A popular quote often attributed to George M. Cohan (and others) is, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, as long as they spell my name right.” It’s an interesting perspective, but it is definitely not my advice, especially in this information age. What is said about you in the global forum of the Internet, and elsewhere, is very critical to your success. Until the age of the Internet, what was widely known about you was most often what you said about yourself, through your own advertising and promotion, which was always positive.
Unfortunately, your advertising will always be at least a little bit suspect. No one expects you to say anything but positive things about your business. If you could make a claim that could be verified or if you stated factual information (i.e. “The Tri-state’s Biggest Truck Dealer”), then you gain a bit of credibility. Certainly if you offer up customer testimonials you could project a customer’s perspective, but as long as it was produced and presented by you, for you, there is still a shadow of doubt.
Cone Communications recent 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker (August 2011) found that “80% of consumers have changed their minds about purchasing a recommended product or service based solely on negative information they found online.” This figure is a significant increase from 2010’s 67%.
People simply attribute more objectivity to an opinion that doesn’t appear to be influenced by the subject of the comment, so they look for those opinions when they are unfamiliar or uncertain about their choices.
It is becoming increasingly easy to find online reviews, comments, complaints (and praise), and blog entries about most products and services, and the companies that deliver them. Some can be found on your own social media and your website. That is why you need to do all you can to make sure that your happy customers have opportunities and encouragement to praise your great products and services online.
Women are even more likely than men to turn to online sources to reaffirm their purchase decisions before they make them. And they’re also quite likely to turn to the web and other media to offer their opinion of their buying experience afterwards, so make that experience great.
Your job is to incorporate feedback opportunities into your interactions with your customers, and to make that feedback available to prospective customers. Your website should have be a forum for customers to comment, hopefully positively. (If you get negative feedback then address it immediately and openly. An unhappy customer has many places to complain online other than your website or Facebook page.)
The more independent the opinions are, the more validity they have. Of course, the more people that contribute their opinion, then the more objective that consensus is. That’s one thing that makes awards a useful marketing tool, especially those that determine their award winners through public opinion polls.
As tempting as it may be to plant glowing feedback to counter that of unhappy customers, it is unwise to do so. If it is uncovered, the repercussions can be more trouble than the complaint. It is better to encourage happy customers to post their praise so that a balanced perspective is available.
Do what you can to let customers both on and offline know that you are doing wonderful things to keep them coming back. That’s the WomenCertified Way!