In the digital age, maintaining a positive online reputation is crucial for businesses, and this holds true for both B2C and B2B enterprises.
You might assume brand reputation to be king in the B2C field where consumers devour content and stand out from the crowd on social media platforms is a core part of business strategy.
However, you might be surprised to learn that online reputation management (ORM) is equally significant for B2B organisations, directly impacting their market value.
Whereas in the past business relationships were built at conferences and networking events, in our post-pandemic business landscape your potential customers are more likely to be checking out online brand mentions and review sites.
Why a brand’s online reputation matters
A company’s public perception can determine whether browsers become customers.
According to Forbes:
- 90 per cent of people look at online reviews before purchasing.
- 84 per cent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- A one-star increase in an online rating system boosts business by five to nine per cent.
Reputation management isn’t only about encouraging positive reviews from satisfied customers. Responding to and investigating negative reviews, rather than ignoring or deleting them, can build customer trust; as they say, you never know what a company is like until something goes wrong.
Five reasons to have a B2B online reputation management strategy
1. Trust and credibility
A strong online reputation enhances trust and credibility among potential clients and partners. Positive reviews, testimonials and a well-maintained online presence contribute to building confidence in your brand’s reputation, increasing the likelihood of securing new contracts and partnerships.
Imagine you’re choosing between two products. One has an up-to-date website, strong brand storytelling and a string of positive reviews; the other last published a blog post two years ago and has two unaddressed negative comments from dissatisfied customers.
It’s safer to pick the first product because a) they’re clearly still operating as a business, and b) a lot of other people have already taken the risk of trying them and had a good experience. Strong ORM gives prospective customers the gift of going second.
2. Business development
Prospective B2B clients often research and assess a company’s reputation before engaging in business. A positive online reputation facilitates business development efforts by positioning your organisation as a reliable and reputable choice, attracting new opportunities and generating leads.
Particularly when business is busy, servicing existing business often means that keeping your online presence up to date falls down your ‘to-do’ list. However, while you may think that not having a new blog post or Facebook update for a few months shows you’re a thriving business, your future customers can interpret the radio silence of brand online, as an indication you’re a failing business.
Regularly proving you’re still here, still have fresh ideas, and still have happy customers, will help your future clients choose you when they’re ready to buy.
3. Competitive advantage
In a competitive B2B landscape, a superior online presence can set you apart from your rivals. Positive customer feedback and high ratings give you an edge, increasing your chances of winning bids, contracts and partnerships over competitors with lesser-known or questionable reputations.
Your ORM and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies go hand in hand. Prioritising your ORM boosts your SEO and vice versa. Search engines are looking for regular, relevant content to promote and if you don’t provide it your online rankings will plummet.
4. Customer retention
It’s not enough to get customers through the door in the first place. You have to keep them coming back month after month.
Your social media marketing ORM plays an important part in making sure they don’t head off as soon as they spot a competitor’s new and shiny online offering.
Existing B2B clients also evaluate their business partners’ online brand reputation management strategies to gauge the strength of their association. Effective ORM helps maintain customer loyalty and satisfaction, minimising churn rates and maximising customer lifetime value.
5. Crisis mitigation and brand reputation management
ORM plays a vital role in mitigating and managing online crises effectively. Promptly addressing any negative reviews and feedback, resolving complaints and proactively managing your online presence during challenging situations can minimise reputational damage and protect your bottom line.
This is particularly important for online channels such as your social media accounts where comments can snowball and quickly get out of hand if not managed.
It’s also no good heading online for the first time once a crisis develops. If you already have a consistent, trusted presence online your audience will be more forgiving of perceived transgressions than if you only engage with them when the proverbial hits the fan.
Are online reputation management services useful?
Outsourcing management of your digital reputation is a possibility if you’re not able to keep on top of it internally. For the smallest businesses, it can be fairly simple to monitor brand mentions, news articles or any negative feedback, with a social media management tool.
Larger businesses often have an in-house team whose sole focus is monitoring brand sentiment and online conversations, not only on your own website and social media sites but also on third-party business profiles and other websites’ forums.
It’s often scale-up businesses that find it useful to have a third party support them when they want to branch out into influencer marketing, paid media/social media ads and public relations.
An agency will usually have access to reputation management software to spot, and respond to, negative online reviews as they appear and can deal with customer concerns before they escalate. They can also track reviews and online mentions, giving you an in-depth picture of your current brand reputation.
The importance of a brand reputation management strategy
In summary, prioritising online reputation management strategies enables B2B businesses to cultivate trust, attract new opportunities, outperform competitors, retain customers and navigate crises effectively.
A regular online presence is the calling card of a business that is stable and reliable; not one that is so frantic or understaffed that it can’t even maintain its website or reply to positive customer reviews. Any future customer will likely run a mile.
Your ORM has a huge impact on your bottom line, and most successful businesses view a positive brand image as an important tool to gain competitive advantage.