For the average candidate weighing a job offer, perception is just as important as reality.

Asked what most influences their decision to accept or decline a position, 56 percent of professionals said it's the company's "talent brand," according to a new LinkedIn survey of full-time employees and talent acquisition managers. A talent brand means a company's reputation among external candidates as a desirable place to work. For example, it's safe to say that Google has a really strong talent brand.

"Hiring and retaining rock stars is key to every company's success," LinkedIn spokesperson Joe Roualdes tells Inc. "But it's particularly crucial among small businesses where hiring the right person can propel the company forward, and hiring the wrong person can sink the ship."

Small businesses, in particular, are taking note and investing in their talent brand with 76 percent confirming it had a significant impact on hiring. That impact, however, is not always positive as businesses with weak talent brands lose out on scoring top hires. Recruiters for small businesses who participated in the survey said one of the top obstacles to attracting quality hires was a lack of awareness within their talent pool.

To help these small businesses boost their brands and recruit highly-skilled applicants, LinkedIn has introduced a suite of paid services designed to help companies with fewer than 500 employees showcase their talent brand and conduct passive recruitment year-round. 

The small business package includes Recruiter Lite, a more affordable version of LinkedIn's signature recruiting software; as well as the ability to post sponsored job listings that get 30 to 50 percent more applicants; and create a custom employer page and targeted ads to spread the company talent brand and turn existing employees into brand ambassadors.

These premium services fall right in line with LinkedIn's big plan to leverage technology and social media to extend the reach of talent brands to become more important. In that way, recruiting has become more like marketing, where employers can even take lessons from how videos go viral