In this "fake news" era, entrepreneurs are facing a growing problem among consumers: credibility. Edelman's 2017 Trust Barometer reported a global drop in trust across businesses and media. And millennials surveyed are especially skeptical. The McCarthy Group's Engaging Millennials: Trust and Attention survey found that only around 10 percent of those surveyed said they would consider traditional marketing trustworthy.
With consumer confidence and trust at an all-time low, then, how can entrepreneurs find marketing success? As it turns out, they can turn to their pre-existing customers. Consumers are leaning on one other to figure out where to buy and whom to trust: As consumer trust decreases reliance on peer-to-peer recommendations increases.
Here are a few ways entrepreneurs can leverage their own customer base to hack their way into some serious growth.
Leverage reviews for traffic.
Reviews and ratings have become incredibly important to consumers. BrightLocal found that 84 percent of people surveyed trusted online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 74 percent said that positive reviews will make them trust a business more.
Equally as important, reviews have been proven to increase website traffic and conversions. Some third-party tools have licensing partnerships with Google, making them Google Review Partners. Reviews collected with these platforms can help brands gain Google Seller Ratings. On average, ads with Seller Ratings get a 17 percent higher CTR than the same ads without ratings.
Up your SEO game.
It's imperative to partner with a customer review platform that offers widgets, which in turn provide a great way to obtain rich snippets, meaning structured data markup that site operators can add to their existing HTML. Rich snippets allow search engines to better understand what information is contained on each web page. Translation: More SEO bang for your buck.
The additional markup can help your website stand out in SERPs (search engine result pages).
Fabletics, a Trustpilot customer, excels at this. The company has an entire section of its site dedicated to reviews where it displays feedback and its aggregate customer rating. The Pearl Source, another customer, also uses review widgets to increase search traffic.
Master UGC strategy.
Using user-generated content (UGC) is a common practice for social media strategies, but it can serve a much larger purpose across the various aspects of marketing. Loot Crate, a gaming gift-subscription company that has grown considerably over the past several years, has done this extremely effectively.
By encouraging users to create content, the company has been able to grow an invested community that promotes social sharing, allowing it to amass video content. The brand has reported a three-year growth rate of over 66,000 percent, citing UGC content as a major driver.
Reviews are a rich source of content, ready to be plucked from obscurity. Positive feedback can be leveraged across social channels, landing pages, ads and more -- and it's all search engine friendly.
Be proactive and personal, with SaaS solutions.
In an analysis of 1,000 businesses with at least 150 reviews, our company, Trustpilot, found that brands that proactively request reviews from their customers get more accurate and recent feedback. That's good news, because 44 percent in a study cited by Vendasta said that a review must be written within one month to be relevant. However, requesting reviews manually can be cost- and time-prohibitive.
Thankfully, new SaaS tools can plug into your pre-existing marketing stack. Simple APIs and integration with companies like Zendesk and Magento streamline the process by automatically sending a review request after a trigger, such as one for payment authorization/product delivery. Some platforms also allow for personalized messages to customers. Over 75 percent of shoppers in an Aberdeen Group survey said they liked seeing brands personalize a shopping experience.
Embrace the negative review.
Finally, use online feedback to draw insights and improve what can be changed. A negative review isn't the end of the world, but how you deal with it can make all the difference. The better the customer experience, the more fans you'll acquire. When it comes to sales, that's a very good thing. According to research by BzzAgent, a customer advocate is 50 percent more likely to influence a purchase decision than a regular customer. Customer advocates create third-party validation, which helps build trust for your brand.
These strategies have one thing in common: your audience. To be trusted, you have to engage with your audience and your customers. Consumers don't want to listen to a company push its agenda, as most consumers have become desensitized and skeptical of anything a brand says.
Instead, let those consumers do the talking. Take a step back to listen, then adjust, react and build an even stronger customer centric reputation. That way, you'll naturally reap the competitive advantages.