Winning The Reputation Game – Tips for Real Estate Agents and Auto Dealers
Reading time: 10 minutes
Car salesman and real estate agents are not what you’d call popular. At least not when it comes to Roy Morgan’s Image of Professions Survey that has been running in Australia for 23 years.
The results of their most recent survey in May 2017, found car salesman again rating poorly.
“Car Salesmen have been the lowest rated profession in every year the survey has been conducted since 1976.”
And the real estate agent only fares slightly better.
So, there’s a significant image problem for both professions. One that I presume is a result of long-standing perceptions and a culture of aggressive sales tactics. The latter is something that’s not widely appealing in Australian culture.
Well, the first thing you should understand is that you won’t be able to shift the broader perception of your industry on your own. But if you can be a shining light in the night sky, then you look all the better.
Let’s look at how you can improve your business reputation. But first, let’s dig deeper into the why.
The Benefits of Building Your Online Reputation
There are many benefits. So, let’s look at them.
Just last week I was contacted by a client who received a ‘fake review’ on Google. It made damaging claims and came with a one-star rating. Even for the business owner with the toughest of skins, that hurts.
But what makes this single review even more damaging is the fact that it’s currently their only Google review.
So, as the adage goes, ‘attack is the best defence’.
That means starting to build your online reputation (and specifically your online reviews) now. If or when you do receive a poor review, legitimate or fake, then it won’t have such a significant impact.
It’ll Boost Your SEO
Online reviews are influential in consumer decision-making, and Google knows it. That’s why they’re considered to be influential in search rankings. They improve your organic search visibility.
Moz’s most recent version (2017) of its ‘Local Search Ranking Factors Study’ identifies ‘review signals’ as a key factor for both ‘local pack’ and ‘local organic’ results.
Reviews on a wide range of sites will help your listing on those sites to show up in search results.
Further to online reviews, having your name and business mentioned on other blogs or websites (potentially with a link to your site) will help establish your online authority. Authority is considered to be another key ranking factor.
Help Attract Clients/Customers
Your audience is researching online long before they decide to contact you.
Where they choose to find the information that will inevitably help them make their decisions can be varied.
Many will begin with their preferred search engine. From there, searchers have plenty of options.
For real estate agents and car dealers, this might be to head to big online marketplaces like realestate.com.au or carsales.com.au.
But this journey can (and most likely will) involve a range of other sites.
There’ll be industry sites such as ratemyagent.com.au, localagentfinder.com.au and openagent.com.au for the real estate industry.
For the auto industry, buyers can browse dealers via carsales.com.au or head to other marketplaces to find dealerships, such as carsguide.com.au or autotrader.com.au.
So, being visible on each of these platforms (and others) is crucial to your online reputation. It’s also hugely beneficial in attracting clients/customers.
Help Close Deals and Sales
A great reputation (online or offline) establishes trust, so when the time comes for your prospective buyer or client to meet you face-to-face, you’re already well-placed to win their business.
How to Build Your Online Reputation
There are some crucial steps you need to take before you start. They include completing an audit of every online mention of both your business and your key staff.
You can do this by searching Google for variants of your business and staff names. Check the first few pages of Google results if you need to. Then document each mention. Understand how they will each impact the decision-making process for your audience. Identify any actions that you need to make to neutralise any issues.
Then you can look at more proactive measures to build your online reputation, like the ones below.
Get Feedback/improve your service
The most effective way to build your reputation is to provide exemplary service. How will you know if you are without getting feedback?
Implement a process that asks customers/clients for their feedback on your service and monitor the results closely. Asking for reviews should not be a ‘cookie-cutter’ process. Tailor it to your business and identify ways to optimise it. For example, consider how long after the deal is closed that you should ask for feedback, how you should ask (e.g. should it be by email), etc. You get the idea.
Make sure you monitor the results and make changes to improve.
Publishing blog posts allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and establish credibility. But more to the point, it helps you to provide value to your audience during their research. If you can successfully do this, it will boost your reputation.
Aside from publishing industry-related solutions and advice, also concentrate on publishing local content. This content will help you to engage with your local audience and improve your visibility (and hopefully your reputation).
