Archive for the ‘Reputation Management’ Category
While B2C and B2B marketing practices are distinct in many ways, they both ultimately involve making your message resonate with people—meaning emotions a significant role. The notion that business buyers are dispassionate and coldly rational is overstated.
Certainly, practicality plays a large role in B2B procurement. Attributes like product functionality, ROI, total cost of ownership (TCO), fitness for purpose, and integration capabilities are undeniably important.
But more personal, individual benefits also matter to business buyers, particularly as more consumer and consumer-like technologies make their way into the workplace. It’s nice that a piece of software “streamlines processes,” but 1) everyone says that (an exact phrase search on Google for that brings up more than 40,000 results); 2) no one would buy something that complicates processes(!); and 3) how exactly does that help the individual business buyer in his or her job?
Thing is, the core message of most B2B products and services revolves around how a vendor’s offering helps its customers (companies and government agencies) do things better-faster-cheaper. Those are vital benefits to be sure. They need to be part of the marketing message and backed up by case studies and other proof (not just claims).
The problem is those messages themselves often aren’t differentiating, and even when they do, product and service features are generally easy for competitors to copy. And, again, those messages are about organizational benefit (rationally appealing), but don’t address the personal, individual needs and wants of business buyers (emotionally appealing).
So how can a B2B vendor stand out, and potentially create more sustainable competitive advantage? Here are seven ideas.
Talk about personal benefits.
Go beyond better-faster-cheaper to address the personal needs of those on the buying team. What do they value? Getting home earlier in the evening? Increased status at work–maybe a raise or promotion? Reduced frustration?
The importance of emphasizing personal benefits in B2B marketing was noted in recent research from CEB, which found that when vendor messages are focused only on business benefits, “86% of B2B customers do not see enough difference between suppliers to pay more for it. However, our research also shows that ‘personal value’ is twice as powerful as business value in achieving a broad range of commercial objectives (including awareness, consideration, purchase intent, willingness to pay a premium, loyalty, willingness to recommend).”
This is because ‘B2B buyers must see sufficient personal value to overcome the risks they take on when advocating for a particular supplier’s solution.”
Rental car companies and airlines do an excellent job with this, promoting cost-saving travel program messages at the business level while also promoting their simplicity and convenience to business travelers. One enterprise software vendor talks about making its IT customers into business heroes. Payroll and HR outsourcers emphasize how they take mundane, tedious tasks (like regulatory compliance) off the plates of small business owners and corporate HR staff alike.
Though it’s vital to communicate product features and benefits (on both a business level and, as noted above, a personal level), stories are also very powerful. Stories help connect emotionally with buyers, and are also more memorable: research has found that after a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories, while just 5% remember statistics.
Stories are used commonly in consumer marketing, but are also increasingly part of B2B marketing campaigns as well, with notable examples including GE, HubSpot, and Intel.
Use data to personalize messages intelligently.
Use whatever information you have at your disposal to make your emails and other communications as individualized as possible.
In a small company with a limited product line and contact database (as well as, generally, limited resources) this may be as simple as segmenting your list based on common characteristics like title and company size.
Marketers in mid-sized companies usually have marketing automation software installed (e.g., HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, Genoo, etc.). All of these are helpful in customizing messages for different market segments, if not quite down to the individual level.
Large enterprises can utilize sophisticated data mining to target messages to customers. However, the human element remains vital, to avoid over-reliance on data mining that can backfire and damage the brand’s image.
Optimize the customer experience.
The single most powerful and cost-effective form of marketing in existence is customer word-of-mouth (or word of mouse) advocacy.
Turning customers into stark, raving fans of your brand or product is something that can’t be purchased. It has to be earned. But it can be, by focusing not just marketing but company-wide efforts on creating a great customer experience, from the initial communications prospects receive through the buying process to ongoing customer service.
This is much more than a marketing campaign—it goes to the heart of the business and internal culture. A remarkable customer experience starts with creating an great employee experience.
Be a great place to work.
Employees are natural advocates for the business, and can be very influential. But their hearts will really only be in advocacy if you provide a great work environment.
Research has shown that happy employees make for happy customers—and both combined make for higher profitability.
Like happy customers, happy employees can’t be bought (at least not entirely). Compensation plays a role to be sure, but having managers who inspire and collaborate (rather than dictate and micromanage) is among the most important considerations, along with work environment and scheduling flexibility.
Trust goes a long way toward removing friction in marketing and sales. Like customer loyalty, it can’t be bought—it has to be earned. And it has to be consistent. Trust is challenging (but worthwhile) to earn, easy to lose, and almost impossible to regain once lost.
