Word-of-mouth advertising has long been one of the best ways for a business to grow, and we've all been a part of it - either dispensing feedback about people and businesses we've spent money with or asking for information about someone we're considering doing business with and that others have relevant experiences to share.
Throughout most of human history, this exchange of facts, opinions, and anecdotes was personal, slow, and came only from those with whom we had some sort of a relationship. The advent of the internet allows others we've never met to influence our buying decisions. Our "always-on" connection to the web through our portable digital devices, along with our insatiable appetite for information about EVERYTHING, places us firmly in the middle of the reputation economy. Whether you want to be there or not.
What is the reputation economy? Simply put, we can now give and receive instant feedback on every single person, place, product, and service that exists in the marketplace, creating a vast repository of experiences and opinions. This quick and easy feedback loop and these online reviews create a very accurate picture of how a company operates and what we can expect from them. In real time. With no way for the business to hide it.
We have stars for a quick visual representation of performance. Along with the stars, we have a corresponding number score - usually on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best - we can compare with similar businesses, and then we have the written comments of the reviewer. We often have photos that accompany the comments, especially for food and other "sensory" experiences.
At this point, the reputation economy is like a runaway locomotive - with no way to stop it and an endless track in front of it - extending into the future. Remember, once something goes online it never really disappears. Consumers can look back and see every stop (business interaction) others have had along the way. As a business owner, the only choice you have is to get on board, and the sooner you do so, the better.
So, how do you climb aboard? As a business owner, it's important to model the behavior you want your customers to emulate. To see things from a reviewer's perspective, you need to leave some reviews of your own. Let's look at three ways you can start participating from the consumer side before you ramp up your own review gathering efforts.
Decide to Engage
Make a conscious decision that you will begin to leave reviews for the people and companies you do business with. It's almost certain you have read reviews before buying a product or choosing a service provider.
Somebody had to take the time and make the effort to leave those reviews. As more people make the decision to do that, the rest of us can make better buying decisions.
Commit to begin leaving reviews and write the first one before you go to bed tonight. Think through your experience and write a thorough, descriptive account of your experience. Rate accurately and explain why you gave that score. Add relevant photos.
It doesn't have to be long, but it should provide enough information to be helpful to others. Stars without an explanation are not helpful to anyone, nor are a couple of words such as "Liked it."
Using the speech-to-text feature of your phone, you can leave a review while doing other things. Like sitting in traffic, watching the kids at soccer practice, or taking a walk around the neighborhood. Get creative with writing your reviews.
Leave Thoughtful Reviews
The more reviews you write on a particular platform, the more weight your review will carry. You are seen as someone who pays attention and will make the effort to share your experience so you gain an informal "expert" status.
Set up accounts on several social media platforms and spread your reviews across all of them. Do a Google review today for Company A. Do a Yelp review tomorrow for Company B. Do a Facebook review the next day for Company C. Continue rotating them as you write more reviews.
Don't copy and paste the same review on multiple review sites. Google is starting to list scores from other sites on a company's Google My Business listing so duplicate posting is not necessary, and some sites will syndicate reviews automatically anyway.
Communicate with Those You Buy From
At the beginning of an engagement or interaction, tell the business owner you have read their previous reviews and what made you choose them over another business. This does a couple of things. It alerts the owner or manager that you are paying attention and are engaged in the process.
And if they are paying attention, you just hinted that you'll probably be writing a review. This may result in even better service than you might otherwise receive.
Just to be sure they got it, let them know you are a regular reviewer and look forward to sharing your experience.
If you write a review for a negative experience and then the business resolves your concern, go back and edit your review. Append the update to the TOP of your review. People will see the business was responsive to your concern, but not if your update is stuck at the bottom of a negative review.
You are providing an extremely valuable service when you review a business. You help other consumers avoid mistakes in choosing a business to meet their needs.
You are helping the business by providing feedback they would not otherwise receive, and giving them a chance to fix problems before they get out of hand.
You are helping yourself because you'll make checking reviews a key part of your purchasing decisions, resulting in better money management and fewer headaches.
Everybody wins in the reputation economy when everyone participates.
If you own a business and would like to put a fast, easy review-generating system in place that can be managed from a smartphone, we can help. Click the link below for a 30-Day Free Trial of QUICKReputation. No credit card required. Quick and easy setup. No obligation beyond the trial.
You can also call us at 404.220.7630 if you would like to discuss your reputation management strategy and explore your opportunities. Ask for Michael.
Online Reputation Management: Beginner's Guide to Capturing Great Customer Reviews
Reputation Is Everything.™Having a great reputation in business keeps your current customers coming back and brings new customers in the door on a regular basis. The rise in the use of internet sites for writing reviews provides you with two choices: take control of your own reputation or let others control it for you. You decide.
While there are several moving parts to building a stellar reputation online, I will focus on three of them I call the "beginner's guide." These are basic steps that apply to every business and help establish the four pillars of your reputation strategy: Build. Monitor. Manage. Market.
