How Online Reviews are Powering Small Business Marketing

Long gone are the days where customers walk blindly into a small business without having some level of expectation for the product or service they’re about to receive. You can thank sites like Amazon, Yelp and Google for that.

These sites have empowered consumers like never before, giving them a platform to share their experiences with your business, both good and bad. I’m talking about online reviews. You’ve seen them — The 5-star ratings underneath a product description, the glowing recommendation from someone whose life was changed, the grammar defying rants of a traumatized customer, the list goes on.

Online reviews have become a powerful force in small business marketing. They can do everything from build confidence in your brand, generate leads and drive organic search results. So how does it all work? Let’s take a look at why you should start soliciting online reviews for your small business and the best strategies to go about it.

Why Do Online Reviews Matter?

Online reviews are such a big deal that BrightLocal started conducting an annual Local Consumer Review Survey to explore just how consumers read and use online reviews, and how this ultimately affects their interactions with local businesses. Here are three key takeaways from the 2018 report:  

  • 86 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
  • When it comes to choosing a business, 57 percent said they would only use one with a 4-star rating or higher
  • Potential customers will read an average 10 reviews before they trust your business

Customers obviously take online reviews seriously, so you probably should, too.

When it comes to trusting your business, reviews can go a long way. More than half of the people surveyed by BrightLocal said that positive reviews made them more likely to use a local business, and a whopping 91 percent of people age 18-34 trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, how likely are you to spend your hard-earned cash on a product or service that you’ve heard bad things about? Probably not very.

Online reviews can also affect your search rankings. Google has taken to giving prime real estate in its results to businesses that have a number of reviews. The search engine giant’s algorithm pulls information from a number of third-party sites, like Yelp, in addition to its own platform to scour for reviews. The more reviews you have, and the more positive they are, the higher you’re going to show up in Google’s rankings.

How Do I Get Reviews for My Business

The goal of any small business marketing strategy is to increase awareness to generate leads that are going to turn into conversions. In simple terms, to get more people visiting your business and spending their money. Online reviews can do that for you. But how do you get them?

Ask your customers. The easiest way to get online reviews is, well, to simply ask for them. The idea likely makes you uncomfortable. But it doesn’t have to be as desperate as it sounds. Your customers know how important online reviews are to a business. For all you know, a good review is what brought them to you in the first place! If you’ve provided them with excellent service and a great product, they won’t feel annoyed or used if you ask them to provide their feedback.

Provide an incentive. If you still feel bad about asking your customers to go out of their way to leave you a review, consider offering them an incentive. There’s a difference between “buying” reviews and offering a little perk. You can host a monthly giveaway exclusively for customers who have left online reviews, or hook them up with a $5 gift card to the local coffee shop.

Make it easy. Even your best customers aren’t going to spend more than a few minutes trying to leave you a review, which is why you need to make it as easy as possible for them. Make sure you have profiles on multiple review sites, then share the links to those profiles on your website, social media pages and in any email marketing campaigns. The easier you make the process, the more likely you are to get reviews.

What About Negative Reviews?

You will get some negative reviews. This is just something you have to accept upfront. No business is perfect, and even if you did everything you could to provide a good experience for someone, there are always those people who simply can’t be pleased.

Don’t let this discourage you! Actually, a few not-so-great reviews can be beneficial. For one, it shows readers that the reviews are “real.” Nothing looks fishier than a business that has only positive reviews and five-stars across the board. Some business owners have been caught leaving their own reviews or paying for fake reviews to make themselves look better. Consumers are on the lookout for these kinds of schemes and are not going to do business with someone who is trying to trick them.

Plus, negative reviews give you an opportunity to grow. Constructive criticism is something you should value, so take the time to read negative reviews to learn how you can improve your business to better serve your customers.

If you get a bad review, own up to it. Don’t try to hide it by removing it from your page. Transparency will go a long way toward building trust with your customers and show that you really do care about their experience with your business/product. Respond to the person who left the review and let him or her know what steps you are taking to remedy the situation. They might be so impressed by your commitment that they change their mind about you and your business.

Still Not Sure Where to Start?

Developing a marketing strategy for a small business isn’t rocket science, but it’s not a walk in the park, either. Taking charge of your online reviews is a great way to dip your feet into the marketing pool, but if you want to kick things up a notch, you’ll want to lean on a savvy marketing professional who knows what makes small businesses successful.

At Higgins Marketing Group, we focus exclusively on helping small- to medium-sized businesses develop marketing strategies that will grow their revenues. We know how small businesses work and what it takes to get their name out there — it’s simply our area of expertise. We would be happy to talk to you about how to develop your digital marketing strategy. Just contact us today and we’ll get started!