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How To Actually Generate Customers On Professional Networks: Part 1

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If you're wondering if you can get clients from a professional network such as LinkedIn or Alignable (or any... Read Full Answer

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Celebrating Small And Locally-owned Businesses With Bill Brunelle of Independent We Stand

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2017 SMB Brand Ratings & Reviews

By Dan Slagen · Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 · Tagged in General Discussion



UPDATE: Want to see our latest Small Business Trust Index Report? Click here to see the Q1 2017 Top 20 Most Trusted Brands in Small Business, including updated trust ratings!

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Welcome to Alignable's 2017 SMB Brand Ratings Kickoff!

1. Yes, you can trust that brand.

2. No, you cannot trust that brand.

Those are the only answers business owners want to hear when making a decision about whether or not to work with a brand/vendor for their business. While it can be helpful to read online reviews and reports from third party rating companies, the most meaningful information comes from fellow business owners who have experience with the specific brand/vendor being considered.

Here at Alignable, we track brand ratings from small and local business owners in real-time, so you can see which brands are trusted by business owners vs. which ones are not. If you'd like to see the interactive brand ratings index, you can access it here. If you'd like to learn a bit more about the brands/categories as 2017 gets underway, read on.

PLEASE NOTE: If you're an SMB brand and would like to learn how to partner with Alignable to gain access the actual NPS scores by brand or have your brand included contact, Dan Slagen ( email: dan at alignable.com )

Alignable's current SMB brand ratings include input from over 15,000 small and local business owners in North America across 80+ brands, including:

First, let's review the overall brand results for 2016, and then consider how 2017 is shaping up for the brands selling into small and local business owners this year, segmented by category.

Top 10 Trusted SMB Brands

10. LinkedIn

9. PayPal

8. Square

7. FedEx

6. Instagram

5. Authorize.net

4. Mailchimp

3. Google

2. Wordpress

1. Amazon

Business owners love these 10 brands. What's interesting is to consider the categories that make the top 10. In total, the 80+ brands currently included in our trust ratings are categorized across 22 different categories. Within the the top 10 brands, however, we only see a total of 6 categories represented.

- Digital Marketing: 40% (LinkedIn, Instagram, Google, Amazon)

- Website: 10% (Wordpress)

- Shipping Services: 10% (FedEx)

- Payments: 20% (PayPal, Square)

- Email Marketing: 10% (Mailchimp)

For business owners, those 5 categories are top of mind, with digital marketing leading the way, followed by payments, and website/shipping services/email marketing tied for third.

Least 10 Trusted SMB Brands

10. Angie's List

9. Groupon

8. Comcast

7. Thumbtack

6. ShipStation

5. Craiglist (for hiring)

4. YP

3. Yext

2. Web.com

1. Yelp

(Additional brands "currently trending" in the least trusted segment include: Reach Local, Advice Local, Buzz Points and Pay Simple)

The consensus is pretty clear on the brands business owners would like to see improve their core value offering. The interesting question surrounding these companies is how they're planning for the future, and there's not always a direct correlation between "brand perception" vs. profits...Consider these three examples:

Comcast doesn't seem too phased by the fact they rank as the 77th least trusted brand out of the 84 brands currently ranked by business owners.

Groupon, on the other hand hasn't been able to sustain their initial brand promise to business owners at scale, and the result has been unfortunate for both sides.

Finally, you have a brand like Yelp, which bottomed out in early 2016, but experienced growth throughout 2016. Is Yelp actually changing the way they treat small and local business owners, is the growth unrelated, or is another plummet in store for one of the most emotionally volatile SMB brands?

For brands like Comcast and Yelp, they've benefitted from establishing themselves as "necessary" to a significant percentage of business owners, regardless of their brand perception...but can this last? Consider Thumbtack, a newer brand (not established as a must-have for business owners) compared to Comcast and Yelp, their brand perception will impact growth at multiple phases of the funnel. Currently their brand ratings page consists of 70% negative written reviews, and look at the impact...

Review #1: Negative review of Thumbtack

Review #2: Positive review of Thumbtack

Review #3: User admitting he would stay away from Thumbtack based on the reviews

When it comes to your brand, think about review #3. Those are the businesses considering your core value offering, talking to their trusted business owner peers. You won't be able to change their mind easily or cost effectively with cold sales calls, emails, customer service, discounts...etc. Galvanizing your target market to embrace your brand as displayed in Review #2 above is the most valuable way to build your brand.

