Starting a business is hard enough as it is, let alone thinking about creative marketing strategies that will get your name to the top of the search engine. At times, it can be down to just pure luck.
But there is one thing you can control. Your reputation!
Reputations and first impressions could be the be all and end all of your local business. It’s like even with the internet age, we’ve been thrusted back into the Medieval English times where reputation was worn as a badge of honour.
With the influx of new technology and more and more businesses online – you’ve got to keep your reputation intact. Bad news travels fast. But the same could be said for good news.
You may say that your online business works from word of mouth – but it won’t be long before you realise, you’ll start needing reviews and a good reputation to keep your business sustainable.
Luckily for you, reputation management has become more of a technical process rather than down to pure luck. There are certain steps that you can take to ensure your reputation in the market, even for just a small business, is at its peak.
When you’re a local business, the go-to thing a new customer is going to look for is how many reviews you have and what rating you’re at.
There are many ways you can monitor this, but you should first start by claiming your listings on google and various other review platforms such as, ‘Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp’ and then obviously, ‘Google’.
These platforms are called ‘The Big Four’. It is essential that you claim listings on these sites so that you can be proactive in monitoring reviews. Google is most probably the biggest of them all as 63% of consumers googled the business for reviews before visiting their site.
Think about if you were to go on holiday, or a local restaurant. The first thing you would most likely do is check out the reviews of the place. You want to know if your experience is going to be worth the money. The same goes for your local business regardless of its industry.
According to research 97% of consumers search online for a local business. Given that 46% of all Google searches are local means that if you’ve got a bad review next to your business name – it’s going to be hard to garner local interest. But, if you can put the work in and ensure that each customer’s experience is at its best, your business could thrive.
By setting up your business on these review sites, it not only gives the customers accurate and reliable information about your service, but also makes it easier for people to find you. It gives them insight into you that could help you stand out against the local competition.
It would be too easy if you could just log onto the ‘Big Four’ review websites and simply delete all of the negative reviews. Actually, you’ll find that if you look too perfect that it could hinder you.
Over time, you’ll start to realise that certain review websites are doing better for you than others. At this point, you can be more efficient and effective in your small business reputation management.
To get the best reviews possible, there are a few things that you can do.
People sometimes fear that asking for reviews can be rude or awkward. But if you knew that 66% of consumers will leave a review if you ask them to, would that change your mind. Not only that, but it will help increase the number of reviews you have and make your local business seem more legitimate and well-founded to those new site visitors.
Respond to the reviews
Whether it is a good or bad review, people like to feel as if they’re being noticed. The customer has taken time out of their day to do you a favour and leave valuable feedback – so make sure you take the time to do the same and thank them.
You want to come across as professional, but also friendly. There are plenty of templates that you could search for responses, but a simple ‘thank you’ for a positive review can be enough.
You want to avoid negative reviews as much as you can. That much is obvious. But it really is imperative as 94% of consumers tend to avoid a business if it contains negative reviews.
However, there is a way to solve this. Responding to negative reviews to see if you can help them in any way gave a 45% chance of that customer returning to the business.
Make it easy to find you
Using social media is a great way to achieve this. Simply an Instagram, Facebook or Twitter search should come up with your business straight away. Or if they google your local business, you want to make sure that you come up at the top of the search engine.
That’s why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important. This is where your website’s design and tech will come into play. You want to make sure you hit as many relevant keywords as possible. Try to consider what your customers would be searching for if they want the service you provide. Then, fill your website with these keywords, for example, ‘Best Hairdresser’.
For additional optimisation, you want to use your location. Firstly, most people searching for a service will include a location, or at least google will do that for them. So, if you include ‘Best Hairdresser in Georgia’, you’re set!
Make sure they have a great experience
This is easily the most important factor for ensuring the best possible reputation management for small businesses.
If your customer has the best possible experience, it can work in two glorious ways. Firstly, they’re going to come back to you next time. Secondly, they’re going to leave a great review that will excite other customers to enjoy your local business.
There is no doubt that social media has quickly taken over the lives of many. People live, breathe and sleep for social media. Whether it be YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the many others out there.
The best thing you can do is set yourself up on these platforms. But it is key that you don’t just set up the profile, follow a few people and post once every month. You need to ensure that you post regularly and keep your information up to date. You’re going to want to post at the very least 3 times a week.
But think about the content you’re posting. Is it useful? How engaging is it? These are the types of questions that you must ask yourself.
Luckily for you, there are many apps out there that can help you with your social media. Not only can it help set up a regular schedule for when content is distributed, but they often provide useful analytics as to which posts do best, what is most engaging so that you can use this information for future posts and gain more traction.
It isn’t just about posting content though. Social media is all about connecting with people. Ensure that you are connecting with your target audience. Engage with your followers, answer questions or problems they have, make sure they feel valued when they’re giving positive comments.
Of course, there can also be the bad press that comes with social media, such as a disgruntled customer. The best thing that you can do as a local business owner, is handle it with maturity and respect. Try and help the customers in any way that you can – it’s the idea of making them feel unique and valued. By handling this, all the social media users who see these interactions will see that you have their best interests at heart, and truly care about them.
Don’t just take our word for it – check out the facts.
59% of consumers were happier with brands that used social media to engage with customer queries and complaints compared to other companies that have an email service.
Holiday events, charity affairs and annual events that take place in your local area are the best way to spread the word of your small business. You could sponsor a section of it where they could display your logo, or have your name dotted around everywhere at an event. You could have a booth or set up an area that is part of the fair where potential customers could see who you are and what you do. Or you could simply hand out some fliers during an event.
You want to get your business name to attendees the best way possible. It will prove to people that you’re not just there to make money – but you’re an active participant in the community. It is widely known that a lot of people choose small businesses because of “local support” so you need to make sure they know about you.
Studies show that 91% of American’s visit small business once a week. By conducting yourself at these events will be sure to increase that number. At the end of the day, half the reason customers don’t choose local business is because they have no idea they exist. So, it is your job to make sure they know your business does.
It is not a race. You’re not going to read this article and wake up in the morning with thousands of positive reviews. But for those that are patient and put time and effort into the reputation management for their local business – they’re always going to be one step ahead of those that don’t.
By making sure your information is up-to-date, your social media is active and you’re responding to all types of reviews you can actively create not just a community, but a well-known reputation around your local area.
Enjoy the process.