Why Online Reviews Are Important for Small Businesses
Many areas of digital marketing are important, but a few things stand out as absolutely critical. Reviews are one of these must-haves if you hope to succeed in any meaningful way with your online marketing.
Encouraging good online reviews is probably second only to creating a website for your small business in terms of digital marketing tactics. Many business owners don’t know why online reviews are so important. Let’s look at some of the most important reasons why online reviews are so crucial for a small business.
Online Reviews Build Trust and Convey Credibility
Imagine you are a potential customer looking for a certain type of business. This shouldn’t be too hard to imagine since we all are consumers of various products and services. How do you find a new business?
The answer, most of the time, is one of two things. First, you may ask your friends or colleagues if you think they may have used a similar company in the past. If you don’t ask other people or that doesn’t yield results, you probably search online.
This could be on a search engine, like Google, or on a social media platform, like Facebook or Twitter. One of the things you probably look at most is the rating or reviews you see when your browsing different options.
If you see a lot of bad reviews, you’re probably not going to do business with that company. If you see no reviews, you’re also probably going to look elsewhere. Both situations are not good. Bad reviews are going to actively diminish trust and tarnish credibility. No reviews, at the very best, are going to have no impact on trust or credibility.
This is why you need to build up enough reviews to make it clear you are a trustworthy business. You also need a variety of people, so you convey credibility. If it’s just your employees or family members leaving glowing reviews, people will see through that. They can leave reviews if they actually use your products or services, but just tell them to keep it honest and believable.
Recent Reviews Show You’re Still in Business and Active
A lack of recent good reviews is also a serious potential problem for any business. This leaves potential customers wondering if that business is still open. Even if it’s clear the business is still open, it sends other negative signals.
It can look like the business is not active, and that is normally for a bad reason. Maybe they are losing customers, because the work they do is not that great. Or maybe they paid for fake reviews early on, and that is why they don’t have recent ones.
Even if none of these potential reasons are true, the customer is left to sort it out in their head. And they are going to make their decision in a split second. They aren’t going to waste time giving businesses the benefit of the doubt, unless they have no other options.
Or they may have given a business without reviews a chance in the past and got burned. This means they’ll be far less likely to do that again. People try very hard to avoid being wrong. Don’t give them additional reasons to question if their decision will be a good one.
The optics can be really bad when a business only has old reviews. You should have a strategy to keep good reviews trickling in over time. A stale portfolio of good reviews can be just as bad as no reviews in a lot of cases.
Great Reviews Showcase Your Business as an Industry Leader
When you do have a set of killer reviews, it can really set your business apart from the competition. Imagine if you have hundreds of glowing reviews and your competitors each only have three or four. People will see you as the leader in your industry.
Being perceived as an industry leader is not just good for your ego. In terms of digital marketing, it makes promoting your business online much easier. Getting people’s attention on the Internet is getting harder and harder, so anything you have that is unique is a huge advantage.
Being a true industry leader is the ideal position as a business. It has many actual business advantages beyond just the obvious. People will not only give your business a try, but they’ll tell others and your reputation will continue to build. Someone might recommend your business and say something like, “not only is it my favorite restaurant, but it has over a hundred 5-star reviews on Google.”
This is the sort of thing that word-of-mouth referrals can’t do on their own. Sure, you’ll get some additional customers from referrals with no reviews online. But a growing number of people are not just blindly trusting these sort of referrals. They are Googling and searching the business people recommend to them.
This is partially because searching online is so easy now. So much information is available and easily searchable. Combine this with the fact that everyone has a mobile device now. Why not take five seconds and Google the company before spending money with them?
It just makes sense, and this is why you need that set of independent reviews on a third-party site. People can find those reviews if they search. And other people can refer to them to bolster their recommendations of your business. When your loyal customers can tell your story, and it’s backed up with online reviews, you are in a great place.
Widespread Reviews Meet Your Customer on Their Terms
You may go to Google for your reviews of businesses, but others may not. Others may turn to Facebook, Yelp, or countless other review sites. It’s important to be where your potential customers will be searching for reviews.
Google and Facebook are the two main platforms to keep in mind, but depending on your industry, you may want to focus on more than just those two.
For example, if you’re a restaurant, you’ll also need to be cognizant of how you’re reviews on a reservation or delivery services you use. For example, if you use OpenTable or Uber Eats, you want to build up your reputation within those platforms. Those services themselves encourage reviews, but you should be encouraging your customers too.
When we say encourage your customers, we mean this in two ways. First, provide an amazing experience that will make people want to leave a great review. Secondly, specifically ask for a rating or review. You can ask verbally, with signage, or even with a customized thank you card.
The most important thing is to figure out what method of encouraging works best for your business, and do that. If you’re looking to get reviews on certain platforms, make sure to mention that to your customers.
Review Responses Let You Manage Your Online Reputation
Encouraging customers to leave reviews is great, but it’s not the whole story. You also need to consider your policy for responding to these online reviews. You’re online reputation matters, and leaving considerate and helpful reviews goes a long way.
You want to respond to both positive and negative reviews. Responding to the positive reviews is a great way to thank a customer. Plus, it looks good to potential customers who see your business as engaged with customers and appreciative of them.
Negative reviews are just as important, if not more important. Leaving negative reviews unanswered can make a business look uncaring, bitter or lazy. You also give the impression that the unhappy customer was correct.
Instead, you should respond to these reviews. Just make sure to be respectful of the other person and acknowledge their experience. Tell your side of the story, if possible, without being dismissive or accusing the other person of lying.
Offer them whatever compensation you’d offer if they complained in person. Don’t offer them extra things that you wouldn’t offer people normally. This just encourages more people to voice their grievances publically, even if they could be worked out earlier on and in private.
Finally, try to take the conversation offline as quickly as possible. Invite the customer to follow up via email or phone. The last thing you want is a lengthy angrument to happen in your reviews. Everyone can see what’s said forever, and more often than not, everyone ends up looking bad.
Online Reviews Are Important for Small Businesses
There are a number of reasons why online reviews are super important. There really is no reason not to get started with trying to get more reviews. It will help your business grow by encouraging and amplifying word-of-mouth referrals.
Best of all, getting online reviews doesn’t have to break your marketing budget. You can get super fancy tools to help you generate more reviews. You can also do it very inexpensively by using your existing resources. It’s virtually free to create a sign or have employees mention that you greatly appreciate reviews.
Do you have experience leaving or receiving online review? What encourages you to leave a review for a business? Or what does your business do to convince others to leave reviews? It’d make our day if you left your stories, tips, and tricks in the comments.