Social is a vehicle for getting your messages in front of more people. In theory, if you can be more engaging on social media, this can improve your brand and reputation.
But be mindful, if you’re not doing social well, it could hurt your reputation.
Without them, I could make a case that you don’t have an online reputation.
You need to initiate a process to encourage online reviews. It would make sense to integrate this into your feedback process.
Managing your online reputation is certainly not a ‘set and forget’ situation. You need to be monitoring the web for mentions of your business and even your key staff.
If there are any negative mentions, respond appropriately to neutralise them before they discourage any new customers/clients. Remember, if you’re responding to a negative review, your reputation will often be influenced more by your response than the original feedback.
If there are positive mentions, get in there and thank them. That simple gesture can turn a happy customer into an ambassador for your business.
Analyse your competitor’s online mentions as well as your own. What can you learn from them?
If there is a consistent item that gets them positive reviews, can you replicate it?
If there’s negatives, are you avoiding making the same mistakes?
Forums and Q&A
Consider adding a Live Q&A section to your website. A Q&A section is a little out of left-field, but it’s these extra steps to provide your audience with the value that can differentiate you from your competitors. Perhaps you could open it up once a week for an hour for anyone to ask questions. It will provide added value to the person looking for legal info or the one researching vehicles. By being the business that provides additional value to your customer journey, you establish trust and goodwill. This extra effort will improve your online reputation and likelihood of securing more business.
Influence your search results for your name
When you Google your business and key staff, you see a list of results on the first page. While crafting the search results to be the way you want for ‘best real estate agent’ or most trustworthy car dealer’ is near impossible, you can have some influence on your name.
You can do this by making sure you have the following individual profiles created.
– LinkedIn. It will almost always rank for a person’s name.
– An About.me profile. Again, this a consistent high-performer in search results.
– Include individual staff profiles on your business website.
Real estate agents should create a profile on each of the online marketplaces and agent search websites. These listings will complete the first page of Google results and most likely keep any outside views and opinions out of sight. It might be a little more difficult for car dealers to do this, but there are options. You can create a profile on Quora, Clarity.fm and Crunchbase, as well as looking at relevant guest blogging opportunities.
For your business, make sure you have:
– a LinkedIn company page
– a Facebook page
– joined the local chamber of commerce
– sponsored some local groups and events
– signed up for primary directories (e.g. Yelp, Yellow Pages, True Local).
Once you’ve done this, you’ll find that you’ve been able to craft the first and second pages of Google search results. It gives you some ability to orchestrate the information that a potential client finds. It can also flood any negative commentary.
Keep your business info up to date
It seems like a simple and obvious task, but it’s quite common for businesses to have incorrect contact information on the web as details change over time. It only takes one location change, and you’ll have business directories with old addresses and phone numbers listed.
Inaccurate business information frustrates potential customers and hurts your reputation.
Consider this recent finding from BrightLocal in their ‘Local Citations Survey’:
“Upon finding an inaccurate listing, consumers are more likely to blame the local business than the directory.”
So, don’t undo all your work by hurting your reputation through neglecting such a simple task.
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Specific Tips for Car Salesmen
Let’s just recap why you should be boosting your online reputation:
i. “25% of consumers consider online review sites to be the ‘most helpful’ factor when deciding which dealership to purchase from…” Source
ii. “59% of survey respondents said dealership reputation was the most important factor when choosing which dealership to visit.” Source
iii. “the chances of a customer showing up at the dealership increases by 90% just by having a 3- to 5-star rating.” Source
The first step (as noted earlier) is to conduct an audit of your online mentions and those for your auto dealership. It’s also important to identify which part of the business is the critical source of online commentary.
In many cases, this will be the service department. Your service department could be the ‘make or break’ of your online reputation. If your dealership doesn’t do that well, it could damage your ability to drive buyers to your showroom floor.
1. Implement a marketing automation system
You can use a marketing automation system for a series of tasks, which of course should include an automated feedback and review system. An automated system can ensure you don’t ask car owners for a review on one site every time they come in for a service. The automation can also be set up to remind people for services that are due and other key milestones that may prompt them to consider buying a new vehicle. The system is ultimately performing the customer service role. If you implement it correctly, it will build your reputation.
