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Word of mouth can mean more for your business than any amount of money spent on advertising. Whether your company is developing the latest software for the home service industry or you’re a plumber or HVAC technician in a van, you can’t afford to neglect your reputation.
Encouraging positive worth of mouth means more than just good intentions. To do it right requires the consistent investment of time and effort and must be approached strategically. The first question to ask yourself is: “What are my goals?” The second question is: “How do I reach them?” The answers will guide the development of your home service social media strategy.
Any communications strategy meant to boost your word-of-mouth reputation must involve encouraging positive online reviews about your company. Online reviews play an important role in a customer’s decision to do business with a company, according to a 2017 consumer survey by BrightLocal:
• 97 percent look online for businesses.
• 85 percent trust online customer reviews just as much as a personal recommendation.
• 73 percent trust businesses more if they have positive reviews.
• 49 percent will not use a business if it has less than a four-star customer rating online.
Online reviews are a game-changer for businesses. It’s not like the old days when “word of mouth” passed from person to person. The majority of consumers browse the internet through smartphones and other mobile devices. This gives people the ability to publicly post their impressions of your business right away.
Sometimes this can be great, and sometimes not so much. People can leave online reviews that are negative or unfair. Ignoring one or two negative reviews in the short-term won’t necessarily hurt your business but leaving them unaddressed in the long-term will have repercussions.
Reputation management requires regular monitoring of online reviews of your business. This can be a time-intensive task because people have many options for posting their reviews, including: Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, the Better Business Bureau, Bing, Yelp and HomeAdvisor. The list goes on.
Depending on the volume, you can monitor reviews on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Keeping track lets you respond to comments and also provides useful feedback for improving products or services. Positive reviews can be published on your company’s Facebook page or pushed to your website.
In the case of a negative review, don’t be hostile or antagonistic. This is your chance to boost your company’s reputation as willing to make things right with customers. Work with the customer to find a satisfactory solution, and you’ll find many people are willing to change their review to reflect the resolution.
As you might suspect, there is more to encouraging good word of mouth than just reacting to online reviews. Directly interacting with your audience on social media plays a huge role, too. Does your company have a Facebook or LinkedIn page? If not, it should. Ways to promote your company on social media can include posting links to blogs you’ve written about industry topics or interesting news.
For example: North Carolina-based TrueLook Construction Cameras engages its audience on LinkedIn by regularly posting news of interest to the construction industry.
What if your target audience is not the general public? Running a B2B company focused on marketing to the home service industry, ranging from small plumbing businesses to high-end enterprise companies, means finding and influencing decision-makers vs. consumers.
This means concentrating on “word of mouth” in the more traditional sense of networking and talking to people at industry events. Trade shows provide valuable opportunities for lead generation. About 80 percent of those attending purchase services or products they learned about during the events, according to Statista.com.
Writing in Forbes, Patrick Hull emphasizes the importance of trade show networking in getting your name out to specific audiences: “When exhibiting, I request a list of the attendees and study it before a trade show. I’ll identify people I want to get in front of and even reach out to targets in advance of the show to invite them to breakout meetings or dinners. When reaching out to someone, though, entrepreneurs will need to find ways to differentiate themselves and do something special. The offer has to be enticing because attendees get bombarded with offers.”
One way to distinguish yourself is through — you guessed it — more word of mouth. Specifically, speaking on industry topics at events. Public speaking may sound scary, but it’s one of the best ways to promote your personal and business brand to the niche audience of decision-makers you’re seeking.
It will take more work to acquire and then make the most out of your speaking opportunities. You’ll need to develop speaking proposals and coordinate with event staff. It is important to promote upcoming trade show speaking opportunities prior to the event through news releases and social media posts.
Even in today’s online world, word of mouth still happens around the water cooler. People talk about stories they read online or see in trade publications. To get people talking, your company needs to earn media coverage, which is worth far more to your business than paid advertisements. News releases are valuable tools to garner media attention. Consider writing informative articles for trade publications in your industry. Establishing a reputation as an expert will help gain you interviews and mentions in local and national media as well as trade publications.
For example: CEO Rodney Koop of The New Flat Rate was featured in an article in PHC News this month, concerning home service menu-pricing.
The power of good word of mouth never fades away, but the forms continue to change. Keeping on top of these changes and managing the online reputation of your home service or B2B company does take time and commitment, but you don’t have to do it alone. As with any other specialized business service, you can choose to partner with an outside team of experts instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Partnering with a team from an experienced home service or B2B public relations agency can make financial sense, allowing you access to expertise to develop and execute a successful social media PR strategy.