The Role of Local Marketing and Online Reviews in Reopening Businesses with Aaron Weiche

reopening businesses with Aaron Weiche

Aaron Weiche is Mr. Local Everything! He’s the CEO of online review management and customer feedback tool GatherUp. He knows the customer experience. He knows online reviews. He knows the agencies that are trying to sell digital marketing services. Tough times? He knows how to handle those, too.

Of course, he’s pretty modest about it, telling Garrett at the start of the show: “I don’t know everything. I’m willing to learn everything every day though!”

If you’re willing to do some learning, then dive in with this episode of the Agency Ahead podcast.

Here are the highlights:

  • (1:07) Changes in what the customer really wants to know about your business.
  • (2:47) The best way for businesses to broadcast their messages.
  • (6:42) The industries that will be the most challenged by reopening.
  • (8:17) Advice on generating and marketing reviews. 
  • (12:12) Why you need to have feedback baked into your business.
  • (16:52) Aaron’s experience with reviews at GatherUp.
  • (21:05) Aaron’s causes.

The takeaways:

What does reopening look like from a marketing perspective?

Aaron says that there’s a lot of change right now: in how people are selling, doing business, offering their service process, and addressing all these health and safety considerations. 

“The consumer really wants to know and understand what these changes look like for your business.

There’s a lot of pressure on businesses to say: here’s how working with us has changed, here’s policies, procedures, and guidelines we have around COVID-19 and the type of business we are, here’s how we take your health and safety into consideration.”

There’s even more to pay attention to.

“Depending on what state you’re in, what industry you’re in, your doors have opened or you are opening your doors, but that’s just one small part of it.

The next part is does your consumer have the confidence to walk through those doors or to want to do business with you?

And that’s a pretty hefty challenge, especially for smaller businesses right now that don’t have the resources and teams dedicated to pulling all that together.”

Aaron notes that the businesses that will have the toughest time will be any business that relies on getting people into an indoor, confined space. 

“You’re going to have more things to figure out, more things to message about, and a harder time earning people’s trust around it. You’re getting that one-to-many exposure even with 25% capacity in a restaurant.”

He says it’s a lot easier if you’re a home service business. “There’s one or two service members going into a house. They use safety masks. You can keep the family separate from where they are. Some of those I think are a lot easier.”

Where businesses should broadcast their message

Aaron says that as a staple, every type of business should have a Covid-19 guidelines webpage. In fact, he recently wrote about all of the ways that it’s important for businesses to build consumer confidence as they reopen.

“Here’s how we’re doing business. Here are the measures we’re taking. Here are our safety precautions. Here’s how many people are allowed in the store.”

He says this should be a fact page that allows any consumer to see and understand what’s being done when they visit the site.

Yet once you create that? 

“It’s like any form of digital marketing.

You create the place it lives, and then you’re trying to funnel everyone there.

After you do that then obviously social media is a great place to do it right now because social traffic is booming, people are spending more time on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and things like that.”

He advises putting it in as many places as possible so that a returning customer can easily find it because they’re already connected, but also so someone doing a search trying to find a new provider will overcome the normal trust of being a new provider in this economy, making it easier for them to access that.

“That’s what’s great about some of the Google things that are right in the search results.”

The role marketing agencies should play as they help businesses

Aaron says that agencies should look at some of the things that businesses need, then look at a way to turn that into a product or turn it into something you can advise or sell to your customers.

“Here’s what we need to do. We need to get this page together. We already have a framework of the things you should touch on. We just need to understand the different little pieces with it. And then here’s how we’re going to help you promote it.

We’re going to help you get stuff out on social, on these new Google My Business features, in your email marketing, whatever else.”

He says one way to look at this is that it’s like having a COVID-19 communications plan. He says small businesses have a good opportunity because they don’t have to be first. We’ve already seen what big brands are doing, and what works for them. 

“As an agency, be a guide. Help them build a framework and a little bit of a flywheel.

[Say things like] we need to make sure we’re putting out three to six COVID-19 messages or health and safety messages. Take pictures of your staff wearing masks. Talk about your social distancing signage.

What can you expect when you come to our store?

I really think there’s a goldmine of things that agencies can be doing for their customers upon reopening.”

Generating and marketing reviews as you reopen

One thing Aaron and GatherUp really push people towards is first-party reviews, and hearing from customers.

“One thing I think is absolutely important,” he notes, “is you need to understand how your customer feels about your guidelines and how you’ve carried them out with all these changes.

