Happy New Year! Now is the natural time to evaluate the impact of your marketing decisions going forward and reflect on your marketing performance in the prior cycle.
By reflecting and assessing past mistakes and successes as well as trends impacting your industry, you should be able to make smarter business decisions with profitability, brand image, and growth in mind. Reputation management is one of the fastest and most influential of your marketing channels. It also has the potential to elevate your business to the next level in ways that, in the past, were thought of as unachievable for small businesses with significant disadvantage in the area of dedicated marketing funds.
Today we want to share with you a few bullet points designed to guide you as you draft your 2015 reputation and review management objectives. You don’t have to adopt every single point, and you can certainly add specific resolutions based on unique business needs. Bear in mind that the final goal in creating or revising your reputation management plan is to improve how current and potential customers perceive you, and grow the number of new customers willing to patronage you based on the opinion voiced by others, and your interactions in response to said opinions.
Let’s get started.
Resolve to Be Flexible
Flexibility covers a multitude of sins. Long gone are the days when everything related to your online reputation was likely to remain constant throughout the calendar year.
In 2014, we saw a myriad of changes and innovations that challenged small-business owners but also provided numerous opportunities to connect better and more often with potential customers. As review sites introduce new services and features, consider giving your business some budgetary and chronological allocations to experiment a bit.
As a small business, it is essential to remain in the loop and be among the first ones to find out when innovation does take place. There is great potential in embracing tools that allow you to push promos, encourage reviews, or help you connect with potential customers (think TripAdvisor Questions and Answers). A little flexibility and innovation can go a long way when it comes to building your online reputation.
Resolve to Embrace Mobile
In the hustle and bustle of running a small business, we frequently forget how current and potential guests engage with our business. Just because we conduct most of our engagements with review websites from our office laptop does not mean that is the way our customers see us or engage with us.
In 2014, we learned of the importance of location-based engagements as a tool for customer acquisition and multimedia capture. For 2015, we need to keep in mind the essence of mobile engagement and do what we must to engage with current and potential customers with the tools that are relevant to the times.
Resolve to Be Metrics-Driven
Managing your online reputation (or at least going through the motions of reputation management) without taking into account how your strategy impacts the bottom line is an exercise in futility. The central reason for reputation management is to improve how you do things and gain increased relevance in your niche, thus increasing revenue.
If what you are doing is not having that effect, then you need to change your approach quickly. Put the tools and business practices in place needed to run your reputation management based on clear business objectives and with a metrics-driven approach. Measuring the results of your actions will equip you to further refine your strategy and garner a stronger online reputation that truly grows your business.
Resolve to Put Customers First
What if all of us made a concerted effort to treat every customer as if the very survival of our business organization depended solely on his or her perception of our performance? The common denominator across all review sites and most customer reviews is plain and simple: customer service is king.
By implementing operational changes that focus on customer experience, your business will without a doubt experience significant growth in the quality and quantity of your online reviews. Prioritizing customer service is the single most important move when it comes to taking corrective steps to improve your scores and popularity across all websites. Make customer service your motto for 2015.
Resolve to Be Engaged
Lack of engagement is the most common shortcoming when it comes to online-reputation management. Being passive or hands-off does not have a neutral effect on how your online reputation evolves. Shoppers perceive passiveness as indifference and lack of customer commitment.
Make it your goal to be proactive and hands-on in the management of reviews, escalations, and other customer interactions taking place on review sites. Maintain a real-time awareness of both positive and negative feedback. Don’t let feedback go to waste. Use it to make improvements to the way you do business, with the idea in mind that future customers will experience a better version of everything that you are and do as a business organization. Engagement starts from the moment a customer begins research in your niche and, if handled well, it comes with the promise of loyal customers that will also be brand advocates. Don’t minimize the importance of engagement; it is a priceless customer acquisition and loyalty tool.
Resolve to Be Responsive
Go beyond engaging with your customers, and learn to be responsive to the nuances of their feedback and opinion. A responsive business provides remedy to specific issues escalated via reviews and uses the feedback to immediately implement organizational changes.
Furthermore, a responsive business is not selective in how and when they engage with reviewers. Make it a point to acknowledge every customer review. A pick-and-choose approach is no longer an option. Those that will succeed in the reputation management arena will make responsiveness a natural modus operandi.
Resolve to Embrace and Incorporate Customer Opinion
Customer feedback provided in online reviews gives your business a roadmap and picture of what your customers really want. This is priceless business intelligence that should not go to waste. Take time to understand what your customers like and dislike, and shape your business around the preferences of your customers. Customer opinion, when implemented as an operational roadmap, can help you reduce costs, refine processes, and increase customer satisfaction.
Resolve to Rise Above the Competition
Aside from giving you insights as to the health and performance of your business, review websites are an invaluable resource for competitive analysis and strategic planning. In 2015, invest time in tracking and analyzing the performance and strategy of those in your niche. By reading their reviews and review responses, you can learn what works and what doesn’t. Apply your learnings and observations to your very own marketing plan, and watch your wallet share grow exponentially!
Resolve to Embrace Innovations
In 2014, we saw a myriad of changes, from data-driven customer pairing to the launch of Groupon business pages. Expect to see acceleration in the area of mobile integration and personalized search results. Don’t be afraid to be an early bird and stay on top of changes. By being the first to jump in the water when opportunities arise, you are likely to capture the attention of highly engaged review site users always looking for the next new thing.
Resolve to Get to Know Your Customer
Getting to know your customer has two distinct and equally important facets. First, reviews allow you to better understand the marketing persona likely to patronage your business. Learn the common characteristics and preferences among your most loyal customers and reviewers, and tailor product innovations and service enhancements around their needs and likes.
Second, get to know individual customers and reviewers that engage repeatedly with your business. These consumers are incredibly valuable as brand advocates and direct-revenue generators for your business. Know them, love them, and acknowledge them, online and offline.
Resolve to Expand Your Online Presence
Spotty online presence is a business no-no. Make it your goal for 2015 to ensure you own every profile from every review site relevant to your segment. Take ownership seriously and ensure there is consistency in content and engagement across all review websites. Pay particular attention to information that frames the customer experience, such as hours of operation, contact information, and menus. Accuracy in information is the first step toward a great customer interaction and, potentially, a great review.
Resolve to Manage Your Reviews Holistically
Review and reputation management, when handled with the right tools, can be done quickly and effectively. If you have not yet incorporated processes and tools that capture and deliver customer feedback across all websites in real-time, then don’t delay it any longer. Take a moment today to tour our review monitoring and reputation management platform designed specifically to meet the needs of small business.