Are you one of the many dealers, GMs and managers who find it difficult to manage your online reputation? There are literally hundreds of places where your customers can go to share their opinions. While the specific sites and services will continue to evolve over time, there will always be a need for solid strategies to grow, improve and sustain your dealership’s online reputation.

Although each review site is unique, there are some basic actions you can take to leverage each to its full potential. Google+Local, Yelp and others can be difficult to navigate, especially if you’re not a regular user.

Let’s start with seven basic steps to get traction. You never know how far you can go and these will get you on the right path.

  1. Be Wherever Your Customers Look For You

Managing your online reputation is part marketing, part sales and part public relations. In today’s online marketing environment, we have the ability to laser target those buyers who will most likely buy from us – instead of blanketing the land with meaningless messages like we used to. This undertaking may save us in advertising expense but the spend makes up for it in manpower.

You must identify where your customers spend their time. Metro areas have similarities to and differences from rural, less-populated areas. Knowing the characteristics of your target customers is vital to your business’ online reputation management process.

 

  1. Recognize Your Reputation is Online – Whether You’re Participating or Not

There are conversations going on right now about your store. Denying that is dangerous. You need to participate in those conversations – or your competitor will. Start by observing how your customers talk about you. Develop an action plan to monitor things and then begin engaging in those conversations.

 

  1. Take Advantage of Free Real Estate

Review sites’ business models are built on the premise that users will spend time there writing reviews, engaging their network and sharing other content. Review sites serve ads to users while they’re there.

For businesses, creating and maintaining a powerful profile that holds lots of good information and special offers is mostly free. Utilize the space by completing your profile including added photos and video. This gives people more insight into your business and a reason to buy from you.

  1. Designate One Person to Monitor, Listen, Respond and Recognize Opportunities

“Everybody’s job” can mean “no one’s job.” Don’t fall into the trap of assuming someone has your back. Assign one person to be the kingpin. Depending on the size of your store, you may want to create a team of managers to support the person you select.

 

  1. Ensure Your Culture is Ready for Prime Time

A secure house is built on a strong foundation. Today’s customer is connecting with brands with which they identify. They’re looking for authenticity and transparency. If you promise one experience but deliver something else, trust begins to erode and you miss the chance to make them a customer. Is your business culture ready for the spotlight?

 

  1. Be Proactive About Asking for ‘Feedback’

Anyway you slice it, you’re leaving your online reputation up to chance if you’re not proactively asking for opinions and feedback (aka: reviews). Develop an action plan for obtaining the opinions of your happy, loyal customers:

  • Email “love drip” requesting feedback from your current and repeat customers.
  • Incorporate scripts into your sales process.
  • Invite and gather customer testimonials.
  1. Respond to Every Review

Cars.com states that of their 800,000-plus dealership reviews, only 30 percent have been responded to. That means there’s a lot of room for improvement. There are specific tactics to take with different types of reviews – one to two stars, three stars and four to five stars. Each type requires a thoughtful, deliberate response.

I see many dealers not bothering to respond to any reviews they’ve received. This is like someone giving you a compliment and you walking away without saying anything. It’s like someone calling you out for a mistake and you cowering waiting for the storm to blow over. Take the time to respond to every review.

Building, sustaining and improving your dealership’s online reputation is not difficult unless you choose to make it that way. Even if resources are in short supply, there are things you can do to mitigate catastrophes.

Set solid, achievable online reputation goals for yourself and your staff. Keep the momentum going by tracking your results. You’d be surprised how great things will go once everyone’s engaged. The conversation is happening with or without you.

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