Online reviews needn’t be something you approach with fear and dread – in fact, they can boost your practice.
The trick is to think of reviews as marketing tools, not just performance evaluations. The following statistics show their potential reach:
- 86 percent of U.S. consumers study online reviews of local businesses.
- Forty percent read one to three reviews before making a purchase decision.
- Ten percent regularly share their opinions about a business or brand with their online connections.
- Forty percent share their opinions on social media.
“Soliciting and acknowledging consumer feedback is both an exercise to recruit new customers and to retain existing ones,” writes digital marketer Taral Patel for Brandwatch. “They can strengthen sales and brand loyalty, provided they are integrated into your marketing strategy.”
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Online Reviews are Social Proof
If you’re in business, you’ll get reviews. Here are 11 pointers for turning reviews to your advantage:
- Don’t purchase fake reviews. There are lots of websites – often located in other countries – that will provide positive reviews for a price. Stay away from these services. Consumers can smell a rat. Even if they can’t smell one, they can go to a free site like Fakespot, which evaluates Amazon and Yelp reviews for authenticity. Half a billion online users have visited Fakespot to do an integrity check of business reviews, says Patel.
- Authenticity sells. Real reviews are not always glowing. Sometimes they’re negative. Other times they offer unsolicited or unfeasible suggestions. No matter. You can turn a lump of coal into a diamond with a thoughtful response.
- All word of mouth advertising – good or bad – has value. Car manufacturers like Nissan get this. They created web pages dedicated to sharing their customer’s auto reviews and ratings.
- Ask your clients for a review. Don’t be shy. Nothing is better than a positive review from a satisfied client.
- Use email to solicit reviews. If you have an email subscription list, you’ve already got a ready-made fan base. In your next eblast or e-newsletter, include a Call to Action asking recipients to post a review. Don’t have an email list? Add a window or popup to your website for people to sign up.
- Share positive reviews. “When others see that people are leaving you great reviews, they’ll be more inclined to do so themselves,” writes Syed Balkhi in Entrepreneur. “In fact, according to Psychology Today, people look at what others are doing to learn what’s correct. That’s social proof in action.”
- Reply to all reviews. Don’t just respond to negative postings. Acknowledge positive ones as well. This shows future clients that you’re active and engaged online. Balkhi cites this study in the Harvard Business Review, which found that replying to customer reviews (good and bad) results in better ratings overall. In the study, subjects who read a response to a scathing comment left a higher “star” higher rating than subjects who read no response.
- Look for opportunities for growth. Seeing a pattern of reviews that are critical of your office accessibility, billing practices or communication style? Make changes. Don’t get bitter, get better.
- Sign up for social media notifications. Media management software such as Sprout Social, Google Alerts and Buffer make it easy to be alerted when you’re mentioned online.
- Use best practices when responding. Never argue with a client or former client online. Consider calling them to discuss the situation. If their complaint has merit, take steps to fix the problem. Remain polite and professional. Don’t use cut-and-paste responses. Never use profanity, hate language or religious/ethnic/racial references.
- Provide excellent service. A great client experience will lead to a great review. Don’t forget to say please and thank you. A personal note could earn you five stars.
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