Managing Your Brand in Today's World
The way people search for information and research businesses has changed. Small businesses need to evolve to address this change. Your future customers are looking for information on their own time, from anywhere, and across all devices. This means they’re on their lunch breaks, sitting in their cars, or waiting in doctors’ office lobbies. Your job, as a keen marketer, is to be available to them when they need to find you—wherever they are at that exact moment. Most searches these days happen on mobile devices, as opposed to desktop searches, which were predominant just a few years ago. Not only does your site need to be mobile-friendly, but the content you’re giving people also needs to be easily digestible on mobile devices.
Additionally, the way people are looking for information has changed, as well. People aren’t browsing online like they were maybe five years ago. Rather, they’re speaking directly into their search devices, asking specific questions. This means the way you build your content needs to translate to those specific search inquiries so you can best be seen (and ranked) by the search engines when someone asks for the products or services you offer.
When you’re creating content, think about your customers’ journeys. They start with a question, then Google shows those vendors who provide the best and most relevant answers. However, people still need a way to trust that the answers they find are correct and that the companies they’ve discovered are the best choices for their needs.
Having a digital footprint is paramount when it comes to getting found. Your digital footprint provides the foundation for your brand’s reputation. Your digital footprint lays the bedrock for your branding online. Consistency is key, as is accuracy. As you review your online information, consider these questions:
- Are you easily accessible online?
- Does your brand appear consistently everywhere?
- Have people reviewed your business?
- Are you actively publishing new content?
You want the right people to find your business when they’re searching for particular products and services. The struggle to show up in search is real, so you need to utilize best practices in order to show up more. You have to put yourself into the mindset of your customers. Consider their pain points and challenges, the questions they’re likely to ask, and where people are typically looking. Are your customers primarily on social? Are they on Google? Which devices are they using? Knowing this information will help you understand the demographics of your customers better so you can design marketing materials and messages that speak directly to the people you’re targeting.
Strategies for Building a Trusted Brand Reputation and Digital Footprint
Before we dive into the strategies for building a trusted brand relationship, you need to understand what trust really means to your customers. There are five main factors of trust:
- Equitability. Your customer is on an equal level as your business and feels empowered.
- Humbleness. Your customer is made to feel like they matter and they feel important.
- Honesty. Your company readily admits to mistakes and only makes promises it can keep. This makes customers feel they can trust your business.
- Proactiveness. Customers’ inquiries are responded to promptly and seriously so they feel valued.
- Transparency. Your company is open about its operations and activities, which results in customers feeling safe.
When your brand embodies these elements, you make your customers feel valued while empowering them and making them feel safe at the same time. You should focus your online brand reputation around the following eight pillars:
1. Business Information
One of the first things the search engines are looking for when they’re deciding which businesses to showcase is consistency. Is all of your information consistent and accurate across all platforms online? This means your name, address, contact information, and website should match across the board so there’s no confusion on Google’s end when it’s crawling the web. 73% of customer engagement happens off your website. This means your website is a great foundation, but it’s also often one of the last places people actually go to when they’re doing their research. If you want people to end up on your website and convert into paying customers, you need to be able to be found by Google. To do so, your information needs to be up to date and accurate on all channels. Think about how you do your own searches. The research usually happens long before you get to companies’ websites. Rather, you’re finding information on social, in the Local Pack, and other places. The same goes for customers who are looking for the products and services you offer.
It’s noteworthy that 80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect information and 68% of consumers would not use a local business if they found their online information was incorrect. From a consumer side, it looks shady if your information doesn’t match; from the search engines’ side, it’s confusing to them if your information doesn’t match. That means they’re less likely to feature your business if your information is different across various channels.
2. Google My Business
Questions & Answers
Google My Business is a phenomenal platform with often-under-utilized features that your organization should really be paying attention to. The Questions and Answers section of Google My Business (GMB) is a great feature, which allows you to create highly relevant content so people can quickly review information about your business directly from the Google results page instead of having to click through to your website. On GMB Q&A, anyone can ask questions about your business and anyone can answer, which is why it’s imperative that you be the first voice people hear when they post inquiries. You can even seed your own questions and answers, targeting common FAQs your customers have and other information that goes to building your credibility and trust. Keep track of the frequently asked questions that you hear from customers time and time again and post them to Q&A. It’s an easy way to address questions and concerns to a broad audience.
