By Frank Giammanco
Optical dispensing has always been a business reliant on “word of mouth,” a very powerful marketing influence. Of course, they say that one bad review can equal 10 good ones in impact on your business performance.
In today’s digital age, the concept of “word of mouth” takes on a whole new perspective. Where at one time, the average patient might recommend (or disparage) your business to a handful of friends and family members, thanks to the reach of social media that person now has a megaphone to talk to thousands of your prospective patients.
It’s become increasingly clear that online reviews matter. According to a recent research study conducted by ReportLinker, 78% of people believe that online reviews are at minimum “somewhat reliable,” and 59% of online shoppers see these reviews as equal in value to a referral from a friend.
Experts point out that the power of social media reviews, whether good or bad, is not to be taken lightly. They say that the typical business owner cannot afford to ignore reviews or elect not to acknowledge them.
Here are some suggestions to help you navigate the social media referral maze:
Be Proactive. Don’t leave the referral machine to simply run on its own; actively seek out positive reviews from your patients via email or text communications, and offer them an incentive for a friend or family-member referral. Create a review page on your own website and respond to every posting a patient offers. You may also request that patients also post their favorable comments on popular review sites, like Yelp, Facebook and Google My Business.
Respond to Every Review, Especially Negative Ones. Many business owners prefer to bury their head in the sand when confronted with negative reviews, and avoid looking at them. You should actually do the opposite: respond to the negative comments promptly and directly as negative reviews that just languish without any follow-up tend, like a neglected wound, to become infected and spread.
Be direct, reply in an open and transparent manner which shows you really care, and apologize for any dissatisfaction. Then offer to make it right. Never take a confrontational tone. It only aggravates the situation and may attract other negative reviews in reaction to it.
Stay Professional. Avoid arguing with the reviewer. There’s never any benefit to it and it will largely alienate other prospects or customers. Whenever possible, come up with a way to resolve the reviewer’s problem and offer the remedy. By showing empathy over the reviewer’s complaint you’ll not only disarm him but you will also defuse the situation—and possibly turn a disgruntled customer into a happy one.
Negative reviews are a fact of life these days. But their influence on your business depends on how you address them.
Keep Track of Your Reviews. Remind yourself to check the review and social media sites daily so you can stay on top of, and effectively manage, the review process. Since reviews are among the first listings to come up in a Google search, it’s important to keep them carefully monitored.
You might also want to check out reviews for your competitors’ businesses. It’s a good way to gather market intelligence.
Learn to Manage Yelp. You need to develop a Yelp strategy so that your business profile remains positive. Yelp is very idiosyncratic—if you’re profile is not filled out or if you only have a few reviews, Yelp will hide some of your very best reviews. However, they can return to your page if you cultivate more activity and comply with Yelp’s rules.
Also, it’s important not to attempt to purchase Yelp reviews. The site’s sophisticated software is smart and will hunt them down. Yelp can also tell if a number of reviews are coming from the same IP address, so make sure you don’t seek reviews from your employees.
Court Opinion Leaders. There’s nothing like a positive review from a prominent individual. It could be a health care blogger or someone who writes about fashion on social media. It could be an eyewear enthusiast—there are a number of them on the Internet. Seek these folks out and communicate with them. Offer them the opportunity to visit your location and try on a pair of glasses.
Once you’ve attracted these kinds of influencers, they generally remain very brand loyal and become your biggest champions.
Keep the Review Machine Humming. Nobody likes to go to a party that’s poorly attended. A proliferation of positive reviews instills confidence in the researcher and indicates that your business is popular. Also, a growing number of reviews directly impact your local search ranking, making you far more visible to your prospective patients and customers.
Managing your online reviews isn’t rocket science. It’s mostly common sense, and will be most effective if you remember three things: be proactive, be positive and definitely be thick-skinned.
Frank Giammanco is a longtime veteran of marketing communications for the optical industry and professions. He is the founder and former CEO of First Vision Media Group, Inc., publishers of Vision Care Product News (VCPN).