Agency or DIY? The Value Proposition of Online Reviews (and the Terrifying Cost of Failure)

Andrew McDermottAgency, Reputation Management, Review Marketing, Small Business MarketingLeave a Comment

Online Review Value

"I don't need you, I can do it myself."

When it comes to online reviews, many organizations feel they can do it themselves. They think they have everything they need to manage their online reviews in-house. It makes sense then, that some clients are hesitant to work with an agency or consultant.

"It's just asking for and responding to reviews. How hard can it be?"

We don't need an agency to handle this

It's how many do-it-yourselfers feel.

These do-it-yourselfers often aren't aware of the behind-the-scenes details. They don't know the work it takes to attract and promote reviews from ideal customers. They're also not aware of the finer details of a review.

Still, it doesn't mean that they're wrong. Maybe they can get the results they need without an agency or consultant.

Who's right and how can we tell?

The short answer is... it depends. In the vast majority of cases, clients are unprepared. They're not ready to promote and manage their online reviews.

What do agencies have that do-it-yourselfers don't?

A do-it-yourselfer needs several things to be successful. Their review management and marketing efforts won't be successful without the right ingredients. There's just a lot of things an agency will have that makes it tough for a do-it-yourselfer to match.

· A deep understanding of online reviews. Do-it-yourselfers knowledge would need to be T shaped. They should have a clear understanding of everything that's involved with online reviews. But they should also have deep specialties in one or two specific areas (e.g. generating reviews, crisis management or customer service).

· Relationships with powerful influencers. Experienced agencies typically have connections with power connectors, key influencers and leaders. It's something that develops due to the amount of clients these agencies serve. Why would a do-it-yourselfer even need that? Reputation management. It's easier to boost, maintain and improve your reputation when you have help from powerful friends.

· An all-purpose outreach team. This is the team that's responsible for (a.) reaching out to influencers when they need coverage for a specific client, topic, product or service. (b.) requesting comments and feedback from clients consistently and (c.) working with customer service/support teams to respond to negative reviews and blowback.

· Uniqueness in the form of a competitive advantage. This could be a unique process that enables the agency to attract more positive reviews. A strategy that uses customer reviews to attract more traffic, leads and sales. A tool, algorithm or database that allows them to guarantee a specific result. Something other agencies can't or won't do.

· Broad and specific reach. An established agency can work at the national, regional and local level. They're able to expand their client's reach, giving them access to people, places and platforms they wouldn't have on their own. They're able to use their reach to generate results rapidly. Maybe that's generating a tremendous amount of positive reviews online. Or, counteracting a wave of negative reviews.

· A concrete framework / plan. What do you say to an angry customer that's raging? How do you handle the negative reviews or fallout that stems from a potential mistake? Which reviews lead to an increase in revenue? Experienced agencies know the answers to these questions and how to deal with the problem.

When it comes to online reviews and reputation management, an agency's value proposition typically centers around three distinct areas.

1. Proprietary know-how. They're in-the-know. They know what each player in the story wants. They're able to give clients, their customers, exactly what they want, the way they want it.

2. Connections and influence. Connections take time to develop and can be lost overnight. Agencies spend time building and nurturing relationships with the people and organizations that can help their clients.

3. Training and emotional stability. It's tough to stay calm, to be focused in the face of an ambush. When customers are yelling and revenue is falling it's easy to fall apart. Experienced agencies are battle hardened. They deal with emotional volatility on a regular basis.

These ingredients are the requirements needed, whether you're an agency or do-it-yourselfer. Make no mistake, do-it-yourselfers can be successful on their own - if they have the ingredients they need.

Most don't.

Sure, large brands, the Fortune 1000 can do it on their own. But, the vast majority of these brands don't handle these details entirely on their own. They outsource the work to agencies who work on their behalf.

Why?

Specialization. Established brands recognize the value of hiring T shaped specialists. It's easier, cheaper, faster to achieve the results they're looking for when they work with specialists.

The terrifying value proposition of online reviews

A value proposition is a unique (one of a kind) promise to customers, it can be implicit or explicit. When it comes to creating a strong value proposition, agencies can sometimes be as clueless as the do-it-yourselfers.

A strong value proposition has four elements:

1. Clarity. I understand you.

2. Appeal. This is something I (really) want.

3. Exclusivity. I can't get this thing I want anywhere else.

4. Credibility. I believe you. I believe your claims.

A strong value proposition is something that's carefully crafted, compelling and believable.

So what exactly is the value proposition of online review marketing and management?

1. Clarity. More positive reviews = more customers.

2. Appeal. Reviews from your best customers attract more amazing customers

3. Exclusivity. Customers eventually, inevitably, want to hear from other customers

4. Credibility. Customers trust other customers

This is the kind of value proposition a do-it-yourselfer would expect. It's good but it's also a little bit generic, right?

This is the basic value proposition of an online review marketing and management campaign. Online reviews do what no other channel can, giving customers the specific information they expect, from other customers.

What does online review marketing and management look like from an agency perspective?

