Tuesday 25 October 2016

Review Management: Why Do-it-Yourself leaves half the job undone...

...and the other half exposing your business to criticism from your competitors.

This business has a great score and a meaningful number of reviews on Google. And they have just joined HelpHound. Why?

The short answer: Because they understood that there was much more to professional review management than simply having great reviews on Google.

In more detail:

The world of reviews and review management is evolving at a pace. And this applies to the way your prospective customers consume reviews as well. Two or three years ago it was common for businesses to ignore reviews altogether - we were often met with comments like "What kind of people write these reviews?" and, more importantly, "What kind of people believe these reviews?"

Now the very same businesses are saying "OK, 'normal' people do write reviews, and our prospective customers are impressed by businesses with great reviews." More often, though, we receive a panic call from a business that has finally realised that the phone is not ringing because of negative reviews. 

The instinctive knee-jerk reaction of all these businesses is the same: to get reviews to Google.

Here we show you why that is only part of adopting a professional review management strategy.

Potential customers:

They react - instinctively - to reviews in search. Both positive and negative - and importantly - to their absence. Having no - or few - reviews is not impressive. Look at these three businesses:

Three screen-grabs of three London based estate agency branches from Google

The first has not engaged - they have one review; what impression does that give? That they do little business? That they don't care about the image they present in search? Is there anything positive about this - very common - lack of engagement and concern? 

The second has at least got enough reviews to warrant a Google score - but some cynics out there might well say that any business could do that with a twenty minute ring round their friends. On top of that the are lucky that those five reviews are mostly positive - since a consumer is nearly fifteen times more likely to write a review - unprompted - if they have had a negative experience.

The third? Don't both the score and the number of reviews say so much about the business? That they are great at what they do (even the most hardened cynic would be stretched to say that they could muster 283 tame reviewers!)? That they care about their image in search, and therefore maybe they care about doing a great job for their customers? Imagine your business finds itself in competition with that business.   

Now, we know that your customers find you in lots more ways than simply searching online; but if they have found you through...
  • Personal recommendation
  • Advertising - print
  • Advertising - radio or TV
  • Advertising - web
  • PR
  • Other marketing efforts
...what is the very first thing they are going to do, before they make that crucial first contact? Absolutely - they are going to google you. Even if only to find your phone number or to look for some other form of contact mechanism. And how you look there is bound to influence them.

So, now you accept that your business needs to impress on Google, you decide to get your happy customers to leave reviews there.

WAIT! Read on before you take that step. 

Your competitors

Now that most businesses are aware that some of their competitors look really impressive on Google they are formulating strategies to undermine them.

Bear in mind that the following are a distillation of many conversations with hundreds of businesses a year...
  • Denial - barely rates as a strategy, but surprisingly common, even in 2016. The business that still maintains that reviews are not written by 'their kind of customer'. Well they are - just look at any market-leading business, in whatever sphere - and you will find reviews. Here are two articles that address this: 'Too posh to push' and 'Google reviews accelerate'. It only takes a competitor to say "We're up-to-date with all our marketing, and that includes our review management - just look at [our competitor], if they are so behind with reviews, I wonder what kind of job they do for their customers?"
  • Sign up to an independent site: from the largest - the likes of Yelp and TripAdvisor - to the smallest specialist sites, they will all be grateful for your custom. Take estate agency as an example: over the last five years some agents have been through as many as four independent solutions. Starting with Referenceline, through allAgents, then Rateragent and now Feefo and TrustPilot. None of these compares with the power of Google - from the point-of-view of visibility or brand. Search for any business and you see Google reviews first and foremost. Do people believe Google reviews? Yes - because anyone can write one, whenever they want, and because Google is such an ubiquitous brand. If your business uses an independent site your competitors will only have to say "but look at their Google reviews" and you will be on the back foot. Read 'If an independent review site is right for your business...'
  • Direct to Google: if you invite your customers to write reviews direct to Google you are missing out on having independently verified reviews on your own website (testimonials simply don't cut it any more); besides that your competitors will be able to call the probity of your Google reviews into question:  it is so easy for them to say "I see they have X reviews on Google, do you think that's all of their customers, or just the happy ones?" Read 'Getting a flying start'

The business we alluded to at the top of this article had already accepted the power of reviews, but they recognised that they needed to:
  • have bullet-proof credibility - both with Google reviews and reviews on their own website
  • get many more reviews to Google, and keep them up-to-date, month in month out
  • get reviews - rather than testimonials - on their own website - independently verified for credibility
  • be able to state that all their clients are able to write a review - whenever they want to
  • have a mechanism for managing misleading or inaccurate reviews pre-publication
  • be able to defend themselves against any competitor or potential client who might infer that they only invite reviews from their happy customers
And finally:

Read this and then get professional review management working for your business.

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