There use to be an old adage that if people loved your business/product, they’d tell you and maybe another person. But if they hated you (or felt like you didn’t love them) they’d tell 10 others.

Well, welcome to the age of the internet – where you can essentially broadcast your love or your disappointment to the world (although, before you share, you need to be aware of the rules around defamation and misrepresentation).

But these rules don’t apply to every product or service in equal parts. There was a great story in the recent Jan/Feb Harvard Business Review on the factors that make up the influence mix as prior preferences and experiences (P), information from marketers (M) and input from others, i.e. word of mouth (O) and how that relates to online reviews.

Once you understand which factors make up the influence mix, you’ll know where you stand with your customers and how you can make the most of their particular influences.

However, whether input from others (O), otherwise known as word of mouth (reviews can be online or off) really makes a difference to your business depends whether you’re selling a product or service. Generally – online reviews apply more to products than services (unless it’s food). But more on that in a second.

Other questions to ask include;

  • Are you selling a luxury item? Luxury good appeal to buyers emotions than usability/serviceability and are usually protected from bad reviews – unless its the editor of Vogue who declares it to be a disaster – and then people listen up. But on the whole it’s influenced by (M).
  • Is it a low involvement purchase – do you really care if your paper towel has a bad review? (dominated by P).
  • Do customers know what to expect every time as in the case of fast food, etc (also P). Chances are you’ve already experienced it or the cash you’re required to part with is low enough that you’re prepared to give a new experience a whirl and let the chips fall where they may.
  • Is there a lot of competition in your market? If there is, then your market is likely to be greatly influenced the opinion of others (O).

But what if you’re a service based business? 

Firstly, yes (O) is important. But unlike products two other factors are likely to play a role here – (M) so make sure that all your marketing is top notch. Even if someone does give you a great wrap, your future prospect is still likely to check your website, Google you, look at your social outputs and your LinkedIn profile – so make sure they live up to the raves you’re given.

And there’s also another factor we’ll call (R) or your reputation – which is so much more than just reviews (O) and your marketing (M). Reputation is largely earned and is built over time, so best start now, if you haven’t already. How you ear

n your reputation might include getting speaker spots, teaching, getting media interviews (which have real reputation building clout), becoming an industry go-to person, helping out a not for profit, sitting on a board, being an expert panelist, etc. These are the types of things that build over a career to give you a certain ‘gravitas’ that can’t easily be diminished by one or two less than stellar reviews.

What if you do get a bad review?

And you haven’t yet built your reputation? You’re sunk, right? After all, you can’t control what people are saying about you, can you? Well it’s not as bad as all that. Sure you can’t control it – but you can certainly help yourself out with these five key tips;

  • Talk to the reviewer – see if there’s anything you can do to fix their problem.
  • If there’s nothing to be done and the review is hurting you, post a blog addressing the issue. If you tackle it head on, people are more likely to believe your side of the story (and they realise that trolls are out there). Just remember, keep it honest and respectful. Don’t let it disintegrate into an online slanging match.
  • Make sure the rest of your marketing tools are great.
  • Continue servicing your existing customers to the very best of your ability. Go above and beyond with the value you provide.
  • Then you can ask your existing ideal customers to write reviews online or give you recommendations on LinkedIn. They’re often happy to, but they’ve just never thought of it. So ask. And don’t forget to say thank you when they do.

The final word (or two) on word of mouth

If you’ve gotten a harsh review – take a moment and really consider whether there was anything you could have done better for them. If there was and it happened recently, fix it – go all out. If it was a while ago, call and apologise. There’s a piece of research somewhere that says if you can fix a good customer’s problem in a way that delights them, you’re more than likely to retain them long term (note: the term good customer). And if it’s only a handful in lots and lots of customers, focus on the good outcomes you’ve had.

BUT, realise too, there are also some trolls out there (aka bad folks) who just like to complain, lie and steal to get stuff for free/not pay/rip you off. If they’re the ones doing the yabbering, take the high road and set them free to go annoy other people. If it’s a real problem and you can prove that you really did the right thing and they’re really in the wrong and you’re up for the fight, by all means get legal help and go after them.

If you’d like some help in having your marketing materials or social profile live up to how good you can be or you’d like to start building your reputation now, we’d love to talk to you further. Feel free to give us a call on (02) 9994 8005 or send us an email.

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