Do you want to start a reputation management company online? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a reputation management business with NO money and no experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample reputation management business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample reputation management agency marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for reputation management agencies. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a reputation management business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.
Why Start a Reputation Management Business?
The reputation management business is one that has become very important in this age and time and this is due to the fact that large scale companies all over the world have their reputations to protect especially with how the internet has served as a means for comments about people, organizations, places and things to be posted, regardless of whether the comments have negative or positive impacts.
Businesses looking to protect their reputation usually hire a reputation management service to help them monitor activities about them online and seek to correct it especially those that have a negative impact on their business.
Ensuring that a company’s reputation is positive at all times is no small feat as a negative response to a review would not only do damage to your client’s business but your own business as well. Reputation management is used by different companies and individuals who have a reputation they think is worth protecting and they would go to any length legally to ensure that their reputation is shielded or beyond the notice of the public.
The reputation management business is one that has the black and the white hats. The white hats are seen as those who provide legitimate services by improving a person or company’s standing legally on the search engine via tested marketing techniques; however, reputation management can also be seen from the dark side as some entrepreneurs in this sector are willing to break certain rules in order to ensure that their clients’ reputation do not suffer any negative publicity. Regardless of the side of the divide, the aim of both black and white hats reputation management services is to ensure that their clients do not suffer a dent to their reputation.
Once you have conducted a survey on the business you intend going into and the niche you prefer, it is essential that you write a business plan that will enable you outline the business and how you intend to handle it.
Starting a Reputation Management Business Online – A Complete Guide
- Industry Overview
The number of large companies that have hired or are hiring reputation management companies are on the increase and this is because a quarter of a company’s market share can be attributed directly to its market value, according to the world Economic Forum.
The reason why several companies engage in sourcing for reputation managers to help maintain or promote their reputation is due to its customers. There are more than 10.3 billion searches on Google regarding products and services every month and this is in fact 78 percent of internet users in the United States of America.
According to professional marketers, one of the biggest reasons why a sale can be closed quickly is due to trust from the potential customer. Therefore, if a company already has a bad reputation, it will be hard for them to make many sales. According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, more reputation managers are getting hired or contracted and are being paid well.
97 percent of consumers in the United States of America claim that they go online to read reviews about local businesses. Also, according to 90 percent of consumers, getting positive reviews about a service or product they intend to buy usually influences their decision in purchasing the product.
Recruiters in the United States have stated that strong reputation online influences to a certain degree their hiring decisions. This is as employees are now playing a critical role in helping to boost or downgrade a company’s reputation. This has made companies to work harder to be able to preserve and earn the trust of those that work with them.
The sophistication of the internet has allowed people to be able to monitor others. According to a research, more than 45 percent of internet users have had to search for information about people from the past. This has therefore led to an increase in how people promote themselves or conceal themselves and their activities depending on what they intend to achieve. The tricky thing about keeping track of all your information online is that it is not easy staying on top of all information especially as there are many photo and video sharing sites which may have a picture of you in it.
This has led to social networking users being careful about the activities they post online, according to research; most people – 65 percent of adults – have had to change the privacy settings on their profile in order to restrict the number of people that have access to their information online; while about 56 percent has un-friended some of their contacts with at least 36 percent deleting certain comments about them online.
More Americans are now aware of how their reputation matters a lot and are due to this keeping tabs on their social media accounts.
Starting a Reputation Management Business – Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographics and psychographic composition of those who require the services of a reputation management firm cannot be entirely limited to large scale companies and business organizations but it also includes small stores, celebrities and wealthy personalities, lawyers, politicians, doctors, investors, tech giants, manufacturing companies and even educational institutions.
Therefore, if you are looking to just defining the demographics for your reputation management company, then you should try to make it all encompassing. It should include anyone who has a reputation worth protecting in the United States of America.
List of Niche ideas Within the Reputation Management Business That You Can Specialize in
As a reputation management company, your job is to ensure that any negative comment, publication or article about your client is not noticed by the public. This means studying web analytics and looking to manipulate them to favour your client.
There are two categories of reputation management companies, those that legally help to promote the positive reputation of their clients and those companies are called the white hats; and those that use any means even illegal to promote their client’s image positively and remove any negative dent. In starting your reputation management company, it is essential that you decide which category you would be belonging to and in this category choose the niche that will allow you stand out from your competitors.
Therefore some of the niche areas that are available for any reputation management company regardless of the category include;
- Reputation Marketing
- Content Development
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Manipulation and Management
The Level of Competition in the Reputation Management Industry
The level of competition that exists in the reputation management business industry isn’t one that is dependent on the location of the business as one does not have to meet physically with the client before work can be done for the client. This therefore means that most of the transactions are usually online and that one can operate this business from any part of the world.
