Word of mouth marketing in the digital age

Word-of-mouth marketing has taken on a whole new meaning in the digital age.

With 76% of small businesses owners using social media to engage with customers, leveraging – and managing – your online reputation is crucial. Here are six tips to help you do it well.

1. Check your online presence regularly

If your business already uses social media, then it’s likely you check your accounts at least daily. The same should apply to other online media where your business might be reviewed, including:

  • Your Google business listing: Where your business details, contacts, hours and customer reviews appear in search.
  • Standalone review sites: Such as True Local, Trustpilot and Word of Mouth.

Monitoring all your online platforms will ensure you’re across what’s being said about your business online, whether positive or negative.

Don’t forget to set up Google Alerts, so you receive an email whenever your business is mentioned online.

2. Acknowledge all feedback

Seeing a negative review pop up on a website or social media is never fun. But while your initial response may be to ignore or delete it – don’t.

Regardless of whether you’re dealing with compliments or complaints, treat them equally by:

  • Responding in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Thanking them for taking the time to leave feedback.
  • Making your comment personal, and using your name as a sign-off.

Responding to positive comments is generally easy and pleasant. Here’s an example of a template you could use for your responses:

Dear <insert customer name>, thank you for your feedback. Happy to hear <reinforce the positive element of the review>. Thanks, <your name>.

If the comment is negative:

  • Respond as neutrally as possible.
  • Acknowledge the comment or review.
  • Encourage your customer to contact you offline so you can discuss the issue in more detail – whether it’s through a messaging app, email or over the phone.

Here’s an example of a template you can use for responding to complaints or bad reviews:

Hi <insert customer name>, I’m so sorry you had a bad experience, but thanks for letting us know about it. Please <call/email/chat> us on <contact details> so we can help rectify the issue. Thanks, <your name>.

Once they’ve contacted you privately, find out what their complaint is about, and see if there’s anything you can do to address the situation. This may include offering a voucher or refund, or arranging a face-to-face meeting with the customer.

While it won’t always be the case, sometimes a bad situation handled well can turn in your favour, and the customer may amend or update their initial review. But a prompt, personal response is better than no response at all.

3. Always stay professional

It can be easy to lose your cool when someone is saying bad things about your business. But if you respond to all feedback politely and professionally, it speaks volumes about the integrity of your business to other customers.

That said, you shouldn’t accept aggressive or abusive comments – or those from people who may attempt to troll you, or have malicious intentions in attacking your business online. Again, encourage them to contact you offline, so you can deal with the situation.

If the comments continue, state that you’re happy to address their feedback, but you won’t be able to do so until they contact you with their details. If they become abusive, tell them you won’t engage with them. And if you feel the need, you can flag and report their comments.

4. Develop a policy for handing online feedback

You should have a unified and consistent approach to dealing with complaints across your business. If not, develop a policy for responding to online feedback that:

  • Outlines the process for handling different types of feedback.
  • Establishes an escalation process for complaints or negative comments.
  • Incorporates staff training so that those responsible for monitoring and responding to online feedback are able to do so well.

Creating a publicly available user policy that outlines how you expect customers to engage with your business online is also useful. For example, you can state that swearing, personal attacks and spamming will not be tolerated, and will be deleted.

5. Reward referrals

There’s no bigger compliment than when one of your existing customers refers a friend. So why not thank them for it? Investigate ways that your business can encourage referrals – whether it’s by offering discounts or premiums – every time an existing customer refers a someone new.

6. Always learn

Sometimes the online feedback you receive can hold valuable lessons for your business. If there’s a common theme – for example, long wait times, or an overly strict return policy – see if it’s something you can address. If more than a few customers are flagging it as an issue, it’s worth noting. And if you fix it, there’s every chance someone will notice – and post positive feedback on it in future.

Managing your small business’s online reputation is an ongoing task, but a worthwhile one.

Looking to grow your business through digital marketing, but lack the proper finance? Contact Prospa on 1300 882 867 or apply online for a small business loan with no paperwork or asset security required.

The information in this post is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. Nothing contained in this post constitutes advice or an endorsement or recommendation of any kind by Prospa. Any links to third party websites are strictly for informational purposes only. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information as at the date of publication, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information for any reason, including due to the passage of time, or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.