Starting up is hard.
One of the major challenges of starting a new business is simply finding customers. How do you get the word out? How do you get positive feedback? How can you possibly compete with the businesses that are more established?
The good news is that none of this is as hard as it used to be; with modern tools, you can solidly secure your small business and gain new customers through gathering online reviews. Even with a few reviews, your business listing will start rising to the top of search results in the Google Map Pack, bringing you lots of traffic to your website and through your front door as a result.
Getting more reviews doesn’t have to just be an organic thing that you wait for; you can and should plan for it and strategize for it—doing so is called “review marketing.”
Determining your review marketing strategy.
Review marketing is an online marketing strategy that deals with gaining a greater number of reviews. A new business will have the instinct to seek only positive reviews and look at negative views as largely detrimental to their young business, but this is only partially true. Review marketing is about matching up your online reputation with your real-world customer sentiment.
Focusing on customer service and a seamless customer journey will help you have confidence that your online reviews will be largely positive. With this understanding, it’s easier to see how one or two negative reviews out of a hundred positive ones will stop holding so much individual value; instead, they come together to form a better picture of what your business offers. Plus, reviews aren’t static or set in stone either, and your review marketing strategy should include responding to reviews both positive and negative.
With regular review responses, your business listing shows a dedication to customer experience and satisfaction that otherwise people may never come across. In fact, 56% of people have said that a business’s responses to reviews have changed their opinion of that business.
What are online reviews?
Online reviews are a public form of customer feedback on sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and on dozens of industry-specific review sites. Each review represents a customer who visited and left comments online about their experience.
These reviews impact your star rating online, which impacts both where you are seen in search results (the top or bottom of the pack) as well as whether or not customers will want to visit your business (half of customers require a 3-star rating or more to even walk in the doors).
How to gain customer reviews.
So how do you gain these reviews? Well, they come from your customers. Most people won’t leave a review on their own unless they’ve had an incredible or (more likely) horrible experience. For many businesses early on, those can come to define their online reputation because they don’t know how to approach it even though they know that most of their customers have great experiences and leave happy.
Don’t let those few bad experiences become the mascot of your business online. Instead, you must find ways to get reviews from nearly every customer who comes inside your doors. The easiest way to start is just to ask. Here are a few tips for doing just that:
1. Get your desk employees to ask at check out.
You can implement policies that ask your employees to remind your customers to leave a review and perhaps even give them a card that shows them how.
2. Send an email asking for a review after their visit.
Email can be a good way to ask for reviews. The downside is that email seems less urgent and even disposable, so when they get around to checking their email, the timing might be off on them remembering anything to say about their visit.
3. Send a text as they walk out the doors asking them to rate their experience.
Text messages are preferable as they can be sent right as a customer walks out the doors. Straight to a customer’s phone comes a link to leave a review—it’s convenient, simple, and seamless, making it much more likely customers will actually leave a review.
A little about search rankings.
Where your business ranks in search results will be impacted by its reviews. With more, better reviews you’ll see your site rise in the rankings, thus gaining visibility and preference over other similar businesses locals are searching for.
Think of this: someone is looking for a Thai takeout restaurant for dinner with their family tonight. They search “best thai restaurant near me” and Google gives them a list of five Thai restaurants in their surrounding area. Do you want to be fifth on the list with a two-star rating and seven reviews? Or do you want to be the Google-approved first choice with a five-star rating and three hundred reviews? If that’s how you feel, which restaurant would your customers be more likely to call as well?
Search rankings are very responsive to reviews, with the algorithm rewarding listings with reviews that are recent, frequent, and numerous. That means a business with an active review presence and 75 reviews can rank even higher than a business with a stagnant review presence and double the reviews. Keep the reviews and responses flowing and you’ll be rewarded in search rankings.
Don’t ignore social media.
While not directly related to online reviews, social media does play a part in the overall online image of your business and can lead to both good and bad reviews (or shares). By making social media a part of your online marketing strategy in tandem with your review marketing strategy, you’re putting a focus on customer experience. And someone who has taken the time to leave you a review online is also more likely to be a positive advocate for you online—organic word of mouth.
Social media platforms are a great place to engage with your customers and turn one-time users into full-fledged fans who share your content because they can’t get enough. Depending on your business and your industry it can be hard to find which platforms work best for you, but you’re likely to find others in your industry who are doing it well and can learn from the best, whether that’s leaving how-tos on YouTube, tips, and tricks on Instagram, or dance videos on TikTok.
Social media is also a great place to continue your customer service. We mentioned how responding to negative reviews on Google is just as important as gaining more positive ones. The same holds true for social media. Be sure to respond to users who have complained, or shared negative feedback about your product on their social media platforms. These relationships can turn from negative to positive with just a little effort on your part and they can be fruitful for years to come.
Get started today.
Your online reputation is, for many people, the only thing that matters and the only way they might discover your business. It’s never too late or too early to start thinking about how you can improve. Review marketing isn’t just for vanity stats online. It can directly impact the revenue of your business. Don’t delay—start asking for reviews today.