NARI Leadership Summit: How to manage your online reputation, part 1

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At the NARI Fall Leadership Summit 2013, Mark Miles, chief operating officer of GuildQuality, talked about the importance of developing and maintaining a stellar reputation online, during “Lessons from the Trenches: How to Thrive in a Reputation Economy.”

“I’ve been presenting on this topic for six or seven years now, and it used to be like speaking a foreign language to people, he said. “Today, the industry gets it. You know your first meeting with a client is not their first meeting with you, thanks to all the information out there on the Internet.”

In NARI’s second-quarter Remodeling Business Pulse Survey, it asked some questions on how members measured client feedback. For example, the statement “our company has an effective system for collecting client feedback” elicited a mean agreement of 6.13.

“That number tells us you need to be doing more to measure your quality,” Miles said. “Overall, we found that having positive reviews is something that NARI members believe helps drive business.”

Miles pointed to the example of Michelangelo building St. Peter’s in Rome, noting that he controlled the project’s scope, budget and timeline and crafted something of

Mark Miles, COO of GuildQuality, discusses how online reputation management is critical to a successful remodeling business.

Mark Miles, COO of GuildQuality, discusses how online reputation management is critical to a successful remodeling business.

incomparable beauty. But nearly 500 years later, the industry has a black eye, he said. “The recommendation rate for all contractors is 65 percent, which means that one out of three people are unhappy with their experience,” he said. “That lack of trust is the dynamic we have to deal with when we walk into a potential client’s house for the first time.”

Miles recommended starting with a client feedback survey. “If you don’t know what your own clients think of you, then you’re flying blind,” he said. He suggests keeping surveys brief, with 15 questions at the most. To encourage a high response rate, focus only on your company’s performance and skip the demographic questions. Aim for a 60 percent response rate and respond promptly when someone takes the time to share a concern or complaint with you via the survey.

Once you know what your customers are willing to tell you, find out what they will tell the rest of the world. Encourage your clients to share their positive experiences.

“You always want to have a variety of up-to-date testimonials on your Website from enthusiastic clients,” Miles said.

But that’s not enough. Reviews on external Websites are extremely important, Miles said. One question you always want to be able to answer is what will potential clients find when they search for your company? “If they find no reviews, they will assume you’ve gone out of business,” he added.

That means claiming your local listings on the Big Three search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo. “You want to populate the pages, upload project photos, identify happy clients and get them to write and upload positive reviews so that you’ve got at least five to 10 reviews on every major page,” Miles said.

What about negative reviews? “No one has only perfect reviews. Homeowners are more interested in how you respond to complaints,” Miles said. “A thoughtful online response can totally reverse that negative impression.”

Yelp is a bit of a wild card because, according to Miles, their algorithm will penalize businesses that are not reviewed frequently. “You can’t control it, so don’t worry about it,” he said. “Just make sure that any search results will show lots of positive ratings next to Yelp’s.”

But there is more to your online reputation than just ratings. You should also have an active social media presence. Miles offered a few suggestions for using the major social media platforms effectively.

Facebook is still the Internet’s heavyweight champ with 1.15 billion monthly active users. What to share on your page? Potential clients want tips on choosing a quality remodeler. Miles also suggests sharing photos of innovative work, both yours and that of non-competing NARI members. You can also showcase client feedback and new or interesting products you use. Posting three to four times per week is plenty.

With 200 million monthly active users, Twitter is also an important force in social media. According to Miles, most users consider Twitter a place to aggregate the contents they want to see. Users follow those who are interesting and relevant to their interests and “retweet,” or forward, items that most interest them. Share your meaningful news, as long as you can do it in 140 characters or less.

Finally, Houzz is becoming an important social media force in the industry, and Miles is a big fan.

“Think of Houzz as an industry-specific version of Pinterest, another visually-oriented social media platform that is really taking off,” he said. “We know NARI members are getting business on Houzz.”

He also suggests adding the Houzz badge to your company’s Website, posting only professional photos and taking time to tag them with generic search terms that potential clients are likely to use, such as “kitchen remodel” to increase the chances of finding you. After all, that’s what online reputation management is really all about.—Darcy Lewis

GuildQuality is a network of 1,300 remodelers, builders, real estate developers and home services contractors. In part 2, experts weigh in on online reputation management.

To download the slides from this presentation, click here.

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