A staggering 93% of consumers report that online business reviews impact their purchasing decisions, according to a survey by Podium.
That’s why any small business needs to prioritize amassing plenty of reviews, and positive ones, of course: yet, according to the same study, only 13% of businesses are actually asking, even though 77% of consumers say they’d leave one if they were prompted..
Today online reviews aren’t limited to consumer products on Amazon or your local coffee shop. Any small business can benefit—or be stung—by the review culture.
“Reviews offer ‘social proof’ to customers, and that’s as important for a business coach selling a digital learning program online as it is for a local ice cream shop”
Stacey Kehoe, founder, Brandlective Communications
The benefits are clear, but how do you attract these glowing words of praise?
Here are some tips to help you garner customer reviews.
1. Don’t be Shy About Asking For a Review
Actively sourcing business reviews should be a part of every small business’ marketing strategy, Kehoe says.
“While consumers are inclined to post negative feedback due to the emotion they feel following a bad experience, they are less likely to post positive reviews unless prompted for one,” she says.
But don’t misread that reluctance: Most customers are more than happy to share their positive experience once asked. The best time to seek feedback is right after you delivered the product or service so the encounter is fresh in their mind, which is likely to lead to a more candid, heartfelt review.
“Include a review request as part of an email where you are thanking the customer for their business; just add one or two sentences about why their review is important to you,” suggests Kehoe. “Then make it easy for them to fill out a form by including a link to the review sites you prefer—or to your own website.”
“You also can track down happy customers by searching social media for people who have posted about your business—just reach out to see if you can use their kind words or ask them for a more comprehensive review. And, set up a Google Alert for your name so you’ll know if someone is blogging about your business,” Kehoe says.
“It’s also smart to regularly share links to your review profiles on your website and social media and in emails and newsletters.”
Jonas Sickler, marketing director at ReputationManagement.com
2. Use the Review Site(s) That Make the Most Sense
Yelp and Facebook lead the way as the most popular review sites, followed by Google business reviews and BBB.org, finds BrightLocal. While those sites are important for any business, don’t overlook niche sites relevant to your brand, recommends Sickler.
For example, housing-related service providers, like landscape designers or contractors, might find Angie’s List or Houzz to be key to their success. If you regularly seek work on platforms like Upwork and WorkMarket, solid customer testimonials can help elevate your appeal to new clients.
On every site, take the time to build a strong profile with photos and business details. “This helps customers become more familiar with your areas of expertise and also lets them know you’re active and interested in what customers have to say,” Sickler points out.
And of course, you should use reviews on your own site; for the most bang for the buck, incorporate them into all your pages so customers are apt to stumble on positive words no matter how they enter your site.
According to research from GetApp, 34% of small businesses host a dedicated landing page for reviews, but only a quarter add them to product pages. While it’s fine to have a page that compiles all your testimonials and customer reviews, adding them to other pages throughout your site will make it easier for site visitors to find them, even if they don’t specifically click on the review page.
3. Thank Customers For Taking the Time to Review Your Business
Responding to online reviews is another form of customer care and marketing, and it’s even become expected. In fact, more than half of customer expect a response within a week. Even if the review was positive and there is no action to be taken, a heartfelt “thanks for your business” or “thanks for sharing your thoughts” is much appreciated.
In addition to thanking customers online on the review site—and via personal email, depending on your relationship with them—you can thank them publicly by tagging them on your own social media. Then their followers can learn more about your business, too.
4. Turn Every Negative into a Positive
Assume that for every one negative review you receive, there are 20 people who were thinking it, but didn’t say it.
No matter how solid your product or service, there are bound to be people who just aren’t satisfied, and boy, do they love having a review site on which to vent. But that actually can be a good thing, believe it or not, says social media consultant Cat Smith, provided you respond appropriately.
“A negative review offers the chance to show others who are reading that your business listens and cares”
Cat Smith, Social Media Consultant
In fact, the BrightLocal survey found that 30 percent of customers say that how a business responds to reviews is a key factor they use to judge the company. Vocally expressing efforts to make things right proves you are customer service-oriented and care about your clients’ experiences.
Smith suggests a three-part plan:
- Respond to every bad review to apologize and see if there is anything you can do to make it right, without offering excuses. “Perhaps they were having a bad day and all they needed was to know you care,” she says.
- If they respond with a reasonable suggestion for correcting the issue, take care of it. But If they pick a fight with the next comment, the best path is to “apologize and explain why you aren’t able to help, and then zip your lip. Keep it light, helpful, and in the business’s voice.”
- Don’t respond more than twice to avoid getting sucked into a ‘Yelp war.’” Take it offline if you want to continue the conversation.
Smith also points out that a negative business review or two—let’s be honest, especially if they are petty—can actually build your brand from a user perspective. Smith says she herself would prefer to see a few of those two- or three-stars mixed in. “Who believes a business with only positive reviews? Nobody is perfect,” she points out.
A company’s response will give her insight into how they handle complaints and also offers the chance to see whether the criticism applies to you. For example, if someone mentions poor service on a holiday, it’s easy to see how that might have happened and you can decide to try the business midweek instead. Or, if the poster cites a lack of vegan options and you’re a happy burger eater, then you can ignore that poor review.
The key is to realize how reviews, both positive and negative, can be a powerful brand builder and use them to your advantage.
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