“We don’t trust the business. None of us do. We always trust the consumer’s opinion.” — Todd Collins

An online reputation is the gatekeeper of all local purchases because the business with the best reviews and ratings will consistently beat out their competition. Local businesses need to be making regular deposits into their digital bank and actively managing their digital footprint if they want to succeed in their markets.

Todd Collins, COO of Platinum Reputations, was one of the pioneers in the reputation space. In this edition, he shares horror stories from clients who were ravaged with negative reviews, the difference between reputation monitoring and reputation management, and the elevator pitch you need to properly position reputation for the prospects that need the solutions most (but might not know it).

Introduction

George: It’s the latest edition of the, “Conquer Local” podcast as we continue to explore the digital marketing stack: awareness, listings, reputation, social, website, conversion, in-store WiFi. How does it all fit together? How do you present it to your customers? Our goal of this series is to give you everything that you need, not just from me, but from experts in the space. And we have an expert when it comes to online reputation management. Todd Collins has been on the show before. We got a lot of positive feedback from that episode and we’re going to bring him back in a moment to tell you everything you need about how to sell, deliver, and have happy customers when it comes to online reputation management. It’s happening next right here on the, “Conquer Local” podcast.

George: It’s the latest edition of the, “Conquer Local” podcast. We are continuing our series on the digital marketing stack. And it didn’t take long when we were doing our brainstorming session on reputation, reputation, who could we get to talk about reputation? And like a lightning bolt, it hit me, one of our former guest that we got a ton of feedback from his very raw and honest episode, Mr. Todd Collins from Platinum Reputations in Baltimore joining me on the line. Todd, thanks for coming back.

Todd: Yeah, man, absolutely. Thank you for having me back, man.

How Todd Entered the Reputation Space

George: I don’t think that there’s anybody that I work with on a daily basis in this space that understands online reputation management, understands the space, understands how important it is to businesses, understands how to position it, how to fulfill it, how to show proof of performance than you do. Can we give listeners that may be new and didn’t hear your original version of the podcast, a little bit of a background on your business and how you started in this space?

Todd: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, they should go back and listen to that other episode, there’s no question about that. But how I got into the space was pretty crazy. You know, I came up through the car business, which is probably the second most reviewed industry out there next to restaurant, and kind of saw it coming. And as I kind of saw that, more that digital footprint really being the decision maker for the customer and the consumer out there, I jumped ship from the car business and just really started diving into the education of reputation management and what it can do for a business. It can make or break it. And that’s kinda what I did.

And myself and my business partner, Nick, jumped on and we decided to start a agency that did this and made this their niche. And we saw that a lot of agencies weren’t doing that. They weren’t focusing on just reputation management. They were focusing really on everything else, and that just, “Saying they do reputation management,” when they really don’t. All they are doing is aggregating reviews and sharing it with the consumer or the customer, and they’re not really managing the review. And there’s a big difference there. I’m sure we’ll get into that.

But that’s how I got into it. And in a short period of time, we gained a lot of trust with a lot of the businesses around us and then even nationwide. We went from $0, where I was in my basement up all night hustling and grinding and calling people and emailing people and text messaging people and creating relationships. And we went from zero to six figures, and then six figures to seven figures. And that’s where we are today and we’re up 25% I think, or 22% over the last year.

Reputation Monitoring vs. Reputation Management

George: So let’s dig into this a little bit more. You just made mention of something that I think it’s an important distinction when it comes to reputation. There is monitoring your reputation, which is, here’s a bunch of things that are happening. And then there’s actually managing it, and it’s two completely different things, isn’t it?

Todd: Yeah, 100%. I mean, I think that’s the difference maker in an agency that knows how to do it and one that doesn’t. It’s very easy to monitor reviews. It’s not very easy to manage them and know in a situation what to do. And that is probably the call that I get most from my customers is, what would you do here? In fact, I have a meeting on Thursday literally where I’m going in and I’m sitting down, and again, that’s the difference maker, guys, in this space. Don’t just take the phone call, say, “Hey, you know what? I’m gonna come in in person and we’re gonna go through this together.” And if you make the time for clients like that…this goes back to your last episode on churn, your churn rate is gonna be a hell of a lot lower because you’re showing face, and you’re showing them the process of how it works. And that’s the difference between monetary and managing.

