As a small business owner, you may not have the operating budget nor the instant recognition of the big business brands.
However, you have something they don’t have. You have the ability and drive to shower your customers with the type of personal attention they won’t get at a huge chain store.
So what if you don’t have the advertising budget of the gigantic chain store down the road? It doesn’t matter. Today, thanks to the Internet, you don’t need it. You just need to learn about, understand and utilise the power of online reputation marketing and your business will grow.
Where to Start
If you don’t already do so, start offline by making sure your customers experiences exceed their expectations.
In these days of one-size-fits-all shopping, where many businesses are more concerned with making their shareholders happy than their customers, small business owners have a definite advantage.
Make your customers feel like they are the centre of your world, and treat them well. Know when to offer help and when to step back, and you will have customers for life.
What is Reputation Marketing?
Reputation marketing and management is pretty simple, and you’re probably already doing it to some extent if your are a small business owner. If you’re not already familiar with it, rest assured that it’s a pretty easy concept to understand.
Simply put, it’s the marketing of your business through the managing of online reviews, comments and feedback of your customers.
In this day and age, people have the ability to review their purchasing experiences in almost real-time by simply whipping out their smartphone and thumbing a few keys.
Websites such as Tripadvisor and Foursquare make it incredibly easy for them to do so.
Positive reviews – Google Reviews
The ease in which your customers can do this is why it’s so important to make sure their expectations of your business are not only matched, but are also exceeded.
Related: How reviews can boost local SEO
Find Out What People are Saying About You Online
Your next step is to research your business online. Find out what people are saying. You can’t manage your business’s online reputation if you don’t know what your customers think of your products and service.
To find out, conduct a simple web search for your business. Type in your company’s name and see what information comes back. The most important stuff is going to appear on the first page of the results.
That’s not to say anything beyond the first couple of pages isn’t important – but prioritise the most visible comments, reviews and discussions.
Once you have scanned Google for any mentions of your company on review sites, blogs, forums, move on to social media.
Twitter and Facebook are probably the two key social networks – and definitely the most commonly used for complaints.
Twitter has a very easy to use advanced search feature. From here you can search specific keywords, such as your company name, and filter by language, location, date, and even if the tweet had a positive or negative tone.
Facebook is a little different. When people leave comments on Facebook it is likely that they leave either a post on your company Facebook page wall, or as a comment on a status or link you shared. The golden rule here is to never ignore a comment – even negative ones.
Every negative review is an opportunity to learn more about your customers and business, and to ultimately turn that negative experience into a positive one.
What You Can Learn from Your Search
Your search is probably going to reveal one of three things.
Overwhelming positive comments.
If this is the case, give yourself a pat on the back, and keep doing what you’re doing.
A mix of positive and negative, but mostly negative.
Inconsistent comments, with plenty of negativity and disappointed customers. If this is the case, take a deep breath, and don’t take the reviews personally. At least now you know what people are saying, and you can take steps to fix any problems.
People don’t even know you exist.
You may find very little information, maybe none at all, about your business. If this is the case, you need to start building your brand. The good news is you have nothing negative to fix. The bad news is people may not even know you’re in business!
How to Manage Your Online Reputation
So, you’re treating your customers like the kings and queens they are, you understand reputation marketing and you’ve researched your business online and know what people are saying about you.
Now it’s time to start managing your online reputation. This doesn’t require a big budget, or one at all, for that matter.
An easy way to so this is to regularly perform web searches for your company. Make it a habit to search for your business every morning while you drink your coffee – make it part of your routine. Keep track of any new reviews and comments people leave.
If you don’t have time to perform these searches on a consistent basis, sign up for Google Alerts. This is a free service that sends an email to you any time your business’ name pops up. This is a great guide to get your started.
Google Alerts is a great to find brand mentions fast
Enlist help from colleagues, friends and family. If you just don’t want to worry with the day-to-day management of your online reputation, find someone you trust to deal with it.
Reputation Marketing is good for Business
It’s easy, and perfectly understandable, to get frustrated with the huge role reputation marketing can play in the success, or lack thereof, of your business. However, try to stay positive.
Yes, it takes time to manage and can potentially impact your business negatively, but good reputation marketing of a well-run business will help it thrive.
Even if you’re coming to the concept of reputation marketing rather late in the game, you have plenty of time to harness its immense power and use it to grow your business.
Reputation Marketing is Worth Your Time
As a small business owner, you’re no doubt incredibly busy and it’s probably overwhelming to consider adding another task to your to-do list. It’s easy to let reputation marketing fall to the back burner, but it’s a mistake to let it do so.
Your business needs a solid online reputation, and reputation marketing is how it will get one.
After all, you have spent all this time building your own business, surely it’s worth putting aside 15 minutes a day to see what the rest of the world is saying about your company, and you!
In the long term, it will help your business thrive. A good reputation means your customers will freely recommend your to friends and family – and we all how positive word-of-mouth can be for SMEs!
Do you keep up with what your customers say online? If so, what tools do you use? If you see something negative, what’s your first course of action? We’d love to know! So drop us a comment.