If you do an online search for your name or the name of your business, what you find on page one of Google represents how most people see your brand today.
It doesn’t really matter if your favorite customer tells the world you’re the most wondrous thing since sliced bacon – people will Google you and what they find is all part of the buying process.
And here’s the good news – controlling what people find when they search for you is a part of marketing that is referred to as reputation management or reputation marketing.
You might think this is only about online reviews, but it’s much bigger than that. Check out this definition: Reputation management is the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity.
Reputation management used to fall almost exclusively under the heading of public relations. If a local publication decided to run a tell-all on your crappy service, your PR firm would jump in and do work to make it disappear, or at least help it fizzle out.
Today things are a bit different. Every average Joe is the local paper. And what “Joe” publishes will live on as a permanent record of how you’ve wronged him, whether it’s accurate or not.
And you don’t need me to tell you that hell hath no fury like a customer scorned. Go ahead, try it – Google your favorite brand and add the word “sucks” in your search. So Nike + sucks. Regardless of the brand, you’ll probably find more than a few sites dedicated to letting you know what “SUCKS” really means.
This is simply a reality of the digital realm we inhabit today. But, this is not just about the fact that individuals can easily rate, review and otherwise expose any business that doesn’t live up to its promises, finding and using these reviews is part of today’s buying behavior.
A fairly recent BrightLocal survey found that 84% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Yep! An online review from a complete stranger carries as much clout as a personal recommendation.
The new rules your business should follow
Now that every Tom, Dick, and Harry is a publisher, businesses must follow a handful of rules when it comes to customer interaction. Rules that have always been around, but we can’t get away with not following them anymore.
Yes, this trendy little term is very overused, but when people can and do publish what they experience, it makes the need to be open and honest about what happened, what’s next, and what you’ve learned part of the deal.
Don’t break your promises
This has always been a very good idea of course, but today, if you don’t keep your promises, it’s over. If you don’t honor your guarantee, ship late, or ignore customer requests, it will appear somewhere online.
Learn how to address criticism
Some individuals are impossible to please, but some people often make helpful, sound points when they level criticism on a brand.
So, pay close attention to what people are writing about you online, invite feedback at every turn, and positively jump into the conversation.
Go online and respond publicly
J.D. Power writes that 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for customer service.
Look around and you’ll see many businesses using a tool like Twitter as a platform for customer service. You may save one customer with a helpful reply, and in the process positively impact anyone else who is paying attention. So, how is your social media customer service?
Learn from your mistakes
There’s a huge positive when it comes to missteps or listening to critical reviews – each time this happens you have an opportunity to get better!
Take a look at Jay Baer’s Hug Your Haters to get some great tips on how to play by these new rules and win in the process.
What is your best defense?
You’ve heard that the best defense is a good offense, and that certainly applies here. When it comes to reputation and review management, you need to power through with a good offense.
Things happen and most every business will let a customer or two down and then have to deal with the kidney punch of a not-so-glowing review. Or worse – the unwarranted attacks of a former employee or a devious competitor.
Your job will be 100 times harder if you wait to take action after the fact. If, however, you claim your space in a proactive manner, nurture relationships and call up positive coverage, you’ll be well protected from any negativity.
Now let’s talk about negative reviews
Negative reviews hurt because they usually feel like a personal attack. You might get glowing reviews 98 percent of the time, but one little negative review can stick in your craw.
Letting a negative review get under your skin is human, so how do you deal with it? When and if you get some negative coverage, especially in the form of a blistering review from an angry customer, chill and go to work on damage control.
Before you do anything, make an honest assessment. Is there anything you could have done better? Is this a one-time freak case? Do you have a side of the story to share?
Here’s what you don’t do: Never, under any circumstances should you throw gas on the fire with an combative response.
A few facts about negative reviews
Here are several things to consider when it comes to purely negative reviews and what you can do about them. Both Google and Yelp give you the ability to flag any review and ask that it be deleted if it meets any of the following…
Fact versus opinion
In the United States anyone can express their opinion about something because the First Amendment gives people the right to free speech. What they can’t do is state facts that are not true.
