breaking bad reviews

It happens all the time: The hard-working crew at a small business loses customers thanks to the sour grapes of one person. It could be a disgruntled employee, an angry customer or even a competitor, says V. Michael Santoro, co-author with John S. Rizzo of Niche Dominance: Creating Order Out of Your Digital Marketing Chaos.

“Anyone can post a bad review online and hurt your business,” says Mr. Santoro, who is a managing partner with Mr. Rizzo of Globe On-Demand, an internet technology company. “Unfortunately, most business owners are not even aware that these bad reviews are out there.”

Seventy-two percent of buyers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 70 percent trust consumer opinions posted online, according to a recent Nielsen  “Global Trust in Advertising Survey.”

“A bad review published in a newspaper or broadcast on radio or TV is short-lived, but a bad review posted online can live indefinitely,” says Mr. Rizzo. “With consumers now researching an average of 10 reviews before making a buying decision, and 70 percent trusting a business that has a minimum of six reviews posted, business owners need to be proactive in developing their online reputation. You need several positive reviews.”

Online searches have been streamlined, combining reviews with maps, pay-per-click advertising, local business directories and Facebook Fan pages, Mr. Santoro says. As damaging as bad reviews can be, positive reviews can be equally constructive, he says. Mr. Rizzo and Mr. Santoro offer an Internet marketing strategy called “reputation marketing,” described in the following steps:

1. Develop a five-star reputation. Begin by having your happy customers post great reviews about your business. Strive to have at least 10. Have each post to one of the following: Google Plus Local, Yelp, CitySearch, SuperPages,, your Facebook Fan page, etc. This needs to be a continuous process. Proactively ask your customers to post reviews.

2. Market your reputation. Once reviews are posted, use a well-designed online marketing strategy to drive targeted traffic to your website. Ensure that your website can convert this traffic into customers. Additionally, showcase these third-party reviews on your website.

3. Manage your reputation. Regularly check that the reviews being posted are positive. You can use Google Alerts for your business name; however, you will need to check local directories, too, because they’re not picked up by Google Alerts. By building up positive reviews, you can counter a poor one by sheer volume. You should also quickly post a reply to a negative review, if it occurs. Always be professional, and indicate what action you have taken to remedy the situation.

4. Create a reputation marketing culture. Train your staff to proactively ask customers for reviews and to deal immediately with any customer who appears unhappy. A positive culture will encourage customers to post positive reviews about your business.

John S. Rizzo obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration and spent three years as a consultant for’s publishing group. He has assisted several businesses with digital marketing strategy and has served in leadership positions for multiple initiatives for the Charleston, S.C.-Area Chamber of Commerce.

V. Michael Santoro has more than 10 years in the digital marketing field. His prior experience includes international senior marketing positions in technology fields. Mr. Santoro also was an adjunct professor with the computer science department of Western Connecticut State University. He has a master’s degree from Central Connecticut State University and an undergraduate degree from the University of New Haven.

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