Pounding the Pavement

George: The other thing that you bring up, it’s a really good point is, why wouldn’t you wanna sit across from the client if it’s possible or even get them on the phone and do a screen share and have that valuable moment where you get to be the trusted expert? You can say you’re the trusted expert, but unless you’re actually practicing it and your client can see you doing it, it’s a game changer to have that. And I’m pretty sure that’s where you’ve been able to build your business, is you’re not afraid to do the hard work.

Todd: Well, yeah, and I mean, that’s the problem. That’s where a lot of these frustrated salespeople, you know, they’re going like, “You know what? People aren’t calling me. People aren’t contacting me, man. My ads aren’t working.” It’s really because you’re just being very lazy. And you may wanna turn the podcast off now and go, “This guy’s a dick,” but in the reality, all I’m doing is bringing the truth to light for you and you know it’s true, is that you’re not doing more than what you could. And if you did that, the results would show.

But you’re not doing that. You’re not picking the phone up. You’re not doing a screen share. You’re not getting in your car, driving down to the location, sitting with the owner, sitting with the internal marketing person, and showing them the value of what you bring to the table. And when you do that, you’re buying yourself another 3 to 6 to 12 months of retaining that client, but you don’t wanna do it because you’re too lazy, you’re too exhausted, you don’t wanna put any effort because maybe they’re not paying you enough. Well, maybe they’re not paying you enough because you haven’t upsold them on another situation where you could have given them another product that would also have taken another problem off their hands and solved an issue.

A Reputation Horror Story

George: Well, and they’re looking for a reason not to pay you. And what you need to do is work hard to give them all the reasons why they need to keep paying you because you’re so bloody valuable to their business. I do like the post that you put out this weekend where you threw the phone over your shoulder too. I really liked that. The electronic income reducer, as I call it. So let’s dig into a horror story. Tell me a horror story that you’ve seen recently where a negative online reputation really hurt a business.

Todd: Oh, all right. Here’s one. So this is a more recent one. You know, we’re not gonna use names, but I had a business that got rid of a long-term employee that was very well known by the public and the public jumped to…and this became public knowledge and the public jumped to the defense of the employee. And instead of going other places and stating their opinion, their defense mechanism is to leave negative reviews for the business. Now, you’ve got a business that has been thriving and doing very, very well with the review generation tools, with the way that the…you know, we call it the mouse trap or the interception tools that are provided, and the processes that we put in place for this business, they’ve done very well with that. So it’s giving them a very strong digital footprint from a standpoint where we can withstand. If we’re operating at a 4.74 Google rating, we can withstand 3, 4, 5, 6 negative reviews and still hold that 4 rating. And that’s very, very important because we always talk to our customers about that, right? Let’s get you to 4, but let’s get you past 4 and let’s keep you there. And how do we do that? By generating reviews.

George: So before you go, and I don’t wanna lose your thought of the horror story, but you just gave us a very good lyric that we can use in front of a client when we’re talking about generating reviews. I wanna get you to a 4.6 or 4.7 and we can withstand an attack if your brand is attacked at that point. Wow, that’s compelling stuff.

Todd: Yeah, and I mean, that’s what you’re doing. I call it basically you’re investing in your digital bank. Okay? These are investments. This review generation is an investment into your digital bank in case of…and it’s not even in case of when it happens, it’s when it happens. It’s not, is it going to? It’s, when is it going to? And so the more we bank, the more we have the ability to withstand that attack. And when it’s coming, it’s just a matter of time. What’s going to set the public off? Is it gonna be an employee? Is it gonna be someone that visits? Is it gonna be a move or decision that the business made that’s going to piss someone off? We’ve gotta be prepared for that, and that’s what we’re doing when we’re investing into that digital bank.

George: Oh, that’s very, very compelling when you use that type of a lyric in front of a customer. Thank you for that. So let’s go back to the horror story and how you helped that business.

