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Reputation management is just like high schoolYou remember high school, right? You had the different cliques – the popular kids, the jocks, the smart kids, etc. And each of the cliques had a different social standing. You couldn’t just walk up to the popular kids and join their clique. You had to have a certain standing to join. You had to have the right kind of reputation. Unfortunately, at least for those of you trying to forget the drama of high school, marketing a small business isn’t that much different than high school – your reputation makes all the difference (to read part 1 of the Back to Basics series, click here).

Your Online Reputation – The Foundation of All Online Marketing

I don’t think that I am overstating this a bit when I say that your online reputation is the foundation for all of your internet marketing efforts. What is the first thing that you do when you think about trying a new restaurant, hear about a new shop in town, or are deciding whether you want to work with a vendor? Well, if you are like most people these days, you will Google it to see what the web has to say about the business.

It is easier than ever to find reviews of a business. Just Google the name of the business (and possibly the city it’s in too) and chances are you will find any or all of the following:

  • Company website
  • Company Yelp page
  • Company Facebook page
  • Company Twitter Page
  • Company Google+ page
  • Possibly a video that they have made
  • Maybe another site that lists their business like TripAdvisor or Angie’s List

That is a lot of places that can have reviews and customer interactions! You might ask, “Why is this important?” Well, the latest stats show that more than half of consumers will search online for a business BEFORE they decide whether they want to buy from that business. Guess what happens if all they see are bad reviews? You are right, nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Some More Stats That We Find Interesting

  • 72% of U.S. consumers research companies through social channels before making purchases.
  • 70% of consumers say that the feedback they find online is the #2 factor in making a decision about who to work with/visit/etc.
  • 74% of U.S. consumers choose to do business based on online feedback

Establish A Great Reputation

What it boils down to is that if you are looking to grow your business through the internet, the first step should always be to establish a GREAT online reputation. Your goal should be to have a 5 star reputation across the different review sites. Fortunately, there is no good way to fake this. The review sites are very good at filtering out fake reviews and leaving the real ones. So how do you get a 5 star reputation? Here are five steps that will help you to establish your online reputation.

  1. Offer great service. If you want a 5 star reputation, you need to offer 5 star service to your customers. Go the extra mile. Build relationships. Be friendly. Believe me, your customers will notice.
  2. Have the important social pages. Make sure that your company has the important social and review site pages. Ensure that the information is correct, that you add pictures where possible, and make it look like you care. Remember that this is where people are going to be forming their initial impression of your business, so put the right foot forward.
  3. Ask for reviews. I love to tell the story of a time that my wife and I were out at a nice restaurant in Vegas. We had an awesome waiter who had to be in his seventies. He looked over and saw that my wife was on Facebook on her phone. He casually asked her to like their page because it would help them out. I’m pretty sure that he had never been on Facebook in his life (based on other conversations that we had that evening). But, he was well trained to look for opportunities and to ask. Guess what… we liked their page and left them a great review that we otherwise would not have thought to leave.
  4. Monitor your social pages. Nothing is worse that happening upon a Facebook page of a business and seeing a question or complaint that went unanswered. Tells a very bad story of your customer service. Whether it is true or not, it makes it look like you don’t listen to or care about your customers.
  5. Respond to reviews. People love it when businesses dialog with them – a simple thank you for a good review goes a long way towards building a relationship. But let’s face it, every business can have an off day so negative reviews are always going to come. And the way that you respond to a negative review carries more weight than how you respond to a positive review. Businesses that are very good at this do three things. First, they do not get defensive. Second, they apologize for the person’s bad experience. And third, they offer to make it right (like a restaurant offering a free meal the next time a person comes in). Doing these three things has two possible effects. First, it can get that person to reevaluate their initial experience and can often lead to an edited review. And second, it shows everyone else reading the review that you care about your customers and are serious about offering excellent customer service.

Did we miss anything? How else do you establish your reputation online?

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