How your brand is perceived online plays a fairly significant role in your ability to attract business. Here are some stats you should be aware of…
- According to the 2013 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages report, 70% of consumers trust opinions of brands posted online by other consumers. This type of online review is 2nd only to recommendations from friends and family according to the same report.
- According to a Zendesk 2013 survey, 88% of respondents said that negative reviews affected their purchasing decisions. This same survey also pointed out that 45% of those surveyed share bad experiences via social media.
It’s pretty clear how important it is for you to be perceived in a positive way online. This is especially true for retail lenders due to the fierce competition that exists already as well as any other consumer or business-facing company in the mortgage industry that has an expectation of longevity and prosperity.
The purpose of this post is not to reveal the obvious…that you should be on social media venues, have an active blog, a branded website, etc. Rather the purpose is to share some thoughts to keep in mind as you go about interacting within the online community.
Look at the Whole Picture and Know Your Own Brand
You can trust that many factors beyond posted reviews feed into the positive or negative perception of your brand as it exists online. Therefore, it’s important for you to control as many of those factors as you can so that even if a poor review of your service finds its way online, reasonable people will look at the whole picture when making a decision as to whether or not to conduct business with your company.
As you get started, here are a couple of pointers…
Make sure you’re crystal clear on what the current perception of your brand really is. To do this, you might consider conducting a brand audit internally and possibly even with a sampling of your target audience. A brand audit is a survey conducted by phone, email or online which asks your audience questions that relate back to your level of brand awareness and perceptions of your brand. If you discover inconsistencies in perceptions or if the perceptions are generally poor, then you have some work to do “under the hood” before you push your online presence too far, making a bad situation worse and more costly to fix at a later date.
Be clear on what your brand drivers are…“who” you are, what you stand for and how you’re different…which drive your USP’s (unique selling points), brand essence statement and positioning statement (tagline), overall messaging and direction of your company. If you’re really clear on your brand drivers, you’re well ahead of many companies in the industry. This will serve you well when you promote yourself online…or offline…competing for your share of the market with a consistent, compelling “voice.”
- Leverage the voice of your brand, not sales. You may find this hard to believe (unless you are one of these companies), but there are still companies out there that use social media channels almost exclusively for sales, promoting their products and services. Instead of going down this road, think of what you can do to position yourself as trusted resource. For example, answer FAQ’s in blog posts and social venues, talk about industry trends, share videos, respond to blog comments with helpful insight, write about experiences that are useful to your audience…you get the idea. If you have the reputation of only writing about yourself and what you offer and why you’re great…it turns people off because you’re perceived as not trying to help them, just sell them.
- “Bite your tongue” and be thoughtful and constructive when responding to criticism. The more engaged you become online, the more likely it becomes that someone will react negatively to you and/or attempt to “one up” you, try and prove you’re wrong and they’re right. The best way to respond to negativity, depending on the situation, is to either not respond at all, letting the community set them straight, or respond by accepting…and respecting…their point of view and offer something well thought out and logical in return. If you show respect, even to troublemakers, think of how good that makes you and your brand look in the eyes of others.
- Keep a file of positive feedback for use in your marketing efforts. When people post positive experiences with your brand, make sure you get a screen shot and post them or keep them in a file for use in marketing campaigns and on your website. It is a fact that positive reviews and testimonials posted on your website are invaluable in driving conversion. Remember the statistic I pointed out at the beginning…70% of consumers trust opinions posted online by other consumers. Very powerful.
- Get published as much as you reasonably can. One of the best ways to build a positive online brand is through expert positioning of you and your company. Therefore, getting yourself published has to be a high priority in industry and non-industry press and then leveraging that across social media venues.
- Don’t wait too long to respond to a negative review. It used to be that you could have an unhappy customer and word would spread, but not that far because there was no outlet for them to let the world know what they thought about you. These times are long gone…there’s nowhere to hide. They can Tweet, Yelp, comment in Facebook and go to any number of venues to complain about you.
When you uncover an issue, deal with it quickly and preferably online in the same venue so that others can see how you handle yourself as a company. These can potentially be opportunities for your brand to really shine. Depending on the gravity of the complaint, you may well consider calling a PR agency that has experience in this area to guide your response and take a proactive stance on a larger scale if necessary. Being responsive is also important from a positive standpoint as well. When someone responds or voices their opinion on something you’ve posted…engage!
- BONUS TIP: Now is really the time to finally make your website mobile-friendly. You might be thinking “yeah sure I’ve heard that before” yet you still don’t have a responsive website (one that adapts well to mobile devices). Maybe it’s because you don’t think it’s really all that important in the scheme of things. Well, this may change your mind…did you know that Google actually penalizes sites that are not mobile-friendly in search results?
Also, consider that 86% of U.S. Millennial smartphone users attempt to access the mobile site of a business between multiple times per day to at least once per month (12%) (Source: Mitek and Zogby Analytics, September 24, 2014). This is a portion of your target audience, so giving them a smooth, intuitive user experience will give them the positive experience with your brand that you want them to have.
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