Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
When it comes to your business, don’t underestimate the power of online reviews. Picture this scenario: You’re craving a burger, and you’re looking for a place to eat that’s nearby and currently open. The first place you’ll turn is probably the internet, and you’ll probably choose the restaurant that has online reviews raving about the fresh ingredients, the attentive service, the great prices – and how the burgers are out of this world.
This is the power of reviews, and it applies to all businesses, not just restaurants. Electricians, accountants, hairdressers, graphic designers, dog walkers…whatever your profession, the conversations people have about your business (online and off!) play a big role in your current and future success.
The impact of online reviews
So, just how powerful are business online reviews? Check out these statistics from the 2022 Local Consumer Review Survey:
- 98% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses – with 77% “always” or “regularly” reading online reviews when browsing businesses in their area
- 78% of consumers use the internet to find information about local businesses at least once per week – with 21% searching on a daily basis
- Only 3% of consumers would consider engaging a business with an average star rating of two or less stars – down from 14% in 2020
- 74% of consumers have left a review for a local business in the last 12 months
Wondering how you can get more online reviews? Follow these 5 steps to boost your word-of-mouth marketing and take your small business to the next level:
- Make sure customers can easily leave online business reviews.
- Ask your customers to leave a review online.
- Handle negative reviews appropriately.
- Leverage online reviews to improve your business.
- Incorporate positive reviews into your marketing.
1. Make sure customers can easily leave online business reviews.
To start getting reviews for your business, you need to get set up on review platforms. But where should you start?
According to the Local Consumer Review Survey, in 2022, 81% of consumers used Google to evaluate local businesses. Not only is that a significant uptick (63%!) from 2020, but it’s also a search tool used much more than the competition – including Yelp (53%), Facebook (48%), and TripAdvisor (36%).
That means your first order of business should be creating a Google Business Profile. Begin by adding or claiming your business on Google, then fill in your profile with essential information about your business. Include the basics, like your phone number, address and hours of operation, as well as branded elements like your logo.
Once your Google Business Profile is up and running, customers will find it when they search for your business online – and they can easily leave a review right there. You can also respond to reviews and interact with customers directly from your Google Business Profile, so it’s easy to manage your reviews and make sure your customers feel heard.
While Google is the most popular review platform, it can still be worthwhile to set up additional profiles on Yelp, Facebook or other industry-specific review platforms. The more reviews, the better!
2. Ask your customers to leave a review online.
According to the Local Consumer Review Survey, 75% of consumers said reading a positive review would make them feel more positively about engaging a business. So, it’s important to get as many positive reviews as possible – and that means asking your customers to help you out.
There are plenty of ways to ask your customers for reviews. If you have a particularly positive interaction with a customer, ask them directly if they’d be willing to write a review about their experience – and then direct them to where and how to leave a review. You can also include online review requests on your marketing materials, packaging, in-store displays, business website or whatever other customer touchpoints you have.
And if you really want to increase the likelihood that they’ll follow through and leave a review, offer them an incentive. Here are some ideas you can try:
- If you own a coffee shop, offer a free coffee upgrade for customers that show their barista they left a positive review.
- Do you own a restaurant? Offer a free appetizer with an entree purchase when customers leave a Google review for your eatery.
- If you own a retail business, offer customers a discount on their next purchase when they leave a review.
- Did you just open a salon or spa? Give customers a complimentary add-on service when they leave a review.
It’s also important to make sure to ask your customers to leave reviews regularly. According to the Local Consumer Review Survey, almost half of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month. So it’s not just the *more* reviews the better, it’s the more *recent* reviews, the better!
Include a marketing postcard or magnet with your phone number and a QR code menu. This way, customers won’t have to spend time searching for your information when they’re ready to place an order…and your eatery will always be top of mind.
3. Handle negative reviews appropriately.
It doesn’t matter how incredible your business is or how vigilant you are in creating a positive experience for your customers. At some point, you’ll likely have a customer who’s less than impressed…and they may write a negative review in response.
But the occasional less-than-stellar review doesn’t have to sink your business, as long as you understand how to respond to negative reviews appropriately. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when tackling negative reviews online.
- Acknowledge and apologize. The best way to respond to a negative review is head-on. Acknowledge the issue and apologize to the customer for the challenging experience.
- Remedy the situation if possible. If you can offer a solution to the customer, do so in your response. For example, if the review says they were overcharged during their visit to your business, offer to process a refund for any overpayment.
- Ask for another shot. After you apologize and remedy the situation, ask the customer for an opportunity to provide a better experience and see if they’re willing to give you another shot. Then, offer them an incentive to re-engage with your business, whether it’s a discount on their next purchase or a complimentary remedial service.
4. Leverage online reviews to improve your business.
You can’t please everyone, so it’s important to take the occasional negative review with a grain of salt. But if you’re consistently getting negative online reviews, it’s important to really dig into what your customers are saying, and even use their feedback to improve your business.
Consider these situations:
- If you receive multiple reviews saying that the customer service at your business is lacking, you might invest in additional training for your employees to create a more positive customer experience.
- If multiple people are noting that your shop is always closed when they stop by, you might reevaluate your operating hours.
- If your reviews consistently say your prices are too high, you might take a look at your pricing structure, see how it compares to your competitors, and adjust accordingly.
- Have you received multiple reviews complaining about tardiness? Give yourself more time between appointments so you can arrive promptly.
5. Incorporate positive reviews into your marketing.
Getting more online reviews is one part of the equation. But once you have those positive reviews, you’ll want to get as much use out of them as possible. So, why not use them in your marketing efforts? Get permission from your customers to reuse their reviews in marketing flyers, as testimonials on your website or as highlights on your social media channels. Showcasing the authentic experiences of real clients is a great way to build trust with new customers and boost your credibility as a small business.