We are two weeks into a new year and a new decade and more than ever consumers are looking for one thing above all else – a viable and visible online reputation, before even thinking of contacting a business. 

I read a recent study from the US that said that reputation accounted for 63% of a company’s market value and more than ever businesses needed to align themselves with a programme of constant vigilance to maintain or advance their reputations. That reputation plays such a dominant role in any and every company’s financial well-being is not surprising to us in the online reputation filed but what is so completely staggering is the failure to accept that and do everything possible to benefit from it.

While we may be living in what has been described as the ‘post-truth’ world, that does not apply to the essentials of the relationship between consumers and businesses. While voters may gladly give their votes to people of highly dubious reputations with a proclivity for dealing in mistruths and downright lies, consumers will not, in the main, fork out their hard earned cash to businesses with bad, or invisible reputations.

Online reviews are the main driver of consumer engagement. Potential customers want to feel safe before they consider purchasing a product or commissioning the services of a business. And who can blame them? Wages and salaries have remained largely stagnant since the Global Financial Crisis and consumers have become more and more savvy about how they spend and with who they spend it with. The Russian roulette of relying on directories, traditional advertising and whatever businesses say about themselves on their own websites, has been replaced with third part review sites and Google reviews.

It’s a no brainer to realise and accept that reputation is everything. It is not some add-on, a small concern to give sporadic or occasional focus to. It is essential. 

Over 91% of consumers admit that they make all of their decisions online and reviews are the overwhelmingly dominant part of their decision-making process . No reviews? Moving on. Bad reviews, with no response? Moving on. Old reviews? Moving on. Where are they moving on to? Businesses with a visible, up-to-date and maintained and responded to online reputation.

So, as we move into the roaring ’20s, it’s time to discard all of the advertising and marketing schemes that just do not work any longer and are a complete waste of money and time. Those who catch fish spend a lot of time researching what bait to use, what tackle to employ and where to fish. Sure, it’s a basic metaphor but why do so many businesses do the complete opposite when they are trying to attract new customers?

So many times I have endured business owners telling me they would rather spend large amounts of money on outmoded forms of marketing, than actively engaging with the one thing that will actually drive consumers toward them, at a fraction of the cost. It is utterly baffling and infuriating. It is the equivalent of a fisherman baiting his rod with mince pies or chocolate, thinking that’s what the fish may like, without taking the time to actively work out what the fish want.