With the UK economy fighting to get back on its feet after the coronavirus, there’s never been a better time to build a reputation management plan and use your customer feedback to its full potential.
Your online brand reputation is everything when it comes to growing a successful, highly profitable business. When your branding is strong, feedback is positive, and you’re seen as a business that cares about their customers, you’re more likely to make sales, grow your customer base, and stand out online.
Without further ado, here are six quick steps you should take right now to improve your brand reputation.
1. Monitor your brand reputation online
Above all else, you need to be listening to what people are saying about your business online. It’s the step that underpins every part of your brand reputation management plan and without it, your efforts will be a waste of time.
These days, reviews influence people’s buying decisions heavily. Before they make a purchase of any kind, whether this is buying an expensive camera upgrade or simply choosing which new novel to download to their Kindle, they’re almost certain to check out those reviews online.
According to Inc.com, a massive 91% of consumers take reviews into consideration before buying and as surprising 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
With this in mind, your first mission is to find out where people leave you reviews and feedback and start monitoring them. Typical places include:
There are also several specialist review sites such as rateragent.co.uk (for estate agents), solicitor.info (for solicitors), removalreviews.co.uk (for home moves) across numerous industries. It’s important to understand if there are similar sites in your sector and monitor them often.
Once you’ve done this, start looking at what they’re saying. Are there any points that keep being mentioned? What appear to be the strengths of your business from the eyes of your customers or clients? What could be your weaknesses?
2. Find branded search terms and create content
Your brand reputation isn’t just built from those kinds of online reviews. There are also plenty of long-form websites, web pages and blog posts that either review your product or services and even compare them against your competitors.
Mentions of this kind can positively influence your search rankings, drive more traffic to your website and boost your brand image. But only if they’re accurate and preferably show your business in a favourable light.
So what do you do if you find branded content about your business that isn’t so great? You have two options:
1) You contact the site directly and ask them to make changes.
This feels like the easiest, most cost-efficient approach to take but this often isn’t the case.
Although most site owners are friendly and helpful, many just ignore these kinds of emails or ask that you rework and change the piece in question. This can translate to lots of extra work for you and lots of back and forth communication which takes time and money.
2) You create your own branded content and outrank them
By far, this is the most savvy option because you’ll have full control over what you publish. You’ll be reaching out directly to your audience, addressing their questions and queries in an accurate way, and sharing your brand values with them. This translates to a better buyer experience and a better reputation for you as a business.
As industry experts Content Marketing Institute says, “Because these content pieces are often focused on establishing thought leadership, raising awareness, and generating positive brand perceptions, they are more likely to be viewed as worthy of the audience’s trust and attention as compared to more product- and pitch-driven formats like digital ads.”
However, it’s important not to create content that sounds too biased or salesy. Your audience will see straight through it and you could end up unintentionally harming your brand image.
3. Plan how you will respond to negative comments
The fact is, you’re almost certain to receive at least a couple of negative reviews or comments about your product or service, even if you get 5 starts the rest of the time.
For that reason, you should devise a strategic and effective plan on how to respond so that you can take control of the situation and use it to your advantage.
Done right, those less than stellar reviews can be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your customers and clients. Here’s how you can develop your plan.
Step 1: Decide who will be in charge of monitoring the review sites and comments.
Keep it simple- usually it’s best to choose someone from your marketing department or in customer service. Make sure this person understands what is expected of them, which sites they need to monitor, and so on.
Step 2: Decide what your response should be?
Whether you’re responding to positive or negative feedback, you should have a clear vision of what your response will be. Wherever possible, develop in-house guides that outline exactly what this should be, including template responses where necessary.
Step 3: Decide what happens if the query is out of the ordinary.
If your business is faced with a trickier issue that needs resolving, your designated person should understand what he or she needs to do. Who should they turn to for assistance? Do they have any power to resolve issues without first gaining approval from another member of the team?
Step 4: Decide who delivers the response.
Your business needs a designated person who will answer any feedback. This is likely to be the same person who monitors the feedback, but this isn’t always the case. Ensure that this person understands their responsibilities and is made aware of the overall complaint response plan.
4. Address negative comments
Many businesses feel tempted to ignore those negative comments and hope that the positive ones will push them out of sight.
Not only is this extremely hard to do (you’d need 40 positive reviews to undo the damage done by just one) you’d also be sending a subliminal message to your customers that you don’t care. In turn, this will severely impact vital branding factors such as trust and brand perception.
That’s why it’s important to acknowledge it and do what you can to fix the problem.
Yes, this can feel slightly uncomfortable. No one likes dealing with criticism.
But by acknowledging and responding to your negative feedback, you can show your listening and resolve those issues. Act quickly, use the framework you developed earlier to guide your response and above all else, be friendly, professional and polite
5. Use the positives to build your brand reputation
When you’re creating your reputation management plan, consider how your business will respond to positive feedback too. If you can do this effectively, you can make the positives work harder and give your brand reputation a well-deserved boost.
“…high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.” agrees the Google team on their support page.
Here are a few tips that can help:
Decide on your response to positive feedback. This doesn’t have to be anything overly complex. Just thank your customer for their kind words and make your response as unique as you can.
Ask your customers for feedback as often as possible and make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Added incentives for reviews can also be highly effective.
Monitor the review sites frequently. The faster you can be with your response, the better your business will appear.
6. Track your results
Monitor your online presence and keep an eye on the ranking of your branded content once you’ve put your reputation management plan into place.
Track any changes as they happen and schedule regular reviews so you can assess whether you need to tweak your approach. If you’ve done your homework, your star ratings should improve, you should see more positive feedback and your brand reputation should see significant improvements.
Building an effective reputation management plan does require careful consideration and you need to be willing to actively engage with your customers to get optimum results.
Be friendly, be willing to listen, be willing to adapt and improve your offerings and you will create a stronger, more profitable brand.