“I don’t do any more marketing…my customer reviews now does it for me.” This was the message I received from the owner of one of the fastest growing water softening companies in Phoenix, AZ. But this business is not alone for I am increasingly running into businesses that have found a new secret weapon in the highly competitive world of online marketing. I have a number of clients who now claim that they are getting 25+% of their new business from this new marketing tactic. And all of this starts with the new online currency of online consumer reviews.
Every day small businesses spend money on marketing and advertising to compete for new business – with the fastest growing segment being online. Early adopters to newer technologies often initially win while lagers bring up the rear – and then drive up prices and results down to relative parity. This has happened in TV, radio, print, online paid search ads (PPC), SEO, and much more.
There are four primary areas of marketing: visibility, branding, conversion, and results. Most small businesses today are fixated on driving up their visibility without giving proper focus to branding which leads to poor conversion and results. Branding is so powerful because it creates differentiation and familiarity – leading to higher levels of trust and higher conversions and results for each visibility dollar spent. Some small business understand and practice this while most do not.
But now you do – and one of the best places to start in building your brand online is through consumer reviews and here are a few reason why…
92% OF CONSUMERS NOW READ ONLINE REVIEWS
Consumers who do not know and trust you will look to others for branding citations and the easiest place for them to now look is online. Reviews are becoming so pervasive that 100% of high-income consumers ($150K+/yr) also claim to have recently left reviews online after bad customer experiences. So the next time somebody tries to convince you that your presence online is not important just remember that only 9% of consumers now indicate that they never search for a business online.
88% OF PEOPLE NOW SAY THAT THEY TRUST ONLINE REVIEWS AS MUCH AS PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Referrals have been the lifeblood of many local businesses for hundreds of years. The problem then was knowing the right person to ask. Today, ALL of those people are online and easy to find in search, on websites, and on social platforms.
PRODUCT REVIEWS ARE NOW 12 TIMES MORE TRUSTWORTHY THAN YOUR OWN PRODUCT COLLATERAL
Most product collateral is now useless. Most salespeople don’t use them anymore, they quickly become obsolete, and most consumers don’t trust them. If reviews are 12 times more trustworthy than your own collateral, don’t you think your collateral money would be better allocated elsewhere…like to reviews?
74% OF CONSUMERS SAY THAT POSITIVE REVIEWS MAKE THEM TRUST A LOCAL BUSINESS MORE
If the name of the game is brand building and trust is the #1 result, then where is your consumer review strategy? Do you have one?
If your business wants to generate more consumer reviews, it needs to start with a strategy. Your strategy should also include a budget, defined processes, and the resources needed to execute on them. Let’s start with the steps:
- Your first step is to set goals measured in the quantity and quality of reviews received and responded to. To maximize your success, your ultimate goal should be to generate more reviews than your largest competitors and continue to build even more after that. Why? Because 73% of your customers now consider reviews older than 3 months to be irrelevant. It is also important to respond to reviews given – both positive and negative. Consumers want to know that you care about what other consumers are saying about them – it is a sign of good customer service.
- Define your review site targets. 90% of consumers will now read up to 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business and fully 79% will look at up to three different review sites before taking action. Because of this, the top review sites I recommend are Google My Business, Facebook Business Pages, YELP!, and BBB.org. There are many more industry-specific review sites as well so look at who shows up most for you and your competitors and add the most visible of them to this list. In nearly all cases, you will need to start by claiming and/or creating a business page on these sites and make sure they are optimized for maximum conversion and visibility.
- Create a process for requesting reviews from your customers. 70% of your customers now indicate that they will leave you a review IF YOU ASK FOR ONE! So you need to ask and ask often. If your customers visit your location, most will now have a smart phone with them so help them provide reviews on their smart phone while they are at your location. You can also send them an email with quick-links to your various review pages so they can quickly click on and leave a review with little/no navigation needed. Follow-up on these emails with additional emails and calls to help remind them that their reviews are important to you and even walk them through the steps over the phone.
- Use the power of reciprocity to generate more reviews. Do something nice for your customers and indicate that they can thank you by providing you with a positive review. Other businesses will also offer discounted/free services and account credits in exchange for reviews online from their customers. If you do this properly, you are not buying reviews but rather inviting more reviews from your customers. This is by far the most effective way to build up reviews over time.
- Track your progress, conversions, and actively respond to reviews received. Set monthly, quarterly, and annual review targets and regularly track your results. These include star ratings, positive & negative reviews, etc. Also make sure to proactively respond to all reviews received – consumers love that! Finally, make sure to track your results over time both by phone and through your website analytics. Since 54% of people will now visit your website after reading positive reviews you can now track them by source in your website referral tracking reports.
- Budget & assign resources. Assign one person who is responsible for this process and your defined reviews goals. Also define and allocate a new budget for this process. Many of the businesses I work with will achieve a 25%+ bump in new business once they dominate their competition online based on reviews, so remember it takes money to make money. In a sense, reviews are used as a form of currency and many businesses are now seeing high double-digit growth rates from their reviews alone. How much would this cost you elsewhere to achieve these same level of results? If you can calculate what a 25% increase in new business would mean for your business and an acceptable minimum rate of return on your marketing investment (typically 3 to 1), you can then calculate your new budget for reviews. Over time you can compare these returns to other marketing returns used and allocate accordingly.
So the next time your business sits down to review your marketing this year, ask anybody in the room what your current online reviews strategy is? If consumers now put so much faith and trust in them before they buy products and services, why doesn’t your organization do the same? Remember: there is no ROI in obscurity and your competitive advantage is now within your grasp…if you want to pursue it.
Contact us today if you need more help in putting together a market-leading customer review strategy for your business…