Brand Reputation Management in the Age of Digital

Brand Reputation Management in the Age of Digital

Brand Reputation Management in the Age of Digital

Online brand reputation management is something that many businesses don’t think about until they stumble across or become alerted to negative comments about their business online.

It often comes to light when searching for your business online that you notice some strange results, anything that could include blog comments, forum posts to whole articles dedicated to your business with bad reviews, negative sentiments or complaints.

brand reputation management

The alarm bells start ringing, you start to panic and worry about what impact these negative results are having on your business and how it could impact your brand in the future.

That’s where online brand reputation management steps in.

Online brand reputation management involves thorough research into what content, positive and negative, is currently accessible to the searching public. Once this is determined, a strategy needs to be devised that includes removal, where possible, of negative or off brand content, either through negotiation, mediation or providing more relevant content for the search engines to list.

For those comments that are from genuinely dissatisfied customers, simply responding and asking for the opportunity to make things right can be the greatest form of online reputation management as it portrays honesty, accountability and a willingness to rectify the situation.

Of course, not all situations can be resolved amicably, especially if the problem has had time to escalate into something bigger and this can result in a more concerted effort to find a solution that the client is happy with.

Everything discussed so far concerning reputation management has been reactive. By that, it is reacting to something that has already happened. The key to long term success with online brand reputation is to work fastidiously to promote good working practices and excellent customer service attitudes throughout your entire organisation.

By putting your customer front and centre of everything you do, you are being proactive about your brand reputation and this will be reflected in the positive feedback that your business receives online.

When you get into the position of exciting your customers through your excellent service and you get the feedback to prove it, make sure that you share those positive stories with as many people as possible by letting everyone online know how great other people think your business is.

Share your positive feedback through social media, write blog posts, produce a press release and syndicate across local and national news sites. The more internet real estate your business claims that paints your business in a positive light, the better it will be when those who know nothing about your business and are looking for reassurance before becoming a partner of yours.

3 Golden Rules of Online Brand Reputation Management

Work on Building a Positive Brand from Day One

brand reputation management

One of the most valuable assets for any business is their brand. Be synonymous with customer excellence, great value and great service and you will see the benefits online and offline. A business that has ten great, positive stories online versus a business that has two negative reviews will get more new clients through the door. Be proactive and see every new client as a long term business partner who will be happy over time to introduce their friends and family.

Make the Most of the Internet to Share Your Clients Positive Stories

There are many ways that your client’s comments, stories and feedback can be distributed on the internet. Embrace them and make sure that the positive sentiment about your business is being heard all across the internet.

Be Alert to What is Being Said About You.

You can do everything in your power to promote customer excellence but there will always be someone that you can’t satisfy. When it happens and the negative comment does appear, don’t panic, don’t sensor the comment, simply make it clear to prying eyes that you will do everything you can to rectify the situation.

Online brand reputation management is important to all businesses, not just celebrities, politicians and high profile individuals. It’s so easy for your clients and competitors to publish content online these days that it is in your best interests to be proactive, promote excellence and deal with negative issues in a timely and courteous manner.

Five Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips

Five Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips

Five Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips

Having your business stand out over and above your competition in an increasingly competitive market place can be tricky. But instead of instigating the latest and greatest marketing trends and technologies, have you thought to stop and ask your customers what they think about your business? Maybe you should.

Here are 5 reasons that can help you get the most out of your customer testimonials.

1.) Ask for them.

The chances of a satisfied client leaving a customer review for your business are slim. You need to ask them politely to do so, explaining how it can really help you.

If the client is truly satisfied then spending a few minutes for a business that has just provided them a great service is not too much of a hardship.

Get into the routine of asking your clients how your service was. This will move your business towards creating a culture of customer service, further enhancing your brand and reputation.

Many customers would be happy to review your business, if reminded.

2.) Negative reviews are to be expected.

