Word-of-mouth is not what it used to be. Just 10 years ago, upset customers, or raving fans, could spread their opinion about your business only to their family, friends, neighbors, and work colleagues. Now, thanks to social networking and the infinite publishing power of the Web, customers can share their rants and raves instantly with a worldwide audience.

In such a wired world, your online image is everything! And if your online image is tarnished, performing the following key business functions will become much more difficult:

  • Marketing. Ongoing demand generation is critical for growing your business. If your Google results are soured with negativity when prospects search for your business, you will see your lead generation pipeline dry up.
  • Selling. With your marketing and demand generation waning from your negative online image, your sales will start to tank as well. Prospects will not want to do business with you, and customers may get spooked and look for another company to work with.
  • Recruiting. You need a great team of employees on the bus for your company to be successful. If your online image is tarnished, the rock-star employment candidates may want nothing to do with you.
  • Financing. Your negative online image may make raising capital more difficult. Investors and creditors have integrated online research into their due diligence processes. If your search results look iffy, those much-needed dollars will be harder to come by.

Now that you know why having a positive online image is so important, let's put in place a brand-monitoring strategy to track and enhance your online image.

What should you monitor?

Begin your brand-monitoring strategy by identifying the brand phrases that you want to track. Identify the phrases that represent your company so you can monitor the positive or negative statements about them. Those brand phrases will often include the following:

  • Company name
  • Brand names
  • Product names
  • Key executive and employee names
  • Taglines and mottos

Keep in mind that you are on the lookout for disgruntled employees or upset customers, so include negative modifiers such as "sucks," "rip off," "scam," and "fraud" with your brand phrases.

You may also want to apply a similar process for competitive intelligence purposes. If so, supplement your list of brand phrases to monitor with the following:

  • Competitor company name
  • Competitor brand names
  • Competitor product names
  • Competitor key executive and employee names
  • Competitor taglines and mottos
  • Important industry keywords

How will you monitor?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Bob DeStefano
Bob DeStefano is president of SVM E-Marketing Solutions, a B2B online marketing agency that helps industrial companies use online marketing to produce bottom-line results.

Pro members: Interested in hearing more wisdom from Bob? Be sure to check out this online seminar presented by Bob, How to Make Your B-to-B Website a Lead Generation Machine.