There is no debate online customer reviews are important whether you are selling a product or offering a service. We know that consumers look to friends, family, and even strangers for feedback and recommendations on services and products. They trust the word of mouth marketing. We use the internet to research before we buy, so what people say online matters and influence whether or not someone purchases from you.
The digital world has made information readily available; there are even applications that allow us to scan a barcode and get immediate feedback. We want to know what others have to say about your brand and company.
Reviews are not only good for customers; it's good for your overall online presence. Online reviews are having a growing impact on search engine results, and they have the ability to positively impact your search engine placement, especially search placement in local listings. Reports have also shown that customer reviews often increase the click-through rate to your website and are used to reinforce your geographic listing which is why they often increase your local search placement. Visibility on customer review sites is a major component that search engines value and incorporate in their algorithm to determine your search relevance in the local market.
Now with all of that being said, would you believe that only 23 percent of customers have ever submitted an online review or rating? Most reviews also center around the negative, because that's when most consumers feel it's important to let their voice be heard.
Reviews are not only good for business, but they are good for customers.
How can you change this? We know that customers are searching for information, but not finding the content that you want them to find, so how can we encourage product or service reviews?
First thing is first, you need to make sure that you have completed your profiles are on the popular review sites like:
- Google+ Local
- Yahoo! Local Listings
- Merchant Circle
- Angie's List
Once you've finished completing your profiles you need to strategize on how to create customer relationships making them want to leave reviews for you and become your brand ambassador. Here are just a few ideas that you can begin putting in place:
- Ask for the Review: Do you ask for reviews? You can ask for a review via your website, email, telephone or even use a more traditional approach by sending them a postcard or comment card asking them for a review. I'm amazed at how many companies don't even ask customers for a review or endorsement.
- Educate Them on How to Leave a Review: You'd be amazed at how many customers don't realize how important reviews are for businesses today. Create a one-sheet or how to tutorial that educates them on how to leave feedback and where it can be posted.
- Personal Touch: Don't automate the process if it's not necessary, why not send a personal email asking for a review. Many customers today miss that personal touch, especially when it comes to doing business online.
- Utilize a Tool Like ReviewBiz: It's free and a great way to make it easy for website visitors to leave a review on popular websites. While it's a passive approach, it's easy.
- Create a Review Station: Do you have a brick and mortar location? Why not set up a review station that contains a laptop where people can submit their review when they visit?
Note: Be careful some review sites will penalize you for having reviews submitted from the same IP address.
- Get Help: There are outsourcing solutions that will contact your customers for you. A few companies that provide that service is DemandForce, CustomerLobby and PowerReviews.
- Quick Reminder: Add a review instruction sheet in your orders. What better time to get feedback than when you have surpassed expectations by getting an order to a customer sooner than they expected?
- Offer an Incentive: Use this as the last resort, most customers will leave a review without an incentive, but sometimes an incentive can motivate them to act quickly and get that review posted. You have to do it ethically so that you can offer coupons, discounts, or a freebie, but you cannot make it conditional on a positive review.
- Respond to Reviews: When you get a negative review, respond in public, solve the problem. It shows that you are listening and engaged which will often encourage more feedback. When you get a positive review be sure to say thank you.
- Email Signature: How many emails do you send out a day? How many emails does your company send out a day? Include a review link in your standard email signature; you'll be surprised at how many will use it.
When it comes to marketing we can all learn from companies that do it well. The same is true when it comes to customer reviews. A company that stands out in my mind that does a phenomenal job at getting reviews is Amazon. Take a look at their strategy; is there anything that you could implement into your business that would help you in getting more reviews?