Accounting Firm Online Reputation Management: It's Important
In today's online world, research indicates that nearly 70% of all people trust reviews posted online about your firm services. Even reviews posted from total strangers can have a significant impact on your reputation locally. Favorable reviews generate phone calls and unfavorable reviews create silence.
In many cases, we no longer ask our colleagues and friends for referrals. Instead, we use our mouse to see what people say about their experiences. If there is a pattern of favorable reviews, then the phone starts ringing which we all like.
Accountants can capitalize on the online trend, but you have to make sure you have an explicit presence on websites such as Yelp, Google+ Local, and even Intuit's QuickBooks Find-a-ProAdvisor directory. By having a presence, I mean a full description of your accounting services, pictures and several reviews posted from clients of yours. If you have zero reviews posted online about your accounting firm, that's a problem because it leads a prospect to believe that you are either too small, might be brand new, or just old fashioned and behind the times.
Yelp is the online leader for online reviews. At this writing, Yelp had 78 million unique monthly views and "Yelpers" have written 30 million unique local reviews. In June 2012, Yelp announced it would power local reviews on Bing. Apple, too, has also joined forces with Yelp on its new maps application, along with providing more local content to its iPhone assistant, Siri. Yelp has a tift with Google and has declined a couple acquisition offers in their effort to remain independent.
Here are some of the things accountants should do to tap the power of Yelp:
1. Claim your listing. The free account allows you describe your business, respond to reviews (privately as well as publicly), add photos and edit listing information. You can also add information about yourself, your history and the industries you serve. You also can track overall traffic to your page. This ensures that Yelp will include your business page in search results it provides to consumers. Go to biz.yelp.com to register.
2. Get more reviews. More on this below.
3. Use Yelp's resources. Yelp offers pointers for reviewers and business owners, including how to respond to negative reviews.
4. Consider advertising on Yelp. If you manage to secure a couple favorable reviews on Yelp, then fire away and invest in advertising. If you don't have reviews posted or some are unfavorable, then don't advertise until you have some positive reviews to water down the impact.
Glowing or Not, Reviews are the Name of the Game
Reviews are the reason Yelp is a powerful tool for consumers and business owners, but unfortunately, negative reviews are much easier to come by than positive ones. Think about the last time you got great service. Did you tell anyone? How about the time you got lousy service and food poisoning at the local sushi place? You probably told EVERYONE about that and you might have even posted an online review.
What do you do if you get a negative review? The first thing is to keep your cool and learn from it. Yelp offers you the option of replying publicly or privately to all reviews. Think twice before responding publicly. You could end up looking defensive.
Always reach out to the client privately to get more details and ask if there is anything you can do to fix the problem. If there is, do it. Many times, the act of reaching out makes a difference and can even get a client to change his review. If you find a customer service glitch, fix it. This is the opportunity to turn it around for the future.
Finally, get more reviews. Positive reviews will move negative reviews lower. They will still exist, but they won't dominate your profile. Yelp offers some good advice about how to handle negative reviews.
And the positive reviews? Always say thank you.
Other Important Review Websites for Accountants
By all means, Yelp is the most challenging review website to get reviews posted because of the filtering process (like an editorial review process). Fortunately, you have a few different options to select from.
Google is investing money into the review service business very aggressively, so you can expect this to become more important in 2013. After being declined by Yelp, they purchased Zagat in September 2011 and are in the process of purchasing Frommer's travel review business. I highly recommend that you get started now and ask your clients to post reviews online before it's too late.
About the Author
Hugh Duffy is co-founder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm, a practice development and marketing company for small accounting firms and website development for accountants. Hugh teaches a series of Accounting Marketing Workshops; writes an email newsletter reaching thousands of accountants; and is frequently published in various publications, including state CPA society magazines, The CPA Technology Advisor and Progressive Accountant.He can be reached at 888-999-9800 x151, or at email@example.com.