The 4 Pillars of Building an Online Reputation

Whether you are aware of it or not, your business has an online reputation. An online reputation is all of the information that can be found about your business on the internet. In this day and age, it is common practice to turn to the web to make purchasing decisions.

This isn’t really big news. It’s been well-known in the B2C world for a while. People are researching, reading reviews, and gathering comparison prices before they buy just about everything. Websites like Yelp.com are testaments to this fact. Who goes out to eat anymore without whipping out their smartphone to read the restaurant’s reviews?

It’s not difficult to understand why an online reputation is so important for a B2C market. You can probably think of hundreds of examples in your own life when an online reputation has influenced how you spent your money. However, what you may now be wondering is, “How does this affect me? I work in a B2B market.”

So glad you asked.

Why Online Reputations Matter in B2B

Studies have shown that 70 percent of the B2B sales process is already complete before a company even interacts with a potential client. That’s really very telling. Put bluntly, you have very little control over what information your potential clients are consuming until it is likely too late. Scary, right?

Here are a few more stats that may frighten you:

  • According to IDG Connect, “Business buyers spend just 21 percent of the buying cycle in conversations with salespeople, instead spending 23 percent of the time in conversations with peers and colleagues and 56 percent of the buying cycle searching for and engaging with content.”
  • UBM Techweb reports that “70 percent of business technology buyers are at the RFP stage (request for proposal) by the time the vendor becomes aware of the opportunity.”

All of those numbers boil down to one simple fact that The Harvard Business Review summed it up best:

“The hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to.”

So, what can you do?

The 4 Elements of an Online Reputation

At Clutch we suggest you start by building a strong, positive online reputation. Let’s begin by discussing the 4 types of media that build your online reputation:

  1. Owned media – your informative, aesthetically pleasing website
  2. Paid media – ads and commercials
  3. Shared media – reviews and information posted by customers and clients through social media channels or on other websites
  4. Earned media – being featured or mentioned in research, showcased, or awarded an accolade by an unbiased, third party

The first two types of media can be bought. They aren’t often taken at face value by consumers. In all honesty, they shouldn’t be. Do you believe everything that you see and hear in a TV commercial? Of course not. Those people are being paid to say and do those things.

The third type of media is not owned by either you or the publisher and, therefore, might be taken more seriously by potential clients. However, reviews and other types of shared media can be (and online, many times are) fabricated. In theory, you can buy this type of media, as well.

Therefore, earned media and validated shared media potentially hold much more weight with buyers on the internet than the two more costly types of media.

The Value of Earned & Shared Media

It’s called earned media because it is earned by the business. Your business has to be notable, newsworthy or in some way attention-getting. Moreover, you have very little control over this type of media. This is why consumers tend to give this type of media so much more consideration. It shows that your business is worthy of notice and that there is a “buzz” surrounding what you are doing.

In short, building an online reputation with validated research and reviews is a really strong tactic to prove your worth online. Savvy business buyers are going to be satisfied enough to make a purchase if, and only if, they can find enough trusted (that is, not paid for) content on the internet.

This is where a trustworthy third party becomes so important. In order to get the earned and shared media that you need, you must start getting the attention of third parties (researchers, bloggers, news sites, etc.) who are willing to produce internet content to build your online reputation. You need to find ways to get unbiased research and reviews onto the web. Providing this type of information to business buyers is our main goal at Clutch.

The entire face of B2B marketing is changing. There is so little face-to-face contact with clients anymore that it is very likely that your sales reps will never even meet some of your most loyal customers. Moreover, you probably won’t even have a chance to talk to a potential client until they have already done their due diligence and know quite a bit about you. That’s why it is imperative that businesses build a solid base of earned and shared media on the web. It’s simply not an option anymore.

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