Marketing Charts cited data published by BrightLocal.com indicating that 8 in 10 say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. While this statistic alone has meaning, I would rather see a statistic that demonstrates a behavior based on online reviews. Nevertheless, having positive online reviews is something that companies should desire. Looking at the other side of the equation, avoiding negative reviews should be an objective that is taken seriously. The Internet has sped up the word of mouth process, which has been a fundamental part of marketing communication for as long as the discipline has existed.
Much of the data from this survey was related to local businesses. Restaurants are a popular category in which people are reading online reviews, and often choosing to make brand decisions based on what they saw posted in various online reviews. However, this data should be applicable to brands in all of our key industries, as well as to businesses sized from global enterprises to small and medium sized businesses. With each and every minute that passes, Internet access permeates many people’s lives more and more. Smartphone penetration has eclipsed the 60% mark in the United States according to Nielsen, and smartphones make it easy to check something online wherever you are. A laptop computer is the most commonly owned device by college students according to Marketing Charts, and the tablet segment is also growing. If someone desires to dig up brand information, they can do so with rather few barriers in a lot of cases.
What can a company do to with regard to the information out there online?
The answer to this question would take a lot more than a blog post, and depending upon your role/perspective within the marketing world, the answer will vary. For example, Reputation Management has been a growing sub-function within the marketing world in recent years. This is a key issue in the SEO/SEM realm as well. I take a very broad perspective on this issue due to the fact that I perceive it as the evolution of word of mouth marketing, which is a core marketing issue. There are many ways to address it, and I believe that distributed marketing automation factors into the equation.
Providing an all around beneficial experience to the right target market is going to be a key in creating the ecosystem that lead to positive word of mouth. It is vital to strive to always provide value in the brand, and value comes about via a price-value proposition that makes sense, as well as communication in the right way. Part of communication is creating the messages that will resonate, and finding those messages is a blend of creative art as well as hard science. One of the advantages of our platform is that there is detailed tracking and reporting, but we also integrate with analytical tools such as Google Analytics and Omniture for a more comprehensive analytical experience. Defining the creative by the correct hard metrics is a winning combination, and provides the insight necessary to guide a brand in a desirable direction. Additionally, since we are in a multichannel marketing environment where audiences are fragmented, the need to distribute and optimize content across numerous channels is one of the greatest challenges for companies today, and the essence of what we do. Getting the right message to the right people through the channels where they will recognize it with a seemingly strong value proposition is what should be guiding a brand in a desirable direction.
With the right holistic marketing approach, people are more likely to have brand experiences that are memorable and that they wish to share. These shared brand experiences can work to the benefit of brand. Using marketing channels in a sensible fashion is a necessary step in the journey.