You can manage just about every aspect of your business online. You probably already rely on the Internet to build robust marketing campaigns, manage your payroll, and track inventory, but if you’re anything like my clients, you’ve likely failed to focus on one very important area: reputation management.
When our mothers and fathers were starting their businesses way back when, reputation management – like everything else – was much simpler. A couple loyal customers and a few positive word-of-mouth testimonials were enough to establish trust in your company, but that is no longer the case. Now, more than ever, business reputations are crowd sourced on the World Wide Web, built up or destroyed by a community of reviewers who share their experiences with a given company on a variety of platforms. Sounds important, right?
It is – and you should really work on managing yours if you aren’t already.
But where to start?
The first place people are going to go to learn more about your business: Google.
Google Places for Business is a platform that provides a brief snippet of information about your company whenever it appears in Google search. This usually includes business hours, location, phone number, website, and – most importantly – a star rating and link to reviews of your company.
The importance of establishing a good reputation on Google should be fairly obvious, but I’ll go ahead and spell it out for you anyway. If you were searching for “best gym in Naples, Florida”, which of these two would you be more likely to choose? My money is on the one with the five star average rating, and yours should be too: according to a 2014 study, nearly 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews. Long story short, if you have poor reviews, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to visit your website – and an even harder time turning them into customers.
Google isn’t the only place your company is going to be reviewed, of course. There is a host of other influential websites that you need to establish a reputation on, including Angie’s List, Yelp, Bing Places for Business, Facebook, and Yahoo! Local Listing, among others.
These sites all collect reviews, aggregate them, and display the results in the familiar star rating method. The higher you drive your star rating, the likelier you are to receive business from potential customers who depend on these review sites for information. Trust isn’t entirely linear when it comes to reviews, however: a business with an average rating of 4.5 over 300 reviews will probably receive more business than one with a 5 star average over 3 reviews due to its far superior sample size.
None of this is rocket science, but the importance of building up your online reputation cannot be overstated. There are tons of review sites out there, and while you don’t need to maintain a presence across every single one, you should at least be hitting the basics (which I outlined above). Once you’ve established a business profile on each site, you’re going to want to be proactive about soliciting reviews. Ask friends and family to review your business, reach out to loyal customers, and include review links in emailed receipts.
And if you find yourself flooded with bad reviews?
Figure out what has been leading to the general dissatisfaction and address it. If you don’t fix the underlying cause of the poor reviews, burying them with solicited ones is tantamount to putting a Bandaid on a severed jugular. Solve the problem, reach out to the disgruntled customers and see if you can get them to change their minds, and if all else fails, try to solicit enough positive reviews to salvage your star rating.
No matter what business you’re in, your reputation means absolutely everything. Take some time to establish a positive web presence, and do everything you can to maintain it. Negative reviews can kill your business, and knowing when you’ve received them and how to remedy them is incredibly important. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re doing an adequate job managing your online reputation, consult a professional and see what insight they can provide – it’ll be one of the best investments you can make in your business.