If you believe online reviews don’t matter, the following example should put things into perspective for you.
Let’s say you spend a good chunk of your marketing budget on a big, sexy billboard that faces a busy highway. This action attracts a lot of attention, sure, but how are the people driving by going to get more information about your store after they see the sign? “They’re going to search online,” said Rod Stuckey, founder of Dealership University and Powersports Marketing. And depending on what your customers find online, they’ll decide whether or not they want to visit your store. If your online rep consists of negative or one-star reviews Google Places or Yelp, he continues, you’re “basically wasting your marketing dollars.”
While you can’t stop negative reviews of your business, Stuckey said in his seminar yesterday on “Online Reputation Management,” there are things you can do to address them to turn them into positives.
For one, take control of your online presence — whether Google Pages, Yahoo! Local or other business listings pages. Though Stuckey was pleased that half of the dealers in his seminar actually knew what Google Places is, “most dealerships are listed on less than 30 percent of available free business listings,” Stuckey said. “Of those listings, more than 80 percent are incomplete, inaccurate or missing info.” So sign up and claim your listings to combat any errors that may be floating around the Internet about your business. (Side note: Powersports Marketing offers a program that helps sort out the many online listings.)
Managing reviews also is important. Websites like Google Places and Yelp offer a star-rating system that allows users to develop an opinion on a business based on a single glance. If you check out your listing on these sites and find that you’ve got a handful of negative or one-star reviews, you’ve got a big problem. “The dealer with the most positive reviews will always be prominently displayed by the search engines and get more clicks,” Stuckey said.
And those dealers competing with negative reviews will lose out on new business, for potential customers almost always go to places with the best ratings and reviews. “And 86 percent of adults use the search engines to look up information on local companies,” he said.
So how does one tackle a negative review? By essentially killing it with kindness. “The best way to handle negative reviews and respond to them is to bury them with positive reviews,” Stuckey said. “The most important thing to do is respond to the negative review. This is about showing other searchers that you care about your business and your response.”
On the bright side, however, you actually want to have a few negative reviews here and there, Stuckey said. “If all you have are stellar five-star reviews, at some point a customer is going to go, ‘are these real?’” Stuckey said.
And if you only have a smattering of reviews, that can hurt your online reputation as well — even if they’re all positive. “There’s a fairly good debate that having a low number of reviews is almost as bad as having bad reviews,” Stuckey said. “If you don’t have any reviews, what does that say about your business? That nobody cares.”
To beef up the quantity of your online reviews, you can do the simple thing and just ask your customers to write them. “The best time to ask a customer for a review is right after they’ve thanked you,” Stuckey said. “This is after a purchase and a positive experience.”