Pop quiz hot shot. Do the regulars love your place but you’re not getting any new comers? Have negative comments cluttered the comments section of your website? If “Yes!” was your answer to any of these questions, then you my friend are in need of reputation management. Any company, no matter the size, likeability, or fame can gain a lot from reputation management but for some, such as local businesses, there’s more necessity than for others. With that said let’s tackle the previous questions.
Same place, same faces
Local businesses, usually family owned, are arguably the most in need of reputation management. They probably don’t have the budget required to hire a reputation management firm, but that doesn’t mean they can’t manage their own reputation by themselves. These businesses thrive on what people say about them. Word of mouth has been replaced by online reviews, likes, stars, hearts or whatever other social media platforms use to show appreciation or lack thereof.
Regular customers will most surely not pay attention to what is said online because they know the place and the people who run the business fairly well. They have found a comfort zone with their local restaurant, bar, barbershop, and so on that allows them to overlook some of the most daunting negative characteristics. Unless your business is packed with regulars, which is surely not the case then you need new faces day after day. Here is where online reputation is premium.
Visitors to a new place will more often than not go online for suggestions of where to go or what to do. Making sure you have as much positive feedback will definitely help in attracting new customers, local and foreign. Take into account what people say in the comments section of your website, whether they be good or bad (we’ll get to the bad ones in a moment). Positive comments let you know what people like and what you can fortify so pay close attention to these. If you want to gain positive online rep make sure you treat your patrons well when they visit you. The grand majority of recommendations for a local business come from going there and seeing if what’s online is actually the truth or if it’s hog wash. Smile at your visitors, engage them and make them feel like they are important. Do everything in your power to make sure they leave with a positive experience, and encourage them to review your place and be specific about what they liked or not.
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Unlike in math, where two negatives multiplied make a positive, businesses cannot afford to see negative comments grow. Negative comments on social media impact how likely someone is to buy or visit a place. According to the Local Consumer Review Survey 2015 by BrightLocal 94 percent of people surveyed would not use a business with a one-star rating and 87 percent if it had a two-star rating. In the same study, 60 percent of those surveyed answered that overall star rating was the most important factor when judging a business solely on its reviews. It’s like your back in first grade, stars matter. The higher the number of stars the better chance of receiving new business. But what if your business has a lower number of stars on a consistent basis, which are usually accompanied by negative results? What can you do?
First and perhaps most important, take the time to answer promptly. Negative reviews can easily crush a business; do not take them lightly. Ease the initial impact by contacting the reviewer and get information regarding his or her inconformity and then offer them a solution. Show them you care about the people and how they feel regarding your business and their experience. And like Mom and Dad used to tell you, “Say thank you.” Show gratitude to those who care enough to contact you.
Everything has a silver lining, no matter how bad it looks. You should take the negatives and turn them into opportunities for your business to grow. It’s another way to show patrons that you value their opinions and that you thrive to make sure they are happy. By doing this, you’re business will ultimately grow, depending on the issue the improvement might happen in one week or in a couple of years. Just letting people know you are willing to improve will make it easier and more likely for them to give you a second chance. Additionally, improving on the negatives will probably ensure that newcomers give you positive feedback, which in turn will yield a higher, more impacting online reputation.
Once again, being able to manage reputation well helps all businesses, but small local businesses the most. It’s possibly the best way to gain market recognition, favorability, increased sales and new and returning business.