A colleague of mine recently brought this Forbes article to my attention. I found it amusing yet very reassuring to find out that such a well-respected authority such as Forbes is now making the same recommendations that we have been preaching to our clients for over 3 years.

Reputation Management Versus Reputation Marketing

From the numerous consultations I have had with prospects and clients, most have the viewpoint that “reputation management” is more like crisis management or damage control, and therefore a very defensive posture. That mindset has persisted for many years and is still a common belief. Reputation marketing on the other hand is a very proactive and offensive posture and clearly has many advantages which I will illustrate.

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The Foundation of Reputation Marketing

The Forbes article enumerates 3 essential concepts for reputation marketing; those being monitoring, acquisition, and amplification. This idea mirrors the 3 cornerstones of our reputation marketing strategies which are manage, build, and market. Any one of these three can certainly improve a company’s reputation, however, when strategically combined as we have done for years, there is a synergistic effect that positively amplifies the results.

I think it is important for business owners to realize that reviews are opportunities rather than problems, and embrace the chance to respond to these reviews regardless of whether it is a five-star recommendation or something less favorable. If someone has posted an unfavorable review, the person is usually looking for some type of validation or acknowledgment of their concern. They want to be heard. By promptly addressing their concerns publicly, there’s a good chance this situation can be turned around into something very positive. There is also the additional benefit that is derived from other prospects witnessing how a company values their customers and attempt to resolve misunderstandings.

It is equally important to promptly respond to positive reviews, which is something many companies are not aware of or fail to do on a regular basis. That customer has taken the time to leave the glowing review; they should be thanked publicly. It is also a great time to ask for referrals or have your sales department contact them to offer additional products and services.

Phase One – Managing Your Reputation

Phase 1 - Manage Reputation

For a company to properly manage their reputation, they must first actively monitor their brand so they can be aware of what customers are saying about them. Even for a small company with a minimal marketing budget, this is by far the single most important component of an overall marketing strategy and one that requires prompt and consistent attention.

According to the 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey published by BrightLocal, “92% of consumers now read online reviews for local businesses.” The report also stated that “97% of consumers aged 18 to 34 read online reviews to judge a local business.” With 9 out of every 10 prospects making their ultimate decision to do business with your company based on the reviews they find or don’t find, you can see how critical it is to know exactly what customers are saying about their experience with you so you can reply in a prompt and appropriate manner.

Phase Two – Building Your 5-Star Reputation

Phase 2 - Build ReputationIn order to build a five-star reputation, one must first develop a reputation marketing culture within the organization. Is vitally important that all staff members understand how to consistently deliver high-quality service and how the company’s reputation affects their longevity and success in the local marketplace. We utilize a custom-designed online training center that allows each staff member to become trained and tested so they fully understand the importance of reputation marketing.

There are numerous tools and services available to help small business owners get more reviews and thereby build their reputation. Some of them work very well, but others that I have analyzed have some drawbacks, such as the reviews they generate are not indexed by Google or the platforms require too much training or oversight.

When considering a platform to automate the review acquisition process, a business owner should consider features such as the degree of automation, how and where these reviews will be posted, and will those reviews remain even if the service is discontinued. Our company has several proven strategies that can be used alone or concurrently to increase the effectiveness of getting more reviews.

Phase Three – Marketing Your 5-Star Reputation

Phase 3 - Market ReputationThis is the area where I feel many other providers fall short. A company’s positive reviews can be an incredible marketing asset, provided they are utilized across numerous platforms. Some of the proven strategies we provide for our clients include transforming a written testimonial or review into a professionally produced video to gain exposure on video sites like YouTube.

Images attract a great deal of attention on Facebook, and image sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Therefore, a small business owner could get significantly more exposure for their reviews by creating professionally designed images and posting them to those types of sites. We have found this to be a very effective strategy for our clients.

In Summary…

A company’s reviews and reputation are naked to the entire online world. It is no longer effective to only hear a company say how good they are. It is vitally important to be aware what the Internet is saying about that brand. Reputation is a new online currency and the company’s reviews, ratings, and recommendations are either attracting new business for themselves or sending those prospects to their competitors.

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