In this day and age, how do you know if a small business has a good or a bad reputation? For most of us, the answer is by reading online reviews.
Without online reviews, your small business is and will continue to lose out on business and you may not even know it. Online reputation management really should be part of any small business marketing plan.
“Reputation is an outcome; but it is also a valuable, strategic asset.” - Andrew Griffin
Potential customers rely heavily on the experiences others have had with your business. According to a survey conducted by Search Engine Land in 2014, 88% of consumers in the United States and Canada treat online reviews as personal recommendations . It is the new "word-of-mouth" strategy of businesses around the world.
- 39% read reviews regularly (versus 32% in 2013)
- Only 12% don't read reviews at all (versus 15% in 2013)
Why are online reviews important?
1. Positive reviews build trust and confidence.
As consumers in the internet age, we always look for a business with the best and most online reviews. This is how trust is built and confidence is gained. We don't want to waste our time or money by taking a risk with a company having poor online reviews or no reviews at all.
You can use positive reviews to promote your business and reach a larger audience. Remember that positive reviews encourage customers to choose you over the competition. Think about it, if you had two choices and one business had 100 reviews with an average 4.8 out of 5 rating while another had 5 reviews with an average 4.5 out of 5 who would you choose?
2. Negative feedback can help.
Oh yes! Even bad reviews can help your business. You should treat online reviews as your tool for measuring the growth of your small business. Take bad feedback as constructive criticism. This is your opportunity to improve your products, services, systems, and your online reputation. It's also an opportunity to potentially gain back a customer if you take the time to address the customer's concern.
3. Customer reviews allow you to understand your market better.
Take the time to read and really understand the feedback you get from customer reviews. You will gain all kinds of insight on your market regarding likes, dislikes, what they look for in a provider and much more.
4. Online reviews tell you more about your business.
Feedback unveils parts of your business that you don't know about. Customers will likely tell you the cracks in your processes, products, and services. They will share your strengths too. Use the good and the bad to identify opportunities for improvement.
5. Customers want to be heard.
We have already established the need for you to listen to your customers, but why do they leave reviews in the first place? They just want to be heard by either you or other customers. Regardless of whether the experience was good or bad, customers love to share everything online.
Here's another little gem about what clients really want you might find really helpful.
6. Online reviews help you with better search engine visibility.
This is a little technical but in a nutshell, search engines like Google, favor highly rated sites. Online reviews create fresh user-generated content, boost long-tail keyword traffic, and improve product rankings. As small business owners, we should always encourage our customers to leave reviews.
Tips for getting more online reviews.
Simply ask your customers to leave online reviews. You can ask them in person, via email, phone, website, etc. Don't be shy to ask, but always consider how and when to ask. You don't want them to leave feedback during a transaction or if there's a problem with a purchase.
Not only is getting a lot of reviews important, it's also critical to have current reviews. Putting a system in place to automate the request for customer feedback is paramount.
Having a system in place to ask for customer reviews will create consistency that will drive a lot of reviews for your small business and ensure you constantly have current reviews as well.
Make it mobile
Whatever system you use to automate online reviews, you must make sure it is mobile friendly. Customers are tied to their mobile devices and in most cases, they will be writing reviews from their phone.
If your system is not mobile friendly you will struggle to get reviews on a regular basis. Keep in mind, your customers are taking their time to write a review and if you want them to do it you must make it as easy as possible.
Speaking of mobile, these super easy mobile marketing tips will make a difference in your business too.
Know where all your feedback is going to appear; whether it's on Google, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, or somewhere else. Set up a consistent frequency to check online reviews.
Depending on how many reviews your business gets, you may decide to monitor daily, weekly or monthly. Set up a cadence that works well for you and take the time to review any feedback...it will be well worth your time.
Responding to comments shows others you care and value the opinions people leave. It also shows you are highly engaged with your customer base.
Take the time to address negative reviews as well. Be careful about responding to negative reviews in public. It's not a bad thing, but you don't want to come across as the defensive business owner...it will backfire on you. Remember, negative reviews are an opportunity to make things right and improve your service.
Reviews give you the opportunity to share positive feedback with the rest of your online community. Put a link to reviews on your website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and anywhere else you have an online presence. Doing this will create increased brand awareness and more trust with existing and future customers.
Should you reward or give incentives to customers for online reviews?
I personally do not recommend this. It doesn't promote organic business growth and it violates rules of some review sites.
You want to be proactive about requesting reviews, but customers should be given the freedom to leave a review. They shouldn't be begged or incentivized to do so.
Would you like additional resources to increase your customer reviews? Check out this article to learn How to Instantly Jump Start Reputation Management for Your Small Business.
How should you manage online reviews?
You've got 3 options here.
1. Manage it manually.
2. Manage it with online reputation management software.
3. Pay someone to manage it for you (we do this for our clients if that's the route they choose to go and most small business marketing consultants will do the same).
Managing reviews and online reputation manually is the hardest route and will most likely lead to lackluster results. Paying someone to manage it can save you a lot of time and make sure your online reputation management efforts are consistent.
If you choose to manage things yourself I'd recommend you take a look at some of the software services below.
If your business lacks online reviews or needs to get them more consistently now is the time to jump in. I would consider this low hanging fruit that will provide a huge upside to your business.
Like it or not, customers are investigating potential businesses online and your online reviews will play a critical role in their decision-making process. Staying on top of your online reputation management will set you apart from your competition and make your business the obvious choice.
Need more lead generation tips? Check out our entire Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation.
Header image courtesy of Pexels.