Since the beginning of time, local businesses with products and services to offer have always sought out cutting edge ways to attract customers

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Just think of how the advertising model has changed for local businesses only in the last decade.

Businesses used to rely on the biggest ad space in the Yellow Pages or have their business name start with an “A” as prominent ways to attract the eyes of prospective customers.

Then the Internet took hold and caused a seismic shift in the marketing strategy of local businesses. The in way to attract more customers was to utilize a variety of methods to rank as high as possible in search engines. The logic was that if your business ranked high enough, potential customers would find you and call your business first before any of your local competitors. SEO & PPC became popular acronyms and cost local businesses plenty of money to implement.

Now another shift of epic proportions is changing the landscape for local businesses. This shift happened when search engine titan Google introduced reviews as part of their listings for businesses. When you “Google” a local business, not only does their listing show but so does the ability to check on their business reviews. The listing also will reveal a Zagat reputation score ranging from 0-30, provided the business has received at least 10 reviews. If a business doesn’t have the requisite number of reviews to obtain a score, this can pose a problem, especially if their competitors do have a high score attached to their listing.

For companies that do have reviews posted, this has changed things because now when consumers type in a company name + city that company’s reputation is exposed for everyone to see. Many local businesses assumed they could counter any negative reviews by employing reputation marketing tactics, such as packing as much positive content as possible onto various Internet locations. However, Google’s new format when showing search results has diminished the effectiveness of many reputation management solutions.

This is where the big game changer has occurred for local business marketing. It is increasingly imperative for a local business to market their reputation to get more customers.The reason for this change in marketing strategy is because consumers today place reviews very highly when deciding where to buy a product or service. A recently conducted study by market leader Nielsen bears out this shift in the marketplace.

Nielsen stated that “70% of consumers value reviews as a major factor that influences their buying decision,” second only to personal recommendations. Reviews posted online also far outweigh other forms of advertising, such as newspaper articles about the business, information provided by a business’ branded website, or even TV ads, according to Nielsen.

Furthermore, the study also revealed that consumers trust a business that has a minimum of 6-10 reviews. Without 6-10 reviews, that business isn’t credible in the buyer’s mind. This may explain Google’s inclusion of a Zagat reputation score.

This evidence clearly emphasizes the need for a local business to devise a comprehensive plan to market their reputation to get more customers. Businesses that solely rely on outdated reputation management solutions to counteract negative reviews won’t result in their phone ringing as often as they’d like.

Businesses must put a system in place to stockpile positive online reviews to convince consumers searching online that they should call them first to purchase that product or service. Positive online reviews will help the local business create a “star” reputation, which they can market and leverage to convert more customers.

Local businesses must realize that there is a new sheriff in town and it’s called reputation marketing. Businesses that market their reputation will get more customers. Businesses that fail to do so will see their competitors phone ring instead of theirs.

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