Big brands with even bigger budgets have easy access to the likes of market research, media advertising and influencer marketing to engage with their consumers. For small businesses, online reviews are a proven way to help companies to grow.
If you own a small business, Google Reviews is where customers are talking about your product or service. They’re giving their honest assessment, telling others what to go for and what to avoid. And others are listening.
If you’ve never taken an interest in Google Reviews, you might be wondering what’s so special about it. After all, you have grown your business and established relationships with your customers for so long without any online reviews. So, why are they important now?
Well, they’re the digital word of mouth that influence purchasing decisions. They play a crucial role in the online reputation of small businesses. The stats tell the story:
More than 90% of those in the 18 - 34 year bracket believe online reviews the way they believe personal recommendations
More than 95% of consumers search online before buying a product or service from a local business
People are ready to spend 31% more on products or services that have highly positive online reviews
So, it’s clear that online reviews have the power to grow your small business. But how do you go about it if you’re new to it? How do you use the power of online reviews to make it easy for people to trust your brand? You begin by getting reviews and getting lots of them.
Quite simply, you have to start asking for reviews from all your customers. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If the biggest brands in the world can request reviews, so should you.
An advantage of being a small business is that you get to personally interact with your customers. That’s an opportunity for you to request an online review. You can ask them after they’ve bought something from you or after you’ve delivered a service.
If they don’t leave a review, you can email them a reminder or use an even more effective medium, SMS. That simple old text message is an effective, non-intrusive and personal way to request reviews.
Now, before you start thinking about discounts or offers, know that Google has a policy against any paid endorsement. Specifically, anyone endorsing a product or service for payments should disclose that. Otherwise, it’d be considered illegal.
But you could suggest something without directly offering it. For example, you could hint that you’d throw in an incentive if they were to leave an honest review.
You could automate the request procedure by writing a script. Address the customer by name, thank them for their purchase and request them to review you.
An effective way is to brutally share the challenges of running a small business. Even a well-crafted line about how local reviews are what keep an independent establishment like yours going could work for you.
Remember, you need it more than them. To make it easy, share the link to your Google My Business (GMB) profile. You should share that link through SMS and email.
You should also share that link on your website, social media channels and as part of your email signature.
You should share the positive reviews on your social media channels, website and even print them out and creatively use them on your premises. But don’t worry if you get bad reviews. There are ways to constructively use those too.
You should take some time to diligently assess your small business’s online reviews. This could be done once a month or fortnightly when you’re just starting out. The primary concern in the early days should be the number of reviews you receive.
If you systematically grow your online reviews and learn to manage them well, you’ll realise that you don’t have to spend much on marketing. The reviews will do the job of marketing and promotion for your small business. If you don’t invest your time and effort in online reviews, someone else might and walk away with your customers.
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