Perception Is Reality in Professional Services: Why Online Reputation Matters

As marketers and business owners in today's world, you have access to every piece of data possible—which sometimes feels like both a blessing and a curse. The sheer volume of metrics at your fingertips can be overwhelming and may distract you from analyzing what truly matters to your business. Particularly for professional services firms, it's important to take a look beyond the traditional inbound marketing stats like website sessions, bounce rates, and visit-to-lead conversions.

No, I’m not advocating you ditch that dashboard entirely. The truth is while these numbers can tell you how well your website and its content are performing, they aren’t going to provide insight into what REALLY matters. The number one factor you need to take into account is your audience's perception of you. But, how do you measure someone’s perception of you? And, not only just “someone’s” perception, but a whole group of someones? If you're marketing or managing a professional services firm, here are the most critical credibility factors you should be paying attention to.

Online Reputation Management: Perception Is Everything.

As consumers, we have the good fortune of instant access to other people’s reviews and experiences with myriad services; whether they be restaurants, hotels, physicians…let’s face it, just about any business that deals with people. Thanks to others taking the time to leave a review, we rarely have to enter a restaurant or doctor’s office blindly. Trust in our peers is at an all-time high. And that goes for B2B buyers, as well.

But, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Just by operating a business in today’s world, you and your organization are opening yourselves up to potential online detractors. Have an unhappy client or customer? We all know the internet is where people go to air their grievances, and unfortunately, customers are more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than a positive one. However, before you hit the panic button, it’s important to recognize that having a negative review is not necessarily a bad thing.

Wait a Sec... a Negative Review ≠ a Bad Thing?

managing-online-reputation-1That’s right. In fact, there is an opportunity for a business to turn even a negative review into a positive. Research shows that responding to a review in a timely manner can actually net you new followers. According to Review Tracker, 45 percent of consumers say they are more likely to patronize a business if they respond to negative reviews. So, there is a lot to gain by responding to these reviews.

That being said, here's a word to the wise—take a deep breath first. Bad reviews can sometimes bring out a range of emotions. Replying when you are angry is likely only going to make the situation worse. And, although it may be entertaining to watch it all unfold online, the goal here is to acquire new customers, not entertain the viewing public with bitter jabs back and forth.

Your Action Item: Keep it professional by adopting a calm tone, acknowledging and/or owning the mistake, and offering a solution. You can even infuse your response with humor should the situation call for it. But, it’s always a good idea to have someone else proofread your response before publishing to the world!

Negative Review + Timely Response + Professional Tone +/- Sense of Humor = a Good Thing.

What should you do if someone leaves a positive review? In real life, if someone compliments you to your face, do you turn and walk away? Or, are you polite and return the compliment? Remember you are on center stage—so responding to a positive review in a gracious manner demonstrates to the world how considerate and pleasant you are to do business with.

Your Action Item: Make sure you claim you Google Business listing and listings on any other review site that makes sense for your organization. But, don’t stop there. Monitor closely and set up alerts so you can respond to any review, both negative and positive within a day or two.

So now we know how to monitor your public perception, right? Are we done yet? Not quite.
Reputation management does not end with your client/customer.

What Your Employees Say Matters.

Glassdoor and Indeed hold a power over not only job candidates but also potential prospects. Our own sales team has heard time and time again that when it came down to a choice between our agency and another, our Glassdoor reviews gave us the edge. Why? PMG has happy employees. And, happy employees love what they do. And all that happiness ultimately translates into happy customers.

Even if you think you have a team of appreciative and content employees, it’s still important to keep tabs on these review sites where people can freely weigh in not only on salary range, but also management, policies, and company culture. Employees may not be entirely truthful IRL for fear of repercussions or hurt feelings—especially true in a small business that can feel more like family than an organization. But, under the guise of Anonymous, disgruntled employees tend to feel much more uninhibited with respect to relaying all perceived slights in great detail. Your employees really are an invaluable marketing tool. And, just because you offer unlimited vacation time, it doesn’t mean they aren’t seeing your benefits package through an entirely different lens.


Moreover, Glassdoor results have a tendency to appear on the first results page of a branded search query—especially the negative ones. Unfortunately, as with most other online review sites, the only way to “bury” these reviews is by encouraging others to leave positive ones. Proceed with caution though; employees may view this request as duplicitous, and it could end up backfiring on you. A better approach would be to respond professionally to the negative review in full view of the reader, perhaps even using this unexpected platform as a way to listen and work on improving internal communications and office morale.

Although it’s unlikely, it was also through Glassdoor that we identified an organization with a similar name, in a different state, that was getting a lot of hate mail from both employees and clients. Discovering this case of mistaken identity explained a lot. We immediately shifted into high gear and created a strategy to protect ourselves from someone else’s poor reputation.

Your Action Item: Do your due diligence by monitoring all employee review sites and encouraging employees to leave reviews. If you come across a negative review, don’t immediately respond out of frustration. Take a moment to reflect on what is being said and be willing to concede that the reviewer may have a valid point. If so, respond by acknowledging and addressing the complaint. If nothing else, you could end up using the criticism to shape your company’s existing culture.

Have any other tips for managing your online reputation? Feel free to leave them in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

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Kerrie Clark O'Mara | Account Manager
About the Author
Kerrie Clark O'Mara, Account Manager

Kerrie O’Mara is an Account Manager and mixed marketing arts master. She loves combining old and new marketing techniques to help clients get the results they need. She’ll usually be avoiding blogs at all costs, but when she’s forced to sit down and write, she’s doing it for the reward of her readers learning something new!