Most businesses fail to realize the importance of a 5-star online reputation and what it can really accomplish for a business in terms of gaining more customers. Gaining a superior online reputation for your business is as easy as asking your customers for it. Unfortunately, we business owners are unaware that your reputation online is in jeopardy right this minute or that it is at constant risk of being in jeopardy. Many of you that are aware of the impending doom of a bad review online are not taking the proper steps to safeguard your reputation or even build one to begin with.
Here are some simple tips to help you on the way to having a superior online reputation that will help to influence your potential customers with reviews from your already satisfied and happy customers.
What is your current online reputation, if any?
The first step is to find out if you have any reviews out there online and if so, are they good or bad. There are several websites you can query to find this information. My suggestion is to start with Google. If you have a listing on Google (and you very well should) check there first to see if you have any bad reviews or any reviews at all.for the fix bad google reviews Google aggregates data and reviews from other sites and adds a link to other reviews at the bottom of your profile. If you start there, you can get a good idea of what types of reviews are being left about your business.
The interesting thing about consumers and people in general, is that they will trust the words of another person that has done business with your company (or even just encountered your business without transacting with it) over any advertising efforts including your ranking on the search engines. If you are in the #1 spot on Google and you have 5 bad (1 star) reviews on your online directory profile, a customer will pass you up for the listing that has a single good review. This is a loss for you and it doesn’t have to be this way.
Another very trusted source of online consumer opinions is Yelp. Be sure to go there as well to check for reviews. Some others are Yahoo Local, Bing Local, InsiderPages.com, SuperPages.com, Kudzu.com and Yellowpages.com. And should you find that you are not listed on any of these directories, be sure to add your listing and claim it!
At this point you’re probably wondering why you’re doing all of this so let me explain. If you have no clue that you have 1, 2, or 15 bad reviews out there going around the Internet then you have no opportunity to fix the issues. You have no idea why your phone is not ringing as much as it used to. Your sales are dwindling and you’re resorting to all kinds of marketing tactics to get your phone back ringing. Let me help you, it won’t. It won’t ring because people like to know whom they are considering doing business with and online is the first place they go to find out.
Also, you could have rave reviews out there and already have a 5 star reputation but know it and not be in a position to capitalize on your superior reputation.
Create a plan of action to manage your online reputation
There is really no such thing as a perfect online reputation, and frankly, when I see that all of the reviews for a company are great with not a hiccup “ever”, I get suspicious. It’s just sort of unrealistic. However, you do need to create an action plan to manage your online reputation proactively.
Most businesses that are aware of reputation management marketing take more of a reactive approach to making sure their businesses are favorably represented. They respond to bad reviews, which is not a bad thing, but if you really want to make reputation work in your favor then you need to work to gather the good reviews from your customers, real reviews. Firstly, the reactive approach is not as effective as a more proactive approach. You cannot prevent every bad review you get. What you can do is ensure that you have so many real good reviews from genuinely satisfied patrons of your business that they essentially drown out the one or two or many bad reviews you may have. At the start, if you have any bad reviews currently online, the more bad you have then the more good ones you will need. It all boils down to balancing them out or rather tipping the bad reviews off.
What you should not do is purchase phony reviews. There are tell-tale signs when unauthentic reviews are posted online and Google and other major local directories have gotten hip to falsified reviews and have cracked down hard on those who use them.
You will need to create a system within your business of gathering feedback from each and every customer that you possibly can good and bad. The bad reviews can help you with identifying problems with staff and customer service and the good reviews can work to help your future marketing campaigns.
Consider things like postcards, business cards, and email requests for reviews. Ask them to post these reviews online at the different directory sites and give them multiple options. The last thing you want is for a patron to feel inconvenienced by the process. In some instances, if possible, you may want to incentivize the review process by offering coupon discounts for verified reviews. You will have to also create a system where you can receive and address your bad reviews before they get posted online for the world of potential customers to see.
The downside to creating this system is that the reviews are not going to be effective if only posted on your website. These reviews need to be posted in places where the 72% of savvy consumers look for reviews for local businesses. Having the patrons post them there can be challenging but the overall reward will be worth the trouble.
Value your customer’s feedback
Not every business can be everything to everyone it serves. We business owners sometimes have to learn that the long and hard way. It’s okay to be good at what you’re good at and let that be that.
Find out what your market thinks is special and unique about your business and use it to your advantage. Discovering your uniqueness in the industry you are in is crucial to your business. A lot of us think we know what it is but your unique selling proposition is whatever your customer thinks it is. If seven people tell you it’s a duck, then it’s likely a duck. If your happy customers say that you have superior customer service and an uncanny willingness to work out issues and conflicts and they are willing to pay your higher pricing because of this, USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.
You may not be able to have a popular blog or a podcast or produce HD YouTube commercials but you may be the best darn Dentist, Doctor, or Remodeling Contractor in the area and everyone that comes to you is slap happy to return, continue to be that and don’t worry about the rest. Some of it is overkill and some of the things that big business does just doesn’t apply for smaller businesses serving local communities, and that’s okay. Find out what your customers think you’re good at and be good at that. This is the strategy behind reputation marketing.
Reputation marketing is the proactive approach to building and managing your online reputation. It differs from reputation management in that using this method does not wait for bad reviews to be posted but rather puts in process a system and strategy for gaining the good reviews from your happy customers and building a reputation to then be protected and managed. Reputation marketing does not exclude reputation management but it places gaining a superior reputation at the forefront of everything else. Using this approach will also help to keep your business relevant in local search by ensuring that you always have a steady supply of the most recent reviews. You do business every day and your reviews should reflect a steady flow of business.
Reputation marketing is to come before local search marketing, before SEO or PPC, and before any other marketing effort. You should step back, especially if there are bad reviews out there, and focus primarily on cultivating that 5 star reputation first, then once you have it, move on to marketing on your reputation and everything will come into place.