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Before the widespread adoption of the internet and effect of globalization, commerce was a predominantly local affair. Local consumers would shop at local merchants after seeing advertising in local media. Today, consumers in the smallest towns of developed countries can shop dozens of local, national, and global companies with the click of a mouse.
While academic researchers are divided as to whether global brands will eventually crush smaller competitors, there is hope for local brands. Local companies that learn to compete online can find success against global competition by extending their positive brand image onto the internet.
Local Brands on a Global Internet
Companies with a strong, offline customer base often have a recognizable local brand in their regional market. A solid local brand is a competitive advantage for small companies. In particular, small business competing against large national chains can use their well-known local brand to fight off competitors with larger advertising budgets.
Even businesses that have spent years developing a positive local brand have to nurture that brand online. The global internet provides free information on every company in every market. Small firms that concentrate on their local market are thus forced to defend their brand and their reputation to a much wider audience online.
The brand image, or reputation, of companies with an already-strong local brand is even more valuable. Negative information about an otherwise strong local company can decimate years of careful brand management. Even a single terrible item can spread quickly throughout blogs and social networks and overwhelm any positive emotions customers have towards a small company.
Online Reputation Management For Local Brands
Thankfully for local brands, there is a useful tool for defending their online image. A service called online reputation management (ORM) is offered by professional internet marketing firms as a way to cultivate the online brand image of offline companies. At its best, online reputation management can magnify the positive energy of a local brand and allow even the smallest companies to compete against much larger competitors.
While the technical process of online reputation management is quite complex, the basic idea is simple: ORM firms find a way to highlight favorable information about a client company while simultaneously preventing unfavorable information from ranking highly in search engine results.
The effect can be especially beneficial for local brands as Raj Verma, manager at Hawaii-based online reputation management firm Argon Marketing notes:
“It often takes less effort for online reputation management companies to generate results for local clients. With national firms, the sheer volume of online information makes it costly and time-consuming to see noticable improvement. For local or regional clients we can usually see results in weeks rather than months.”
Benefits of a Positive Online Reputation For a Local Brand
A local brand often needs a much small marketin budget to achieve a high level of success with online reputation management. With limited national media coverage, the predominantly local coverage tends to be more favorable. Not only are local media outlets more friendly, but local customers tend to be more positive about local establishments.
By encouraging a positive, public conversation about a local brand through online review sites, blogs, and social networks, a ORM company can nurture beneficial search engine results for even the smallest client. More importantly, prospective customers of a local business need very little encouragement to shop at a locally-owned small business as opposed to a faceless, national chain store.
Even a brief, positive review or a simple newspaper article can be enough to make potential customers pick the local business. In addition, since local brands tend to have repeat, local customers, acquiring just a few additional customers per month can pay for the cost of the ORM service.
Local business owners are the heart-and-soul of every small community. By hiring local workers, using local suppliers, and paying local taxes, these businesses support their neighborhoods far more than any global entity. But unless potential customers know about the existence of the local company, the massive advertising of national chains tends to be effective.
Online marketing efforts, such as online reputation management, are even more critical for local brands than for global corporations. A small-scale ORM effort can be just enough to raise the visibility of a local brand and catch the attention of local consumers.
By Nolan Kido
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Latest posts by Nolan Kido (see all)
- How Online Reputation Management Can Help Local Brands - November 10, 2013
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