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The Importance Of Business Reputation

The reputation of a business is essential to its survival, as the trust and confidence of the consumer can have a profound and lasting effect on its bottom line. We speak to the top brass at Swartland – a successful local business and market-leading supplier of windows and doors – on how to build, establish and maintain your company’s good reputation.

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Traditionally, businesses both big and small, depended largely on word of mouth by their stakeholders and traditional advertising to establish, build and maintain their reputation. However, according to Hans Hanekom, CEO of Swartland Investments, things have changed dramatically:

“Today, with the influx of social media and other methods of instant communication, any business needs to be conscientiously attentive to building and maintaining their reputations at all times.”

He says that although the concept of reputation might be unquantifiable, having a good reputation can go a long way to benefiting a company in a number of different ways, including standing out as a consumer’s go-to brand, support for a company in times of crisis, and of course, setting out the future value of a company going forward.

Related: How To Manage Your Business Reputation Online

The power of reputation

Jurie Hanekom, Chairman of Swartland, explains: “A reputation is a powerful thing. Swartland has been in the business or windows, doors and joinery since 1951, and over this time, it has managed to build a trusted and solid reputation based on best-in-market quality products, excellent service and unwavering business integrity. The company’s good reputation has helped tremendously over the years – when the economy is bullish, it has helped us to expand and grow, and when the market is in a slump, it has helped us to retain our market share and even open up new markets.”

Just like Swartland, if a business has a good reputation, consumers may have a preference for the company, even if there are similar products or services on the market. It can also enables a company to differentiate its products in an otherwise competitive space, which can be the deciding factor on whether a customer decides to patronise one business over another.

Says Jurie: “Research shows, for example, that due to an increased demand for more energy-efficient building products, Swartland has been able to distinguish itself as a window and door manufacture that boasts some of the most energy efficient products and manufacturing methods in its class. As such, our loyal customers are happy to pay a little more for our products, as they know that not only are they getting beautifully crafted and high-end quality products, but that they are also signing up for cradle-to-grave sustainability and energy efficiency throughout the products’ lifecycle.”

Related: How To Advance Your Reputation Globally

Element of a reputation

Another member of the Swartland, executive team, James Hanekom, CEO of Swartland Properties, says that there are 10 main components that make up and that can be used to measure a company’s reputation – these include the following elements pertaining to the business in question:

  1. Business ethics
  2. Employees and the workplace
  3. Financial performance
  4. Leadership and innovation
  5. Management and future vision
  6. Social responsibility
  7. Customer focus and commitment
  8. Quality and value
  9. Reliability and service
  10. Emotional appeal

Building a good reputation

building-a-good-reputation

James notes that a business’s reputation is something that evolves over time, but it also has to be carefully nurtured and encouraged to grow. He says that there are a number of different ways to grow a healthy and strong reputation in order to improve your market position and profitability – these include:

  • Trust is key: In business, as in life, your word is your bond, says James: “The bottom line is that if you said you will do it, then you must follow through and keep your word – whether it is related to services, products or business dealings. For example, if you have made a claim that your products are eco-friendly, then you need to deliver on this and be able to back your claim up. Or if you have promised to pay your creditors on a certain date, then you need to follow through and ensure payment goes through timeously. Trust runs through the entire gambit of your business, and establishing trust will go a long way to helping you solidify and build credibility with your customers, business partners and your employees.” 
  • High-level responsiveness: Don’t leave people hanging, notes James: “Make sure that you and your staff all return calls and answer emails and queries as promptly as possible – this will communicate to your customers and business partners that they are important to you and your organisation.” 
  • Responsibility and resolution: Make sure that you take responsibility for anything that is your company’s fault and sort it out as quickly as you can, advises James: “Don’t ever lay the blame at the customer’s door – if there is something wrong with the product or the service they have received from you is anything but exceptional, then you need to acknowledge this and do whatever you can to rectify the problem. Remember that a distressed customer can become your most loyal ally if you make an effort to resolve their issues quickly and professionally. If left unresolved – they can become one of your worst enemies and do untold damage to your brand and reputation.” 

