Growing an online business involves more than just expanding your customer base. If you want to see some serious growth and stick around for the long run, you’re going to need to focus on your brand integrity and reputation.
This was one of my key lessons I wrote about in the super popular 24 incredible lessons learned from being in business. If you’re an online entrepreneur, then you depend more than ever on an Internet presence, and that’s why you need to be vigilant in defending your brand from being stolen, copied or unfairly used.
Register Your Trademark
If you have any concerns at all, you should go ahead and register your brand name, logo design and any identifying emblem or motto with trademark office in your country. Registration of trade and service marks is not mandatory, but it has advantages. For example, in the United States, Federal registration puts the public on notice of your ownership and any form of infringement is legally actionable.
Before you apply to have your trademark registered you will need to conduct a search for your preferred name and design to ensure these are not too similar to existing brands. We can’t have you being mistaken for someone else’s because this could potentially lead to trademark violation complaints and confused customers.
To head off this issue, consult a lawyer with experience in intellectual property law to guide you through the trademark registration process. It’s really worth it, particularly if you’re developing software or physical products.
Protect Your Online Turf
Secure domain names that directly refer to your company and its brands. This entails buying up the domain using the brand name and all possible extensions such as .org and .net on top of the typical .com. For example, I have thesuitcaseentrepreneur.com as well as .tv and .mob some time back just in case. I’d recommend you also go so far as to buy up misspelled versions of your brand name like I have to avoid customer misdirection to a malicious site (and because in my case, entrepreneur is a hard word to spell!).
Protecting your turf also means constantly monitoring your brand and your reputation on the Internet. The anonymity that rules Internet interaction makes it too easy for a disgruntled customer or employee to vent on any number of websites. One bad review could end up going viral and replicating so quickly that your brand is overwhelmed with the negative publicity.
For start-ups and small businesses, monitoring your digital footprint is a manageable task. However, as your business grows you may want to engage the services of an online reputation management specialist. These companies will monitor websites that publish product and business reviews as well as social media for any negative feedback that need to be addressed immediately. If your reputation matters to you, it’s worth considering!
Keep Your Customers Happy
Quality products and services will encourage repeat business and positive feedback. Supportive reviews are not as dramatic as cringe-inducing bad reviews and may not replicate as much, but accumulating enough of them will build the company’s rep as a reliable business.
Negative customer reviews may result from an unpleasant contact with you or whoever managers your customer service. If you have a person in charge of this or a team, then make sure to take the time to train all of them in the art of customer satisfaction. Engender a sense of ownership in all your employees to improve morale and increase dedication to customer service. Employees who are happy with their jobs tend to work with greater equanimity and are more productive. Let’s face it – that’s what we want, right?
Expand Your Digital Presence
Over the last few years, the role of social media in marketing and branding has become well entrenched. Extend your presence through social media participation. If your online business is social media-savvy, you will instantly boost your brand recognition and reputation management. Should there ever be a need to defend and re-establish your credibility in the face of negative feedback; social media will provide a viable soapbox to explain yourself. If you want some tips on the DOs and DON’T’s of Social Media Etiquette head here to pick up my free handy guide.
Be Proactive about Enforcement
Trademark and copyright infringement diminishes your brand. Be relentless about pursuing those idiots infringing on intellectual properties that are rightfully yours. This might not be easy if the offenders are in another country, as is often the case. But if you’re serious about protecting yourself, then an attorney knowledgeable in the practice of intellectual property law would be the best person to contact to help you out.
You have invested time and money to build your brand. When these geezers threaten to damage your reputation through unfair practices, stand your ground and enforce your rights. Your business will thank you for it.
Tell me the experiences you’ve had in protecting your brand and reputation in the comments below!