Reputation marketing is the new way to align marketing message with the message your customers are sharing online.
Reputation management is becoming a thing of the past. It’s time to stop putting out fires with reactive strategies, and focus on ways brands can use a proactive approach to turn reputation into a valuable marketing tool. There are five essential steps to initiating and maintaining an effective reputation marketing strategy, and regardless of business size or resources, each step is completely actionable, and scalable as you reap the benefits of increased lead generation and customer retention.
1. You are everything you (and consumers) share online
Reputation relies on alignment of consumer generated media and your own brand messaging, so your team needs to discover where content is being shared. The number of available channels for engagement increases daily, and more ways to share online means brands need to discover these channels and join the conversation quickly, before allowing unchecked content to impact how consumers perceive your brand.
A 2013 Folio survey reported 80% of all online content is consumer generated. This number continues to grow, and brands can no longer risk ignoring consumer generated media (CGM). Increased trust in peer and expert reviews by consumers means brands no longer own or control the conversation happening online. Management and utilization of CGM helps your team align your marketing message with the message your customers share, and open up new opportunities to connect with new customers online.
To discover where customers and potential customers are engaging, put your team in the shoes of consumers by asking these questions:
How would I begin my search to locate a product or service? What kinds of search queries would I use?
- If I didn’t know any brand names, how would I find the best options?
- If I was an unhappy customer, where would I go to share my story with other consumers?
- If I was satisfied and wanted to recommend a company or product to others, where would I go?
- Where are my competitors being talked about, or engaged with by their customers?
These simple questions have helped brands discover countless channels with opportunities to engage both current and prospective customers. By locating sites where consumers are landing to initiate research for purchases, your team can pinpoint additional spaces where increased brand visibility will help you reach consumers with a high intent to purchase. The opportunity to forge stronger customer relationships, listen to gain consumer insights, and connect with customers of competitors whose customer engagement strategies fall short is tremendous.
2. After the discovery stage, position your brand strategically
When searching for engagement channels, keep an eye out for third-party resources that rank on the first page. Out of 8 million clicks, an overwhelming 94% of users selected first page results. Any opportunity you have to be listed on a buyer’s guide, claim a company listing or place your company on a top-ranked review site is a smart way to capture leads at the exact moment of need and avoid being missed out on due to second page rankings.
SEO services aren’t cheap, and often require a large retainer plus additional fees. There’s also no guarantee your own media properties will climb the ranks for root or consumer-related queries. Brands have a significant disadvantage when consumers are searching with queries like “mortgage companies” or “best mortgage companies.” Even if your PPC ad makes the cut, there’s a stronger likelihood that a consumer will use one of the first three organic search results.
Investing strategically in placement across top-ranked third-party consumer sites increases the chances of being on the coveted front page for some the toughest (and most expensive) keywords to rank for. These particular websites are at the top for a reason, and they’ll likely continue to hold those spots if the domain authority is significant and the content is highly relevant to solving a consumer need. A monthly fee is better spent with this approach to strategic positioning than paying an SEO agency to work for months and months with slower and possibly minimal results.
3. Acknowledge the silent majority of your customers
How often have you gone out of your way to spend 5-10 minutes writing a review for a product or service that satisfied you, but wasn’t completely above and beyond? Most customers are happy, but the satisfied silent majority is not likely to share feedback unless prompted by the business. Why? At ConsumerAffairs, we call it “feedback friction” the effort required is too great, and without encouragement people won’t go out of their way to share. The most vocal group tends toward the one-star reviewer determined to get heard at any cost. The longer a brand waits to engage those unhappy customers, the more likely the customer is to blast the brand name across multiple channels.
Proactively reaching out to all of your customers gives your team an authentic picture of the true customer experience. The feedback is extremely likely to skew toward the positive, provided your priority is the customer. However, it’s easy to want to grade your own homework and try to force a perfect five-star rating, so utilizing third-party review collection services or tools can help put a neutral party between your brand and your customer base. Third-party review collection guarantees accuracy, fostering transparency and trust while helping your team learn how to improve on customer experience.
4. Grow an online knowledge base for consumers
Collecting feedback helps your customers get the acknowledgement they need to stay happy, but also creates a knowledge base to assist in solving customer needs and providing resources to consumers who are researching your brand. There are several benefits to growing a quality knowledge base across third-party sites:
- Customers serve as product experts to solve other customer issues
- Customer feedback gives consumers learning resources during research
- Multiple knowledge bases give you more opportunities to connect with and educate prospects
- Customer service is forever memorialized in organic search, and reaches countless prospects as they actively research
- Solving lower-level customer issues reduces strain on your customer care team so you can focus on solving larger issues rapidly
Use your customers’ voices to your advantage to help market your brand online with content your team doesn’t have to generate internally. Knowledge base content provides a deeper understanding of which products, features or services your customers appreciate most, allowing your team to create a marketing message with impact. As alignment of organic search results and PPC messaging continues to improve click-through rates for businesses, this valuable customer insight creates an uptick in lead generation and conversions.
5. Use feedback to make data-driven decisions across your brand
Collecting more feedback across your entire customer base gives you a deeper look into the experience you provide from marketing to sale, and beyond the sale. Sorting feedback by sentiment and sifting through quality reviews to collect specific product insights and suggestions helps your team make informed decisions to drive continuous improvement across every department. Your customers will help you pinpoint operational issues, spot trends (good and bad), and steer your product development with the kind of precision needed to generate results faster.
Feedback needs to be the real deal for the results to prove out. Skewed data only gets brands so far in the marketing game, and today’s ethical consumers can detect dishonesty. A recent study conducted by our own team revealed 40% of surveyed consumers rate review content as the most important feature when deciding on product purchases. Five stars with no feedback isn’t enough a four-star review with quality content, however, is. Collecting authentic feedback meets the needs of consumers and customers beyond just “looking” good. Like mom always said, true goodness comes from within, and shines through on the exterior. Use these five steps to help your brand shine with the kind of reputation that can only come from transparent, dedicated customer care and quality customer experience.