Todd: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so back to the horror story. You know, I mean, they got rid of this employee, the employee, you know, went somewhere else and is doing very, very well. And the audience, the customer base of this business just started to take their frustrations out by leaving negative reviews. Now, I’m not talking about a little bit. I’m talking about 30 to 35 reviews across the board: Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google. I mean, we’re dealing with it everywhere, right? They’ve got multiple locations so they’re not just leaving it on this one location. The customers are going everywhere, right? And this is a high paying client of ours, and the client, our agent is doing their job. They’re going after the reviews they feel are unsubstantiated, malicious, or slanderous, or are against the terms of conditions of the pages, which most of you should be doing. If you’re not doing that, you’re not properly doing reputation management for your client.

When we weren’t able to get everything taken down or removed, and we did have some successes, we got some taken down, but when we weren’t able to get everything taken down, we then went back and we customized review responses to these reviews. Now, the business owner then read the review responses and then decided, “Hey, listen, I think we shouldn’t respond at all.” Now, as me, as the agency owner, I could easily have gone, “You know what? No problem. Let’s not respond to the reviews. Don’t worry about it. Let’s not start a feud here,” this, that, and everything else. That’s the fear of the owner, right? And as an agency owner, I could have easily said, “Yeah, don’t worry about it. Let’s just not do that,” right? Less work for my review responder, less worry for my client, but that is not reputation management. I went back and I said, “Nope, I disagree with this. This is not the process, you bought into our process. This is not the process we take. We will not be held hostage by someone who leaves reviews for our business if it didn’t have to do with an actual experience of the business.”

So then the business owner just says, “I wanna talk to you on Monday over the phone.” Now, as an agency owner, when I get an email like that, very short and sweet, I’m thinking, “Oh, I’m gonna get whipped.” Okay, so I get whipped a little bit at the beginning of the phone call, but then I stand up and I say, “You know I’m right. You know this is the way that it needs to be done. This is the way that we should be responding to it. This is the way that we handle it. We don’t let anyone take us hostage. This is how we respond to the customers that left these reviews, and this is how we’re gonna do it.” And at that point, she says to me, “Our CPA said we pay these guys a lot of money. What are they really doing for us?” And after I sent over these reports and everything else, she called me and she said, “You know what, Todd?” She’s like, “I know why now we have you. I know the value that you bring to our business. We could not do this without you.” I stood up for what I believed in and what our agency does. I disagreed with what my client said. I put her on the right path and now we’re dealing with the situation.

It’s a horror story because it’s something that was completely out of control of the owner, but because we had the processes in place, because we were investing in that digital bank, we were able to keep the ratings high, at the same time, diffuse it. Also, keep the customers loyal by saying, “Hey, look, we understand you don’t agree with every decision that we made, but we still want you here as a customer and we value you.” As you have said and how I’ve said all the time, the response is not for the person who left the review. It’s for the next person who sees the review to see how the business handles themselves.

Why You Can’t Ignore Negative Feedback

George: Yeah, and it’s really important that as a salesperson you train that customer on why it’s important to leave the response, because I think you’ve seen this before and I’m glad that you used this as an example, not that I was aware of it ahead of time. But I just think it happens all the time where the business owner is like, “Ah, maybe I’ll just do the, what I call ostrich reputation management. Stick my head in the sand and hope that that thing doesn’t hurt my business.” But we all know that it’s going to hurt the business if you don’t tell your side of the story.

Todd: One hundred percent. And I mean, here’s the thing, is that we really have the ability now to really kind of, you know, choose the personality of our business. If our business wants to kind of be educational or if they wanna be informative or if they wanna be amusing and entertaining, you know, whatever works. You know, if someone leaves a review and we can’t get it taken down and it’s a pretty ridiculous review, respond with a gift. Doesn’t have to be a response, doesn’t have to be a verbal response. We might respond to it with a gift, a funny gift. That pokes a little bit of fun.

So there’s a lot of really different creative new ways that we can manage reputation now and I’m excited for a lot of the things that we’re gonna be using in 2019 that we haven’t even talked about yet. But that’s one of them is integrating gifts into review responses. It works for some of our clients because we feel as if some of our clients have a specific personality and really have the ability to turn some of this into entertainment and amusement. And that really ends up creating viral social media at the same time.