Which means integrity in all customer interactions, up and down the organization, has to be built into the culture. This may sound basic, even simplistic, but it’s more difficult than one may think. It’s easy to cut corners “just this once,” or tell prospective buyers “little white lies,” in order to make the quarterly numbers.
But short-term thinking can lead to long-term loss of respect—internally and externally. Integrity must be consistent to have value in humanizing a brand.
Be involved in the community.
Employees and customers alike want to work with organizations that act as part of a larger purpose. “Community” in this case can mean not just the local community, but also the industry community or even global “community.”
In the B2C world, Target’s corporate giving and TOMS Shoes One for One program are well known examples of community involvement. But community involvement can take many different forms, from a credit card company creating a forum to help small businesses to providing a platform for community-based technology organizations to companies that encourage employees to volunteer their time to worthy causes.
Sometimes (rarely) B2B marketing is simple: it’s about having the clearly best product, lowest price, or widest distribution network. Most often though, it’s not. It’s about differentiating your product or service in a crowded, competitive market. That’s when humanizing your marketing—and entire approach to doing business—can make all the difference.
Guest post by Jon Rognerud.
As a business and/or brand, nothing is more important than maintaining a solid reputation throughout your respective industry.
It is critical to maintain a solid reputation because an increasing number of consumers have started to use it as a way to dictate their purchasing behaviors and decisions.
More and more consumers are now using social media and review websites to make all kinds of purchasing decisions. Therefore, it is imperative, as a business owner or marketer, to focus on improving and maintaining a healthy reputation in the marketplace.
In this article, I will be going over one of the biggest kept secrets of this year when it comes to managing your reputation online.
What Search Engines Are Looking For?
1) High Authority Domains.
If you are trying to maintain a healthy reputation in the marketplace and on the Internet, you need to focus on leveraging high authority domains that are already built.
Google and other search engines have different criteria that they look for when they are trying to figure out the rankings for different keywords and phrases. However, one of the biggest things that they look for when trying to rank websites is the “strength” that each web property has.
The way that Google calculates these authority and trust indicators is by learning how long the domain has been in existence, how many links are pointing to it, and how many strong websites it is associated with.
This may sound technical and confusing, but there’s some good news here. You cannot change how long your domain has been in existence, but you can impact the strength of domains that your website is linked to.
Therefore, it is always wise to leverage the highest, most trusted domains that you can. You can do this by linking your website to other authority websites in your niche/industry. And, by linking your websites (pages) to established and populated social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare, YouTube, Pinterest, and more.
But it doesn’t stop there – you have to continually expand content and build incoming links for these properties too. For example, you could reference content pieces from your LinkedIn articles to your Twitter profile, and boost its “trust”, resulting in higher rankings for that web property.
2) Social Proof.
If you consistently get people talking about your business and/or brand on social media and you link these websites to your own brand’s websites, you should be able to better control the overall search results for your company’s brand.
The benefit is that you get more control over the overall reputation of your brand and will allow you to suppress the negative mentions about it in the search engines. And, you have to monitor this conversation continually, and respond to all – either positive, neutral and negative comments or specific mentions.
(Note: For some markets, like financial services industries, FINRA has issued limits on social media use, but each market can leverage social to their benefit when proper strategies are built.)
How do you actually do it?
1) Create Social Media Accounts For Your Brand.
The first thing that you are going to want to do is be sure to create social media accounts for your brand on each of the available social media platforms. Be certain to create them where your customers and prospects visit as well.
It is imperative that you create social media accounts on all of the available and popular social media platforms because each one that you create and manage is going to propel your brand’s website higher in the search engines. These social media accounts will eventually be pushed to the front page of search results if done right.
2) Manage the Social Media Accounts.
It is not enough to simply create the social media accounts. You are also going to need to manage the social media accounts that you create. Search engines look for activity as well as the existence of the social media accounts and overall user engagement. Continually build links across your network of highly trusted websites.
Make sure you are posting relevant content such as; articles, pictures, videos and links. By doing this, not only are you going to be able to attract more people to your website – thus strengthening your brand’s websites rankings but you will also be able to repress negative things being said about your brand/company.
Free tools to get you started
In order to figure out what Internet sites your brand is being discussed in, you could utilize Google Alerts.
By using Google Alerts, you get automatic email notices whenever your brand and/or company is being mentioned online. This allows you to promptly respond or make some sort of corresponding action associated with the mention.
With social mention, you can figure out whenever someone mentioned your brand or company on the Internet, and you can also research in “real-time.”
Be sure to utilize the Google KeyWord Planner Tool, Google Analytics (you can set threshold alerts to be automatically emailed to you) to help improve your brands reputation by creating quality, topical and keyword-based content that your audience is searching for.
