“4 Ways to Manage Your Company’s Online Reputation Without Ads” by Dave Lehman via Total Retail

“4 Ways to Manage Your Company’s Online Reputation Without Ads” by Dave Lehman via Total Retail

Credit: Getty Images by Eva-Katalin

As you might expect, advertisements don’t win over customers anymore. Why? Consumers are  annoyed with ads. And so are marketers — 20 percent to 40 percent of clicks on paid ads are fraudulent. For these reasons, online reputation management, the practice of crafting strategies that shape or influence the public perception of an organization, has risen in importance. Recent research shows that 57 percent of marketers prefer to focus on boosting online reputation instead of advertising. It’s clear to see online reputation management is more critical now than ever before.

Companies today need to create positive customer experiences to win new business. Rather than throw more money at advertising, consider these four ways to manage your online reputation that will help turn happy customers into revenue:

1. Gather customer reviews.

Reviews are necessary for gaining new customers and ensuring the satisfaction of returning ones. When someone visits your store location, encourage them to leave a review and share their thoughts online. Be sure to send requests for reviews within 24 hours of the guest’s visit. Waiting too long to send a request may result in the guest forgetting their experience, meaning they’ll be less likely to leave a review.

Related story: 9 Best Practices for Negative Customer Reviews

2. Build a referral program.

When your business has a robust online presence, you can focus your attention elsewhere outside of strictly acquiring customers. That’s because happy customers bring in new customers. Incentivizing your guests to refer people to your store(s) will help your business grow faster. Consider offering gift cards, discounts and deals to your returning patrons and new ones. You can also create custom loyalty and referral programs to keep your customers satisfied.

You might be thinking that tracking referrals is another thing to add on your plate of responsibilities. However, with the right technology in place, businesses can track referrals online, allowing them to better manage their reputation by quickly connecting with new customers and rewarding current ones.

3. Leverage customer feedback.

No two customers will have the same experience with your company. Therefore, collecting in-depth feedback will help your business thrive and meet customer expectations.

Creating and distributing surveys is a great way to manage your online reputation. When crafting a survey, keep in mind the longer it is, the less likely a customer is to complete it. Surveys should be short, to the point, and take no longer than five minutes to complete.

4. Deliver seamless communication.

Customers want to be able to clearly communicate with you and vice versa: Seventy-eight percent of people wish they could have a text conversation with a business. Text messages are a great way to communicate with customers, especially considering text messages have a 99 percent open rate. For the fastest response to surveys and other promotions, communicate with customers via text. Sharing communication around upcoming deals or events can help create a positive customer experience and generate revenue.

Take the time to research your customers and the platforms they use to communicate regularly and find a way to ensure the correct member of your team is offering a response to every kind of communication — SMS, social media messages, email, voicemail, and more. You may also consider adding a chat feature to your website to allow consumers to efficiently contact and communicate with you. Doing so may help a first-time customer navigate your site with ease, and live chat tools, along with chatbots, allow you to interact with your customers in real time and generate leads on autopilot.

Managing your online reputation is a cost-effective way to communicate with customers directly and allows your business to gain insights advertisements can’t provide, such as user preferences and detailed feedback. Instead of paying for ineffective and expensive ads, businesses should look for an online reputation management platform. With the right software, companies can grow their business and cultivate happy customers through reviews, referrals, easy and frequent strong communication, and surveys.

Dave Lehman is the president and chief operating officer at Birdeye, an experience marketing platform for multi-location businesses.

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