The following is a guest post by Jerome Knyszewski. Knyszewski is a leading online reputation management expert and a prolific writer on LinkedIn Pulse with over 200 testimonials on his LinkedIn profile. His articles on LinkedIn Pulse have over 2.5 million collective views and he was the third most read author on LinkedIn last year. He consults top companies on managaing their online reputations.
Would you rather buy a car from a nearby dealership with a ton of negative reviews, or drive a little farther and buy from a business with outstanding reviews? Your online reputation can make or break you—and your business.
As studies have shown that 85 percent of clients conduct online research before making a purchasing decision, entrepreneurs must regard reputation and perception of authority as the strongest components in their sales process. Especially considering anyone—including malicious competitors, disgruntled employees, or unsatisfied customers—can post something about your business, and it can be more damaging than a lawsuit.
Adopt these strategies to protect your online reputation and, in turn, grow your business:
1. Regularly search for yourself online
You don’t need expensive monitoring services. Set up Google alerts for your full name and your company name, and stay aware anytime something new is indexed. There’s nothing worse than wondering, “Why don’t we receive as many phone calls anymore?” and realizing you were slammed online six months ago.
2. Before you can manage your reputation, you have to build it
Claim all social media profiles under your name and your company name, and consider grabbing them for your family members, your board of directors, and other key company players. Also buy domain names before your competitors can; don’t suffer a repeat of Donald Trump buying JebBush.com before Bush did, redirecting users to Trump’s site instead.
3. Create quality content
Far too often, I come across companies putting out terrible content (i.e. blogs, website, photos, etc.). Content is king and it needs to be top notch. Focus on clients’ needs and concerns, answering intelligent, frequently asked questions with articles and additional media, including video. This will shorten the sales cycle as they gather more useful information on your website, requiring less chasing from the sales force.
4. Invest in quality videos
Facebook video views continue to soar; YouTube has taken countless viewers from cable. If you don’t have a video budget, strategy and editorial calendar, you’re absent from an environment where your competitors can win. Create videos that demonstrate quality -- a shaky iPhone video you took while walking down the street can damage your essential perception of authority. Consider investing in a good three-axis gimbal.
5. Nurture customers and gather reviews
First, do a good job for clients and build a personal relationship. After asking if you’ve satisfied their needs, encourage them to share reviews on video and in writing. Feature those on your homepage so prospective clients immediately see social proof of your credentials. Post video reviews to YouTube and turn written statements into a podcast. It is crucial to not just collect this information, but to leverage it.
6. Allocate a reputation budget
Most entrepreneurs don’t think about investing in their reputation. They have overhead, taxes, marketing, online apps, and furniture to pay for. But neglecting to set aside money to invest in your reputation is a losing strategy. Failing to do so jeopardizes growth and leaves you vulnerable to negative reviews whether they’re valid or not.
7. Expand beyond your website
Everyone calls themselves the best on their own site. Customers are too savvy to believe that; they’re going to shop around. Establish yourself outside personal materials by guest blogging and reaching out to publications within your niche to guest post for. As well as reach out to local and national newspapers and contact event organizers and any relevant outlet that can enhance your credibility. If people are impressed by where you’ve been featured, they’ll be more inclined to trust you.
Online reputation is possibly more underestimated than anything else by entrepreneurs in considering conversion in the sales process. Implement a well thought out strategy for your online reputation and you’ll enjoy great business growth.