I get to hear a lot of questions about online reputation marketing and I expect to. It makes sense. While online reviews have been around for over a decade, the power they can have for businesses is only now being seen as essential. So I take it for granted that I’ll encounter objections and queries. I get to hear it all.

Or so I thought. Right off the bat the other day I was asked this – “but isn’t it too late for me to market my business?” I had to think, but not for long. What the question was really about was missing the boat – that other businesses, competitors, already had a large number of reviews and they would be the choice when they were seen online – not people just starting out, building up reviews, and beginning to cement their reputation online.

In teenage speak – it’s known as FOMO – the fear of missing out – but when it comes to marketing your business online it’s never too late.

Why?

One important thing to remember about using the power of consumer reviews to your advantage is location. Your area – your turf – setting yourself up to be the local choice and then as your online reputation builds – branching out.

Businesses with a large number of reviews look great at a glance but every consumer isn’t just bowled over by the numbers – they will look at a number of businesses’ reviews before making choices. Consumers are also looking for recent reviews – recent reviews affirm that a business is current and that it is trading and vibrant. It is amazing how many businesses have hundreds of reviews but they are old and imagine that the numbers are important. They lose all value when they are old because consumers don’t trust that the business is doing well – or even that it’s trading at all.

If you’re considering putting yourself online and marketing your reputation you’re doing exactly the right thing to solidify and grow your business – big or small.

No matter what anyone has heard about you, or seen about you, the place they will come to make their decision about you, is online

The most overlooked, and massively advantageous aspect of online reviews is the value they give to your business or trading name when it is searched online.

If in any doubt about this – then Google your own business name now. What do you see? Some local directory listings? Maybe your own website? A Facebook page? No matter what anyone has heard about you, or seen about you, the place they will come to make their decision about you, is online. Even the old school word-of-mouth referral is followed up with an online search – every thing you do to advertise your business will take your prospective customer one place to find out more – the internet.

Ask yourself this – if I were a consumer looking online, would I choose my business?

If online visitors see reviews they are much more likely to trust and want to contact a business. If they don’t see online reviews, the opposite is true – and you’ve lost a customer. They have moved on to someone else.

Visibility and presence

Google is one of the greatest tools for your business - how is your visibility and presence online?

Google is one of the greatest tools for your business – how is your visibility and presence online?

It may take a few months to accrue reviews but as you do the returns begin and key to that is visibility and presence. Visibility is being seen and presence is the value of how you are seen.

In other words visibility in Google when you are searched and the presence of the information that motivates consumers in their decisions – think of this as a marketing umbrella online – website, social media, Google My Business, and of critical importance – reviews

A key factor is consumer behaviour is Social Proof – a psychological term that is can be seen in how people consume. Basically it means seeing how others act and behave and copying it. It doesn’t mean following the herd. There are other factors that are important as well – trust, research, and choice.

In the days when advertising was the key driver of purchasing decisions, brand loyalty followed the idea of social proof. Today? Reviews.

A staggering recent statistic proves this in spades.

84% of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

That means a vast majority of people believe the opinion of a stranger online more than they do a member of their own family or a close personal friend. This can be explained by social context – the referral of someone we know holds baggage – history, complications. It is not clear and it is not unbiased.

Online reviews – especially when authenticated – are incredibly valuable to consumers and, even more importantly, to businesses.

So, it’s not too late to commit to marketing the reputation of your business online but it is dangerous not too. Businesses rely on growth because growth is a protection against loss. The more a business can attract, maintain and increase a customer base, the better fiscal position it will be in.

Nobody is just in business for today, or next week, or next month. A business is an enterprise. It takes care, attention and huge amounts of effort. Nobody wants what they have created to fail.

A huge factor in ensuring success is marketing. Not just advertising but marketing. Advertising is paying to promote a message – “hey, I’m here, I sell stuff, make stuff, do things – here’s my things”. Marketing is using the space between you and the people you want to sell what you make and do to your advantage. It is a planned connection between buyers and sellers to exchange goods and services.

Marketing is a strategy – working out how to use the best tools in the best way to connect with the customers you want

The two are often confused but in reality advertising is a part of marketing. The mistake a lot of businesses make is relying completely on advertising and assuming it is bringing them closer to

the people they want to sell to. It isn’t. A radio ad, or a display ad in a newspaper is not enough. It is just the beginning.

Marketing is a strategy – working out how to use the best tools in the best way to connect with the customers you want. Key to that is understanding where and why consumers make their decisions. In the simplest terms it is online.

Every consumer carries around with them a portal that connects them to any and every piece of information that they may want and need – a Smartphone. At all times. The internet is no longer somewhere we visit – it is where we live.

If in doubt about how the Internet is King, ask yourself this. When did you last go to a video store? Thumb through a printed directory? Look at the cinema pages at the back of a newspaper to see where and when a movie was playing? Follow a television series on, well, an actual television?

PCs and Smartphones are where we engage with the world before we decide to step into it and buy. So what guides our decisions? A business’ website? A Facebook page? A listing in a directory? Paid ads? They are factors in decisions but they are not motivators.

When it is understood just how much consumers trust online reviews then it is time to begin marketing your reputation online. It is not too late but it’s not worth waiting either.

NoCowboys is New Zealand’s premier online reputation marketing platform. For over ten years they have helped thousands of Kiwi businesses grow by harnessing and utilising the authenticated reviews of their customers.

Don’t wait. Contact NoCowboys and begin marketing your reputation online today.