Positive Reviews

George: You know, this all ties together and that’s what we’ve been hearing from other guests on the digital marketing stack episodes here of the, “Conquer Local” podcast, is that, you know, email marketing ties into social and listings, well, you gotta have your listings, right, to get reviews. And reputation is a part of social. And I liked what you were saying, it’s a part of the personality of the business. It’s important that our conquerors out there understand that and it’s even more important that their clients out there understand that.

Let’s talk about positive reviews. How are you handling positive reviews as part of that marketing challenge?

Todd: Well, positive reviews, I mean it’s…to me, it’s very easy. It’s, you have to be generating reviews to even get positive reviews, right? Like we might get on average, three to five reviews a month for a client, all right? To me that’s not…you’re not doing a good job. All right, number one, we’re not even doing anything to generate [inaudible 00:14:53]. You have to have processes in place to give the customer the availability to view their opinion. And I always say this, when especially I’m talking to restaurant owners, I always say, “Well, you could be the best general manager in the world. You could touch that table 15 times and every time you ask that customer, ‘How are you doing? Is everything okay?'” Their exact response is gonna be, “Everything is fine. Oh, thank you very much. Yup, everything is great.” The minute you walk away, they’re gonna go, “This place sucks. I can’t stand this,” right?

George: Yeah, exactly.

Todd: Then they’re gonna leave and they’re gonna leave a negative review. Now the problem is you didn’t have as a restaurant, you didn’t have a process in place for when the general manager, even though he did his job, walked away where you could stop that opinion from making its way to the public forums. Instead, you let everyone else control that: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, and the list goes on and on. So what we do is we create those platforms and processes and we put them in place for the business.

When you’re in a restaurant at the end of the meal, you get a review portal card, something that’s very easy. Yeah, it costs our agency money to do this, but it’s provided value for the customer. They give that card at the end of the meal and now the customer has something manually in her hand where we install is enriching that restaurant. We know that if we did…if they didn’t get the card and maybe they’re connected to WiFi when they leave the restaurant, we’re gonna ask them how they did. If that didn’t work, if we have the customer’s email address after a few visits, we’re gonna send them a review generation email through the dashboard.

So we are constantly following up with the customer and we’re not asking for a review or asking how we did. And when they do that, that’s when we start generating reviews. And maybe they share it on a public forum, maybe they don’t. But I can tell you this, at the end of the month when I go in and I talk to my clients, and I say, “We intercepted 17 negative reviews for you,” guess what? They’re not canceling. Because the first thing I say is the minute we’re not there, those 17 reviews get by, your money, your revenue goes down, guaranteed. You can’t fight those numbers.

The Future of Reputation

George: For sure, it’s a compelling discussion. So you’re not just asking for feedback, you’re hammering that customer, you’re giving them a card, you’re sending them an SMS. If they are on Zenreach, you send an… Like, you are not letting it die. And I think it’s important for us to understand that, that are listening to this podcast is that that’s the tactic, the level of tactic that you need to take in 2019, we’re almost in 2019. This will probably get listened to a lot in 2019, to win in today’s day and age is… And it’s happening…

Todd: George, I’m not even looking at 2019. I’m looking 20 years ahead of time. I’m trying to prepare these businesses for the 20-year-old person right now and how they navigate and how they make buying decisions for when they’re 30 and become the prime customer of that business. So if they prepare now, they’ll be ready in 10 years when their prime customer is there. That customer is gonna be loyal to their brand, that customer is gonna trust doing business with them, and they’re gonna be a much, much healthier company. If they’re not prepared now, and I said this five years ago, if you’re not preparing now, you’re in big trouble.

George: So this space, online reputation management, do you think we’re in the middle, we’re at the beginning, we’re in the heyday, it’s passé? What’s your feeling? I think I know what it is, but I’d like to ask that question.

