The Ultimate Guide to Turn Your Small Business Into a Reputable Brand
The business landscape become super competitive, and it will only continue to get harder. But as a business owner, what are you doing to make sure you become more visible in this overly crowded marketplace? Do you even know what your customers expect from you online? The truth is that, more than ever, it now takes extra effort to build a trusted and engaging brand that people won’t have any problem giving their money to.
But it is not as difficult as you might think. You only need to know the right things to do and have the right tools by your side. That is the only way you can make sure your local business gain substantial visibility online and stay ahead of the competition. Does this sound good? Keep reading to learn more!
Satisfying Your Prospective Customers and Search Engines
Things are no longer the way they used to be with the internet. People now search for information and check up on businesses in an entirely different way. Gone are the days of flipping through several pages of a directory to find information about a business. Your potential customers now look for information on their own time, and from anywhere they choose.
Whether they are lying down on their couch, sitting in their cars, waiting in doctor’s office lobbies, or on their lunch break, searching for information has now become more flexible than it used to be. Therefore, as a keen marketer, it is your responsibility to make sure you are available to them when they need to find you, and from anywhere they might be searching.
With the way mobile searches have gone up against desktop searches, which used to be the norm a few years ago, it is clear that to be successful online, you need more than just making sure your website is mobile-friendly; your content also needs to be easily digestible on mobile devices.
To hit things harder, the way people search for information online has even changed from the traditional typing in their searches; people now speak directly to their devices and ask questions. So you need to also change the way you build your content so you can easily be seen by search engines when your customers are asking for the products or services that you offer.
Think about the way your potential customers journey online. They start by asking a question about their need, then Google shows them vendors with the most relevant answers to the question. But even with that, they still need trust indicators to build confidence in them that the vendor Google has shown them is really the best match for their needs.
And that is where your digital footprint comes in to play a huge role. Your digital footprint is more than just having your business show up in search results but also provides the foundation for your brand’s reputation. It is the foundation on which your online branding is built.
However, two things are crucial to your digital footprint; accuracy and consistency. So whenever you think of building a sustainable online presence for your business, consider asking the following questions:
- How easy can you be found online?
- Have people reviewed your business?
- How strong is your search visibility?
- How often do you publish new content?
When potential customers search online for products and services you offer, you want to make sure you show up on search results every time they search. To make this happen, you will need to understand the mindset of your potential customers. What do you know about their pain points and challenges? What questions are they likely to ask to find solutions to these challenges? Where are they typically looking to get answers to their questions?
Ask yourself if your potential customers are primarily found on Google or social media, and what type of devices they are likely to use when searching. Having answers to these important questions will help you understand who your target audience is and how to best target them with your marketing materials and messages.
How to Build a Bankable Brand That People Trust & Buy From
Before we get into the nitty gritty of that, how much do you think trust really means to your customers? A lot more than you imagined.
There are 5 Trust Factors to pay attention to:
- Transparency: When there is no hidden thing about the business. Your business operation is open to them, and so they feel safe doing business with you.
- Equitability: When your customers tend to have the same right with the business and hence feel empowered
- Honesty: When your business only makes promises it can keep and readily admits to mistakes
- Proactiveness: When you address your customers’ inquiries as quickly and serious as possible
- Humbleness: When your customers are valued by your business because they indeed matter
When your brand has these five features, it sends a message of confidence to your customers that they can trust you to provide them with what they need and help them have the best experience buying your products or services.
Now that you know this, the next thing to do is to focus your online brand reputation around the following eight pillars:
1: Business Information
When your customers search online concerning your product or services, one of the things search engines consider when deciding if they should showcase your business is consistency in your business information. How accurate is your information across all online platforms? This includes your business name, phone number, address, and website. You need to make sure this information is the same across the board so search engines won’t be confused when crawling the web.
Quick fact: Only 27% of customer engagement happens on your website. That means even though your website is crucial for building brand identity, most people will not go there when doing their search. Therefore, if you are looking to have people end up on your website and convert into paying customers, your business must be visible on Google. And for this to happen, you need to have accurate information on all channels.
Another quick fact: About 80% of consumers would not use a local business if they see incorrect information about them. You need potential customers to be able to trust your brand to do business with you. Having information that doesn’t match makes you less trustworthy and shady to your customers. At the same time, that oftentimes confuses search engines too.
In conclusion, not having accurate and consistent information online may cause you to lose the trust of potential customers and also reduces your chance of being featured by search engines.
2: Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is one powerful tool that many business owners are neglecting. The free tool was designed to help local businesses build and manage their online presence across different Google entities, including Google Maps and Google Search.
Important features of GMB you should pay attention to Question and Answers
This is a section on Google My Business that allows you to create highly relevant content that gives people a chance to know everything about your business without having to click through to your website. Everything happens right there from the Google search results page. While anyone can post questions on this section, anybody can also give answers to any questions asked there.
That means it is very important that you are proactive with answering questions here. You don’t want your potential customers to be lost to competitors simply because you were not available to quickly respond to their inquiries.
