7 Steps to Successful Reputation Marketing: Helping you win the Word of Mouth Game in the New Digital World
Just as Kings and Queens of yore worried about their reputations and sometimes even went to war to protect them, today’s business leaders face the same challenge (albeit without the knights and moats). Read more to discover the changes, challenges and choices that today’s business Kings and Queens face in the new digital Reputation Marketing world.
While you may know that “word of mouth” referrals are essential to your business success, you may be less clear on how the digital world has changed all of this, and turned it into something much more sophisticated, influential and – it must be frankly admitted – potentially dangerous and costly if handled the wrong way. To grasp this phenomenon and understand how it affects your business future, we need to glance in the opposite direction and see where we’ve come from.
Once Upon a Time
In the old days – which is pretty much anything before 2002 – word of mouth was a nice, simple concept that hadn’t changed much in the last few hundred years. It went like this: You had a customer. You made that customer happy. That customer had an informal and formal network. That happy customer shared their good news story with their network. You got a “Good Reputation” which led to another customer (or a few more customers). And repeat.
But that was then!
In Today’s Digital World, things are profoundly different!
Word of mouth now goes by an evolved name: Reputation Marketing. And this step forward is based on three core changes: scope, credibility and strategy.
The Changing Scope of Reputation Marketing
In the past, even if a satisfied customer of yours was very popular, there’s a good chance that he or she couldn’t influence more than a few dozen people. Maybe 50 people, tops – and again, for the sake of argument we’re assuming that this customer was wildly popular. Realistically, though, most customers in the pre-digital world days could, on average, influence maybe 5 to 10 people. We’re talking immediate family, friends, co-workers and that’s probably about it.
Now let’s fast-forward to today. With the Internet infrastructure at virtually anyone’s disposal (even a library card is enough), the size of a customer’s formal and informal network can be in the hundreds or, more typically, the thousands. And these customers don’t have to be wildly popular industry leaders or social butterflies in order to own such a large network. They can simply be ordinary, everyday people who blog, post, chat, email and Twitter. And within a few minutes and a few sentences, these ordinary, everyday people can reach thousands of people in a matter of seconds.
This dramatic change in the scope is the first piece of the new, digital Reputation Management puzzle. The next new piece is even bigger: credibility.
The Changing Credibility of Reputation Marketing
Never before in the history of our species have we been forced to absorb so much data. From the advertising we see to the instructions we read, from the opinions we’re offered to the news we hear, read and listen to, we’re overloaded with information. And so the human brain, that most marvellous of organs, has decided to give us a hand with this crushing weight of stuff. It gives us short cuts.
Frankly, this isn’t a new phenomenon. The brain is always looking for short cuts in order for us to (hopefully) make good decisions. But what is new, is that word of mouth – which is really nothing more than a short cut – is much more credible than ever before.
Why? Again, it’s because of information overload. We need to trust it more, because we frankly don’t have the time or resources to do otherwise. The advice, recommendations and insights we get from our friends, families, colleagues, strangers who share our interests, and even those connected to us by geography (neighbourhood, city, country and even language) influences us much more than ever before because we need it to in order to function in an information-overloaded culture.
Add it all up, and it means that the digital world has turned word of mouth into something more credible than ever. That’s part two of the puzzle. The third, as you may have expected, is the most crucial piece of all: strategy.
The Changing Strategy of Reputation Marketing
In ancient times – so that’s before Justin Bieber, and when the word “Twitter” was nothing more than, well, just a word – word of mouth was, for most business owners, a passive thing. You tried to make a customer happy, and you hoped that he or she would spread the good word. Or you may have even directly asked your happy customers to tell your friends and so on. There was nothing wrong with this approach, of course. It was suitable for the time, and it probably worked well enough to not warrant any tinkering.
That’s totally changed now in the digital world, and things will never be the same again. Now, with the changing scope and credibility of word of mouth marketing, it’s mandatory to take an active, strategic approach. That is, you must take ownership of your strategic Reputation Marketing, and use tools and tactics to influence it across an expanding array of digital channels and platforms.
Specifically, here are the 7 steps of successful Reputation Marketing that you need to have working for your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – because the digital world never sleeps:
STEP 1: You must strategically manage your business’s online identity.
In the digital world, you must make sure that your identity is informed, accurate, found in all of the right places (and none of the wrong ones!) for the countless potential customers who will be influenced by what they read and hear. Beware: even minor problems like having the wrong phone number or a dead link to your website can not just cost you business but it can damage your reputation for a long, long time.
STEP 2: You must strategically manage your reviews and testimonials.
In the digital world, you must make sure that what’s being said (written) about you is fair and, ideally, positive. When it’s not, you need to intervene, whether it’s on Yelp, Google Places, RateMyDoctor, Online Yellow Pages, or another influential source, and take smart, careful steps to put out a fire or ensure that your side of the story is told without making the problem worse. You want to give potential customers a chance to see your response to the problem, and to be impressed by your position and any actions you took to turn lemons into lemonade.
