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Related Business Guide: The Guide to Evaluate and Monitor Your Online Presence
KNOWLEDGE YOU'LL GAIN FROM READING ‘HOW TO DEAL WITH CUSTOMER REVIEWS: THE ENTREPRENEUR’S BIBLE’
What reputation marketing is and how it impacts your business
How to impact customer perception for the positive
A detailed process for how to objectively evaluate your online presence
4 Strategies for promoting positive reviews
Practical steps to take if your business receives a negative review
HOW TO DEAL WITH CUSTOMER REVIEWS: THE ENTREPRENEUR’S BIBLE
If you run a business, you know that dealing with reviews can be a challenging, nerve-racking, and inescapable reality. According to Ryan Erskine, Forbes contributor, “We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability.”
Reviews can be an insanely challenging part of owning a business. Challenging because with reviews comes what seems like lack of control. Here are a few reasons why:
- The context of a situation is often omitted from reviews. Customers can say what they'd like - good or bad, but businesses walk a thin line when responding to negative reviews.
- Someone with a negative experience tends to take to reviews as a vengeance and might use reviews to "punish" the business.
- The rating scale can be obscure - there are no hard and fast rules for what differentiates ratings on the numerical 1-5 star scale.
Reviews come with undeniable benefits too.
Reviews can entice new customers.
Reviews tend to help your business rank higher in search engine results.
Reviews - both positive and negative - improve click through rates to your website.
Positive reviews help to build trust with potential customers.
Customer feedback can shine light on areas which need improvement in your business.
If your business does something well, people should know about it. It’s a great way to differentiate your business from competition.
Personally, I use reviews to make inferences about businesses and based on statistics, you've used them too. I make it a point to write reviews regularly because I understand what an impact they can make for a small business trying to establish an online presence.
Positive reviews equate to social clout in a world where access to customer perception is widely accessible.
Let me be clear. For businesses that equip themselves appropriately to deal with and leverage them, reviews can be insanely beneficial in the realm of reputation marketing.
WHAT IS REPUTATION MARKETING?
According to Sophia Bernazzani from Hubspot, “Your company's best marketers and sales reps aren't your employees -- they're your existing customers.” Additionally “HubSpot Research also found that 60% of consumers believed customer reviews were either trustworthy or very trustworthy -- meaning that businesses that can accumulate positive reviews had a good chance of them helping a customer make a purchase decision.”
Reputation marketing is what has emerged as a blend of reputation management and brand marketing. Reputation management, ironically, has carried a negative connotation as the solution in light of crisis and is often only referenced as so. “Management” is often synonymous with “control,” and as we all know, it’s elusive to try to “control” people’s thoughts, especially in the digital atmosphere where anyone has access to almost any type of information at any given time.
Brand marketing, on the other hand, carries the assumption of influence - intentionally crafting a message and asserting it to key players, ultimately helping shape - not intending to control - the ideas surrounding a company’s purpose.
The aim of reputation marketing? Positively influence how consumers perceive a brand’s reputation.
What emotions, feelings, and thoughts come to mind when you read the following companies’ names?
- Warby Parker?
- Spirit Airlines?
- Tom’s Shoes?
- Planned Parenthood?
- Toys R Us?
- Wells Fargo?
All of these companies have taken steps to try to influence the way you perceive their brand - to attach thoughts, feelings, and emotions to their brand in your mind. Some have succeeded, others have...well, crashed and burned.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “MARKETING” AND “REPUTATION MARKETING”
Marketing is the effort of promoting or selling a product or service.
Reputation marketing, on the other hand, is the effort of intending to influence how consumers perceive a brand. Its marketing aim is not just to sell a product or service, but rather to connect emotions, feelings, and thoughts to a brand as a whole. Here’s one such example.
WHY PEER VALIDATION MATTERS TO YOUR BUSINESS
Whether you manage your business's reviews regularly or not at all, one thing is certain. Potential customers are reading what other people say about your company online. Reviews present opportunity (either to gain new customers OR to improve business operations) which is why peer validation matters.
If a beauty salon hires stylists who do a poor job, I want to know before I book an appointment.
If a restaurant isn’t up to health code, I want to know before I make a reservation.
If there’s a business out there providing excellent customer care, serving the community well, and delivering an exceptional product or service, I want to know so I can support it, enjoy a positive experience, and know my dollars are going to a company of positive influence.
People vote with their dollars. Reviews take others' experiences in dealing with businesses and make them available for others to use for decision making. Reviews are a powerful way for peers to communicate about their own experiences, which lends insight into more and more customers deciding whether or not to support that business. In addition, there’s an element of accountability and transparency that reviews add when making decisions on which products or services to buy and where to buy them.