Todd: I mean, I look at it this way, younger people…when I say younger people, I’m gonna be 40 this month, so I look at people that are 20 years younger than me and I try to understand that age group as much as possible. I do a lot of research on that age group to try to understand how they work. What do they listen to? How do they consume data? How do they make their decisions? And when I look back at all the data about that age group, reviews, and online reviews, and what they see online is what they trust, bottom line. They don’t trust the business. None of us do. We always trust the consumer’s opinion. That’s why even back in 1955 when you walked onto a car dealership lot, our dad never trusted the car salesman, and the car business retail side was only out for maybe five or six years. So bottom line is we don’t trust the people that are selling us a product unless we have immediately seen the value or we see the value over time. We would much rather trust what a consumer already had an experience with them, what that consumer says, and that’s why it’s not going away. It’s going to evolve.

Yelp just released what, the health inspection grades are gonna be shown on the Yelp pages for these businesses now, for restaurants. Now, that’s an evolution in reputation management. For the restaurants that weren’t paying attention to that and that wasn’t public knowledge, it will now be public knowledge. And having that type of information really means that you have to start paying attention to your digital footprint. You’d be ignorant to not do that or not have a succession plan in place where we’re gonna be around for another 15, 20 years. That, look, if your exit strategy is to get out in 5 years, you’re 75 years old, your restaurant has been around for 62 years, it’s been a profitable restaurant, your clients are dying off and you’re ready to retire and go to Miami, more power to you. You shouldn’t be signing up. We’re not the right fit for you. If you’re a succession plan and you’re a 41-year-old person who’s taking over a restaurant or business from your parents, yes, this needs to be part of your strategy from 2019 till the end of time.

The Reputation Pitch

George: So, I’m a salesperson, I’m listening to this podcast. Can I get the Todd Collins Elevator pitch on how you pitch reputation management?

Todd: Well, I mean, it’s not even really an elevator pitch. I’ll tell you exactly what I do. If I know that I’m going after a client, right? The first thing I wanna do is I wanna look at what they do online. So if I see that there’s inconsistencies in social media postings, if I see that there’s nobody responding to reviews, if I see their most recent review was a negative review, and I consider negative 3 stars or below, and nobody’s responded to it, if they’re not generating new reviews. If I look and I see all these pain points, your elevator pitch becomes much, much easier, right? Because your elevator pitch then becomes, “Guys, here, I know the problems that you’re having. I have the solutions to fill in, to make those problems go away. This is how we do it and this is what it’s going to look like.” And when you do it that way, it’s almost like you’re kinda like reverse engineering your sales pitch.

It’s not, what can I do for you? It’s, this is what’s wrong with your business. This is what I can fix, and this is what everybody else is doing that’s using my product. You can’t fight that. So then you really don’t become the salesperson yourself, especially if you’re documenting what you’re doing for your clients like I do, and then you’re sharing that information on social media as social proof. When you’re able to do that, you don’t have to sell it anymore. So when I go and meet with a client, I just say, “Have you been to our customer story section on our website?” “Yeah, I have.” “Have you seen the caliber of our clients?” “Yeah, I have.” “Do I really need to sit here and spend an hour and a half pitching this to you or do you just wanna be on the same level that they do?” “I wanna be on the same level as they do.” “Great. This is what you need to do.” It’s as simple as that. Until you figure that out and that documentation of what your customer success rates are, and you’re documenting it as social proof, you’re gonna have to constantly be grinding every single day. We don’t have to do that anymore because we’ve documented the success.

The Power of Social Proof

George: I’m glad that you brought this up because I wanted to get to this point. When we met in Banff, Alberta, Canada at VendastaCon and we did that live version of the, “Conquer Local” podcast, you were just about to start really, really engaging in what you’re calling the social proof. I assume that’s going really well for you.

Todd: Yeah, I mean, that was kind of the launching pad for the personal brand, for my brand, for the Todd Collins Official Brand. I feel like it’s been doing very, very well and I feel like it’s kind of on the same plateau as where restaurant reputations is, and where all their reputations is, and things of that nature. And it’s become a massive lead generator for us and it’s become a knowledge base for our customers. It’s given me the ability to have, you know, opportunities like this to be on these podcasts. I’ve done five or six interviews where people have reached out to me, so it’s at, you know, speaking engagements, I’m gonna be at the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas this year as a keynote speaker. So there’s a lot of things where a lot of people have not taken the opportunity because it takes time to build that personal brand, to become that hub for them. Your personal brand can become stronger than the brand that you actually represent and you have to be able to do that. And what you’re doing is you’re creating a wider net and a lot of these sales guys aren’t doing that.

