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Why Online Reviews Matter to Your Small Business

You’re asking coworkers around the office where to purchase your next vehicle. One chimes in to warn you to absolutely never go to XYZ Auto Sales because they were ripped off. Another confirms their statement with a personal anecdote about their legal nightmare. They suggest ABC Cars instead, reassuring you that they’re friendly, reliable, and honest. Which car dealership do you go to?

The power of word-of-mouth is just as powerful as online reviews. In fact, 80% of users reported relying on online reviews just as much as they do personal recommendations. Small businesses are being held accountable for their customer experience, quality of products or services, and overall company integrity today, more than ever before. Thanks, internet transparency!

It’s common for small businesses to fall victim to the misconception that online reviews are a bunch of internet trolls with nothing more to do than slam companies for the slightest mishap. Discouraged and uneducated, business owners are left to think there’s little they can do to control what people say about them. To a degree this is true, but there are ways to manage online reviews and use them to your advantage.

Understand that customers will write about their experience – good or bad.

Although you may not be able to satisfy everyone, (and trust us, you won’t) you can control the experience your company and staff deliver to the customer. Make sure your staff is trained in your products and services. They should know what to do when their customers are angry, how to turn a negative experience into a positive one, and fully believe that customers come first. The wise Maya Angelou once said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Ask customers to write reviews in exchange for something.

Getting someone to get online, conduct a search, and write a review for your business seems like a lot to ask for nothing. Offer up free movie tickets or gift cards in exchange for a review. No, you can’t ask for a positive reviews only, that just wouldn’t be ethical, now would it?

Have an ongoing reviews program in place so you can constantly entice new customers to write reviews for you. With 44% of online users deeming reviews posted in the past month more relevant, it’s important to keep a steady influx of reviews coming in. Don’t feel obligated to keep to a specific offer, either! Feel free to swap out your offers with the changing of seasons, holidays, or other timely events. For example, we saw a dentist office offer up donations for a local food bank around Christmas time – and it was wildly successful.

Ask for reviews across different channels.

People don’t just use a single online review before making a purchase decision. On average, a user will look at 10 information sources before buying! They use Google search, social media channels, and other sources to conduct research. Ask for reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Google – the more you can gather reviews across varied channels, the better.

Look at reviews as a way to gather feedback.

So someone posted a negative review. Don’t get defensive with your response. It will fuel the fires and position you as the bad guy in the situation. Instead, publicly respond in an empathetic way and ask them to reach out to you personally to find a solution to fix it. You’re able to gather valuable feedback about a product or service, and find ways to prevent it from happening again. Look at this as a learning experience, not an attack.

Online reviews actually help boost your local search rankings.

The more reviews you have, the more credible your business appears to Google. You’re not just a domain that exists on the internet anymore, you’re a verifiable business that people actually use. That’s worth its weight in gold, believe us!

Online Reviews Stats 2017

Don’t shortchange your business by avoiding online reviews. They’re going to happen anyway, and you might as well take control of what you can and manage it. In the long run, your customers will appreciate your transparency and honesty.

Chalease is the Marketing Manager of Iron Springs Design. A creative juggernaut with a knack for creating mind-blowing digital strategies, social media campaigns, and branding initiatives, she's helped small businesses produce powerful results and attract not just customers, but loyal fans.