People are more likely to leave a bad review than a good review, even if far more people have a good experience than a bad one. Unfortunately that is just the way it goes and you have to accept and embrace this as a positive aspect of the review marketing process.

Don’t panic if there are some less than 100% positive reviews. No business is perfect, and nobody expects them to be. Instead, use any criticism as a learning tool for improving your business.

3.) Follow up with the Clients that respond negatively.

If possible, follow up and see how you can fix the problem. Consumer studies and surveys have proven customers are more satisfied with a company in which there was a small issue and the issue was resolved, compared to if there was never one in the first place.

By leaving negative online reviews without responses you are showing the watching public that you don’t care about customer service and do not listen to what people have to say about your business. This is not good.

Always respond to negative reviews and ask the client in question to contact you so that you can investigate and resolve the issue.

4.) Never write fake reviews or testimonials.

There have been several reports recently of businesses losing hundreds of reviews about their businesses over night down to stricter review filters on a lot of online review sites such as Google+ and Yelp.

Yes it can be difficult sometimes to get reviews from your clients but that does not mean that you should go about putting reviews up yourself.   It’s simply not worth the risk of having your business details banned, or as Yelp is doing providing a consumer alert about your business to those that are searching, that will last for 3 months and this could severely damage your reputation.

customer reviews

The question you need to ask is, is having no reputation better than having a bad reputation?

5.) Tell the world about it.

There is little point going through all the hard work and effort of getting great reviews from your satisfied customers if no one is going to see them. It is great having them on your website and this can help towards conversion however what about using these testimonials and positive reviews to market your business online?

You could put together a short video of the positive testimonials and post them on a video sharing site. Write a press release highlighting how you have helped a customer achieve X, which can be syndicated to relevant sites across the internet.

There are many ways that you can take these glowing reviews about your business and use them as marketing collateral to influence future clients on choosing your business offerings over your competitors. After all, the customer reviews aren’t just there to make you as a business owner feel better, they are there to help convince future clients that you are the trusted business partner of choice.

Command More Business By Encouraging Customer Reviews

Command More Business By Encouraging Customer Reviews

Command More Business By Encouraging Customer Reviews

customer reviewsSolicitors, Dentists and Accountants are losing pre qualified business each and every day before that potential client even sets foot in their place of business and without even speaking to a representative of the business. How? The decision is based solely on what other people say about your business, through customer reviews and word of mouth online.

Having a prominent position on Google is no longer enough to guarantee that people will see your business as the authority in your niche, the best person to satisfy, meet and surpass their needs. The client is educated and does their research by uncovering information from several sources before making a decision on your business. In doing so these consumer savvy clients pay more attention and give more credibility to what other people say about your business over and above what you do.

Enter the new world of word of mouth marketing!

When presented with too many choices, consumers look for ways to separate what you do and how you do it from your competitors. Often this comes down to social proof in terms of customer reviews and testimonials about your business.

Finding these customer reviews, for the most part, is not too difficult. There are hundreds if not thousands of business review sites and local directories all over the internet that contain information about your business and give patrons of your business the opportunity to share how good you and your services really are. The most important thing to remember is that once a review is posted online about your business it is there forever. Whether it is positive or negative.

It is estimated that one in four searches on the internet is a local search, a local search for example being “place name + service”. The results that appear predominately show local business directories and that is why it is important to make sure your listings are complete and you are aware of user generated content on them.

5 Local business directories that you should keep your eyes on.

1. Google Plus Local for Business

customer reviewsFormerly known as Google Places, Google Plus Local allows businesses to register themselves with Google, or claim a listing that Google has created on your behalf.  The listing is visible on Google Maps, as well as displaying in search results, with extended information and data available at a glance when a user searches for your business name and the service your business represents in your location.

Take the time to complete all relevant information about your business. The more Google knows about your business the better it can represent you in local search, maps or listings when people are searching for your services.

