As I talk with more and more business owners about Reputation Marketing I am finding out that they are also not up on the new local Google SEO (not Panda) and how to get their business ranked in their local search results. In addition many have heard of Reputation Management, but not necessarily Reputation Marketing and what the difference is between the two and why they may need it for their local business.
In my coming posts I will tackle all of the above and more and how they relate to your online Reputation Marketing. Hopefully as a business owner you will recognize the importance of your reputation. Not only that a bad reputation can hurt your business, but how valuable a good reputation is to helping your business grow by getting new customers and increased revenues.
Reputation Marketing vs. Reputation Management
To start we must first understand what is Reputation Marketing and Reputation Management and the differences between the two. To begin, Reputation Management is simply managing your reputation and basically monitoring your online reviews and getting alerts when a good or bad review is posted to your account and then if a bad review has been posted you hopefully have an action plan in place to be able to deal with that bad review. I talk with businesses that are doing this and think they are okay should they have a bad review posted about them. After I explain to them Reputation Marketing they soon realize they are only doing maybe 35% – 40% of what is needed to ensure they are actively using their reputation to gain new customers.
Reputation Marketing takes Reputation Management to entirely new level. The basics of Reputation Marketing are that your Marketing Consultant should be developing for you a plan to get your existing customers to post their reviews to the various review sites. In other words word of mouth marketing by your customers to let others online know how happy they are with your particular products and services. In addition, Reputation Marketing takes the developed plan and markets it. This could involve video reviews, website marketing and social media to name just a few. There are many marketing strategies for your reputation and in upcoming posts we will explore the avenues of Reputation Marketing your business should be engaged in. Once you have a Reputation your consultant can manage it for you, but Reputation Marketing by a true marketing expert in the reputation field should go one more step and that is help you and your staff with proper training to promote your reputation.
I hope you can see that Reputation Management is only one part of the overall Reputation Marketing plan and if you find yourself only doing the reputation management part you are simply reacting to the market and online reviews rather than creating a path to help market your business by ensuring that your best online reviews are seen by new and existing customers.
Customers may have read the bad review
Many times business clients ask if anyone can post a review and it not be true. I tell them reviews can be posted online at hundreds of sites about their business and service and whether true or not if potential new customers read the negative reviews how much business are they losing? They can’t answer because they don’t know how many potential new customers may have read the bad review and possibly worse how many existing customers have just stop coming in or calling due to bad online reviews.
What I tell them they need to ask themselves is what is the real value of each customer. Is it a hundred dollars, a thousand dollars or is it even more? Most business owners know the value of each customer. I can’t tell them how many customers they are losing to these bad reviews, but I can tell them we can help them put a plan in place to create new customers by having a 5 STAR Online Reputation. Then every time they get a new customer as a result of their Reputation Marketing then they can put an actual value on the effectiveness of this marketing because they know the value of each new client gained.
How do they get rid of the bad review?
From here the next question is, but how do they get rid of the bad review, which may or may not be true or accurate. That can be more challenging and sometimes a bad review can be removed, but the best strategy is to get every possible good review your business can get posted online. That way if your business has 25 reviews and 1 STAR review most customers know everyone can have a bad day or an employee may have had a bad day, but if you have 25 other online reviews that will bury the one bad review.
Any business that deals with the public will have a negative review from time to time and that is understandable, but remember unhappy people usually holler that most and tell more people about their bad experience and that is why it is imperative to get your happy customers to boast about you as well. Also, consumers are not only viewing your reputation, but that of your competition and if your competition has only 3 reviews who do you think they will contact first to do business with?
How do I see what others are saying about my company?
Business owners then usually ask well, how do I see what others are saying about my company. That is when I ask them if their local business marketing consultant is monitoring the review sites for them and they usually say no. I ask if their local marketing consultant has developed a marketing plan to reach their customers so that the customers post online reviews for you and they always say no.
Then I ask if their local marketing consultant is helping them market their reputation and they always say no. Then I ask if the local marketing consultant has helped trained the business owner or staff how to do their Reputation Marketing and they always say no. That is when I start with well let’s see what your current online reputation is. I then get some basic information and run some reports and present it to them. They are often in shock as to what others have said or if they have been practicing reputation management they say yeah we knew of a couple of those, but didn’t think we could do anything about it.
There is always something that can be done
Not always making it disappear and frankly that may not be the best course of action anyway, but I let the business owner know the sooner they can contact that unhappy customer or post a reply to the bad review they can often minimize the damage and at times make the customer happy who then modifies or updates their review. I tell them how good do you think a consumer will feel about doing business with you when they see a negative review and then you reply and make amends to the customer with the bad review whom in turns updates their review of how well you treated them in this difficult situation.
