Over the years as more new technology emerges and customers are able to easily do their due diligence, the number of companies not looking out for their customer’s best interest is on a decline. They are going out of business for their lack of or limited online reputation. Along with that, companies who are not leveraging this new technology are taking a dive as well. How can startups and large enterprises compete in the same space?
The great Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Long gone are the days where people could start a business, create a few videos and hide behind their website to make money. In today’s fast evolving world of business, the online sales cycle has more steps because consumers are more guarded. The more you are able to reach your desired audience the more likely they are to buy from you and not your competitor.
Aside from traditional marketing, an emerging trend in digital marketing is known as reputation marketing. We’ve all heard of reputation management. You find an agency online who say they will manage your reviews, protect your brand’s presence when a customer Google’s the brand name and provide positive content that will overpower any negativity.
Where reputation marketing differs is that it’s a more proactive approach. By investing in building your brand’s authority, you become the source that people trust.
Building your brand’s authority is different for each business and market.
The best way to define brand authority is your brand’s perceived level of expertise, and with it comes many great benefits. It takes time to build, and there are no shortcuts, which is why it is a highly sought method in the digital consulting field.
To consumers, marketing has obtained a bad connotation. They believe marketing involves spam messaging in their inbox, ads everywhere they go and some sleazy salesman always calling to sell them something they don’t want.
In reality, however, marketing is about educating the consumer on why you are the best solution to their problems. When implemented effectively, marketing won’t even seem like marketing, but rather communication.
Again, the world of online business is different these days because people have been burned in the past, and they are constantly reminded of it online with news stories, and Facebook feeds. In order to lower their guard, so they aren’t as defensive and willing to hear what you have to say, you have to be sincere.
In 2013, Boston Consulting Group conducted a study, revealing the fact that customers identified authenticity as one of the top qualities that would attract them to a brand. For millennials, authenticity was second to rewarding loyal customers with discounts. So what is classified as authentic in business? What drives it?
According to BCG’s Brand Advocacy Index (BAI), authenticity helps fuel success in today’s competitive markets as consumers search for greater meaning and sincerity from the brands they choose — fuelled by a desire to connect with things that feel safe, certain and unambiguous.
At its heart, authenticity is about practicing what you preach; being totally clear about who you are and what you do best. When a brand’s rhetoric gets out of sync with customers’ actual experiences, the brand’s integrity and future persuasiveness suffer.
A brand’s authenticity can be weighed by four main factors which are recognized for driving brand performance.
- Brand Value: Filling a real need and being easy to buy or use.
- Brand Virtue: Clarity of purpose, a unifying brand ideology, and sincere- consistent behaviors.
- Brand Visibility: Meaningful engagement with your market, continued outreach to potential customers, and telling compelling stories.
- Brand Vitality: Game-changing innovation, strong brand identity, and creating highly memorable experiences.
For a better understanding of what makes a brand authentic and how to leverage the four branding factors that drive performance, if we take away other important aspects of BCG’s study which was a qualitative exploration and quantitive data model which identified key drivers of brand authenticity; we find the psychology behind an authoritative brand.
Ask yourself, “What has your brand brought that’s new or different to the market”? For your brand to be memorable by consumers and potential leads, your brand has to offer something that is unique or offered in a unique way. Which is why brands that can distinguish themselves from the competition and bring something new to the abe are much more likely to be remembered and to be perceived as authentic.
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To what degree does your brand deliver real utility to its users? Providing a high level of personal utility means consumers are more likely to engage with your brand. Companies must clearly convey what utility is provided to their users.
People buy from people, not brands. What does your brand stand for aside from making money? Who are the people behind the screen? Consumers are willing to spend money on brands they like, but they also need to feel they are not just throwing money into a money machine.
Instead, they need to identify with the human element within companies and feel as though your brand has values and beliefs beyond making a profit. What social responsibility does your brand declare? If your market is really targeted, you can declare what political party your brand is behind.
Again, sincerity is the new trend. A huge aspect of brand sincerity is taking the time to engage with customers, hear their concerns, and in some cases praise their results from using your product or service.
Companies that do this are of more value than companies that do not make an effort. Respond to positive reviews, sincerely, and thank each customer for their review.
Furthermore, brands that are able to take ownership of shortcomings and be forthright about their mistakes and convey perseverance to commitment in customer satisfaction will be perceived as more sincere. Which is why, after having a positive experience with a company, 77% of customers would recommend it to a friend.
Familiarity is about brand awareness and how well your brand is known by your market. The more recognizable you are, the more likely people trust you. Nielsen revealed that 60% of global consumers with Internet access prefer to buy new products from a familiar brand, rather than a brand they don’t recognize.
One crucial aspect of brand familiarity is digital marketing. Both paid and organic search are feasible ways to gain recognition online for every budget. Research and figure out exactly what questions your potential customers have and create quality content to appear in the major search engines through search engine optimization and pay per click advertising.
Small companies with the appearance of becoming more popular can beat companies who have more recognition in the same space. A growing brand is an important one. Consumers often jump on bandwagons, but brand momentum represents what your company is now in addition to what it can become.
Consumers would rather get on board with a brand positioned to grow than one that is sinking, and because more companies are initiating some form of a customer loyalty campaign, by switching brands early, they feel they will be rewarded.
Last but certainly not least. Again, people buy from people – and everyone loves a good story. Consumers form connections with brands who have relevant, engaging and sincere backstories.
A compelling story is more likely to draw people in and more likely to be perceived as authentic.
As the studies reveal, performance on core authenticity drives business performance. The stronger your brand’s core authenticity, the more likely people are to not only become buyers but advocates as well.
Brand advocacy increases your share of high-value customers in the market. This means that brand authenticity ties heavily into brand advocacy and vice-versa. For companies looking to implement a social media advocacy strategy, should pay additional attention to the level of authenticity that is associated with their brand and find new ways to increase it. The same applies to public relations and email marketing campaigns. Influencer marketing is another trend brands are leveraging, but many are failing to see success with it due to lack of sincerity.
In short, reputation management focuses more on asking customers for their feedback in hopes to provide a better experience and leverage positive insights as an asset for increased visibility and referrals, whereas reputation marketing recruits brand advocates through authenticity and authority without having to ask the customer for reviews or feedback.
Both are very powerful resources brands should be utilized in today’s marketplace. Applications for each will be different for each business, but what remains the same is that no matter what marketing you implement – be honest and be sincere.