Over the past few months, we’ve been enlightened by the fact that most consumers do much more research before contacting professional services than we realized.  The fateful first question, “On a scale from 1-10, how important would it be for you to still research the lawyer even though your family and/or friends said they were a good lawyer?” set the path for more research and studies (the answer was 8.67 out of 10, by the way), uncovering that the vast majority of businesses could easily be leaving money on the table because they are unaware of the factors that are keeping referrals and word-of-mouth clients from contacting them.  As we know, plenty of our business comes from these channels.  And most of it turns out to be some of our most high-paying, high-quality clientele.

Before proceeding to a refresher on how people take their word-of-mouth referrals and research them, I wanted to absolutely confirm all angles of this “how important would it be for you to still research the lawyer even though your family and/or friends said they were a good lawyer?” question, since I’m still assuming they would do the research without me having asked.  It was also important to ask these questions:

  • Do you ever ask friends and family for referrals for professional services?
  • If you do, do you still do research on that professional service afterward?

This would clarify the initial variable – how often people ask for referrals for professional services in the first place.

Since the original, fateful 8.67 out of 10 was so high, I figured that these questions would remove some of the bias set by assuming they already asked for the referral.  Interestingly enough on the next survey, 82% of respondents confirmed that they ask friends and family for referrals to professional services.  4 out of 5, sounds reasonable, but out of that group, how many would really go on to research the referral?

That number was a staggering 97%. 

I don’t want to insinuate the power of suggestion inflating this number, but it does align strongly with some of our previous surveys. So presented this way, asking if they do instead of how important it was, you have about 80% of people saying that they both ask friends and family for referrals and then research them as well.

The power of social validation is at its peak, but it’s also not going to descend at any point.  There’s something compelling and gravitating about the review scores and stars perpetuated by Google, Yelp, Facebook, and others that make their presence and influence evidently more important than the suggestions presented to our own close inner circles.  To get some more insight from this, I asked the innocuous question:

“On a scale from 1-10, do you feel that you’ve naturally put the opinions of anonymous reviewers online above the opinions of your friends and family (in regard to choosing local and professional services)?”

The average was 5.78, a slight nod in agreeance to the presented notion.  The mode of 5 was a general, expected ambivalence, with a median of 6.  But weighted as a 5.61 out 10, just the very thought of the respondents slightly agreeing with this statement speaks volumes about what’s to come.

What’s also interesting about this particular survey is the fact that many people have become savvier about the idea of “fake reviews,” and the fact that businesses now have access to means of purchasing fake reviews.

In the last part of the survey, I asked these questions:

  • What website or online source seems to have the most trustworthy and credible reviews?
  • What website or online sources seem to have the most potentially fake or untrustworthy reviews?

The answers were varied, as the respondents gravitated to any website or online source ranging from hotels to products like Amazon and TripAdvisor, though the question was always worded as professional services.  But some facts definitely stood out.

  • Yelp – Yelp had the most votes for trustworthy reviews, with 56 out of 250, but second-most for untrustworthy reviews with 41. Yelp, with its extremely overzealous attempts at quashing “fake” reviews from going live, is also seemingly a source for plenty of potentially paid and fake reviews.  This is comedic to me, being that my clients and I know that it is nearly impossible to negotiate with them about the visibility of positive, honest reviews.  It seems that their algorithm for letting reviews pass through hasn’t earned enough trust from the average consumer.
  • Google – Similar to Yelp, with the gap of trustworthy and non-trustworthy a little tighter. Google got 53 votes for trust, and 43 for no trust.  Google does make it easier to leave reviews, and have the reviews stick, but also is regarded as being more susceptible for paid reviews.
  • Facebook – Facebook is moving in a direction we wouldn’t want if we were to consider it an important platform for reviews. Only 3 people said they trust reviews on Facebook, with 16 saying they don’t.  This one is more intriguing since you can see the user profiles of anyone who leaves a review.

Other standouts for being trustworthy/non-trustworthy were the following, respectively:

Amazon: 21, 25
Angie’s List: 12, 8
BBB: 27, 20

Talking about the big three that apply to most industries (opposed to the hundreds of industry-specific), we know from our takeaways in our blog post, Expanding Upon How People Research a Company Before Contacting Them, that Google is regarded as about as trustworthy as Yelp, and Facebook lags behind.  Everyone has their respective industry sites, and those could arguably be more trustworthy because of their position in the niche.  But between search results for the brand and how people commonly search in general, the brand recognition of the industry-specific social validation simply can’t compete during rounds of initial research.  The brands make their claims during an open search using keywords.

So Again, Here’s a Bunch of Good Information – What Do I Do With It?

I’m glad you asked!  Of course, since this marketing initiative is so reviews-heavy, we’ve put together tons of content relating to review generation in curation throughout 2019.  You can use these links as a reference to understand more about reviews specifically and how to set up a system to generate them successfully here:

As we’ve learned, having a solid plan for reviews has plenty of benefits, but unfortunately isn’t the only component of this plan.  You have to consider every way your business can be represented and also every way you currently aren’t represented online that could benefit you positively.

Let’s look first at ways we can improve how you’re currently represented online:

Next, we’ll consider additional ways you can be positively viewed online:

  • Claiming and completing all your profiles and directories
  • Donations, sponsorships, scholarships, and more!

Lastly, you can create a unique client experience to ensure your word-of-mouth ultimately works for you through:

  • Your intake process
  • Your availability to speak with clients (24/7 chat, after hours, bots)
  • Your ongoing communication with clients
  • Providing quality services and encouraging client participation
  • Maintaining a positive relationship with clients

Improving Your Online Image

Several factors play into whether a referral will ultimately choose your services out of all of your competitors in their area. From your website’s user experience to the quality of your content, creating and maintaining a strong online persona will stoke browsers’ confidence in seeking out what you offer. If you seek to generate more 4-and 5-star reviews and keep more referrals on your web page, find out how we can help through our array of marketing services.

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Do You Have 20 Reviews or Less and Want to Generate More? Contact Us!

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