Now let's move to the brand ratings by category.

As displayed above, the range of satisfaction ranges dramatically across the 22 categories for small and local business owners:

Categorical Levels of Satisfaction

Satisfied Categories: Productivity Tools, Printing Services, Payments, Digital Marketing, Computers & Hardware, File Sharing

Neutral Categories: Accounting, Shipping Services, Email Marketing, Website, Social Marketing, Office Supples, Ecommerce (opportunity for disruption?)

Dissatisfied Categories: Crowdfunding & Lending, CRM, Marketing Automation, Communication Services, Business Management, Hiring, Loyalty/Rewards, Lead Generation, Local Listings & Data Management (opportunity for disruption?)

While a particular category may be segmented above as satisfied, neutral or dissatisfied, it's important to look deeper. In some cases, the category as a whole will be representative of its classification. In other cases, the rating of one or two brands may be impacting brand perception by association with the category in general. Let's take a look...

Accounting


Category Satisfaction Rating: Neutral

Winner: With an allegiance of satisfied customers, Intuit is leading the way for small and local business owners in regards to their accounting needs.

Business Management


Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: While MINDBODY is currently ahead of Demandforce, small and local business owners are craving new business management options. Who else should be listed here?

CRM

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: Insightly is currently leading the pack in an otherwise dissatisfied category. Will they continue to be the breadwinner moving forward, or will newer contenders like HubSpot's free CRM begin to impact the market?

Communication Services

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: Verizon. It says something about the category when the winner scored a rousing 2/5 stars. Remember when calling a taxi used to be your only option? Who will come save business owners and disrupt the market at scale?

Computers/Tablets & Hardware

Category Satisfaction Rating: Satisfied

Winner: Apple. While we know the "adaptor and accessory" businesses love Apple and all their new product releases, business owners continue to love the brand as well. Overall, business owners are satisfied with the state of their computers/tablets & hardware.

Crowdfunding & Lending

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: While Kickstarter is the winner here, business owners remain confused about the details of crowdfunding.

Digital Marketing

Category Satisfaction Rating: Satisfied

Winner: Multiple brands. What's fascinating about the digital marketing category is the range of satisfaction levels. While the brands at the top include some of the highest rated across the entire index, this category also includes two of the least trusted brands amongst small and local business owners in Reach Local and Yelp.

Ecommerce

Category Satisfaction Rating: Neutral

Winner: Shopify has emerged as a marketing success story in building a recognizable brand through product offerings and their exceptionally high quality blog content. Users are quick to praise and eager to suggest opportunities to improve at the same time.

Email Marketing

Category Satisfaction Rating: Neutral

Winner: Mailchimp. No surprise here, small and local business owners adore everything about this company from product design to the always caring, helpful, terrifying, fun and inspirational monkey.

File Sharing

Category Satisfaction Rating: Satisfied

Winner: Dropbox. Business owners have come to depend on Dropbox and find it to be the clear winner against Box.


Hiring

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: Indeed. Hiring is the newest category added to the brand trust index, and will include star ratings next quarter once more data has been compiled. What we can tell you, is small and local business owners are all ears when it comes to new ideas for hiring. With their current options, Indeed is the leader by a notable margin.

Lead Generation

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: Google/Facebook/Print ads...etc. Business owners don't trust these lead generation sites. While they've become necessary for some businesses, the majority of owners are looking to put their money elsewhere until the model is more transparent, the leads are real and the ROI can be justified.

Local Listings & Data Management

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: Any company trying to disrupt these brands. This is the lowest ranking category on average across the entire brand index. Preach, Nancy.

Loyalty & Rewards

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: Therapists. Loyalty and Rewards is the second lowest rated category as a whole, across the brand trust index. The issue continues to be business owners not understanding HOW to use the offerings. As seen below, owners are getting thrown into deals they don't understand that don't actually work for them. While there are independent brand evangelists who have found success, they're too few within an incredibly jaded category. If you're the CMO of of a loyalty brand, hire Stacey, her approach is what has been missing all along.

Marketing Automation

Category Satisfaction Rating: Dissatisfied

Winner: HubSpot. The marketing automation category is challenging for companies with less than 10 employees. HubSpot for example is one of the most loved brands in tech, but their offering is primarily for companies sized 50 - 200. The "S" in SMB is getting left out in the cold, leaving plenty of opportunity for the company that can finally "crack" the small marketing automation opportunity.