Put in place a campaign where you approach your clients to leave reviews on your Google Plus Profile about the services they have received. The more positive reviews you have, the more Google will begin to trust your business and this can directly affect how your business ranks in local search.

This may seem like hard work, but don’t just limit your review campaign to Google plus local, ask customers to also leave reviews on some of the following sites as Google Plus local also collates and displays reviews about your business on these sites too.

2. Yell.

15 years ago the yellow pages would have been the go to source for local business searches but with the advancement in technology and the rise of search engines the online yell directory is not as popular as it once was. On the flip side because of the brand name being so well known, Yell is still a good place to register your business. Yell give the option to have a free listing and also offer several enhanced features designed to elevate your business in the directory for a fee.

Depending on the demographics of your targeted clients, the Yellow pages and Yell could be a valuable asset in generating clients.

3. Yelp!

customer reviewsWith over 30 million reviews and 78 million unique monthly visitors Yelp is a big player in the local search arena. Couple that with the recent purchase of Qype, which in itself boasted more than 2 million local business reviews and 15 million unique monthly visitors, you can see not only that a lot of people are using the local directories but they are stopping to leave reviews.

Yelp is a full-fledged social community, complete with the ability to add friends, earn community reputations, a robust commenting system, and picture profiles. Because of its marked popularity and the fact that it has been courting users and reviews since 2004, Yelp! reviews rank well with search engines. In addition the reviews are generally seen as reputable and trustworthy and Yelp! continues to weed out fake reviews from their system. Find out what others are saying about your business and claim your Yelp listing!

4. Yahoo! Local Listings

customer reviewsYahoo! Local Listings are similar in format to Google. Complete with a map and full landing page, Yahoo! Local listings rank above organic search results, below the top three pay-per-click listings but crucially above the fold.

Although Yahoo does not get the same amount of traffic as Google there is no reason to ignore what could be a very lucrative local lead generation strategy for your business. The simple fact that Yahoo is not as popular as Google means that quite often businesses overlook Yahoo to concentrate on Google which gives you a greater opportunity to rank for your location and service with less competition.

Promote your Yahoo! Local Listing as you would any of your other business assets. It is free to create and is only limited by the effort and content you include to make your business stand out from the rest. Get your Yahoo! Map Listing started.

5. FreeIndex

customer reviewsFreeIndex is another site that is increasingly growing in popularity and has the benefit of reviews being aggregated into your Google plus local page

As with the other directories it is customisable to represent your business and your clients can leave their testimonials to share how great your business services are. The listing is free and is another great way to promote your business locally online.

As a business owner it is crucial to get your name and your brand in front of as many interested people as possible. What better way than getting it in front of people who are actively searching for your business in your local area.

Business directory listings allow you to position yourself in front of your audience and also to showcase the great work that you are providing your clients as well as a platform to shout about the excellent experience they have received at your hands through glowing customer reviews.

You Are What Ever Your Clients Say You Are!

You Are What Ever Your Clients Say You Are!

You Are What Ever Your Clients Say You Are!

With the ever increasing amount of messages that each individual customer is exposed to, buyers’ expectations are rising and it is becoming harder to earn audience trust. Without trust there is little chance of building long term profitable business relationships. That is why being customer focused should not only be at the heart of your marketing but also at the basis of everything that you do.

This next sentence may shock people; in fact it might even offend some business owners!

Nobody cares what you think about your product, your service or your business because to all intents and purposes that is a canned and measured response.

What people want to know about your company is the stories people tell about it!

The sooner you accept that what other people say is far more important to the success of your business than what you have to say, the better for your business and the easier it will be on your finances.

If the word surrounding your business is positive, then great! Capitalise on that buzz and attract as many targeted people as you can to witness that buzz for themselves so they too can become interested in what you do, how you do it, how they can become a part of it and share it with those that they know.

