The concept may sound daunting, but online reputation management for your local business is easy if you use this simple system.
We get it. "Reputation management" sounds like code used by old-timey mobsters or the PR team of a disgraced politician. But businesses of all kinds live and die by their reputations. And a good reputation takes work.
Think of reputation management as a little like selling a house. Would you invite prospective buyers in when the sink is full of dishes, every surface is covered with cat hair, and the fridge is leaking? Or would you try to show off your house looking its best so the right buyer will actually be drawn to it?
That's what reputation management is all about.
What Reputation Management Isn't
Good reputation management does not mean:
- Hiring a PR firm to change the story after you get a bunch of bad press.
- Flooding your own Yelp page with false reviews that praise your low prices and great customer service.
- Blowing your yearly marketing budget on a local commercial featuring you awkwardly pretending to interact with hired extras.
- Paying members of the local theater group to hang out in your business and talk loudly and DRAMATICALLY about how life-changing your products or services are.
None of those moves will actually affect the way customers feel about your business. They'll only affect the way people think about you, the business owner.
Effective reputation management isn't about diversion. It's not about trying to convince customers and press that you're something you're not or about trying to trick them into visiting your local business.
What Reputation Management Is
So we've established what this concept isn't about. What is it about, then?
Good reputation management involves:
- Making sure your business is the best that it can be and is worthy of a good reputation.
- Demonstrating a willingness to listen to and act on customer feedback.
- Identifying the best spokespeople for your business (aka your satisfied current customers).
- Giving those customers a visible platform to share their experiences with your business.
That visible platform? It's usually their own smartphone, tablet or computer.
Enter Online Reviews
Online reviews are hugely popular and hugely influential. We know from research that consumers really value and trust the reviews they read online.
- 84 percent of surveyed consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends and family.
- 91 percent of consumers read online reviews at least occasionally, with 50 percent reading reviews regularly.
- Most consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business.
Clearly, online reviews have a ton of sway over the average person. It's a good news/bad news situation...
On one hand, online reviews have the power to damage your reputation if you're not careful. Say, for instance, that a few cranky customers write false and inflammatory reviews, but you don't check your reviews regularly and therefore don't do anything about their posts. And all the while, other people read those reviews and assume they're accurate.
The good news? If you get even just a few of your satisfied customers to write reviews too, those few rants will get lost among all the raves. And it's surprisingly simple to get those satisfied customers to review you.
The research reveals one other very useful tidbit: Seven out of 10 people will write a review if asked.
Online Review Sites
To improve the online presence of your business, as well as its reputation, you need to be on the platforms where your customers are. Here are the big three review sites for local businesses:
Google offers Google My Business as a tool for businesses to manage their business listing and get Google reviews. On the platform you can enable direct messaging, answer customer questions, and respond to reviews. Google is currently the most popular review site by volume and usage, so it goes without saying that you have to have your business listed on Google, and you have to work on consistently getting Google reviews from your customers.
Another review platform that your local business should keep an eye out for is Yelp. Yelp’s popularity and usage has dropped in recent years, but because it was one of the original local business review hubs, it still has a sizable marketshare. Also, Yelp’s review filter is notoriously strict and it tends to promote negative reviews (yes, this is frustrating for everyone), so getting Yelp reviews from your happy customers on a consistent basis is important.
Facebook’s review platform has changed over the years. The tab is still called “Reviews” on your business page, but not long ago they switched from the standard 5-star system to a thumbs up (“recommend”)/thumbs down (“don’t recommend”) system. Since most people have a Facebook account and actively use it, it’s pretty easy to get Facebook reviews for your business to boost its presence.
Depending on your business type you may also want to have a profile on other industry-specific sites like HomeAdvisor for contractors who need reviews from their clients, Avvo for lawyers, or Healthgrades for doctors who need to get patients to leave reviews.
Here's where we get down to the nitty-gritty of optimizing your reputation management strategy (a fancy way of saying "getting people to like you and getting new business from them").
Some of your customers are going to write an online review whether you ask them to or not, but most won't think to take the time to write one.
Unless they're business owners themselves, they just don't realize how critically important those reviews are. But as we know from the research, most of your happy customers will do you this favor if you just ask, assuming you do it at the right time and in the right way.
Calling them at home at 10:00 p.m.? The wrong way.
Emailing them reminders to review you every single day? Wrong.
Following them out to the parking lot and throwing yourself on their car hoods until they agree to review you? The wrongest.
The Right Way
You're busy, your customers are busy, and you don't want them to feel harassed into writing reviews. After all, you want people leaving your business feeling happy, not annoyed.
What's a business owner to do, then? It's simple. Use your face time with your customers to show them just how responsive, conscientious and competent you are. Then get in touch with them later on, while they're still thinking positively about the interaction and in a good head space to write a favorable review.
Use an automated system like ReputationStacker to reach out to your customers with a one-question survey...
The system identifies your satisfied customers and sends them to the review site of your choice, making it quick and easy for them to review you. Your dissatisfied customers are directed right back to you (and not to the review sites), allowing you to address their concerns and show them that you're open to hearing feedback and improving. Either way, you build your reputation bit by bit with each customer reached.
Keep An Eye On Your Reviews
On one hand, you should be working on getting more reviews, but on the other you also need to track your reviews (whether they're positive, neutral, or negative).
Positive reviews can be used to attract new customers, not only on the review sites they’re posted on, but also on your own site and social media pages. In fact, ReputationStacker gives you the ability to automatically stream your best reviews on your own website, and to automatically post them to your social media channels.
And while ReputationStacker greatly limits the number of neutral and negative reviews you get, on the rare occasion that you do receive them they can provide insight into how you can improve. Responding publicly to these reviews can prove very beneficial by showing other potential customers that you care and more often than not actually boosts your reputation in their eyes.
Earning a Reputation
In a competitive world, your reputation is everything. Making sure it's a good one doesn't require hiring a high-priced PR firm or marketing manager. When your happy customers are consistently writing reviews about your business, 99% of your online reputation takes care of itself.
Use an automated system like ReputationStacker to get those reviews.
Ian Kirby has been working in digital marketing for over 15 years. Having worked both with and for digital marketing agencies and in-house with multiple companies, he has a specific interest and expertise in online reputation management, online reviews, and the implementation of business systems. Ian’s writing, videos, and interviews have garnered millions of reads, views, and listens.