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Table of Contents
When it comes to your business, don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
Picture this scenario: A friend tells you about a new restaurant. They rave about the fresh ingredients, the attentive service, the great prices – and how the burgers are out of this world.
Fast forward a few days. You’re in the mood for a burger and you’re looking for a place to eat. It’s likely you’ll at least consider this new place thanks to your friend’s recommendation. And you’d probably choose it over a restaurant you know nothing about… right?
Now imagine they’d told you instead about the dirty plates, the rude service and the undercooked meat – would you risk eating there?
This is the power of reviews, and it applies to all businesses, not just restaurants.
Electricians, accountants, hairdressers, graphic designers, dog walkers – whatever your profession, the conversations people have about your business play a big role in your current and future success.
And in a world of search engines, social networks and smart phones, more and more of those conversations are happening online.
First, let’s look at the impact of online reviews
Just how important are online reviews? Findings from the 2019 Local Consumer Review Survey have shown that:
- 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
- 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year
- Only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than a 4-star rating
- The average consumer reads 10 reviews before they feel ready to trust a business
- 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends
- Positive reviews make 91% of consumers more likely to use a business… while 82% will be put off by negative reviews
The evidence is compelling. So how do you take charge and get more online reviews for your small business?
- Get registered with Google
- Don’t be shy – learn to ask customers for reviews
- Join the conversation and respond to positive (and negative!) feedback
- Use the positive reviews in your marketing plan
- Focus on improvement
1. Get registered with Google
There are a lot of review websites out there (Yelp is still a major player), but Google is the biggest hitter. For most consumers, Google is their go-to when searching online… so, it’s essential that your business shows up there.
To get your business listed in Google search results, Google Maps and other Google services, you first need to add or claim your business listing on Google My Business.
Next, you’ll need to verify your business, or you won’t be able to respond to reviews. Most local businesses do this by postcard, so you’ll need a physical address.
If you don’t operate out of a brick-and-mortar premise, but instead provide a service to people in their homes (like an electrician, landscaper or plumber), you should register as a service-area business.
2. Don’t be shy
For businesses operating outside of the restaurant, service and hospitality industries, it’s not always easy to get reviews. While many people are eager to comment on their new haircut or the state of their hotel bathtub, it’s far less common for people to rave online about the efficiency of their plumber.
So, you have all the more reason to be direct and ask. Be polite, be courteous, but ask. In 2019, 67% of customers were asked to leave a review for a local business – and 24% of these were offered a discount or gift in return. There’s nothing wrong with motivating customers with a gift or promotion as a thank-you for their review.
It’s a good idea to create a shareable link that your customers can use – see Google’s short guide on how to create a link for customers to write reviews. You can include this link at the bottom of printed or digital receipts, or in a follow-up email to your customers.
The best people to ask for reviews are your most satisfied customers. And the best way to ask is in person, particularly if you’ve spent a lot of time with them (think of a builder who might spend weeks or months working on a project).
If you can’t ask face to face, following up by email is a good alternative. There’s no need for anything elaborate – just a straightforward request for an honest review of your service. Be sure to include the link you created in the previous step.
3. Join the conversation
So far, so good. You’re registered with Google My Business, potential customers can find you on Google Maps and searches and your first reviews are starting to come in.
Now, it’s time to engage with your customers by replying to their reviews. For positive feedback, a simple and sincere thank-you note is generally enough to show your gratitude.
But what if, out of the blue, you get a negative review?
The first thing to remember is: remain calm. Never fight fire with fire – arguing publicly with a disgruntled customer is a guaranteed way to give others a bad impression of your business.
Instead, treat a negative review as an opportunity to improve. Listen to your customer’s grievances and think about how you could address them. Then reply.
Let them know you’re sorry and explain any changes you plan to make based on their feedback. Is there anything you can do to remedy the situation? Maybe it’s inviting them back to your salon for a complimentary service, or waiving the fee for their next oil change.
This is your chance to turn a displeased customer into a loyal one – research into online reviews from smallbusiness.co.uk suggests that 84% of shoppers would use a business again if they responded to a negative review by addressing their concerns, so it’s more than worth your time.
Finally, remember the people reading your reviews are also reading your responses, so take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction. A polite, considered response to a negative review will go a long way to reassuring any undecided potential customers.
4. Use positive reviews in your marketing
Now you’ve collected some positive customer feedback, why not get the most out of it? One way to maximise the reach of positive reviews is to use them in your marketing efforts – just make sure you ask for permission first.
Customer reviews can be used to great effect on printed materials like flyers, postcards and brochures, or even on the back of your business cards. You can also use them to make your digital marketing communications stand out – try working a five-star review into an email subject line.
If you have a business website (and it’s a good idea even for small, local businesses to have one), be sure to feature reviews on it – highlight some of the best ones on a dedicated testimonials page.
Social media is another area of opportunity. If you run Facebook or Instagram ads, create one featuring a customer review or quote and see how it performs. Or, get creative and post some standout reviews to your Instagram Stories. You can also write a regular Facebook post or tweet to publicly thank someone for a positive review. Be sure to tag or tweet the reviewer in your message, as this shows transparency and authenticity.
5. Focus on improvement
Ultimately, reviews and feedback are about one thing: improving the service you offer your customers. To stay ahead of the pack, and to keep satisfying your customers, this should be a constant process.
Think of it as a regular health check and a way of keeping a finger on the pulse of your business.
And remember, receiving the occasional negative review is part of the process. Keep a positive attitude, embrace the opportunity to learn and you’ll see how online reviews will help your business grow.