1. Clarity. 10 - 15+ reviews per day = 2x increase in revenue

2. Appeal. You'll attract new ideal customers at a ratio of 6:1. 6 new customers for every 5 star review

3. Exclusivity. Here's a list of the top 10 objections new customers look for in your online reviews

4. Credibility. Here's a video of your best customers discussing the review that got them to buy.

See the difference?

They were both value propositions, but one was stronger than the other. The experienced agency in my example used a simple element in their value proposition.

Specificity.

This specificity is the key to a strong value proposition. That's because specificity acts as an indicator. An agency has the experience and know-how needed to create a specific plan that's based on concrete data.

They've done it before so they're aware of the campaign's breakeven cost. They know the steps they'll need to take in order to turn a positive review into new business for their clients. They know which questions to ask, why they're asking them and how to get the answers.

In the right hands, the value proposition is strong.

Why is this terrifying?

A strong value proposition sounds incredible, too good to be true even. Agency clients will probably be very skeptical. What does that mean?

A strong value proposition needs stronger reviews

Let's say your agency presents these numbers to a client . If you've nailed your presentation, your clients may be intrigued, excited and very skeptical. Their desire for evidence will be strong. These clients will be focused on one thing.

Evidence.

They'll want to see case studies, they'll want to comb through research reports. They'll vet your team, your founders and your firm. They'll speak with your clients and your references.

It's nerve-wracking, but it's a normal part of doing business. It's not terrifying.

Okay, what's the terrifying part?

Remember earlier how I said online reviews do what no other channel can? How it gives customers the specific information they expect, from other customers? That's the best thing about online reviews, but it's also the most dangerous part. Why?

Because it works in reverse.

This is an important point to remember whether you've hired an agency or you've decided to pull your campaign in-house. Online reviews can either work for you or against you.

If anyone associated with your company mishandles your campaign you'll do permanent damage to your company. A careless employee, a slip of the tongue, one social media faux pas and you're done. The backlash will be swift.

How do I know?

Taco Bell.

In 2012 a Taco Bell employee decided it would be a good idea to post this image.

Taco Bell

That's him urinating on a customer's order. The employee was defiant to the end, stating:

"I pissed on them where nobody could see, in private, an [sic] I threw them away. There’s literally nothing they can do. Fire me. I don’t care." He then claimed, "There are no laws saying what you can and cannot piss upon."

Customers posted angry reviews in response. The story was trending nationwide. It was a PR nightmare that took a year or two to recover from.

And that was an international brand.

Would a small business be able to recover from that?

Let's look at another example.

Domino's Pizza.

In 2009, two Domino's Pizza employees decided it would be a good idea to post a prank video to YouTube.

They filmed themselves putting cheese up their nose before putting it on a sandwich. They farted on a piece of salami and sneezed on an order of cheese sticks.

Their videos became an overnight sensation for the wrong reasons.

Domino's Pizza is an established brand yet they found themselves in the middle of an international fiasco.

"We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea," Tim McIntyre, a Domino’s spokesman, said adding that the company was preparing a civil lawsuit. "Even people who’ve been with us as loyal customers for 10, 15, 20 years, people are second-guessing their relationship with Domino’s, and that’s not fair."

It was too much.

Domino's fired these two employees. The N.C. Department of Health stepped in, helping this local franchise sanitize their location but it was too late. Customers refused to do business with this location and it closed five months later.

Regardless of your industry, misconduct comes with devastating results.

What makes this especially terrifying is the fact that customers as a whole seem to have less patience. Internet mobs are quick to attack. Make one wrong move and your company could be in shambles.

The stronger your value proposition the more dangerous...

If you make a mistake.

The rewards that come with online reviews are incredible. But, they require care and attention to detail. Do-it-yourselfers can achieve the same results if they're willing to pay the price. The greater the experience, skill and connections, the greater the rewards.

And the rewards are enormous.

With a little bit of training and a lot of hard work, you can achieve incredible results.

Specialists, on the other hand, are battle tested. They've worked hard to develop the skills needed to perform under pressure. Find the right specialist...

Find the right agency and you've identified a kingmaker

When it comes to online reviews, many organizations feel they can do it themselves. They believe they have everything they need to manage their online reviews in-house. DIY could be the answer, if you have the right ingredients. Do the work to develop the skill, experience and connections to become your own kingmaker.

Not interested in doing the work or investing the time?

That's okay. Just be sure to choose the right agency for the job. This doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. Both options can work, if you're willing to do the work. There's one option that won't work, however.

Doing nothing.

Doing nothing will eventually do serious harm to your business. The review is inevitable. Online reviews give your customers the reassurance and confidence they need to buy.

Ignore that need and customers disappear.

Looking to attract more of the right customers? Want to grow your revenue? Focus on your reviews. With the right approach you'll discover the value proposition hidden in your online reviews, no terror needed.

About the Author

Andrew McDermott

Andrew McDermott is the co-founder of HooktoWin and the co-author of Hook: Why Websites Fail to Make Money. He shows entrepreneurs how to attract and win new customers.