One of our client’s phoned me the other day. He sounded really angry. The reason? He’d just met with a strong competitor who boasted that his company had more Google reviews than he did. He wanted to know what I was going to do about it?
“Nothing”, I told him. His competitor had double the foot traffic going through his business, and we were never going to be able to compete if we were measuring the number of Google reviews. I then said to him, “Next time you see your competitor, tell him we’ve replied to more Google reviews than he has!”
While quantity is important in a digital world, quality wins hands down, every time. I’ll always prefer one visit to my website that results in one sale, than a million people visiting my website with zero sales.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
And in the world of Online Reputation Management (ORM), quality is critical. Proactively engaging with customers, giving transparent and honest feedback, using the reviews to improve your business, helping to steer the conversation, all of these and more are no longer nice to haves. This is what success looks like going forward.
There was a time when people found you through the Yellow Pages, or adverts in the local paper, or over lunch with a neighbour or colleague. But that was a long time ago. The internet changed all of that. People find you through Google. They evaluate your products and services through reviews from people they’ve never met. They research you, compare your prices, get a sense of your product / service and what their experience might be, all before they’ve gotten within 50km of your front door.
YOU NEED MORE THAN A WEBSITE AND ADS
Having a sexy well designed website, with awesome video ads on Facebook, and a killer Google Ads strategy isn’t enough. Increasingly your reputation is moving out of your control and into the hands of your customers. You are no longer the sole decision maker with regards to what is put out there about who you are.
Think about your next holiday and all the websites that contain information about the hotel you’d like to stay at? You could go to the Hotel’s website and read about what they tell you, and look at the photos and videos that they’ve posted. But you probably won’t do that. You will look at their website and their media, but you’ll also read the reviews on Booking.com, TripAdvisor or Google Maps. You might even stumble across the blog of someone you’ve never met who goes into incredible detail about their 4 night stay. No longer are customer decisions being made largely on what your brand says about itself. Customers are seeking out and actively listening to what others are saying to make their buying decisions.
Here are some stats from a post on Forbes.com that helps to breakdown just how important those ‘other’ information sources are:
About 90% of global sales still happen in physical stores, but 97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses and three in four people who use their smartphones to search for something nearby end up visiting a local business within a day. Foot traffic to retail businesses is down 57% in the past five years, but the value of every visit has tripled. 90% of customers say that what they decide to buy is influenced by positive online reviews, and 94% will use a business with at least four stars.
Online Reputation Management isn’t about manipulating and falsifying the information that’s out there. It’s about getting into the spaces where your customers are speaking about you, and authentically getting involved in the conversation. At Calidascope it’s a daily activity, helping our clients to proactively respond to reviews, crafting appropriate replies to emails, strategising around new campaigns based on guest feedback, designing training programmes for their employees to close gaps that begin to emerge. It’s definitely not about pushing a green button and then sitting back while it looks after itself.
Last month we posted about a Restaurant in Bryanston who’s had great success in this. It’s an intensive part of the overall marketing and communication plan. There are businesses that do ORM really well. There are many that don’t do it at all. And then there are a group somewhere in between that are attempting something, but it’s clearly half hearted as they copy and paste, illustrating that they haven’t worked out just how important this part of their activity is.
Where your brand goes, you must go. If your customers are going to engage with you on a review platform, you have to go there and get involved in the conversation. And you have to go there every single day.