Asking customers for feedback right now with an intro like: we’re doing business a different way and with different health and safety guidelines, and we want you to be able to tell us if we’re doing it right, or if there are more things you’d like to see us do.”

That’s real-time feedback that lets you respond and make changes very quickly if you have to.

Aaron does note that there is some good news for business in all of this. “People want to try to find as many ways to support their local business as possible right now. And writing a review is such an easy way to do that.” 

Aaron says he’s been paying particular attention to a certain kind of review and the businesses that receive them.

“I know a business is getting it right, right now, when they’re getting a four and a five-star review from a customer, and that customer is mentioning changes they’ve made, health and safety.

They feel safe. Employees doing the right thing, cleaning, things like that. Those are huge wins. That just screams consumer confidence.

I’ve been in this business, I’ve worked with this business, I’ve seen first-hand that they’re doing things right, and I feel really safe.”

He says that right now asking for reviews feels right and comfortable, but he stresses that he wants companies to find out what their customer thinks first. 

Aaron also says it’s a good time to ask for Facebook recommendations. 

“There are a lot of posts in different community groups of people that are pro-business, supporting businesses, calling out great employees and business experiences. It’s at an all-time high.

Mentions are your best marketing right now.”

Using feedback in an actionable way

“”We always say having feedback baked into your business is absolutely the right way to go. It carries a lot more weight when it’s top-down.”

Aaron says the business owner and management team have to buy in, but there are also a lot of ways to make feedback visible throughout the company. It’s important to share results with everyone, so they can see what’s being benchmarked and tracked, and how people feel about those things.

GatherUp captures Net Promoter Score, but the platform lets customers ask survey questions as well. You can ask things like rating the ease of the sales or service process and trying to find out how customers feel about the changes. Rating communication, rating the speed of service, asking customers how likely they are to purchase from them in the coming weeks.

Then find ways to make the team feel part of responding to the feedback. Helping them understand the way they execute, communicate, and carry out really impacts what the ratings are. At GatherUp, management then celebrates with team members when they help raise those ratings, and they have discussions on process and executions when they see the ratings starting to dip.

How Businesses Should Respond to Reviews Right Now

“Absolutely you need to respond to a negative review that mentions anything around your health and safety guidelines right now.”

Aaron says you want to address those reviews as follows:

“We see this, we’re hearing you, here are the steps that we’re going to take to make this different.”

As with any negative review response, it’s important to own the problem and to avoid making excuses. He also says if you’re hearing these things through Google or Yelp things have gone too far.

“You have to have easy ways for your customer to talk to you. To make sure you’re having this conversation with the customer in private instead of the customer having it in public.”

Aaron's response to GatherUp reviews

Aaron says he really enjoys getting positive reviews from agency customers that mention how their tool has allowed them to create a business segment or a service, to increase revenue and help their customers. 

“It’s really gratifying and humbling to know we helped this person and their business. That’s who we’re trying to help.”

He also loves to hear compliments about how GatherUp places a ton of effort on support and personal service.”

“Yes, we build software, but software is only part of the equation.

So when we hear compliments from our customers that basically say, we wish all our partners or vendors acted like you do, that is great because we’re creating our own class of service others aren’t living up to.

I love hearing that.”

On the negative side? He says the smallest comment that isn’t amazing hurts because they are so customer-focused. He tries to contact every customer to hear the pain points and what the customer is trying to accomplish, maybe map out a new way for the customer to get there. 

Even if it wasn’t a big miss, he starts thinking about how he could have made it so the comment wasn’t there. “You can start driving yourself crazy.”

What’s your right now cause?

Aaron didn’t mention any specific charities, but he did say he would tell everyone to be open-minded and forgiving of businesses they’re working with. He also says that he’d like to see people offering feedback privately.

“Privately contact them and say, hey, I worked with you, here’s what didn’t go right. I just wanted you to know because I want to make it through this. And I want you to succeed.

All too often, because we have these social channels and we can amplify our voice, people go that direction. They go, oh I’m going to shout this complaint out to the mountain tops. And I think as consumers one of the best things we can do is give private criticism and give the business a chance to respond and do something different instead of needing to air their dirty laundry out to everyone else.”

Of course, if the business is crushing it, then Aaron does encourage customers to publicly cite that. He also has one more recommendation.

“Be specific. Say: here’s what’s really great about this business. Here’s how I feel safe or they cared for me, or I loved the way they put this in for contact lists working for them, and call that out instead of just clicking a 5-star review and saying: they were great.

Acknowledge the details of what makes them great right now.”

Connect with Aaron Weiche

Want to hear more of what Aaron’s got to say? 

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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