George: Exactly. No, and I think that’s our good friend, Dennis, you that taught us that your personal brand should be more important than the actual brand you’re representing.

Todd: Yeah, I mean, because it’s more of a personal touch. Like I have people that message me, or leave comments on my posts and I am constantly engaging back with that person. If somebody asked me for help, I’ve done that. Look, and some of the help that I’ve given these people aren’t based on digital health. It might be a voyage of weight loss. It might be a voyage of entrepreneurship where these people are now reaching out to me and saying, “Man, you really helped me with this and really helped me with that.” And those become very satisfying. But from a reputation management standpoint, I share really free knowledge. And the reality of things on those personal pages because a lot of this stuff really is free. But if you are becoming that, and again, you’re becoming an expert in that space, that’s what you need to do. You need to share it. And that’s why Nick and I went out and we started Reputation Domination. You know, and you’ve heard about this is that online course to help these salespeople figure out how we do it and to navigate around the bullshit humps that you’re gonna have to deal with in running an agency, a reputation management agency, these things that we’ve already overcome where they don’t have to do that.

And we’ve had a lot of success since the little launch that kinda went off, I think, three weeks ago, which has been really successful and a lot of people have bought into it, which is pretty awesome. But that was important for us too is to share that knowledge that we’ve learned over the last five, six years with other people out there that just maybe are not getting it.

Conclusion

George: Well, as you could tell, conquerors, this is the gentleman that knows everything about online reputation management, and it’s been from dealing with customers and helping them solve the challenges that they have in managing their online reputation. And Todd, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your very busy schedule. I know you’re burning the candle at both ends as always, and grinding and hustling, and we wish you all the best with your personal brand. And, you know, God only knows where that’s gonna go. It’s unbelievable what you’ve been able to do in the last six, eight months, so congratulations on that and congratulations on your and Nick’s success with Platinum Reputations. And I really thank you for joining us and sharing with us that wisdom that you have earned over the past few years in this space.

Todd: Thank you, my brother. I appreciate it. I’ll see you in San Diego.

George: Looking forward to it. Could go on for hours talking to Todd, he is very confident. And that’s because he’s delivering for his customers. And when you have satisfied customers, you can be that confident. And the other thing that I will tell you is there probably aren’t too many people that work as hard as he does. He is definitely hustling and grinding and watching and reading and keeping an eye on where the trends go. It’s interesting what he said when it comes to monitoring versus managing. I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last year. I think you wanna put yourself as far away from reputation monitoring as possible because anybody can do it. It’s really simple to do. It’s not something that really sets you apart and gives you the ability to offer more. Now, reputation management, that is the piece that takes discipline, it takes a strategy, and I do believe that not only is that where the value is, but I think it also is where you have a deeper connection with the business.

We also have his elevator pitch, so from somebody that has pitched this thing over and over and over again, it’s interesting when you ask him to do the elevator pitch, the way that Todd has crafted this over the last little while. And then, what type of business needs reputation management? He covers that inside there and there are some nuggets, so three big takeaways. The monitoring versus managing, what to do with a prospect, and how to deliver that elevator pitch, and then what type of business actually needs reputation management. Three great takeaways from the one and only Todd Collins of Platinum Reputations, our latest guest on the, “Conquer Local” podcast.

We continue with more editions around the digital marketing stack, and boy, I’ve got some stuff planned for the New Year. Producer Brock, myself, Jeff Tomlin the CMO of Vendasta, Danny, and our corporate communication, we’ve all been thinking around the idea of growth. How are you gonna grow in 2019? And we’re working on a number of episodes that will just grab you when it comes to growth for your agency or your media company in the New Year. It’s all coming when we get into January with upcoming editions of the, “Conquer Local” podcast. We have some fantastic guests lined up, so make sure that you are staying right here, same time, same channel, same station, on the, “Conquer Local” podcast. We are on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play, or you can come to our brand new…well, it’s beautiful, brand new website at conquerlocal.com.

As always, my name is George Leith. I will see you when I see you.