Boost Your Business With Online Reviews

Online reviews are a boon to some and a bane to others, but either way, they’re here to stay. Studies show that an increasing majority of customers (upward of 60%) turn to online reviews when they are researching new products, services, or restaurants.

Why does it matter?

Online reviews help customers make choices by offering a kind of credibility through a concept called “social proof.” Social proof is just a fancy way of saying that humans look to others to inform and validate their decisions. Online reviews are perceived by potential customers as unbiased information from others who have experienced your product. 

Major online review sites like Amazon, Angie’s List, Consumer Reports, and Yelp, or industry-specific sites like Capterra, Influenster, and TripAdvisor can be places where potential customers search for the feedback prior customers have shared.

As a small to medium-sized business, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of one more thing to track and manage, but don’t turn away. Online reviews are here to stay, and in this case ignorance isn’t bliss. It can be difficult to keep up with the various online megaphones people use, but the fact that so many turn to these tools when making decisions means they have a real impact on a business’s reputation, and owners must take them seriously.

Tips for making reviews work for you:

No one wants to see negative reviews, but they can be used to your advantage if you respond in a timely, constructive, and helpful way. Reach out with an apology, relevant information, and an offer to follow up with the customer offline. This strategy can even build greater trust with potential customers, as it shows you are paying attention and willing to work with folks.

When asking customers to write reviews, emphasize quality. Give them opportunities to weigh in with more than stars to rate their experience. Ask them to share a bit about how you helped solve a problem, or why their experience was excellent. Human brains are designed to learn through stories. We naturally remember stories much better than facts or statistics. In this way, real positive anecdotes written by customers are more meaningful and relevant than stars in a review.

The more reviews, the better. When potential customers see that many others have used your services, it adds greater social proof. If you’re starting from zero, set some milestones for yourself along the way as you build numbers of reviews. Research seems to show that you can track a measurable increase in business once you hit 50, provided they are mostly positive.

Here are a few ways to encourage people to leave reviews:

  1. Invite them to do so, either in person at the end of a transaction, as post to social media, or in an email follow up

  2. Make it easy! If you have an e-commerce site, include a review at the conclusion of a sale, or send a note with a link 7 – 10 days after your customer receives your product

  3. Incentivize reviews by providing coupon codes, drawings, or giveaways

  4. Be sure you are “mobile friendly”—most people are doing research and reviews on their phone these days

  5. When people email you thanks, anecdotes, or useful feedback, ask their permission to use the testimonial on your website, either anonymously or with their name associated

 If you’re already tracking online reviews, have you noticed an impact on your business?

If you’re preparing to begin using online reviews as part of your overall marketing strategy, what is the first step you will take? We’d love to hear!

 Resources used in this article:

7 Things You Must Understand When Leveraging Social Proof in Your Marketing

Six Ways to Make Online Reviews Work for Your Business

25 Customer Review Sites for Collecting Business & Product Reviews

How to Make Customer Reviews Work for You 

10 Ways to Encourage Customer Reviews Online

Build A Marketing Plan for 2018

First things first: marketing is not the same thing advertising, though advertising can be an important part of a marketing plan. Marketing is promoting or selling products, services, or programs. It includes activities like market research, building your brand, identifying customers or constituents, building relationships with them, developing creative partnerships, among other things. 

The marketing plan that's right for you is as unique as your business. Here are a few tools and resources to consider.

To go beyond advertising in the yellow pages or on the web, start with this ten-point guide from Alyssa Gregory at The Balance. We have included a summary below, but click through to her post for more details: 10 Questions You Need to Answer to Create a Powerful Marketing Plan. 

"A marketing plan is an essential marketing tool for every small business. Start by answering these 10 questions:

  1. Marketing Strategy: How will your marketing plan support your business goals?
  2. Mission Statement: What are you trying to accomplish, and why?
  3. Target Market: Who are you trying to reach with your marketing activities?
  4. Competitive Analysis: Who are you up against, and where do you rank?
  5. Unique Selling Proposition: What makes your business unique?
  6. Pricing Strategy: What will you charge, and why?
  7. Promotional Plan: How will you reach your target market?
  8. Marketing Budget: How much money will you spend, and on what?
  9. Action List: What tasks do you need to complete to reach your marketing goals?
  10. Metrics: How are you implementing, and where can you improve?

Once you have completed each step, you will have a marketing plan that you are ready to use as a blueprint for your marketing activities in your small business."

If you don't have the juice to create and implement a full-on marketing plan, don't worry! Start small. There are many free or low-cost ways to boost your marketing program. Choose a few actions you can take to build connections and find clients or customers: examples include attending a mixer, writing an elevator pitch, or starting a client appreciation program. Here are more ideas:

6 Ways to Market Your Small Business for $100
10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget
101 Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Either way, challenge yourself to write down the marketing tools you will use next year, and attach a time cost and a dollar cost to each activity. These numbers will help you create your budget for 2018.