12 Jan Let your legend precede you
Online reputation: word of mouth… amplified
Word of mouth is the most effective method of marketing there is.
But the way word of mouth travels has changed utterly with every technological advancement in the history of mankind.
With the advent of the postal service, we started getting direct mail - affectionately called “junk” - that offered us a free incentive, a 100% guarantee, or simply just notified us of a new general store ribbon-cutting on the town square Wednesday morning.
Just moments after Alex Bell hung up with Dr. Watson, his phone rang again. The gentleman on the other end asked “are you satisfied with your long distance service, Dr. Bell?”
Radio, television, cable television, billboards, the World Wide Web, social media… with every development in communications, word of mouth, in one way or another, remained.
People can’t wait to tell you about the great deal they got, the customer service they received, or otherwise let you in on the secret they know that nobody else has heard before.
On the other hand, when they are unhappy with their service or feel they’ve been slighted in some way, they are quick to tell you - and the world - how unhappy they are. And digital outlets only make it easier to flame someone across many, many, pages and IP addresses.
I began my career in the newspaper business and I can tell you the letters to the editor section rarely extolled the virtues of anyone or anything. They were far more likely than not, to be missives of complaint and sore feelings.
That said, when we actively went out and reminded people in the community to “write in! Tell us all about how great your town is! How much you love your child’s school! How awesome the town holiday parade was! How generous local business legend Sid Sussman was to your charity event!”
They would do it.
Because they really believed it.
It’s a story they’re dying to tell, but don’t often remember that they can. Or worse, they don’t know who they can share it with.
People love positive news. They merely need an outlet for it.
So… the Internet and online reviews.
Online reviews, in many ways, ARE your reputation. And those reviews and comments made by your customers online are word of mouth… amplified.
By the numbers…
92% of people look at online reviews before making a purchase, choosing a doctor, trusting a dentist or lawyer, and even just deciding where to eat out for dinner.
84% of people trust online reviews every bit as much as recommendations from friends or family.
74% of people trust a local business more when it has positive reviews.
But even with the positive impact of online word of mouth, many businesses these days go out of their way to shut down or discourage reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other review sites just because they’re petrified of bad reviews and the impact they might have.
Make no mistake, bad reviews can hurt your business.
But they’re not the end of the world.
The best way to counter a bad review is to beat it back with a steady stream of good reviews from your biggest fans. The people who like to tell people how great you are.
But getting that steady stream of reviews takes time, effort, and a systematic approach.
A request or reminder to tell people about their great experience begins with including that request in your sales cycle. After they’ve checked out, remind them that reviews help keep this place, the business they love so much, vital.
Then having an automated way of getting that to them - by text or SMS message - by email - or in person - or a combination of all three.
But the bad reviews!!!
After that, having a conscientious way of dealing with unhappy customers is imperative. It gives you, and them, and opportunity to be heard BEFORE any crazed words make it up under a one-star review.
An “I’m sorry that happened to you. How can I make it better?” goes a very long way toward fixing a dinged-up online reputation.
In fact, when you reach out to negative reviewers directly, 33% of them turn in to good or great reviews. And there's more than one way to do it.
And the research shows that shoppers, consumers, online researchers don’t really trust businesses with all 5-star reviews fully.
Having some negative reviews, even from an obviously crazy person, balances out the scales. It makes your reputation seem authentic. Because even the best business can have a complainer as a customer.
It’s an authentic-seeming word of mouth that does the best for you.
What can you learn?
The traffic rate of your reviews needs to match up to the traffic rate of your business. If you have dozens of customers coming through your doors a month, week or day, and you only have a handful of online reviews, be careful about trying to gain any accurate customer insights.
It’s like that guy. You know him. The one who freaks out saying “we have a problem!!! We need to fix this thing because we’re getting complaints!!!”
Ask that guy once when he comes to you with that information. “How many people are complaining?”
If the number is in the single digits - and it’s usually just 1 - it’s not a legitimate problem.
When you have - or can develop - a steady stream of customer reviews, then you can be reasonably sure about the types of information you’re getting from them. Consistent complaints, for example, may indicate you have a gap in your customer service approach. Consistent praise, will tell you what you’re doing right.
That’s the value-add of great word of mouth. You hear what’s going on in your business yourself. In real time. And you can adjust to leverage that customer behavior and understanding.
With a steady stream of written reviews from your biggest fans, what you’re actually doing is gathering a library of testimonials you can use in other places.
And gathering customer testimonials individually can be a daunting task. An active program of online reputation management can streamline the task and supercharge the benefit.
Ask yourself, what’s the most valuable marketing language you have available to you? Is it the stuff you wrote to convince passers-by to come into your shop? Or is it the rave reviews you got from your last dozen bowled-over customers, patients, or clients?
Get enough positive feedback and you may never need to write another line of copy again! And then, it’ll be your competition that’s bowled over.
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