Everyone must start somewhere. If you are the new kid on the block, then trying to catch up to competitors and secure the same level of popularity, review volume, and exposure will likely feel daunting and unachievable. For the majority of local small to medium businesses with a brick and mortar storefront, good exposure via popular review sites is essential to their short-term success and long-term sustainability.
Now that you have jumped in the waters of entrepreneurship, it is time you introduce best practices aimed at catching up with the competition and positioning your shop as a leader in your specific segment. Whether you are a restaurant, contractor, daycare, or small hotel, these business reputation management strategies will help you gain speed in your review generation pattern while maintaining the highest possible scores. Bear in mind that on average only about 10 percent of your customers are likely to engage in any form of reviewing or written feedback, for a website like Yelp the distribution of high scoring reviews (4-5 stars) versus low scoring (3 or less) is approximately 2 to 1.
First Things First
Managing your reviews and online reputation from the very start of your business can set the stage for excellence and enhanced customer engagement. If you are not familiar with how people voice their opinions about businesses by using popular review websites, then take time to learn about the top review aggregators and how they can impact your lead generation.
Once you have identified the review sites most relevant to your line of business, it is time to become familiar with their policies and the tools available to help you interact with current and potential customers. The more familiar you are with the toolsets and dashboards for each website, the better equipped you will be to drive your review strategy to the next level. Check out the most popular review websites by category.
Take the Helm of Your Business Profiles
Passiveness won’t cut it. The majority of review websites allow businesses to take control of their profile pages. The level of control and tools for interaction vary from website to website, but the basic concept is the same. Having your business profile under your control will allow you to better market your business by adding content and multimedia that support your products and services. In addition to enhanced information, you will also be able to interact with your current and potential customers directly and indirectly, depending on the website.
For example, Google My Business allows you to interact with customers in your circles via Google Hangouts. TripAdvisor invites you to engage with potential customers using its Questions-and-Answers platform. Even the least interactive review aggregators allow businesses to engage in the most basic of interactions: responding to customer reviews.
In order to kickstart the development of your online reputation, take a comprehensive approach when it comes to interactive engagement with your reviewers. Here is a helpful and comprehensive guide to help you take control of your online reviews.
Foster Location-Based Engagement
One great way to increase customer interaction is by facilitating and encouraging check-ins using popular location-based apps. Foursquare, for example, can help you leverage the check-in by providing your customer with social tools to share their dining experience. A check-in along with a well-designed promotion or special can help your business introduce customers to featured products and encourage feedback in the form of a review or social buzz. Similarly, it is smart to incorporate apps designed to encourage loyalty and brand recall. Once customers have become familiar with your brand and concept, they are twice as likely to be inclined to share a positive experience by word of mouth and in a digital context.
Provide Visually Rich Experiences
Bragging is natural to humankind. If you want to increase engagement and motivate your customers to speak about you, then provide them with a unique backdrop worthy of talking about. For a restaurant, this can be achieved by plating that reflects great gastronomical creativity. Bragging about a beautiful meal is very difficult to resist. If you are a small hotel, then create visual settings, such as gardens, that tempt users to talk about you. Another way to trigger engagement comes in the form of value-added services or goods. A welcome cocktail or a free dessert can go a long way in securing a positive customer review.
Promote Online Engagement Offline
Use the collateral provided by review sites to your advantage. Include review quotes in your brochures, and feature the review sites you covet the most in strategic places, such as entrances. Learn how to encourage reviews from your customers without actually asking or violating review sites policies.
Do something radically kind that triggers viral buzz. A fundraiser or charitable event benefiting a local organization is a fantastic way to be introduced to new customers and enhance the loyalty of your regulars.
Encourage Reviews When Applicable and Approved
Many review websites frown upon review solicitation. Don’t try to circumvent their policies; instead, go ahead and maximize your opportunities to encourage reviews with the websites that permit it. Many review aggregators will even provide you the tools to reach out to your customers. TripAdvisor, for example, has processes in place to facilitate review solicitation, such as the Review Express.
Implement Campaigns to Capture New Customer Data
Be it a loyalty program, e-mail subscription, or a fishbowl for business cards, work toward creating a strong customer list. Utilize your list smartly, and avoid being spammy. Create promotions that convey value and inspire customers to share.
Tweak Your Offerings Based on Review Feedback
Using your reviews, establish agile processes aimed at evaluating your products and services. Correct issues immediately, and promote your enhancements via review responses. Tweaking your offerings based on customer feedback is always a win-win. By being responsive and taking action, you will improve the experiences for future customers, while providing reassurance to those engaging with your business online about your commitment to deliver superior customer experiences.
Reward Employee Excellence
A large number of negative reviews are associated with service issues. If your goal is to secure increasing review traffic while maintaining high scores, then train your staff to deliver excellence every single time. New businesses with a culture that focuses on giving 110 percent are generally able to snowball their review volume and quickly catch up with businesses that have much more tenure.
Manage Your Online Reputation Holistically
Pick and choose is not a proper marketing-management strategy. If you begin with good review management practices and implement a well-designed review-monitoring tool from the beginning, then you will be better able to utilize the feedback for product improvement and engage with your reviewers in a timely and responsive fashion.
With focus, commitment, and strategy, you can take the lead in both volume and quality of online reviews.