For most consumers, this is the first point of contact when researching a business, which makes it arguably the most critical to get right. Compounding its importance are two factors:
- Even if a customer is inspired by an advertisement, a typical Google search doesn’t include the specific business name, but rather the business category (ie, custom bathrooms Calgary etc.). If business contact information is inaccurate or, even worse, can’t be found online, that business might be leading customers straight to a competitor. By taking control over online listings and making sure they are accurate, a local business will not only be harnessing their own advertising budget, but additionally, the advertising of any competitors that fail to realize just how important online listings are.
- As a worst case scenario, a competitor can claim an online listing for a rival’s business, potentially putting their own contact information in place of the real thing. While rare, this has happened and is particularly prevalent in the food and restaurant industry.
Once a customer finds a business, the next thing on their minds is “can I trust them?” This makes online reviews perhaps the singular most influential factor in determining customer behavior. What’s more is that year over year reviews are trending towards even more influence and trust from consumers. This makes getting them and then showcasing them front and center a priority.
Social is an undeniably massive part of how businesses operate today. But for the regular local business, it can feel daunting to get in the same pool as massive corporations with teams of creatives building the next viral trend. This is where it’s critical to think local! Local businesses can use social as that final push to get potential customers through the door and into their fold. Simply put, social media is the tool customers use to find out if they like a business. A business needs to appear present, approachable and friendly. What does this actually look like on social media? Here are few quick tips:
- Engage with people online, even if they aren’t singing your praises. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of social is that it’s a two-way street. Engaging with customers online shows people watching that the owner truly cares about their business and, more importantly, their customers.
- Post often, but don’t make every post about the business. While there isn’t a one size fits all for the amount a business should be posting, a general rule to follow is the more outward facing a business is (ie, restaurant, entertainment, etc.), the more active they should be on social. Regardless of the business category, social is a great place for businesses to interact with their customers.
- Don’t make it only about yourself. Social media is a great way to showcase personality, and if a business is after shares and likes (and they probably should be), they should be seeking content that speaks to them that also falls into the three major categories of social media gold – funny, inspirational and cute.
For the uninitiated, the world of Search Engine Optimization can seem a little like alchemy. If a business is aware of SEO, it’s common for their beliefs to be at least partially misinformed and out of date. It’s important to ground everything related to the topic in this foundational principle: SEO is about making websites better for the customer.
But they can’t do it alone. For the local business’s part, SEO is simply a small set of changes done throughout a website, the sum total of which can have a real impact on ranking over time. The following topics come from their SEO basics document.
- Unique and Accurate Page
- Improve the Structure of your URL
- Offer Quality Content and Services
The final frontier, the website. If everything goes right, a business has leveraged all the available tools to get themselves found quickly, and gotten their customer to both like and trust what they do. Now, depending on the industry, a website can serve many different purposes. It might actually be selling product online using the website as a store, or it could just be the tool customers use to arrange a service IRL. Whatever the case might be, a few golden rules apply:
- Make the website mobile friendly
- Build the website to load quickly
- Use the website to foster a connection
Traditional advertising still works. Thought provoking print, radio, and television all have huge potential to get people inspired to seek out a product.
When an ad peaks a consumer’s interest, the battle is really just beginning. A business having their digital reputation in order means they get the most out of their advertising dollars and have the potential to court customers brought online by a competitor’s ads.
CONTENT AND EXPERIENCE
Once a customer makes their decision, it’s absolutely critical that a business takes full advantage of the golden opportunity to turn that one time buyer into a life-long brand champion. Generating online content that keeps a customer educated about new product and sales, interested in updates about the business, and altogether entertained means that a business is setting itself up to skip the line next time that consumer is motivated to buy – that in a nutshell is reputation marketing. What does this look like?
- Blog Posts – The easiest way for a business to showcase some personality and keep their customers informed of news, products and sales.
- Video – A little bit more effort, but the payoff could be huge. Make sure to focus on getting great audio, keeping the video short and using captions.
- Photo Albums – No writing involved here, plus photos go a long way in humanizing a brand.
- Podcasts – Definitely not for everyone, but for the right business/personality, this can be a great platform for fostering a connection between brand and customer.
Final Thoughts on Reputation Marketing
Reputation marketing is a long view process that benefits business owners over time. In the same way we know to eat healthy because it will impact our lives positively in a multitude of ways down the road, reputation marketing falls into that same category of preventive maintenance. By doing the most basic things right, and right now, we will no doubt see a great and growing influence for the long haul.