Online reputation critical to dealer success

As a boat dealership owner or manager, you’ve likely given your business’ local reputation some thought. Maybe your dealership is known as the friendly neighborhood boat shop where people can relax and browse inventory with a cup of coffee in hand. Maybe you’re the trendy local dealership with the modern space and the latest technology. Or maybe you fall somewhere in between.

Regardless of the reputation you may have for neighbors and in-person visitors, it’s your online reputation that may require some more thought. Whether your dealership is already monitoring ratings and reviews, or your team has no idea where to start, online reputation management is a crucial aspect of running a successful business.

When it is done well, online reputation management can help increase both online leads and in-store visits, all providing a boost to sales. When online reputation is poorly or improperly managed, it can result in a major hit to sales opportunities – directly impacting your bottom line in a negative way.

The first step in online reputation management is making sure that your dealership is listed on all relevant ratings and review sites. It’s important that customers can find you on business listings sites, and it’s also a requirement to have listings set up in order to receive reviews – good or bad. Different types of business listings sites include social media platforms like Facebook, search engines like Google, and review sites like Yelp. Simply having a listing on these sites is not enough, however – it is also crucial that your business listing matches in all places that it appears. Even small variations – things like “St.” versus “Street” – can affect the credibility of your business listing, causing your dealership to rank lower on search engines. Failing to update your dealership contact information if you change locations or phone numbers can have even worse repercussions. Simply managing business listings alone can be quite the task, but it’s a non-negotiable one.

Keeping constant vigilance of customer feedback is the next step to proper online reputation management. The more quickly you respond to reviews, the better – whether the feedback is positive or negative. Not only does your swift response appease the customer who left the feedback, but it also shows the other people who read your online reviews that you value your customers and take time to respond with care.

Positive ratings and reviews are great, but what happens when you receive negative feedback? The way you respond can make all the difference. Acknowledging the person’s dissatisfaction, showing compassion, and making an effort to solve the problem can go a long way – even if it doesn’t resolve the negative review, it shows other customers that you did what you could to make things better. And in the best case scenario, the customer who left the review may choose to remove it if the issue is resolved. Also, keep a close watch to make sure any inappropriate, irrelevant, or spam reviews are flagged and reported.

Because positive reviews and ratings can make such a big impact on the success of your business, it’s worth the effort to encourage positive customer feedback whenever you can. Many customers would be more than happy to leave a review, but they need to be asked or prompted first. There are many ways to do this in organic and genuine ways that encourages happy customers to express their sentiment, but one of the easiest ways is simply to mention it when you’ve had a great experience with a customer.

Online reputation management is an ongoing endeavor – ratings and reviews will always be important to your business, and it’s likely that you will continue to receive them on an ongoing basis. While staying on top of business listings sites and putting in the work to respond quickly may seem like a chore, keeping up with your online reputation and managing it in an effective way can result in major sales boosts for your business. Earning and keeping a positive online reputation for your dealership is worth the effort it takes.

Lauren Labunsky is the public relations manager for Dealer Spike, a company that provides innovative websites as well as a suite of powerful online advertising solutions that help marine dealers help increase sales and service profitability. For more information, visit or call 800-288-5917.

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