Whether you are a veteran or a newbie, a reputation management plan is a must-have for your business, regardless of its size. While on the surface, having a plan might sound like something better left to big corporations, taking the time to draft your very own online reputation management plan can significantly impact your long-term brand development, your lead acquisition speed, and your ability to have sustainable year-after-year growth.
A map for reputation management does not need to be set in stone. It should provide sufficient flexibility to equip your organization to be responsive to unexpected change and public relations snafus. Developing a clear roadmap for your reputation management is not rocket science. It is the careful, intentional, and deliberate handling of consumer-generated information in a way that satisfies your customers, improves your processes, and promotes your business.
Know the Current State of Affairs
When it comes to creating your reputation management roadmap, the last thing you need is a gung-ho approach where you’re bursting at the seams with enthusiasm but devoid of facts.
Take time to know where your business stands as far as popularity, overall scores, and specific trends. This is also a good time to identify review sites where you have perhaps neglected to take ownership of your profile. Track and document your position in relationship to your competitors, and decide which review sites you intend to prioritize as your main focus during the year. The review sites you choose to prioritize should be based on how much potential the site offers in terms of lead generation.
For example, if you are a hotel, then you want to spend significant time and efforts in making sure all your ducks are in a row on TripAdvisor. Likewise, if you are a restaurant, then a good portion of your time and energy should be invested in Yelp and OpenTable.
Set Clear Objectives and Secure Buy-In from All Stakeholders
Vague objectives yield vague results. Decide whether your focus will be to increase review engagement, improve your SEO through thoughtful responses, get better star ratings, or a combination of all. Once you have defined your objectives, think about practical operational or marketing implementations likely to yield the desired results. Spend time with your organizational leadership discussing the feasibility of each idea and getting their feedback on what they think is likely to work best. Make sure everyone is on board and on the same page, and clearly understands your online short term and long-term reputation objectives.
Develop Unique Monthly Goals or Areas of Focus
In order to keep both intensity and team commitment year-round, you would do well to create monthly areas of focus. For example, you could isolate January to facilities improvement, February to customer-service training, March to speed in review responses, etc.
By keeping specific areas of focus, you will be able to manage the amount of time invested in reputation management and take a divide-and-conquer approach that will be significantly less overwhelming to all the parties involved.
Do Monthly Check-Ups and Revise Your Strategy as Needed
Online reputation is fluid and subject to many factors that can sometimes be outside your control. Make it a point to do a status check on a monthly basis, and identify trends that might be affecting your reputation.
In a similar fashion, this is a good opportunity to look for trends within your reviews and in the reviews of your competitors that are making the customer experience brag-worthy. Don’t feel pressured to stick to a plan; make revisions as needed.
Another area worth auditing on a month-by-month basis is the percentage of leads generated by each review site. If a particular site implements changes mid-year to its business model and/or design likely to increase customer engagement, then perhaps it is time to change the order of priority and include said site on your list of top site reviews in need of hands-on management.
Consider Including a Few Promos Aimed at Increasing Review Volume
Promos are a great way to increase engagement and exposure if you are not meeting your internal goals for review generation and you are having challenges in terms of customer volume. Many review sites provide you the tools to roll free or low-cost, or priced-per-engagement promos that simply make sense as a way of overcoming a slow period of sales, or giving your reputation a well-needed push.
Quarterly audits should be sufficient when it comes to deciding whether or not your business needs to roll out a promo with dual goals of growing your business and securing additional or better online reviews.
Reward Team Members for Reputation Achievements
While all review sites frown upon your business paying a reviewer for engagement, there is nothing that says you cannot recognize your employees for superior performance as voiced by customers on online reviews. Giving a small token of appreciation or even a cash bonus in association with a mention on an online review is a great way to incentivize your team and maintain high visibility and awareness as far as reputation management is concerned.
From a more practical perspective, it is simply common sense to recognize your best employees, and reviews give you one extra tool to track and reward excellent performance. Five-star employees deserve five-star recognition every month of the year.
Track and Correct Pain Points in Preparation for High Season
If your business is seasonal, then low season gives you a great opportunity to spend time and efforts trying to optimize the way you do business in order to ensure high season catches you and your team prepared. Take a close look at your reviews across your top review sites, and carefully study the text to identify areas of needed improvement and pain points. Put together plans designed to reduce repeat incidents, and create cross-departmental awareness campaigns to correct problem issues at their root. Good planning during low season will set the stage for a stream of glowing reviews once business picks up.
Disciplined utilization of data points available through reviews can have a direct impact on product improvement, process optimization and consequently revenue. So don’t let this valuable resource go to waste!