Your business’s reputation is one of its most valuable assets. Unfortunately, it can also be a liability. Today’s consumers have an unprecedented amount of information at their fingertips. They’re also more connected to the people around them. The takeaway? While reputation has always been important, it matters more now than ever before. In fact, a whopping 95 percent of consumers check out online reviews before making a purchase, according to research from the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University. And reviews don’t just spur sales, they also drive engagement — the key to consumer loyalty.
All of which begs the question for today’s businesses: What steps can your business take to improve your online reviews and boost your reputation? Read on for a roundup of six simple ways to build your reputation into a trusted brand.
1. Claim your business listings.
Existing all over the web, business directories are one of the easiest ways for local businesses to be found by prospective customers. However, if you don’t have control over your business’s listing, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to ensure that your online presence is represented in a clear, consistent and compelling way.
The most obvious issue with an incorrect listing pertains to name, address and phone number (NAP). If one or more of these things appear incorrectly, it not only prevents potential consumers from finding you, but it can also interfere with how your business appears in search listings. Why? Because NAP consistency factors into search engine optimization (SEO) while also supporting your online credibility. Proper information doesn’t just build trust with consumers, but also with search engines. Claiming your business on each site can help you identify and address any NAP inconsistencies.
There are other opportunities here, too. For example, you can also upload your logo, include photos and add descriptions. All of these things can better connect you with consumers.
2. Find the right tools to make managing your reviews easy.
Online reviews are dynamic, not static. Customers can leave online feedback about your business at any time — 24/7. This means that managing them can be a challenge, especially when it’s outside the realm of your business’s operations. Finding the right tools can make all the difference when it comes to streamlining this task.
Take the Surefire Local Marketing Platform, for example. With a component dedicated to online listing and reviews, it allows businesses to request and respond to reviews, manage their business information online on more than 70 sites, and publish engagement-forward offers and content to these channels all at once.
And this is just one aspect of what this platform can do. This all-in-one tool also encompasses marketing, online advertising, lead generation, communications, and competitive analysis for a complete marketing solution. In short, it frees your team up to focus on what they do best by utilizing what we do best.
3. Establish a process internally.
We’ve established that keeping up with online listings and reviews can quickly become overwhelming. This is especially true if your business lacks the necessary infrastructure to stay on top of things. Establishing an internal process is the best way to stay ahead of the game. Doing so is also a proactive endeavor that puts you in control of your reputation.
Unfortunately, when times are tight — as they are now for many businesses at the moment — the inclination is to cut back on marketing spend. This can do more harm than good. Instead, reevaluating your marketing dollars and reallocating them more strategically can make all the difference. For example, a growing body of evidence tells us that today’s customers don’t want sales pitches. This doesn’t mean that marketing is dead. Rather, that it’s evolving. Understanding this evolution, adapting to it, and adopting new marketing strategies that make emotional connections with customers through stories and social proof is essential to navigating the fast-moving business landscape.
4. Empower your team through training and support.
You can have all the right tools and strategies in place, but none of it means anything if your employees don’t understand local reputation management and their role in it. Educating and training your staff about the importance of the customer experience, why online reviews matter and how they can do their part to support the link between the two strengthens your business and fortifies your relationship with your customers.
5. Be there for your customers and manage their expectations.
While it may seem like your business’s reputation hinges on excellent online reviews, this overlooks the fact that excellent online reviews hinge on something else: an excellent customer experience. If you don’t deliver this on this aspect, your reviews will suffer — and so will your brand reputation. Many factors go into delivering an excellent customer experience, including the following six key elements, as delineated by Business Services Magazine: reliability, availability, simplicity, adaptation, anticipation and accountability.
Wondering just how important is the customer service experience, meanwhile? Experience management (XM) services firm Walker proposes that it’s surpassed both price and product as a key brand differentiator.
When it comes to online reviews, however, it’s not enough to merely deliver an outstanding customer experience, you must also motivate customers to want to share their experiences with others in order to get the word out. According to data from Pew Research Center, while more than half of people routinely check reviews, well under half actually leave them. Knowing how to encourage customers to leave reviews can inspire them to do so, which is also critical given evidence that a greater number of reviews correlates with higher consumer trust.
But your job doesn’t end with getting customers to leave reviews. You also have to respond to all of them — both positive and negative. Business.com sets forth five reasons to do so, including letting your customers (and the world) know you care about them, increasing the lifetime value of your customers, enhancing your SEO efforts, demonstrating critical transparency, and attracting new customers.
Simply put: every time you respond to a review, you show your customers that you care about them and that you’re worthy of your business. Every customer experience won’t be perfect and that’s okay. Perfection isn’t the goal; satisfaction is, and this can be delivered — even when a problem occurs with a particular product or service.
On that note, you may be wondering how best to respond to negative reviews. According to Harvard Business Review, the best response provides “a tailored solution to the specific complaint.” In addition to speaking directly to the issue, you should also demonstrate the steps you’ve taken to correct the problem. This not only appeases unhappy customers, but also shows potential future ones that you care. A prompt response is also essential. The overall theme, according to HBR? “Mitigate the bad, maximize the good.”
6. Leverage social proof and customer stories in your marketing.
According to the Spiegel Research Center, displaying reviews has the potential to increase conversations by a 270 percent. This is an example of a phenomenon known as “social proof,” which means that people are inclined to rely heavily on third-party influence. Given the tremendous power of social proof, limiting the influence of customer feedback to online business reviews falls far short of maximizing their potential. Instead, customer feedback can be transformed into storytelling that compels — and sells.
Forbes recently hailed storytelling as “the future of marketing.” Writer Celinne Da Costa contended, “In today’s fast-paced, overly-automated, and digitally-driven society, humanity is becoming the new premium.” Weaving customer feedback into stories fuses two things today’s consumers prize: authenticity and facts.
Why Surefire Local?
If online marketing isn’t your area of expertise, launching a comprehensive online marketing plan can feel a bit like putting an octopus to bed. And even if you could manage it on your own, it would not necessarily be the best use of your employee’s time and resources, including another invaluable business asset: your human capital. Enter Surefire Local. We’ve custom-built the industry’s most powerful marketing platform explicitly to seamlessly meet the needs of local businesses.
Our innovative software allows business to leverage the many local reputation management tools available to you into actionable and measurable ROI. It accomplishes this via the following capabilities:
- Sending review requests to one or more customers, whether you’re right there with the customer or back at the office/home.
- Posting replies to reviews that then get published on the review sites along with the review itself
- Leveraging A.I. driven insights to generate a word cloud visualization showing the most common words mentioned in your reviews
- Providing your total average star rating across your entire online presence
The Surefire Local team is at the ready to help your business thrive and grow with online marketing. In fact, businesses just like yours are seeing a 385 percent return from their online marketing, and for a fraction of the price you’d pay to an agency. To see for yourself what our local marketing platform can do for your business and brand, request a demo today.