Scenario: You’re the owner of a local sports equipment store, full of great products with reasonable prices. Despite lots of great feedback from in-store customers, and your best attempts to promote your social presence, you remain hard to find on Google. Even once found, it's not a great sight—Google shows your review average at a lousy 1.8, Facebook at a 2.3, and Yelp at 2.0—the end result of a few below average reviews…
Moral of the story? No one is going to try a new store with a 1.8 star review. A business' online reputation is more important than ever, and a bad reputation can make or break any business—and it all starts with one nasty review.
The good news is that local businesses generally understand this much—but a gap exists between addressing this need and having the right assets and resources to best remedy it. The solution? Businesses need a reputation management platform or service to stay competitive and stay alive in the digital climate, so they can better focus on what they do best.
That's where you come in.
The information and playbooks within will help you become the local expert so that you can better tackle your reputation sales, and make a big impact on your business clients' online reputation. More revenue for them, more revenue for you—it's a win-win. We all succeed when local succeeds.
The State of the Reputation Management Industry
Reputation is a booming industry right now. Consumers are leaving reviews left and right about local businesses, and it can affect a businesses customer acquisition, customer retention, and overall revenue and success in this digital-first world.
But don’t take my word for it. The statistics show that:
People are online more than ever, and they rely largely on online information to make shopping decisions, where they previously sought the advice of friends, family, or experts. For more information on the buyer's journey, check out this post:
Reviews are important. In fact, they influence page rank by up to 10%, increase website visits by up to 25%, gain the trust of prospects through real feedback, and eventually increase revenue.
As mentioned before, people understand that:
- Online matters
- Reviews are important
- Their business needs to be listed online
However, the idea of reputation management itself is still a relatively new concept.
Therefore, the first step of your sales process is going to be taking on the role of educator, rather than that of the salesperson.
*Note - If you manage multi-location brands, this post might also be up your alley.
How to Sell Reputation Management
Step 1: Educate the Business
Reputation management is the organization of all business-related elements that collectively form a business' public perception. Digitally, this is a cultivation of company mentions, online reviews, and other public mentions and feedback a business receives online.
Throughout history, reputation was something that was largely formed by word of mouth communication, but today, reputation has its roots firmly grounded in Google searches and online reviews.
According to Vendasta’s own Aaron LeBlanc, local businesses generally understand that they have an online reputation, but this degree of understanding can vary quite heavily from business to business. Pending the level of understanding present within each prospect, there are some educational plays that can be very helpful to facilitate the importance of reputation, and also build a certain level of trust.
Add any or all of these plays to your playbook to make sure that you never miss another goal scoring opportunity.
1. The Google/SEO Play
Local businesses are aware of search rankings and understand the value in ranking highly. What many do not understand is how reviews directly impact these rankings.
The reality is that local search engines love online reviews, and they love them for the very simple reason that consumers love online reviews. Review sites provide buyers with information so that they can make more informed purchase decisions. In fact, 91% of people read customer reviews to determine the quality of a business. As a result, it is estimated that review signals (review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) account for just over 10% of a local businesses SEO. That is HUGE.
How to Frame it for Prospects
If you are a local business spending countless dollars on your social media and ad budgets, but are neglecting your online reviews and reputation, you are successfully doing one thing: advertising for your competitors. By better managing your reputation, you can insure that you get the most out of all of your marketing efforts.
2. The Listings Play
Although a reputation product does not generally deal with syncing listings or keeping them up to date, it does give the business listing authority/credibility a strong boost on 3rd party platforms. Factors such as the volume of reviews, the recency of reviews, and the legitimacy of reviews will all weigh in on their listing authority.
Reputation products allow local businesses to take advantage of this opportunity by helping to generate and manage reviews across a variety of sites—all in one place. Tackling reputation will boost listings and public perception to form a strong foundation for conquering a local marketing effort.
How to Frame it for Prospects
When your clients visit a major site like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Facebook and search for local sports stores, you will want to make sure that your business is a high ranking listing result. How? By keeping your review volume high, recent, and legitimate, you can make sure that you list above other competitors on these 3rd party platforms. Why? So that you can organically generate traffic, and not waste marketing dollars on non-rewarding strategies.
