Marketing mastery: How to manage your online reputation

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November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

I was doing an online marketing assessment for Susan, a dealer from California, when she said, “Jim, I can’t believe this dealer has a higher star rating than us. He operates out of a storage container, and he once pulled a gun on a customer.”

I said to Susan, “Let’s walk a mile in Cathy Consumer’s shoes so you can see what your prospects are seeing.”

I then Googled flooring and the name of her town. Susan’s store came up No. 1 on the organic search, but Mr. Storage Container came in No. 2, right below her listing. I pointed out that Mr. Storage Container had five positive reviews on Google, but she had none.

“In other words, while you have worked hard for more than two decades to build a phenomenal offline reputation, this joker who operates out of a metal box and once pulled a gun on a customer has a better online reputation,” I explained.

To which Susan replied: “But this guy is absolutely the worst. I’ll bet those reviews were posted by his friends.”

I replied, “Probably so, but the only thing that matters is what Cathy Consumer sees when she’s looking online for a floor dealer. You have to assume she doesn’t know any flooring dealers or anything about flooring. That’s a big part of why she is researching online. She’s going to choose which store to visit based on who has the best online reputation.”

This kind of situation is very common. I was recently meeting via video conference with a dealer from Nevada to assess her online marketing position. She, too, has been in business for more than 20 years. When I Googled flooring and the name of her town, she and a competitor came up near the top of the search. However, she had only one review and her competitor had more than a dozen.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “This guy has only been in business for a year and he doesn’t do great work. How does he have all these reviews and we only have one?”

I said: “He’s probably doing a better job of asking for, and getting, reviews than you. Based on the strength of your online reputation alone, which dealer is Cathy Consumer more likely to visit?”

I explained to the retailer that very few people will review a dealership on their own. You have to have a system in place to request reviews and make it easier for your customers to leave one. The dealer with this system will win the online reputation game.

Some dealers think, “Well, I’ve been in business for three decades and get a lot of repeat and referred customers, our reputation is great. Why do we need to worry about online reviews?” If this is your thinking you need to consider these statistics:

  • According to Business 2 Community, 92% of consumers now read online reviews.
  • Business 2 Community also found 94% of consumers would use a business with a four-star rating.
  • According to BrightLocal, 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • According to Synchrony Financial, 85% of consumers begin their path-to-purchase online for big-ticket products.

In other words, the rules have changed. Just because you have a great offline reputation doesn’t mean it will be automatically reflected online. With 85% of consumers beginning their flooring path-to-purchase online, it’s critical to have a plan to generate more positive reviews.

 

Jim Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring retailers. For a free copy of his latest book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes Online,” visit BeatTheBoxesOnline.com.

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