Marketers of all stripes know that online reviews and recommendations are more important than ever. Consumers routinely seek out this social validation as a part of their decision-making process before shopping in-store or purchasing online.

What many companies are just realizing though is the wide-reaching and dramatic impact these reviews and ratings can have on their entire web presence. Local Pack visibility, organic search rankings and local landing page conversion are all influenced by the brand’s online reviews.

Why isn’t everyone running full speed to an agency or digital marketing specialist for reputation management services? 

In a recent InsideLocal webinar by BrightLocal, host Myles Anderson was joined by Dana DiTomaso (Kick Point) and Krystal Taing (Rio SEO) for an in-depth exploration of reputation management strategies and relationships. 

Over the course of their hour-long conversation, the expert panelists discussed:

  • The importance of reputation management in the context of your digital presence as a whole
  • Different approaches to reputation management
  • “Done-for-You” vs “Self-Managed” reputation management strategies
  • How agencies and service providers can better serve brands’ reputation management needs
  • Enterprise and franchise challenges in reputation management
  • Tips for selling and delivering on reputation management services

Check out these highlights from ‘Pitch Perfect: How to Sell and Deliver Reputation Management to Clients’ and stay tuned for the full webinar recording at the end of this post.

The Importance of Reputation Management in 2019

Reputation management isn’t a single-faceted or siloed discipline. Today, it impacts brands in distinct and measurable ways from your locations’ organic and local search rankings, to conversion, to in-store visits, to brand loyalty and customer lifetime value. 

According to research from BrightLocal, 97% of consumers search online for local businesses and 12% of consumers do so on a daily basis! Further, the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 65% of consumers put the most trust in search engines when conducting this online research on businesses. They’re also going to consider your owned media—local landing pages, your website, local listings, and your social media profiles.

What information are they considering across these various sources? By and large, consumers want to see what others who have had experiences with your brand and its locations think of you. BrightLocal also found that 74% of consumers have greater trust in a company if they read positive reviews, and 83% thought the business with a user-generated review on the landing page was trustworthy.

 

 

If you haven’t yet dipped your toes into the reputation management pond, it’s not too late to get started.

Reputation Management No Longer a ‘Nice to Have’ for Brands

“We’ve seen demand for reputation management grow,” Taing told the webinar audience. “I think many enterprise businesses were afraid to get started because they were overwhelmed and simply didn’t know where to start, especially with all of the corporate compliance issues around it. Now, it’s non-negotiable. The impacts are too wide-ranging and all of your competitors are doing it.”

 

If you want to be part of the local conversation happening online around products and services like yours, you just have to get started, she said. Brands without a reputation management strategy may be up against tens of thousands of unanswered reviews across any number of platforms, but the answer is not to continue ignoring them. 

“We show clients how to start in small stages, and training them is key. We give them the tools to take the small steps because it’s true—if you haven’t responded to Google and you’re starting now, it can be overwhelming.”

Selling Reputation Management: How Can Agencies Better Assist Brands & Franchises?

Because reputation management is so impactful in different areas of digital marketing and customer service, it pairs well with other services. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever sold reputation management separately, as no one just has this problem,” DiTomaso shared. “If they haven’t handled their reputation well, that’s a sign there’s probably other stuff that hasn’t been managed.”

Some of these issues, she said, could include:

  • Google My Business optimization—if they’ve been ignoring their reviews, they’ve probably been ignoring their Q&A, as well 
  • Local landing page optimization and content 
  • Local listings management 

Enterprise & Franchise Challenges in Reputation Management

“Typically when we’re approaching reputation management at Rio SEO, we’re already engaged in listing management,” Taing said. Enterprise brands are perhaps more likely than SMBs to understand the need for reputation management, yet struggle with scale and many moving parts in their digital marketing operations. 

“One of the challenges for multi-location businesses is around claiming locations,” Taing explained. “If you don’t have all of your locations claimed, or they’re claimed by different groups, it’s hard to give them control to respond.”

DiTomaso added that franchise organizations, in particular, are challenging, because every franchisee may have claimed their own GMB profile. “No one knows the login or, surprise! There’s another Analytics account somewhere,” she said. “You end up with all these layers of the onion you need to peel back.” 

“Part of that proposal stage is thinking about pushing them along the path of why they want to work on this, how they want to get there, and positioning it as part of a larger plan that is executed over a period of time,” DiTomaso explained. “You have to explain how reputation management fits into the total ecosystem of digital marketing, why it’s important, and how it will have bigger benefits beyond star-rating changes.”

Look for clients that want to invest in making improvements. “Businesses right on the cusp of great reviews are looking to make that next jump,” DiTomaso said. “But those with all 1-stars and scam reviews won’t pay you for your help.  

