You’re probably aware that online reviews are important for a small business—but you might not be aware of just how important they can be. “Positive online reviews can strengthen reputation, enhance exposure and even produce leads with the potential to increase sales,” says Megan Osterhout, cofounder of Papergirl PR & Marketing in Chicago. According to digital marketing platform Vendasta:
- 92% of customers read online reviews.
- A star rating is the #1 factor people use to judge a business.
- 88% of customers incorporate online reviews into their purchase decision.
With stakes that high, you’ll want to get as many positive online business reviews as possible. But how?
- Ask your customers, ideally soon after a successful interaction or transaction with them. “We’ve seen the most success when we guide our clients on how to instruct their staff to engage with the customers in person, in a friendly, casual way,” says Osterhout. “For example, at the end of a meal, a server might politely mention that if a customer enjoyed the meal and service, the restaurant would appreciate an online review. One brunch restaurant we work with gets tons of Yelp reviews that way.”On a larger scale, consider sending an email to select customers. Megan Wenzl, associate editor for ReviewTrackers, a customer feedback platform, shares this simple but helpful email template:Hello,
Thank you for your recent visit to our office. We want to provide you with the best service possible. Would you consider posting a review of us online? In addition to providing feedback, online reviews can help other customers learn about who we are and about the services we offer. They are also a great way to give referrals to your family and friends.
Please take a minute to leave a comment on one of these sites—we would really appreciate it!
[Insert Link and icon for Google, Facebook, Yelp and any other review sites relevant to your business.]
Thank you in advance for your review and for your patronage!
- Make it easy to do. Create a link to a customer feedback form, and place it prominently on your website. If people don’t see these links, they may be unaware of your desire to receive their feedback. You can also add links (and icons) for your favorite review platforms in your website’s footer, perhaps even your email signature, and engage in feedback reminder marketing on your top social platforms.
No matter what tactic you use, be sure to respond to each customer who leaves a review on your website, whether positive or not so positive. “That responsiveness can be encouraging for other customers who happen to look at your review space,” says Osterhout. “It shows the company is truly interested in feedback, which can be a deciding factor when someone is debating whether to leave an online review.” To help “automate” the process, create some response templates that can be personalized as necessary.
- Keep it aboveboard. Never pay for a positive review. If you do and get found out, you can experience a negative impact on your reputation—and possibly your wallet, if you find yourself in legal trouble. The FTC has provided clear guidance on standards for endorsements, testimonials and reviews.
In the same vein, avoid incentivizing reviews with non-monetary “compensation” such as gift cards or raffle prizes. It’s against Google’s terms of service—as is writing a review about your own business.
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