To learn more about how the process works, check out this infographic “10 Brand Reputation Success Principles.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jon Rognerud is a recognized authority on SEO, who has spent more than 20 years creating and managing web and marketing projects from small to large companies, including positions at online giant Yahoo! He also founded Chaosmap.com, a Fortune 500 search marketing company in Los Angeles, California. His latest book, “The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website” from Entrepreneur Press is available in bookstores nationwide. Check out his personal website, http://www.jonrognerud.com to learn more.
Guest post by Carrie Bauer.
Before the Internet, making a good first impression often meant face-to-face interactions at business meetings, conferences and lunches. With so much commerce now taking place online, impressions are a given in cyberspace. Successful online business people must be proactive in cultivating business on their own by creating a positive public image, being authentic and likeable.
This is where ORM, or online reputation management, comes in. ORM is the practice of making people and businesses look their best online, where there are only virtual handshakes. People need to control their search results because they often contain outdated, inaccurate or misleading information. To keep this from happening, companies like Reputation.com, provide ORM as well as Internet privacy protection to clients. Reputation companies also works to protect a person’s privation information from being made public.
BusinessNewsDaily.com quoted Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com, as saying the number one reason companies use reputation services is for companies to proactively manage it’s reputation. He continues, “It’s a lot cheaper to avoid a problem before you have it. If you’re not proactively managing, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to neutral or unhelpful information.”
When people do try to reach businesses online, there should be a quick response. Not responding is the same as not answering a telephone call. People want to be valued if they are going to give you there business.
Another way to build authenticity is to provide interesting details about a business, such as how delivery and customer service are handled. Video, audio, blog posts and pull-quotes can help achieve this.
Be Likeable Via Social Media
Having a good business at the start should eliminate most negative publicity, but sometimes bad Internet feedback results from truly poor service or customer experiences. Or people will post a malicious review because of a misperceived slight. ORM is all about search engine optimization. ORM companies can decrease visibility by pushing negative results lower on a search-engine results page.
And since bad news travels fast on the Internet, eliminating as much of it as possible is essential, whether the target is an individual or a business.
Make Social Platforms Unanimous
Again, thinking ahead is essential for having a positive online appearance. Social media can be used effectively, Inc.com adds, by having company employees keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are other ways to create a virtual presence and cultivate a following. Having those social media accounts updated regularly also helps individuals while seeking a job.
Time mentions a 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab, a market-research agency, which found 78 percent of surveyed U.S. companies examined the search-engine results of prospective hires. Also, the study discovered 86 percent of employers reported a positive online reputation factors into their hiring decisions.
About the author: A legal and financial consultant for artists and celebrities, Carrie Bauer is a hardworking woman who believes that work is pleasure.
Guest post by Megan Totka.
Today’s social/mobile/local technology makes reputation management a big concern for many businesses. The online dynamic makes it easier than ever for customers to take out their frustrations about a bad experience or share a heartfelt allegiance to a particular company. Websites like Yelp, Foursquare and TripAdvisor allow users to “check in” every time they visit a business. Users can then rate their trip from one to five stars, add comments, add quick tips, tell others what to avoid and what to definitely do, and review their overall experience. For customers these online services, which are even more readily accessible because of mobile apps and different mobile marketing companies, can impact which new places they visit.
For small business owners though, these online review sites can be a headache, not just because customers will inevitably point out your flaws, but because they make reputation management extremely challenging. This is why web presence has to be made a priority. Not that a business should ignore online reviews, certainly; some can be very helpful in pointing out necessary changes to your company to make you more successful in the future. But the danger is business owners can become obsessed with bad reviews. This obsession can be very hurtful to a small business owner. Rather than focusing on important business operations, owners are too involved with the uncontrollable. This can include loosing too much revenue by trying to please customers who posted bad reviews, allowing negative feelings about reviews to impact employee morale, or making too many changes in trying to please every customer. Business owners need to find a balance between addressing unhappy customers through online reviews and ignoring trolls just out to cause trouble or get something for free.
To better understand the perspective, think of the “old school” newspaper reviews. Food critics and movie reviews would be posted weekly. These treviews along with features on schools, hotels and local businesses would be published, written by professionals. Brand reputation management was much simpler then. With their own reputations at stake, writers had to post truthful information and be as objective as possible. Businesses could request a retraction if something written were completely outrageous. The information was considered trustworthy because it was the job of a professional reviewer to be informative and accurate. These types of review still get posted and read but often aren’t as influential as in the past.