On the other hand if the general consensus is that your business is poor and does not deliver on what it says it does then STOP!

stop sign

Take a step back, listen to what people are saying, assess where the problem is and put things right. Then ask people again to judge you on how you are doing?  When the feedback comes back positive then you can look at growing once again.

People need to see for their own eyes what others are saying about your business before making a commitment to become a business partner. To help people make up their mind you should think about the following steps that can improve the return on your marketing investment:

Know your customer – The more you know about your customer, the easier it will become to provide that personalised message. If you have an image of what your customer looks like, what books they read, what makes them happy, where they live, or what industry they work in, then attracting that prospect to become a lead or a customer will be far easier and over time will cost less as conversions will be higher.

Consistency – When a prospect is considering joining your business there is no doubt that your sales and support staff will be there to allow that person to feel a part of how your business runs. If this changes, i.e. the point of contact is no longer available, support staff are currently always engaged or not available at all, then your client is soon going to be disgruntled.

Be consistent with your offering to the client and manage expectations from the outset as to what the client can and should expect from your business and stick to it.

Communicate – Don’t just talk to the customer, make the relationship a two way street. Many people don’t like the idea of giving power to the customer. The truth of the matter is that the internet has given the power to the customer anyway, so deal with it by giving them great things to say about you, and often.

Businesses are now more transparent than ever, honesty and openness is expected so embrace it and allow your business to thrive on it.

Always be listening – Review sites have given the consumer many more options to get their opinions heard. It is no longer in the power of the business to send out a periodic questionnaire as a customer can now go on Yelp, Google+, Qype, Touch Local, Twitter or Facebook and express an opinion. This can happen 24/7/365 and the results mean that  anyone searching for information about your business will see consumer generated content, comments, opinions and real life experiences of working with you and your business.

listening

Have a system in place where you can constantly monitor what is being said about your business and your online reputation, and be prepared to deal with negative criticism when they arrive.

You cannot please everybody, but how you resolve the situation with those that are unhappy when the eyes and ears of the world are on you can impact how prospective clients view your business both in a positive and negative light.

Act Decisively – In the past if you had a problem with a product or service you would go to the customer service desk, ask for the manager or perhaps fill out a customer complaint form to get an apology and a promise from the manager that the issue would be investigated and resolved. What would happen after that is anybody’s guess!

Now it is a completely different kettle of fish. The public nature of the social web means that when somebody has something negative to say about your company you need to act decisively as in the digital world things can quickly escalate.

By embracing the voice of your customers in the digital world your business will be available and responsive to your ideal client’s needs which are essential to building great customer relationships.

If you don’t treat your customers with the trust, respect and care they deserve and bought into when signing up with your business, there is a string of eager and dedicated competitors that will be more than happy to take those clients from you.

Set Clear Customer Expectations to Minimize Negative Reviews

Set Clear Customer Expectations to Minimize Negative Reviews

Set Clear Customer Expectations to Minimize Negative Reviews

customer expectationsIn a recent client meeting, we were discussing the issue of negative online reviews and the impact they can have on your business’s perceived reputation. The client in question had received 2 negative public reviews online in the past month, yet had also received gifts of wine, flowers and chocolates from some of the hundred plus new clients they had served that month. Taken into context, the 2 negative reviews should be a drop in the ocean, yet they are there online for all the world to see, while the Thank you cards and gifts remain discretely in the office.

Managing your online reputation and encouraging those positive reviews online is one thing, but dealing with difficult customers in general is another and if you really want to minimize the negative online reviews then the customer issue is what you must get to the bottom of.

Whilst there are some people who will always be a nightmare customer, no matter who they’re dealing with, they’re few and far between. Most people who submit bad reviews will legitimately feel that they’ve been hard done by and if you seem to be getting several of these type of reviews it may be worth adjusting your customer engagement plan to make sure that you’ve got all your bases covered every step of the way.

Set Expectations

Make sure your client knows exactly what it is and isn’t that you’ll be doing for them. Explain your working hours, expected turnaround time, potential problems that could arise and how you can work around them.