Even though the entry barrier for businesses in this industry is low especially as regards startup capital, regulations and certifications, clients aren’t concerned about this as what a client expects is to have their reputation restored positively or maintained in order to bring attention to a cause or activity. Therefore, if you are able to offer a client all this and more, you can work from any part of the world.
There are several reputation management companies in existence that are not only all over the United States of America but globally as well. Therefore, if you are looking to start your own reputation management company in the United States of America, you should be prepared for the stiff competition that you will face internally and externally.
List of Well – Known Brands in the Reputation Management Business
Even though the reputation management industry is still a new industry, there are some brands that have stood out because of their success rate, their processes, their popularity, how long they have been in the industry, and their quality of service. Below are some of the well-known reputation management companies in the United States of America;
- Reputation Management Consultants
- Reputation X
- Exclusive Concepts
- Fair Marketing Inc
- Mint Social
- Spiral Cities Marketing
- VJG Interactive
- Reputation Rhino
- Customer Magnetism
- OneIMS – Integrated Marketing Solutions
- My Search Guru
- Yada Yada Marketing
Reputation management which is mostly an online form of service helps clients to clean off or suppress content that is regarded as negative, which can either come from the clients themselves or the clients’ customers, and might cause a dent in the reputation of these clients. These usually consist of mentions, recommendations, comments and reviews.
This is so because online reviews and recommendations have influenced customers’ behaviour, beliefs and decisions. The more positive reviews a business has, the higher the chances of attracting more customers to the business that will eventually convert to sales and this is because customers trust other customers and what they have to say about a product or service.
The reputation management business has seen a remarkable growth especially as there has been an increase in demand for its services from corporate companies who are looking to boost their reputations in order to be able to attract and retain the best talent, increase their market share and revenue and essentially increase the price of their stock.
There are two categories of reputation management business models and they are the black hat and white hat. Those that are in the category of the black hat can do almost anything even crossing legal and moral lines to help their clients restore their reputation; while those in the white hat category often employ regular tactics such as content development, SEO strategies and others to help maintain or restore the integrity of their clients.
Starting Your Reputation Management Business Company from Scratch vs Buying a Franchise
When starting a business, an entrepreneur has to decide whether he wants to start the business from scratch or whether he prefers to buy a franchise instead. Choosing either option will depend entirely on what goals and objectives have been set for your company and which option will help you attain these goals and objectives faster.
If your decision is to buy a franchise, then you will need to know what franchises are available and what their capabilities are so that you can use this to decide which franchise would best suit your company and not waste money or time on just any franchise opportunity. In the reputation management sector, there are no franchise opportunities available so if you intend going into this business, you will need to start from the scratch.
Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face When Starting a Reputation Management Business
If you are looking to start any business as an entrepreneur, then you must be prepared to face threats and challenges that are likely to arise during the course of starting and running the business. While some threats ad challenges can be easily handled, you should note that not all will be handled and in this kind of situation, all you can do is hope for the best outcome and be prepared with alternatives should it ever come to that.
Therefore some of the challenges and threats that you are likely to face when starting or running your own reputation management business include; having to work a thin line between right and wrong when trying to restore the reputation of your client, facing competition from those already existing in the business and from new entrants as well, and having to promote your business so as to catch the attention of your target market.
Starting a Reputation Management Business – Legal Matters
- Best legal entity to use for this type of business
When starting your reputation management business, one of the most important decisions that you will have to make is what kind of legal entity would be best for your business. The reason why this decision is very important is because the legal entity you choose for your business will have an impact on how the business can grow in the short and long term.
Because of how important the issue of a legal entity is, it is usually advisable to conduct a research that would point out what others in your sector are using and the pros and cons of each legal entity. You will also need to consider what your objectives are as a company and where you intend to grow to in future.
In the United States, there are five basic legal entities available for an entrepreneur and they are; sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S corporation and Limited Liability Company (LLC). There are basic factors to consider when choosing any of these legal entities and they are; liability limit, flexibility, taxation structure, ease of set up, control and ownership.
Also, the same legal entity might differ slightly depending on the state where you intend to operate your business from. It is always best to consult with a lawyer when choosing a legal entity as they can help you choose which legal entity would best suit your reputation management business.
Catchy Business Name ideas Suitable for a Reputation Management Business Company
No matter how fantastic your business idea is, without picking a name for your business, there will be no identity for all the ideas. Picking a business name is therefore very important as the business name you choose must be one that is catchy, unique, memorable and also indicative of the industry you are in.
