In the digital era, many consumers have lost trust in advertising. With so many sites available at their fingertips, consumers now spend much of their time comparing companies based on online reviews, cost, and more. As a result, they don’t pay much attention to advertisements. Why believe a pop-up ad when credible peer reviews are just a click away?
This widespread loss of trust has led to the online recommendation and review movement with word-of-mouth being the most viable in addition to online reviews. Consumer feedback has grown to play a significant impact on any organization’s reputation.
Decades ago, you might have watched advertising on TV or hear them on the radio. They were designed to be enticing, but of course they were naturally biased. This was before the Internet age and online review sites such as Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Google Reviews. Today, consumers have transitioned the way they make decisions.
The glossy magazine ads and beautifully-presented TV ads are a fraction of what impacts consumers buying decisions. Today, customers want to read the reviews and recommendations first. In fact, you probably do the same thing before you plan a trip or purchase a product. This is such a popular method before buying that many sites already include reviews of their products and services along with the option to leave a review. With all this in mind, what encapsulates reputation management the best?
What is reputation management?
There is so much to reputation management, it is difficult to describe the effort in one sentence. To start, you can think of it as a means of influencing how consumers think of your brand.
In the consumer-driven market, where does reputation management take place? Well, most often, reputation management happens online. You see, most modern interaction already takes place online – whether it be via social media or through email or on review sites. We do so much online from paying our bills to reading the news to enjoying entertainment and meeting new and old friends. We even spend our free time online, browsing incessantly. As a result, reputation management really occurs online too using SEO, responses, content, and social media.
How does reputation management help with sales and marketing? You can think of reputation management as a critical component of the sales and marketing department. How so? You are trying to continually influence your target audience through reputation management. Sales and marketing also utilize the power of influence. In addition, you can’t sell a product without first establishing trust. There isn’t any valid reason for a consumer to make a purchase from an untrustworthy brand when they have so many other choices available.
So then, a strategic reputation management plan clears the path for a more successful return on sales and marketing efforts. If the consumer already trusts your brand, they will be more receptive to your company’s promotions.
Will your organization survive without reputation management? In our estimation, probably not. Just peruse the annals of the past two decades to read the tales of the rise and fall of some of the world’s largest corporations from Enron to Lehman Brothers to Wells Fargo and more. Some have lived to tell the tale, but not without major losses in profits, reputation, and customer loyalty.
Not to mention, online platforms have made a company’s reputation even more prone to fissures. In the past, people might have shared negative experiences with their closest family and friends. In contrast, one bad review can reach thousands or even millions of strangers. And, how your company responds to the negative review can have a major impact.
What about customer advocates? Reputation management is also about promoting, and finding, customer advocates. There is nothing more organic than a customer excited to share their positive experience with your brand – and this is what other potential consumers want, real experiences. Customer advocacy is an extension of your reputation management.
These are your loyal customers, and their review gives your company more credibility – even more so than hiring a famous actor to represent your brand or paying one of the top social media influencers to promote your products. Consumers are already keen to how social media influencers get paid. As you can see, trying to explain reputation management in a few sentences would limit all the avenues of this important process.
To take it even further, reputation management also involves managing, growing, and influencing what is being said about your company online. Yes, this can be a challenging task – especially if your company has experienced a spat of negative reviews.
On top of all that, the number of online forums, review sites, and social media platforms continues to grow. How can you manage it all? Then again, what would you like your prospects to see if they performed a simple Google search on your company? In today’s digital climate, your reputation can either make or break your brand.
Think of it this way: Consumers are truly the final decision makers when it comes to how your brand is viewed, based on their real-time feedback. Consumers love consumer-generated content because it is transparent and relatable. But, your company is now on the hook to manage what is being said online by the minute. Other aspects of reputation management include social media management, online advertising, managing reviews, listing your business, online content, and more.
Does reputation management really matter?
