This post was contributed by our featured partner of the month, Mike Remer! Mike is passionate about helping local business owners implement online marketing strategies that help to beat their competitors and increase leads, prospects, sales and profits.
He is the owner of ExpressPlan, Inc. as well as the LocallyLiked.com and ReviewInviter.com brands of online marketing toolsets for local dentists. You can contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-330-2169.
Why bother to listen to your prospects, customers and staff?
For all of my business career I have had small business owners as customers. Providing technology solutions to these business owners has made me aware of the many challenges they face every day. Focusing on health care business customers, mostly in the dental field brought home to me the importance of these principles.
I remember one day when I was sitting in the front desk area of a dental practice, working on one of their computers, when I overheard a conversation the staff member was having with a patient. It was obvious that the patient was in pain after a visit, but the way the dentist’s staff person was trained to deal with the situation made the patient feel more confident that there was a solution readily available. Their pain would literally be soon gone.
I wondered that day, how many patients may have had issues that they didn’t call in about or worse, complained to others, without realizing that there was an easy fix for their situation.
Certainly any kind of business would love it if there was a way to address customer concerns early, before they led to a less-than-happy customer experience.
Listening to Prospects
In today’s hectic world staff people working on the front lines of small businesses are hyper-focused on their own, seemingly unending, list of tasks that needed to be completed yesterday. Will adding new “listening tasks” be easily accepted in such an environment? The answer is “yes” if two conditions are present. The practice or business staff needs to understand how important listening is, and the business must provide tools that can automate a large part of the process.
One way to begin a conversation with prospects is to have a form on your website that lets you collect information on how your product or service can help them. Your sales message should be all about them and their issues that you can fix for them. Having positive comments from existing patients or customers easily visible on your website will allow new prospects to learn about how others with similar needs have been helped.
Tying your online web forms into an automatic response system that encourages your prospect to share more about their points of concern can begin, on an automated basis, a conversation with your potential new patient or customer. Many such systems can alert you or your staff when these automated interactions begin to occur, so that you can reach out personally to continue a conversation that was incubated automatically online.
Listening to Customers
An active social media presence for your business is essential to stay connected to the conversations your patients and customers are engaged in. Encouraging your business online social community to provide feedback about your business is essential. The tools that Likable provides can go a long way to automate this process for busy small business staff.
Anyone who has looked online for a business to fulfill a needed service knows that the search results are now dominated by “Star Ratings” and “Business Reviews”. Word-of-Mouth referrals are nice, but is it easier to call five of your friends to ask them what dentist they recommend, or just Google “Dentist in Mytown” and instantly read what hundreds of others have written about their favorite dentist? The clever search engines have made it even easier by highlighting the businesses that have the most “Stars” so you can quickly click through to those with the best “online scores.”
How do you begin to compete in this online ecosystem of dozens of websites that allow your customers to post their comments about you and your staff and your business?
Why not turn it to your advantage? Most of these sites allow you as the business owner to “claim” your listing on their site. Many allow you to add your own content to your listing on their site. When you Google your business name and town you should see your name at the top, but what other sites do you also see on the first or second page? When a potential patient or customer learns of your business through a referral or any advertising media you have invested in, they are very likely to put your business name into Google and see what comes up.
Knowing what they will see when they Google your business name, gives you a clue as to what business directories you should visit, and claim your listing on and even post some content so your prospects can begin to know and like you and your team. This is step one.
If you have a business location with a phone number the “Big Data” providers know about it and these review directory sites have purchased that information already. Your network of “listening posts” is already in place, the antennae are already turned on, and you just may just not yet be part of the conversation.
How to Turn On Your Listening Posts
Step 1: Google your business name and make a list of any review directory sites that appear on page 1.
Step 2: Go to each site and claim your listing there, add at least a description of your business, hours, payment types accepted, etc. You probably have all this info on your website now, just move it to each review directory site.
Step 3: Encourage your best patients and customers to go to these sites and give you reviews. The best time to do this? Right after you have delivered on your promise of a great patient or customer experience. Why would a patient or customer want to do this? Because they really like you, the doctor or owner, and your business and want to help others experience the same results…. It’s human nature to want to help others, here they can help you and help future patients experience similar results… want proof? Go take a look at the thousands of product reviews posted on Amazon every day, people are happier when they have done something nice to help someone else. (Try it yourself, do something nice for 5 strangers tomorrow and ask yourself if you are happier at the end of the day.)
Step 4: Now you have begun to build out a serious network of “listening posts”, it is time to begin listening. At least once a week make it be someone’s task to click through to each of your review directory listings and check for new reviews. Respond to them all. For positive reviews let the person know you appreciate the effort they made to share their experience. Should a negative review pop up, simply acknowledge their complaint, apologize and promise to address the situation. Give them an opportunity, publicly, to contact the person in your practice or business that can fix their issue. And if you are able to identify the individual, reach out to them offline to offer them a solution. A negative turned into a positive can be the best result possible in an online review site. It shows that you both listen and respond to your customers, what potential patient or client is not going to love that?
Takeaway: Make it your goal to have you or a staff member claim and update at least one online review directory site each week until all the sites listed with your business and found on Google are updated for your practice or business.
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