by Mike Montano
Like many small business owners, I started my career with a less than encouraging start. Unexpected pitfalls and incredible obstacles blocked my path to success.
When I started my home services business I was 23 years old with a family of five crammed in a 800-square-foot apartment.
My first office was my bedroom closet with the doors removed, and it was there that I sat in the wee hours of the morning planning my business strategy next to my tie rack.
Then, shortly after starting my business I experienced the greatest adversity. My apartment had a new echo because all that was left was my desk, the bed, and my clothes. The pressure of my entrepreneurship was too much for my wife. She was gone.
In spite of being a single dad and a “closet” entrepreneur, I used my newfound knowledge of internet marketing to gain traction in my market. 1800Anytyme.com was dominating SEO rankings for all of San Diego County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Denver.
I was also ruling Pay Per Click (PPC) in my local market with powerful PPC campaigns that were making my phone ring off the hook.
But my success soon began fading. Traffic to my site was holding steady, but my call count was slipping, and slipping fast. Panic set in, I scrambled to figure out how to stop the bleeding.
Here are the three things that turned it all around for me – and they can do the same for you.
1. It’s Who Your Potential Customer Trusts that Counts
The most important lesson I learned was that the best tactic for converting that traffic to calls and those calls into sales had nothing to do with traditional marketing where you shouted your name as often and as loudly as you could.
What I discovered was that potential customers would come to my site, they’d read my self-serving marketing message and then they would leave, likely moving on to my competitor’s website.
Why? Because they didn’t trust me, or anything I had to say…
…and they don’t trust you either.
Your potential customers aren’t listening to you any more. In fact, they are actively trying to tune you out. They sort their mail over a trash can and quickly toss out your direct mail pieces. They fast forward through your tv spots, and they turn down the volume on your radio ads.
However they are listening to your past customers. Those that love you, and those that don’t.
Your potential customers are online – all the time. And the Internet has revolutionized how your people make purchase decisions. Before they make any purchase decision they go online and they look at reviews – yours and your competitor’s.
Your potential customers don’t trust you. They trust your past customers – and what they say about you on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google+, Angie’s List, YP.com, Yahoo and many others…
It’s clear that online reviews are critical to the success of your business. People will choose you over your competition because your reviews are the catalyst for their decision. So the question then is…
“How do I get great online reviews – and how do I get more of them?”
2. Make Online Reviews Part of Your Company Culture
I quickly realized that the road to great reviews began and ended with my people.
I knew that without great service I would never get great reviews. Obvious, right? But too many business owners this still hasn’t sunk in yet. And that’s great news for you, because if you can beat your competitors to the punch by giving great service and getting great online reviews, you will absolutely crush it in your market. guaranteed
Like is said – it all starts with people. I’m curious…is the first contact a customer has with your company impressive? Are they extremely happy with the service you provided? Not just satisfied, but truly happy, ecstatic? Is the post-sale contact from your company respectful and courteous?
Let’s face it, in the service industry, your reputation is not about your company, it’s about your people. Your people are your products, and products are profitability game changers. No matter how good your company is, if your product is a failure, you will not last.
And the secret not many know is that your customers are motivated to write reviews about your people not about your company. Your people are the source (power) behind your reviews. They are the ones delivering the exceptional service, and they are the one’s your customers want to praise.
So, it’s critical to get your employees on board with reviews – to get them motivated and excited about asking for and getting reviews. Without that, your journey to 5-star online reviews goes nowhere.
Here are the keys to getting employees excited about only reviews.
Find the most influential front line personnel and focus most of your energy on getting their buy-in to the philosophy of winning reviews. The rest will follow.
Build solid and consistent communication and training about the process of winning reviews, not just asking for reviews, but winning reviews.
Reward and recognize great service. When there’s more accountability to provide great service and a new level of confidence that the great service will be rewarded and recognized, you will get 100 percent of someone’s effort.
3. Make it Easy for Customers to Write Online Reviews
If it’s difficult to give a review, your customers won’t do it. Even if they were over-the-top ecstatic about your people and their service, they won’t review if it’s difficult.
So you need to make it easy for your customers to post reviews. You may think it’s simple to post a review, but to some people it’s much the same as learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. So let’s make it as easy as possible for them.
You should have your business listed on every single social media site, review site and directory, plus any appropriate industry-specific sites such as HomeAdvisor or Angie’s List and then offer your customer an easy way to access the review site of their choice.
Give customers a direct link to your review pages so they don’t have to go looking for them. Then, give them clear and simple step-by-step instructions on how to post a review. Customers are often wary of creating a new account on a review site, so give them a few options.
Throughout the growth of my company I discovered the all- important link between top-notch customer service, online reviews and word-of-mouth marketing.
If you reward your team for outstanding service, make reviews part of your company culture, and make it easy for your customers to give reviews, I guarantee you will transform your company and dominate your marketplace.
If you’re curious about how you’re stacking up against your competition online, get a free analysis of your online reputation right here.
Thanks, and stay remarkable.