In the last blog piece I wrote I featured and discussed the latest survey results into online consumer reviews by BrightLocal. Since then I’ve been pondering a question that often has me stumped – why do some businesses neglect to market their reputation? Why, when all the evidence points to reviews being the dominant driver of consumer motivation, do a number of businesses hold them at arms length?

Online reviews are simply a business’ reputation placed on the one platform where consumers are looking – the internet. Print, directories, even traditional branding strategies, such as radio and TV are all falling away into obscurity – because of one simple reason. Consumers need and want to read reviews before going any further on their journey. What businesses say about themselves doesn’t cut it anymore. Consumers are tired of bad experiences, services and products, and faith in companies is not what it once was. Online reviews on the other hand, are a dynamic and up-to-date account of a business’ vibrancy and value – if they have them.

So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Businesses that refuse to put their reputations on the line do so out of fear. Fear of the unknown and the fear of losing the very thing they do not understand they have in the first place – control.

I have heard from business owners on countless occasions that they are wary of reviews- that they don’t want to commit to a transparent and honest reflection of their business. They think anyone can review them – disgruntled employees, competitors, ex-partners. Despite all the evidence that the ways they try to market is not working, they will not do the one thing that works.

Now control is often confused. People get caught in traps of their own making believing they have little or no control, when the opposite is, in fact, true. Taking the steps to change outmoded practices and commit to an online reputation puts control in the hands of the business owner. They can actively encourage customers to leave feedback – they can direct them to authenticated sites, such as www.nocowboys.co.nz, Google or even Facebook. But that’s only the beginning of control.

When business owners register with reputable reviews sites, they are alerted of new reviews, and told the value of responding to them, and the SEO benefits of the reviews themselves, as well as the response. If an unseemly review is posted they are informed right away and advised on how to deal with it and respond to it. That is a level of control – a proactive one – as opposed to augmenting reputation management – and reacting.

Control allows a business to know exactly how their business is perceived by its customers, how to address issues if they come up and to then keep encouraging their customers to add to word-of-mouth online – all the while reaping the benefits of hugely increased new customer engagement. Control changes not only the tone of the conversation, but the conversation itself. Control makes a business visible, vibrant and dynamic, in the very place that the vast majority of consumers are browsing, and researching – online.