Imagine this scenario. You own a small law firm. You’ve worked hard to ensure your clients receive outstanding customer service and exemplary legal representation, and you’ve been rewarded for all that hard work with a growing base of satisfied clients. Then, one morning, something unexpected happens.
A prospective client, one you’ve groomed for several weeks, one who was just about to sign on the dotted line, calls to say he’s no longer interested. You ask what the problem is, but he’s reticent to say. You dig deeper. Finally, he says, “well, I just want to be sure I’m working with a firm I can trust, and from what I’ve read about you, that’s not your law firm.”
WHAT CUSTOMERS SAY ABOUT YOU ONLINE MATTERS
You try to get to the bottom of things, but he’s already hung up the phone, so you go online. Fact is, you’re not sure where to start, so you search for the top online review websites. There’s a lot of them: everything from Google My Business to Facebook, the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Manta, Trip Advisor, Amazon and Yelp. You spend the rest of the morning chasing down whatever it was that turned this client off to your firm.
After an eternity, you find the culprit on Yelp. You recognize him from what he says about you. It’s a previous client, an especially unreasonable one you did everything in your power to please, but nothing it seemed was ever good enough. He says your firm never communicated with him, that you wouldn’t even acknowledge the emails he sent. He says your people always sounded “annoyed” with him when he called for updates on his case (a traffic ticket). He says you did nothing to help him. Finally, he tells anyone willing to listen that if he ever gets another traffic ticket, he’ll find a different firm, and that he’ll warn others to do the same.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE CUSTOMER REVIEWS?
Of course, nothing he writes on that website is accurate, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The damage is done, and you sit there wondering how many other prospective clients read that negative review, how many more will see it in the future, and what if anything you can do to prevent this from happening in the future?
Now, at least, you’re asking the right questions, because even one negative review can do lethal damage to the reputation of your business, and your online reputation can mean success or failure for your company. The reason is simple—as bad as a negative review is, what’s even worse is the fact that such unsolicited opinions can grow exponentially through word of mouth. One person sees the bad review and tells 2 friends, each of whom tells 2 of their friends, and so on.
If you still need some convincing, consider these customer review metrics from Bright Local:
- More than 85% of consumers read online reviews—that includes 95% of Millennials
- On average, consumers read 10 online reviews before they’re willing to trust a business
- 91% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members
- Consumers are 270% more likely to buy a product from a company with 5 online reviews vs. one with zero reviews
- More than half of local marketers say they don’t spend enough time managing customer reviews and their online reputations
WHAT IS ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT (ORM)?
Simply stated, what customers and prospective customers say about your business online matters. But, like the frustrated lawyer above, you’re not going to get very far if you discover negative reviews on the fly or try to manage them one at a time. To effectively influence the way customers feel about your business, you need a strategic approach, one that effectively and consistently monitors all review platforms, includes a sound response plan and replaces negative reviews with positive ones.
Those and similar actions are known, collectively, as “reputation management,” a strategy which Impact describes as follows:
“Online reputation management is the act of monitoring and reacting accordingly to reviews, ratings, and customer questions across different online platforms. These platforms include social networks like Facebook, search engines like Google, and review websites like Yelp.”
WHAT ARE THEY KEY COMPONENTS OF ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?
To begin, it’s not enough to eliminate bad things people say about you online. A sound reputation management strategy also includes ensuring positive reviews, because they can be the energy that fuels business growth.
Of course, every business is different, with different customers, different goals and different marketing challenges. That said, for most a smart reputation management plan will include the following 4 components:
Monitoring: to effectively manage your online reputation, you need to continually monitor all the platforms your customers and prospective customers use to post reviews.
Flagging: your management plan needs to flag all negative comments so you can “clean them up”
Response: for best results, you need to show customers that you take feed back seriously, that in other words your business is responsive to customer concerns.
Posting: your plan should include strategies to encourage satisfied customers to post positive reviews about your business—things like offering incentives, making review posting easy (by optimizing your content) and requesting reviews at the right moment in the buyer’s journey.
HOW TO BEGIN
As they say, even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the case of implementing a sound online reputation management strategy, you should do the following 5 things to get started:
Survey your current customers: it’s important to know where your customers go to post online reviews. If they tell you, for example, that their first move when they’re dissatisfied is to go to Yelp or the Better Business Bureau, you need to prioritize monitoring of those sites.
Take control of your platform accounts: you probably have more control than you think over the top online review platforms. Make sure your accounts on all platforms are current, that you know how they work, and that you have the ability to control your business pages on those sites.
Take a deep dive: you’ll need to find a way to read every online review on every review platform. This will give you a comprehensive understanding of what’s out there, and an opportunity to flag all negative and “spam” reviews.
Be diligent: online reputation management isn’t a one-time exercise, this because consumers will continue to post reviews about your company in the future. You should repeat your “deep dive” regularly, ideally at least once a week, and consider making someone in your business responsible for ongoing monitoring.
Create a strategy to encourage positive reviews: among the most effective things you can do to get more positive reviews is simply ask your satisfied customers to post them—you’ll be surprised how many will be willing to do so. You should also consider implementing other effective strategies, like the ones noted here by HubSpot.
A smart online review management strategy can mean the difference between success and failure for your business—but it can also be both complex and confusing. Fortunately, there are experienced marketing agencies who can give you the guidance and advice you need to succeed. That’s where we can help.
To learn more about the ways our traditional and digital advertising, creative and public relations services can help you achieve your principal marketing goals—and take your business to the next level—contact us today.