GMB Questions and Answers is used to populate the “People also ask” section of search results, which means you can start showing up directly under your competition as the go-to expert in your area of practice.
Google My Business Posts are also often underutilized. They act as social media posts for your GMB listing and are highly visible on Google Search and Maps. Using this feature, you can showcase your services, products, employees, business, and happy customers. Community engagement is huge here, so take advantage of Posts so you can keep your messaging consistent across all platforms.
Photos & Videos
Photos and videos are probably the second-most valuable part of your GMB page. With them, you can show how your business and the people you employ stand out from others in the area. You can showcase the quality of your skill and let customers see examples of what their money could get them if they chose to work with you.
Monitoring your reputation is critical with new customers. You’ll want to claim your business on popular review sites so you’re notified quickly and can address situations if negative reviews are posted. There are tons of opportunities when you take this proactive step because 48% of people simply don’t expect a business to respond to their review at all, so when you actually do so, they’ll pay attention. Bear in mind that more than half of people who do expect a response want to hear back from you within seven days, so it’s important to be on top of your reviews at all times to ensure you’re building your brand’s reputation in a positive manner.
Responding to negative reviews can have a positive impact on your brand, reputation, and digital footprint. Statistics show that, of the customers who received a response from a company after posting negative comments, 33% turned around and gave a positive review and 34% deleted the original negative review. Do not shy away from negative reviews. It’s important to always respond! You can almost always work through the issues and make things better in ways that benefit your business.
Bear in mind that it’s not all about the five-star reviews. It’s actually a good thing when you get four-star reviews or lower. Why? Because it makes you look human and real. Companies that have all five-star reviews simply aren’t believable. Things happen, and people understand that. Having a couple of negative reviews gives you the chance to showcase how you interact with the people who left them. They might also reflect the fact that you don’t offer particular products and services that people were looking for. In those cases, you didn’t do anything wrong; your business model just didn’t fit what those reviewers were looking for.
You need to focus on trusted sites that’ll have the biggest influence on your visibility, such as:
- Better Business Bureau
People are most likely to sort by the most recent reviews, which means you need to keep them coming in on a regular basis. Consistency and accountability are key to getting more reviews. You need to empower your team and crews who are in the best positions to ask customers for reviews with the right tools. Send review requests within 48 hours, and keep in mind that email and texts are optimal. The sooner you can ask for a review, the better the response rate will be. Ask them for a review when you’re face-to-face and when emotions are highly positive, immediately after your work is complete. Respond to every review to encourage others to leave new ones. If you see that someone was unhappy, it’s imperative that you reach out to that person and address the situation right away.
When you’re responding to a review, respond like you were actually talking to that person. Don’t use canned responses. Personalization goes a long way when you’re addressing reviews, both positive and negative.
- Say thank you and show enthusiasm
- Mention something specific about their interaction with your company
- Address them by name
- Respond promptly and professionally
- Be human and admit if your company did something wrong
- If something was wrong, come to a resolution
- Be direct and friendly
- When necessary, take your conversations offline and contact the reviewer directly
It’s also helpful to encourage your customers to review other local businesses. That’s because the more reviews people leave, the more powerful their opinions are to Google’s algorithms. Brand new accounts that have only reviewed a single business won’t hold as much weight with Google as those that have reviewed dozens of businesses.
4. Email Marketing
While it’s not a new thing, email marketing is still a vital piece of the marketing puzzle. Email marketing has changed and the process needs to evolve. You need to focus on engagement. Involve people in processes they can be involved in, such as raffles. You want to create emails where people can actually get involved and have buy-in with your brand.
Start by collecting customer emails then help your new customers become comfortable with the process, timeline, and expectations to make sure all of their questions are being answered. Use email marketing to stay top of mind with repeat business and seasonal promos. Also, send emails to help your customers master a skill.
Be sure to respond promptly to anyone who writes to you. Relieve any post-purchase cognitive dissonance (second-guessing and doubts) by reminding people about why they chose your business over others.
