When meeting new clients as well as existing clients, one of my favorite things to do is perform a search on Google, Yelp, or other industry-relevant website to see what is being shown about a client’s business. John Battelle, a journalist who helped launch Wired, writes this method is like the focus group of the world – there is no two-way mirror, no whiteboard, just raw, real-time feedback.
It is easy to take social sites like Facebook for granted, yet from a business owner’s perspective, it should serve as a reminder you are no longer in control of your brand. Your reputation is now at the hands of your customers should they seek to write a review about you, rave about their experience doing business with you, or, your worst nightmare, writing negative comments.
Instead of being scared of the very real and very frightening possibility of a customer writing the worst negative review and having it go viral locally, you should seize this opportunity as a business owner to build relationships with your customers, engage them on a meaningful level, and turn them into your biggest proponents.
Gather their feedback and use that to learn how to better your business. Take their testimonials and positive comments and utilize them in your marketing materials. Potential customers’ perceptions are influenced by what they see and read about you online.
Battelle is uncanningly accurate when he says, “Brands are what people say about you when you’re not in the room, and the room has gotten extremely big and extremely digital.”
A common strategy for savvy restaurant owners or managers on Yelp who receive a negative review is to publicly and with transparency contact the negative reviewer, and offer them to come in and let the restaurant set the wrongdoing right. These previously dissatisfied customers are treated like royalty, given a free meal, and made to feel like family. More often than not, a negative review is remedied, and hopefully the business learns where they went wrong. All of the other customers benefit from this strategy as well.
Copy writer and branding expert Angie Colee has more to say on engaging your customers. “There is also an opportunity lost on many business owners who only respond to negative comments. You should also be thanking your fans, as well as asking people who were like “meh, it’s ok” what you can do to turn them into raving fans. Business owners are focusing on less than a third of their customers if they are only responding to the negatives. As an active Yelper, I love it when owners recognize when I took time out of my day to write a thoughtful review.”
Offer your customers a clear view of who your business is, what is stands for, and why they should be your lifelong customers. It is no longer simply enough to send out mailers, buy a radio spot, and dispense of your marketing.
Now, more than ever, you should be engaging your customers, learning about them, and meeting their needs and expectations of your product or service.