How to build up your SME's reputation

When it comes to brand reputation, consumers are both quick to judge and reluctant to forgive. While social media is a powerful marketing tool, it also makes it easy for people to shame companies and destroy their public perception in a matter of minutes.

In uncertain times, consumers turn to whom they trust (or the recommendations of their peers). This is particularly true in the current conditions. Recovery and growth for every business depends on consumer confidence, so reputation has never been more important.

Leaving your brand perception to chance, or only operating reactively to events, carries major risks. SME owners can use standards to continually build and keep trust, as well as prepare for unexpected events. Here are three ways you can  invest in your brand.

Brand authenticity

Staying authentic is an ongoing process. Differentiating yourself from the competition, defining your company purpose and crafting the right marketing messages is one thing. It’s another to stay true to them long term.

The importance of brand authenticity has been further underlined by the coronavirus crisis. Research from Edelman suggests that over 70% of consumers will lose trust in a brand forever if they perceive it is putting profit over people. A further 77% believe brands should only communicate in ways that show sensitivity towards the current crisis and its impact.

Standards can help you stay true to your core values. BS EN ISO 26000:2020 provides guidance on ways to make your SME more socially responsible – addressing everything from working practices to environmental policies, sustainable development and the communities you impact.

Data security

Poor data and cyber security are some of the fastest ways to damage your SME’s reputation – as well as land you potentially serious fines. Best practice in this area is no longer a nice to have, it’s a baseline requirement. Customers, staff and stakeholders expect you to keep their data safe.

What’s more, the coronavirus pandemic has driven a global upsurge in reported cybersecurity incidents. Criminals have been quick to take advantage of an increased societal reliance on digital systems and communications, imposed by varying restrictions around working and lifestyle patterns.

Fortunately, there are several standards which can help. Chief among them is BS EN ISO/IEC 27001:2017, which provides a framework to help you manage your information securely, as well as review and refine your system on an ongoing basis.

Quality and continual improvement

Maintaining, measuring and improving the way your business operates is another powerful way to bolster brand reputation. BS EN ISO 9001:2015 is an internationally recognized quality management standard which is as useful for SMEs as it is for multinationals.

Business owners can use BS EN ISO 9001:2015 to create a tailored quality management system (QMS) to save costs, increase profit, win more business and satisfy more customers. If you’re able to do all those things, there’s no doubt your reputation will be enhanced as well.

Standards help small businesses improve their reputation by managing risk, embedding best practice and efficiency, and staying authentic. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking your business to the next level and staying ahead - during the pandemic and beyond.