By Yvonne Gaudette, Director of Marketing, RatePoint.
A strong small business marketing strategy is about more than a snappy logo or a catchy jingle, and a glowing reputation isn’t just what people are saying about you. It’s important to blend your online reputation management with online marketing to ensure that these often times separate functions work together.
Marketing no doubt establishes a cadence of regular, consistently messaged communications to your current and prospective customers. Reputation is even more important in the era of the Social Web when consumers review peer feedback before making purchase decisions.
Rather than thinking of reputation as something to protect, as a small business owner you need to think about how to cultivate it. Long-lasting relationships take time, effort and commitment.
Marketing relies on reputation
Today’s consumer purchase decision process demonstrates how marketing and reputation goes hand-in-hand. Once consumers hear about your product or service, they head directly to a search engine, trusted online group or social network for feedback and recommendations.
Marketing efforts are validated by additional third-party testimony discovered through this social consumer process. According to the e-tailing group’s 2010 Social Shopping study, 72 percent of consumer purchase decisions were influenced by reviews and ratings.
Marketing and reputation is the new hot couple
Marketing campaigns are greatly enhanced when you effectively manage your online reputation. Gone are the days when a customer testimonial in a marketing campaign is the sole representative of a business’ customer base. While such a testimonial might help, a business owner must also know the feedback that a potential customer will find when searching online.
Marketing and customer comments and feedback constantly collaborate and support each other through unique promotional endeavors.
Marriage of marketing and reputation
The barrier for reputation and marketing working together is the myth that it’s too time intensive to manage a reputation online. But in a society based on a social media landscape, businesses best take control of their relationships before someone cuts in on their dance and takes control for them. Here are a few tips small businesses can use to create a match made in heaven:
- Consistently monitor online forums, blogs and social networks for the company’s name, executives, products and services. This may sound like a daunting task, but getting started can be as simple as setting up e-mail alerts for new Web content about your brand.
- When negative feedback does appear, take a deep breath first. Kneejerk reactions don’t help anyone. Take a step back, assess the issue and then practice writing a reply on the computer before responding directly. Thank the customer for the feedback, offer to continue the conversation by e-mail or phone call and move on. A negative response only adds fuel to the issue.
- Know who the influencers and target market are for your products. Do you need to monitor Apple fan websites, mommy blogs or a do-it-yourself computer forum? Find out where people talk about what you offer, follow the conversations and offer assistance where applicable.
- Ask for feedback without over-managing the process. Customers know when reviews and testimonials are controlled. Offer an authentic customer feedback through a third-party review provider. When consumers see a name, date and rating system they consider reviews to be more credible than a Web page with a few quotes, a first name and no dates.
- Market your reputation. When you have a customer feedback system in place, promote that feedback on your website, in e-mails and in other marketing materials. When a business earns helpful and positive reviews, they can serve as the foundation for a dynamic marketing campaign.
- Many small businesses have tried-and-true marketing tactics. Effectively managing your reputation can increase marketing mojo and ensure together they have a lasting bond instead of a one-night stand for your brand.