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Building — and Guarding — Your Online Reputation (Part 1)

Claim your online storefront to build your business

CHICAGO — Online reviews can be one of the most valuable marketing tools a dry cleaner can have, but many cleaners both hate and fear the concept, mainly because it’s an element out of their control. “One disgruntled customer,” the thinking goes, “can singlehandedly ruin my business.”

While it’s true that online reviews and reputation aren’t entirely in the control of the business owner, there are things that they can do to influence the system — both to limit negative reviews and to encourage positive ones, says Yash Patel of BeCreative360. Patel recently presented his views in a webinar — “The Power of Reputation Management” — hosted by the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI).

Perhaps the most surprising thing, Patel shared, is that most of the things a business owner needs to do to build and protect their online reputation don’t require a financial budget — they simply require the owner’s attention.

The Need for Online Reputation Management

“The biggest question most cleaners have is, ‘How do I get new customers?’” Patel says. “Everybody wants new customers, especially during this time when your competitors are closing their doors. You want to grasp those customers. You want to make sure that you are the one they find when looking for a new cleaner.”

The quickest, most efficient way to introduce your business and your services to these customers is to have a strong online presence. This, however, is where many dry cleaners fail because they don’t want to deal with the online element of running their businesses. Cleaners who ignore this facet do so at their peril, Patel says, providing the following statistics:

  • 93% of customers search for a business online
  • 90% choose a company on Page 1 of the Google results
  • There has been a 500% growth of “near me” searches (“drycleaners near me,” for instance)

Claim Your (Online) Space

“Google yourself.”

This piece of advice from Patel is, on the surface, simple, but it will reveal a great deal of information about how customers see your business. How easy is it for a potential — or current — customer to find you online? “How high are you ranked?” Patel asks. “Are you at the top of the page? Are you on Page 1? Or are you on Page 2 or 3? Generally, people won’t look anywhere past the first page. The first step to online visibility is to make sure you Google yourself regularly to see where you stand.”

One way to increase your visibility is to, of course, have a business website. “It’s very important that you get even a basic website,” Patel says. “Having a website helps your customers and can answer some of the questions they have.” The website should be updated regularly with new information and images, Patel says, and store hours should always be updated and available. Building a site that allows reviews to flow to it automatically is a simple yet effective method of increasing Google rankings and, therefore, visibility.  This constant updating shows Google that your site is active and helps boost your search rankings.

Another easy — and free — activity is to make sure you claim your “My Business” page on Google. “It’s very easy to do,” Patel says. “Just Google, ‘Google My Business’ and claim your business. It will take you about 10 minutes to do.” When you do this step, he says, Google knows to serve up your company’s information when someone does a search relevant to your business.

Patel also advises business owners to turn on notifications on platforms like Facebook, Yelp!, Google My Business and other forums where people might leave comments or reviews. “It’s very important that you turn on notifications on your phone, on your email and anywhere else you can be notified,” Patel says. “Response time is crucial. And you may not think that it’s important because you believe your customers may not care about it, but it goes a very long way on how fast you’re responding to all of this.”

Come back Tuesday for the conclusion, where Patel gives practical tips on cultivating a positive online reputation and what to do with both negative and positive reviews.