As leaders of ambitious SMEs you and your brand will be searched for online by potential customers, so it is vital that what they find helps secure a sale. Whether you are targeting a global or local audience, customers need to find the right information as easily as possible, and get a positive impression from what they find.
First impressions count
When was the last time you Googled yourself, others in your team, or your brand? What does your “snippet” say about your business in the search results? What images show up when you are searched? Are simple things such as titles, dates and brand statements consistent across all your profiles? Do all links work? Consistency in appearance and core messages across all of your channels build a better impression — increasing the likelihood of a visit to your website or that first meeting will actually happen.
Look, listen and be proactive
Regardless of how loved and successful your brand is, you will never please everyone all of the time, so it is vital to monitor and manage who is saying what about you online. You need to reply to messages on social media, discussion forums and respond to customer reviews promptly, so do searches and set up Google alerts to keep track. Another great free tool is Who’s Talkin that allows you to monitor social media mentions too.
The best laid plans
Managing risk is not just about what you do in a crisis — it’s about creating the greatest opportunity for success. In today’s digital age, opportunities and threats can arise at any moment, so review your risks, create contingency plans and be clear on the decision hierarchy in case key leaders aren’t available. Having a crisis management strategy means you can react quickly to any issues, in a positive way, creating the impression that you are in control, and prevent contagion.
Turn negativity into positivity
A happy customer is your greatest asset — not only for sales but as a great way to counteract negativity. The most compelling response to a negative review or comment about your company is to allow your biggest fans to take the sting out of the attack with their positive experience. So do what you can to be transparent with handling feedback and facilitate customer comment in the channels you own, such as your website.
Don’t let a molehill become a mountain
There’s a time and place for battles and online is not it. If something negative comes up, act quickly, take ownership of the issue and defuse the dispute online by asking if you can contact them directly to help resolve their issue. Simply provide a telephone number with the name of the specific person who will own the solution and you can avoid further inflammation.
Sorry is the hardest word — but make sure it’s sincere
Even the most popular brands make mistakes and have to say “sorry” — and I’m sure we can all think of a few in recent months. The key is to be sincere, communicate well, offer a solution — without overcompensating — and where suitable, offer rewards or offers to show you are sorry after the storm has passed.
If you handle an online incident with sincerity and transparency, it is possible to turn a negative experience into a positive one for customers by demonstrating just how seriously you take customer feedback.
Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs, which works with GrowthAccelerator to support high growth SMEs.