Related: Richard Branson on Building a Strong Reputation

  • Value and service: Acknowledging and rewarding customers for their loyalty and paying attention to their individual preferences can make a really big difference in how your customers perceive you, says James: “If you manage to handle this well – a customer will move away from regarding you as a mere organisation, and become more familiar and friendly towards your company’s brand.”
  • Take on technology: Make sure that you are at the top of your game when it comes to technology and innovation, as James says that this can be critical to being perceived as a competent and capable business: “Swartland’s revolutionary SpecNet for example, is a practical, easy-to-use web-based tool that supports professionals operating in the built environment by providing free downloadable ArchiCad objects, Revit families and product information for Swartland’s range of windows and doors – making specifying and accurate design a synch for architects, engineers and specifiers alike.” 
  • Communication and transparency: Your business’s reputation hinges on the way people perceive it, so make sure that all correspondence, whether it be letters, emails, voicemails or any other methods of communication are always professional, to the point and grammatically correct, explains James: “It is essential to use the correct spelling, syntax and grammar and to make sure that you leave the correct contact information at all times.”
  • Give back: As a business, it is vital to see yourself as a part of the greater community, which is why corporate social responsibility is an essential arm of any business’s reputation, says James: “Give back to the community wherever possible, because at the end of the day, the strength of your community and your country as a whole is the foundation of the strength of your business.”

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Branding

The First Thing You Should Do When Building Your Brand (Hint: It Isn’t Pick Out A Logo)

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out.

Rebecca Horan

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When you’re launching a new business, it’s tempting to go straight to the fun stuff – the logo, the colours, the mood board. But, before going down the Pinterest rabbit hole, it’s important to establish the core purpose and belief system of your brand.

Indeed, studies show that companies with purpose grow twice as fast as those with a low sense of purpose. So, a beautifully designed visual brand identity without a clearly defined purpose is like an exquisitely wrapped present that’s … well, empty.

Despite this, a Gallup survey shows that only 41 percent of workers know what their company stands for and how it differs from competitor brands. That’s a problem. Because informed and engaged employees are often the front line ambassadors for a brand, this disconnect can lead to customer confusion or worse, indifference. The snazziest logo in the world can’t save the business that neglects the heart of its brand.

As a brand strategist, one of the first steps I take in developing entrepreneurs’ brands is to help them to establish their core purpose. Having a clearly defined and expressed purpose not only serves as an internal compass that guides their decision-making and strategic direction, but it also acts as a beacon for their ideal customers – making it easier to understand, relate to and remember what the business represents.

Related: Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out. It’s like constructing a building: You need a strong foundation. The following three steps will help you to understand and articulate the heart and soul of your brand.

1. Create your mission statement

Articulating your mission is one of the most important, yet often overlooked steps in creating a powerful brand. Simply put, your mission reflects what you’ve set out to do.

What makes a great mission statement? It should be clear, provide some strategic direction and inspire. When crafting your mission, think about your business goals, the value you’d like to bring, whom you serve and how you do it. Ideally, your mission will also be clear enough for people outside your organisation to understand and concise enough for you – and your employees – to remember.

Let’s take a look at how Honest Tea does it:

“Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our recipes, with sustainability and great taste for all.”

The first sentence describes what’s being produced (great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages), while the second sentence touches on important elements of the value the business brings (honesty, integrity and sustainability) and who it serves (for all).

After you’ve written your mission statement, revisit it regularly as you build your brand. You might find that it needs some tweaks as your business grows.

define-your-vision

2. Define your vision

If mission is the “what,” then your brand’s vision is the “why.” Your vision is a future-focused statement that paints a vivid picture of what the world will look like once you’ve accomplished your mission. It’s not just inspirational, it’s aspirational. Rallying around a powerful vision can help everyone in an organisation stay motivated, inspired and focused on the big picture when things get tough.

A great way to approach the vision statement is to think about the ultimate impact of the product or service you provide. A good strategy is to focus on the benefit of what you offer. Then dig a little deeper … What is the benefit of that benefit? Keep going until you have a clear picture of what the future will look like when you’ve succeeded. Above all, think big.

Ikea’s vision is:

“To create a better everyday life for the people.”