HOW TO IMPACT CUSTOMER PERCEPTION FOR THE POSITIVE
Developing a healthy reputation for your business is a lot like being a good human. There is no exact formula for how to be a good human or how to develop a healthy business reputation, as both hinge on authenticity. You see, you can’t MacGyver your way into a healthy business reputation because your daily interactions and the precedence you set in your company are a culmination over time of how you deal with customers on a day-to-day, situation-by-situation basis.
Care about people over profits. Be honest. Admit when you’re wrong. Strive to over-deliver. Prioritize relationships. Develop an undeniable work ethic. Dare to be different. Attend to the details. Exhibit your passion.
Decide what core principles define your business and then intertwine them in all you do, from sealing the deal on a sale to scrubbing the floors after you flip on the ‘Closed’ sign for the day. Stand for your core principles unapologetically and compromise them under no circumstance. Only you as the business owner can determine your business's secret sauce for success, but you do it by setting genuine, authentic principles and modeling all your decisions and behavior after them.
HOW TO OBJECTIVELY EVALUATE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
The process overview for evaluating your online presence is listed below, but if you're looking for more in-depth instruction on how review your own business, download the Guide to Evaluate and Monitor Your Online Presence and customize it to your needs.
- Pause and ask yourself important questions to keep top of mind before researching.
- Plan and brainstorm. Put emotions to the side and execute an unbiased, objective search.
- Start digging. Search every nook and cranny. The Guide to Evaluate and Monitor Your Online Presence lists specific tools to help identify where customers are mentioning your company online.
- Identify adjectives and description phrases customers use to describe your business, employees, and operations. Write them down.
- Determine where you'll look based on your business, industry, product, service, and target market.
- Once you have exhausted your search, turn customers' opinions into actionable, positively impactful sources of research.
Again, for a more detailed resource on what questions to ask, where to find what people are saying about your business, and detailed tips and tricks, download the guide.
This topic begs the mention of Google My Business listings - one of the main and most accessible sources of customer reviews on the web. Sources say that Google boasts anywhere from 60% - 80% of the search market share, and with businesses' My Business listings positioned front and center on the Google SERP (search engine results page), it's no wonder this valuable resource has gained powerful traction.
Google My Business listings provide the following information about a business:
- Customer reviews
- Customers' photos
- Phone number
- Upcoming events
- Questions asked and answered by other customers
- Reviews from other sources online
- Popular times to visit
- How long people typically spend at the business
- Recent posts made by the company
- Other related profiles
Right there. Front and center of the search engine results page (SERP). No longer do searchers have to navigate away from Google (i.e. to a website or social media site) to find the information they're looking for about businesses that have a My Business listing, it's one search phrase away.
Whether you're a dentist's office, a coffee shop, a health food store, or a graphic designer, you definitely need a Google My Business listing (and if you don't have a brick and mortar, you can identify the general area where you're located without listing your home address for safety reasons).
If you haven’t yet claimed your Google My Business listing, you’re sorely missing out on an insanely valuable piece of real estate in Google. Put it on your to-do list right now.
4 STRATEGIES TO PROMOTE POSITIVE CUSTOMER REVIEWS
Listed below are strategies you can apply in your business to promote positive customer reviews. For additional tips and templates for responding to reviews and setting up email autoresponders, download the FREE Online Review Tips and Templates Guide.
- Integrate reviews into business operations. According to Pew Research Center, only about 10% of people ‘always’ or ‘almost always’ leave a review. Having a welcoming attitude toward reviews shows transparency in your business. Carpe diem. If someone compliments your business in person or through email, say thanks and kindly ask if they’d could go online and leave those same kind words. I’m not suggesting begging for reviews, but if someone is willing to genuinely compliment your business, it’s likely they’d be happy to go online and do the same. Direct them specifically where you’d like them to leave the review - Facebook? Google? Yelp? Your website? Some other outlet? Tell them.
- Follow up after the sale. Many CRM and ecommerce platforms have options available for following up. Genuinely taking steps to show you care about customers’ experience with your company is a great bridge. If they’re happy, they’ll tell you about it. If they’re not, here’s an opportunity to make things right. This is one rich area where you can collect valuable customer insight and an additional point of contact after the sale could remind customers to share their experience.
- Have a system for handling reviews beyond the initial response. Always reply to customer reviews, good or bad. If the review is bad, thank the customer for their honesty and for pinpointing an area of your business that needs improvement (more on how to deal with negative reviews later in this article). Then, actually use the review as a way to improve. Gather your staff for a brainstorming session. Create an open-minded space for collaboration without blaming or denying responsibility. Employee buy-in is crucial for improvement. Every member of a company is responsible for customer perception and should operate as such, but that expectation starts with you as the business owner.
