What are people saying about you online? It’s an important question and one that many businesses fail to take the time to consider seriously. Even if they give consideration to this important issue, they may fail to take the time to adequately, and thoroughly, research what’s happening in the online world.
Online research has become a critical part of the buying process for consumers in both B2B and B2C environments. Wharton marketing professor Americus Reed was recently quoted as saying: “…everyone with a cell phone is essentially a reporter.” The truth of the matter is that what they report—for good or ill—can be rapidly picked up, and quickly shared, in the online environment.
Importantly, even if your customers and potential customers are actively tracking comments about you online, chances are that when they’re in the market to buy the type of products or services you offer, they’re going online. GE Capital Retail Bank’s Major Purchase Shopper Study indicated that more than 80 percent of consumers started their search process online. Bright Local’s Local Consumer Review Survey found that 88 percent of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a business—39 percent read reviews on a regular basis.
That’s on the consumer side. But, in business-to-business, the purchasing process is also turning to online sources of information to inform, support—or sometimes change—a purchase decision.
Google, in partnership with Millward Brown Digital, conducted a study to dig deep into the habits of B2B purchasers. The 2014 study, an update of 2012 research, revealed some interesting—and important—shifts in B2B online purchasing behavior. In their report they state: “We know that 89 percent of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process. They also note that nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials. Where do millennials spend their time? Online.
Given the reliance on online information when making a purchase decision, what should you be doing now to ensure that your online image is solid and resulting in prospects and sales?
- Make sure you’re on top of what is being said about you online. There are a variety of tools that can you help you easily do this.
- Respond! Don’t shy away from negative reviews; instead, engage with the person posting the comment and then take the conversation online. Studies have shown that even a disgruntled consumer can be turned into a brand advocate if their concern is handled effectively.
- Learn from what you’re hearing. Consumer feedback can provide important insights into ways to make your products and services better. The online communication environment provides a readily accessible, low/no-cost way to conduct ongoing market research that, prior to the Internet, would have cost a significant amount of money.
- Don’t attempt to game the system. False reviews are the bane of online consumers and the big guys are cracking down. Earlier this year com announced that it is finding, and suing, sites that sell fake reviews and searching out fake reviews on its own site.
Whether you’re engaged in online conversations, or not, chances are your customers and potential customers are. Just because you may not know what they’re saying about you, doesn’t mean those comments don’t have the ability to impact your sales, in both positive and negative ways.
Isn’t it time to put your ear to the ground to better manage your online reputation? We think it is.
About the Author:
Eleonora Israele is an analyst at Clutch responsible for research on marketing software and digital agencies. She enjoys spending her free time running, traveling, and rooting for FC Barcelona.