Office Supplies

Category Satisfaction Rating: Neutral

Winner: Staples. While it's not our most exciting category, offices still need supplies and Staples is continuing to tread water.

Payments

Category Satisfaction Rating: Satisfied

Winner: PayPal (beat Square by 1 point). The one thing all businesses have in common is they need to make money, so it's no surprise that Payments is one of the highest rated categories in the brand index.

Printing Services

Category Satisfaction Rating: Satisfied

Winner: Vistaprint. Business owners like consistency, convenience and value. Vistaprint has been able to build, but more importantly sustain these qualities for all things small and local business printing.

Productivity Tools

Category Satisfaction Rating: Satisfied

Winner: Google Apps. While both brands rank incredibly highly, business owners like the ability to share files with co-workers. Interesting to note, the collaboration aspect of Google Apps outweighs the advanced functionality that business owners get with Microsoft.

Shipping Services

Category Satisfaction Rating: Neutral

Winner: FedEx. It's downright impressive to continue watching FedEx grow their brand, reach and capability. While the company is a staple for small and local business owners, we were happy to see UPS scoring so highly in this category (despite PromoNellie's experience).

Social Marketing

Category Satisfaction Rating: Neutral

Winner: Buffer. With social marketing, it comes down to needs, cost and depth.

VS.

Both reviews are right, it simply depends on the needs of the business owners.

Website

Category Satisfaction Rating: Neutral

Winner: Wordpress. Businesses need websites, and they need them to be cost effective, easy to maintain and accessible.

While Wordpress is the leader here, 1&1 and GoDaddy continue to focus on customer support/service/success in return for customer loyalty.


We hope you found this data helpful. If you didn't find what you were looking for, don't worry, we're just getting started. We'll be continuing to add new brands, ratings and compelling data throughout 2017 so stay tuned!

PLEASE NOTE: If you're an SMB brand and would like to learn how to partner with Alignable to gain access the actual NPS scores by brand or have your brand included contact, Dan Slagen ( email: dan at alignable.com )

Ina Pollack from Goldtree Financial
3 Locals Recommend Them • Answered on Thursday, January 26, 2017

I am using Web.Com.The service is good in adding the data to my site when I call them but they get zero on innovation and helping you to get the best results. They have not got a clue about what to advise me to put on the site.So far in 8 months, I have had almost no hits.


Dan Slagen from Alignable
155 Locals Recommend Them • Replied on Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ina, thank you for the comment! You should ask fellow business owners who use Web.com what they've found to be successful for SEO. You can easily ask here - https://www.alignable.com/answers

Diana Dahlberg from 1 Month Realty
49 Locals Recommend Them • Answered on Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This information was "enlightening" and helped me to answer some questions I've been pondering. I'm new to Alignable and love connecting with local businesses in my area.


Dan Slagen from Alignable
155 Locals Recommend Them • Replied on Thursday, January 26, 2017

Love it, and we're so happy to have you here!

Paul McIntosh from Castle Rock Custom Vinyl
1 Local Recommends Them • Answered on Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wow, if I hadn't had fantastic results from Yelp and YP, I would have never known that others are so disgusted with them. Everyone says they are a waste if time and money. I couldn't disagree more! I get more than half of my leads through those two. I pay for YP and have a free Yelp listing. So far, I have generated over $1000 in profits this month from the $93 YP ad. And with the changes I have made to it, I expect that to grow significantly.

As far as some of the others go, I have had mixed results so I reserve judgement on those.


Dan Slagen from Alignable
155 Locals Recommend Them • Replied on Wednesday, January 25, 2017

...and that's why we have the open and transparent discussion :)

Great comment Paul, important to hear all sides.

Heather Coffy from Bright Ideas in Broad Ripple
2 Locals Recommend Them • Answered on Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I'm fairly new to Alignable. I like the easy to use set up, the articles that are posted and most of all the ease of being able to meet new people on Alignable!


Sean Williams from Williams Software Consulting, LLC
2 Locals Recommend Them • Replied on Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In that case, welcome to Alignable. :)


Dan Slagen from Alignable
155 Locals Recommend Them • Replied on Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What Sean said!

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Asked By

Dan Slagen from Alignable
Boston, MA