What are they saying about me?

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A good offence is needed to manage online reviews

One marketing channel that deserves more attention is managing your online reputation. Online reviews used to be primarily a defensive play in the automotive space, where dealers were listening online to customers to make sure no one was saying anything bad about them.

But recently, we have seen the critical mass of online reviews swell, and because of the increase in traffic and engagement from the customer’s standpoint, online reviews have become more of an offensive play for dealers to increase their phone, email, and walk-in traffic.

A few reputation management facts will help set the foundation:

• Only 14 per cent of customers trust your advertising, which makes sense considering all advertising creative only shares the positive aspects of your business and never the negative. Additionally, because people are so bombarded with marketing messages, consumers tend to tune out from your advertising, dropping its effectiveness.

• It only takes between two and seven reviews to sway a decision online. There are a few things I think we can learn from this statistic. For one, it only takes a small number of reviews to take somebody away from your dealership, but on a positive note, it only takes a few reviews to bring someone back to your dealership. You don’t want five-star reviews all the way down the board because people will think that looks gamed. But what we can learn from this ratio is that for every negative review, you want five to seven positive reviews to sway the customer to come back to your dealership.

I’ve been looking at dealership statistics with their online reputation and we are seeing stores getting thousands and thousands of visits per month coming from the clickthroughs of the various online reputation platforms where consumers rate and review dealers.

In fact, I’ve seen some dealers get upwards of 3,000 clickthroughs from these sites. At a two per cent conversion rate, that’s 60 additional leads into your queue. And with a 10 per cent closing rate, you can pick up six car sales because you have a proactive strategy of treating your customers right and asking for reviews online.

Your online reputation doesn’t manage itself. Every dealership needs to have a defensive online reputation strategy where you’re listening to the market, understanding what customers are saying about you, and adjusting and responding accordingly.

Likewise, for those who are using reputation management as an offensive strategy, you’ll want to make sure you’re treating your customers right, actively managing the reputation platforms your store is featured on, and constantly requesting customers to leave reviews.

There are many places where customers can leave reviews, but seeing as how 80 per cent of customers begin their shopping research on Google, you’ll want to ensure your reviews are being showcased there. Google Places is emerging as a popuar review channel, which is now housed under the Google+ experience.

Dealers need at least a defensive strategy for managing their online reputation, and creating an offensive strategy depends on what fits into your overall marketing game plan. But reputation management is definitely a marketing channel that can’t — and shouldn’t be ignored.

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Canadian auto dealer