Scaling Reputation Management: Advice for Agencies

scaling reputation management for agencies

Client acquisition is far and away the biggest challenge agencies face. Selling reputation management services is a way to bring in more small business clients, but it can be difficult to know how to grow and nurture the service — especially when technology is involved. 

Not every small business has a comfort level with transitioning business or customer data to a technology platform and managing it there, nor do they have a background in marketing to be able to immediately see why it’s a good idea. If you run an agency, it’s your team’s job to make the case for reputation management, but to do it successfully, you need effective strategies to grow, nurture, and retain those customers. 

This topic was recently discussed in-depth on a GatherUp webinar. Here’s a detailed recap of that discussion.

Building a solid foundation 

Last year, we surveyed marketing agencies to find out what their biggest challenges are. As we mentioned above, over half (56%) of agencies said getting new customers was the toughest hurdle, followed by managing client expectations (36%). 

Juxtapose this with the small businesses we also surveyed, in which we asked them which activities they have an agency manage for them. Thirty-two percent said SEO, 29% said web design and management, and 21% said digital advertising. Lower in the list was review and reputation management at 14%.

And here’s where the opportunity lies.

As popular as they are, when you manage SEO and web design for clients, it’s difficult to show instant value. It can take months of manually tracking and managing these functions before you can point to some successes. 

But if you start with a simple review management offering, you can achieve relatively quick wins, especially when you combine it with SMS/loyalty marketing to capture reviews from satisfied customers and marketing automation to make it faster and easier. 

Right out of the gate, offering review management helps address those challenges we mentioned above. First, it opens the door to new clients that need help with reviews and don’t have the resources to manage them in-house. Second, by taking a really simple approach to it, you can better manage client expectations. 

Whether your business clients have zero reviews or some reviews, you can greatly enhance and ramp up their review efforts by automating the process.

Of course, automation means technology. And any transition to a technology solution has to be handled thoughtfully. For example, in a healthcare setting in which patient data requires extraordinary care, clinics often fear their data and functionality could get lost. Knowing how to smoothly and carefully onboard and support clients with a reputation management platform is key, which we’ll talk about in greater detail below.

Acquisition strategies

It’s common knowledge in the business world that it costs significantly more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. If you’re constantly having to acquire new customers, you’re spending more and more money to do so. 

To connect the dots with reputation management, it’s clear that small businesses need a solid review strategy. Ninety-six percent of U.S. consumers read reviews, and 66% say that online reviews make them trust a brand. In the healthcare space alone, 75% of consumers look online first to find out about a doctor, dentist, or medical care.

But the trouble is, when clients come to you for review help but don’t have a lot of experience with what they’re asking you to do for them, and they don’t see value right away, you could end up losing them. This means you have to start the (expensive) acquisition process all over again. 

Here are some strategies you can use to ensure more successful acquisition:

1. Define automation

The first step is helping your clients understand marketing automation in the first place. 

Most small businesses aren’t marketers by trade. They need a lot of help understanding these concepts upfront. They may vaguely realize they need consistent reviews coming in with consistent replies going out — and that it can be done through automation. Maybe someone in the business heard from a colleague about automation, or it was talked about at a conference they went to. 

As a result, they want “automation” as the endpoint but don’t necessarily know how to get there or what it looks like in practice. That’s where you can provide the education.

2. Explain the benefits

The second step is helping clients understand the benefits of automation. 

Automation doesn’t just streamline the review process. It also produces a wealth of data that can help you and your clients understand trends, uncover keywords to improve your clients’ online presence, and create more impactful marketing materials and promotions for them. Data from consistent customer feedback is equally important — especially the negative feedback — as it helps your clients make business improvements and learn how they can better take care of their customers.

Automation can also fill in some major gaps in the review process. A recent Moz study showed that 86% of consumers write at least some reviews, but 39% of review writers haven’t received a request in the past five years. Crucially, automating the review request process can fill in those gaps and make reputation management that much more effective.

3. Put internal structures in place

As you acquire more reputation management clients, you need the internal structures in place to manage them. 

That means making some predictions about the level of staff you’ll need. For example, you could set a threshold for the number of clients per staff member so you can anticipate the need for new staff as your client base grows. You can also map out both the onboarding process and the initial wins you expect to deliver to your clients. You can do this by breaking down — task by task — what you need to do for each client to determine how many hours it’ll take, per client, to set them up on the technology, as well as which tasks you’ve typically done manually in the past that you can then automate to save time.

Bottom line: it’s about making sure you have the staff, tools, and time in place to get the client to initial value in the most cost-effective way.

Activation and onboarding best practices

Onboarding is the bridge from sales to realized value. You might sell a lot, but if you have a poor onboarding experience with spotty communication or unrealistic timing, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve sold.