Picking a business name is definitely not easy as the name you have chosen may have already been chosen by another business, so you will need to pick several unique names so that you will have options to fall back on if the business names you pick have been picked by another.
Below are unique business names that might be suitable for your reputation management company and should therefore be considered;
- Reputation Plus
- In-control Reputation Managers
- Social and Web Management
- Critical Reputation, Inc
- Code Red Reputation Management
As a business that intends to operate in the United States of America, having insurance policies is mandatory even though these insurance policies are to the benefit of the businesses as it helps protect the owner of the business from being personally liable for any incident that might occur from him, the clients or the employees during the course of starting or running the business.
Insurance policies are very important and for you to therefore pick the best ones for your reputation management company, it is best you engage the services of an insurance agent or broker so that they will help you with the appropriate insurance policies. This will also help you create the right budget for your insurance policies.
Below are some of the insurance policies that you should consider purchasing when starting or whilst running your reputation management company in the United States of America;
- General Insurance
- Errors and Omission Insurance
- Cyber Liability Insurance
- Liability Insurance
- Business Owner’s Policy Group Insurance
- Worker’s Compensation Insurance
- Employment Practices Liability Insurance
- Payment Protection Insurance
Intellectual Property Protection/Trademark
A reputation management company is that which helps a client manage their reputation especially online in order for their own target market to have only positive reviews about them. This therefore is a service oriented business and depending on the category you are in, some of your works even though they are intended for your clients might need to be protected intellectually.
Other areas that you would need to consider protecting are your company’s logo, name, domain name, slogan and media production concepts and any other material deemed necessary enough to be protected. In protecting any of your property, you will need to get a law attorney to sign an IPP for you with the USPTO.
Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Reputation Management Business?
There are several things that a reputation management company must do online in order to help maintain or promote the positive image of their clients which range from developing and promoting contents, monitoring social media and correcting wrong impressions about the client and engaging in optimizing the search engine on behalf of the client amongst other things.
There are some certifications that can be acquired in order to boost your profile in the industry you are in and they are;
- Online reputation management certification
- Online Job Search and Reputation Management (OJSRM)
These are by no means all of the certifications that you might be required to get as there are more. You should ensure that any certifications you intend getting have the proper accreditation. Having these certifications help boost your chances and allows you to stand out from your competitors.
List of Legal Documents You Need to Run a Reputation Management Business
When starting your business in the United States of America, there are certain legal documents that you will be required to have so as to make your business legal even if you will mostly be operating your business online. The fact that this is an online business should make you more careful and quick to get the desired legal documents for your business especially as there are many scam online businesses in existence.
It is important to therefore make the necessary findings that will ensure that you do not run into any problems whatsoever with the law. If you aren’t sure of what legal documents you should get, then perhaps you should seek the services of an attorney with experience in online businesses to help you out.
Below are some of the basic legal documents that you would need in order to run your reputation management business in the United States of America;
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Contract Documents
- Insurance Policy
- Non-Disclosure Agreement
- Employment Agreement
- Federal Tax Identification Number
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Financing Your Reputation Management Business Company
Even though the reputation management business cannot be compared to some technical businesses that require a lot of start-up capital, there are still aspects where you will require start-up capital in order to be able to run your business effectively before you start generating revenue.
Some of the areas where you will use your start-up capital on are in getting a location, procuring a business license, buying insurance policies, promoting your business and any other running and overhead expenses that would be required.
This is why it is essential to have a comprehensive business plan at hand as this will help you know all the areas you will need money and how you intend to generate and pay back any loan you decide to get to help you kick start your reputation management business.
Therefore, some of the areas you should consider exploring when seeking start-up capital for your reputation management company include;
- Generating part of your start-up capital from your personal savings and sale of stocks
- Souring for soft loans from family members and friends
- Getting start-up capital from your business partner or private investors
- Approaching a commercial bank for loan
Choosing a Suitable Location for your Reputation Management Business
Deciding the right location for your reputation management company is very important because while you might be looking to just run this business from home and operate a website that customers can get to, you find that as you grow, your home will not be able to meet up with the various requirements that the business would need and so looking for an official facility to rent or lease will be a logical decision.
It is important to however note that most of these entrepreneurs who start this business usually do so on a low scale, thereby requiring them to start the business from home. This therefore helps the entrepreneur not to be bothered about having to sort out certain running costs and overhead expenses.
While finding a suitable location for your business is very important, there are several factors you would need to take into consideration such as where your target market is located, how conspicuous the location is and how convenient and easily accessible it is for your employees and clients to get to.