As we’ve mentioned earlier, and you probably already do this yourself, people often read reviews before they make any purchasing decisions. It is simply one of the first steps in the customer journey. Nonetheless, building a positive reputation takes time, effort, and consistency. You can’t expect one good review to carry your company forever. Dates matter, a consistent influx of reviews matter as well.
Still, after working on your reputation for years, one bad review can undo most of that work. Imagine comparing two different companies who sell similar products. One company has a four-star rating while the other has a two-star rating – which of the two would you prefer? The answer is pretty obvious, right?
So then, it is important to keep on top of any negative reviews with a thoughtful strategy of how to respond when customers aren’t too happy with the service you have received. While some of these experiences may have been disappointing, perhaps one of your employees had a bad day and took it out on the customers, it is still a reflection on your brand and you must respond.
Although, how you respond is what sets your company apart. If you think of how you might prevent a customer from heading over to your competitors, then that is what should guide your response. It’s much more cost-effective to keep a current customer than it is to start searching for new clients.
But, also, reputation management can play a direct role in your online rankings. Search engine algorithms are built to include online reviews. They know that customers are searching for review sites before they make a buying decision. What you’ll notice is the companies who take the time to respond to reviews are often rewarded with better visibility in terms of online SEO rankings and search engine results – which is also a boon for marketing.
Credibility is crucial.
You might initially have the ability to lure customers to buy from your company, but it won’t last long-term without credibility. Essential to a thriving business are consumer trust. And, once you have built trust, your existing network of customers will advocate for your company – a win-win all around.
But, even more than customer advocacy, you can gain excellent insight from customer reviews and comments. If you want to tailor your experience to meet the demands of your target audience, then it’s imperative to listen to their feedback. Almost like a customer feedback form, reading their comments can give you a lot of insight into how they think and what they want. If you find a repetitive suggestion, then perhaps it’s time to pay real attention to it.
Then, when you implement customer suggestions, you then further improve your reputation. Your customers feel like you are truly listening to and focusing on them. In return, they will offer their loyalty, positive reviews, and continued patronage. Who wouldn’t want to buy from a company that incorporates customer feedback into their shopping experience, services, and products?
Another step would be to collect customer feedback on a regular basis, perhaps right after they have made a purchase while it is still front of mind. This shows that you care about the customer’s experience, and increase engagement. If customers are unhappy, ask them why and what you can do to remediate the situation.
Do you want to increase profits?
Another way to measure your reputation management strategy is through higher revenues. One way to set your company apart from your competitors is through trust and reliability. When customers trust your brand, this can emanate in the form of higher sales. For instance, if your company offers the best products at the best price, you will start to develop a reputation for it. When customers want the best products, at the best price, they will think of your brand.
Then, when you increase profits, you can start to improve all areas of your business. Moreover, you can attract better talent because people like working for companies that are reputable and well-liked.
What about your image?
Think of some of the biggest brands on the market today, and what comes to mind when you think of each of their names? When you think of Wal-Mart, do you think of competitive prices? What comes to mind when you think of Sephora? Now, think of your company? How would you like your customers and prospects to envision your image?
Do you want your image tarnished by a few untimely negative reviews? Every company, including the biggest companies will get a negative review from time to time. The point is to continue polishing your image with persistent reputation management.
There isn’t a business around who can be perfect every single minute of every day. Things happen, unexpected situations arise, spikes in activity take place causing strain on the business and delays. Just like life, every organization has its fair share of ups and downs.
Nonetheless, ongoing reputation management can help to improve conflict resolution and to mitigate the influence of negative reviews. The best thing you can do is to respond immediately. Not only does this show that your company is proactive, but it will allow for a greater number of people to read your response more quickly.
What might happen if you wait a month or two to respond? People will only read the negative side of the story. Instead, share your response – in a positive way – so that consumers have more insight into the overall situation.
A few negative reviews can quickly tarnish a well-honed public image. Don’t leave your reputation to chance. Start engaging in proactive reputation management today.