News flash, building a business it not an easy thing to do! I think that all SMB’s could agree on this simple fact. Also, I think that most would agree no matter how long that have been in business, that they have seen changes in the marketplace and in the way they have to do business to stay viable. This holds especially true in competitive marketplaces, like here in San Diego, CA.
When working hard to build that business, you make countless numbers of decisions, some of which are popular, some of which might upset people. As business owners we are tasked with the responsibility of making decisions that are not only good for the customer but also good for the business. Normally in a fair decision both sides win a little and both sides loose a little, right? We all know that it’s not quite that simple and there are times that people get upset and say nasty things about you and your business. Now what happens when they make that vendetta an online attack, which the whole world can see? Whether it is slander or not is for the courts to decide, but once they do it may be too late anyways. These types of zingers on sites like yelp, Google +, Facebook, ect., can REALLY hurt a business in today’s marketplace, so having a strategy in place to stay on top is becoming more and more important. So where do you start?
- MONITER – Have a system in place to monitor ALL relevant sites. Although yelp and google are the big players there are plenty of sites out there that can start the wave of damage. Make sure you identify as many sites as you can and have a process in place to monitor and respond to ALL reviews. With the exception of the outliers that will only use it against you and your business. Remember Positive in Public, Negative in Private.
- LISTEN – In addition to a solid strategy to monitor review sites, you should also have a solid plan for “social listening”. There should be processes in place to listen for what people are saying about your business and industry. For example I saw a post recently about how disgusting a restaurants bathroom was, with photo evidence. That is NOT good for business and if a system was in place, it could be spun as a great customer service experience.
- STAY ACTIVE – Not just great advice for your health, but also for the online health of your business. Constant activity will only flood out the few outliers and continue to remind people how awesome your business truly is. There should be a system in place to follow up via e-mail with as many customers as realistically possible, asking for direct feedback on review sites, not through 3 party sites. Also, activity on social media sites will help to solidify relationships with customers and put you in a better position to react if and when something does come up.
- STAY POSITIVE– Remember although it is frustrating when you receive negative feedback that their words and your words are forever in the online world, so tread lightly. Although this seems obvious, we are all human and have tempers. Lashing out publicly or privately about negative feedback or offering incentives to change the review will only cuase you more grief. Keep your emotional intelligence in check.
Online Reputation Management is one part marketing and one part insurance policy for your business. Make sure that you have a good system in place to cover your bases in these important areas. Remember this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are countless ways to endear your customers publicly which will only entice more and more people to do business with you. If you have been waiting for review sites and public comments to disappear, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath, they are here to stay. If you do not have a system in place, now is the time!