Whether your company makes a product or sells a service, at the end of the day, there’s only one thing that matters: the reputation you hold in the minds of your customers. You can charge less, but if you disappoint them, you will lose them. You can offer more, but if they don’t trust you, they will leave you. The fallout from a poor reputation might not be felt in a single day or over one transaction, but eventually it catches up.

With this mind, there are some important points marketing practitioners should know. For starters,  to stand out, your company must be known for its ideas and knowledge, regardless of what you sell. Being the go-to for “low prices” is nice… but not for long. The company that’s seen as smart and innovative always wins.

Why? In a world full of choices, customers are more confident in their purchase decisions when they know there’s a smart company behind the product or services they’ve selected. Think about your own purchase decisions and the truth is revealed.

Selling Ideas & Knowledge

As marketers, we’re in the business selling ideas, knowledge and reputation. We must embrace this mandate, and put reputation at the core of the marketing communication strategy and its mix of supporting activities. Every new tactic and idea, no matter how big or basic, must be questioned through the lens of impact (negative or positive) on reputation. From the CMO to the marketing communications director, the entire marketing function shares a single guiding goal: to support sales and drive new growth by upholding a reputation rooted in showcasing the smart thinking behind any product or service offered to the market.

Building reputation takes time. It’s not easy (or practical) to make an overnight sensation. It’s that much more important to get reputation right when you consider that it takes just seconds to destroy a good one. To build our clients’ reputations, we rely on the power of thought leadership and the process of creating positive perceptions one idea at a time. Spreading ideas and knowledge comes in many forms and must take into account the many ways customers “consume” the kind of information that gives them confidence in their purchase decisions.

How Thought Leadership Pays Off

Thought leadership enhances reputation by creating a platform of expertise around your products and/or services, providing much-needed “air cover” for your sales efforts. The platform is built upon your deep understanding of the kinds of challenges and problems that are keeping your customers – both the ones you have and the ones you want – awake at night and struggling to reach their goals. It’s through your ability to connect with customers on this level that your expertise pays off ; they know you offer insight and solutions that extend beyond the simple attributes of the product you sell.

It’s not a groundbreaking notion to put reputation at the center of your strategy, but it is pivotal to have the courage to ask customers, “What do you really think of us?” At first, you might not like some of the answers, but the solutions they inform can guide your marketing plan, helping to carry your organization to new heights while sustaining your efforts for a long time to come.

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With more than a decade at Stern, Ned has had the opportunity to counsel – and learn from – some of the brightest minds in business. A lifelong student, he is always searching for new ways to hone his craft by applying insights and ideas from outside sources. He says inspiration can come from anywhere in the world – from his young children to emerging start-ups to more established brands – which he constantly draws on to infuse creativity into client programming. As vice president, his pragmatic leadership style combines with strategic thinking to effectively connect clients with top-tier media, conferences and industry influencers. If he hadn’t answered the call to become a communications pro, you might have found him as a carpenter crafting wood furnishings and cabinetry.