Think about putting together some sort of fact sheet or welcome pack that you can give a client to take away with them, but make sure you draw their attention to the important parts. If there is a step in the process you are likely to be kept waiting for information or results then make sure your client knows that any delay there will not be down to you or your business, for example if you are a conveyancing solicitor and waiting for survey results.

Above all, make sure that your client is happy with the process and that they understand what is going to happen.

Have a clear Communication Strategy

A common complaint from customers of many businesses is around communication. Either that they didn’t get any updates, or that they were kept waiting, or that they couldn’t get hold of the person they needed to.

When you are explaining your process to a customer make sure you let them know when and how you’ll be getting in touch with them with updates. Whether it is a daily email, weekly phone call, or a letter next month make sure you stick to it. While you might know that everything is moving along as it should be and that there is nothing to report, a client who is waiting to hear from you about their Divorce paperwork, house purchase, or Tax rebate may be frantic with worry.

Make sure that you follow up when you have promised to, even if it’s a simple email saying you’ve got nothing to report! Likewise, make sure that if people need to contact you there is a way for them to do it. If you never check your voicemail, then make sure people can’t leave message on it, if you’re away for 2 weeks then make sure people know who will be looking after them in your absence.

Always be Proactive

Don’t leave it to chance that a customer could go online and leave a bad review. Every time you deal with a client, ask if there is anything else you can do for them. If there is, then great, you’ve saved them from going elsewhere! If there isn’t, then ask them for feedback there and then; with more positive reviews the odd negative review then won’t have the same impact. It’s also a great way to ensure that you’re always doing everything you can to keep all of your customers happy.

And finally, always thank clients for giving you their business and make them feel like they’re your most important customer.

Make Your Customer Experience Great!

Make Your Customer Experience Great!

Make Your Customer Experience Great!

No matter what business you are in, what business model you have or what size your business is there is one rule that every single business MUST follow in order to grow – Customer Retention. The only way to retain customers is to have a customer experience strategy in place that makes the service you offer them utterly brilliant at fulfilling their needs.

Ultimately in order to be rewarded for your efforts, your goal in business is three-fold:

  • Attract prospects
  • Develop Customers
  • Retain Customers (Gaining loyal evangelists of your product or service)

In to this mix, I like to consider a final piece of the jigsaw which is to mobilise the evangelists of your business to share the glowing experience they have received courtesy of your business to their friends and family.

This is particularly important when it comes to the online space because of the rapid rate of change. Customers can quickly, in the blink of an eye, click away from your website and find an eager competitor who is only too willing to embrace and satisfy their needs.

Businesses advance, technologies emerge at break neck speed and customers need change which is why a customer experience strategy is pivotal to your ongoing success.

Take Argos one of the leading direct catalogue companies in the UK. They have realised that clients’ needs have changed. People want flexibility, they want to be able to order online and then pick up their order when it suits them rather than waiting in on a designated 8 hr delivery window. As such they are closing 75 stores and focussing on revamping and enhancing their online presence to meet the consumer demand.

In business being stationary and non agile is a one way ticket to administration. You have to move with the times and make sure that you continue to attract, retain and gain referrals from customers in order to sustain a competitive advantage amongst the rapidly changing market place.

It is no longer good enough to be run of the mill or to be just ok at what you do. You have to be great! Each and every touch point the client has with your business has to be superb, from initial contact via search engines, via the telephone or email, right the way through to the after care and educating the client in how to get the maximum benefit of your product or service.

Closing the deal, making the sale is only a small step of the customer life cycle journey. Up your game, deliver everything that you said you would and more and then more again. By doing this you have the opportunity to create a loyal customer who will stick with you for years to come, providing pre-qualified clients for your business through referrals.

Technology might have changed but business remains the same. Be great at what you do from start to finish and your business will not only survive but will flourish.