Some of the major 3rd party platforms worth referencing are Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook, Tripadvisor, and many more vertical specific ones such as G2 Crowd. Be sure to reference the platforms that are most relevant to the prospect (ex. Yelp for a local restaurant). The importance of having positive reviews on all the relevant vertical-specific sites is a great point to make when you approach different verticals.
Step 2: Close the Deal
If your team wants to win, you're going to need someone who can score.
There comes a point in every sales conversation when you have to ask for their business.
If you want to be successful in selling reputation, being transparent with the prospect is vital. They need to know that reputation is a slow and gradual process. It’s something that takes time—and a 1-month trial isn’t going to do you any good. In fact, it quite often will take up to 6 or 7 months before most businesses will begin to see substantial growth in their rank and reputation, and it will require constant maintenance.
The next step is being trustworthy. Every business wants to know the numbers. “Sounds great, but how is this going to improve my ROI?” The honest answer is that it’s just about impossible to put an accurate ROI number on reputation. Just like it’s almost impossible to put an accurate number on the opportunity revenue they are losing right now by not being found on Google—and don’t be afraid to remind them of that.
Following these principles may cause you to lose some prospects, but the reality is that they were probably the same ones that were going to churn 1 month in anyways. By being upfront with people, the right one’s will appreciate the honesty, and it will form the foundation of a much stronger partnership.
Now, do you remember those choose your adventure books that we all read when we were kids? Selling reputation is kind of like that. Being transparent and trustworthy are always crucial sales traits, but your conversation is always going to adjust so that you can continue to address each prospects needs.
Here are the 2 possibilities you will likely encounter, and what to do about them:
Reputation Management Solution Packages
1. When They Want Your Help
In local, this will be a common occurrence.
If we go back to our local sports store owner, they likely don’t have the time to learn a new platform and continue to actively monitor their reviews, because this would eliminate time that they could be spending focusing on the people that are looking at soccer cleats right now. They also don't have the knowledge and expertise that you can provide on how to effectively respond to reviews, how to ask for reviews, and more.
The solution: DIFM Reputation Management
Be willing to offer these types of customers a service solution in which your agency can provide the fulfillment of review responses on behalf of the business. This will naturally be a more costly option, but if the price is manageable, this can be a very productive route, as it allows everyone to focus on the areas that they excel in.
2. When They Want to do it Themselves
Some local businesses may already be familiar with how to manage their online reputation, and just need the tools to do so. Or, in a more likely scenario, they have more time than budget. With these businesses, it's easier for them to devote time to manage their reputation than devote money to have an agency handle it for them.
The solution: DIY Reputation Management
For these customers, you can simply provide them with the solution, and training on how to best use it.
At the surface level, this is a more affordable option for the local business, but it will create extra work for the business owners. If the business is willing to put in the time and resources, this can also be a very effective solution—being that the business can take whatever voice or approach they would prefer when responding to reviews and communicating with their customers.
Lastly, there might be this gray area where clients may want a more integrated approach that involves a higher degree of cooperation between your agency and their business. Pending the scope of your agency, this may be something that you would want to consider offering for certain partners. We like the call this DIWM (Do it With Me).
The Full Local Marketing Package
Reputation Management is a great portfolio solution for any organization that is selling to local businesses. However, if you go onto the local marketing pitch with just a reputation product in your tool kit, it’s kind of like heading onto a soccer pitch with just a goalie. Point-solutions aren't the best revenue play.
To best prepare for the road ahead, you are going to want to make sure that your roster is full and that you are covered on all fronts.
Although listings are a factor in reputation, to best meet both needs, the prospect should always consider utilizing products that fulfill the needs of each, as well as the remainder of the needs within the local marketing stack.
You can never let customers drive you to focusing on just one thing. Digital marketing is very multi-faceted and you’re not going to get the traction that you’re looking for by just utilizing a sliver, you have to do it all. You have to social post, you have to advertise, you have to post to Google My Business, you have to have a website presence if you want to continue to get the maximum benefit out of the entire process.
Here is how Vendasta organizes the different elements of the local marketing stack:
Learn how to diversify so that you always stand out in the crowd:
There are 4 final points that I want to leave you with:
- Educate the prospect
- Speak to their unique needs
- Always push for the full offering
- Transform your business into a recurring revenue machine.
Reputation is important, but it is not alone when it comes to conquering local.
At Vendasta, we are the industry leader in White-Label Reputation Management Solutions. Download our Reputation Management playbook and get selling today.