By Sherry Bonelli / Guest Column
Reputation marketing is one of the most important digital marketing strategies you can implement in your business. If you think you can ignore online reviews about your business, you can’t. If you’ve been frustrated or burned by a customer who left a bad online review about your business, you can’t hide from it any more.
Over the years there has been a steady increase in the number of rating and review websites. Almost every online business directory – from Yelp to Facebook – allows virtually anyone to say virtually anything about your business to everyone on the Internet – regardless of whether it’s true or fair. These review ratings even show up in search engine results for all the world to see. But most businesses are either outraged or indifferent about those stars that appear next to their business’ name – but these star ratings matter to your customers and future customers.
Even if you master every other skill necessary to operate your business, if you dismiss the power of rating sites, you will dramatically decrease your competitiveness and your chances of long-term survival.
Reviews impact buying decisions
Think about it. When you want to purchase a product or service, what do you do first? If you’re like most people, you do online research and take a look at what other people are saying about the product or service you’re interested in buying. Whether you want to admit it or not, you look at the online reviews. It’s hard to avoid reviews because the star rating and the number of reviews even show up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when people search on Google – even in the ads.
Your customers do the same thing when they look for your business, products or services – they do a search online and take a look at the reviews.
If you’ve avoided Reputation Marketing up until this point and think online reviews are for the birds, you need to rethink that position. Here’s the proof:
- 92 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews (BrightLocal)
- 88 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation (BrightLocal)
A rock-solid reputation is perhaps the single most valuable asset your business can have. In a few years, reputation marketing will be so important that it will be as essential to the daily operation of your business as counting the money that’s coming in each day. Managing your online reputation requires a long-term strategy. So what do you need to do to get a handle on your online reputation?
How to manage online reputation
First, talk to all of your employees about the importance of giving your customers a great experience. Make sure your entire team knows that you’re going to be checking your business’ online reviews. Then follow through. If your team knows that you’re watching reviews, they will try even harder to make a good impression on your customers.
Next, encourage customers to leave feedback. If you know that you gave someone a great buying experience, send them a quick email thanking them and ask them to leave a review on your preferred review site. Hand them a small “Thank You for Your Business” card with the URL of your preferred review website. Make sure that the link you provide goes directly to your business’ page on the review site and not just the site’s home page. If they have to hunt for it, they won’t leave a review. Make it easy.
One way to get the word out is to put this review page link at the bottom of your email signature, your website, your letterhead, invoices, brochures or flyers. Encourage happy, satisfied customers to leave reviews for you. You may want to set up a process where four days after a purchase is made, you send a short “thank you” email to them asking for the review.
Next, pay attention to the reviews about your business. Keep an eye out on the top review sites, like Yelp, Google My Business, Trip Advisor, Yellowbook, etc. Most review sites let business owners “claim” their business’ page. That way you can engage with people who leave you reviews. Make it a habit to check these sites daily and take action when any review is left for your business.
The more positive reviews you get, the more trustworthy you will be to prospective customers – which will lead to more sales.
Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/speaker, has been a digital marketing professional since 1998. She is currently the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency Cedar Rapids. She can be reached at http://earlybirddigitalmarketing.com or (319) 409-3287.