Written by: Matt Harding
Search engine marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, blogging—no doubt you’ve been told that your business can’t succeed online without some combination of these inbound marketing tactics.
While it’s true that inbound marketing techniques are extremely effective for growing a brand online, there’s one aspect of online marketing that’s almost always overlooked—Customer Reviews.
Customer Reviews are Not Optional
Customer reviews pack a big punch. In a recent survey, 92% of consumers reported that they hesitate to make a purchase if there are no customer reviews, and 97% said that customer reviews factor into their buying decisions. But many businesses, particularly small businesses, don’t have a single review. Think about it like this: People value the opinions of their peers and in this case, that would be their “fellow shoppers.” Each review from a person who has already interacted with a business provides a piece of information that helps a consumer make a decision. 34% of the survey respondents said they like seeing both positive and negative reviews. People value authenticity, and customer reviews offer just that.
And 94% typically review written reviews. They’re looking for the “nitty gritty” what people like about the company, product or service and what they don’t like. Written reviews add insight and information that consumers cannot get from the company itself.
DIY Customer Reviews
Now that you know the payoff that comes from generating customer reviews, you are faced with one essential question: How do I ask customers to write reviews? This is challenging because consumers tend to only write reviews following an especially negative experience. Brian Patterson, co-founder of Go Fish Digital, offers some great tips on how a business owner can prompt customers to write a review:
- Ask In Person: If your product or service allows you to interact with your customers face-to-face, go ahead and ask for a review at the end of a positive transaction. At this point, you have probably gotten to know them better. There is a good chance your request will be well received.
- The “Tip” Trick: This works well for direct services. In this situation, an employee tells the customer that if they write a review including the employee’s name, their employer will give them a little bonus.
- Send an Email: While this method is less personal than the previous two, it can be effective for businesses that do not interact with clients directly. With this in mind, make sure that the email is as personal as possible. Include the customer’s name, and include an obvious link to a review page.
- Get Everyone On Board: make sure that all of your employees know that getting customer reviews is a priority. Train everyone on your preferred technique.
Proceed with Caution
If you’re not careful, you can set off a firestorm of negative reviews from unhappy customers (the type of customer who is most likely to write a review), disgruntled employees or ex-employees, and even fake reviews from competitors seeded with the intention of attacking a business. Once those reviews are there, they’re there! Fake or not, you can’t just erase reviews from Google or Yelp or wherever an unflattering review shows up. For this very reason, it’s understandable that a digital marketing company would shy away from customer review generation–it’s unwise to lump “customer review generation” into a broad marketing proposal. It should be a specialized service or outsourced to a company that has a well-defined and proven process for generating customer reviews.
Where Consumers Go to Find Reviews
For businesses that are selling a product: 64% of consumers want to see that product’s reviews on Amazon, 21% prefer Google, and just 13% are looking for reviews on the company website.
For businesses that are selling services, 42% of surveyed consumers prefer to read the Google reviews and 34% are scrolling through Yelp. In this case, 17% look to the company website for reviews.
The Bottom Line on Customer Reviews
Business owners’ marketing campaigns have one ultimate goal: selling their products and services. Consumers feel more confident in making buying decisions when they can read details of the experiences that others have had with the company and its products and services. Work on getting those customer reviews. Keep at it and you will hit your stride. It just takes a bit of practice!
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