You can even use this section as a form of FAQ section to help people learn important information about your business. That will help you build trustworthiness and credibility with potential customers.
In addition, content from the Question and Answer section is what Google uses to populate the “People also ask” section of search results. That means with your Q&A section well optimized for relevant questions, you can begin to show up directly under your competition and authority in your niche.
To further make the most of this section of GMB, keep track of questions you typically get from customers on other channels and put them up in the Q&A section as they come. This will allow you to address concerns and questions to even a larger audience.
This is another powerful feature of GMB that every local business owner should take advantage of. But unfortunately, most people overlook them. GMB posts are more like posts you make on social media and are highly visible to Google Maps and Search. With this feature, you can showcase your products, services, business operations, employees, and happy customers.
If you run a local business, you will want to leverage GMB Posts to get more people in your community to engage with your brand. However, keep your posts brief, relevant, useful, and inspiring.
These types of posts are designed for people who are already looking for you, so there is no need to break your head trying to grab people’s attention again.
Photos & Videos
Visual content is important to help your business achieve the best results with your marketing strategy. Adding quality photos and videos to your GMB page will help you stand out from the competition. You can use them to showcase your skills and let potential customers see an example of the type of service or satisfaction they can get from choosing you above similar businesses.
However, to make the most out of this, you need to ensure you regularly use high-quality photos and videos. But avoid anything that looks overly polished too. That means you may need to stay away from stock images. Invest in creating unique photos and videos your brand will be proud to call its own.
If you are looking to attract new customers, then you have to do a good job monitoring your reputation. You should claim your business on popular review sites like Google, Yelp, Better Business Bureau (BBB), and Facebook. So that you can be notified and quickly respond whenever anyone leaves a review for you there.
How to get more reviews
People are likely going to be sorting your reviews based on how recent they are. That way, you need to make sure you keep getting new reviews to keep them engaged whenever they come. However, when it comes to getting more reviews, consistency, and accountability play a very big role.
There will be someone on your team who has the most direct connection with your customers and so has the best chance to ask them for reviews. Identify that person and empower them with the right tools. There are different ways you can politely ask your customers for reviews without bugging them or sounding desperate.
The best practice is to email or text them after 48 hours requesting that they leave reviews for you. The sooner you ask them, the better the response rate will be. At the same time, you can request a review from your customer when you think emotions are highly positive. For instance, a happy customer will most likely be willing to give you a positive review immediately after they got your product or received your service.
Another way to encourage your customers to leave new reviews for you is being on top of the ones that are already there. If they see that you respond to every review as they come, they will be more willing to want to leave their opinion too. Responding to reviews as soon as possible gives your customers a sense of importance – they see that you value their feedback, and so won’t have problems dropping them.
You can also encourage your customers to review other local businesses. The more reviews a user leaves on businesses around, the more Google’s algorithm values their opinions. A brand new account that has only reviewed just one business won’t hold as much weight with Google as one that has reviewed dozens of businesses.
How to deal with negative reviews
You may not be able to control the type of reviews you get. Sometimes, negative reviews will come – you can’t stop that from happening. However, when they do come, the way you handle them will determine the effects they are going to have on your brand reputation and digital footprint. According to studies, 33% of customers who received a response after posting negative reviews changed their mind and gave positive feedback and 34% deleted the original review altogether.
That is to show you how important it is to be proactive with responding to every review you get on your company. It gives you the opportunity to build trust with your customers. Most people don’t expect a business to respond to reviews – especially negative ones. So when you do, they pay attention. So make it a point of duty to always respond and do something about negative reviews to ensure you are building a good reputation for your brand.
Additionally, don’t be too overly concerned about getting 5-star ratings. Even those occasional 4-star (or lower) ratings have their own importance. It sends a message to your customers that the reviews on your profile are real. So whenever you get those lower ratings, don’t always feel bad. Instead, look out for how you can work around it to benefit your business and make it better.
Crafting your review response
Most business owners don’t respond to reviews because they don’t know how to respond in the most polite manner, especially to negative reviews. Remember that responding harshly can hurt your reputation, so you need to be more careful about it.
When you respond to reviews, you should do that as though you were actually talking to the person that left the review. Avoid canned or generic reviews. Personalization is very important when you are addressing feedback on your profile – whether positive or negative.
Customers may not be encouraged to leave reviews for you when they already know they will be getting the same response as other reviewers. So, always write each response based on what the customer wrote in their feedback.
Here are some more tips to help you with that:
- Respond as quickly as you can – and respond as professionally as possible
- Address your customers by name
- Say thank you and express enthusiasm
- Mention something specific to praise about their interaction with your business
- If the customer is not satisfied, remain friendly in your response. Admit if your business did something wrong and find a way to resolve the issue. You can even contact the reviews directly if you think you need to do so to come to a resolution.
4: Local Listings
Local listings include places or profiles where your business information can be found. Google and some other search engines use local listings to determine how trustworthy your business is and so have the confidence to show it to searchers as relevant sources when they search.