It’s a deceptively simple-looking statement. For anyone familiar with Ikea, the explanatory statement that follows is unnecessary, but it explains each component of the simple vision statement:

“Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

Related: How To Build A Community Around Your Brand

3. Identify your values

Your brand (or core) values are like the pillars of your company. They are going to help guide your organisation’s actions, influence the workplace culture, help your team to make sourcing and hiring decisions and ultimately impact customer loyalty. Why? Because it’s in our nature to want to align ourselves with people, products and organisations that share our values.

Think about what you stand for – and what you’ll never compromise on. Consider the beliefs and qualities that have a unique, direct and meaningful impact on the way you do business. While there’s no “magic number,” for brand values, more than five can be difficult to remember and internalise, and fewer than three isn’t really enough to give the full picture of your business.

Once you’ve determined your brand values, write them as statements that exemplify how they’re implemented in your business. A great example of this is Starbucks’ values:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

Imagine the difference if they had simply listed words like “Inclusion,” “Courage,” “Transparency” and “Accountability,” instead of illustrating these concepts with these descriptive sentences.

It’s not enough to simply slap some values up on your website and call it a day. Successful business owners know that it’s all in the implementation. We must weave our brand’s mission, vision and values into the fabric of our business. Everything we do and say, from our offerings to our marketing to our hiring approach, should not only align with, but reinforce our mission, vision and values.

Once you’ve laid the foundation, other elements, like a logo, will come easier to you, your team and any outside partners.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Below are just some of the ways a branded car can boost your business.

Amy Galbraith

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If you own a small business or you have a franchise to run, you know the power of branding. And you likely use it on a regular basis to draw in more clients and retain your current ones. If you understand that getting your brand out there in the eye of the public is important, then you will have looked into unique ways to do so. One of these is to invest in a branded vehicle for your company.

You can speak to the used car dealers in Gauteng and surrounds about which cars are the easiest to brand and move on from there. Be sure to choose branding that reflects your company or you could choose to have your logo incorporated on the vinyl. If you are looking at pre-owned vehicles, a luxury car will help to improve the message of your brand, depending on your industry.

Awareness of your brand is increased

Roadside advertisements are eye-catching, especially if they are on billboards or larger signposts. But when was the last time you actually stopped and noticed one? This is likely because, as a driver, you are paying attention to the other cars rather than advertisements on boards and poles.

Branded vehicles are much more effective at increasing brand awareness because they are noticed more often by other drivers and passengers. If you are sending your company car into the traffic every day, then your brand will be getting more exposure than it would with a billboard. This is because other drivers are noticing it and can spend longer looking your logo and contact details.

People will become familiar with your brand

Consumers would rather purchase from a brand they know or have heard of than from one they know nothing about. And by branding your vehicle, you will create familiarity in consumers, leading to trust and eventually to more customers.

If people know your brand, they will buy from you. You can breed this familiarity by branding your company car so that whenever your staff are out at meetings or making deliveries, the public will notice your brand and company details.

For example, if you sell bespoke wedding cakes and you drive around a certain geographical location on a daily basis, the next bride who lives in that area will recognise your brand and might use you to create their wedding masterpiece.

Related: 6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular And Profitable

It creates a positive association

Having a positive brand association is ideal for every business. And vehicle branding can help with this. Once you have chosen your company car from one of your local second-hand car dealerships, you can create a vehicle wrap with your company logo, branding and details on it.

An effective way to create a positive brand association is to ask your staff to park in front of health and wellness centres when going to meetings or high-end shopping centres. You should also always ensure that whoever is driving the company car obeys the road rules and does not cause any accidents on the road. This will show the public that your business or company values people and thus values consumers, giving them a positive association with your brand. It is a simple but effective way to garner new clients and impress current ones.

You will look professional

There is nothing more embarrassing than turning up to a client meeting in a dilapidated car. The first impression that you make on the client will not be positive and you will be entering into an agreement with someone who views your company in a negative light, which is never a good sign.

Having a branded car will make you look professional and will set you aside from the competition. You should look for cars for sale in Gauteng and surrounds with little to no rust or damage before branding the vehicle. You will show the clients that you take your business seriously and want to make an impression on them.

