For small businesses, online reviews are a critical component of success–or failure. Consider these facts:
- Consumers depend upon online reviews almost as much as they depend upon personal recommendations
- 90 percent of consumers allow online reviews to influence their buying decisions.
- Positive online reviews can boost your local SEO.
While you cannot incentivize online reviews, there are ways that your business can encourage consumers to leave honest evaluations of your business on review sites, social media, and even your website.
Here is a look at some of the most effective, and above board, strategies for cultivating positive reviews of your small business.
Deliver an excellent customer experience.
The first, and most important, step in cultivating positive reviews from customers is to deliver an experience that is worthy of a 5-star review.
Customers are going to talk about your business, and they are going to do so honestly. If they had a great experience with your business, they will want to tell others about that positive interaction.
Make sure you provide products, services, and customer experiences that deliver the following:
- Responsiveness (Be reachable and get back to people quickly)
- Quality (Provide outstanding products and services)
- Outstanding features (What sets YOU apart from the competition?)
- Relevance (Meet the consumer's needs)
- Relatability (Be professional and courteous)
When your business stands out, in a good way, from everyone else, customers will not only return themselves, but they will also encourage others to visit your business as well.
Set up profiles across multiple review platforms.
Once a customer is ready to leave a review, you want to make sure they can do so wherever is most convenient for them.
A consumer, for example, may know how to use Yelp but lack a Facebook account. You want to make sure they can find you on their review site of choice.
That means that you need to be present on multiple review platforms. Even if a platform does not require you to have a profile in order to earn reviews, you will need a profile to respond to reviews.
Set up your business on all the major platforms, and any niche review sites that relate to your industry. Here are the major sites that you must make available to your customers if you expect to cultivate strong reviews:
- Google My Business
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Others you may want to consider include the following:
- Angie's List
- Trip Advisor
Once you create a presence on these platforms, you can include them in lists of places where consumers can leave their online reviews.
When leaving a review is simple, consumers are more likely to do so, which means you are more likely to receive honest, public feedback from your customers.
Ask customers to leave reviews.
Once you are set up on review sites, you can begin asking customers to leave reviews.
For example, you can have your staff request reviews upon completing a transaction, schedule a follow-up email a few days after a purchase, or leave automated messages on social media and your website to remind customers to talk about their experience with your business.
When requesting reviews, follow these best practices to avoid accidentally violating review sites' rules and to make it easier for consumers to leave their reviews:
- Make a neutral request (e.g. “Reviews can be left here”)
- Include links to your review site profiles.
- Never incentivize a review
Don't wait too long to ask for reviews.
You may not want to come across as too eager for positive reviews, but waiting too long to ask customers to leave feedback about your business can be even more detrimental to your local SEO and your bottom line.
In general, you want to broach reviews with customers soon after they complete their purchases. For example, your staff can ask customers to leave reviews as they help them complete their transaction.
If you are following up with customers via phone or email, consider waiting a few days to give the customer time to experience their purchase and develop a well-rounded perception of your business. Often, 3-5 days is a good timeframe for waiting before you ask them to leave a review.
Follow the rules of the review sites.
Each review site will have its own rules about how to use the site and about requesting reviews from customers. Yelp, for example, does not allow businesses to solicit reviews of any kind, but you can place notices in your business that tell customers your business can be found on Yelp.
Following these rules is important if you want to avoid having the reviews you have earned taken down.
If checking and following all of these rules feels a little overwhelming, feel free to hire a business, like Distinct, who can assist you with online reputation management.
These professionals will understand how each review site works and be able to navigate the rules to ensure that you remain in compliance at all times.
Respond to reviews.
Once consumers do leave reviews on your site, you will need to take a proactive approach to interacting with those reviews.
Engaging with reviews, both good and bad, makes your business more personal to customers, and it demonstrates an attentiveness toward and an interest in your customers.
Responses to good reviews can be as simple as thanking the consumer for their review and reiterating your commitment to excellent customer service.
Responses to negative reviews may take a little more thought and care. However, observe these best practices to diffuse potentially tense conversations and maintain your reputation online:
- Do not argue with the customer.
- Apologize as much as is appropriate.
- Offer to make things right.
- Post a public response on the review site.
- Invite the consumer to follow up with you.
- Evaluate the feedback to see if your business has room for improvement.
The right approach to online reviews can help you to maximize the amount of positive feedback you receive from customers and help to improve your reputation online.
Here at Distinct, we are committed to creating successful local SEO and a positive online reputation for our clients. Reach out today to learn more about our small business focused plans, our wealth of services, and the local marketing advisors who can help you maintain and grow your online reputation.