Cultivating a beneficial online presence
Online reputation management (ORM) focuses on maintaining a positive online reputation that aligns with your company's goals and values. Many laboratory owners get tripped up in growing their business due to their neglect of ORM, with some barely having an online presence at all. The three types of ORM are building, maintenance, and recovery. Building is the creation of a baseline online presence, such as the set-up of a website and social media. Maintenance predominately involves monitoring and influencing those areas of online presence. Ideally, maintenance is the area where you should focus the majority of your ORM efforts. However, many business owners neglect ORM until they are put into a bind and must jump automatically into recovery. Recovery needs to occur when your reputation takes a blow from poor reviews, negative employee feedback, or general bad publicity. When your business's reputation is in recovery, you will need to handle those issues by spinning them in a more favorable light, making a formal apology, and/or publicly showing the ways your laboratory will avoid the problem in the future.
Building and maintaining an online reputation is vital to business growth. If your laboratory is considered trustworthy, instances of bad publicity can be more easily handled or avoided, meaning any blows to your reputation will not as dramatically impact your sales. A robust online reputation can also provide new avenues for brand awareness, and new insight as to what attracts potential leads. In addition to launching more successful sales campaigns, quality ORM can also significantly influence potential clients to choose your laboratory over your competition. Positive online reviews, professional responses to critiques, and an up-to-date, informative website can make the difference between a new or missed sale. Maintaining your online reputation allows you, the business manager, control over how people view you. Conversely, failing to prioritize ORM puts your laboratory's character in the hands of your competition, your clients, and your employees. The primary methods of ORM that will be covered can be placed under the following three categories: public influence, client influence, and company influence.
The way the general public interacts with your company can impact your online reputation. The public is defined as anyone who is not employed by or a client of your laboratory. The most significant aspect of your ORM strategy is publicity, such as online advertisements or feature articles in industry publications. Providing industry-specific articles will situate you as an expert and give the laboratory more perceived authority. Objective aspects of your online presence, such as having your laboratory listed in online directories, can still influence the way potential clients view your credibility.
Clients are the lifeblood of your laboratory, and their opinions can either make or break your reputation. The most significant way a client can impact your reputation online is through reviews. Review sites, such as Google, Yelp, or Yellow Pages, can be a desert, cesspool, or oasis of reviews for your company. While having few or no reviews on your laboratory's page is indeed better than being overwhelmed with negative opinions, it does not offer the solid feedback potential clients want. Dentists in the market for a new laboratory will often utilize review sites to get a feel for the laboratory's customer service. Having honest and positive reviews may provide them with enough insight to reach out. Having loyal clients post reviews of your laboratory on review sites will put you on the right track to having a quality online reputation.
The biggest culprit for poor online reputation is laboratories not prioritizing ORM. Your online reputation should be a focus of any marketing strategy. The building and management of your online presence can be the difference between new business growth and stagnation. The two best ways to cultivate your online presence and company insight are by developing a website and social media.
The first step to providing your clients with insight into your company—helping to personalize your team to outsiders and bring about the coveted transparency—is to have a website. Your website should be the baseline for your entire online presence. It can also be home to a news page or blog that will provide further insight into timely information about new product launches, CE events, and more.
Social media is another excellent way to provide clients with a more personal view of your company. Your social media accounts should be active and on-brand. Having a Facebook page that has not been updated in 3 years can be more harmful than helpful. While all social media, when implemented correctly, can be beneficial to your laboratory, the one you should prioritize is Facebook.
Online reputation management requires time and effort, but the payoff can often be the growth of your client base. If your reputation is nonexistent or wounded, investing your time into good publicity, incentivizing your clients for honest reviews, and providing transparent company insight can help it thrive.
About the Author
Terry Fine is President of AMG Creative in Fort Collins, Colorado.