Instead, she said, agencies and service providers should pick those with a 3-star or low-4 star rating—companies that don’t have spectacular reviews, haven’t been responding, have unanswered Q&As, and may not be managing Facebook well. These companies are typically those most in need of help, because they don’t necessarily understand the stakes or where to get started.

Making the Case for Reputation Management

In enterprise brands and franchises, you are likely going to have to sell the concept of reputation management to various stakeholders. Seldom is a single decision-maker responsible for the provision of services and even where a CMO has this authority, they want material to help win buy-in from their team.

 

As the service provider, you can help your client overcome internal objections with a few resources:

  • Earn trust and demonstrate real results with case studies and other examples of success from similar businesses.
  • Show clients the markets where they’re not performing well locally, and then show them their competitors in those markets and their engagement. Taing said, “Point out the opportunities, look at the language in the reviews, and show them which reviews are highlighted on their GMB listing. Showing them how they can lead the conversation is really eye-opening, and then they start understanding how big and important this task is, and how critical it is to take the first step.”
  • Provide information about the benefits of reputation management in simple, clear briefs the client can share internally. Your proposal may be lengthy and involved, but should not be the only point of reference for the brand. Make the information accessible to various stakeholders so your prospective client doesn’t have to do that work.

Your strategy may be guided by the size of the organization you’re dealing with as well, DiTomaso said. 

“We try to go as far up the chain as possible,” she told webinar participants. “Ideally, you’d have the CMO call you from the very beginning. But as soon as you get between 10 and 200 locations, it seems like no one really knows what’s going on and it’s really disorganized. Once you get above 200, that’s when it gets organized again.”

In that awkward position where it’s difficult to identify who your decision-makers are, go up the chain as fast as possible, she said.

Managing Reputation Management Client Expectations

Once you’ve been engaged to help a company with reputation management, how can you best serve them and make the most of that relationship?

Taing says that training and communication are key. 

“We often find that the client team for listings management or location pages is not the team managing their reputation management solution,” she said. Typically, Rio SEO finds that a team in customer service or corporate compliance is responsible for responding to online reviews. 

“It’s an additional pipe that you have into the business, and it’s harder to remove you once you have that connection,” Taing said. “Learn those teams, and make sure you’re guiding them and making them successful.”

Anderson agreed, adding “Once you’ve got those touchpoints and relationships with multiple departments you’re much more ingrained. You’re much more involved with the business.”

Delivering Reputation Management Solutions Built for SuccessReputation management can be self-managed, but enterprise and multi-location companies often need more involvement and outside expertise. Combining the experience and strategy of reputation management experts with the inside perspective and quick response of internal teams can be a winning combination.

“If you train client teams in how to respond to reviews, they can then take that and apply it to Q&A and other elements of their local program,” Taing said. “In my opinion, it’s more powerful to train them, invest the time in the beginning on how to view and respond to reviews, and communicate that success upwards within the organization than to do it for them. Doing it for them is less powerful. It provides less information for them.”

Be Aware of Industry-Specific Reviews Management Strategies

While reputation management best practices apply across the board, it’s important to be cognizant of industry-specific differences, as well.

Taing explained: “In retail, your goals have to be a lot lower than they are in restaurants and hotels, and more service-based businesses where it’s going to be easier to get good and bad reviews.” 

In hotels and restaurants, she said, you’ll be looking at niche sites like TripAdvisor, while Yelp is more critical for restaurants than it is for retail, for example. Financial businesses have the lowest average review score across any industry, so going from a 1 to 2-star rating would be immense for them. 

Taing reminded participants that if you’re dealing with financial and wealth advisors, you have an additional challenge because they can’t technically ask for reviews.

Measure and Showcase What Matters

Regardless of the client’s industry, reputation management professionals must set realistic expectations and focus on areas the business can make noticeable improvements.

“It really depends on the competitors showing in the Local Pack for their most important terms,” said DiTomaso. “How many reviews do they have? Let’s get 20% more than that. It’s also a moving target, because over that six months the competitors will get more reviews as well, so you have to keep moving the needle on how many reviews you need.”

She recommends that the brand find out what proportion of its clients are going to leave a review. 

“When we start a review management program where we’re asking for reviews using a platform, we see which percentage of those come back and make it onto your review sites,” DiTomaso explained. “If 5% of your clients are leaving a review, this means you need to sell to X people per month. Can you actually hit this number? If they can’t, it might take 12 months instead to compete.”

Watch the full webinar video for more.

Want to learn more about crafting an effective reputation management strategy for an enterprise brand? Download Rio SEO’s Guide to Managing Local reviews at Scale and explore the following resources.