As a new year transforms with technology and social consumer trends, marketing strategies are taking a turn for the creative. This year is the dawn of earned media and inbound marketing, with a cloud of transparency hovering over businesses across the globe. A new marketing strategy with a consumer-centric focus is a must for any business struggling online. Why? This is the age of the constantly-connected, social consumer. People are talking about your brand with all their friends, whether you like it or not. In order to create the connection with your new marketing machine, you’ll need to start by earning their trust. That’s where transparency comes in.
Everything your customers touch is fair game for blasting across social networks. The power of one transforms into the opinion of many, with a potential impact on your brand image. If you haven’t already, it’s time to solidify exactly how you want the world to view your brand. Do you want to be the vacation destination with the most sensation? Or the small business on the corner with the best reputation? No matter what you want to be, it’s something you need to determine, put into words and discuss with your staff. If you have a brand image to uphold, and the entire staff is on the same page, you’re off to a great start. Maintaining the positive brand image relies on your staff having a passionate understanding of the image you want to maintain. Once you’ve achieved that, the team can provide excellent service, with a solid, incredible consumer experience across every channel or interaction with your brand.
After you’ve determined your image and have your passionate staff ready to perform, put yourself in your customer’s shoes, starting with an online search. Since the majority of purchases begin with a search, it’s important to start from the initial consumer perspective of your brand. So, go ahead Google yourself...
It’s time to face reality and diagnose the first impressions of your brand from a consumer’s point of view. Take some notes on what you are seeing. You can think of these notes as an outline to discuss with your current internet marketing specialist. When you search your own brand, what’s showing up in the first 3 spots on the search page? What’s showing up in the next 3 spots? Write each website down. Also, determine which social networks and review websites come up on the first page of the search results. Just write them down for now, we’ll get to analyzing them later.
So, you’ve listed your results and have the first stage of consumer experience recorded. Is it what you expected? Is your website or your social page on the list? If not, don’t worry. That’s where this transparency stuff comes into play. The first clicks a consumer makes are more than likely going to take them to a site other than yours. Any site other than yours, is the opinion or brand image represented from another perspective. For the hospitality industry, it’s usually a 3rd party booking Website or social review site, like TripAdvisor. Clearly, people are talking about your brand, and you better believe it’s having an impact on your potential customer’s decision. With more options to click on “opinions” of your brand before actually landing at your brand online, transparency and a consistent image is key. If you’re upholding your brand image internally, it should be shown publicly.
You can’t bet on that though, because every consumer is different. That’s why it’s imperative that you examine your brand according to your brand image and the top Websites showing up in search results. There’s no need to tackle it in one day, so maybe start with two or three to explore the first day. If you can see what image your brand is portraying, you’ll know if you’re achieving it or not, and whether you can do better. Remember, everyone can do better if their striving to be the best...which you probably are! Don’t feel obligated to respond to any reviews just yet, you may want to take some time digesting what people are saying about your brand.
Tell Me How you Really Feel
It’s a tough world out there in review world. Over half of affluent travelers read online reviews before booking a trip (Source: The Traveler's Road to Decision, Google and Ipsos MediaCT, 2012). It isn’t just because those review sites are showing up at the top of search engines, it’s because consumers want to know how other people feel about your brand. By reading reviews, it instills trust in the consumer, and allows them to compare the business to another nearby.
It’s crazy how people react to the silliest customer scenarios and let it affect their whole experience, isn’t it? Crazy or not, it’s reality. Everything your customer experiences could be the highlight of a review, and you have no control of removing it on a third party site. Bummer! But, a key to transparency online is how your business responds to reviews. Whether positive or negative, each review should be addressed and followed up on with a certain etiquette. If you don’t have time to take on that role, this is the year to hire someone. Your brand image is floating on the first page of an Internet search, it’s time to think about a clear path to a positive consumer experience from search to purchase. Transparency is your first key to a new marketing strategy and it starts with your brand image.
What do you want your brand image to be? Are you achieving it?
About Company: RezStream is an internet marketing agency located in Denver, Colorado that offers hospitality solutions including web design, SEO, reservation software and booking engine. Contact RezStream for a custom, free Internet marketing quote.