2. Optimise your dealership’s Google My Business page
To optimise your GMB listing, you will need to add a business description, photos, videos, trading hours, Google Posts, questions and answers, and of course, asking happy clients for reviews.
Aim to get a mix of positive reviews that give the potential customer a range of feedback on your salesmen and your service area. If you have a dealership with multiple locations, you should also be optimising your website’s landing pages and connecting them to their respective Google My Business pages.
3. Consider working with influencers
It has its pitfalls, but if done well, you associate with an individual that has an established reputation with the car buyer. This will boost your reputation. But remain vigilant. Be strategic with who you choose and understand from the outset how you’ll measure your return on investment.
Don’t be blinded by 50k fans on Facebook. If they’re not relevant, then the connection with your dealership will not be made and there’ll be little influence. And when choosing influencers, don’t make the mistake of choosing celebrities that influence your principal or staff, look for who influences your audience.
Specific Tips for Real Estate Agents
Google’s consumer insights report ‘House Hunting Season: 6 Key Trends That Search Reveals‘ found that overwhelmingly, house buyers are researching agents online.
“Two in three researched prospective agents extensively online prior to working with them.”
Whilst, Ray White principal Andrew Huggins noted the importance of reputation.
“A real estate agent’s reputation is becoming increasingly visible and will continue to do so at an exponential rate as consumers embrace technology.”
How are you finding your sellers and buyers at the moment?
Are referrals a key source of your new business?
In a study conducted by CoreLogic on the ‘Perceptions of Real Estate Agents’, they identified that a referral or recommendation was one of two key factors influencing buyers when choosing an agent.
“58% were influenced by seeing an agent successfully sell a local property and 36% relied on a recommendation by friends.”
So, the goal of proactively building your online reputation is varied. You want to increase your visibility as the real estate consumer embraces technology to find the right agent. You also want to encourage more referrals/recommendations, which are of course based on trustworthiness and reputation.
1. Create and maintain your ratemyagent.com.au, localagentfinder.com.au and openagent.com.au profiles
They are becoming important steps in the real estate customer’s journey in Australia.
2. Optimise your agency’s Google My Business page
This includes adding the business description, photos, videos, trading hours, Google Posts, questions and answers, and of course, asking happy clients for reviews.
3. Write local content for your agency website
Buyers and sellers both need to know that you understand your local area and the people within it. So, write about your local community and both its tangible and intangible features. This will help potential buyers make the decision to buying in your area. It will also help to build your credibility with people who are considering selling. Not to mention that it’ll be great for your local SEO.
Google Alerts – This is a free tool allowing you to keep track of your customised mentions across the web. Get a daily or weekly digest delivered via email.
Awario – This is a paid solution that we’ve been testing in recent months and so far, so good. It allows you to nail down your alerts and gives you a range of insights, all in a tidy dashboard that you can share with your team.
Feedback and Online Reviews
Customer Guru – This is the easiest feedback platform I’ve used so far. It delivers beautiful emails asking for a Net Promoter Score (NPS) and then provides in-depth reporting on your performance.
OnQ Review Builder – Sign up for our local SEO platform and start encouraging online reviews at scale. Upload your customer list and they’ll be emailed asking for feedback. It’s all automated from the moment you upload your database – this includes initial feedback, reminder emails and request for reviews.
Loganix – We’ve used this a ton of times. We could do it manually ourselves, but for $7, why would we? Yes, for just $7 you’ll receive a report highlighting the various citations you have across the web, highlighting which ones need to be updated.
OnQ Citation Builder – Are you an Australian business needing to improve your online footprint and citation profile? We build citations for you, and it’s all transparent. Citations are built on directories sourced from our popular ‘Top 20 Australian Business Directories List’.
Quentin Aisbett is the strategist at OnQ Marketing. He has a specific focus on local and mobile SEO, content strategy, and marketing automation. Blogging all the time, tweeting even more so. Pick his brain on Clarity.fm.