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Building a 5 Star Reputation

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by Hugh Duffy

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In today's online world, 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews about local businesses (source: BrightLocal) as part of their decision-making process. And, 79% of those people now place equal weight on these online reviews as they do personal recommendations from family/friends. Whether this is looking online for a movie, restaurant, or hiring a doctor or accountant, we all use online reviews to lower our risk of a bad experience.

There are review websites that rate individuals, employers, products, doctors, realtors, and all kinds of professional services. These online review websites make the world more transparent for buyers and shoppers of all kinds. Eventually, it will be very hard to hide underneath the online review radar screen.

Focus Your Efforts

Because obtaining reviews from your clients takes a concerted effort, we recommend that you focus your efforts on the review websites that will give you the highest return. Typically, this means trying to obtain reviews from your clients in Google, Yelp, and Intuit Find-a-ProAdvisor (if you provide those services). After you accomplish this feat, then you might target Facebook, LinkedIn, and some others.

What's Allowed on Online Reviews and What Isn't

The review websites take reviews to heart and go the extra mile to protect their brand. For example, Yelp actually reviews nearly all of your reviews and looks for patterns to filter out fake reviews. Here are some of the things that are taboo in this new online review world:

  • Placing testimonials on my website – In today's jaded world, most website prospects will tend to ignore your carefully crafted testimonials on your website. That's because most realize that you ignore the negative reviews, only show the positive reviews, and probably wrote the review for your client. Quite frankly, negative reviews often are very enlightening and help the buyer determine whether the item fits their needs. For example, Amazon has made this into a major selling point for their online reviews.
  • Asking clients for reviews – Yelp has a policy of discouraging businesses from asking clients to post happy reviews. One way that they spot this is if your accounting firm has 0 reviews for years and then all of a sudden, gets a few in one day. To avoid getting filtered out, space out your reviews over time so they appear more organic. However, it is fine to make customers aware that you encourage their feedback and online reviews. Yes, this is a subtle difference.
  • Fake reviews – This is a major no-no and has consequences. In 2013, Samsung was fined over $340,000 for building fake reviews. In NYC, there was a major sting operation called Operation Clean Turf and fines totaling over $350,000 were dished out to 19 companies for fake Yelp reviews.

Process We Recommend

The process for Google, Yelp and Intuit are very different. Below is my recommendation on how you can proceed down this path and develop a 5-star reputation online. I will assume that your back office is worthy of 5-star reviews and seldom has complaints.

  • Local Listings – To obtain reviews, you must secure your business in Google My Business and Yelp.
  • Reputation Management Page – Build Your Firm has created a reputation management page soRep Mgmt Tool - T Palm it's easier for your clients to post online reviews directly into Google, Yelp, Intuit, etc. We install this page directly on your website so the process is simplified.
  • Google – To obtain reviews in Google, the person posting the review must have a Google account. While a pain, we all have to play by Google's rules given their market share. And, in this day many people have a Google account of some kind whether they use it for Gmail, YouTube, AdWords, etc.
  • Yelp – Given the filtering process that Yelp has created to weed out suspicious reviews, we recommend posting a few reviews of your favorite restaurants. After posting 3-4 online reviews, then you should post online reviews for business clients that you genuinely support and recommend. Pace this out gradually at say2-3 per week. Start with business clients that will appreciate this the most like restaurants, retail outlets, fitness trainers, subcontractors, etc. In other words, pay your clients a compliment before asking them to reciprocate and leave you a review.
  • Intuit Find-a-ProAdvisor – If you want more QB clients, then create a list of satisfied QB clients. These reviews will be the easiest to get posted. First, you need a listing within Intuit's website along with your credentials. Then, BYF will add the Intuit logo to your "Request a Review" tool so your clients can click the link and post a review.

How to Ask for Reviews

Now you understand that taking the time to get reviews online is extremely important. But, many accountants still struggle to get online reviews. How do you ask clients? What do you say? We've created a FREE guide to share 6 tips for getting reviews, and answer some FAQs about the process.

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Hugh Duffy, BYF CEO and Co-Founder

Hugh is the consummate marketing coach for accountants and takes pride in the impact that it has on their practice, and lives. Hugh has more than thirty years of marketing experience. Since 2003, he has been teaching accountants on how to improve their marketing and make more money from their accounting practice.