Ask any business owner how they get most of their customers and the most common answer you will hear is word-of-mouth. What does word-of-mouth mean? It’s having customers who enjoyed your business so much that they wanted their friends and family to know about it. In other words, it’s a review! With the internet, much of this word-of-mouth flows through online review websites. Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, and a whole other array of websites exist primarily for customers to express their joy (or air their grievances) because of a business’s quality service.

These online reviews can affect how a business performs. The majority of your potential customers, regardless of your type of business, will be strongly influenced by positive online reviews. A smaller, but still significant, batch of customers will also be influenced by negative reviews. How should you approach this environment as a business owner?

Many will naturally obsess over a negative online review for their business. That’s natural; negative reviews can hit many of us on a personal level. However, the best reaction to a negative review is to focus on your positive reviews. To do this you’ll need to make a conscious effort in encouraging customers to write about their time with your business. Approaching this can feel tricky and awkward, so consider some of these tips to help with the process.

Build Your Accounts on Review Sites

Your customers can’t write online reviews if they have nowhere to put them. Think of which sites may be most applicable for your business. For example, as a contractor, Thumbtack is an important, professionally recognized directory where satisfied clients can leave their reviews. For restaurants and smaller, specialized stores, Yelp is a good choice. It is in fact one of the most used mobile phone directories in the country.

Make sure that the information on your accounts is accurate, such as address, phone number, and name. Customers may try looking for your business through several different searching methods, so you want to have your bases covered. For websites that may not be as relevant, take a couple minutes to set up a basic profile, as doing so can help with building online citations for your business.

Ask Customers, Don’t Pressure Them

reviews-for-your-businessSimply asking your customers is the best way to get more online reviews for your business. Many of your customers will come to your business because of a previous positive review, so they’ll understand how doing so can help your business grow. It’s best to ask right after your excellent service or product has been provided, as many people will be quick to forget.

Be careful not to pressure your customers into writing a review. What that means is, don’t send email blasts to past customers asking for a positive review, don’t promote a free meal or deal via perfect five star reviews, and don’t emphasize to your customers that the review should only be positive. The point of a review is for your customers to share what they think, and being goaded into being positive makes the whole process disingenuous. Have confidence in your business and open yourself to criticism. Doing so will not only help improve your business, but customers will appreciate your honesty.

Make The Review Process Easy and Fun

Not everyone may have the phone app needed to leave a review when it is fresh on their mind. Simple roadblocks can quickly discourage the most enthusiastic customers from leaving a positive review for your business. Direct links to your review site from your website or weekly newsletters will streamline the process for your customers.

Afterwards, many online review websites have made it easy for business owners to respond to reviews. Be sure to thank your customer for taking the time to write their opinions, and if that customer had any criticisms or suggestions, be sure to thank them for that as well. We mentioned before that you shouldn’t try to “buy” online reviews with deals or free products, but offering a surprise discount code or something similar for a top reviewer every now and then can help. The review came from an honest place, and you as the business owner show that you appreciate them. Again, an open business owner who interacts with their customer builds a better reputation for their business. It shows customers that you are someone they can trust.

Having trouble managing your online accounts, or feel as if your business’s online presence isn’t bringing the business you need? Contact us to discuss the best steps on improving your digital marketing.