By Jan Reutelsterz, Brand Manager DACH at rankingCoach, Shortlistee of Best Software as a Service Outside USA at Cloud Computing Awards 2021-2022

More than 20 years after the dawn of the Internet age, small and medium-sized enterprises exist in a business world that is in a state of rapid change. The gap between large corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises is widening. SMEs, which often lack the knowledge and resources to benefit from the opportunities of digital transformation, face major challenges.

The Corona crisis in particular is reinforcing this trend. Corporations like Amazon are becoming more powerful, and the pressure on SMEs is increasing. In this article, we share our perspective on the opportunities and risks for SMEs competing against large corporations. In particular, we identify trust as a core value that SMEs have as a strength and can leverage through effective brand monitoring.

From the pedestrian zone to the search results page

To consider the current challenges and opportunities for SMEs, we should be aware that the Internet is still a fairly recent invention and that there was a time before that when SMEs faced challenges. Let’s try to learn from this:

  • In the 90s, the conflict between small and medium-sized enterprises against large companies already existed, although not on the search results page of Google, but in the pedestrian zones of the cities.
  • The businesses represented here had everyday advantages of getting customers automatically with its shop windows.
  • Also, advertising via classic media was reserved only for companies that had a large number of resources. Because at that time, companies with a smaller budget simply could not afford the cost of access to the main advertising channels such as television, radio, and display advertising.

So even back then, the gap between SMEs and corporations was wide. Whether it was due to small companies being squeezed out of city centers by chain stores, rising rents, or advertising measures that demanded too much budget.

How is it today?

Nowadays, it’s almost the other way around, and the shopping centers don’t do so well anymore. This is due to the Internet and online commerce, and for some time now also due to the Corona crisis. The Internet and smartphones have turned us all into explorers. We want authentic experiences, quality and trusting relationships, and the Internet has given us the opportunity to find them.

This represents a new opportunity for SMEs to play their card with authenticity, and trust. It is thanks to digital marketing strategies, such as Local SEO, Google Ads, reputation management, and brand monitoring that these companies can build a following quickly, effectively, and sustainably.

The Internet makes trust more important

In today’s digital era, “trust” is given far greater importance. This new culture of reviews, comments and ratings benefits small and medium-sized local businesses with a good digital marketing strategy. This shift offers consumers a new way to support local businesses. They can interact with them, making other people aware of the small businesses. In this way, the trend towards big brands and corporations is also strengthening the counter-trend toward small local and authentic businesses that people trust.

The following example of a trend in the catering industry is intended to illustrate the extent to which SMEs have advantages over large corporations.

 The countertrend of the future

People’s changing consumption habits and the development of digital marketing over the last decade have completely changed the competitive landscape in the food and hospitality industry. Small businesses can succeed because local marketing has allowed them to attract customers even if they are not located on the main shopping streets. These businesses have also been helped by review platforms, which have given customers more confidence to try new things. 

Making more opportunities through brand monitoring & trust 

The reputation that a successful brand enjoys online is one of the most important aspects that make people trust your company and become a customer. In addition, the value of a strong and reputable brand will become more and more important as the range of online companies grows. At the same time, the number of dubious companies that try to get customers is also growing. This also makes the value of a trustworthy brand with a good reputation increasingly important. Thus, online marketing and brand presence are of the utmost importance for the growth of any company.

To make sure your brand is perceived the way you want it to be, you need to monitor your brand’s online presence. That means you should always know how your brand is received online, what your ratings are, what your competitors are doing, or if your company is mentioned on social media.

Brand monitoring can help you build better relationships with your customers and gain their trust. It can help your brand reach its target audience and increase your sales. In this article, we’ll answer the questions of what brand monitoring is and who should start doing it. We also share tips and steps on how to get started right away.

How can brand monitoring help small and medium-sized businesses?

For any business, large or small, it’s crucial to have an idea of what’s being said about the company online and what people think. The way your audience perceives you and how you react and respond to their feedback plays a huge role in the growth of your brand. There are several brand monitoring options that can help you keep an eye on your online presence and make your business more attractive.

1. Pay attention to your reputation

It’s proven that knowing how your brand is perceived by your audience gives you the insight you need to grow your business. Several brand monitoring tools allow you to receive notifications about every comment or brand mention so you can respond to them in real-time. When your tool notifies you of a review or comment, it’s time to actively manage your reputation and respond, follow these tips:

  • Respond to each assessment – most customers expect a response to their reviews. In reality, however, people rarely respond. So take the chance to strengthen your reputation, solve problems and help constructively, whether it’s a positive or negative review.
  • Be as fast as possible – the faster you respond, the faster a problem can be fixed, an inappropriate rating reported, or a plausible explanation provided.
  • Remain professional – you would think that this point is obvious, but unfortunately, this is not the case for all companies. If you have been evaluated badly and perhaps unjustly, remain objective in any case and try to solve the problem without getting emotional.
  • Brand monitoring allows you to keep an eye on your competitors and the content they create. It provides a great way to analyze marketing strategies and figure out how you can increase engagement for your online content or get more traffic. Of course, in addition to that, you should also learn from your competitors’ mistakes in case something catches your eye.

2. Analyze your competitors 

Try to find out what trends your competitors are following and how you can apply the same marketing strategies. You can also compare your metrics and data with those of other brands and find out in which areas you are deficient. 

To do this, you can also use Google Analytics to compare your data with that of the competition, do this via the “Benchmarks” section in Google Analytics.

Going further, brand monitoring can also help you find out what keywords your competitors are using in their blog articles, for example, and how they rank – so that you can use this information to achieve better results in the search engines yourself.  

3. Pay attention to the rankings

To have a strong online presence, you should always work on your rankings. With brand monitoring, you can always see which keywords you are targeting are at the top of search engines like Google, and derive new opportunities and possibilities for your SEO strategy.

You can also use brand monitoring to find out which backlinks can improve your visibility. For example, if you run a blog, take a look at your competitor’s backlinks and see how you can learn from them.

4. Monitor your online presence manually or with free tools

Brand monitoring is an essential component for a successful brand to identify trends, monitor the competition, and always know how your business is doing. 

Or you can make a list of the most important aspects you want to monitor and regularly take the time to manually check them, but this would significantly increase your workload. 

Whether manually or with free tools, the main thing is to start monitoring your brand on the Internet and strengthen your reputation.

In today’s digital era, “trust” is given far greater importance

The new culture of reviews benefits small and medium-sized local businesses with a good digital marketing strategy – they have years of relationships just waiting to be continued online. This shift offers consumers a new way to support local businesses. They can interact with them, making other people aware of the small businesses. Thus, trust and authenticity is the big advantage SMEs have over large corporations. Brand monitoring is an essential component for a successful brand to identify trends, monitor the competition, and always know how your business is doing.

About the Author: Jan Reutelsterz

At the free online marketing app for small businesses rankingCoach FREE, he is responsible for the German-speaking market as Brand Manager DACH. With the free rankingCoach FREE app, you'll always be notified in real-time about your competitors' promotional efforts, as well as reviews, mentions, or a change in your rankings, and you'll have everything important at your fingertips.