It happens slowly. First one bad review, no one really notices. Then an article quietly penned by a competitor shaves off a few percentage points of profit. The sales team gets yelled at. The marketing team calls for a bigger budget, but still it happens. Over time profits soften and all because Google search results have been slowly, even imperceptibly, getting worse.
Here's a list of things that hurt company reputation:
- Competitors penning negative content
- Bad reviews
- No reviews
- Fake review sites
- Negative journalism
When companies don’t take online reputation management (ORM) seriously, they risk losing customers and of course revenues (money). The internet has brought with it a number of new responsibilities for business owners. Among these is the job of simply keeping an eye on what’s happening around your business online. This happens with a process called ORM.
What is ORM in business?
ORM stands for Online Reputation Management. It’s the process of managing your brand image and customer’s perceptions of it online.
This involves keeping an eye on public review sites (monitoring), posted reviews, articles, press, awards, and comments or direct interactions from customers that are related to your brand - everything a prospective customer might use to make a positive or negative decision about your company. There’s a lot more to it than just that, but reviews and interactions are a big part of the process.
What do people see when they type your company name into Google? They might see your company website as the top result, but other results are likely to be outside resources that mention your business. While people will likely head to your website for specifications and product information, they are more likely to listen and pay attention to outside opinions about product quality, usefulness, and an honest evaluation.
Online reputation management (ORM) is for all businesses
Most businesses have some online presence whether they planned to or not. There are likely people talking about your brand somewhere online. Not all of it is good. Places like Yelp may have you listed locally, or an unofficial page could exist on a social media or third-party review network. Competitors may have profilejacked your brand.
Online and brick and mortar businesses both need reputation management to increase sales and public opinion about their brand. B2B and B2C companies in every industry can benefit from managing their online presence. It’s all about making sure customers are getting an honest picture of your business when they look you up.
You may not think your business gets enough reviews, or that your customers aren’t looking for reviews, but this is a risky way to think. Even if you aren’t getting a lot of online mentions right now, you need to have a strategy in place and to be aware of when they do come. Or, better yet, your strategy should include tactics to encourage more reviews from satisfied customers.
Why ORM matters
Whether you’re paying attention to your reputation and reviews or not, your customers are looking. Reviews are a major source of information for online buyers to get a feel for the quality of your products or services.
BrightLocal did a survey in 2018, revealing some eye-opening statistics about how people shop online. These are some of the key findings from their survey:
- 86% of consumers read reviews of local businesses before engaging with them. 95% of people aged 18-34 check reviews first.
- People read 10 reviews on average before they feel a sense of trust for a local business.
- 91% of consumers aged 18-34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 89% of people read responses businesses make to online reviews.
Reviews and how you respond to them are getting more important to consumers, especially younger consumers. Older age groups read reviews and sometimes post, but younger age groups are dramatically more involved in the review process, both writing and reading them. They’re paying close attention to them, so you should be too.
People make buying decisions based on reviews
The bottom line is that reviews affect buying decisions. Good overall feedback helps you make more sales and increase your revenue, while negative feedback can turn people away. It’s the average that people tend to pay attention to more than a few individual instances. By improving the overall customer experience, which can improve your reviews, you’ll find greater success online.
If you had a kneejerk reaction to go and delete very negative comment or review posted about you, you could inadvertently turn customers away as well. People today are interested in what they consider a genuine, honest look at a brand. Too much praise without any complaints looks fake and untrustworthy. A little bit of both is the most genuine look for a brand.
Whatever is there, people will read it and consider it before making a purchase or visiting a business. People today can look at product reviews, restaurant menus and pictures, service reviews, and so much more to get a feel for the business without ever having to set foot on the property.
The problem with this is they won’t be interacting with you at all during the process. It’s a completely independent research process that affects your revenue. Ignorance isn’t a good enough excuse to avoid taking action to manage your reputation online.
Do you have an ORM strategy?
If you’re already doing something to manage your online reputation, that’s great! Make sure your process is up to snuff. You can look into adding customer experience solutions and tools to your arsenal to make sure you’re doing it right. Or, put in a little extra effort to track down mentions and respond appropriately.
If you don’t already have an ORM strategy in place, it’s time to get one. Better to start when you’re smaller and you don’t think you have a big presence online, so you can get a good hold on it early. It’s always easier to start from a neutral beginning rather than a full-blown crisis. Start by claiming your business on popular review sites, actively monitoring your social media channels to engage with people, and by seeing what pops up when you Google your business.
ORM is a fundamental part of business today. It’s going to help you present a more favorable impression to the 86% of people who look you up before making a purchase or stopping by.