A few years ago, when we started working with marketing companies, we talked to them about tactics and what the best items to do were when it came to helping businesses grow and be found online without spending tons of money on paid ads. Most of these companies worked with medium-sized businesses while we focus on small business. This brought in a ton of different ideas and topics that helped all of our businesses grow. One highly talked about topic was review and reputation management for companies. The marketing companies we talked to were going “old school” (e.g. postcards, flyers, or letters) as they had specific business reasons and we were moving to the electronic frontier for our small business customers. Both methods are valid and I can say the marketing companies we work with in Illinois and here in Indiana are now all digital for several reasons but it did take them, and their customers, to realize the old school method was making them look like dinosaurs. I am going to look at three ways old-school marketing companies are (or were) doing review management and why it is hurting your business model if you are doing so.
Why post cards for review management?
- Marketing companies make more money
- It makes up for less than efficient search engine optimization (SEO) and websites
- Allows human screening, spell check, and making certain only the best reviews go online
- It keeps people off the digital landscape where you most likely either have a less than ideal internet presence, are not consistent, or are trying to hide something that happened in the past (this was the main reason cited with making the marketing company more money a close second)
Why electronic review and reputation management?
- Efficiency in that it will send out custom emails to your customer (yes you need their email address and name) or you can have a link on your website
- It can follow up with those who haven’t left a review after a specified number of days
- You don’t have to worry about postage, paying someone to type them in, printing costs, etc.
- You can immediately respond to the review (good and bad – reply to all of them!)
- Reviews can be pushed to where you want (or need) them (based on what your customer chooses). These can be Google, Yelp, Facebook, and more.
- Reviews are automatically (no human input needed) put on your website with consolidation from all of those sites. You can even say to only show certain star levels (e.g. 4 and 5).
- Improves your search engine optimization (SEO) without having to spend so much on paid advertising
What we’ve been seeing
Cutting direct to the chase as that is why we are here this is where businesses use old-school postcards, flyers, or letters to gather reviews. They use them one of a couple ways. The most common we see are:
- They are pre-paid postcards and they ask the customer to mail it in at no cost
- They ask to leave a review online (e.g. go find us) and mention the employee that worked and how “awesome” they were
- They have a link on the postcard to type in
Each one has its pros and cons but more con than pro in helping you grow your business. We’ll outline these as quickly as we can as we already know you realize that these three are extremely bad for your business and we know many will jump to the better option that will grow your business, save you money on pay-per-click (PPC), and more.
They are pre-paid cards and they ask the customer to mail it in at no cost
If it was the late 1990’s or early 2000’s I know this would be great as people were not all online, had limited access, and online reviews were not as important as they are today. Today though most people are online. This is a great option if your customers are not online.
Your reviews are solely on your website as you type them in when they arrive. That doesn’t help being found on the search engines or social media other than the search engines will see change happening on your website. In today’s world search engines look for relevant content that adds value to the site visitor. A review might help a customer choose but not as much as the rest of your 10, 20, or 30+ page website.
On the positive side when setup correctly using structured data you can get the reviews to show as stars within the search engine results. Structured data allows you to give the search engines a lot more information that they might not otherwise know about you. This additional information is not seen by your customers and only by the search engines. You can always check what structured data your website has by going to this free Google link at https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/ and typing in your website URL.
They ask to leave a review online (e.g. go find us) and mention the employee that worked and how “awesome” they were
We love the employee mention part as your employees are critical to the success of your business.
You’ve done work for the customer, they are happy, and now you want them to seek you out? If they don’t get it right or find you, they will immediately be having a poor customer experience. We’ve seen this cause a 5-star review move to a 4-star just by making things harder than they need to be. The review is still positive but not as positive as it should’ve been.
They have a link on the postcard to type in
The link is a great idea and we use it on a website if someone goes to it to then be able to quickly an easily leave a review. In fact, when we have to do the old school postcards we do this method so that we know what employee they are referencing as each employee has their own unique URL. You can even use this in email signatures as well. The downside again is the person has to type something in (it’s easier yes but they still have to type it in).
You’re now starting to realize that rather than spending wisely you’ve been spending your money poorly buying 250, 500, even 5,000 postcards and letting your employees determine if a card should be given or not. Often with a financial incentive to the employee for getting X number of reviews. Your marketing company is happy and the printer you are using is happy but your customers are not. You’re in business to help make their lives easier (I hope).
The answer is simply that you need to modernize your business and stop being a dinosaur. With an online reputation management solution, you will almost always spend less and get a lot more. You can still incentivize your employees to doing excellent customer service as when the electronic email goes out and a review is left you know who the employee was that worked with that customer. So you will spend less, get more reviews, have the computer monitoring mentions of your company name, and spend less on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Sounds too good to be true and there most certainly has to be a catch. With everything, there is a catch. The catch is that you still have to remember to send out those reviews, reply to each one (good or bad), and if a question is asked or it’s bad good customer service says you should respond to it.
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