Over the past five years I’ve come to learn most about building an online reputation from those who actually do it. I can read journal articles, news stories, industry research papers and blogs, like this one, but the greatest education I’ve had is from business owners who commit themselves to an online reputation and build it consistently.
There are a few strategies and practices of that those who do it well that are hugely beneficial in passing on – as are the acts (or more importantly, the omissions) of those who do it badly. Most importantly, the keys to assembling a solid and formidable online reputation are not expensive and nor are they time consuming.
In general, commitment is nothing more than the dedication to asking for reviews – making it a part of a business’ overall strategy. Inviting feedback, once enshrined within business practice, can take a few forms and the best way is a process of initial invitation after a job, including a link to review platforms on invoices, and asking again in follow up after care correspondence.
Businesses that fail to create a solid online reputation often stumble at this point. The initial hesitation to ask, and the failure to implement a habitual feedback process then stops everything in its tracks. The one consistent complaint I’ve heard by those afraid to ask is that they feel as if they are irritating, or annoying their customers. The reality is otherwise – – consumers are not only used to reviews now, they take it as a compliment to be asked for their opinions and experiences of a business’ services and/or products. They feel included in the business and that can only create a lasting relationship with a repeat customer.
Brand loyalty is not marketing jargon – it is the actual relationship a satisfied customer has with a business based on positive experiences. Every business wants to ensure customers will keep coming back for more, rather than straying to their competitors. Being open and transparent and building a forum for customer voices goes a long way in cementing that ongoing loyalty.
Accumulating reviews steadily and methodically is key here. The ways in which some get this wrong is two fold – the big bang practitioners and the sporadic and inattentive. The former begin with a hiss and a roar, attracting a good number of reviews and then they stop – imagining that’s enough. It isn’t. Reviews need to be recent and they need to exemplify the currency and dynamism of the business. The sporadic forget, they let months and then years pass by, substantially devaluing the reviews they already have.
The easiest way to make this point is to compare two businesses – both with the same number of reviews, accumulated over the same period of time. The first hasn’t had a review in three years, this means Google will not aggregate them and it means that consumers reading those reviews will ask themselves troubling questions. Is the business still trading? What’s wrong? They had reviews and now they don’t. Those queries have already taken a potential customer elsewhere.
The other business has consistently built up a review platform at a steady pace. The last review is within the past two weeks. This indicates viability and takes away any of the perplexing questions a consumer will have. That consistency is inviting and assuring, and it will convert into enquiries, sales and custom.
These differences are crucial and in truth, a healthy review practice is not difficult to implement. The benefits are substantial. All in all, consistency and commitment are the two greatest successful methods for a vibrant and enduring online reputation.