It’s common knowledge that a positive review from friends and family, or any word-of-mouth review, can often be the deciding factor when someone is choosing a vendor or a service. According to a Bright Local customer review survey, however, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
So . . . how is your online reputation?
“For loan originators specially, it’s extremely competitive. You have to market an identical product—it’s a loan. Their interest rates, they don’t have a ton of control over, they can’t give them the absolute best interest rate, perhaps, and that’s out of their control, it’s all based on the experience that they’re able to give their customers. And so because of that fact and because it’s so competitive, online reviews are going to be the most important thing for them to take care of themselves,” said Taylor Cutler, digital marketing manager at Podium.
Podium’s platform aims to make it easy for originators (or any business owner, as it’s not industry specific) to collect those reviews. Podium is the 13th fastest growing company in the country on the Inc. 5000 list, and is the fastest-growing company in Utah. The “genius idea” behind Podium is the ability to send a text message invite with a link that will lead clients straight to the place where they need to leave a review. The software recognizes what kind of device they’re using, and most people will already be logged into their various accounts, and so there’s no need to log in or find anything. It removes the barriers to leave a review.
If you’re already soliciting online reviews from your clients, then you’re ahead of the game. That doesn’t mean, however, than you can’t examine your process and improve upon it. For example, if you’re managing the reviews by logging into your existing accounts on each platform, consider how much time you’re spending on managing that aspect of your business, and what you could do with that time if you didn’t have to actively manage it.
Using a system like Podium, not only can you see all of your online reviews in one centralized location, but it can integrate with your CMS or other software.
“This can all be automated, and so your online reputation can be improved without you really needing to do anything,” Cutler said.
Navigating the transition to a digital workflow and maintaining an online presence is a tough one, and the road can be bumpy while figuring out what works and what doesn’t for your business. If you think you have a handle on things and are hesitant to add One More Thing to your to-do list to buy, learn, and implement, it’s understandable. Clients, however, are moving the goalposts quickly, and you have to learn how to adapt.
People still shop around, but convenience is of utmost priority, and in order to be in the running for their business, you’re going to need to be able to be visible in the places where they’re looking, and increasingly, that space is online.
“People, with sites like Amazon, have just become accustomed to this super convenient easy experience. And so the problem is they expect that easy online experience with offline business. They expect that same experience from their tire shop, from their auto dealership, and so if you’re not catering to that, they’ll choose the businesses that are,” Cutler said.
There’s also a technical component to it. Basically, Cutler explains, Google reviews (all reviews, but Google reviews to a large degree) affect local SEO, which is much more effective than an overall SEO strategy, where you’re basically competing with nationwide information. When people are using local search terms, Google is going to look for loan originators in their area based on things like how close they are to them, and—you guessed it—their online reviews. Good online reviews aren’t just those with high ratings, but those with lots of actual written content, and the more frequent reviews are posted, the better.
What about negative reviews?
That will be address in Podium’s upcoming webinar, “Stand out in the crowd: How to leverage your online reputation to gain new customers” on Thursday, September 13. Cutler stresses that the webinar isn’t an advertisement for Podium. Instead, it’s meant to give originators some real things that they can do on their own to leverage their online reputation.
“Some takeaways are, how they can start collecting hundreds of online reviews on the sites that matter the most, how to identify which sites they need to be getting those online reviews on and things like how to handle if they do get a negative review, what’s the process on managing that,” Cutler said.
Online reviews used to be an added bonus to a business, and they’re fast becoming a necessity. If you can figure out how to get more positive reviews and get those reviews seen, you’ll come out ahead.