will take care of at least 80% of the situation.”
What’s even more amazing is realizing that there are only a few fundamentals that you need to learn – no matter what sport, activity, endeavor. You can probably count them on one hand.
If you have not yet read Dale Carnegie’s masterful work How To Win Friends And Influence People, I highly recommend it (click the title for a link) as it serves the fundamentals quite easily.
Technology changes how we interact, but it is critical to remember that Facebook didn’t invent friends; Twitter didn’t patent followers; and connections were heavily used before LinkedIn – all were around before the Palm Pilot, before the Rolodex, even before the telegraph! Social media simply digitized, quantified, and in some ways simplified the diverse social connections humans have always made.
One key I have learned with today’s technology is that the demands of communication and responsiveness are steadily increasing in speed. Phone calls (especially to a land line) almost require an appointment, and seem to take a lower priority when compared to sending a text, tweet, or various form of instant message. Email is a great way to convey large amounts of info, attach small files, and link to websites/articles/sharing drives. The way we consume information has changed, but the concept of engaging people with worthwhile content, stories, and interactions is fundamentally the same.
Rather than a write a ‘how-to guide to building a social reputation; I’m providing a design approach to reputation-building that can be implemented practically anywhere.
Make some time to contemplate and answer the following questions.
1) How do you want others to perceive/speak/think of you?
First and foremost, your reputation is completely up to you! Just like the Cheshire Cat told us “If you don’t know where you want to go; any road will take you there.” Put pencil to paper and write down words and ideas that come to mind.
They will likely be vague terms at the start. Work past this knowing the more you get this into focus, the easier EVERYTHING else will be (especially the difficult and unpleasant situations). Break up the assignment into just 1-2 ten-minute segments each day and shoot for at least 50 words or ideas. Continue to keep your mind open to other influencers and people you already respect.
Here are some of my first terms to get you started: Honesty, integrity, relationship, authenticity, legitimacy, connection, approachable, creative, interesting, unique+valuable, relevant, innovative, progressive…
1-B) What sort of actions might bring this to fruition?
As these words begin to shape your actions; make sure to define what these aspects of your reputation mean (Why is honesty important? How will you tell if people trust you? What does integrity mean to you? How might creativity be expressed to others?).
To be interesting to someone, it is best to start out by being interested in them.
To become trustworthy, it also helps to start by trusting others.
Before you can become valuable to someone, it helps to understand what they consider value-able.
2) Who is your ideal audience and what do they value?
I’m sure your initial audience is similar to your customers. Let’s define a customer as all those touched by your product/service. That means the ‘buyer’ as well as all users and influencers like accounting/billing, shipping/receiving, quality control, manufacturing processors, customers’ sales agents, etc. They each have different different needs that, when considered and met, will lead to an incredible reputation.
It is likely that they are looking for similar words to what you wrote in the first question, yet have their own interpretations/understandings of them. Having specific discussions on what ‘quality, responsive, and valuable’ mean to each party will go a LONG way in building a great reputation before a single purchase is made!
3) Who are your competitors?
Not just those who offer similar products to similar audiences (direct competitors); but also those tangential opportunities (indirect competitors) vying for precious resources such as time, attention, and funds.
In researching competitors; look at the claims they are making; the verbiage they use in marketing; pricing and sales strategies; as well as their results. Do you notice most do not say anything worthwhile? Since the vast majority of anyone’s competitors all claim to be low-cost providers who merely keep up with a small portion of industry innovators; it leaves lots of room for you to claim or even ‘own’ a worthwhile niche that is both valuable and underserved.
With this foundation; the task of building the reputation you designed becomes remarkably easy – regardless if you are using social media, face-to-face networking, personal connections, or combination of them all. Once built, your reputation requires constant maintenance. Remember that your reputation is accessible every second of every day; make the investment to build one that will actually work for you.
If you have topics you would like me to explore in a future article; please feel free to make the suggestion. I invite you to like, share, comment, tweet, and follow as you see fit.
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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting
agency focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic
approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the
needs of contemporary business environments.