How Reputation Management Keeps Small Businesses Ahead of the Competition

Man hangs an "Opening Soon" sign at the front of his small business window.

How Reputation Management Keeps Small Businesses Ahead of the Competition

The age-old adage of “Good things come in small packages” can seem incredibly trite to the average small business. The term itself seems to suggest a lack of something. To be fair, having a smaller budget, less available time, or a bare-bones staff (or a combination, or all three) can seem hurdles too high to jump over for lots of SMB owners and employees. But as it turns out, there are a few leaps well worth taking.

Due to a new study from Uberall, a global reputation management and optimized listing service, small businesses are actually the backbone of a revolution. It’s a revolt that starts online but leads to bigger returns in the real-world. Here’s the answer: reviews.

In an information age that’s over-saturated with digital data, online reviews can seem like a drop in the business bucket compared to other marketing efforts that seem more pressing. But Uberall’s data-driven research proves otherwise. In a market space that’s clogged with competing campaigns, it can seem impossible to make a dent if you’re a small business.

That’s no longer the case. Here’s why.

 

Tell me the stats, coach!

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again—the internet is ubiquitous for the average modern consumer, and using it isn’t so much if, but rather how much. Turns out the question of, “How much?” has some pretty staggering answers when it comes to online recommendations.

Uberall’s study revealed three major statistics:

  1. 88% of consumers consider online reviews as trustworthy as personal recommendations.
  2. 95% of consumers are influenced by online reviews during the buying process.
  3. Almost 90% of consumers don’t search for a particular brand when they’re looking for a product or service.

 

But what does that mean?

Those statistics boast numbers that are fairly high, but what do they mean? Let’s break it down.

  1. Consumers don’t necessarily consider brands themselves to be the experts on their own products. Rather than trusting what a company says about its own goods or services, most people turn to friends and past buyers through online reviews to decide if they want to make a purchase. Therefore, brands have to pay attention to what other people say about them, as well as what they say about themselves.
  2. Consumers turn to the internet as the first point of contact. Rather than calling or visiting a particular organization in person, people turn to internet searches as their primary source of initial research. That means brands must have an online presence if they’re going to compete for attention.
  3. Consumers aren’t interested in a brand so much as a quality product. Thanks to the “near me” feature of most search engines, people filter results based on quality and proximity, not so much the branding label attached to what they’re looking for. As Uberall puts it, “Consumers want quality, they want a good price, they want it near them and they want it soon.” Brand can’t put more weight on their name than they do their products. If they do, they risk losing consumers who aren’t searching for their brand in particular.

 

David and Goliath: The Fight for the Consumer

Now that we’ve covered the numbers, we’re going to talk about how these stats affect small businesses in particular.

First and foremost, these numbers make fantastic news for small businesses. Because most SMBs don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to compete with major brands, they’ve often been left behind while attempting to carve out market space. But thanks to search engines, that’s not the name of the game anymore.

This change in search engine practices has been called a “revolution.” Online search results and reviews for those search queries have leveled the playing field, making it easier for smaller companies to get a leg up on the bigger guys. While marketing efforts still remain as important as ever, their scale doesn’t have to be incredibly large in order to make a mark on the territory.

Here’s how it happened.

Shooting for the Stars

This report explores the average star rating in six key industries for both enterprise-level companies and SMBs. In every category except for two, small businesses had a higher average rating than their chain-store counterpart. From a quality standpoint alone, small businesses are proving to be worthy adversaries to the big kids on the playground.

Near Me, Please

This revolution owes the “near me” search function a huge favor. Because proximity is so crucial to modern consumers, businesses don’t need to be the biggest in the area in order to do well. Rather, if they’re close and can prove they do good work, they become just as much of a contender as the box-store chains.

Can I get a jump start?

Organizations experience growth when their star ratings increase at particular intervals—3.7, 4.0, and 4.4 specifically. Because online reviews are free to solicit, even the smaller places can compete with the bigger guys. We’re going to talk more about these growth jumps in a future blog post, but keep them in mind for now.

Reply All

Turns out businesses that reply to online reviews actually win more customers—sometimes experiencing upwards of 80% higher conversion rates because of it. And small business are, on average, better at replying to reviews than bigger companies. SMBs have a 25 percent reply rate, compared to 12 percent for enterprise brands and nine percent for global.

 

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose. . .  Those Reviews

Uberall’s data makes it clear: getting good reviews is crucial to maintaining success and converting consumers into buyers. Failing to solicit reviews, offer goods or services worthy of a good rep, or not responding to online reviews can all tank your reputation management strategy.

 

Shine Bright, Shine Far

Start earning those five-star reviews with search engine optimization. SEO is a great way to create an online presence that inspires trust in your buyers. Click here to learn more about Boostabiliy’s SEO campaigns designed specifically with small businesses in mind.

 

This post was selected as one of the top digital marketing articles of the week by UpCity, a B2B ratings and review company for digital marketing agencies and other marketing service providers.

Madeline Thatcher
[email protected]

Madeline works as the content specialist for Boostability's marketing team. When she’s not at the office, reading her ever-growing stack of library books, or watching NBC sitcoms, Madeline loves to act in local film and theater productions, as well as travel and try new restaurants, with a goal of finding the best donut in whatever city she’s in.