By Chloe Banholzer
Establishing and maintaining a positive online presence can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re new to the world of online reviews. If you’re just getting started, you most likely fall into one of three dealer categories:
Dealers in category A have a few online reviews, with a Three- to Five-star average.
Dealers in category B have a few online reviews, with a One- to Two-star average.
Dealers in category C have no online reviews.
Whether you’re part of category A, B or C, the good news is that there are plenty of great strategies you can use to get started with, improve upon, or recover your online presence. If you already have some experience with actively maintaining your online presence, these strategies will work for you, too!
Run a “Review Us” e-mail campaign
If you don’t, you should be collecting e-mails from every customer with whom you do business. If you do, here’s another great way to utilize e-mail marketing for your business: Create and send an e-mail campaign to recent or happy customers thanking them for their business and asking them to leave a review. Include links to your listings on the major review platforms (Google, Facebook, Yelp). This way, customers have the option to leave reviews on any platform they choose, and maybe even one review on each.
Add a “Review Us” link to your e-mail signature
Did you know that every customer e-mail you or your staff sends could be an opportunity to earn an online review? In less than 15 minutes, you can add a link to your e-mail signature that will take customers directly to your review platform of choice. This is a great way to solicit reviews without any extra marketing efforts. ARI has created a step-by-step tutorial and video showing you how. Dealers have reported gaining more than 20 five-star reviews in a month after implementing. Get started at www.arinet.com/signature.
Ask at the point of sale
Don’t be shy! The easiest way to gain more positive reviews is simply to ask happy customers to leave them. Especially your millennial customers: Did you know that 67 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 left a review for a local business when they were asked to? Use those tech-savvy youngsters to build your online presence.
Invest in a reputation-management tool
A reputation-management tool makes it easy to gain, monitor and respond to reviews – all in one place. Tools such as ARI’s Reputation Monitoring Tool can protect your online reputation by alerting you by e-mail when you receive a new review on any major review site. Plus, first-party reviews are quarantined for up to seven days before going live, allowing time to resolve any negative customer reviews before they get posted.
Address the “Big 8”
Most reviews (positive and negative) fall into one of eight categories. Address these categories to ensure that the online reviews you receive are positive:
- Consumer guarantee policies
Do you stand behind the products you sell, or do you often encounter customers who are frustrated with your return policy? If you don’t offer a fair policy or timeframe for customers to return broken or incorrect products or parts, you may encounter a negative review or two.
- Staff hiring and training practices
Does your staff have the proper training and knowledge to answer your customers’ questions or solve their problems? Effective staff training makes a world of difference with how your customers and their questions are taken care of.
You’re an outdoor power equipment dealer – nobody expects your dealership to be sparkling clean. In fact, it would be weird if there wasn’t a little dirt here and there on the product floor. But there are certain facilities, such as reception, restrooms, and other customer-facing areas that should be free of trash or debris.
Do your products meet or exceed your customers’ expectations? Do they perform as expected? The quality of your products can be reflected in your online reviews. In most cases, a faulty product or part is the fault of the OEM, not you, but the way you handle customers who experience these unfortunate lemons makes all the difference (see “Consumer guarantee policies”).
- Perception of fairness/honesty
Do you run a transparent business and respect the customer? Do customers trust your products and services? Being upfront and “real” with your customers is a great way to gain respect and positive reviews. Some people will leave positive reviews for a dealership based on their experience with the staff – even if they don’t end up buying a product.
Is it easy for customers to get ahold of you? Not returning calls or not having a voicemail set up is a sure-fire way to frustrate customers and lose business. Can your staff quickly identify what a customer needs?
Do your customers believe your pricing is fair? Do they feel as though they’re getting a good deal on your products and services? There’s no solid rule for setting margins, but raising prices beyond what is reasonable may be reflected in your online reviews.
- Personality of owner/management/staff
Are you and your staff friendly and personable? Do customers feel welcome and appreciated when visiting your dealership? As a small business, your ability to build customer relationships is a huge advantage over the big box stores. Take advantage of this fact, and use it to your business’s – and your online reputation’s – benefit!
Start your new year off strong with a solid online reputation management plan. In many ways, an online reputation can do much of the search engine optimization (SEO) legwork for your business. Customers searching for you online will gravitate to your listing (and to your front door) if your reviews are positive and there are plenty of them. Take advantage of these quick and simple strategies, and set your dealership up for online and in-store success.
Chloe Banholzer serves as marketing coordinator at ARI Network Services. She’s helped thousands of dealers across the country with their digital marketing through her HelpForce webinars which cover a broad range of topics including search engine optimization (SEO), online advertising, e-mail marketing, and online presence optimization. She’s dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 26,000 dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”