By Jana Basler
Managing your self-storage business is a juggling act. Between tenant requests, facility maintenance and following up on leads, you're always trying to keep all those balls in the air. With all the work you're already balancing, who has the time to keep an eye on your online presence?
Browsing the Web for customer comments and Googling your business seems like a waste of time in comparison to the big stuff you deal with every day. But the fact is, if you aren't monitoring and controlling your online presence, you're missing potential sales. According to research by location-software company Yext, about half of all U.S. businesses have incorrect, missing or incomplete online listings, which is costing them $10.3 billion in potential annual sales.
Online reviews are also huge when it comes to hooking new customers. ReviewTrackers, which offers a review-monitoring and reputation-management software platform, found that 97 percent of consumers search online when making local shopping decisions. Furthermore, a study by “Search Engine Land,” a publication that covers all aspects of the search-marketing industry, found 90 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Looking at online reviews and business listings is far from a waste of time. Gathering and analyzing online feedback about your company is crucial to your success. Here are four easy ways to start tracking this information, so you can use it to work smarter, not harder.
1. Use Automated Tools
Stop Googling your business and start using site crawlers that aggregate your information for you. Here’s a list of some of the best and most easy-to-use automated tools for managing your online presence:
- Citation-management software: Tap into a service that crawls hundreds of online locations on your behalf to find outdated or missing businsess information. The platform also gathers online reviews from dozens of sites and mines social media data. It fixes your wrong, incomplete or missing business listings, claiming your listings across all major sites. You can then view and respond to your reviews all in one place.
- Google Alerts: This is a free tool that lets you create an alert and receive notification when your keyword or phrase appears on the Web. Track mentions of your business name, website, competitors and more.
- Google Analytics: Another free tool, this one allows you to see detailed website specs that are beautifully charted and organized. Check out your review site’s bounce rate, search keywords, what people click on, and if they're using a smartphone or laptop to get there.
- If This Then That (IFTTT): This workflow tool for businesses and individuals uses “recipes,” combining your various apps and services and automating tasks. Push blog comments to short-message service (SMS) notifications. Automate almost anything across social media. Automate a weekly e-mail or SMS summary of all new reviews or mentions. You can even get a text reminder about a check-engine light in a company vehicle. IFTTT tracks all the same things as Google Alerts and more.
- MailChimp: If you do any e-mail marketing at all, you’re probably familiar with this tool’s automation workflows. What you may not know is they also connect Google Analytics to track user engagement and return on investment. If you include your review link at the bottom of your e-mails, MailChimp can track how many people are opening or abandoning them after starting.
- ReviewTrackers: This tool monitors and gathers your reviews from various review and industry-specific websites so you can manage them all from one place. You can view analytics and respond directly to unhappy customers, request new reviews from happy customers, and track reviews across multiple facility locations.
- Sprout Social: This tool allows you to automate your social media presence and gather detailed analytics across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Use social listening to track what customers say about you online. Benchmark your performance against your competitors or use Sprout's integrated Google Analytics to dig deeper into your social presence.
- Google Calendar: Routines are vital when it comes to managing your online presence. This calendar is a smart way to set up weekly or monthly routines for checking your online reviews or social media performance. If you know you're always swamped on Saturdays but dead on Tuesdays, you can set up a weekly reminder to log in and check your reviews. Pretty soon, logging in on Tuesday will be something you don't even have to think about. Developing these routines will also help you stay ahead of negative customer feedback and increase your online review score.
2. Track Your Progress
Once you have helpful automated tools in place, it gets a lot easier to manage your online presence. Your listings are claimed and corrected. You can sleep at night knowing customers can find your business online. And you can spend more time being creative with content and strategizing around what’s working and what isn’t. To track your progress, start routinely looking at important metrics like these:
- New reviews
- Brand sentiment
- Top review ratings
- Bottom review ratings
- Incoming messages
- Monthly audience growth
- Monthly search volume
Tracking your progress gives you valuable data that can help you set short- and long-term goals. After you’ve been tracking things for a while, you can use this to make sure you’re trending up.
3. Boost Customer Reviews
When potential customers look at you vs. your competitor, they’re going to compare your online reputations and go with the one people say is the best. That’s why getting more reviews is crucial! The more five-star reviews you have, the less those one-star ratings can hurt you.
To get more reviews, you have to ask everyone, and you have to make it easy for them to leave feedback. Here are some tips to get more reviews:
- Put your review link at the bottom of all your e-mails, invoices, receipts and business cards—bonus points if you write something cute that makes users want to click: “Like our service? Click here to give us a digital high-five.”
- Employees should wear name tags and talk about online reviews. When a customer has a great experience with a staff member, he enjoys giving the employee a personal shout-out online. Plus, if employees know customers remember their name, they’re going to give better service.
- Make sure your website links to your review page. Install a widget that takes users to your review site.
- Send a follow-up e-mail to new tenants to ask how your customer service was. You can even set up an automated e-mail that goes out a few days after a customer moves in.
- Create review fliers for your front desk and restrooms.
4. Create a Negative-Review Toolkit
The way you respond to negative reviews is one of the fastest ways to shape your online reputation. How you reply will depend on the nature of the review, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time. Having a routine for responding is smart, helps your brand stay consistent and makes it easier to track feedback. Plus, it makes your life easier. Never feel unprepared again with these tips:
- Save all your responses. You can reference your past responses as a template when you feel like you aren’t sure what to say. Keep these responses at your fingertips by storing them in a cloud-based drive.
- Always be personal. This isn’t the time to use industry jargon. Use the customer’s name, speak plainly and apologize. Show that there’s a person behind the brand.
- Use 140 characters or less. Keep it simple and remember everyone’s reading your response. Encourage the customer to contact you directly to resolve it.
- Track it. See how your responses are affecting your review scores, and alter course if necessary.
- Make it a low-stress routine. If responding to negative reviews stresses you out, make a relaxing routine out of it. Schedule it for the same time every week. Sit in a quiet room and listen to your favorite music. Eat a snack you enjoy or do a fun activity afterward as a reward. Soon you might just look forward to it!
Start using these tips today to improve your facility’s online reviews and business listings. Remember why it’s important to maintain your online presence: to make it easy for new customers to find you and, ultimately, generate more leads. Don’t be discouraged if your online reviews aren’t currently where you want them to be. You can use these tools to start tracking your progress and set goals to obtain your desired results.
Jana Basler is a marketing-content writer for storEDGE, which offers a comprehensive suite of technology solutions designed specifically for the self-storage industry. She enjoys bringing technology, Web marketing, and industry news and tips to self-storage owners and managers. For more information, call 913.954.4110; visit www.storedge.com.