What if we told you that the money you’re spending on marketing and SEO might be actually helping your competition?
There are not many undisputable truths in the world. But one of them is that we all want our business to grow.
There is a dark side to it too. Growing faster than your competition attracts all the wrong attention to your company.
Imagine your very particular marketplace niche shows a 5% growth a year. In an ideal world that means all the businesses sharing that marketplace are making 5% more money or selling 5% more products every year.
However, let’s say your own business is growing 20% this year due to a great marketing campaign or just because you have a superior product. That 15% difference has to come from somewhere. If the market remains steady, it would mean that 5% comes from new sales. Now, the other 15% comes directly from your competitor’s client pool.
You’re winning and they’re losing. You’d have to be naive to think they will sit on their hands. It’s only natural that once they realize how bad it is they will start to devise ways to stop the bleeding.
Many start by writing negative reviews, giving their competitors one-star comments, or even writing reports that put them under a really nasty light. All with the hopes of driving customers away from you. They don’t even bother trying to make customers like them. They’re happy by just knowing you’re not doing better than them. This is war, and it is always bloody.
Customers always see negative reviews as a signal that they should probably move on to the next business that offers similar products and services and who feels more trustworthy just because they have a better reputation.
This feeling is so strong that customers are willing to pay even 30% more for a product or service if the provider shows a better input from their customers. This means that offering a better price is not the silver bullet we all thought it was.
This is a phenomenon that has been studied for more than 50 years. It explains the different stages through which every consumer goes when making a transaction.
The process goes like this: problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior.
Most marketing efforts are aimed to affecting the first three stages.
Ideally, when we design a marketing campaign, we want to start the problem recognition, cover the information search stage as much as possible and make the customer skip the alternative evaluation part. However, this is extremely difficult to do.
What actually happens when we start a marketing campaign is that you stir the customer’s curiosity. But customers nowadays want to go online and see who else is offering the same products or services and what people are saying about them. They want to make a rational choice and get the most for their hard-earned dollars. It is not uncommon to see someone getting excited about your promotions but then they end up buying from your competitor. So essentially, your competitors benefit from your marketing efforts.
What we want to do is to stop the shopping process at your doorstep. A negative review might prevent you from doing just that. A potential buyer, seconds away from making the purchase, might check his telephone for a final inspection of your product and find that negative comment that google wanted to show him. That could set the shopping process in motion again, making the customer move forward to the next best alternative.
The one provider able to stop the shopping process will make the sale or secure the contract. You might be able to excite the minds of your customers, but you could be actually sending them directly to your competitor’s doorstep if you are not taking care of your reputation. A negative review does not extinguish the need for your product, it just continues the search and drives people away from you and closer to other providers.
You can wake up one morning to find you have a horrible online reputation through no fault of your own. A drunk driver or sex offender with your exact same name can suddenly appear in the news. Or a political posting on Facebook you thought was private is suddenly spreading online … and alienating half your customers.
Your business could have hundreds of positive reviews online, but it only takes one or two negative comments to sabotage years of hard work.
Here are just a few of the horror stories we’ve seen …
A landscape architect, active and popular in his local community, receives a 1-star review and lengthy complaint from an unhappy customer on Yelp. She wants a refund. He politely refuses. She adds more detail to her negative review. It starts to appear on page one of Google. The landscape architect finally offers a refund in a desperate bid to repair his reputation. Guess what? The customer no longer returns his calls. The horrible review of his business stays online, where it remains to this day. He estimates the damage to his business at more than $150,000 in lost sales. And if he could go back in time, he’d willingly write a check for that amount to keep it from happening.
A carpet cleaner is doing well in his east coast city. Until a review from an unhappy customer appears on Google Plus, complaining about “bait and switch” pricing and rude treatment by employees. The business owner offers to reclean the room, then the whole house, then a refund … but the customer refuses to remove the negative reviews. Instead, he adds even more. Damage to his business is estimated at more than $30,000 – and growing.
A local deli has a fine reputation, until a random disgruntled reviewer (who’s never eaten there before!) goes online and starts posting negative comments on Yelp and other sites. Those false reviews are now appearing on page one of search results. The damage could easily top $50,000.
And those horror stories don’t even take into account the people with a grudge against you personally. An ex-spouse, terminated employee, or angry neighbor can go after you for any reason – or no reason.
Bottom line: Anyone determined to damage your business online can tear down years of your hard work in a matter of days.
But there is hope. You can recover.
And we’ve found it effective to play both “defense” and “offense” to win this game. That’s because effective online reputation management has two sides: repair and protection.
First, here’s an example of Reputation “Repair”
This story from our client files shows that it is possible to recover from horrible damage to your reputation online.
A real estate professional had a hugely successful business. He ranked in the top 10 in America for home sales.
But due to a power struggle in his agency, negative stories came out in the press. The state licensing board got involved. They issued a restraining order that prevented him from selling any real estate for 60 days. No wrong doing was found, so they reinstated his license.
But by then it was too late.
Numerous real estate sales bloggers had picked up the story and run with it. About 65% of all search results for his name on the first 3 pages in Google were negative. His sales plunged.
So he came to us for help.
We created and promoted positive content about him online. We did NOT “push down” negative reviews of him in search — that would be unethical and could lead to a Google penalty. Instead, we simply spread the word online about good things he had done.
Within 9 months, every negative review but one had disappeared from the first three pages of search results. His reputation was restored, he has now built a very successful business again.
How does it work?
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