Three Ways to Enhance Brand Perception in 2018 If you can create a business platform that looks established and trustworthy, you can boost a person's willingness to buy from you.

By Rory Whelan

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Research suggests that perceived brand value has a direct correlation to a consumer's assumption of product or service's quality. Simply put, when a customer is under the impression that a business is large, selling more and doing well, they are more likely to buy from it.

This all factors into the idea of trust and social proof. When a potential consumer is considering making a purchase, they'll look for certain cues that a brand is worth their money. Significantly, 83% of individuals place trust in a product's quality based on recommendations from friends and family. Customers want to know they are making the right choice.

But social proof comes from external influences. It comes from other people attaching a sense of quality and worth to your business. It is, as a marketing tool, completely out of your hands, right? In fact, this statement isn't entirely accurate. By understanding what factors contribute to an individual's assumption that other people must use and trust your brand, you are capable of creating your own social proof. In essence, if you can create a business platform that looks established and trustworthy, you can boost a person's willingness to buy from you.

But what changes should you be making? In a recent survey of British consumers, the top three influencers of perceived brand size, quality and professionalism were identified- factors that, if utilised properly, can create those crucial elements of social proof.

1. Build An Engaged Social Media Platform

40% of customers believe social media plays an important role in a business' outward appearance of success and professionalism.

What does this mean? It means your activity on social media makes a huge difference to a customer's perception of your brand, relating not only to its overall size, but also its profitability. As a result, customers are more -or less- willing to engage with and buy from you.

But why is that? It all comes down to what everyone else is doing. Only 57% of SMEs have any kind of social presence, with over half of small businesses failing to even include their social platforms on their websites or in advertising/marketing materials. In the world of independent brands, social media often holds a position of little significance, and customers know this.

By contrast, 90% of large businesses (with over 1,000 employees) have very active and engaged social media accounts. This creates an obvious disparity between small, independent businesses and larger, well-established companies. Consumers simply expect smaller businesses to be less engaged than bigger businesses.

The result is that the SMEs that do invest time in social media -engaging with their audience, posting regularly and taking full advantage of their social platforms- enjoy an increased perception of size, success and quality, as they become a part of the community of larger businesses that follow similar social media strategies.

This idea very much encompasses that old cliché : if you can't beat them, join them.

2. Develop a Competitively-Minded Website

Two million UK small businesses, accounting for around 35% of all SME brands, still do not have a website. This directly impacts overall consumer perception, with 60% of British consumers identifying having a website as a fundamental measure of success and quality. Brands that want to make sure their company appears successful and regularly used by other customers must have a website.

But while owning a website is part of obtaining the social proof required to increase perceived brand value, what really brings this idea home is the quality of the website itself. Consumers place significant weight on modern and aesthetically-pleasing design and functionality.

A well-designed website has been proven to:

  • Have a direct impact on sales
  • Improve the overall perception of services/products listed on the website
  • Influence the perception of a brand's credibility

Owning a business website is a signal to a customer that your brand is being used regularly enough by others that the construction of one was necessary; if you don't have a website, then surely not many people are using your business? By working to develop a website that is not only functional, but also well-designed and aligned with those of competitors, you increase that perception of success and value, as the quality of a website is directly influenced by the investment in it.

Having a professional website that looks and navigates similar to competitors that are known to operate lucrative operations offers a level of social proof, without having to earn recommendations, reviews or notoriety. It suggests to customers that, since your brand operates a high-quality website that appears to drive success, it must also enjoy those same benefits; that your business, by extension, is also high quality and successful.

3. Automate Your Phone Systems

How do customers judge your business's quality? They use what they know. Consumers take their experiences of previous businesses and attach them to your brand, making comparisons that influence how they interact with it.

It will come as no surprise, then, that 33% of British consumers stated that an automated telephone system gave them the impression of a well-established, large and valuable brand. This is what most-all large companies provide, which means that, if you are capable of offering the same, you'll attain a similar status in consumers' eyes.

If you can attain that status, you empower your brand with the social proof that you've reached the dizzying heights of success that require such automation- if you need an automated phone system, you must get a lot of phone calls; and if you get a lot of phone calls, business must be doing well.

Automated communication systems are essentially virtual assistants. They provide customers with pre-recorded messages and number-dial pathways that allow them to reach appropriate business representatives, departments or information. While it may seem that automated communication sits firmly in the domain of larger enterprises, these systems can be easily established by even the smallest of firms.

Simply integrated into existing phone systems, they offer a low-cost communication platform that SMEs can use to easily bolster the perception of consumer demand. An important caveat in the implementation of automated systems, though, is that professional voice-over artists should be used for pre-recorded messages. Proper recording equipment is essential, as is conveying clear and concise information. Poor-quality audio, matched with confusing or irrelevant details, will scupper any chances of an enhanced professional perception.

Related: When Disaster Strikes (Hard), Perception Is Everything

Rory Whelan

Marketing Manager, eReceptionist

Rory Whelan is Marketing Manager for eReceptionist. Since 2012 he has helped lead the service to become one of the country's favourite call management brands for small and medium-sized businesses. Passionate about small business and communications, his background includes 20 years in marketing, consultancy, television and media and telecoms.

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