64% of small businesses* claim word-of-mouth and customer referrals as their most effective marketing strategy for growing their business.
While word-of-mouth and customer referrals will always play an important role in the overall marketing plan there is an even bigger marketing strategy that many small business are overlooking when it comes to growing their business – reputation marketing.
Reputation marketing is defined by Wikipedia as “the evolution from the marriage of fields of online reputation management and brand marketing. In the socially connected world of the new millennium a brand’s rep is vetted online nearly in real-time by consumers leaving online reviews and citing experiences on social media websites.”
I would define reputation marketing as a marketing strategy that allows consumers to share and review their experiences with businesses that can result in additional online visibility and provide social proof of a business’s credibility (the reason why a consumer should choose your business over all your competitors).
Many small businesses have gracefully ignored the escalating popularity of social review sites and the role that social proof plays with consumers…hoping that they will not have to “mess with” and manage another marketing process or strategy.
Reputation Marketing cannot be ignored…
- Eighty six percent (86%) of respondents in a 2012 survey conducted by Pepperdine University School of Business stated that they have consulted an online review site before deciding on a company they would do business with.
- Seventy percent (70%) of consumers regularly put their trust in online reviews per a 2012 Nielsen study that questioned 28,000 internet users in 56 countries worldwide.
- Seventy-two percent (72%) of respondents in the same Nielsen study also stated that a bad review could turn them against a company which they had already done business with!
We’ll delve into even more research and more recent statistics later in this guide to home really hammer home the importance of your business reputation.
What does this mean?
Consumers are in control. It has been said in years past that an unsatisfied customer will tell 10 friends about their experience…today they are able to tell thousands (within seconds).
You can’t stop reviews. If you have a Facebook page, consumers can post a review. If you have claimed your Google Listing, consumers can post a review. Consumers can set up their own review of your business on Yelp….you get the point.
If you don’t manage your reputation your dissatisfied customers will. I think it’s safe to say that we hear more from dissatisfied customers than satisfied customers. If you do not have a strategy to get your satisfied customers to share their experience your only reviews will likely be unfavorable.
An Untapped Opportunity…
As you’ll see, statistics tell us that online reviews play a major role in social proof and building brand authority. Yet many businesses have not created a strategy for managing their online reputation.
Online reviews can be more powerful than a referral. Think about it, while you may get the occasional referral from a satisfied customer if you get an online review from a happy customer they are telling thousands of people! AND you will still get the verbal referrals you’ve always gotten as well. That’s a scaling strategy worth implementing!
Read On To Discover A Simple 6 Step Process To Implement An Effective Reputation Management System For Your Business.
Effective Reputation Management & Reputation Marketing Is The Key To Driving Sales, Generating Referrals & Protecting Your Bottom Line….Here’s How.
If you’re a local business, the chances are that most of your customers live in your city, possibly your county and/or perhaps they’re visitors, tourists from abroad. Each year you could have tens of thousands of consumers pass through your doors of your restaurant, your cafe, your professional practice (be it dentistry, chiropractor or your service based business like mechanic, contractor etc.) The odds are that 99% of your customers and potential customers are served face to face.
So why should you care about something as nebulous as online marketing and your online reputation?
After all, you’re not a tech start-up wooing a worldwide client base. You know that the internet is important for your business, but it’s certainly not directly linked to your bottom line, right? Wrong. On every count.
The internet is where people turn for answers, including the answer to the question: ‘Should I trust this company?’ It’s where people go to talk to each other – about their lives, but also about where to get what they need in their area, or where you get really great service. If people don’t trust you and view you positively it doesn’t matter how great your product is – and increasingly, that decision is made on review sites, social channels, and forums.
Your online reputation (what’s being said about you online) is your reputation, and your reputation is your bottom line.
Why Is Reputation Such a Big Deal for Businesses?
We know that reputation is a huge deal for businesses everywhere. Every business gets judged on how people perceive it, usually way before potential customers have any actual contact with the business. If your customers get the wrong impression about your business that could be your last chance to communicate with them. That’s why businesses that sell online are so eager to deal with issues like bad reviews!
