If you are a small business owner, particularly one who markets to a local audience, there are several things you can do to really boost website conversions and sales. The instinct of an entrepreneur is to DIY whenever possible and to weigh the cost savings vs the time spent to implement strategies. Is it worth learning SEO vs hiring a professional, for example. That’s up to each individual business owner. If you’re an established business, present in your market, I would bet the answer is easily “go hire someone”. But, if you are a start up without a lot of capitol, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get busy getting reviews.
Why Start With Reviews?
A great reputation is the most robust marketing assets an organization has to influence new customers to buy from them. The “social proof” contained in reviews and star ratings assist customers in short-cutting their research and making decisions quickly and with more confidence than ever before.
Get Google Reviews
Reviews will be the life blood of your young company. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to have a healthy obsession for getting reviews. START WITH GOOGLE. Why? Because Google LOVES Google. The fastest path to page 1 rankings is to optimize your Google My Business account. Here are some basics:
- Claim Your Business – If you’ve been in business for even a small amount of time, it’s likely that Google generated a page for your business. Here’s how to CLAIM IT.
- Don’t Skimp – Fill out as much as possible and create as much unique content as possible. Take advantage of the “About” section and make sure you add your website link.
- Add 10 Photos – Most of your competitors do next to nothing when it comes to adding photos to Google My Business and Yelp. You’ll notice, in “insights”, that your photos get tons of views. These views convert into calls. The more the better, but start with ten and schedule and additional 2 or 3 every week.
- Ask For Reviews – You should never solicit a specific rating, BUT, if your sense a happy customer, ask. Here’s how your create a custom link to streamline the review process: CREATE CUSTOM REVIEW LINK
Remember, most of your competition is not spending a lot of time optimizing their Google properties. As you can see in the screen capture above, nobody has a single review. This is a huge opportunity for a start up to surpass businesses that have been there for a while. That said, most local businesses rarely have more than 10-15 reviews on Google. Again, obsess a little! Get after it and you’ll soon find your business on page one above the fold.
Find and Claim Your Business On Yelp
“But I hate Yelp!” Like it or not, nearly all local business owner have a page on Yelp.com. With over 140 million unique users each month, Yelp is one of the premiere marketing spaces on the net, competing with the likes of Facebook and Google. According to a Nielsen study, Yelp is really good at driving sales too – 4 out of 5 Yelp users stated that they go to Yelp when ready to spend cash and 36% of Yelpers will visit a business within a day of researching it. Still hate Yelp?
Follow the same rules as outlined above for Google My Business
How to Respond To Negative Reviews
The horror! An unhappy customer? Impossible! Actually, not only possible but inevitable. It’s going to happen folks. But, as with anything in life, how you respond will determine your fate. DO NOT getting baited in to an internet fight. Instead, take the high road. Always keep the end reader in mind. Remember, the person reading this has yet to visit your business. Killing a negative reviewer with kindness will speak volumes about you and your commitment to getting it right as a business owner. If you can convey the idea that, if you do get something wrong, you’re willing to make it right, well that’s all a prospective customer can ask for. Below is a Yelp response from a very wise owner of an established Tea House:
Promote Your Latest Reviews on Social Media
Here are some eye-opening stats from a Bright Local survey:
Key ‘Takeaways’ From Online Review Survey Research
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to
- 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
- 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews
- 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant
- 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
- 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important
It’s obvious your buyers want to read reviews. The key is to make reviews more available, and an excellent way to get this done is by including them into your marketing. By leveraging Facebook ads, for example, you can quickly spread brand awareness and show off your awesome reputation! Here’s a sample of a great ad using positive customer feedback:
How To Encourage Customers To Write Reviews
Now that you know the where and why, it’s time to talk about how? How do you tactfully ask and encourage customers for positive feedback. First off, NEVER ask an unhappy customer for a review. You’d think that goes without saying but WOW, we’ve seen some crazy things over the years. The two most effective times and places to ask for feedback are:
Ask In Person
The digital world will never replace eye contact and a hand shake. When a customer commits in this way, the odds of them following through go through the roof.
For example a vehicle sales person may spend hours assisting a customer in picking out the right car or truck for their family. They get acquainted with one another throughout the day, talk about their home towns, their kids, and so on. A friendship is built in a short time.
At the end of the day, there is no person in the company better to solicit a review than this sales person. If you are considering asking shoppers for reviews, first attempt to find out the customer “touch points” and who has built the relationship with the customer. Set up a system whereby these people are trained to followup and pop the question – “Would you be willing to leave feedback?”
Asking By Email
Soliciting reviews through email is a bit less effective. But, in cases where you do not have much face time with a customer, email may be your only option.
Here are some best practices for your email review request message:
- Send the email from someone they worked with.
- Write the email as a personal request from that same person.
- Include a call-to-action link.
- Make it a part of a Thank You email. In fact, the review request should be AFTER you stated your appreciation for their business.
Add Citation Sites or Directory Websites
Adding citation sites or directory sites to your review profile is valuable because it allows your customers to use the platform of their choice. This is great for the customer and for your business. Review diversity is great for the search engines and these platforms provide valuable backlinks as well. Once your Yelp and Google My Business profiles are sufficiently optimized, you can even start soliciting reviews directly to YellowPages.com and so on.
If you have any questions or input, please share in the comment section below. If you’d like Operation Web to help you get more lead and customers, fill out this form and we’ll contact you soon.