Customers – The Reason Every Small Business Needs Online Reputation Management
Online Reputation Management is not just for big businesses. Chances are that most big businesses have a very pro-active approach towards reputation management and would either have a dedicated department to manage their reputation or consider online reputation management as part of their online marketing and brand management strategy.
Small businesses however have a very reactive approach towards reputation management and do not focus on their reputation unless the situation goes out of hands and has the potential to cause a major setback to their revenue.
Why do we need Online Reputation Management?
To safeguard your image and to increase your profit – that’s the simplest way of putting it.
As more and more consumers (including baby boomers) have become internet savvy, they are increasingly sharing their experiences online with family, friends and the entire world. Research shows that people trust their peers more than the marketing messages that they receive from businesses. They look at what is being said about a business online and make up their mind based on what they read. If there are too many negative feedbacks regarding your business, consumers will not engage with your business.
You need to understand that your customers are talking, searching and listening and therefore, whatever is said about your business, can affect your business profitability. More importantly, when taking a note of the customer feedback for ORM, you may also gain valuable insights about your business. You might get to know that there are indeed problems that have to be solved. You can, if you want to, take measures to avoid similar problems in the future.
Your Customers Are Talking
More and more people are sharing their experiences online. This is true especially when they have a bad experience. They may or may not tell their friends and family about a good experience but you can be sure that a bad experience will be shared with everyone they know and increasingly with the wider audience using the Internet.
If people perceive that they have been cheated, they will make an extra effort to find places where they can go and complain.
People generally don’t just do it to vent their anger; most people do it so that they can get your attention or their problem is heard by the right people in your business. They want their problem to be heard so that the issue is resolved. This is an opportunity to change their perception and possibly convert them into your loyal customers.
Generally when customers have a good experience with your business, they may have to be instigated to share their experience with family and friends. They may not on their own talk about their experience but might give you referrals only when someone asks for their advice. Thus you should make it a part of your online reputation management strategy to ask them for their feedback. Send them links to your listings on online review sites and tell them that you appreciate their feedback.
Your Customers Are Searching
According to a ZMOT research, moms on average will consult 13.3 sources before actually buying a product and service. They are searching on the Internet to find the best possible product/service at the best possible price.
They go to review sites to see what others are saying about your service. What their experiences are and if they would recommend your business.
They go to Social Media websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to see how people are engaging with your business and how do you respond to any complains or issues that you receive. If they see that you have a very strong customer service focus and any issues reported are very quickly resolved, they will treat your business as a low risk and feel comfortable dealing with you.
A positive review from someone can increase your chances of getting their business while too many negative reviews (even from strangers) can dissuade them from using your service.
Your Customers Are Listening
Even though people are not actively looking for products and services that you offer, they still are exposed to Social signals regarding your business. This is especially true for people who are very Social Media savvy and are power users of Social Media. They constantly read what is being said about your business by their friends and friends of friends. They make a mental note about what they read or hear. When they need the products or services your business offers, they will remember the feedback they read on social media and make their decision about engaging with your business.
Your Competitors Are Doing It
A large number of small businesses now understand that online marketing and reputation management are very important to sustain their profits. They understand that it’s cheaper to have a pro-active approach towards reputation management. It is much easier to resolve an issue when it is hot – the customers may be annoyed with your business but if they feel that they are being heard and you are making a sincere effort to rectify your mistake, they will give you a chance to do so. However, after this grace period your efforts to rectify the situation will become futile and a lot of damage can be done to the business.
A simple Google search will tell you if your competitors have an active reputation management strategy. Type your competitors’ names and if you come across a lot of positive material about your competitors (blogs, articles and press releases) chances are that your competitors have an active reputation management strategy.
Also, if you find that your competitors have a lot of good reviews, it is possible that they are actively engaging with their customers and are requesting reviews and it’s time you should do the same.
You May Be Lacking Somewhere
Most small business have limited resources available at their disposal. This could sometimes lead to inferior customer service levels, which may eventually result in a lot of disgruntled customers. However, if you keep an eye on what is being said about your business, you can understand what skills your staff lacks (and the need to train them)!
Online Reputation Management is important now and will become a necessity in the near future. It is important that every small business invests time, effort and money into it. The small investment you make now can protect you from major headaches (expenses & losses) in the future.