Many business owners and marketers around the country are waking up to the fact that their online reputations could make or break their internet marketing campaigns… not to mention their offline marketing campaigns.

New potential customers, referrals, and even colleagues or vendors are likely to look you up on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn before they ever contact you to do business. What they find can set the tone for a positive working relationship, or stop the opportunity in its tracks.

Most of us recognize this on an intuitive level – an online reputation is really “word-of-mouth advertising” brought into the digital age. However, I frequently meet with businesspeople who understand the power of having a great reputation, but don’t necessarily know how to build one from scratch or improve the one they already have.

If you’re in a similar boat, then I have a few pieces of proven advice you’re going to love. Here are three factors that supercharge your online reputation and make you stand out from the competition…

#1 Online Reviews

Because marketing and information are everywhere, lots of us have grown skeptical of the claims that manufacturers and retailers make. That’s especially true when an offer or perspective is coming from a company or brand we aren’t already familiar with. If we can’t be sure what level of service and value we are going to get, we are hesitant to move forward.

Knowing that, it’s not surprising that we’ll put more weight into advice that’s given by an impartial stranger, than we will the marketing copy provided directly from someone who wants to sell us their wares. In fact, nine out of 10 consumers say online reviews influence their buying decisions, and the only mystery in that figure is trying to figure out where the other 10% live, and what kinds of things they buy.

You will go a long way toward making new customers feel more comfortable with your business by encouraging your customers to add online reviews to the web. Whether it’s on your own website or someone else’s online store, do everything you can to encourage feedback. The more of it there is, and the more genuine and detailed the impressions are, the easier it’s going to be for you to win new business.

#2 Customer Testimonials

Testimonials aren’t exactly the same as reviews, but they do make quite an impression in customers’ minds. This again comes down to the detail that it’s easier for buyers to believe what someone else is saying about your products, pricing, or service, than it is to take your word.

A Nielson survey showed that 94% of buyers considered testimonials to be more impactful than other forms of marketing. Personal testimonies will increase effectiveness. Ask satisfied customers or clients to take a moment to leave their names, their city or occupation, and a few notes about the challenges they were facing. Consider getting them to post their praise on social media, or in video clips.

Each of these makes the testimonial more “real” than a generic reference on a webpage would seem. You aren’t just looking for the actual content, but a level of authenticity that lets a potential buyer know that you’ve solved someone else’s problem and can help them with the challenge they are facing, too.

#3 Detailed Case Studies

Testimonials give you a chance to show off the great things others have to say about your work, and case studies are the perfect tool for showcasing verifiable outcomes. They tell interested parties, in a sustained and pointed way, that you were able to deliver what you promised, meet a tight deadline, or help out in a difficult situation.

How important is that kind of supporting evidence to your marketing message? Some studies suggest proof is more valuable than discounts, in that buyers tend to prefer a business with strong case studies to a lower-cost competitor. As with testimonials, the key is to combine lots of facts, quotes, and hard numbers into your case studies, so it’s easy for a reader to follow the chain of events and understand exactly which benefits were delivered.

And of course, if you can top your case studies off with a few pointed words from customers or clients who are glad they chose to do business with you, then the impact is only going to be stronger.

Your Online Reputation Can Drive Sales or Repel Them

Regardless of how strong your inbound and outgoing marketing campaigns are, most buyers are going to want to spend a little bit of time looking you up online before they start doing business with you. That’s true whether you offer cupcakes or industrial machinery. If you aren’t setting the tone for your online reputation, that means you’re leaving it to chance, or worse, it’s being set by a competitor.

You want to ensure you give your company every chance to compete, while starting new business relationships off on the right foot.

The Takeaways

  • Because prospects and referrals will look you up online before making a buying decision, your online reputation can make or break your marketing campaigns.
  • Online reviews have a lot more credibility with customers than anything you say about your own products or services.
  • Testimonials can be your most important pieces of messaging, especially if they show that you were able to solve problems for real-life people who look like your customers, and are facing the same challenges.
  • Detailed case studies give you a chance to show off your expertise and success stories.