Would you do business with your own company? If you searched for your company by its brand name and added the word "reviews" at the end, would you be happy with what people are saying?
Competition is fierce in today's digital age, with nearly every business claiming the best products and services and touting fantastic customer service. How then do people decide which company they're going to do business with?
The answer is customer reviews, and it's why my business offers an affordable reputation software solution that makes it easy to do online reputation marketing. Notice that I didn't say online reputation management. The truth is that managing your brand's reputation is essential, but marketing it is also critical to the success of any business.
To improve your online reputation marketing efforts, you can simply start by responding to all your existing customer reviews. Sadly, this is one of the most neglected and underutilized online reputation marketing strategies around, yet it's one of the easiest to execute. Here are five reasons why you want to respond to every single customer review.
1. Let the world know you care about every customer, not just the ones who complain.
I see companies make this mistake every single day. As you research a company and read its reviews, you'll hopefully see some positive reviews. Suddenly, you discover a negative review, and that's when the business finally decides to take the time to respond. It's really a shame. The business is rewarding someone's negative comments with their time and attention, instead of replying and showing appreciation to all the customers who took the time to share a positive review of the business.
What does it say about your business when people see positive reviews ignored, but then see a lengthy response to a bad review? It says your business cares more about your reputation than about your customers and their experiences. The truth hurts, doesn't it?
That's the real difference between reputation management and reputation marketing. The business is managing a negative review, instead of marketing its brand using all the reviews. If you thoughtfully respond to all your online customer reviews, you can market to your existing customers and attract new customers as well.
Here's a tip about replying to positive reviews: Don't just respond with a simple "Thanks!" or "We appreciate you." Instead, personalize your response where appropriate and possible, so your customers know you took the time to compose a sincere and meaningful reply. You might think that you can't afford the investment of time to respond to all reviews. However, when you invest the time, it will provide you with a positive ROI every time.
2. Increase the lifetime value of your customers.
When you respond to your customers' reviews, you have the golden opportunity to market to your existing customers. Did you know that when you respond to a customer review, the customer will know that you replied? Most review platforms notify customers when the business responds to their review. This is an easy way to make your existing clients feel appreciated, and they are much more likely to become repeat customers.
Too many business owners and entrepreneurs are so focused on acquiring new customers that they ignore their existing ones. Do you believe a customer will be more inclined to do business with you again and refer you to new customers when you express your gratitude publicly to their positive review? Exactly.
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3. Enhance Your SEO efforts.
Every time a customer reviews your business, whether positively or negatively, it's your opportunity to provide additional SEO value for your business. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo crawl the internet to find new information so they can provide the most recent and relevant content for their users. When you respond to each customer review, you can add context about your customers' experience with your business.
Let's say that you are a plastic surgeon in Maryland and a happy patient just posted a glowing review online. You could reply, "Thanks for the great review! We are constantly striving to be the best cosmetic surgeons we can be. I'm so grateful you chose our practice. If you need help or have any questions, call our Maryland office anytime. Remember, you also have my private cell phone number and can reach me anytime, 24/7, if it's urgent."
Did you notice how I mentioned the keywords "best cosmetic surgeons" and "Maryland" in the reply? This is additional relevant content that will enhance the SEO value of that review page, especially for your Google local business listing. Google specifically states in its help system that reviews can improve your listings' visibility in its results.
Warning: don't overdo it with the keywords in your replies. Otherwise, Google and other search engines may penalize your listing, and you could potentially offend your client or patient if they feel like your response isn't authentic. Remember, these responses are public for everyone to see. The good news is you can add to, edit or update your replies at any time.
4. Protect your business reputation with trust and transparency.
When you fail to implement a reputation marketing system in your business, you leave yourself vulnerable to attack. If you neglect your online reputation, all it takes is one or two bad reviews to cripple your business. Did you know that just one bad review can cost your business as much as 22% of prospective customers? Your potential to lose customers skyrockets to 59.2% if people find three negative articles or reviews about your brand.
However, if you're actively marketing your brand reputation and requesting online reviews, you can drown one or more negative review in a sea of positive reviews. Remember, today's consumers are well educated. Most people know that you cannot please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Your competition likely has a negative review or two as well. The key is having dozens or hundreds of positive reviews to outweigh the negative ones. When you combine positive reviews with personalized responses to all your reviews, you are creating an impenetrable fortress around your brand's reputation.
The fact is, when people see dozens of positive reviews and an occasional negative review, they are likely to discount the negative review – especially if the business has replied to all the reviews with honesty and transparency. People understand that companies make mistakes and can even empathize with them in certain situations. It's critical if you or an employee make a mistake that you own it and take responsibility. People will understand and forgive you if you craft appropriate and thoughtful apologies to your negative reviewers.
Many times, it's your responses that will attract new customers to your business. When they see you responding to all your clients and observe how you handle difficult situations, most people will trust you to do a good job or to do the right thing if you don't.
5. Attract new customers who post reviews.
A 2017 study found that 78% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That's why it's critical to implement a reputation marketing strategy that helps you develop trust with your prospective customers.
As you earn more reviews for your business and consistently reply to them, prospective customers will see why they should choose you over your competition. They will see that you care about all your customers. As a result, more people will trust your business, and you will become the clear leader in your marketplace.
When you invite your new customers to share reviews about their experiences online, simply remind them why they chose your company. Your odds of getting your new clients to post a review online are substantially higher, since it was customer reviews that attracted them to your business in the first place. Of course, this only works if you deliver on your promises and do good work.
Bonus tip: How to handle negative reviews
Most entrepreneurs and business leaders make every effort to satisfy and please the customer. However, no matter how hard you try, sometimes it just doesn't happen and your business is forced to address a negative online review. When that happens, it's crucial to consult with people you trust who have legitimate business experience and acumen before you respond. The last thing you want to do is to reply in an emotional state of distress or anger.
Instead, think of how you can reply in an authentic and meaningful way without compromising your integrity. Let's face the truth: Some customers will try to sabotage your business to get free products and services or to simply get attention. Don't let this happen to you. Stay true to your core values and do your best to reply in a professional and thoughtful manner.
Here's an example of how we coached a client to respond to a negative review. One of our clients found a negative review that labeled their chiropractic clinic as "another cattle-in and cattle-out operation." Ouch! The business owner wanted to share a fun and lighthearted response and wasn't afraid to repel people if his message didn't resonate with them. After careful consideration and discussion, we decided to create a video response using a humorous yet authentic approach and posted it on Facebook. Remember, it's OK to have a sense of humor in business, as long as you are genuine and sincere.
We got thousands of views and lots of positive feedback from the business's Facebook fans. However, this reputation marketing strategy could have backfired if the business did not have dozens of five-star reviews. This is why every entrepreneur must be laser-focused on building a five-star online reputation for their business and brand.