Smart Small Business Marketing: Reliable Reputation Management Principles

May 14, 2015

Business reputation management is the practice of monitoring a business’ listings, reviews and social presence. Online reputation management can be a tricky forest to navigate, for many small and medium business owners. There are many social networks and services to monitor, which can become overwhelming, especially if there is no clear strategy in place.

Some business owners I’d recently spoken with weren’t even aware that their business had been reviewed, on Yelp or other review websites. Some business owners still do not have their website listed in local and national directories. A lack of awareness in this space can lead to declining sales and other untoward consequences for business owners.

Statistics show that 90% of customers say that their buying decisions are influenced by reviews.

Can a business really afford to ignore reputation management? Chances are good that many service industry business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies will eventually wind up wanting, or needing, to do some some sort of reputation monitoring, building or rebuilding. A solid reputation management strategy in place early can assist businesses big and small in avoiding damage to their brand and losses of time and revenue.

Do not let a bad review sit unanswered.

We all make mistakes, and occasionally a client will be so upset that they might leave a scathing review; it happens to the best of businesses. A one-star review not only looks ugly on a search engine results page, but it will often deter potential customers from even considering doing business with you. Needless to say, a bad review – if left untouched – can lead to a potentially significant loss of business.

It is often best to reach out to the customer, directly, and try to resolve their issue as quickly as possible. If you were at fault, apologize and ask the customer what you could have done better. Quite often, not only will customers whose concerns were addressed and resolved efficiently return to you for future business, but may be more willing to recommend your business to others.

There may come a time when you are simply unable to satisfy a customer, no matter what you do. This happens to even those businesses with the best intentions. The best thing to do in this scenario is to analyze the issue which lead to the client’s dissatisfaction and try to address before it becomes a problem, in the future. Simply, eliminate the root of the issue.

There is one possible exception to this strategy which should be considered when you’ve already made the mistake of letting a bad review sit unanswered for a long time. It’s sometimes best to let sleeping dogs lie – if a customer left a bad review six months ago, and hasn’t contacted you or heard from you since, chances are – they probably won’t want to hear from you now.

Be professional – don’t let your emotions respond for you.

Behind any given business there are owners, managers and employees – real people, just like the customer. As people, we sometimes have a tendency to let our emotions speak for us. But, as a representative of a business, you must act in a way that is mature, and professional. When you encounter a poor review, try to first look at it from the customer’s perspective. Take an hour or a day to think through the strategy for addressing the issue, weight pros and cons of your approach and ensure that logic, rather than emotion will be the factor which decides how you respond to the review.

In many cases, addressing a bad review or social media comment about your company personally, as the owner or manager of the business, can receive a positive reaction. Remember to keep your communication professional, even if you’re answering informally.

Getting into an argument with someone on social media about your product or service is kind of like having a shouting match in the middle of the street, in front of your business. No matter how you look at it, this will probably turn potential customers off from doing business with you.

Act swiftly – take care of the issue right away.

It’s practically common knowledge that the majority of unhappy customers will buy from you again if you just take the time to quickly resolve their issue, and many will do business with you again if the complaint is resolved. As we’d mentioned above, the longer an issue persists, the more the customer may become dissatisfied and the more likely they may be to write another bad review or start telling people about the issue.

Using social media gives you the opportunity to address issues quickly, before they get out of hand. Sometimes just the simple act of reaching out to someone and letting them know their concern was taken into account by someone is sufficient to diffuse what could become a sticky situation. Social networks like Twitter and reddit move at lightning speed, when it comes to the transfer of information. Even information about your business which is erroneous can spread quickly, leaving you to clean up a mess which could have been avoided by actively listening.

Make sure to set up Google Alerts for your business name and search your business name on Twitter and reddit regularly, at the very least. Software and services are available for those who do not have the time to manage this on their own. Think of using a reputation management service as an insurance policy against potential loss of brand value and credibility.

Be honest.

If a review is frivolous, and you have clear and undeniable proof of this, you can often flag or report the review, which will trigger an audit of that review. Make sure to include as many details about the reason you’re flagging the review as possible – include URLs, links to images, pretty much everything you have.

If all else fails, respond to the review directly, show proof that the review is fake or untrue. This tactic should be used with extreme care. As mentioned above, you do not want to have a public dispute with someone, especially if they are going out of their way to try to hurt your reputation.

Take bad reviews seriously.

For every complaint received, there are most likely concerns out there which have not yet been voiced. This is the reason it is so important to keep track of your business’ reputation online. You may have heard the saying “that which you don’t know can’t hurt you” – well, it couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to your business. What you don’t know is exactly what’s hurting you, and the worst part is, if you’re not aware of bad reviews – you cannot fix the issues people have with your business.

Because of this, properly utilizing social media to communicate with your customers is more important than ever. Those business owners who learn to communicate – listen and respond to customers – will be rewarded. While there any many marketing methods out there, few are as good as building trust and credibility with customers, providing a good product or service, and letting your best clients to do your promotion for you.

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