The online effect of having users able to impact the decisions of other customers requires small businesses to better understand reputation management. Businesses with established brands can perhaps afford to lose a few customers to a bad review. But small businesses rely on continued positive word of mouth (and “word of mouse”) to keep their name spreading from happy customers to their friends.
To best control brand reputation, small business owners should use tactics like open communications with employees and customers, empathy for the customers’ needs and concerns, and flexible but throughtful processes for handling issues. Small business managers need to know appropriate corrective measures that keep their best customers coming back while attracting new customers as well.
For more reputation management tips, read up on using social media to your advantage to increase your web presence, and customer service techniques to keep clients loyal.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for Chamber of Commerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources.
One of the most interesting aspects of web presence optimization (WPO) is how frequently bloggers and journalists write about the concept without actually using the term. They use terms like “search and social,” “inbound marketing,” “social media optimization,” “online reputation management,” “internet marketing” and others, with general agreement that the art and science of getting found on the web today require much more than just SEO–but no consensus on what to call it.
Rand Fishkin recently devoted 1,700 words to the topic of conversations about the industry’s nomenclature and inspired nearly 170 comments, all with no mention of WPO. Krista LaRiviere (see below), a co-founder of gShift Labs, is one of the few bloggers who have embraced the term.
Oh well, whatever you call the discipline of maximizing a company’s online visibility in a world where search is much more than Google-Yahoo-Bing and where web presence is much more than a corporate website, here are 18 of the best blog posts and articles from the past year on how to do it well.
Web Presence Optimization (WPO) Guides and Insights
The New Breed of B2B Buyer by Chaotic Flow
Joel York argues that “A new breed of B2B buyer has arisen, a species that is more connected, more impatient, more elusive, more impulsive, and more informed than its pre-millennium ancestors,” and that marketers need to understand how the B2B buying cycle has changed and adapt to the “new B2B buyer rules of engagement” across several traits including impatience (by making content easy to find in a self-service manner).
Inbound Marketing: Unlock the content from your emails and social marketing by MarketingSherpa Blog
Observing that email marketing efforts often produce “a mountain of content, but little of it gets used for marketing,” Adam T. Sutton shares tips from Chris Baggott on turning email content into optimizable content, such as publishing customer service answer emails as blog posts: “Sales and service teams write thousands of emails to answer customers’ questions…The answers to these questions are extremely specific to each customer’s situation. If published, they’re potentially valuable for long-tail (low volume, highly qualified) search traffic. What is the best parka for sub-zero temperatures? That sounds like a Google search to me.”
We’re Looking In The Wrong Place For Our Attribution Models by MediaPost Search Insider
Gord Hotchkiss explores John Yi’s concept of Pinball Marketing: “The new game of marketing is much more like pinball. The intersections between a buyer’s decision path and a product’s marketing presence are many, and each can send the buyer off in a different direction. Some of those intersection points are within the marketer’s control — and some aren’t.” WPO is about increasing the number of those intersection points and having as many of them as possible within the marketer’s influence, if not actual control.
Likelihood to Click by The Daily Numbers
David Erickson reports on recent research showing that “48% (of searchers) are likely to click if a brand shows up multiple times within a set of search results.” That figure seems low, but even if accurate, it makes a strong case for WPO activities designed to get a brand to show up multiple times, high in the search results, for core key phrases.
What Wins In Google Universal Search? Videos, Images & Google! by Search Engine Land
Barry Schwartz reveals that in Google Universal Search results, “videos are by far the most found results in Google, with image content a distant second,” while maps, blogs and news also rank highly—another reason companies need to utilize a diverse set of tactics in order to maximize their exposure near the top of search results.
Get Found: Stop Doing SEO, Start Doing WPO by iMedia Connection
***** 5 STARS
Krista LaRiviere of web presence optimization software firm gShift Labs quotes a client who told her that “once his marketing team started focusing on the company’s entire web presence (not just the website), organic search traffic increased, leads increased and business increased. His team noticed a significant difference within a three-month time period,” then provides a helpful six-step process for getting started with WPO.
6 SEO Jedi Tactics to Try Before Turning to the Dark Side by Search Engine Watch
The brilliant and always entertaining Angie Schottmuller uses a Star Wars analogy to argue for the benefits of white hat over black hat SEO, but several of her six “SEO Jedi” tactics apply to WPO, including universal search optimization (“Leverage the diversity of Google universal search results mixed with videos, images, shopping, books, maps (local), and news…video and image formats dominate Google mixed results, yet few sites actually apply SEO to these assets…Surround on-page images or videos with relevant textual content to help search engines better understand the asset and in-turn boost the relevance of the page as well”), clever link bait, and social media optimization.
