This article originally appeared in the November edition of OPE Business.
There seems to be a never-ending deluge of marketing buzzwords that inundate business owners year after year. And every year, the next hot thing that you just HAVE to do for your business changes. So, the toughest thing for any business owner to figure out each year is whether that next hot thing is actually the next must-have to take your business to the next level. One topic I get lots of questions about is reputation management.
Over the past several years, dozens of companies have entered the landscape touting the importance of reputation management. You’ve likely even been contacted by companies that market themselves as end-to-end reputation management companies. But what is reputation management and why is it important?
At its core, reputation management is exactly what it sounds like – tools that help you manage your business’s reputation online. There are three main pillars that make up the foundation of your online reputation.
- Review Generation & Monitoring
- Business Listing Optimization
Review Generation and Monitoring
I know every dealer has had the importance of reviews pounded into their consciousness over the past several years. And for good reason – they’re that important. Consider the following data from Qualtrics.
- 91% of 18–34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- Customers are willing to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews.
- 94% of people say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business.
- 3 is the minimum star rating of a business consumers would engage with.
The value of reviews goes beyond just driving consumer action (or inaction). Businesses with positive online reviews get more love in Google search rankings too!
One of the most frequent questions I ask is “can you remove a negative review for our business?”. Most of the time, the answer to that question is no. It is possible to flag a review with Google if you can prove that it’s not actually a review of your business, overly offensive or explicit or creates a legal concern. If you’re successful, the review can be removed, but it’s a rare occurrence.
The absolute best thing to do is respond to every review, positive or negative. When customers see an articulate response to a negative review of your business, it has been proven to create a positive impression because it shows you care enough to reach out to try and make things right.
Understanding the importance of reviews is one thing, but generating reviews at scale is where you gain real momentum and that’s where software comes in. Automating your outreach is the key to making massive gains in review generation. It’s also the quickest way to bury bad reviews. When you consider that 72% of customers will write a review if a local business asks them to, investing in review generation is a no brainer. I recommend this to every dealer I talk to.
Business Listing Optimization
Business listings play an integral role in your business’s online reputation. While reviews and social listening are more customer centric, business listing optimization is a key component of your reputation in Google’s eyes. If you recently added a new location or maybe moved from an old location, making sure your business details are accurate is extremely important for search engines and how the judge the integrity of the listing. There are hundreds of directory websites that Google uses to assess the value of your listing and you’re not going to update those manually, are you? Of course not. And even if you wanted to, many of them wouldn’t allow you to edit the listing if you tried. I recommend business listing optimization so every local business we work with because it has measurably positive effects on your local SEO efforts.
I’ve mentioned in this space before that 75% of consumers admit that they judge a business’s credibility on the quality of their website design so the importance of your web presence can’t be overstated enough. While your website isn’t necessarily a tool like the review generation or business listing optimization, but I absolutely consider it to be central to the overall brand experience of the dealership.
Where the OPE industry is unique from many others is that dealers often rely heavily on OEM co-op funds for most of their advertising and typically have outside firms managing their campaigns. This means that I see many instances of dealers not being privy If you’re a heavy spender in digital media, sending traffic to an unprofessional website might actually be hurting your business. A banner ad campaign with a modest budget of $1,000/mo could drive over 10,000 visits to your website on average. That’s a lot of eyeballs to expose your poorly designed website to.
It’s an age-old phrase, but it’s never been truer than it is today. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Managing your online reputation properly means being a customer’s first thought, first interaction and first option for their sales dollar. It takes a long time to earn a positive reputation and, in the Internet age, a short time to destroy it if you don’t proactively protect your good name. Investing in reputation management can provide quality and consistent long-term ROI for your business and that makes it a must-have for your yearly marketing budget.