Before I get into the details, it must be stated that you have to deliver a good - if not great - product, service, or experience. In fact, you don't want to start building your online reputation until you have that piece right. The problem is that dissatisfied customers will establish your online reputation for you whether you are engaged in the process or not. That means you need to fix any business issues you have and do so quickly! For the sake of this short discussion we will assume you've got that under control and do great work.
3 Ways to Build Your Online Reputation
1. Establish Directory Listings
Before your customers can start leaving you feedback, they must have a place to write reviews. Third-party review sites provide the "neighborhood" - you just need to claim your digital "property" and commence construction.
Start with the main sites people use. Google is the foundation; claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing establishes your footprint and this listing is the one all of the others are compared to for accuracy.
Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) needs to be exactly the same across all directory sites. Mis-matches create confusion for the search engines and can result in less online visibility. An example is Ste vs Suite vs #123. Although they are the same location they are seen as three different addresses.If Google has this wrong your first order of business is to get it corrected and you can only do this once you "own" your listing. Claiming it is a multi-step process that has changed several times so be deliberate when completing this step.
Reviews on Facebook are becoming more common. You need to establish and optimize a business Page even if you don't use Facebook in your personal life. In addition to leaving reviews for your business, people can "check in" when they are there their friends will see their patronage. Another good reason to set up your Page is you must have one to take advantage of Facebook Ads.
Yelp is another top-3 online review site you must utilize early. Since customers can create a listing for a business, it is in your best interest to take control of your presence on this site. People often think of Yelp strictly as a food / club / restaurant site but even attorneys and accountants need to claim, set up, and optimize their listing on this directory. It has 230 million sessions a month and it can have a huge effect on your reputation, not to mention driving more customers to you.
To get a list of additional key directory sites courtesy of HubSpot click here.
2. Set Up a Review-Generating System
Once you have put a system in place you can encourage customers to write a review of their experience with your business. Without a system, it will be a hit-or-miss endeavor, never producing the all of the positive results that are possible when you take control of your online reputation process.
You should not offer anything tangible in return for a review. In fact, you violate the terms and conditions of most review sites if you do. There is nothing wrong with asking for a review, however. Even financial planners, who were prevented by law from soliciting reviews from clients, have been given the green light to ask as long as they meet certain criteria in how the reviews are gathered and shared.
There are systems that automate the process of reaching out to your clients, and some will even send a gentle reminder after a set period of time. Many customers are thankful for a quick email or text reminder because they intended to leave a review but life got in the way.
These tools will also allow you to spot trends - good or bad - as soon as they develop so you can take appropriate action. You might want to reward an employee or need to fix a process. Intermittent reviews do not give you this timely view of what's happening in your business; a steady flow of reviews will provide this perspective.
3. Follow Up on Reviews
Thank customers for recognizing the good work you do. They appreciate the acknowledgment as much as you do! You should respond to negative reviews immediately, seeking to understand where the customer's dissatisfaction comes from and what you can do to resolve the issue. You may end up taking the discussion offline (and probably should), but other people are watching and will see you are paying attention and responding.
Even when a customer leaves a scathing or unfair review online you should remain calm and professional. Under no circumstances should you engage in an argument or try to "get" them, even when they are wrong. Yes, I said it - the customer is not always right. Other people reading the review can often sense someone who will never be satisfied, and if you ever become unprofessional you will lose some of them as customers too. Responding in a polite, professional manner is the only option you have.
These are just the first steps in building a strong, effective reputation management strategy. We recommend discussing this with a professional before you tackle this on your own. You will gain valuable insight that will ensure you do it right the first time.
For a free Reputation Scan of your business, click here.
Reach out to us if you have any questions about the results of your scan or for ways to improve your score and we will be glad to walk you through the opportunities you have to take control of your online reputation and use it to grow your business.
In the long-ago past, your marketing efforts consisted of a yellow pages ad, a sign in your storefront, and if you were really cutting-edge, graphics on your vehicle. Not so in 2015.
In this piece, which is very thorough relative to its length, Chris Silver Smith lays out a content marketing plan for local businesses that is do-able. Will it take some time and effort? Yes. Might you need help to implement and fine tune it? Yes. It is worth the investment? Yes. Can you afford to ignore it? No. Your competitors are already engaged in content marketing or cranking up their efforts, and you'll get left behind if you put it off.
Take the time to digest these tools and strategies, then figure out a way to start putting the pieces in place. You may have someone on staff who has the skills and interest to tackle this. You might have to hire a freelancer to begin creating this content at a moderate pace. Or you could decide to hire an agency to build up your company's efforts as quickly as possible. All three approaches are valid - just make sure you do SOMETHING!
Read the article here: http://searchengineland.com/tap-content-marketing-engine-achieve-local-liftoff-215158
Michael Cahill has been doing techie things since the early '70s. A self-described nerd ('cause of the techie stuff), his kids say he's just a plain ol' dork. He loves family, cycling, reading, and listening to Native American music while he plays with the bits and bytes.