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This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
The credibility, trustworthiness, and authority that make up your company’s online reputation aren’t just factors that “seal the deal” when a customer is ready to make a purchase. Instead, these things are integral components at each stage of the customer’s journey, which starts long before the sale.
Whether you view a customer’s journey with your company as a funnel or a lifecycle, the process usually involves these five basic phases:
Here’s how you can leverage your online reputation to help you earn consumer trust at each step along the way.
The first stage in the customer journey is learning that your company exists. A good reputation can make it easier for people to find you online—and to impress them enough that they will take the time to learn more about you—while a bad reputation can do the opposite.
For example, if you are a well-respected dentist, then your name will be more likely to appear in autogenerated people-search and business listings sites when people search for a local dentist. A solid online reputation can also mean people will find positive press coverage and other third-party articles explaining who you are and what you do.
However, if your company has no visibility online or, even worse, the search results portray you in a negative light, then it’s much less likely that you’ll rank high enough in the search results to make the shortlist of companies that consumers will consider.
To get the most out of your online reputation at this early stage, it’s best to focus on the following items:
- Google Business Profile—One of the first things people will see in a google search for your type of business is your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) listing. Make sure you fill out all the fields in your profile, as doing so will make you look more professional. It’s also important to make sure your GBP contact information (name, address, and phone number) matches what you have listed on your other online properties. For more information about how to look your best on GBP, see 11 ways to boost your online reputation with Google Business Profile.
- Your website—Make sure your website is fast-loading, up to date, easy to navigate, and contains all the information a potential customer might want to know. This includes customer reviews and testimonials, detailed descriptions of your offerings, and an easy way to reach you.
- Social media—These days, being active on social media is not optional. Having zero social media presence makes your company look outdated and unengaged with consumers. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are posting (and responding appropriately) to your social channels on a regular basis to garner sufficient social proof of your credibility.
- Featured Snippets—A good way to be more visible online is to get your content into one of Google’s Featured Snippets, which appears at the top of the results page.
- Blog posts—Often, your blog articles and guest posts are what individuals see first when they are just researching their buying options. To draw in the reader, make sure your articles are well written, answer the user’s questions, and present you as an authority in your space.
- Ads—Make sure your ads are not spammy in any way. Turn off any autoplaying media, and don’t use click-bait headlines.
Here, you can see some of ReputationDefender’s first-page results, including an advertisement, our website, and the knowledge graph for our brand.
When consumers start to engage with you by exploring your website or speaking with a salesperson, does what they see and hear inspire trust? At this stage, you need to win over customers with human-centered communication that demonstrates how you can solve a prospective customer’s problem.
People also want to know what other people think of your company and your products before they click “buy.” In fact, most people read an average of 10 online reviews before they can trust a business enough to make a purchase.
Some places you need to focus on at this point are:
- Online review sites—Managing your online reviews is one of the most powerful ways to boost your reputation. First, you need to claim your profiles on the main review sites for your industry. Then, you can fill out your profile in a way that adds to your authority and trustworthiness. For example, you can add images and videos and answer user questions. Most importantly, though, you need to monitor your reviews and respond to all reviewer messages, whether they’re positive or negative. By engaging with your customers, you get the chance to make the unhappy ones happy, turn the happy ones into advocates, and prove to potential customers how much you care about your clientele.
- Testimonials—On your website, make sure to add customer testimonials for each solution you offer so that different potential customers can see how you’ve already helped someone in their position.
- Free trials—Offering free trials lets customers know you stand behind your product. It also puts them in control of how they explore your product, which makes the process much less stressful for them.
- Case studies—Letting potential customers see your past successes is a great way to build your credibility. Make sure to walk potential clients through several different scenarios, so that they can find one that relates to their situation.
- Product videos—Videos are a great way to demonstrate your empathy and build valuable human connections.
- Emails—In all your email communication, you can gain trust by talking like a real person, personalizing your message, and giving people an easy way to opt out.
- Demos—Whether you’re doing a demo in person or via a video call, this is an excellent time to impress potential clients with your transparency. Don’t pretend to have all the answers. Simply make your case for how you can help the person or business you are communicating with.
At the purchase stage, people might be learning towards working with you, but they want proof that they aren’t risking their money at an unsafe site.
So, to increase customer trust during this phase, you should focus on improving your reputation via:
- Encrypted website—Update your security protocols to https to avoid looking unsafe or outdated.
- Secure payment options—Make sure you prominently display any badges that signify that you are verified as “safe” to do business with.
The first three parts of the customer journey are more about what others are saying about you. However, the last two parts are more about your actions and how you prove your credibility.
Once you’ve converted a customer, you need to show that person that you care about him or her, even after the sale. Otherwise, your relationship with your clients will appear to be purely transactional, which will reduce your trustworthiness in their eyes.
To build a stronger relationship post purchase, you need to reach out to your customers, showing them that you are committed to enriching their experience with your company and ensuring they are getting the most out of your product or service.
Some ways to do this include:
- Offering responsive customer support—This means proactively checking up on how customers are doing with their new product, not just communicating when a customer has a question or a complaint. However, when someone does send you a message, you need to respond as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. One way to help accomplish this is to closely monitor your social media feeds and customer support lines so that there is no delay in your response.
- Ensuring a good product experience—Listen to what your customers are saying about their experience with you and your product, and then do something to make it even better.
- Keeping your promises—Perhaps the most important thing you can do to ensure customer satisfaction (and thereby safeguard your reputation) is to follow through on all promises you make during the course of the customer journey. This is because of the difficulty involved in attempting to restore your integrity once you’ve lost it.
This stage isn’t really up to you to manage. It’s more about how much you’ve impressed customers with your work so far. Did they have an experience that makes them want to buy from you again—and tell others that they should buy too?
You’ll know you’ve succeeded when you see people recommending your company and its products on social media, online forums, and review sites.
For more information
Now that you’ve learned how brand trust and credibility work to facilitate each step of the customer journey, you might want to learn more about how online reputation management works. Here are some articles that will walk you through the steps involved: