The Cruise Scholar
Think about it, you have spent years developing your business, building travel as your personal brand. More than just the time, you have spent money, cancelled social engagements to take care of clients, and have made family sacrifices for your career. Can you really feel like you have taken your business to the top level and then just relax? Well you can if you want the emails and phone calls to slow down. Even if you continue to maintain your excellent customer service and sales skills your business can still struggle and fail. Why?? Maybe it has to do with some negative reviews posted on line about you or your company. This can be very disturbing since you have worked so hard to do everything you can for your clients. How could this happen to you? Could this be killing your business? This is unfortunately more common than you think!
You need to wear several hats each to build, maintain, and protect your reputation on line.
What people say about you on the internet along with your reputation is singly the most important thing in terms of your company’s quality, your customer service skills and travel knowledge. It is reported that 70% of consumers say they trust online reviews, even though they are posted by strangers!
Now is the time to put on another hat and make a priority out of developing a 5-star reputation on line. You must realize that all of your other marketing will bring potential clients on line and from there they can read the reviews about your company and if it is not what they want to see, they are out…..way out. They can be driven away by reviews that might not be accurate or fair, and maybe a total falsehood! Potential clients look for positive and glowing reviews about you. This makes them feel secure and confident in making the big decision to work with you.
Easier said than done! You might think that having a few positive reviews on Google+ or Yelp is all you need, but there is much more to consider. It is really coming down to having a reputation management hat that you need to wear. Your business is way, way too important to leave it to a few happy customers that post positive reviews for your business.
You want to make sure that “real” reviews are being posted. Sure it is tempting to have your friends write glowing reviews to get things going but those could come back to bite you down the line. Amazon has filed lawsuits against people that run a business writing positive reviews on line even though they have never read the book. When you ask your clients to post a review, please ask them to be as specific as possible. Vagueness is a great marker for fake reviews. You do not want to waste a good review if the post is too vague. Keep new, positive, specific reviews flowing on your sites. Nobody wants to read stale material. Just put the process in place to continue to collect new reviews as often as possible. If you have positive reviews, post them. Those that read them will see you as a positive travel professional as long as the reviews are consistent. What would you do? Call an agent with consistent 5-star reviews or one with a mixture of 3, 4, and 5 star ones? You might be suspicious of a company with all 5-star reviews, but once you read the specifics you should be happy with what you read. Engage your biggest fans to help you build your on-line reputation.
Building a positive reputation requires more than just positive reviews. The next part of the process is to make sure your business sits at the top of the search engine results. An SEO strategy (search engine optimization) will insure this goes hand in hand with the positive reviews to get clients to contact you. Between a well optimized, professional and interesting website, and your positive reviews, you are well on your way to maintain your positive reputation.
Not very many of us have been able to spend time learning about SEO optimization but never fear, there are some excellent websites out there that can do a lot to help you in this area. One of them is www.lynda.com which is owned by LinkedIn. They offer excellent video courses in analyzing your website for the maximum optimization. They teach you to use various tools to track your statistics on line and utilize keyword strategy to take your website to the first page.
Another resource is the book, The Art of SEA (Mastering Search Engine Optimization) by Eric Enge, the founder and CEO of Stone Temple Consulting which is one of the top SEO firms in the country. You can also download a free template on Hubspot.com to help you with the steps as well: http://offers.hubspot.com/seo-template-guide
One of the things that you may not realize is that a firm with a glowing reputation, great optimization and modern websites can withstand the pressure of pricing issues. So many of us think that we lose business due to low ball pricing from the gigantic on line agencies but that is not always true. Building a sterling reputation can help you win over new clients on reputation and not on price.
Here’s an example. I use a dentist’s office that I know charges more than the cut rate ones that advertise on TV? Would I consider going to the bargain dentist? Not on your life! I am happy to pay more because of the reputation, the quality and even the ambiance of the office. Money sometimes has nothing to do with the decision to work with one firm over another.
In the news, reputations of large corporations have come into question. Do any of you remember the BP oil spill and the issues with Toyota’s airbag recall? No matter how hard you try, things can happen to put your reputation into question. Having a good reputation before these damaging events occur can keep you from falling deep into a hole that you may never be able to climb out of.
A study has indicated that there are ten main components used in determining the reputation of a firm:
1. Ethics-do the firms behave in an ethical style and are they worthy of respect?
2 Employees-does the firm treat their workers well (Amazon just had a dust up on that issue). Do they keep their employees informed of policies and new programs and products?
3. Financial security-is the firm financially strong and does it have a record of profitability and growth?
4. Leadership-does the firm show innovative leadership?
5. Management: is the firm well managed and do they have a clear vision of their future?
6. Social responsibility: does the firm support good causes and have a track record of being involved in worthy charities?
7. Customer focus: do they care about their customers?
8. Quality: does the firm offer products and services of high quality?
9. Reliability: do they stand behind their products and services and provide service after the sale?
10. Emotional appeal: are they a firm you can feel good about and know that you have made the right decision in going with them?
The best way to judge your own reputation is to think about your own opinions and behavior with the firms you do business with. Say you are looking for a hotel for yourself. Do you not read the reviews and aren’t you swayed by what you read?
A great reputation will take you a long way in building a successful business, and you just never know when it will land you some exciting new business.