Reputation marketing: what every small business needs to know

In this 5-minute read, learn:

  • What is reputation marketing
  • What is the difference between reputation marketing and reputation management
  • When does reputation marketing make sense for small businesses
  • Why every small business needs to make online reputation management a priority

You have probably heard the term “online reputation management” in relation to your business, but you may not have heard about reputation marketing. It may sound like the two terms are interchangeable (and indeed, reputation management is a vital component of effective marketing efforts) but they are not the same thing.

Let’s go over what reputation marketing is and how it applies to small businesses.

What is reputation marketing?

Reputation marketing is the process of leveraging good reviews and other online recommendations of your business, using modern marketing channels, to improve your brand’s image and increase sales.

Attract more happy customers and keep them loyal with reputation management software. Get a free demo!

Reputation marketing promotes a business’s existing, positive online reputation. In other words, reputation marketing acknowledges the incredible power and value of positive online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Foursquare, OpenTable, etc. and uses those good reviews as collateral to fuel modern marketing efforts.

Reputation marketing is therefore closely related to online reputation management, but you must understand and optimize the latter before you can effectively implement the former.

How does reputation management differ from reputation marketing?

Reputation marketing is not the process of getting online reviews, nor is it the optimization or management of those reviews.

In simplified terms, where small businesses are concerned, online reputation management is the process of monitoring a business’s “online presence” and optimizing it by working to minimize the damage done by bad reviews, and maximizing good reviews.

Since 97% of customers read online reviews for local businesses, every small business must have a plan and resources in place to encourage positive, current reviews. Reputation marketing then adds those good reviews to your advertising messaging and lets more people—outside of the online review sites—hear about how great you are.

Go deeper: read our full article about online reputation management and get 6 free tips.

While reputation management for small businesses is primarily focused on minimizing the damage of bad reviews (and don’t worry… everyone gets bad reviews occasionally) and increasing the number and frequency of good reviews, your business’s online reputation can be impacted by social media as well, and in some cases dedicated websites or other content intended to damage your online reputation.

It’s therefore vital that you dedicate time and resources to monitoring not only the big review sites but social media and other web content as well. Learn how in our article on how to fix your online business reputation.

And it’s a good idea to supplement your online presence by staying active on multiple sites and social media platforms, and by producing regular, positive content on the internet when possible.

Since what people find (or don’t find) about you online is the chief determining factor in the purchase journey, smarter small business owners make reputation management a top priority.

You might also like: differences between reputation management companies

Is your small business ready for reputation marketing?

If you’re one of the lucky businesses that seem to effortlessly receive regular 5-star reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor, then you might benefit from using those great reviews to fuel a reputation marketing campaign.

However, if you don’t already have a robust, positive online reputation, then you are not ready for—and will not benefit from—reputation marketing.

Womply works with small businesses across the U.S., and we most often find that local shops first need to improve and maximize their reputation management efforts before they can think about starting any reputation marketing.

As we explain in our small business marketing success guide, if you start spending money on advertising without first claiming your business listings on review sites and optimizing your online presence, you’re basically paying to send customers to someone else.

So, for small businesses it’s usually most effective to focus on a solid, online reputation management strategy and let those good reviews organically attract more new customers. After all, the first thing someone sees when they search for your business online is your online star rating and some of your recent reviews. This can be viewed as an effective method of marketing to and attracting new customers, even though you’re not paying for it.

Online review sites let your happiest customers do your marketing for you

However, if you’ve undertaken all the steps recommended in our online reputation management article, done your homework using our small business marketing success guide, and are ready to start spending some of your marketing budget, you might consider using some of your recent, good reviews as the primary or supplemental subject of your advertising messaging.

Since nearly 9 out of 10 people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family members or friends, if you can work recent, positive reviews into your marketing messaging, it can build credibility and attract new customers to your store.

A secondary benefit of including positive reviews in your messaging is it could drive curious, potential customers to your pages on the big review sites, where they will hopefully see a large number of happy customers’ glowing recommendations of your business. This is what is known as “social proof.”

This is also another reason why you shouldn’t just cherry-pick some of your good reviews and start reputation marketing if you don’t already have an overall positive online reputation on the top review sites.

How can small businesses use online reviews in reputation marketing?

You should check the user agreement and policies of each review site before using your online reviews as marketing materials, but generally, legitimate reviews can be used to promote your business, as long as you have some common sense.

We’ll use Yelp as an example, since historically Yelp has a somewhat stormy relationship with business owners. While Yelp may opt to change their policy at any time, you shouldn’t have a problem quoting or using Yelp reviews on your own website or in your marketing materials, as long as you:

  • Get permission from the reviewer (and we recommend abbreviating names—Jenny S. rather than Jenny Smith)
  • Don’t alter the text or the star rating
  • Attribute the review to Yelp using an official logo
  • Include a date, if relevant, as star ratings can change over time. For example, if you cite your business’s overall Yelp star rating, rather than an individual review, be sure to include the date
  • Make it clear that Yelp doesn’t endorse and is not affiliated with your business

You might also use verbiage like “over 2,000 5 star reviews on Yelp!” or whatever actual statistics from your reviews you feel potential customers might find impressive.

Obviously this reputation marketing material needs to stay current and accurate, which is one of the reasons it’s so vitally important to stay up to date with your reviews on all the appropriate review sites.

Consider reputation management software for better results

If constantly managing your online presence and keeping abreast of your latest reviews on multiple sites sounds like a lot of work, well… it is. There’s a reason large corporations spend millions every year paying internal teams and external experts to manage their online reputations.

Small business owners with neither the time to manage their online reputation themselves, nor the money to pay a team of SEO experts, can find great value in reputation management software. Womply’s dashboard gathers all your online reviews from sites like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, etc. in one place with one login, allowing you to read and respond to them directly, rather than jumping around from site to site. It also makes it easy to request reviews from your best customers. Click to learn more or get a free demo.

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