For a local business reputation is an even bigger deal. Because local businesses often deal with clients face to face, they rely on a pool of satisfied customers to spread the word.
Local businesses live and die by word of mouth recommendation. Obviously you need to be able to market your business effectively too but what people say about you will always be more powerful then what you say about yourself.
The other side of that coin is that people can get the wrong idea about your business before you ever communicate with them at all, and all too often the chance build a relationship is gone forever.
Managing your online reputation is about protecting revenue and driving sales.
A bad online reputation leaks money left, right and center. Your online presence is the most accessible form of your reputation. Often, what people are saying online about you is what prospective customers will find first, sometimes because they’re actively looking for it. And prospects will believe your reputation before they’ll believe you.
Word of mouth advertising is one of the most trusted forms of advertising. Customers don’t have to wait for their friends to sing your praises any more. They can Google you and see what people are saying about you on forums, review sites, and social media. In fact, since customers trust online recommendations as much as they trust word of mouth, you just can’t afford not to manage your reputation.
Statistics and Trends in the Use of Online Reputation in Consumer Decision Making
The number of people who regularly use online reviews to make a purchase decision is now higher than ever before. In 2012, it was 27%; in 2013 it was 32%; in 2014, 39% of respondents used this method. The trend is clear. Not only is usage of review sites increasing, but the rate of that increase is itself rising.
The number of people who read reviews to determine the quality of a local business stands at 88% in 2014, as against 85% in 2013 and 76% in 2012. The number of people who trust a company more if it has positive online reviews was 55% in 2010, 58% in 2012, 73% in 2013 and 72% in 2014. This suggests that the trend has peaked – positive online reviews will make about three quarters of prospects more likely to perceive you as trustworthy.
Those figures are much higher now, the way online and digital marketing has exploded in the last two years.
Break down consumer behavior and the trend becomes clearer.
- In 2011: 22% of consumers regularly checked online reviews; 49% used them occasionally; 29% didn’t use them at all.
- In 2012: 27% of consumers used reviews regularly; 49% used them occasionally; 24% never used them.
- In 2013: 32% of consumers used reviews regularly; 53% used them occasionally; 15% said they never read them.
- In 2014: 39% of consumers use reviews regularly; 49% use them occasionally; and the number who say they never use reviews has shrunk to just 12%
Over those four years, regular use has risen and the number of non-review readers has fallen to less than half its original figure. Perhaps the most telling pair of statistics of all come from Shoutly.com: 4 out of 5 respondents to their 2014 survey disliked traditional web ads, but would buy something based on a friend’s recommendation on social media.
How Customers Use Online Reputation Results to Find Businesses, Research Products and Buy Things
The three main ways prospects will discover your online reputation are through social media channels like Facebook, via review sites like Yelp or local equivalents, or through direct search.
Obviously there will be some connection between all these – searches for your main keywords will turn up social posts about your business or reviews as well as your website. Direct search is how most people initially find a local business, but recommendations will be behind the majority of purchase decisions.
As many as 85% of consumers say they research a brand or business online before they decide to take their business there. And they’re not looking at advertising, or brand ambassadors. The strongest effectors of behavior are a recommendation from someone they know, followed by several positive reviews.
Advertising professionals are used to the assertion that people need to hear something three times before they believe it, but for reviews and other earned advertising that number is higher and it’s also rising.
On average, your prospects will want to read about ten reviews. However, 7% of 2014’s consumers read over 20 reviews. And the number of reviews is a two-edged sword: consumers trust you more if you have plenty of reviews, provided that the reviews come across as authentic.
Flip the picture: as important as detail, quantity and quality can be, there’s a direct correlation between simply having more stars on review sites and doing better business.
An extra star on Yelp was found to be worth a 5% to 9% jump in business; a bad review on Yelp can cost you up to a 13% drop in sales. 3 Star ratings or points on local chamber of commerce sites, review sites and forums can make a disproportionate difference to revenue, sales and reputation.
