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One of the biggest concerns that I hear from business owners about social media, is their fear of negative reviews. They fear that negative reviews will sour potential customers or patients who read it. The proliferation of reputation management services speak to the fear of negative feedback and the desire to present a “managed reputation”.

As a business owner, you know that not every one of your customers has been completely satisfied and for as much as you try, it most likely will happen again. Guess what, your prospects know this too. Everyone has had their share of bad experiences. That is the problem with testimonials and references. If authentic, they can show the quality of service that a businesses is capable of delivering but they consumer review fail to show how consistently service is delivered. Consumers want to know both.

But don’t be afraid of negative reviews. A recent Forrester report found that 50 percent of online shoppers proceeded with a purchase after reading negative reviews on it. The point is that the presence of negative reviews doesn’t prevent sales. I am not suggesting that mediocrity is a marketable advantage, but projecting a competitive reputation that is authentic will increase its ability to attract and influence people looking for the services that you provide and will produce better long term business results.

Many times, constructive feedback serves to help quality prospects. Better prospects close faster, are more likely to be satisfied and thus more likely to buy from you again. By comparison, the wrong customer can burn up your time, money and resources and then buy elsewhere in the future. Not a wining marketing strategy.

Currently consumer reviews for local businesses are in their infancy. Most of your competitors have no reviews at all and if they do, the number of reviews is in the low single digits. Also most reviews have little or no assurance of authenticity, so gaming is rampant in certain areas.

Consumers actively seek out and are more influenced by an accurate representation of your reputation than an air-brushed managed reputation. This is why consumers value ratings-and-reviews so much. People are more likely to believe and be influenced by what your customers and patients say about your business or practice than what you say. But in order for an online reputation to realize it full influence potential, it must be perceived to be authentic. This is the power of a Natural Online Reputation.

Negative reviews demonstrate transparency and honesty. A robust and strong Natural Reputation with some negative reviews or constructive feedback will out perform perfect reputations because it’s perceived authenticity will increase its credibility and power of influence.

Local businesses can learn much from a decade of online purchases and seeing what has been effective at influencing online purchases. A usability survey conducted by PowerReviews showed that consumers don’t believe in perfect “products”, they expect some level of dissatisfaction and often “DISCOUNT” products with perfect reviews. So the money that you are spending to create that perfectly manicured “managed reputation” could actually be costing you business!

As more people use the Internet to find a local business ( up to 97 percent according to the Kelsey Group), they bring with them their experience and expectations from their past online purchases. Smart business owners will be those who shed the old mentality of projecting an artificial image and embrace the power of social media to attract and influence people seeking the services that they provide.

Given the demand for authentic reviews, the dearth of them in the suburbs and their incredible power to influence purchase decisions- I would say that there is clear evidence of an significant opportunity for high quality businesses to create a sustainable competitive advantage by being first to create a natural online reputation within their local market.

So don’t be afraid of an occasional bad review, but be proactive and cultivate a fresh stream of current reviews. I say, invest your money and resources in improving you people, products and services. Focus on understanding your customers’ needs, set proper expectations and consistently meet them. If you do this well, you will be able to attract new customers and patients with greater efficiency and at a lower costs than every before possible using the authentic voice of your customers and patients.

Andrew Ward

Chief Trust Officer


2500 Plaza 5

Harborside Financial Center

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