So, if someone jumps on Yelp and says the food at your restaurant stinks, that is fair game. But if they go online and write that you don’t have a health inspection clearance (when in fact you do), well that they cannot do.
Conflict of interest
If a competitor’s employee or relative posts a review to hurt your business you have the right to demonstrate that there is a clear conflict involved. If you do so the review may be considered for removal.
Information that isn’t true
If someone claims that you weren’t open when you said you were or that you didn’t offer them what you advertised, and this is in fact false, you can ask to have it removed.
Hate, sexually explicit, or inappropriate content
Obviously, improper is improper whether it’s negative or positive. And if it is, the review sites want this removed as much as you.
Deal with negative reviews head on, but don’t let them ruin your reputation. Things happen and effectively responding to a not-so-glowing review can be your chance to show the world what your business is all about.
Your reputation marketing action plan
The five steps below should be part of your reputation plan of action. It’s important to set goals around reviews management, and then start working on each step.
Set up alerts
You can setup alerts for your name, your business, etc., and receive daily updates for when those terms are mentioned online.
This way you can jump on a mention when it happens. It will also give you some great opportunities to engage other businesses.
Claim your real estate
A great way to go on the offense is to claim and monitor all of the profiles you can. A good example is LinkedIn, because it’s very likely that your LinkedIn profile will rank on page one of Google for your name.
But don’t stop with LinkedIn. It’s really a good idea to create as many online pages as possible—places where you’re in control of the content.
And don’t rule out posting on other blogs or publications. Guest posting is great for SEO and brand awareness play, but it can also be a crucial element in reputation management.
Monitor all your channels
If you have set up a Facebook page, commenting on your blog, or other social media profile, make sure you actively monitor each for opportunities to engage and respond.
Taking a few minutes out of your day to simply recognize and deal with a bad review or comment can help smother the fire, but promptness is key.
Provide a platform for feedback
Consider giving people the ability to offer feedback on your website. Why? Well, it’s an easy way for you to monitor what is being said, proof for accuracy and respond directly and appropriately.
But, if you are providing a place where people can leave feedback you must be transparent. If you choose to simply delete negative reviews, it will be glaringly obvious.
Have a little fun with it too, why not? This sandwich shop got a ton of positive juice by poking some fun at a negative comment with a bit or reverse psychology. They posted a sandwich board that stated, “Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on Yelp ever had in his life.” Check it out.
Have a proactive mindset
Sure, you might have a horde of raving fans, but I’m guessing you know how tough it can be to get reviews in the places you need them, like Yelp, Google, Angie’s List and other industry-specific review sites.
Of course people are often more than willing to express their opinion and heck, maybe you even get tons of accolades and emails from those fans of yours. So, it’s time to get those reviews online with a take-charge review funnel.
What the heck is a review funnel?
A review funnel is simply a tool to make it waaaaaaay easier for your happy customers to place reviews of your business on the review sites that count. And here’s the important part – If you do this effectively, a review funnel is also a tool to help head off potential negative reviews before they happen.
Here are the elements of a review funnel
- Invite your customers to a page on your site or a landing page where you encourage them to leave reviews.
- Inform them that they can give a 1-5 star rating.
- Anyone that rates 3 stars or below is given the option to tell you what you could have done better. This way you can address the issue asap.
- Reviewers that rate 4 or above are taken to a page featuring all of the various places they can leave a review (Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.) with a link to the right page and directions for how to leave a review on that particular site.
Make it easy for them!
Once you have a review funnel set up, you can confidently invite customers to leave reviews, knowing you’ve made it as easy as pie for them to do so.
Want a Free review scan?
Do you want to take a quick look at how your reviews stack up? We’ve created a free tool that allows us to create a report on the status of your reviews.
To get your free scan, simply go on over to our Free Review Scan page and add your business name, zip code and phone number and we’ll create a scan of your reviews on the major review sites.
Here’s an example of what your review report looks like…
Your turn. Do you have any great or disturbing reputation management stories? If so, I would love to hear about them. Send them via our contact page. Now get busy setting up that review funnel!