By Brett Morris
One topic I get lots of questions about is reputation management. Over the past several years, dozens of companies have entered the marketplace touting the importance of reputation management. You’ve likely been contacted by companies that market themselves as “end-to-end reputation management companies.”
But what is reputation management and why is it important? At its core, reputation management is exactly what it sounds like – tools designed to help you manage your dealership’s online reputation. Three main pillars make up the foundation of your online reputation: review generation and monitoring; business listing optimization; and the dealership website.
Review generation and monitoring
I know every dealer has had the importance of reviews pounded into their consciousness over the past several years. And for good reason – they’re that important. Consider the following data from Qualtrics, the experience management company:
- 91 percent of 18–34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations;
- Customers are willing to spend 31 percent more on a business with excellent reviews;
- 94 percent of people say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business; and
- 3.3 is the minimum star rating of a business consumers would engage with.
It’s important to keep in mind that the value of reviews goes beyond just driving consumer action (or inaction). Businesses with positive online reviews get more love in Google search rankings, too!
Can you remove a negative review for our business? Typically, the answer is no. It’s possible to flag a review with Google if you can prove that it’s not actually a review of your business, is overly offensive or explicit, or it creates a legal concern. If you’re successful, the review can be removed, but that’s rare. The best thing to do is respond to every review, whether positive or negative. When customers see an articulate response to a negative review of your business, it creates a positive impression because it shows you care enough to reach out to try and make things right.
Understanding the importance of reviews is important, but generating reviews at scale is where you gain real momentum – and that’s where software comes in. Automating your outreach is the key to making massive gains in review generation. It’s also the quickest way to bury bad reviews. When you consider that 72 percent of customers will write a review if a local business asks them to, investing in review generation is a no-brainer.
Business listings play an integral role in your company’s online reputation. While reviews and social listening are more customer-centric, business-listing optimization – ensuring your basic business information is consistent across online directories – is a key reputation component in Google’s eyes. If you recently added a new location or maybe moved from an old location, making sure your business details are accurate is extremely important for search engines and how they judge the listing’s integrity.
Google uses hundreds of directory websites to assess the value of your listing, and you’re not going to update those manually, are you? Of course not. And even if you wanted to, many of them wouldn’t allow you to edit the listing if you tried. I recommend business-listing optimization to every local business I work with because it has measurably positive effects on your local SEO efforts.
The dealership website
As I’ve previously noted, 75 percent of consumers admit that they judge a business’s credibility on the quality of its website design – so the importance of your web presence can’t be emphasized enough. Your website is central to the dealership’s overall brand experience.
The OPE industry is unique from many others in that dealers often rely heavily on OEM co-op funds for most of their advertising, and typically have outside firms managing their campaigns. However, many dealers don’t really know or understand just what those co-op dollars are being spent on; likewise, the media agencies often don’t concern themselves if the website they’re sending traffic to is optimized for lead gen, etc. As a result, if you’re a heavy spender in digital media, sending traffic to an unprofessional website might actually be hurting your business rather than helping. An ad campaign with a modest budget of $1,000/month could drive more than 10,000 visits to your website on average – that’s a lot of eyeballs to expose your poorly designed website to.
It’s an age-old phrase, but it still holds true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Properly managing your online reputation means being a customer’s first thought, first interaction and first option for their sales dollar. It takes a long time to earn a positive reputation and, in the Internet age, a short time to destroy it. Investing in reputation management can provide quality and consistent long-term ROI for your business.
Brett Morris is the owner of Dealers Digital (www.dealersdigital.com), a digital marketing agency for outdoor power equipment dealers, and dealerAMP, a marketing automation platform for the OPE industry.
This column first appeared in our Nov/Dec 2021 issue, access the full issue here.