Managing Your Dealership’s Reputation: Ensure Success through Modern Word of Mouth Marketing

Posted by 4 months ago

Word of mouth marketing is more important and more impactful than ever before. While it has always played a vital role in informing customers and ensuring business success, word-of-mouth marketing has changed dramatically in recent years. 

 Instead of sharing experiences about your business solely through actual person-to-person interactions, your customers can go online and express their opinions through social media, online reviews and chat forums. 

 While this shift in word-of-mouth marketing may make the actual term “word-of-mouth marketing” somewhat ironic, there’s no denying that it’s considerably more effective. Your customers’ opinions can now reach a record number of people faster than ever before. By searching for your dealership online, potential customers can instantly see what other people have said about you—the good and the bad.  

 This guide will outline why reputation management is such an important part of your marketing strategy. It will give you best practices to implement at your dealership to accentuate the positive opinions and manage the less favorable ones in order to maintain a strong reputation online. 


The Evolution of Word-of-Mouth Marketing 

 Word-of-mouth marketing has officially evolved. When consumers think about buying a product or visiting a business, one of the first things they do is go online to read reviews. Even if they’re not actually looking for other people’s opinions, a simple search for your business (or for the products and services you sell) will automatically return online reviews.  

These opinions have the potential to reach countless consumers online—many of whom place full faith and trust in what they have to say. In fact, according to BrightLocal nearly half of all consumers (46%) consider online reviews as reliable as a personal recommendation from a family member or friend. 

What’s more, 98% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 76% report that they always read reviews for a business. It’s no wonder that maintaining a strong brand reputation is so important in today’s retail age. As the influence of social media and online opinions grows ever stronger, your dealership must take a proactive approach to control the conversations.

Brand Reputation Management Best Practices 

 Now that you know the real impact of modern word-of-mouth marketing, what can you do to ensure that your business benefits from these evolving trends? Consider the following best practices to manage your dealership’s reputation online. 

Be Aware of What’s Being Said 

If you’re going to manage your reputation, you have to know what’s being said. Keeping track of the conversations about your dealership involves constantly checking online review sites, including Google and Facebook. Conversations about your business may also take place on industry-specific forums, so be sure to monitor those too.  

If this seems like a tall task (and it is), you may choose to use Google Alerts to search for your brand’s name and other relevant keywords online. This service can notify you when new content is published that pertains to your dealership. 

Of course, most conversations these days take place on social media sites. Be sure to actively monitor popular and industry-specific social sites and engage with your audience by responding to comments and messages directed at your dealership. 

While much of what’s being said about your dealership may be positive, a certain percentage of customers will inevitably insist on writing negative reviews. Don’t ignore these less-than-glowing opinions. When you address negative comments, you show others that you’re committed to customer satisfaction. 


Engage with Your Customers  

Your customers don’t write reviews in a vacuum. They know they have an audience. They know others will read their reviews, including the businesses they’re writing about. What’s more, when customers write reviews online, they expect businesses to respond. In fact, according to Search Engine Journal, customers expect a response within seven days. When you read and reply to online reviews, you show your customers (and future review readers) that you value them and the experiences they have.  

This rule applies to both positive and negative reviews. While your first reaction may be to respond only to negative reviews in order to fix a problem, responding to positive reviews shows that you care about all your customers, no matter the type of review they may leave. Just make sure to avoid canned, cookie-cutter responses. Customers and potential customers can see through this type of generic language and it may do more harm than good. In other words, simply replying with the same “Thanks for the review” message to every review doesn’t come across as thoughtful or meaningful in any way.  

Take time to thank customers and speak to their specific experience with your dealership. If a review is negative, address the customer’s concerns and take steps to resolve the problem. Both responses will demonstrate that you are actively involved in your business and that your customers are your highest priority.  

Resolve Negative Reviews  

Responding to negative reviews is never easy. In fact, it can be downright uncomfortable. But it also has the power to prevent brand damage and may actually help you win over future customers who appreciate your responses. Consider the following scenarios:  

The Complaint is Outside Your Control 

Every once in a while, you may get a negative customer review through no actual fault of your own. The customer may be complaining about your hours, the busy nature of your shop or your prices. In these cases, it’s best to respond with sympathy and show that you’re willing to work toward a solution. Maintain a professional tone and invite the reviewer to reach out to you to discuss that matter further.  

The Complaint is In Your Control  

Mistakes happen. Although you can try to prevent them, they’re a part of business.  When you or your team has made a mistake and your customer calls you out online, take time to acknowledge your error and offer an apology. Invite them to reach out to you to resolve the issue. This will help you make amends with your customer and show future customers that you care enough to consider every opinion and that you’re willing to make things right.  

The Complaint is Fake 

The internet is filled with fake and inauthentic information. This even extends to reviews about your business. Respond to these reviews politely and take time to set the record straight. Explain that you show no records of a visit or purchase with your dealership and invite them to reach out to you to address their concern in person. This will show that you have not done anything wrong, but that you’re willing to explore every possible issue, even the ones that probably aren’t real. 


Build a Brand Identity  

Because you’ll be communicating with many customers across multiple platforms and websites, it’s important to have (and uphold) a few brand rules. Having a strong brand identity will keep your messaging consistent and ensure that it comes across in a professional positive way, no matter who you’re talking to.  

A good rule of thumb is to treat your customers online as you would in your dealership. Treat them with respect and empathy. Be solutions-oriented and encouraging. This will ensure that your brand voice comes through in every communication.  

In addition to building and reinforcing a strong brand identity online, you can encourage customers to leave positive reviews. This will further build a positive brand reputation for your business and allow others to speak on behalf of your business. Consider emailing customers post-purchase, inviting them to leave a positive review. And, focus on giving your customers an outstanding in-store experience so they’ll want to leave a review.  

Claim Your Google Business Profile  

It’s no secret that Google is the authority when it comes to internet searches. In fact, Google accounts for almost 82% of the global search market, according to Statista. It’s likely the first place your customers and potential customers will go to write and look for reviews.  

By claiming your Google Business Profile, you have more control over what people see when they search for you. This includes your contact information, website, hours of operation, and reviews from customers.  

Claiming your Google Business Profile also gives you the opportunity to actively monitor and manage your online reputation. It gives you a convenient way to see and respond to online reviews and post updates to your profile to keep consumers informed.  

Perhaps most importantly, it gives you a way to keep information current with accurate online listings and hours so people can find your place of business. There might not be a more frustrating experience as a consumer than having to learn the hard way about a disparity between reality and what Google says about your address and store hours.  



Engage with Customers on Social Media 

With the amount of information being shared about businesses, social media has become one of the go-to places for modern word-of-mouth marketing. With so many users, social media channels give your potential customers a place to search for opinions about your dealership. But it also gives them a convenient forum to engage with you. 

Make every effort to build a strong community of followers on social media by sharing relevant and engaging content. Follow a regular posting schedule that doesn’t inundate your followers with an overwhelming amount of posts. Rather, keep them consistent and consistently engaging. This will allow you to grow your social media following and build your brand online. 


Find the Right Reputation Management Partner 

The right reputation management strategy can build your brand and bring in new customers. It can be an invaluable tool in helping you grow your business and creating a loyal customer following. As you consider your own strategy, you may choose to partner with a marketing vendor that specializes in reputation management.  

The right reputation management partner can give you a decided competitive advantage as consumers see your reviews (and responses to reviews) online and make decisions about where to buy. If you don’t have the time or expertise for reputation management, a partner can help you take control of online conversations and bring more buyers to your business.  

Connect with InteractRV today to see how we can help you improve your online reputation and grow your business.  

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