How to cure your SEO blindness by iMedia Connection
Alan Bush writes that “The SEO process is multi-faceted and detailed, requiring coordination between client and agency, as well as among many departments such as marketing, IT, and more”—which is true, although the model he presents here is closer to WPO than pure SEO, incorporating as it does (in addition to traditional aspects of SEO like keyword research, competitor analysis and link building) social marketing, blogging, news releases and online articles.
SEO, Social Media and WPO
7 ways to make SMO work in the post-Google age by iMedia Connection
Contending that “The days of search engine optimization (SEO) as a critical audience-driving strategy for digital publishers are numbered. Forward-looking marketers need to educate themselves about a far more meaningful and effective way of bringing audiences to media destinations—social media optimization (SMO),” Ben Elowitz makes some excellent points (content is again becoming more important than technology) and provides some helpful guidance for driving more traffic through sites like Facebook and Twitter. But the truth of course is that SEO and SMO are both important and need to be practiced as part of a WPO strategy.
From SEO To Social Media, Getting All Channels To Drive Traffic by MediaPost Search Insider
Derek Gordon notes that “From newsletters to advertising, PR to social media, it’s no secret that a good marketing strategy leverages every available channel to drive traffic to Web sites…And all it really takes is (an) old mantra: work together,” and supplies some excellent tips for what is, effectively, WPO.
The Fabulous Collision of Search and Social by Social Media Today
Rohn Jay Miller offers keen insights into what he terms the “collision between social networks and search engines,” writing that social networks are remixing search in three key ways: through social content evaluation (“If a lot of people on Twitter like Bill Bob Thornton’s grilled chicken marinade, the link to his Website will move up in the SERPs”), social content results (browsing social updates or viewing user-generated content served up in Google results) and social network search (searching within Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter instead of using a traditional web search engine).
5 reasons why social media is good for SEO by Success Works
The delightful Stacey Acevero contends that “what most (marketing and PR professionals) don’t realize is that social media is in fact great for SEO and can help boost your search engine rankings,” then explains how this connection works, e.g., “Social media encourages the sharing of multimedia, and multimedia is shown to increase time on page. PRWeb did a study which concluded that including multimedia in news releases increases time on page by an average of about 30 seconds. Imagine what that could do for your blog and social media posts.”
Optimizing Social For SEO: A Three-Step Beginner’s Guide by MediaPost Search Insider
Frequent best-of honoree Janet Driscoll Miller lays out a three-stage process for making social and SEO work together, starting with claiming your company profile on the major social networks (at least Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare and YouTube) and then connecting those accounts through a Google profile.
Social Content Seeding for SEO by Search Engine Watch
Pointing out that as the major search engines have incorporated social signals into their rankings, “now you need more than just backlinks to rank. You also need tweets, likes, and other ‘votes’ from social users to let search engines know that your brand is relevant,” Guillaume Bouchard explains how to produce content that is “shareable” (e.g., because it is unique, inspirational or entertaining) and encourage sharing on networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Online Reputation Management and WPO
6 Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation by Content Marketing Institute
CB Whittemore points out that “Using digital and social tools leads to more links to your website, better quality visits and more indexing,” and offers half a dozen helpful tips for online reputation management, such as “Your goal is to ‘own’ as many first page search results as possible (yep, that’s pretty much the definition of web presence optimization) for your name and/or your company’s name with content you’ve created or positively influenced…Complete and robust social profiles allow you to own more of those page one results. Claim your profiles (on sites like LinkedIn, Google+, SlideShare, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter) and make sure they consistently describe you and your company.”
Online Sentiment and Link Building by Search Engine Journal
Julie Joyce identifies six social networks where every business should at least have a profile (note though that these are oriented towards local, consumer businesses; Google+ and YouTube are more important for B2B firms than are Google Places, Bing Local or Foursquare) and outlines a process for tracking and responding social content and product reviews to avoid making a negative first impression in search.
Me, Myself and I: Helping to manage your identity on the web by Google Public Policy Blog
Andreas Tuerk explains how Google has attempted to “make it easier to monitor your identity on the web and to provide easy access to resources describing ways to control what information is on the web,” since your “online identity” is shaped not only by your postings but also by tagging and what others write about you.
HOW TO: Manage Your Online Reputation Using SEO by Mashable
Reporting that “Of the almost 80% of U.S. hiring managers who had searched for candidates online, 70% of them said they had rejected a candidate based on what they found in his or her search results,” Sarah Kessler provides a four-step process for improving the results of those searches, such as posting positive content: “Profiles on social networks are powerful tools for this purpose, as results from large sites like Facebook and Twitter often carry more SEO power than a single post on something like a personal blog.”