Online Reviews: A Trusted Source For New and Repeat Business
“Word-of-mouth” is still one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools available to businesses and one of the most popular ways for consumers to recommend local businesses. A good customer referral could in fact be the best source for gaining new business. Research studies show customers putting referrals at the top of the list of important factors in determining from whom they will buy and what they will buy.
It’s common for people to use the Internet to conveniently search for products or services online and compare businesses in order to make more informed purchase decisions. Now, with a variety of online review sites available, customers can also read reviews about businesses and even provide a review of their own. Therefore, “Word-of-mouth” is expanding to include the “Word-of-Net” which essentially can spread like wildfire.
According to the results of a recent Local Consumer Review Survey, published in June 2013, consumers tend to trust what they read, with almost 80% saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In addition, 73% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use that local business (up from 58% last year). Therefore making reputation management more important now than ever. The study also indicates that an increasing number of consumers are reading online reviews to determine whether a local business is reputable (76% last year to 85% now) and two-thirds need to read fewer than six reviews before forming an opinion about the business. These results strongly illustrate the power of positive online reviews and this momentum should only increase given consumers’ rising use of the Internet to select local businesses.
With regard to the types of attributes consumers look for in a review, when it comes to “reputation traits,” 71% chose reliability as the most important trait in a local business (up from 64% last year) followed by good value at 45%. Reliability and professionalism are most important when recommending a business to someone they know, followed by being friendly and welcoming. Also, of those surveyed, 54% would recommend a business if it had a good value offer or discount.
Given that people can so rapidly search online for reviews via their laptop or phone and online reviews also make their way into the social media world for example in Facebook posts or tweets, renders these online reviews extremely valuable for businesses. Let’s not forget the massive business potential there is to gain from customer referrals. Therefore, it is ever so important for businesses to focus on acquiring more customer reviews.
One good place to start is with your “regulars.” The art and practice of gaining good referrals needs to be subtle and never pushy. First and foremost, continue to employ good business practices to satisfy your regular customers and keep them coming back, eventually they may make referrals on their own. However, in the event they may not be aware they can do this or don’t know where to go to leave a review, there are polite and subtle ways to ask for the referral from your regular (and even new) clientele. Here are a few:
- Create a takeaway piece. When someone raves about something they liked about a service or purchase, wouldn’t it be great to capitalize on that in the moment? Create a takeaway piece with a list of the online review sites your business uses and hand this to customers on their way out or slip it into the bag with merchandise purchased. It’s not necessary to include all the sites, but select those that are the most valuable. Be sure to note what it is with a subtle gesture like, “Thanks! We’re so glad you enjoyed your ______. Perhaps consider writing a review for us and letting others know where to go for quality products/services!”
- Include in your “thank you” email. When sending your “Thank your for your business!” email, this could also be a great place to request a review of the product or service you provided. Within the email somewhere, be sure to include direct links to the review sites to make it easier. This method is great because it’s done while the purchase/service is still fresh in the consumer’s mind.
- Remind your social media followers to leave a review. Perhaps a message or micro-post on your social media pages for example, “If you liked your service, consider leaving us a review! It helps us continue to provide a great product/service and lets others know a good place to go!” Remember that the life of a tweet or a Facebook post is very short, so you may need to repeat the message to reach as many people as possible.
NEXT: Choosing Good Review Sites For Your Business
You probably have some customers that would be happy to write a review for you, however, where should they post them? In addition to choosing a big review site, like Yelp or Google+, it is also important to get reviews posted on a variety of sites. This diversity can help boost your local SEO rankings.
In choosing review sites, here are some things to factor in:
- Visibility. Some review sites give you more local visibility per-review than others. This is an important factor when trying to increase your local customer base.
- Leverage Factors. There are other ways certain types of reviews can benefit you such as reviews from “top reviewers,” like Yelp’s “Elite Squad” or Google’s “City Experts” or review sites where owner responses are allowed.
- Difficulty Factors. What to avoid, for example, if the site has a policy against asking for reviews, such as Yelp, you may want to avoid that if you’re using encouragement tactics with customers. Another thing to avoid is if a site doesn’t allow Facebook logins, which helps eliminate a step for your customers by allowing them to use their Facebook account to log-in to write a review.
For a visual representation and more on the above factors in building your online review strategy see localvisibilitysystem.com’s comparison chart.
*BrightLocal.com survey data: The data is based on a survey of 2,100 North Americans (90% US; 10% Canada) consisting of 14 total survey questions, conducted over 6 weeks in January-February 2013.