The more listings you have, the better chance your business has to appear in search. Therefore, it will make a whole lot of sense to claim your business on as many listing sites as possible. But remember to keep your information accurate and consistent across all the platforms.
Here are some listing sites you might want to consider:
- Google My Business (GMB)
- Online review sites like Yelp
- Niche networks like Nextdoor
- Social media
- Industry-specific sites
- Vendor or association sites
- Chambers of commerce, BBB, and other local community sites
Again, make sure your information across these platforms matches. That is what Google uses to rank your company in search. If it’s not matching, it becomes confusing to search engines and even your potential customers.
Beyond just showing up when people are on these platforms, this information also feeds Google and helps it decide if your business is worth showing to searchers when they use keywords that are relevant to your company.
Take a few minutes to do a quick test yourself. Google your own business name and observe sites that show up towards the top. Then ask yourself if you have claimed your business on those sites. If not, you know the right thing to do.
5: Email Marketing
Even though it is not something new, email marketing still remains a vital piece of the marketing puzzle. Over the years, the process has evolved in the way it is being done. For instance, it has now increased focus on customer experience and engagement.
When done well, email marketing can mean a lot to your business. The goal is to create emails that will invite people to be part of processes they can truly be involved in and likely buy from your brand.
You can use it to consistently send repeat buyers your way through raffles, referral incentives, seasonal promos, and other ways that can encourage them to always come back to you.
However, whenever you have someone respond to your email, be ready to always respond as promptly as possible. Relieve any doubt they might be having after their first time buying from you by treating them like a valued customer. Remind them the reason they chose your business over others.
If you are looking to build trust, including a way to consistently keep your community engaged while showcasing happy customers in your marketing efforts will make much sense. Let’s look at some ways you can drive engagement for your brand.
Social media engagement
Engagement is the core of social media – in fact, the whole social media thing is built around engaging with each other. Therefore, using it to put a spotlight on existing customers could be the most convincing marketing you can do for your business. There couldn’t be an any better way to show people how your business can help improve their quality of life.
Think of it this way. If you were able to convince a couple of your happy customers to post updates on their social media profiles and then tag your business. You will be gaining exposure to all their contacts. This type of social proof is always a powerful tool that convinces potential customers about your business and how it can benefit their lives too.
You can also use social media as an opportunity to let your customers have a peep into the behind-the-scenes of your business operations. You can use it to introduce new products to them, show them certain processes, and help them feel more connected to your brand. That way, you will be setting the ground for them to easily remember you whenever the time comes for them to make a purchase.
To take this even to the next level and enjoy more benefits from social media engagement, consider joining relevant Nextdoor communities and Facebook groups. Follow relevant Instagram hashtags and join in on relevant conversations on these platforms. Answer their questions, encourage conversation, and build awareness about your business. The goal is to become an authority they would be able to trust for reliable information when they need help concerning their needs.
Build your brand’s trustworthiness by developing good standing with your local community. The more involved you are in the community, the more the people will be able to trust you and your business. You don’t have to brag, but find good ways to let people know your involvement in the community. Some excellent ways to go about this include:
- Youth sports
- Partnership with local businesses
On a general note, customers will always prefer a way they can easily and quickly get a response to their queries. That is why most of them would prefer chatting to talking on the phone. One easy way to get on top of that is to include a live chat feature on your website. With chat, you get the chance to take the lag out of conversations. Unlike emails, you don’t have to first receive them, send them to the right team before a response can be sent.
Having a live chat feature on your website puts you right in front of people who just need a little information to spend money with you right away. People who chat are usually very close to making a buying decision. If you can be available to provide them the information they need at the time, chances are that you will be winning them over for business.
Also, take extra effort to stay active on social media to monitor your profiles for brand mentions or direct messages. That way, you won’t be missing out on any opportunity you could have seized to represent your business in the best possible way.
8: Marketing Messages
Purposeful marketing is one that focuses on building trust and meaningful connections with customers. Perfect ways to achieve that include through marketing messages, storytelling, paid ads, and social proof.
Great marketing messages:
- Establish your role in the community
- Set your brand apart from competitors
- Give you the chance to be more authentic with your customers
Throughout all platforms and avenues through which you reach your target customers, make sure your brand messages are built on openness, connection, and balance. Your words matter. So, you will be doing your brand a lot of good mastering the way you communicate your values to your audience.
Once you have mastered that, then being able to demonstrate your ability to build trust will be next. So:
- Be open and honest when dealing with your customers
- Respect their privacy
- Deliver on every promise you made in your advertising
- Provide customized solutions to relieve them of their stress and doubt
- Make them see you as a reliable expert they can trust to fix their problems by sharing valuable insights about your process.
Be Intentional About Building a Digital Footprint
Building a digital footprint is important to your business growth, and that is why you should be intentional about building it. Make your team more committed to maintaining an active presence online. These days, it is not enough to just be there online; it’s about having a digital footprint that puts and represents you in the best way possible before the right people.