Once you have taken all these factors into consideration, you will also need to consider your budget as this will determine if what you have can get you what you want without causing a strain on your overall budget. In getting the right location for your business, it is best you engage the services of a real estate agent who will have knowledge of the best locations that will suit your business.
Starting a Reputation Management Business – Technical and Manpower Details
The reputation management business is one that relies more on having certain skills and being able to stay online to help monitor your client’s reputation. There are no technical skills required, so if you are looking to start this business, you will just need to pick an area that you are proficient in and offer the services that you intend to.
When you are looking to start your business, you should know that you will mostly be running a virtual business and will therefore be having a lot of competition from people not only in the United States of America but all over the world and this is because clients are more concerned with how well you can help them accomplish their intended goals and objectives.
Most of the equipment that you need to run your reputation management business successfully isn’t much and you can get some of the items as fairly used if you are running your business on a tight budget. This goes to show that the business is not really capital intensive. Some of the equipment that you would require when starting your reputation management business include; computer, phone, software, office supplies and internet.
The number of people that you would need to run your reputation management business successfully include; Chief Executive Officer (owner), admin and human resource manager, content writers, business development and marketing executive, social media management consultants, customer service executive and an accountant.
From the above breakdown, you will require at least 8 key staff in order to run your reputation management company efficiently and successfully.
The Service Delivery Process of a Reputation Management Business
The reputation management business is largely service oriented, therefore the process of delivery might differ depending on the company and the kind of job that the company has been contracted to handle for a client as there are several ways by which the reputation of a client can be handled.
Even though there are differing processes to achieving an aim, there are also basic processes that must be followed regardless of the category of reputation management you belong to, especially as the internet has made clients’ activities to no longer be hidden from the public unlike the pre-internet era.
Basically, once you have been contracted to help restore the reputation of a company or individual. The steps that you would take will largely depend on if you will help promote the already positive image of your clients or if you are going to be working to help repair a dented image.
Some of the things you would be required to do would be to go on forums and blogs to create articles that would push the image of your client positively; to apply search engine optimization strategies in order to help with the ranking of your client.
Starting a Reputation Management Business – The Marketing Plan
- Marketing ideas and strategies
Marketing is a very important aspect of any business and as an entrepreneur you should know this as you will not only generate the revenue you will need to grow and sustain your business but also help you create the necessary awareness for your business. When marketing your services, you will need to understand the peculiarities involving your clients so that your marketing strategies can be effective.
This is why it is necessary that you conduct a thorough market survey before creating any marketing strategies. Your market survey should help identify your target market, know what they what and also what they expect from you so that you can create strategies that will allow you stand out and have an edge over your competitors.
One thing with marketing your services to your clients is that clients – especially the large companies – expect to see what you have achieved with others before they can entrust you with any task. Therefore, in marketing your business, you will essentially be marketing your company’s profile.
You can start small by helping to manage and boost the reputation of small companies and individuals before attempting to approach a large company. Some of the platforms that you can use to market your reputation management company include;
- Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Google Plus, Linkedin and Twitter to market your services
- Tell your loyal and satisfied clients to help spread the word about your business
- Engage the services of marketing executives to physically market your reputation management company
- Create a website and use this to market your services
- Place adverts about your business in local newspapers and on radio and television stations
- Place adverts about your reputation management company in popular forums and blogs
Strategies to Boost Your Reputation Management Firm Brand Awareness and Create Your Corporate Identity
As a reputation management company whose activities will mostly be online, it is necessary that you have strategies in place that will boost the awareness of your brand as well as create a corporate identity for your brand. The reputation management business requires that you be seen by the right people before you can make the impact that you want for your business and get the customers that will help generate revenue for your business.
Promoting and publicizing a business has double advantage because not only do you get to ensure that your targeted audience are aware of your brand and the products or services you offer, but the awareness you create most times results to you generating the revenue that will grow and sustain your business.
Therefore, due to the double advantage that promoting and publicizing a brand and its products and or services has, most large scale companies do not mind setting aside a large fortune annually to ensure that they get the right awareness for their brand.
Even though the internet has made it easy for entrepreneurs to promote their businesses to a larger audience in a far more effective way that is cheaper, it is still necessary to create a budget that will enable you promote your reputation management company especially as you will not only be depending on online means to promote your business.
Below are some of the platforms that you can leverage on in order to promote and advertise your reputation management company;
- Create a website that is interactive
- Ensure that you create social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google Plus and Linkedin to promote your reputation management company
- Ensure that your business is listed in online directories
- Place adverts about your reputation management company on popular forums and blogs
- Distribute handbills and paste fliers in various strategic locations
- Place adverts about your reputation management company in local and national newspapers and on radio and television stations