STEP 3: You must strategically manage your Search Engine positioning/rankings.
In the digital world, you must make sure that when people search for your business online through Google or any other search engine, that they’re provided with links that help them connect with you and not a competitor or some irrelevant third party website. You need to understand keywords (what people are searching for), backlinks, and other key pieces that influence how you strategically rank in the search engine game.
STEP 4: You must strategically manage your Social Media presence and influence.
In the digital world, you must use social media (there’s too many to mention, and even if we did, half of them would be obsolete in a year) and get your message out to your target market. You also need to produce and manage social media spaces of your own – your blog, your Facebook page, and so on – so that both today’s and tomorrow’s fans can engage your business in familiar, friendly, informal social terms. Remember: your customers talk about your brand in social media spaces, and future customers find that information through searches. You have no idea where those searches will start – they could come from Google or another social media site – but you do have an idea of where they should end: with a potential future customer being impressed and inspired by the video they watch, the article they read, or other experience that brings them one step closer to becoming a customer.
STEP 5: You must strategically manage your competition’s tactics.
In the digital world, you must scope your competition and ensure that they aren’t intentionally or sometimes accidentally manipulating the situation in order to steer your word of mouth customers to their business. And if you think that the professional people in your industry wouldn’t dream of doing this, there’s a nice patch of swampland for sale in New Jersey that you should really check out.
STEP 6: You must strategically manage your website.
In the digital world, you must make sure that your website isn’t merely a brochure on the web. It must clearly and professionally establish your brand, engage visitors, educate them in an appropriate (non-overwhelming) manner, and inspire them to take desired action. That sounds like a tall order and, frankly, it is. But it’s a lot less effort to have a world-class functional website than it is to try restart a failed business that crumbled because its website wasn’t as good as its smartest competitor. A lot less.
STEP 7: You must choose the right Strategic Reputation Marketing Partner
This is by far the most important step, because the wrong partner will waste your time and money, while eroding your competitiveness, marketshare and mind share. Here’s a checklist of what to ask for and expect when choosing the RIGHT strategic Reputation Marketing partner:
- Understands the ins and outs of integrated marketing strategy and how it relates to your unique business
- Knows the protocol and etiquette of various channels, including offline options that are still part of the bigger picture (e.g. video, print, etc.)
- Has the proven ability to move your message to where it should be, and where it needs to be today and tomorrow
- Develops your unique brand so that you’re known for all of the right things – which are the things that grow your business and take it to the next level
- Educates and empowers you and your staff to implement systems that support your word of mouth goals
- Builds a customized foundation of integrated marketing strategies based on FUNDAMENTALS and not HYPE or FEAR TACTICS
Hype and Fear: Just Say No
This last point needs some additional attention, because, unfortunately, there are waves of so-called Reputation Managers and Internet Marketing Consultants out there who use fear tactics to freak you out and tell you that your business is on the brink unless you spend thousand of dollars (not to mention the long-term commitment) to fix your reputation problem.
Quite simply, these people should be banned – or at least come with a big warning, like the ones they put on cigarettes.
The truth is this: If you haven’t paid attention to strategic Reputation Marketing until now, then be assured that you aren’t going down for the count; at least, not yet. So if you’re not on page #1 of Google by tomorrow, if you don’t have 5000 Twitter followers by next week, if you don’t have strategic and sticky blog content by next month, and if you have no idea what your prospective and current customers are saying or where they’re saying it, don’t worry. It’s not time to panic yet. The strategic Reputation Management train hasn’t left the station.
You still have time to build a solid, lasting strategic Reputation Marketing foundation that includes tools, platforms and tactics that are built around your unique business and marketplace whether that’s branding, target market-rich advertising, internal marketing, social media, print, public relations, website development, in-office video, or most likely, a combination of all.
And all you need to do is choose the right strategic Reputation Management partner: one who uses FUNDAMENTALS and KNOWLEDGE, not HYPE or FEAR.
CastleCS: Helping you Win the Reputation Marketing Game
At CastleCS, we help high performance clients like you win the Reputation Marketing game in the new digital world. We have the systems, resources, knowledge, tools and tactics to take you safely, smartly and cost-effectively through each step described above – without the hype and fear.
We educate you on what you need to know, build your customized and cost-effective Reputation Marketing plan, and best of all, we let you focus on what you do best – running your business – while you leave your Reputation Marketing solution to us.
Contact us today for your free consultation (and that’s hype and fear free, too!).
You’ll get the clarity you need, the systems and solutions you want, and the affordability and results you demand.
Because, as the King or Queen of your castle, you deserve nothing less!