Just like our personal reputations have an enormous impact on the success of our careers, a company’s reputation ultimately determines its profitability. That concept has never been more critical than it is now in our always-online, über-connected world.

Companies today are faced with a competitive playing field that has expanded exponentially. Consumers are no longer limited to product choices in their immediate areas or regions. With a click of the mouse, they can buy chocolates from Switzerland or furniture from Denmark. Twenty years ago, these options would have seemed mind-boggling.

Price comparisons are almost effortless, too. Shopping around for the best deal is, again, a mouse-click away. With fast shipping options and overnight delivery, accessing the global market is easier than ever. Even strong brands run the risk of being perceived as a commodity with the colossal increase in competition made possible by the Internet. Sometimes the only significant differentiating feature about a company or a brand is its reputation.

So how can companies create a brand personality so strong that a customer wants to do business with them despite plenty of product alternatives and cheaper prices? The key is in building a relationship and sense of loyalty with consumers. Do your customers think of your company as a source or a partner? Do they understand what your company stands for beyond the products or services you sell?

It all comes back to the idea of perceptions. We need to know exactly how our customers perceive our company today. We need to have a clear vision of what we’d ideally like that perception to be. And we need to take action to move toward that goal to compete more effectively in the market. This is the same concept I apply to individuals in my book, “You – According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career.” Companies can (and often do) have blind spots, as well. The most successful organizations know how to identify those blind spots and move past them.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about innovative ways that companies can measure their corporate reputations and take action to improve them.