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24 JANUARY 2017 COATINGSPROMAG.COM Marketing Savvy Marketing Savvy A ccording to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center, 81 percent of all home buyers now use the Internet to search for a home. W hile your direct customer might be a facility owner and not a home buyer looking for a new roof coating or concrete floor covering, make no mistake that today's buyer is evaluating all aspects of the purchase online, including the materials, products, and services. is requires an iron-clad online reputation. Internet marketing, like any well-played game, requires strat- eg y. T he Internet, after all, can be a dangerous place. With the grow ing presence of Google, Yelp, Houzz, A ngie's List, and many other websites that provide customer reviews, it can indeed be detrimental to your company if disgruntled customers decide to post negative feedback. But coatings contracting companies like yours cannot prevent people from going online and writing negative things about them. Instead, the solution is to encour- age satisfied customers to write reviews in order to build a wall of legitimate positivity. Overwhelmingly positive feedback negates negativity. is is called building a "reputation firewall." is firewall can be the key to long-term success in today's hyper-connected world. It is the only way to combat negative reviews without committing fraud and risking potential legal action against your company. Access the Digital Defensive ere are a few tips to building your firewall. ese include: 1. Measure customer feedback directly and regularly with every customer at multiple touch points, includ- ing surveying buyers at move-in, mid-year, and year-end. 2. Analyze the Internet regularly or subscribe to a web monitor- ing service that will help you stay current on online posts that consum- ers will read. 3. Use customer feedback to discover ways to improve your organiza- tion and deliver a more satisfying customer experience. 4. Promote all of your feedback online once you have increased customer satisfaction by asking customers to post their legitimate feedback. 5. Monitor your online ratings contin- ually to be sure all pertinent sites prominently feature positive and true feedback from your customers. 6. Enjoy the positive results from your positive reviews! Avoid the Dark Side Unfortunately, companies now exist that offer brands an alternative path. Do not be fooled: Falsifying reviews is unethical, and it is bad business that can ruin your company's reputation and possibly destroy your entire business. Federal and local governments have begun to watch closely for compa- nies who engage in this clear violation of consumer protection rights, and the governments are quick to prosecute perpetrators. By working with these companies, you are taking an unneces- sary risk that could destroy everything you have worked hard to build. Rather than attempting to use shortcuts or quick fixes to repair your reputation, work hard to give your customers a positive outlook on your company by deploying the strategies in this article. Success will take care of all your ills. Remember: Consumers aren't expecting perfection; they know life isn't perfect. Today's society expects honesty and a w illingness to make things right. Customers prefer transparency and the ability to trust a company over perfect customer reviews. Quick-fix companies that promote unethical "review-washing" programs in order to appear quality-minded are nothing more than seductive scams to take your money with no regard for the long-term success of your company or theirs. Old Obstacles, New Opportunities T he problem of tarnished reputations and unethical quick fi xes is nothing new. In fact, other industries have strug gled w ith this ver y same issue until some disruptive companies came along and changed the way products were sold, allow ing for radical trans- parency. For example, A mazon was facing a world where product manufac- turers were not obligated to openly share their customers' feedback, and when they did, it was a heavily sanitized process. Today, A mazon has made customer reviews a critical aspect of why people w ill buy products from them, even though they might be looking at a competitor's website. Customers trust A mazon and the reviews they built to guide them in making safe purchases. Google has even coined a term to describe this phenomenon: the Zero By Paul Cardis, Founder of Avid Ratings Online Success: Building a Reputation Firewall