To be a partner in your client’s success, you need to do the following:

1. Create a roadmap for onboarding

Determine what you need to do — start to finish — to successfully activate and onboard a new client. This includes: 

  • Training protocols — before going live and after
  • The go-live date, with everyone on the same page
  • Q&A sessions and check-in calls to solve problems and pain points along the way
  • Communication at every step, with the right experts in place to answer specific questions and direct the process

The overall goal is to be proactive and to get ahead of any potential frustrations or minor annoyances before they turn into far bigger problems down the road.

Something like a minimum competency test or quiz can be helpful as well to ensure all users know how to perform basic functions in the platform. Think of it like this: if entry-level users don’t get it, no one else will either. (This is just as important for internal staff within your agency, too, since they also need to be familiar with the technology.) 

And remember that you don’t have to onboard the whole product in one sitting. Doing it in pieces or segments is easier and much less overwhelming. Find out what the initial two or three goals are that your clients want to address or learn how to do first, take care of those, and then slowly and steadily get them up to speed on the other goals or functions.

2. Celebrate successes along the way

Once value is achieved, celebrate it with your clients. “You have 10 new reviews.” Or “You now have more 5-star ratings.” Or “Your rating moved from 4 to 4.5.” Sending milestone emails in the early days, post-onboarding, can really start to show value to your clients.

At the same time, you can direct your clients how to aim higher and set more goals. “You sent out 100 review requests. We know that’ll convert into 3 new reviews. Now, let’s get 100 total reviews.” Your encouragement and goal-setting keeps everything moving forward and reinforces the value of reputation management.

Post-onboarding is also a good time to ensure features are used properly and to their best advantage to achieve even more success and avoid dips in review performance.

3. Align expectations

When clients come to you, it’s because they have a need. They want to increase business, get more repeat customers, and earn more reviews — whatever the case may be. As such, they need guidance about how to get there — which also means aligning their expectations. 

With clients up and running on the system, help translate a broad goal they have into an aggressive but realistic, reputation-specific goal — such as increasing volume and average rating. Then outline the key, day-to-day actions they can take in the system to start seeing results. 

It’s also helpful to look beyond the initial offering and make it clear to your clients how reviews, SEO, and keywords all work together, how each builds upon each other to increase business success. In effect, show them how reputation management ladders up to larger business goals. 

It’s also important to keep looking for ways to bring more value. When we surveyed small businesses and agencies, we found a gap between what agencies are doing vs. what the businesses are doing themselves. Many businesses are doing a lot of the social media work and review analysis on their own — rather than agencies doing it for them. These are typically tedious, time-consuming tasks that agencies could take over to increase the value clients get from the service.

Retention strategies for long-term success

Finally, keeping your reputation management clients engaged is the key to long-term success and retention. Here are some ideas for reaching out to clients on a regular basis, gauging their success with the platform, and maintaining contact:

1. Implement a feature series

This can involve creating and sending out a short explainer video that walks users through a key feature, workflow, or even a niche feature or workflow to help them use the platform more effectively. 

Building a video series also opens up lines of communication and helps solicit ideas from your clients about what they consistently need help with or areas where they could use more information. Having a solid library of videos can also help with onboarding and supplement training calls.

2. Continually discover and solve problems 

Sometimes a client’s initial problem gets solved only for a new one to crop up in its place. Data from the platform will often show an end customer issue before the customer even reaches out. At the same time, turnover or hiring within the business can raise new problems or expose the need to solve those problems from different perspectives. 

Successful retention requires constant iteration. It means looking at the data to discover new problems and new solutions, training support and customer success teams on new features, pairing new features with problems to solve, and making it easy for them to adopt the new features. 

3. Create regular touchpoints

Social media, e-newsletters, a podcast, webinars — whatever channels you use to engage with clients become valuable sources for clients to easily pop up in the moment and ask a question they really need an answer to. It’s important to be willing and able to listen and collect feedback wherever possible and through any means. 

4. Provide metrics

One of the best ways to retain clients is to give them tangible, granular metrics that provide insight and show value. These can include review volume and rating, numbers of customers or patients getting a review request, response rates, sentiment, and specific areas of focus or new products/services.

Final takeaways

Finally, as you scale reputation management, keep these tips and tidbits in mind:

  • Implement clear processes
  • Work from the perspective that onboarding is never done
  • Maintain regular communication with clients
  • Use every touchpoint as an opportunity to solve a problem
  • Don’t underestimate the value of simple
  • Challenge yourself to see how quickly and efficiently you can show value to your clients

To learn more, download the Review Management for Agencies eGuide.



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