While it's true that your brand's reputation will play a significant role in an essential factor like word-of-mouth, the real power of paying attention to what people are saying about you runs a bit deeper.
The Importance of Reputation Management: Facts and Figures
Consider the following statistics to help paint a vivid picture of the situation you're dealing with:
- According to one study, an incredible 74% of people now consult Yelp or a similar service when looking for some type of business or service provider - even if they plan on carrying on a relationship exclusively in "real life."
- The above statistic may actually be on the conservative side - another study indicated that 97% of consumers say that they read online reviews about local businesses on a regular basis before deciding whether or not to make a purchase.
- Speaking of which, a one-star rating hike on a service such as Yelp often equates to a 5% to 9% rise in overall revenue. Let that sink in for just a second.
- Another study by the World Economic Forum revealed that on average, more than 25% of a company's market value could be tied back directly to its reputation and general perception.
- A massive 86% of people say that they would pay more for services if they could guarantee they were being provided by a company with higher ratings and a larger number of positive reviews.
As these and other statistics indicate, reputation management is a lot more than just doing what you can to control word of mouth. Even people who discover your brand, your products, or your services entirely independently of anyone else could still shy away from that purchase if your reputation isn't what they were expecting.
The most alarming statistic of all, however, is the fact that 50% (!) of business owners say that they have found incorrect information on their business listings. This means that not only is this info damaging your reputation in a potentially harmful way to your bottom line, but it's doing so needlessly as it is incorrect in the first place.
Getting a Grip on Your Reputation
The most important thing to understand about reputation management is that it is NOT something you do once and then forget about. This will require you to look online on a regular basis to see what people are saying about you, what information is getting posted, and taking advantage of any opportunities for course correction as they present themselves.
But even going beyond just correcting false information, there are a number of other essential proactive steps you can take to help strengthen your reputation as much as possible.
Send follow-up surveys to buyers to see what you did properly and, more importantly, what mistakes you made. If someone sends you an email with a legitimate issue, be sure to follow-up on that issue within 24 hours.
Never, under any circumstances, encourage people to leave "fake" or "artificial" reviews about you or a competitor. The consequences far outweigh anything you will gain. This includes offering gifts for good reviews. If you're caught, and you likely will be, there is no telling what damage you might sustain.
In the end, reputation management is something that you will have to do on a regular basis moving forward. It's a large part of why many businesses hire employees with this particular job in mind. But then again, when you're talking about what is arguably the most valuable asset your business has, it makes perfect sense that this amount of effort would be required.