Finally, the trend in consumer behavior is toward the digitization of personal recommendation. Facebook and Twitter are growing in popularity as channels for advocacy, and offline recommendation numbers are falling.
What Does All This Mean For Businesses?
Online reputation is now more important than ever. That’s actually great for local businesses. You might not have a gigantic ad budget, but you can still access some of the most effective tools for increasing revenue and sales.
However, it does mean you’re being scrutinized and reported on constantly. And the boundary between online and offline recommendations can get so thin that it disappears: a whopping 78% of angry tweets about eating out occur while the diner is still inside the restaurant.
Reviews, social media and search are great tools for the local business, allowing you to beat out the competition and position yourself more successfully, but the key is reputation management. You’ll find there’s more pressure to deal with customers quickly and be more engaged, and there’s way more pressure to be transparent.
85% of people use online search as their main source of information, and rely on it to validate information from other sources.
Although in general, people trust search slightly more than other sources – and social media slightly less – when it comes to finding which local business to trust people believe social media more.
The 5 Biggest Mistakes That Could Be Losing You Business
- Not Assessing and Monitoring Your Online Reputation. This is where it all starts. If you don’t know what your online reputation is, it’s like you’re holding a lottery ticket, so it’s time to check the numbers. If your reputation is glowing, that’s great – reinforce it. If it’s toxic, there are things you can do, but only if you know where you stand. Monitoring your online reputation should be a part of your general housekeeping. (Click this link here and visit http://localvisibility.repgrader.com/free-report – You’ll simply enter your business info and run the scan. It takes about 2 minutes to run the report – it goes out and scans the entire internet and then delivers the most complete Business Reputation & Visibility Report available. Plus it’s free (we all love free! And there’s no strings attached.)
- Not Having a Reputation Management Plan. If you get a bad review, what do you do? Do your employees know? If your online reputation takes a sudden turn for the worse, are you ready? And do you know how to reinforce your successes? Without this knowledge, you’re checking your numbers – but still playing a lottery. Take control.
- Being Inconsistent. Your online reputation management is a continuation of branding by other means. Consumers need to know who you are as a brand. Don’t be monotonous, but don’t make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Give a clear, consistent message.
- Not Engaging Across Social Media. Between 80% and 90% of people who communicate with a brand on social media want a response – but many aren’t getting it. Don’t be a ‘silent’ brand, whose social channels are just billboards in disguise. Talk back!
- Dealing with your Negative Comments on Public Forums. If someone leaves a bad review, you absolutely should talk to them to try to rectify the situation. But not on a public forum, where they will repeat their grievances and your attempts to placate them might make you look bad. Offline, you might ask an irate customer to speak to you in private. Online it’s just the same. Email the customer, control the conversation.
The 5 Most Important Things Businesses Can Do To Make Sure They’re Capitalizing On Their Online Reputation
Start by monitoring and responding to what your customers are saying about you on review sites and to you on social media. Right now, 65% of the people who tweet brands expect a response within 2 hours or less — and 20% want one within 20 minutes! Meanwhile, about 56% of customers who tweet brands aren’t hearing anything back… at all. So get engaged. If you give your customers timely responses, they’re 34% more likely to buy from you and 43% more likely to encourage family and friends to buy from you; 38% are more receptive to your advertisements and 42% are willing to praise or recommend your brand through social media.
2. GET SOCIAL
It’s not just a matter of waiting by the phones. Build customer engagement from your end, don’t wait for them to come to you. When you do this, you have the opportunity to increase the total amount of positive signal that talks about your company. Google will index that and boost it up search rankings, and any negative material will be less likely to be seen (see below). Customers who research you on social media will find your content and hear your message. A good content marketing strategy and a good reputation management strategy should be utilizing social media for very similar goals.
