Do you find that your business is struggling to get its name out there despite your best efforts?
Ever feel like there is an untapped market of potential customers that you just can't seem to reach?
Don't worry, you're not paranoid – this is actually a very common struggle that plenty of small businesses experience. So if you've ever felt this way, you're definitely not alone.
The truth is you're missing out on hundreds of potential clients in the market because you're likely unaware of a very important aspect of marketing: online reputation. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and more serve as social platforms for users to publicly talk about their experience with your business.
In this blog, I'll walk you through 3 major mistakes you're making and exactly how to fix them so that your online reputation becomes your best salesman. The result? You get more customers through your door (or website).
Prospective customers need reassurance that their time and money are being well invested and the best way to do that is by gaining their trust. Of course, it's impossible for you to spend your valuable time and effort nurturing every one of your prospects' relationships before they even commit to a sale, but that's exactly where your online reputation comes into play.
It's a simple yet often overlooked concept. By establishing an online presence and supporting your claims with public testimonials from real people, your credibility increases tenfold. You can call a prospect every day or write endless articles about how awesome your product or service is, but at the end of the day, you're biased.
That's where online reviews come in.
Prospects can and will trust a third party with an objective point of view. Though you can't forge a relationship with every prospect that browses your company profile, your prospects can make a more personal connection with people who leave reviews. Putting a face to each name that writes a review helps them relate to actual people with genuine stories.
All of this adds up to real reviews that people trust.
In fact, BrightLocal recently concluded in their annual study that:
80% of people regard online reviews just as highly as personal recommendations.
For instance, one of my clients, Dr. Smith (altered for privacy), was experiencing a slowdown despite the fact that his patients consistently praised him for his exceptional service and medical care. With help from management, he tried everything from mailing out postcards to going door-to-door and leaving flyers at peoples' doorsteps, but his efforts were in vain.
What the heck was going on?
We first tried to understand the source of the issue: what drives people to choose a specific provider in such a saturated industry?
By analyzing the consumer decision journey, I grasped the mental process a patient goes through when selecting a doctor and guide Dr. Smith and management each step of the way.
The research my team conducted suggested that new patients first checked the doctors on their insurance company list online, then contacted the medical office (how many of us have done that?), and about 40% of those prospective patients decided to call a medical office solely based on their online reviews on Yelp, Rate MD, Vitals and other medical review sites to find the best option.
It turned out that a doctor with no online reviews was in almost the same position as a doctor with mostly negative reviews – he was considered untrustworthy in the eyes of potential patients. We were starting from the ground up.
My team and I developed a manual process through which we reached out to patients, gauged their satisfaction, and asked the happy ones for a review. This new process resulted in dozens of reviews for Dr. Smith's medical practice, doctors, and nurses with 4-5 star ratings across the board.
Within nine months from the start of this program, Dr. Smith and his team saw a 386% increase in new patients from the internet. That translated to revenue increases of over $18,000 per month with astronomical return on investment numbers.
Reputation management changed the game for Dr. Smith. After launching the campaign, he was able to set himself above his competitors and create lasting patient relationships.
OK, so Dr. Smith taught us you need positive reviews to gain a prospect's trust, but did you know that a review isn't relevant forever?
Developing your reputation is a long-term play; it will not happen overnight. Just like your car requires regular maintenance and oversight to ensure it doesn't fail on you, so does your online reputation. Consistency, vigilance, and "proactivity" are the keys to building your reputation in the online world.
Perhaps the most important aspect of reputation management and social media strategy is consistency. 58% of consumers will trust reviews that are over 1 month old and, perhaps more shockingly, about 80% of consumers will NOT trust reviews over 6 months old.
So yes, reviews have a finite lifespan and it's up to you to keep them fresh and relevant by being consistent with your efforts. Otherwise, all that work you've put into accumulating them is lost in time.
