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From the Trenches – Is Your Reputation For Sale?


Reputation is your identity as defined by others.  You don’t own it, others do.  It can be true or it can be false.  Most often, it is earned by what you do and the way you treat others.


In times gone by, in a small town, reputation always meant success or failure through word-of-mouth.  Everybody knew everybody and everybody knew your business.  You cultivated your neighbors and they cultivated your business.


In today’s world, we live large.  Everything moves faster and is bigger than ever before.  In many ways, we have lost touch with our customers in the search for profits and survival. We outsource many of our responsibilities as a business to “experts” who may or may not do a task better than we could do it ourselves.  It sometimes makes sense.


Does it make sense to outsource your reputation?


The Internet has redefined the meaning of reputation management.  Google, Yahoo, Bing and companies like DealerRater and Yelp hold your reputation in their well-meaning hands.  Many dealers have unsuspectingly found themselves vilified online by their own customers.


Along comes the riders on white horses wearing black hats, telling you they can manage your reputation and make everything alright.  They have figured out ways to manipulate and game the system.  They can eliminate bad reviews and replace them or bury them with good reviews.  It all sounds good.  Problem solved.


I say, let the buyer beware.  These companies will not be liable for your “false reviews”. You are and will be responsible and there are legal penalties involved.  These companies will fade into the darkness as your reviews are removed by new Google policies aiming to protect Google’s reputation for providing real reviews.  Your 250 great reviews will disappear overnight.


These seem like severe penalties but are nothing compared to what false reviews will do to your reputation.  One false review, revealed to the public… one review shown to have been made by a pressured customer, now recanting… destroys every review you have ever received.


They say it takes time to build trust, but only a moment to destroy it.  And once destroyed, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to rebuild.  Think about it.  Is your reputation for sale?


Take control. 

  • Provide great customer service and a no-pressure experience for your customers.
  • Ask your best customers, your happiest customers to provide a review.
  • Monitor your reviews and answer them, both good and bad.
  • Show a willingness “online” to deal with any problems.
  • Build a “Social” community of happy customers or fans.
  • Stay in touch with your customers and reward them for loyalty.


When you do these things, you will not need to outsource your reputation to anyone.


Written by Tom Gorham

Editor, From The Trenches

Automotive Digital Marketing

Professional Community

Views: 393


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Comment by Tom Gorham on February 11, 2012 at 10:32am

Thanks Ralph and Keith.  I appreciate the heads up. It helps me validate my opinions right here at home base.  I believe it's only going to continue and get more stringent.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on February 11, 2012 at 9:59am

Oh, and I've been seeing it since September 2011.  Thanks.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on February 11, 2012 at 9:58am

@ Ralph:  I've seen that issue but only a few times.  So far, in every case it was because it was the first review by the person, and they have to take a review moniker--and, for some reason (don't know why), the particular browser being used didn't pop that part up.  It didn't seem device-specific, it seemed browser-version specific.  I downloaded Chrome, for example, on the kiosk computer and it worked.  I have yet to not be able to get around it, but I have had salespeople who could not (because they typically aren't able).  Thanks!


Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 11, 2012 at 9:44am

Tom - I was contacted by the first dealer the week before NADA and they had been using an iPad to get Google Places Reviews inside the dealership from both sales and service customers.  The "Star" portion of the review placement pages was grayed out and although the customer could still enter a review in the text field, they could not save the review, nor would the star rating app work... The second dealer to contact me about this did so last Monday... Same thing, the Google Places Review app was blocking their iPad from saving a review or selecting the stars.

In both cases, I went to each dealer's Google Places page and had no problems posting a review and selecting a star rating from a laptop in my home in Gilbert... I promptly deleted both reviews after I showed the dealer that I had no problem posting them from my home.

BTW... I do post reviews for dealerships that I visit and use any of their services, but I will not post a review for a dealership I have not been to, or used any of their products or services.  It's an ethics issue for me. :-)

Speaking of which... I was at Longo Toyota, the #1 sales volume Toyota dealership in America yesterday and I love their Starbucks Coffee Shop and well equipped customer lounge.  Many thanks to the crew at Longo, I will be posting my review for the dealership shortly!

Comment by Keith Shetterly on February 11, 2012 at 9:04am

This is from a VW dealer in the area who had purchased reputation mgt. from an "outside" company.  The complaint, and the results noted in this post, are real.  This is on page 2 of their reviews--since Dec, they have been pursuing these reviews themselves from real customers.  Oh, I should mention that they provide an on-dealership method as well as a way to point customers to their GP page after they leave.

Comment by Tom Gorham on February 11, 2012 at 4:34am

Ralph, are those iPads and mobile devices that are being shut out or PCs? That's very interesting news.  You're in a lot of dealerships.  Is it based on IP addresses? I hope you will keep us informed.  It sounds like what I've been stating all along...

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 10, 2012 at 9:18pm

Tom - I am already seeing many devices shut off from access to posting reviews on Google Places... The Google team has more PhD's and Engineers than any other company on earth, if people think they are going to "game" Google forever they are delusional!

Comment by Tom Gorham on January 21, 2012 at 12:33pm

Thanks Ralph.  I believe the day is not far off when Google starts cracking down.  It's their reputation as well if manipulation is taking place.  It will most likely be unannounced when they do. It's also my understanding (does anyone have info on this?) that State Attorney Generals are paying close attention to this subject.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 21, 2012 at 11:59am

Tom, thank you for such an insightful and well written article.  This is an important issue today, and will become more important in 2012 to a degree that most people will be caught by surprise.  In fact, the issues around REPUTATION MANIPULATION will become so pronounced that many of our dealerships with great reviews will have those reviews questioned... All the more reason to invite criticism and reviews that are customer concern issues, which we resolve in public.  These will validate all our good reviews!

Comment by Tom Gorham on January 21, 2012 at 11:37am

Thank you Brent.  I knew we were on the same page. ;-)

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