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7 Steps to Optimize Your Dealership Online Reputation


There are literally hundreds of places online where your customers go to share their opinions. 
Kathi Kruse, Kruse Control Inc.

 
There are literally hundreds of places online where your customers go to share their opinions. 
 
Car buyers are spending an average of 14.5 hours online researching their next purchase. Participating in that shopping process is the key to successfully managing your online reputation.
 
DealerRater reports that car buyers are 90% more likely to visit your website and 5.3x more likely to visit your dealership if you have positive online reviews.
 
While the specific sites and services will continue to evolve over time, there will always be a need for solid strategies to grow, improve and sustain a dealership's online reputation.
 
Although each online review site is unique, there are some basic actions you can take to leverage each to its full potential. Let's begin with these seven basic steps to get traction. 
 
1. Be Where Your Customers Look for You
 
Managing your online reputation is part marketing, part sales, and part public relations. 
 
You must identify where your customers spend their time....and pay attention to what they're saying. One of the main focus areas is online review sites, such as Google and Yelp.
 
Google My Business (or “GMB”) is the best place to spend resources and work it to your advantage.
 
If you don't already have a GMB profile, sign up for one (it's free).
Get verified. Once your profile is complete, there will be instructions to verify your profile.
Optimize your profile by completing your profile. Add photos and offers regularly to keep your profile current.
Monitor your reviews regularly.
 
2. Recognize Your Reputation is Online – Whether You're Participating or Not
 
There are online conversations happening right now about your dealership. You need to participate in those conversations, or your competitor will. 
 
Develop an action plan to observe how your customers talk about you. Monitor things and begin engaging in those conversations.
 
3. Take Advantage of the Free Real Estate
 
The online review site business model is built on the premise that users will spend time on the site writing reviews, engaging their network and sharing other people's reviews. Those sites have a very high search rank, which means car shoppers will most likely see your reviews on page one of a Google Search. 
 
For dealers, creating and maintaining a powerful online profile that holds lots of good information and special offers is mostly free. Utilize the space by completing your profile on all these sites, including adding photos and video. It will display your good reputation and give people more insight into your business.
 
4. Designate One Person to Monitor, Listen, and Respond to Reviews
 
“Everybody's job” can mean “No one's job.” Assign one person who will be your eyes and ears. For larger stores, include your management team to support the person you select.
 
5. Illustrate Efforts and Be Transparent About Contactless COVID Protocols
 
Due to a lack of a national mandate, states and counties are making their own decisions about whether masks are required where cars are sold. 
 
Hundreds of users (aka: customers) have posted about not buying a car from a dealership where they did not feel safe because the salesperson was not wearing a mask.
 
Helpful tips:
Create videos describing how the company, offers "virtually touch-free" service, and observes social distancing. 
Offer free masks with your logo.
Some dealerships even have individually wrapped disposable pens for customers to use.
 
6. Be Proactive About Asking for Reviews
 
You're leaving your dealership's online reputation up to chance if you're not proactively asking for customer opinions and feedback (aka: reviews).
 
? Create a “review funnel” to capture happy, loyal customer reviews. There are a number of vendors that can provide this service, but it's possible to do it yourself if you have expertise.
? Incorporate a script into your sales process to ask for reviews.
? Recognize and reward when a 4-5 star review is posted.
 
7. Respond to Every Review
 
Only 56% of dealers respond to their reviews, which means the unanswered 44% are lost opportunities. 
 
There are specific tactics to take with different types of reviews: 1-2 stars, 3 stars and 4-5 stars. Each type requires a thoughtful, deliberate response.
 
I see many dealers not bothering to respond to ANY reviews. This is like someone giving you a compliment or feedback and you walking away without acknowledging it. It's like someone calling out a mistake and you cowering waiting for the storm to blow over.
 
Take the time to respond to every review.
 
Building, sustaining and improving a dealership's online reputation is not difficult unless you choose to make it that way. Even if resources are in short supply, there are things you can do to mitigate catastrophes.
 
Set online reputation goals for yourself and your staff. Keep the momentum going by tracking your results. You'd be surprised how great things will go once everyone's engaged. 

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