Having a good reputation online is essential for small brands looking to build trust with customers.
A negative online image can seriously damage your brand and have a direct impact on bottom line sales. Taking the time to invest resources into monitoring and improving brand reputation in 2016 is highly recommended. Let’s look at four ways SMEs can achieve this.
Update your website
Many SMEs fail to realise how important their website is to bottom line sales. In the digital world, it is the equivalent of a shop’s front. Unless you are a well-known brand, chances are you will only have one shot at making a good first impression online. A website that has a confusing navigation structure, teamed with low resolution photos and hideous colour scheme will erode trust and leave potential visitors experiencing your brand for the first time, reaching for the exit button. Having a user-friendly website that is responsive is essential in instilling trust in potential customers and conveying professionalism.
Car hire company, First Self Drive, is a good example of a website that creates a great impression from the onset. From landing on the homepage, a potential customer can instantly see who the company is, what they do, where they are based and how they can be contacted. All key information is above the fold and easily accessible. A clean navigational structure organises core business products into separate categories, making it easy for the user to quickly find what they are looking for. These features combined ensure a user-friendly experience and make it more likely for a visitor to convert into a customer. With so much competition on the internet, a bad website resulting in a frustrating user-experience, can result in lost sales.
Resources are limited as an SME so it is important to have a very targeted approach to social media by identifying the one or two social media platforms that your target audience will be actively using. This approach allows you to channel your resources into doing the job really well, rather than having an account on all platforms and spreading your resources thin, which will provide little, if any, return on investment.
Once you are actively on social media, use your channels to create a very personable image and give your brand a unique voice to stand out from the competition. Human nature drives social media use, which is why the ‘hard sell’ approach will not work in this space. People on social media are not in the buying mind-set and will switch off to pushy sales tactics. Instead, engage your audience’s emotions and connect with them on a humanistic level. This will be far more effective and will result in potential customers building a relationship with your brand.
Social media is a tool that can be employed by any industry to reach potential customers online. Norwich coach hire company, Maretts Chariots, is an example of a small business using social media to interact with its customer base, whilst striking the right balance with the type of content it posts. For example, their Facebook page presents company news in an interesting way, featuring testimonials from customers and making good use of imagery. They also ask questions to spark engagement, which is a great way to form a connection with the audience and get a conversation going.
Respond to feedback
It is important to respond to customer reviews, comments and feedback quickly and in the right way. Negative feedback can be damaging to a brand’s reputation if it is not handled correctly. Some SMEs ignore it altogether but this isn’t advised since it may deter potential customers from using your services because in the case of a problem, you are not responsive.
Take a step back from the situation and ensure your response is solutions focussed and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Remember that every company has to deal with negative feedback at some point but what sets the best brands apart from the rest is the way they handle this – see this as an opportunity to rectify the situation, learn from mistakes and potentially turn them into a raving brand advocate. If the comments are in an open space that other potential customers can see, they will
Tracking everything from how people are interacting with your website and your social media engagements to customer reviews is essential for any SME. Having the correct tracking in place will enable you to grow your digital footprint, allowing you to see what is working and where tweaks need to be made in your strategies. Clever marketing is not shoot-in-the-dark guess-work – it is a series of measured and controlled experiments aligned with a business’ goals that are consistently measured and refined. Some basic tools to get you started include: Google Alerts, Google Analytics, Social Mention, Hootsuite and ReviewPush.