What Small Businesses Need to Know About Reputation Management

Perception is reality.

This is especially true when it comes to your customers’ perception of your business. What they think about your company is their reality of who you are and a driving factor of whether or not they want to do business with you or recommend you to their friends.

What perception, or reputation, have you created for your company?

The majority of your customers now find you online and what your audience thinks about you is really all that matters. Have you paid attention to how you’re perceived online? Do you realize how important it is?

With so much information available on the internet, online reputation management is becoming a necessary component in a company’s marketing strategy. Many businesses, however, are not aware of what people are saying about them online.

You manage your reputation by paying attention to your company’s image online and responding to the current conversation to improve customer perception. In a definition, reputation management is how you influence, control or affect your individual or company’s reputation.

do you know what people think of you?

The shift of everything online brings so much of our customer service dealings into public view. Many of our conversations, sales, and interactions with customers can be seen on the internet. Good or bad, the internet brings a level of transparency to customer interactions.

Do I need reputation management?

Some throw reputation management in the same box as public relations and then place that box in the attic thinking it’s not needed for their company based on size or industry. Both deal with the molding of public opinion of a company, but PR has more to do with promotional outreach while reputation management deals with the current online perception of a company.

Even small businesses need to consider reputation management an integral part of their overall marketing strategy. Public opinion, especially online where it can go viral in seconds, can cause a company to explode or crumble. Being proactive and taking practical steps to protect yourself and grow your brand’s reputation is your first defence.

What are the elements of reputation management?

Internet reviews play an important role in online shopping for both products and services. Over 60% of shoppers will review what others say about a certain product or company before buying anything online. This is great if your company is amassing five-star reviews for every transaction, but what happens when you receive a bad review or complaints about the experience your customer just had with you? We’ll get to that.

customer reviews are important for reputation management

Monitoring what people say about your company on social media is another important component to reputation management. Social media provides people the opportunity to share any thoughts with the world whenever they want, and this includes their thoughts and opinions about the companies they buy from.

Many times, customers will tag you in their posts or comments which makes it easy to address any issue and respond to concerns. Other times, however, they may simply talk about your company or their experience with you and not @mention you directly. Here is where it’s even more important to pay close attention.

What are the various steps of reputation management?

First, you need to be aware of how your company is perceived.

Second, take the time to respond to comments, engage with your customers, and do what you can to protect your reputation.

When it comes to negative comments and reviews, it’s not best practice to simply ignore them and hope they’ll “go away” or that people won’t read them. Once they’re online, they’re online forever. What says more about your company and your approach to customer service is that you do respond to comments, good and bad alike, that you have a quick response time, and that you’re intentional about resolving any issue as best as possible.

Boosting your online reputation

You have the opportunity to diffuse a negative situation with the proper care. Respond with professionalism and kindness and the likelihood of turning around an unfortunate experience is much higher. Take responsibility for your part if there has been a mistake. Offer to make things right and follow through on any promises.

Even if you’re unable to make amends with a dissatisfied customer, your attention to their concerns and needs will strengthen the public’s perception of your company. As potential customers read reviews and your conversations with customers, they’ll see you’re intentional to show you care in every stage of the buyer’s journey. This helps calm anxiety and build confidence to know that if they have an issue, you’ll work to make it right.

The opportunity to grow

As uncomfortable as it may be to hear (or read), sometimes negative publicity provides information on how you can do things better as an organization. Go ahead and make the changes that will take you to the next level and help you stand above the rest.

apply feedback to get better

What about positive reviews?

In the same way, positive content should be acknowledged as well. Thank your customers for leaving you a good review. Demonstrate you are paying attention and you appreciate your customers. Doing so, leaves the door open for future conversations. When today’s shoppers have countless options for where to do business, they will choose the companies that have taken care of them in the past and have made them feel valued.

Reputation management done well

With all of the sites and platforms where people can talk about you and leave reviews, it can be overwhelming to consider having to monitor all of them. If you’re selling products, there’s eBay and Amazon. If you’re service-oriented, there’s Yelp. That’s just naming a few, not to mention Google, which is used more than any other.

There are so many pieces to the puzzle. It’s best to have a hands-on reputation management strategy. Like most aspects of business, there is no “one-size fits all” solution. Understand there are different methods and strategies to tackle difficult situations and hard conversations.

Get qualified help

Occasionally a situation may call for intentional conflict resolution but many times the attention needed is due to simple miscommunication. If you’re not paying attention and there’s a lack of response, you can lose customers. Taking a proactive approach to your online perception is the first step to improving your reputation online. Or you can get help! An online reputation manager (ORM) plays a huge part in creating a consistent reputation for your company online, building trust and brand loyalty.

You have other things on your plate. Get a company that can help you in this area, one that will come alongside your business to understand the vision and voice of your brand and then work to build your brand credibility. Hire someone that is an expert at relationship management to take care of all your reviews and online interactions with your brand image in mind. Someone who knows how to mediate challenges and navigate through dissatisfaction with a friendly tone will be able to neutralize a negative situation and leave things on a positive note.

leave a positive impression

Reputation management and SEO

Beyond boosting your reputation online for your current and future customers, reputation management influences SEO (search engine optimization) as well. The quality of your SEO determines how easily people can find your company online. Your goal is to increase your ranking so your company is one of the first in the search results for your industry, niche, etc.

When you engage with your customers on social media or through reviews, you are signaling to Google and other search engines that you are an active and reputable company that others should know about.

Your review rating dramatically affects your SEO as well. Google’s aim is to highlight the best companies to people searching for your product or service, and companies with a higher review reputation are shown to more people. Beyond engaging reviews left on your social media or Google My Business page organically, be proactive in asking your customers to post a review.

When you’ve provided excellent service and created that great moment for your customer, ask them to share their experience on social or on Google. The more favourable reviews you receive, the more social proof and credibility you’ll build with both the public and the robots.

build relationships with your customers

You may not be able to avoid negative comments entirely, but with the continued flood of positive reviews, any negative ones will hold little weight in the public eye and will also be pushed to the bottom.

At the end of the day, nothing is lost when you’re intentional about creating a culture of quality customer service. Prioritize building relationships with your customers, on and offline, and your company’s reputation will grow.

When in doubt, remember: if you take care of your customers, they’ll take care of you. Customers who feel cared for trust you, make personal recommendations to their friends and neighbors, and leave positive reviews.

Like other aspects of marketing, you don’t have to tackle reputation management alone. If you need help crafting a reputation management strategy. Reach out today. We’re here to help.

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