Don’t just manage your reputation, market your reputation!
By now I am sure you have been bombarded by all sorts of companies soliciting the opportunity to “manage your reputation.” Companies making all sorts of promises, from “getting rid of negative reviews” to “posting positive reviews from happy customers.”
I have one word of advice for you: Beware.
Most companies spend lots of money promoting and advertising their company. How much money do you spend on making your company the best that it can be before you promote and advertise it? Many companies fall short on this one. In fact, they tend to overlook the importance of building the best reputation they can before they begin promoting it.
In the book that I co-authored, “Entrepreneurial Insanity in the Tire Industry,” we talk about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sound familiar?
Companies are vying for your promotional budget every day. You can spend lots of money chasing this problem and in the end perhaps not have a lot to show for it. I am all for making sure your reputation is the best it can be, just like you care about what is being said about your business. But you need not jump on every offer being made by these companies. Don’t misunderstand me; your reputation (a good one) is paramount to your success. How you get there is the key. Some of these company claims simply can’t be done.
For example, it’s impossible to get a legitimate negative review removed from many review sites unless you can prove it’s a bogus review, such as one posted from a competitor. Also, reviews posted by media management companies and not from the consumer are typically taken down or flagged. Have you ever heard the saying, “Where there is confusion, there is profit”? Many of these companies may try to take advantage of you.
How social media affects your business
In the old days, (about two years ago) the main concern with your reputation was making sure you satisfied your customers every chance you got. Well surprisingly, that mantra hasn’t changed. What has changed is how customers (satisfied and unsatisfied) tell others about the experience of doing business with you. When someone experienced bad customer service in the past, they would tell on average nine to 15 other people, who in turn would tell a few more and so on. It wasn’t good for business, but the negative impact and damage control was manageable. Did you know dissatisfied customers tend to tell about their bad experience twice as much as satisfied ones are willing to share?
In today’s social media world and with the proliferation of mobile devices, this has all changed. Now, when someone has a bad business experience, in addition to telling their circle of close friends they tell the world. They are posting to social media sites at staggering rates. Sites like Google+, Yelp, Yahoo Local and Facebook are being bombarded with reviews of customer experiences. Yelp has over 33 million reviews (good and bad) posted on it and over 84 million visitors each month. Rating systems have been established that will score your business with stars or points. Yelp uses the five-star method and Google+ uses a numerical ranking (one to 30) developed by Zagat. Your score is purely a mathematical calculation of all the reviews posted to those sites; 30 points is the equivalent of five stars. Do a “Google search” and you will see the new rating system.
Here are some very interesting statistics:
• “One negative customer review can cost a company about 30 customers” — Convergys Corp.
•“Each additional star in Yelp equates to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.” — Harvard Business School
In addition, 89% of customers say they find online reviews to be trustworthy, 64% say they do online research before making purchase decisions, 85% are more likely to purchase products/services when they find recommendations online, 87% say that positive reviews online have reinforced their decision to purchase from a recommended source, and 80% say that negative reviews online have made them change their mind about purchasing a product or service that was recommended to them.
Rules for managing your reputation
These are some eye-opening statistics that you shouldn’t ignore. Online reviews can make or break your business. When I talk with tire dealers across the country, I hear the same answers over and over. First, I ask them who in their business is in charge of their reputation. I get some pretty interesting answers to this question. I then ask them if they are aware of what is being said about their business on the over 85 online social media sites that exist. Most of them tell me about those pesky negative reviews they have that just won’t go away. Everyone has them... Why? You can’t satisfy everyone all the time, it’s that simple. And when you don’t, you can pretty much take it to the bank that the customer is going to tell the world about the bad experience.
Some dealers are reactive, but most dealers are not proactive when it comes to managing their reputation. It’s time to change that approach. Here are some basic business practices that you can implement to help you with reputation management.
Rule #1: Make sure everyone in your company cares about your reputation and is satisfying the customer. If they don’t, replace them immediately. Your entire staff needs to understand how important your reputation is in the store, on the street, and online.
Rule #2: Have a formal process in place to facilitate getting your customers to complete a review and possibly a testimonial. The key to this is making it as easy as possible for your customers. They are busy people and typically in a hurry.
Rule #3: Have a system in place to handle negative reviews as soon as possible (they are going to happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent them). The way and speed at which you can handle these can diffuse an upset customer situation and prevent them from going online and posting that negative review. Remember, once it’s posted to the world, it’s final.
Why is your reputation important? Search engines like Google and review sites like Yelp are posting your reputation score along with actual reviews posted from customers. People are looking at your score and reading what is being said about you. They are making buying decisions all the time based on both of these statistics.
You need to embrace a practice that gets your rating as high as possible and captures as many positive reviews as possible. When someone sees hundreds of good things about a company and perhaps one or two bad things, they get it.
No one is perfect, but high rating scores and tons of positive reviews make all the difference to your bottom line.
I am not suggesting that you abandon all of your existing promotional activities, but I am recommending that you take a hard look at what you are doing to improve your reputation and make sure you have systems in place and a culture that focuses on constantly improving your reputation. Make sure some of your promotional budget is directed toward making your reputation the best that it can be. Otherwise, you shouldn’t expect results from your advertising and promotional activities to be any different.
Check out my website for a short video on reputation marketing.
If you contact me, I will be glad to provide you with two complimentary reports that rank your reputation and how you stack up against your competition. ■
As chief executive officer and president of WECnology LLC (www.wecnology.com), Wayne Croswell is a “complimentary technology advisor” for independent tire dealers. Croswell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 249-5530.