The old days of driving a purchasing decision solely through advertisements are over. Advertisers and marketers now have to combat what Google calls “The Zero Moment of Truth.” This moment transcends mere product placement and traditional marketing by representing the time between product introduction and product purchase. This time lag is now filled by readily available and increasingly popular online research and customer reviews.
Whether you are in the market for a local plumber, a new TV, a new car, a restaurant, a hotel or any other of the infinite products and services offered in the marketplace, it is no longer standard practice to act solely on the word of others. The Internet provides millions of bits of information on all types of products and services and heavily influences an increasingly higher percentage of purchases.
As business owners and marketers, we need to understand that our advertising and our name is no longer good enough to drive actual purchases. Sure, our reputation and catchy promotions attract interest and may even give us an initial jump on our competitors, but, in today’s marketplace, one lousy, negative or false review can diminish even the most polished advertising efforts and the sale is lost.
It is not practical to expect a flawless online record. If your business operates long enough, at some point someone will be unhappy with a product or service. That unhappy person may turn to the thousands of review boards that connect consumers all across the globe and publish some sort of unflattering remark directed at your business or your products. How do we monitor online review boards? How do we respond? How do we distance ourselves from bad reviews? When is it advantageous to consult an attorney or take legal action? How do we best protect our reputation online?
By now, you might be thinking, “Well, that’s what crisis communications is for.” A bad review is not a crisis and treating it as such will only amplify the reach and the effect of the review. New age marketing has to include specific and strategic plans of action pertaining to the handling of negative reviews similar to the way traditional public relations efforts seek to put water over an impending fire. The knowledge, the plan and the execution of handling online reviews not only helps protect your brand, but it can create a competitive advantage, increase customer service efforts and silence defamers. Not all negative reviews are treated the same. Some should be directly addressed on a personal level, some should be strategically distanced from the company and some may need legal attention. Much like consumers, business owners and marketers need to do their research.