3. PROMOTE POSITIVE CONTENT
If you get a good review or a happy Facebook fan, promote it. Tweet it. Feature it on your website. One ace that local businesses have up their sleeve is that they can ask regular customers or customers who are pleased with their performance to go online and recommend them. Be sure that positive comments get lots of attention. Weave them into longer form content like blog posts. You can solicit positive reviews online, but there are other ways of acquiring positive user-generated content, such as quizzes and surveys on Facebook.
4. NEGATE THE IMPACT OF NEGATIVE CONTENT
Every business will get some negative feedback. It’s inevitable. But how you deal with it can make a world of difference. The three main tactics for dealing with negative content about you online are:
Negotiation. If the source of the negative content is an unhappy customer, contact them – by email or phone, not on a public forum – and try to put things right. Take responsibility, apologize and offer to make it right. Maybe an employee stopped short of the extra mile.
Maybe the job was a nightmare and the customer doesn’t understand because they lack the professional knowledge to grasp the difficult nature of that specific task. Whatever the reason, make it your business to make the customer feel better. This is an investment in your reputation that could quiet a customer who would otherwise be all too willing to take their grievance onto social media. In some cases you can even make that customer actually want to recommend you based on the level of customer service and care you offered.
Ask website owners to no-follow content or even remove it. You can contact websites that host negative content about your business and ask them to remove it. That’s a long shot, though it does work sometimes. What you’re more likely to get is an agreement to add no-follow tags to the content itself. It will still be hosted by the website but Google won’t index it and it won’t show up in search results. Active links that lead to it won’t stop working but if your content and reputation management plans are working there should be a lot of positive content about your business to background the occasional negative piece. Think of it like having an uncomplimentary story about your business in the newspaper – way back on page 35, with no picture or headline on the cover. Some readers will find it, but most will never see it.
Require that the content be taken down. When can you do this? Just about never. If the content in question displays very specific personal or financial information, if it’s libelous or slanderous, or if it infringes copyright, you can insist. This is a two-edged sword, though. There have been some high-profile cases like this that went the plaintiff’s way, so some people will do what you ask if you tell them you’re willing to sue. If you do wind up with a lawsuit on your hands it can be expensive – and the site might publicize the fact that you’re suing them, damaging your reputation still further.
5. CREATE A POSITIVE WEB PRESENCE
Use social media, blogging, your website, review forums and other forms of content to create a positive web presence that you have a hand in controlling and that’s singing your song. Don’t forget to use video! It’s 50 times more likely than other forms of content to rank highly in Google’s search results. When prospects find your web reputation is overwhelmingly positive and made up of genuine user-generated content that praises your business to the skies, you’ll have no problems getting the customers you deserve – your online reputation will be working for you.
What To Do Next
- Start by Googling your business. Use the search terms you think people will use to look for you, and use your business’ name too. Check the first page of each set of search results and figure out whether your online reputation is positive or negative. (Or run this free reputation & visibility report (click the link).
- From there, begin trying to create and direct your online reputation to improve your business outcomes, based on what you’ve just read.
- If you’re serious about not only managing your reputation but also using online marketing automation to generate more positive reviews, more testimonials and drive new customers and sales in your business we urge you to check out what the Reputation Boost automated system can do for your business. (www.boost.apexbusinesssuccess.com)
Here’s six (6) tips you’ll want to keep in mind as you start to build your reputation management system:
- Ask and you shall receive – It stands to reason that if you ask for an online review you are more likely to get an online review…the strategy is simple ASK. Ideally you should implement the asking as part of your email marketing follow up in a customer nurture campaign.
- Range – Don’t limit your reviews to just one or two social platforms (ie. Facebook and Yelp). Think of it this way, the more platforms you have reviews on the more visibility for your business.