- Highlight reviews. If customers are saying good things about your business, let the world know. Share them authentically in your marketing efforts. Print them out and tack them to your bulletin board. Talk about them with employees as a target for which to aim. Heck, name a new product after a customer’s creative verbiage. In essence, integrate positive customer perception into your business’s way of life so that it sets the precedent for future engagement.
OUTLETS FOR REVIEWS
Keep in mind when crafting your system for handling reviews that it’s important to actually know where on the Internet people are reviewing your company. If customers are reviewing your company on Google and you have no idea, you could be missing out on leveraging the positive reviews, or missing the opportunity to help shape customer perception by responding to negative reviews.
Here are ideas for where you can collect customer reviews
- Your website. If you’re selling a product, add a plugin (Wordpress and Squarespace) or app (Shopify and Wix) that integrates customer reviews. Additionally, make sure you have an automated system for purchase follow-up in place for reaching out to customers after they’ve made a purchase asking for the review. In your emails, be sure to ask that if the customer had a negative experience, they contact you directly so you can rectify the situation. If you offer a service, the process of collecting reviews (or “testimonials” as they’re more often coined) might be somewhat less automated. Reach out to customers who would have a solid grasp on what it’s like to work with you and ask them to write a paragraph on their experience. Be sure to highlight these reviews on your website. To keep this top of mind, put a reminder in your calendar at the 3-month mark or when a project is supposed to end when you begin working with a new client to remind you to reach out and ask for the review.
- Company Facebook page
- Trip Advisor
- Better Business Bureau
- Yellow Pages
- Angie’s List
- Other sales outlets (Amazon)
- Bloggers (Collaborate with bloggers to review your business or product - this can offer a positive benefit for SEO too.)
Additionally, ecommerce companies like AirBnB and Houzz integrate a review system inside their platform. Research what review sites matter most to your industry, product, service, target market and business as a whole; then make it a regular practice to check and respond to reviews.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE A NEGATIVE REVIEW
As you read this section, keep top of mind that how you respond to reviews - positive and negative - influences how onlookers and the writer of the review perceive your company. Your response is an opportunity to paint your business in a positive light, but it must be genuine and authentic.
Before responding, take a big deep breath. Reviews can present lots of emotions. Responding to reviews requires careful thought and consideration given that the review and your corresponding response will have an online audience indefinitely.
Remind yourself of your company’s mission and purpose so that appropriate words which reflect those characteristics resonate throughout the language you use. Opt for a sincere tone that reflects the thoughts, feelings, and emotions you want customers to experience when they think of your brand.
First, let’s cover what not to do when dealing with a negative review.
- Don’t get defensive. A sour, salty tone will only serve to reinforce others’ negative perceptions about you or your business.
- Don’t ignore the review. Ignoring the review signals to customers that you may not really care about the experience they receive.
- Don’t let the review make you sour or salty. If your operations are sound, one bad review isn’t going to break your business.
- Don’t be a pushover. If the review is unfair, it’s important to identify facts that provide context. Nonetheless, your language should still relay compassion for your customers.
Now let’s cover what to do when dealing with a negative review.
- Respond to the review with an open heart and with poise. It’s hard to hear people speak negatively about something you invest a great deal time and heart into, but responding out of compassion and love for serving others will reflect in your word choice, only helping to support the genuine nature of your business.
- Use the review as a springboard for improvement. Really consider how this experience will help make your business better. If it’s appropriate, share it in your response.
- If you remember the instance which the reviewer is referencing, say so. Kindly mention a few details and what your reaction was.
- Win over new customers. Take the opportunity to use negative reviews to introduce customers to the positive, unique-to-your-business characteristics that make it great. If you fell short on a certain principle, identify it and explain what steps you’ll take to do better next time.
Don’t know what to say? The Online Review Tips and Templates Guide will help you craft genuine, authentic responses that positively reflect your business. Click to download the guide for free!
REVIEW OF THIS POST
- What reputation marketing is and how it impacts your business
- How to impact customer perception for the positive
- How to objectively evaluate your online presence
- Strategies for promoting positive reviews
- What to do if your business receives a negative review
- The Online Review Tips and Templates Free Guide and the Guide to Evaluate and Monitor Your Online Presence Business Guide
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For proper introductions, I'm Francie. I started my business, Simply Integrated, in 2015 and have fallen madly in love with teaching small business owners how to run their companies more successfully and marketing to impact bottom line profitability.
My knowledge and experience comes from earning an MBA and from coaching small business entrepreneurs while managing and marketing their projects. I focus solely on business strategy and marketing and created this blog to help others run more successful businesses. If you’re interested, you can read more about me on the About page of Simply Integrated’s website.
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