If you are making house calls or delivering goods to a customer, they will feel reassured when seeing a branded car pull up outside. Not only will you look professional, but you will be proud of your company and will want to show it off.

Related: The Economics of Branding

Show the world your style

Aside from helping you look professional, a branded vehicle will show the world your company’s style. You will be able to show clients that you take your work seriously and, because your car is out in traffic, you will garner familiarity with consumers.

People will become more aware of your brand and will have a positive association with your brand and image. So, if you want to boost your business and stand out from the crowd, be sure to look into branding your vehicle and making it shine among normal cars.

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Branding

3 Keys To Growing Your Brand Via Livestreaming

To do so, here are three key tips on how you can effectively engage them via livestreaming.

Victoria Herrera

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On March 2018, hip-hop icon Drake and a who’s-who of celebrity friends – NFL wide receiver Juju-Smith Schuster, rapper Travis Scott, and Twitch mainstay Ninja – set a livestreaming record with 628,000 concurrent viewers who tuned in to watch them play Fortnite: Battle Royale. The milestone was a watershed moment for the new medium, especially for brands: The ability to connect with fans via live video of others performing, playing, or even just talking to the camera had finally come of age.

As household brands like Nike and National Geographic advertise on livestreaming quiz show HQ, many entrepreneurs may mistakenly think the medium is only fitting for large multinationals. This could not be further from the truth. Livestreaming is in fact a great content marketing, branding, and advertising tool for entrepreneurs with businesses of all sizes, precisely because there is such a low barrier to entry. All you need is a camera and some creativity.

Even in places like Africa where internet speeds tend to be lower, leveraging livestreaming as a tool for your brand can pay off great dividends. There are digitally-savvy, upwardly mobile people across the continent who have been early adopters of both international and local livestreaming platforms. And you can reach them.

Related: The Ultimate 101 List Of Business Ideas To Start Your Own Business In South Africa

To do so, here are three key tips on how you can effectively engage them via livestreaming.

1. Make your livestreaming experiential

Some may assume that most of livestreaming is vlogging about your day to the camera. While many users and shows do rely on monologue or dialogue alone, you stand a better chance of attracting an audience if you do something related to your business. Activities that are exotic to the average viewer tend to do particularly well.

One livestreamer from China, for example, opened pearls from caught freshwater mussels. Viewers were mesmerised by the simple act of discovery and bought potential pearl-bearing muscles in droves, turning the once humble businessman into a multi-millionaire. Does your business have “pearls” that would appeal to livestreaming viewers?

2. Treat your livestreaming like a television network

Another major misconception about livestreaming is that it is only appropriate for capturing spontaneous moments or events. While livestreaming does lend itself well to serendipitous video, brands who want to develop a following on the medium need to treat it like a television network. In other words, they must stick to a set schedule, so viewers know when to tune in.

The schedule not even need be particularly demanding – the importance is the regularity. Our flagship quiz show on Kumu – the livestreaming platform we founded out of the Philippines – airs only three times a week. But because we were disciplined in sticking to this time slot, even when it was difficult to do, the quiz show now enjoys some of the highest audiences on our platform.

3. Build your livestreaming tribe

Since livestreaming gives brands the opportunity to flick on a switch and instantly connect with a viewership, they can sometimes neglect to engage other content creators in the community. This would be a huge missed opportunity. While the big brands who turn to community engagement via livestreaming may command all the headlines, there are plenty of ways that any entrepreneur can connect with their peers in the space.

You can offer to guest or co-host a livestreaming show that has a similar audience. You can donate branded giveaways to their viewers. You can even sponsor native content, wherein your brand plays a key part of the conversation or action. All of these community-building efforts will create more direct visibility for your brand, as well as funnel fans to your livestreaming show or channel.

Related: The Seven Rules Of Social Media

As with any digital marketing effort, success will not occur overnight in livestreaming. You need to stay committed and work hard, but the results will be well worth the effort: Unlike with other social media channels, you will be able to connect with potential customers intimately and in real-time. As an entrepreneur, what more can you ask for?

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