If you own a business, it has an online reputation. Even if your business is strictly brick-and-mortar and you’ve worked hard to create a customer-friendly environment, its online presence establishes its first impression. The Yellow Pages—that large, flimsy book that was once the only way to a business’s phone number and address—has evolved into YP.com, an interactive website where people find your business and rate it. Unless you take action, that first impression is out of your hands; it’s in the hands of the public at large. Take control of your business’s reputation by proactively engaging with business-rating websites.
See your business as a prospective customer does. Type your business’s name into the search bar and see what comes up. Try again with a few search terms that someone might use to find your business if they didn’t know its name—the products or services and, if relevant, geographic location. What do you see?
Chances are, your customers are finding your business, but they’re also being provided with various options to read reviews and rate your business—Yelp.com, Angie’sList.com, YP.com are examples of websites providing this service. The higher your business ranks, the better visibility it gets on the website. While joining all of the different business-rating websites may be prohibitive, consider joining the websites where you determine your customers and prospective customers are most active. Most of these websites offer free registration for businesses, with various upgrades for advertising options. Yelp claims that business owners who claim their free Yelp business page realize an average increase of $8,000 in annual revenue. https://biz.yelp.com/ Upgrades include options like LeadFeed, a pay-per-referral option to business owners who claim their profile on Angie’s List. YP.com offers add-ons like top-of-list in search results and featured page placement.
The key to this step is to make it a regular, scheduled part of your week. This will keep the size of the task manageable and, if a negative review hits the Internet, you can respond in a timely way to minimize any damage to your business’s reputation or rank.
First, read some customer ratings where you personally do business—your favorite restaurant, your accountant, your mechanic. Chances are you’ll come across a few negative reviews, even if the overall rating is five stars or grade A. Does the business owner respond? If so, what type of response do you find satisfactory? Use this evaluation to determine how you want to handle negative reviews. It’s not necessary to offer a refund to every negative reviewer. Sometimes an offer from the business owner to try again works. Or, maybe you need to stand by your policy and trust that reasonable readers will agree with your stance. Responding appropriately to a negative review establishes your presence and demonstrates that you are aware of the complaint and considering it.
Also, don’t overlook the business opportunity to respond—at least on occasion—to positive feedback. This builds your credibility and establishes rapport with readers. When an unfavorable rating is posted, your response will be better received if you’re not jumping into the conversation just to defend your business.
3. Build Brand Presence
These business-rating websites offer significant exposure to people looking for your business. Angie’sList.com reports over 100,000,000 unique visitors to the website each year.
Once you engage as the business owner on a business-rating website, you’re already starting to leverage the website to build brand presence. But you can take it a step further. Ask your satisfied customers to share their positive experiences. Make it easy for them by handing them a business card with the URL for your business’s page on the website or send a follow-up email to an e-customer with the link. On the other hand, if a customer is less that satisfied, ask them how you can make it right. Maybe you can prevent a negative review and maybe you can’t, but if a negative review appears, you’ll be able to respond that you attempted to resolve the issue.
As your business and its Internet presence grows, the task of monitoring its online presence may become more than you want to handle personally. Consider delegating the task of monitoring the business-rating websites to a well-trained and well-qualified employee. Online reputation management (ORM) companies offer larger-scale solutions for businesses—to monitor your business’s reputation across multiple channels and to repair it should the need arise.
The Internet is a powerful tool that pushes out information instantly and globally. Take charge of your business’s online reputation by monitoring and leveraging the business-rating websites.