Home Builders: Do You Have a Reputation Management Strategy?
September 17, 2019
Online reputation management is something marketing people like to talk a lot about. It even has an acronym: ORM. But behind the jargon, there’s useful advice to make sure you’re getting the most out of your business’s online presence. And as a home builder, your online presence means a lot. New homes are aspirational, and they’re also costly, so home buyers are going to do their research before signing anything.
We already talked about the importance of having a website, but your online presence is far more than that. It’s the reviews people are leaving on New Home Source and Yelp, what people are saying about you on social media and, most importantly, what shows up when someone Googles your business. If you’ve got the budget and time, you can use fancy software to monitor all of this or you can follow a few common sense tips that can be performed by your marketing team or an administrative staff member.
Take the first step: Explore what’s out there
Reputation X has some in-depth tips on how to get a reputation management strategy started, but at the most basic level, you need to Google yourself (try “[business name] review”). Then, assess what you find.
Are people leaving reviews that you didn’t realize were out there? You don’t want to leave them hanging, particularly if they’re negative (and remember, customers with a bad experience are far more likely to leave a review). Replying to reviews is important because research has shown that responding results in better ratings.
So, take stock of what’s out there, the good and the bad. If you find nothing, that’s not necessarily a good thing either, especially if you don’t have a website. That means target customers aren’t finding anything either.
Finally, make sure you also search on social media because you know it’s not just your Uncle Bob who takes to Facebook to complain.
Step 2: Claim or create appropriate online pages
Take control of your online reputation by starting a Facebook page and creating accounts on popular review sites. You could potentially create an account for lots of review sites, but save your time and focus on where your customers are already leaving reviews, or are likely to leave a review. For home builders, that’s probably New Home Source, Yelp, Angie’s List, your Google listing, Facebook and etc.
Be aware that you don’t need to have an Angie’s List or Yelp account for people to start leaving reviews on these platforms. When someone leaves a review, these sites will automatically create a page for your business. But as the business owner, you can claim the page, update it to make it look nice and start receiving notifications when anyone else leaves a review.
It’s similar for your Google listing as well. Google will automatically create a listing for your business based on what it can cull from the internet. That means it may not be accurate and there’s a good chance it won’t look great either. Solve this by creating a Google My Business account. Upload photos, customize what you share and make sure your contact information is correct. That way, if anyone searches your name, they’ll at the very least find your accurate listing.
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Step 3: Start responding to reviews
Once you’ve assessed what’s out there, it’s time to respond. Don’t worry about reviews from seven years ago. That’s not going to look good replying this late, but try to respond to anyone who has left one in the last year, and make it someone’s job duty to respond to every new one that comes in.
Hubspot has some good tips on how to respond to customer reviews. We also have some ideas:
- Don’t demand that a negative review be taken down just because. Appealing to review sites to remove negative comments is often a waste of time unless the review is inflammatory and abusive or you can successfully argue it’s fake (like a disgruntled employee). So, focus your efforts on your responses instead.
- Don’t get defensive. Your replies aren’t only to repair a damaged relationship, they’re for prospective customers as well. Defensive responses are a huge red flag for anyone thinking about working with you.
- Show you’re empathetic to complaints. When it comes to negative reviews, you’re best off acknowledging the customer’s complaint and apologizing that their experience didn’t meet expectations. It shows you’re open to hearing complaints and that you’ll want to work with home buyers on any concerns they have during the home building process.
- Keep it brief. Don’t take apart someone’s review in a thousand-word response to try to prove they’re wrong (even if they are). If you fundamentally disagree with their claims, say as much but don’t take the bait. For example: “Thank you for your review. We disagree factually on your claims, but we’re still sorry that you didn’t have a good experience with us. If you would like to discuss this privately, please give me a call.”
- Always show appreciation for positive reviews. Never forget to thank the people who leave good reviews!
When it comes to negative comments on social media, it’s best to respond on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if they posted to your Facebook page, then they clearly want a response. If you found their status update by searching your business's name, they might think it’s weird that you not only found their personal post but are now responding to it.
Step 4: Repeat
Stay on top of new reviews and comments by making sure you set up notifications on your review pages. Then keep responding. Though we’re keeping a narrow focus in this post, it should probably go without saying that if you notice a rash of negative reviews, a conversation needs to take place with your staff.
Step 5: Build up your online presence by soliciting reviews
Bulk up your social media and review pages with good reviews by soliciting feedback from customers who you know had a good experience. You built their house, and chances are, if they’re happy with your work, it’s not going to be a big ask. You just have to ask. Make it easy and email them after they’ve moved in with links to your review pages.