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Marketing online: Manage your digital reputation—or else

April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22

By Lindsay Baillie

 

By now most everyone knows that in order to continue growing a business, a company must have an online presence. After all, in this digital age, a website is the new storefront; it allows consumers to learn about a business before even stepping foot inside the store.

However, simply having a website is not enough. Experts say businesses must also grow— and stay on top of—their online reviews. While traditional word-of-mouth marketing is still a great way for flooring dealers to grow their referral business, online reviews provide that same word of mouth on a much greater scale. What’s more, consumers are now trending toward reading—as well as trusting— online reviews prior to making big ticket purchases.

According to a study by Business 2 Community, 92% of consumers now read online reviews. Furthermore, 94% of consumers surveyed said they would use a business with a four-star rating. As the online shopping arena continues to grow, dealers of all sizes should be conscious of how many reviews they have as well as the quality of each review.

“Over the past five years, consumers’ buying patterns have drastically changed,” said Luke Salisbury, flooring account executive at Podium, a company that specializes in helping businesses communicate and interact with their customers to get reviews and feedback. “If you aren’t proactive in maintaining a positive and up-to-date Google and Facebook reputation, the chances you will be found—let alone chosen—is drastically diminished and it will have a large impact on your business.”

Dealers looking to better manage their online reputation need to ask themselves a critical question: Why should a potential customer choose my store over the competition? That’s according to Jim Augustus Armstrong, FCNews columnist and president/founder of Flooring Success Systems, who has advised hundreds of retailers on this subject. “The first impression you’re going to make in answering that unspoken question is with reviews,” he explained.

In answering that question, reviews have the potential to bring the customer’s search to a close. “If you have a lot of positive reviews and some video testimonials, the customer is likely to stop her journey,” said Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant. “If there are no reviews the customer either thinks that you don’t care about your business or that no one cares about you.”

For dealers with nonexistent or negative reviews, growing and managing this crucial part of business can seem like an overwhelming task—especially considering the number of review sites available to consumers today. Digital marketing experts suggest growing and managing reviews on Google first, then branching out to other platforms.

The first step in growing online reviews, experts concede, is for a dealer to claim his or her review sites, including Google My Business, Angie’s List and Houzz. Once a profile is claimed, the dealer can begin asking customers for reviews.

“If you want to have a positive reputation, everyone in your business should constantly be thinking, ‘How do we get customers to support us?’” Calandrino stated. “One way would be to start having events in your store. Partner with another business that doesn’t sell flooring and invite your potential customers. Right then and there ask them what they think about the store. When you’re just starting you want people to just make comments about you/your store. If you haven’t had a lot of people buy from you, don’t wait. Get reviews about your showroom.”

Calandrino also urges dealers to have installers take pictures and videos of consumers after an installation is complete. “Once you get the videos post them to your Facebook page,” she added.

But what if your objective is to address an unfavorable review that’s out there?

Digital marketing experts suggest targeting whatever sites have the bad reviews. “If it’s Google, get people to leave reviews on Google,” Armstrong explained. “Your scoring is an average of all the reviews, so as you get more four- and five-star reviews, it’ll push your negative reviews down. If you have negative reviews on several sites, focus on Google first—it is king.”

Google reviews should be top of mind for dealers because they play a big role in where a business’s page is placed on the search platform. The greater a store’s star rating, the more likely they’ll appear on the first page.

Another important step in converting a bad reputation into a positive one is finding those negative reviews and reaching out to those customers. “Make it right,” Armstrong stated. “After it is fixed, ask them if they’re happy and if they could update their review.”

Flooring dealers looking to either grow or fix their online reputation should also review and update their profile details for accuracy, according to Salisbury. He also recommends dealers include keywords in explaining the flooring products/services they offer as well as updating their hours of operations. In addition, retailers should make sure their business name, address and phone number match exactly on each online directory profile.

A helping hand
While most flooring dealers would agree that adding “ask for, check and manage reviews” to their list of daily tasks isn’t ideal, digital marketing experts advise keeping the process simple. This includes handing out business cards with a request to leave a review or asking an installer and capture a video testimonial after a job is done. If a dealer wants help in this venture, there are also several companies available to assist in requesting and managing consumer reviews.

“With the massive adoption of online research and messaging in the flooring industry, the easiest thing is to get an interaction platform to consolidate all of those tools in one place, like Podium,” Salisbury said. “The second key is to integrate your management platform with your interaction platform so they work as one solution. QFloors and RFMS have created management platforms that make this integration seamless, so there is no extra work and keeps everything simple.”

Dealers can also take advantage of the online reviews program available through Flooring Success Systems, which takes care of all review requests. “We reach out to the customer and politely ask for a review and feedback,” Armstrong explained. “The big advantage to this system is we ask for a rating first, which takes place inside of our software—not on the review site. If a customer is not happy and leaves a one-, two- or three-star review the dealer is notified and the customer is asked for feedback. This gives the dealer a chance to fix the problem before the consumer leaves a review online.”

If the consumer gives a four- or five-star rating, Flooring Success Systems will ask her to leave a review. What’s more, the company streams four- and five-star reviews to the dealer’s website and Facebook. It also creates professional flyers for dealers to hand out to walk-ins, a digital badge to put on the retailer’s website and an actual plaque to hang in store.