Regardless of the business or industry, every business already has an online reputation. Your online reputation is a consolidation of all the information about your business across the internet.
Today, it’s a very common practice for us to research our purchases on the web. No matter the item, we look for reviews, comments both good and bad, to help us determine if this is a product or service that will solve our problem.
We look for proof with just about everything we buy today, so it’s easy to comprehend why your online reputation is so important. Moreover, this isn’t just for B2C businesses. B2B online reputation management is just as important.
In B2B markets, several recent studies suggest that prospects are already 70% of the way through the buying process before they even want to interact with someone from the organization. What that means is that you have very little control over what information your prospects are reading and reviewing until it’s probably too late.
Some other interesting and possibly alarming stats:
IDG Connect reports that “Business buyers spend just 21% of the buying cycle in conversations with salespeople, instead spending 23% of the time in conversations with peers and colleagues and 56% of the buying cycle searching for and engaging with content.”
UBM Techweb reports that, “70% of the business technology buyers are at the RFP stage (request for proposal) by the time the vendor becomes aware of the opportunity.”
Because we can find so much information on the internet and through our social networks, B2B selling has changed drastically. Prospects don’t need your salesperson like they used to.
All, however, is not lost. In an effort to ensure you still attract as much attention from prospects as you did prior to the internet, you need to focus on your online reputation.
4 Components of Your Online Reputation
There are four types of media that make up your online reputation. What’s important to understand about each is the level of control or ownership you have with each. Understanding that will help you understand how to use each to your best advantage.
1. Owned Media—Today, the only owned media you have is your website. In order to appeal to prospects, your website has to be informative and esthetically pleasing. Because this is the only piece of online space you can completely control, it has to be delivered with the utmost excellence you and your team can deliver. Keep in mind, however, that buyers do understand that you put up only the information you want your prospects to see on your website.
2. Paid Media—Just as the name states, this includes any media opportunities for which you have paid a fee. This primarily constitutes advertisements and commercials. Because we are discussing your online reputation, any PPC (pay-per-click) ads should be included along with any native advertising or sponsored content ads.
3. Shared Media—Shared media includes any reviews or information posted by customers and clients through social media channels or on other websites. In the B2C world, we might also think of review sites like Yelp or directories offered by a professional industry. The trick here is to encourage reviews from the best customers because we all need proof when we are making buying decisions.
4. Earned Media—This is the most challenging of the four types of media, but it’s also the most valuable. Earned media is attained when your company is recognized or featured in research or industry articles and publications or maybe your company is showcased by an industry association or awarded an accolade for your contributions to a local charity.
Owned media and purchased media are essentially paid forms of media, and buyers know that. While they will review the information on your website, they’ll also collect additional information to confirm. They’ll look at social sharing on sites like LinkedIn and even industry sites that address vertical markets. Moreover, this is how the shared media category has come to exist and why it’s extremely important.
Because shared media isn’t owned by you or by anyone else, it’s consulted with more seriousness. While online reviews can be fabricated, few people are in the business of providing false reviews as it’s their own reputation that is also at stake.
Why Earned and Shared Media Has Tremendous Value
It’s classified as earned media because you had to do something to earn that attention from the media. In some way, your business came across as newsworthy. Unfortunately, we have very little control over this method of media and that’s why prospects give it considerable attention.
In order to gain the attention of the right prospects, you also need to gain the attention of the right influencers in your industry. The influencers might be researchers, analysts, bloggers and journalists from industry news sites. These people rely on creating their own content that they think is newsworthy for their audience and frequently that includes their reviews and unbiased research, avoiding paid promotion.
In order to enhance your online reputation with valid reviews and opinions, you have to get the attention of these influencers. Your prospects are looking for them to do the groundwork and provide trusted opinions that will be shared across the internet.
B2B marketing has changed. Just look at the way you research and buy products and services today. We have so little direct contact with prospects today. That’s why it’s so important they find out about you during their research phase. Build a dense base of earned and shared media on the internet. It’s absolutely necessary.