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.
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!
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…
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!
Here’s six (6) tips you’ll want to keep in mind as you start to build your online reviews:
- 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.