Reputation, networks crucial to survive downturn
JUNE 3 2008
Reputation and networks crucial to survive downturn
New Zealand’s business professionals need to get better at managing their reputations and building networks if they’re to survive the economic downturn, says a successful businessman who’s built a multimillion-dollar business in just eight years.
John Wall started training organisation Sugar International in 2000, with just one client. With business doubling almost every year since, it now has a multimillion-dollar turnover and bottom line.
Wall says all of this has been possible because he has actively built networks and managed his reputation, and he is urging New Zealand’s business professionals to pay more attention to how they build and cultivate theirs.
“With house sales slumping and job losses accelerating, reputation has never been more important to professionals in the service industries,” he says. “The only way you’re going to survive and prosper in this environment is to build strong networks and trade on the power of your good reputation.”
With other shareholders in a new business, HowGood (www.howgood.co.nz), Wall is providing an easy-to-use tool to help professionals do just that.
HowGood combines the internet and word of mouth to build reputation, reaching prospective customers any time of night or day and highlighting how trustworthy professional service providers are – all for free.
“Many industries, such as real estate or financial planning, are high-risk, low-trust industries,” says Wall. “Customers know the financial and emotional stakes are high.
“Add to that the financial pressure they are under now, and they become doubly cautious about who they choose. And these businesses are also under extreme pressure because of the economic slowdown.
“The business professionals that do well during this part of the business cycle will be those with a solid customer network and a trustworthy reputation. Everyone else will find the going very tough.”
HowGood helps customers hire with confidence, by highlighting what other customers say about professionals they are considering. And it accelerates the reputation of ethical, customer-focused professionals, generating many more new leads than traditional word-of-mouth marketing.
People looking to hire an estate agent, mortgage broker, or one of many other professionals, can research by industry and location, and then compare customer ratings and reviews to find a professional they are comfortable with.
“By getting their best customers to review them, any professional who lists on HowGood highlights the level of service they offer and shows they provide value for money,” says Wall. “This is a no-cost way for professionals to maintain and build customer networks and contacts so when customers do make the decision to hire, those professionals are top of mind.”
Professionals who list on HowGood also have their own profile page and a blog to communicate with customers. They can view page statistics and compare their customer ratings with those of their competitors. And they can build up contact lists of other trustworthy professionals, so tapping in to one another’s client networks.
“HowGood presents professionals to a much wider market than they could ever reach through traditional marketing techniques, and it’s free,” says Wall.
It also focuses marketing on people who are actively seeking a service, rather than wasting it on many who aren’t – and possibly alienating them in the process.
“Cold calling hundreds of people, or posting thousands of brochures, simply to gain business from three or four is not only annoying for the people receiving the calls, but also inefficient and time-consuming for the professionals involved,” says Wall.
“It makes more sense to market to those who are actively seeking your services – it takes much less time and effort and has a much higher conversion rate.”
HowGood provides a new way of marketing that works for both professionals and their customers, he says. It gives each side more control over the process, while ensuring customers find the right service providers and professionals reach the right customers.
“This really is a win-win for both groups,” says Wall. “HowGood uses the most tried and trusted form of marketing – word of mouth – and takes it global. And as every professional knows, satisfied customers are the best advocates they can possibly have.
“Now those customers can tell not only their friends and family how good you are, they can tell the world.”
HowGood Ltd is owned 75% by Sugar International Ltd and 25% by the MacAvoy family, which includes Nick and James MacAvoy, directors of online DVD rental company Movieshack.
HowGood Industry List:
Beauty and Health
Human Resource Consultants
Mortgage Brokers/Mobile Lenders
Real Estate Agents
Trainers, Assessors & Facilitators