5. Local Listings
Local listings include any profile or place where your business information is “listed” or found. The more listings you have, the greater visibility you have in local search. Google uses local listings to determine how trustworthy your location is and ranks you accordingly in search. You want to claim your business on as many listing sites as possible and make sure the information is accurate and consistent. Here are some sites you should check in with:
- Google My Business
- Online review sites such as Yelp!
- Social media
- Niche networks such as Nextdoor
- Industry-specific sites
- Vendor, partner, or association sites
- BBB, chamber of commerce, and other local community sites
All of these places play into how Google gets information about your company. If the information doesn’t match from place to place, it’s confusing to both your potential customers and the search engines. Not only does this information show up when people are on these platforms, but it also feeds Google when it’s trying to decide which businesses to feature to searchers who use the keywords applicable to your company.
You can do a quick test and Google your own business name to see what sites show up towards the top. Then, ask yourself:
- Have you claimed your business there?
- Are you actively updating your listing with fresh content?
Here’s the thing in today’s culture: people want to get answers quickly and receive fast responses. They also prefer chat over talking on the phone. This means you should incorporate a live chat (or chatbot) feature into your website. Be sure to actively monitor your social media profiles for direct messages or brand mentions so you don’t miss out on an opportunity to represent your company in the best light possible. People who go to chat are often very close to making a buying decision. They’re short on time and want answers right now. If you’re able to give them the information they need, you’re more likely to win their business over.
Chat helps take the lag out of conversations. Unlike email, which has to be sent to the team, prioritized, and forwarded to the right people, chat puts you right in front of people who are ready to spend money with you right now.
You can build trust by being active on social media. Make your marketing efforts about your customers and showcase happy clients. Ask them to create posts and tag your business. From there, you can share the post, gaining exposure to all their friends and family members without your marketing efforts actually looking salesy. That’s a lot more powerful than a lot of other lead generation options.
The most convincing marketing happens when you put the spotlight on your customers. Show people how your business can help make their quality of life better using real-life examples from existing customers. Then, encourage your customers to post updates and tag your business; make sure you reshare their posts! Give potential customers a peek at what their hard-earned money could get them in return with your social posts, and be sure to take your customers behind the scenes of how your business operates.
Take people behind the scenes and introduce them to your products, processes, and people. This will help them feel more connected to your brand, and thus, more loyal when they’re ready to make a purchase.
Ask questions and encourage conversations. You want people to feel connected to you. Going out of your way to engage with your customers online make people feel more connected to your business, and they’ll want to engage back. Join relevant Nextdoor communities and Facebook Groups. Also, be sure to follow Instagram hashtags. Share how-to tips and general awareness content so you can be the trusted advisor that offers help when people need assistance.
Your brand is also a reflection of your standing with your local community. You don’t have to brag, but you can still showcase the involvement your company has with the community. When you’re looking for engagement, display involvement with:
- Local businesses
- Youth sports
People love to see how they can connect with you outside of your actual workspace, so let them know about all of your community involvement endeavors. This helps build trust both online and in real life.
8. Marketing Messages
Let’s talk about marketing with a purpose. Marketing with a purpose is the act of marketing that focuses on building trust and meaningful connections with your customers. This can be achieved through marketing messages, paid ads, storytelling, and social proof. When you’re successful, great marketing messages:
- Distinguish your brand from competitors
- Build a trusted brand in your community
- Help you be more authentic with your customers
Your words matter. Keep in mind that there are three messaging pillars you should infuse into your marketing, advertising, customer communications, and employee message channels: connection, openness, and balance. Demonstrate your responsibility to build trust. Deliver on promises made in your advertising and marketing CTAs, respect your customers’ privacy, be open and honest, and help to alleviate stress and doubt. Remember that you are the expert, and walk them through the process so they can trust you to be the company they need to go-to to fix their problems.
Hire Surefire Local
It’s vital to build a great team, whether that’s with internal employees or external vendors. Be consistent and maintain an active presence online because it’s no longer just about being there; it’s about having a digital footprint that helps you put your brand right in front of people. Pay attention to your reviews, delve into your email marketing campaigns, and work to fulfill the engagement needs of your audience. If you need help with any of this (or more!), reach out to our team at Surefire Local. We’re here to help you make your business the best it can be. Request a demo today!