Is Your Online Reputation Important to You?


court-cunningham-hi resDo you value the potential influence of online customer reviews? According to the new SMB Sentiment Survey released by Yodle this morning, only

half of SMBs answer that question in the affirmative. Put another way, half of you think that having a customer write something nice about you online is of no value to you.

Interestingly, another survey – published in April of last year – found that 90 percent of buyers reported being influenced by positive online reviews.

“There’s an enormous disconnect between the marketing value of a review and the businesses perception of the review,” says Court Cunningham, CEO of Yodle, a New York, NY-based local online marketing company (pictured). According to Cunningham, only 13 percent of small business owners are actively trying to solicit reviews from their customers and 23 percent have come out and said they aren’t important at all.

Another key disconnect: despite the fact that most of you are neutral or negative on the impact of online reviews on your business, half of you think that online reviews have negatively impacted you. Additionally, the number of SMBs who actively solicit reviews, respond to negative reviews, or generally participate in the review process is a notable minority.

Cunningham believes that part of the problem is that SMBs are typically time starved. “Collecting a review, emailing someone day after day and then figuring out what to do with it and how (can be a huge challenge).”

Despite the hurdles involved, the pay-off can be significant. While that 95 percent number mentioned above has to be respected, even taking the time to respond to a negative review can be a major opportunity for reputation management, says Cunningham. If someone posts a complaint, and you respond to that and then they follow-up with a post about how their issue was resolved, then you have actually turned the negative into a positive and highlighted winning customer service. Since the initial review could not have been solicited (who would solicit a negative review, after all?) the whole exchange has a higher trust factor for prospects than a standard say-nice-things review.

Just as the pay-off can be worthwhile, the danger of ignoring negative online reviews can be significant. Ninety-five percent of respondents to the April 2013 survey said they are more likely to share a negative experience online, often through social networking sites and 86 percent said they are influenced by negative reviews.

The most significant findings from Yodle’s Small Business and Online Reviews Survey include:

1) Only half of small business owners think positive online reviews are important.Only 50 percent of survey respondents think that it’s important for their business to receive positive online reviews and almost one in four (23 percent) believe that it’s unimportant.

2) Most small business owners aren’t making any effort regarding online testimonials. Less than half ofSMB owners (45 percent) receive online reviews, while one in five (19 percent) get between one to five per month. Almost one in four SMB owners (24 percent) don’t even know if they receive online reviews. Only 13 percent of owners bother to approach their customers about posting reviews. The most common reason for this: “I haven’t thought about it” (43 percent).

3) Small business owners don’t effectively leverage customers’ online reviews. Only 14% of survey respondents post customers’ reviews to their websites.