Do you think people would want to do business with a company that goes out of it’s way to make a customer happy? Heck yeah they will. No need to remove that bad review, you can’t buy that kind of advertising. It is having a total Reputation Marketing plan from A – Z in place that makes the difference. It is far easier to handle a few bad reviews when they occur if you have the tools in place to do so. I tell them don’t be reactive, but be proactive and their business will not suffer from a bad review here and there.
Reputation Management – In House
The first place you start with your Reputation Management is in-house, with your staff. You must have a plan in force as to how customers are to be dealt with. Happy customers as well as frustrated customers. I’m sure you are aware the unhappy customers tend to talk the loudest about the way they have been mistreated by a company. Remember, your employees are representing you and your company. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon you as the owner or the manager to know which employees are doing customer service right and which are not. Customer service these days is synonymous with Reputation Management
Take a restaurant for instance. Reputation Management is key in a service business. How many employees on average come in contact with just one customer that comes to dine. Many restaurants have a greeter, then often someone else may seat you. Then you have a server and sometimes you pay the server or you pay at the front register upon leaving. Typically, there are 3 to 4 employees that interact with that one customer and it only takes one of those 3 or 4 employees to ruin the entire experience. Your staff needs to be trained at all levels to recognize if a customer is not 100% satisfied, even about little things and then they need to know what to do from there whether it is to contact the manager/owner or if they have been trained and have some authority as to what they are allowed to do for a customer that is unhappy. This is reputation management.
Example of reputation management
I ate out with my family recently at a chain wings and sports restaurant. My wife and I decided to split an appetizer. When it came out it was set in the middle of the table and we were given no plates so we could each take a slice of the flat bread and enjoy it without making a mess. By the way a different server brought the appetizer, just another example of another employee interacting with the customer. Often another server will fill the drinks or bring the food. The 3 to 4 employees that you might meet during a typical meal is quickly growing to 5 or 6 now. Any way, I thought to myself since the server that brought the food was not our primary server I thought maybe she just over looked the plates. No problem, our server soon stopped by and I asked for two plates. She told me they don’t use plates in the restaurant.
I paused……and then said, you are a restaurant – what do you mean you have no plates? She went on to tell me several reasons and offered a small cardboard tray. I said okay I would try that. Doesn’t work too well trying to cut a piece of flat bread in a tiny tray with 4 sides. Let me continue. When the server stopped by she asked how the meal was. I said the food is good, but the tray is a bit frustrating for obvious reasons. She then told me they have bigger trays, would I like one. At that point I said no thank you would just take the rest home as our meal would soon be here.
This is where on one hand the staff did the right thing
The server knew I was frustrated and apparently asked the manger to come see me. He came over and was apologetic, but offered little solace. I said it would be nice even if the restaurant just had maybe 2 dozen plates in the entire restaurant just to be able to accommodate some guests requests. He gave several answers, the first one I think he was joking, but not sure. He said the staff would just throw them away because they have never had plates. Let’s assume he was joking he then went on to tell me the cardboard trays are a part of the restaurant’s theme and brand and there would be just no way to have plates. I accepted and then moved on. Time to enjoy my meal. That’s when at the table next to me I saw a salad, on a bowl type plate – kind of in between a bowl and a plate if you know what I mean and it was made out of real glass. Hmmm, I thought to myself if they can have a glass bowl/plate for salad, why not for real food as well?
You see this is where the fun begins
I obviously am in marketing. I know the value of reputation management and could have immediately run home and posted a nasty review of this restaurant experience on many review sites. Not because I was ignored, not because any of the staff was rude, not because of bad service, not because of bad food, but because I didn’t feel my concern or request was really considered reasonable and would be looked into by addressing with the district manager to see if some future accommodations could be possible. See it doesn’t have to be a major error on the part of your employees to cause that nasty online review to be posted for the entire world to see.
This problem can be solved easily
If the manager had simply offered to go the extra step. He knows he has the salad bowl/plates in the kitchen. He could have provided those and said I understand and I will certainly suggest to my District Manager about some plates and I will use your experience to illustrate to upper management not all of our customers are 20 somethings and that we should have some additional tools in the kitchen to better serve our guests.
Oh, and I tell you since you were not able to enjoy your appetizer tonight I am going to provide you a gift card for a free appetizer on your next visit? He didn’t lose revenue on this night. He will give up a few dollars on the future visit, but he has almost guaranteed himself an opportunity for his restaurant to have a second chance with a paying customer ordering another meal before giving away a $7 app that probably costs him $2.50. Do you think $2.50 on a future visit is worth buying a second chance. You bet you do!
To help your business get their reputation marketing started I have posted a form on the home page where for now any business can get a FREE online reputation marketing report. If you would like to go directly to this form anytime you or to learn more on reputation marketing you can contact us.
Remember, Reputation Marketing can be one of the most effective tools for getting new customers not used just for damage control for angry customers.