Archive for the ‘Reputation Management’ Category

Plumbers: Be Thy Self – and Only Thy Self

Monday, April 14th, 2014

It seems so easy to enhance your image online by typing out a few glowing reviews – or asking friends or staff to do so. The cost is far greater than the benefit. And, there are far safer, economical ways to accomplish the objective.

Being “thy self” is not psychobabble about being true to your spirit. A few plumbers have destroyed their online reputations by pretending to be customers making complimentary statements on review sites. Gaming the system does not work. Producing or inducing fake positive reviews is a very short-sighted strategy. And, it can create unnecessary legal problems.

The State of New York went after Lifestyle Lift a plastic surgery practice for having its own employees flood the Internet with positive reviews. According to a release from the Attorney General’s office, “Lifestyle Lift employees published positive reviews and comments about the company to trick Web-browsing consumers into believing that satisfied customers were posting their own stories. These tactics constitute deceptive commercial practices, false advertising, and fraudulent and illegal conduct under New York and federal consumer protection law.”

Computers are very smart machines. They discern patterns of behavior and track the source of input very accurately and a million times faster than the human brain. This makes it extremely difficult to beat the system.

“Astroturfing”

The term “astroturfing” applies to businesses that create fake comments online to improve their image to readers. Google+, Yelp and most of the other review sites have built in systems to catch fake reviews and have a process of punishment in place. As in the case above, civil penalties can be issued by various state or federal agencies, as well.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued clear guidelines for the use of consumer reviews in online advertising. The fact is that most business owners, when asked, never considered online reviews to be advertising in the first place. The FTC sends the clear message to business owners that they must “follow the principles of truth in advertising” when using online reviews to promote their businesses.

The Sneaky Attorney General

Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman of the State of New York decided that online reviews were a matter of public interest and safety. He set up a sting where he would locate businesses willing to pay for positive fake reviews to be written. Under the theory that such actions constituted false advertising, he prosecuted 19 businesses and imposed $300,000 worth of fines.

Inherent Negative Bias

The challenge for business owners is the system is inherently negatively biased. Plumbing customers call on a trusted plumber and simply expect good, professional service and, with rare exception, receive it. When they don’t (or perceive that they don’t) they tend to get motivated to speak up online. This can be very damaging to a business. A single negative review which is visible above dozens of positive ones can cost you a prospective customer – or several.

It is this negative bias that is the foundation for the solution we provided by reputation management companies. The consumer is asked a few questions to determine a customer’s satisfaction with the transaction experience. If the customer is not happy, the system generates a text message to a responsible person at the business – perhaps the plumber or office manager – so immediate action can be taken before the customer is motivated to share their less-than-happy experience online. In the majority of situations when the customer has something nice to say, the system guides him or her to posting it online.

Playing by the Rules is Actually Easier

The whole review process is set up for consumers to have truthful information about companies with whom they may do business. Good, solid business owners need only have a way to get customers to do what they tend to do any way – say nice things. Skirting the law to scam the system is a short-sighted strategy.

This article is part of a series dealing with the new relationship between service professionals and their necessary connection to the Internet and online exposure.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Roger McManus is a principal at Mpact Magic (www.mpactmagic.com), a reputation management company that focuses on the service industries. Roger is the author of Entrepreneurial Insanity (Amazon) directed at small business owners who are stuck as the hub of their business’ wheel.

Plumbers: Claim Your Stake for Free

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Your business is being graded online whether you get involved or not. Getting involved costs nothing – unless you don’t.

Leaving Money on the Table

Except for getting customers or informing existing customers, plumbers have little to do with the Internet. But, wait! Without getting new customers and communicating efficiently with old ones, what else is there? Well, there is turning the wrench, but for whom?

I would have to say that the one thing that has struck me as an entrepreneur is the number of dollars service technicians tend to leave on the table out of simple lack of awareness of how much the world has changed when it comes to professional services marketing. This seems to be particularly true of second-generation operators who inherited a flow of customers and simply never gave it much thought.

What I am going to share with you costs you absolutely nothing. And, easily 80 percent of service professionals have done nothing to collect this free gift from the Internet. In a nutshell: Register your business on the dozens of websites where prospective customers look for you.

Stake Your Claimplumber-wrench

For service professionals who are our clients, we, of course, do this for them as part of our service. But, as I said, it costs you nothing to claim these sites yourself. It takes a little time and effort, but it is a worthwhile investment. For service companies there are about a dozen critical sites and about fifty more sites that will add to your overall visibility, though they have less consumer traffic.

What so few people realize is that being listed BY Google is different than being listed ON Google. Google+, while certainly important, is only one review site. On the other hand, Yelp, CitySearch, RankMyDentist, Healthgrades, Yellowpages and dozens of others are review sites that Google finds and lists in search results.

It is theoretically possible to put the words “plumber” + {any town] in a Google search and show up in all ten organic positions (this excludes the Map, of course where you can be listed only once). Besides your Google listing, you can be found on many other sites on the first page of Google.

It's possible to be listed multiple times in local plumber listings.

Right or Wrong, Be Consistent

As you are claiming your position on these sites, it is important to do Google+ first. Be careful about how you establish your name, address and phone number in Google+. Then match precisely what you put in Google on every other site. This means if you show up in Google+ as 123 Main Street, you do NOT list your practice in Yelp as 123 Main St. There is no right or wrong, but always be consistent.

Further, never use a tracking number in any online listing. The very nature of tracking numbers mean that they must be different. Consistency is the name of the game.

One thing to be careful about for those of you who have no physical address (one where someone could come knock on your door) is to read the Google+ listing process carefully. Google likes to only put businesses on its map to which a customer can actually go to for the transaction. You could find yourself banned for violating Google’s Terms of Service if you list your home address – even if it is where you answer the phone for the business.

Hopefully this article has spurred your interest in getting more online exposure for free. If you would like a list of the key review sites at which you should register including those specifically for the professional services trade, simply send an email to support@mpactmagic.com with “Site Claiming List for Plumbers” in the subject line and we will send it to you for free.

This article is part of a series dealing with the new relationship between service professionals and their necessary connection to the Internet and online exposure.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Roger McManus is a principal at Mpact Magic (www.mpactmagic.com), a reputation management company that focuses on the service industries. Roger is the author of Entrepreneurial Insanity (Amazon) directed at small business owners who are stuck as the hub of their business’ wheel.