Take my client Sharlena's case, for example. Before, she had no idea how much business she was missing out on. Sharlena ran a successful preschool chain, but it was far from reaching its full potential. Her new clients and online revenues were growing at a steady pace, but her business was falling into complacency instead of striving for improvement.
After evaluating her online reputation, I realized that while Sharlena had decent reviews on Yelp, G+, & FB (about 3.5 stars), she had very few total reviews (7). But of the 7 reviews, the most recent was written 9 months back.
Would you, a parent of a child deciding which preschool to place your child, give much consideration to a 9-month old review?
Sharlena's online reputation was fairly adequate, but nobody was managing or utilizing its influence and so it grew stale.
Over the following year, my team and I helped her business ramp up their online marketing efforts and incorporated reputation development into their strategy by proactively requesting, receiving, and responding to new reviews every week.
After 13 months, her number of new leads from the internet increased over 250%, allowing the preschool chain to reach maximum occupancy. In return, this allowed her to increase fees by 10%. This was all accomplished by raising the legitimacy of her business and best of all, she did all of this while netting a positive ROI.
Sharlena had no idea what an enormous impact consistency in reputation development could make on her business. Once she took control of it, she was able to improve public relations, gain credibility, secure new clients she was completely unaware she was missing out on before, AND increase her fees.
That's the power of a properly maintained online reputation.
Don't be passive; reputation management requires a proactive strategy. Customers use online star ratings as the #1 indicator to judge businesses. Without proper management, you could not only be losing potential customers, you might even be hurting yourself in the long-run.
Unsupervised, your image could easily be tarnished by poor reviews that accumulate due to negligence.
To upkeep your online reputation, make sure to:
Let me give you an example of how neglecting your online reputation can spell disaster.
Another one of my clients, Med Urgent Care (name altered for anonymity), realized that their online reputation was working against them in a worst- case scenario. Upper management informed Frank, the director of operations at Med Urgent Care, that he had six months before operations were to be shut down due to reeling revenue numbers.
In a bout of panic and reflection, Frank couldn't help but wonder why new patients were ditching his urgent care center for competitors.
However, a quick look at the center's Yelp reviews painted the entire story. Med Urgent Care sat at an abysmal 1.2-star average rating on Yelp. In fact, estimates suggest that 87% of prospective patients went to another urgent care center because Med Urgent Care had such a low Yelp rating. I realized that the public's opinion of Med Urgent Care was opposite of reality because only the unhappy patients (the minority) vocalized their complaints.
The happy patients, on the other hand, went about their day and never once thought about posting a review. In essence, Frank's urgent care was reactive to gaining online reviews – not proactive.
Instead of concentrating on convincing new customers to come in, my team and I shifted the care center's focus to following up with existing patients to learn about their visit and requesting reviews from the happy ones.
We also implemented a program that ensured that every review was addressed by the practice manager of the facility, giving the Yelp page a much needed personal touch. Special attention was given to the negative reviews, including a follow up call to the patient to talk about their grievances.
The results of this campaign were phenomenal.
Through automated review aggregation, Med Urgent Care grew to a 4-star overall rating (a 233% increase) that translated to a near quadrupling in monthly revenue (386%) in 6 months.
By inspiring loyalty and constructing great patient relationships ad experiences, a simple reminder was all the Urgent Care needed to gain positive recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals. In only six months, Med Urgent Care went from nearly going out of business to becoming one of the top urgent cares in its city by instilling a direct reputation management system.
Take it from Frank. Be proactive!
. . .
I hope that you now know the three major mistakes you were making with your online reputation and how to address them. Actively and efficiently building your online reputation encompasses a wide array of strategy and tactics far beyond merely providing satisfactory customer service and hoping for reviews to come in on their own.
An effective online reputation plan should be interwoven throughout the consumer's decision journey. This is the key to not only retaining former customers, but winning new ones.
Nevertheless, you'd be surprised just how many businesses like yours are missing out on 92% of potential customers just because they aren't managing their reputation.
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