- Focus on two social platforms at a time – This might seem contradictory to what I just shared with range. You want to have reviews on many different platforms but you must guide your customers to where you want them to leave their reviews. You can’t just say “hey, leave us a review” and not tell them where. Choose 2 – 3 platforms to build up and then move on to 2 – 3 more once you are happy with the number of reviews. Which leads me to my next point…
- Quantity – If one HVAC has 25 reviews on Google and the other HVAC Company has 2 reviews, who are you going to call? Do your research on your competition see how many reviews they have and then set your sites on a few more than they have. Once you have “claimed” your dominance move to another platform. Don’t forget to check on each platform as your competition will likely be implementing the same strategy as you are. Which leads me to the next point…
- Recent – It appears that companies that have recent reviews rank higher in terms of SERP’s (search engine result pages). This is another reason why you must revisit platforms to keep a consistent flow of NEW reviews from customers.
- Real – Online reviews carry a lot of weight because the reviews must come from REAL people (unlike testimonies that can be made up and no one would know…but that’s another subject for another day J). Don’t try to manipulate the system. Ask all clients to review your company don’t pick and choose who you ask. An occasional dissatisfied customer is an opportunity to show others how you handle challenges. Also keep in mind that reviews are a great way to spot weaknesses and an opportunity to get better based off customer feedback. Don’t get defensive – get responsive!
Knowing word-of-mouth and referrals play such a major role in the growth of small businesses it should be logical that we utilize a marketing strategy that gives our customers a platform to tell thousands! Implement reputation marketing strategy for your small business and capitalize on the social influence and exposure it can give your business.
PROBABLY THE ONLY MARKETING TOOL YOUR BUSINESS CANNOT AFFORD TO BE WITHOUT!
About Reputation Boost & It’s Creator
Reputation Boost Business Marketing Suite is the brain-child of renowned Business & Marketing Consultant, John McKenna, MBA.
John McKenna is a “Client Attraction” Expert. He has a natural gift for helping business owners and service professionals incorporate time-tested, proven systems, strategies and tools to get more customers/clients (consistently) and grow their business.
For 20 years now, he has helped companies (from large corporations to small local businesses to independent contractors) come from the depths of debt to become thriving profitable businesses.
Mc Kenna is a successful business consultant, coach and certified trainer and the founder of Apex Business Success – a division of the McKenna Consulting Group – a full service marketing & advertising firm which specializes in helping small businesses & service professionals implement the Business Blueprint Marketing System into their business.
Since 2015, Reputation Marketing has become a vital part of the Business Blueprint System.
What Is Reputation Boost? The Technology & The System Explained
- A new way easily leverage the power of a positive online reputation.
- Reputation Boost automates the entire reputation management & marketing process.
- From collecting reviews easily and protecting you online reputation, to promoting a 5 Star online presence – Reputation Boost has you covered.
- We also monitor the major review sites, notifuying you of negative customer feedback to provide needed protection to both online & offline business reputations.
- We help you build a “stellar” 5 Star Reputation and we then present that through the power of video in a way that is professional & market-building.
- Through our Local Visibility Suite, we leverage the power of your business location to drive more customers to your doorstep.
- Your Reputation Boost dashboard allows you to easily control your local visibility online by making it simple to manage your business listings and information on over 60 of our top global partners including Google, Apple, Facebook, Bing & Yahoo.
- Your business gets published everywhere and on every device – Our technology partners with the most established and popular search engines, maps, apps, and directories across the globe.
- Simply put Reputation Boost enables you to turn your existing customers into multiple more customers through marketing automation, review and referral management, and social proof.
- In literally 24 – 72 hours, your business gets the visibility it needs to compete in today’s highly competitive world.
- And, the icing on the cake, we supercharge your marketing efforts with Review Branding Video Commercials:
“Your online Business Reputation is the new “Word-of-Mouth” marketing and as powerful as written reviews are, video is the communication tool that today’s shoppers prefer.”
Here’s Why “Reputation Review Videos” Are So Powerful For Business:
You get a professional spokes model representing your company
We shoot in a Hollywood style studio
United States – Canada – United Kingdom – Ireland – Australia – New Zealand
Or Call 919-210-4628 with any questions you may have.
And Now On The Lighter Side Of Reputation & Reviews….
What happened next is epic: the restaurant owner, William G., responded to the review and it is brilliant. Below, you can see the whole thing. I can add nothing else to the story except that William G. is a hero.