Digital marketing has forever changed the advertising landscape. In our social, mobile, hyper-connected world, user-generated content is the new “king.”
One prominent method among the online community that demonstrates this shift toward consumer contribution is the tried-and-true business review. More and more customers are getting into the act, and businesses need to pay attention.
91% of consumers search for and read reviews regularly to inform a decision. User reviews are no longer a simple nicety. Businesses that include reviews and feedback from customers as part of their marketing strategy have found an excellent way to build brand reputation.
They're not being ignored by potential customers, and they shouldn't be ignored by you either.
Here are a few tips and techniques to help you tap into this invaluable (and free) marketing avenue, as well as some ways to leverage reviews to affect your brand reputation positively.
A Simple “Would You Mind?”
That's right. Ask.
It may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, but surprisingly few businesses do it.
There is a misconception that online reputation is synonymous with social media mentions (good or bad). The reality is that social media is becoming so cluttered, people are turning to more focused content. Enter customer reviews.
Some owners, managers, staff may not be comfortable asking outright for customers to submit reviews. Here are a few less intrusive ways to solicit reviews:
It's a much softer approach to send a request for a review in an email. Make it as easy as possible for the customer by including a link to the review site or sites you use.
This is also a way you can pick and choose. Have staff make note of customers who had a fabulous experience and make sure to send an email to those folks. Be timely, also. You want to send the email while the fantastic experience is still top-of-mind.
Create a Contest
It's important not to give the impression that you are paying for reviews. Anyone (even the negative reviewer) is eligible for your weekly or monthly giveaway.
Link, Link, Link
Everywhere a customer interacts with your business digitally should have links to review sites. When your working on your brand visibility, remember to add this to your digital strategy.
Your website should have multiple pages with links to review sites. Of course, they need to make sense. You don't want a link to a review site on your services page. (But what great spot for reviews already received, aka customer testimonials!)
Include a call to action and link to a review site as a postscript in every email you send.
Respond Rapidly — Your Brand Reputation Depends on It
The best way to leverage customer reviews to strengthen your company's brand reputation is by responding to every review you receive. Quickly.
According to Yelp, the review site of all review sites “Responding to reviews is a great way to learn from and build goodwill with one of your most vocal customers.”
Before you start tapping away on the keyboard understand that your response should be carefully thought out. Just as in texting, the reader does not hear your tone of voice or see your body language. Make sure the intentions of your message are clear. Don't leave room for misinterpretation.
When drafting a response Yelp offers some great advice on what to keep in mind:
- The majority of reviews come from people who paid you for your product or service
- Those paying customers are also humans with feelings
- Be sensitive (even to the angry one) because they are obviously vocal and like to share their opinions
It's also important to be timely. A quick response accomplishes a lot.
A quick response shows you care enough to pay attention. It signifies an interest in engaging with your customers. And by effectively responding to customer feedback you take the lead in protecting your brand reputation.
Especially in the case of the inevitable negative review
Don't Bury Your Head in the Sand
Whether warranted or not, you'll eventually cross paths with a not-so-pleasant reviewer. The way you respond — and Yes! You must respond! — speaks volumes.
In fact, handling a negative review with finesse can have a positive effect on your brand reputation, rather than the negative outcome intended by the review.
The Moz offers some keen insights into what they call “The Quintet of Review Types.” They highlight real-world examples of how to handle everything from the brimming-with-love reviewer to the attempt at brand reputation assassination.
Always keep in mind that a negative review isn't the end of the world. And it doesn't sway a potential customer's decision as much as you think.
A BrightLocal survey found that 72% of internet users said they would consider local businesses even with 3-star ratings. This same group also admitted they will read 6-10 reviews before making a determination about a business.
The takeaway from this: after you've orchestrated a beautiful response to that negative review, make sure you have plenty of positive reviews for potential customers to read too.
Cause Killer Commentary
In other words, be stellar.
The best way to receive positive reviews is to provide customers with the best experience possible.
Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet sums it up by saying “In this always-on, hyper-connected, mobile world, customers are sharing those experiences online, everywhere, and those shared experiences become the currency of influence. Customers increasingly rely on the experiences people have and share to inform and shape their decisions and next steps.”
Make sure those next steps are into your business by providing over-the-top customer experiences to everyone, before and after they pay.
A customer's experience is measured by how they react.
Your online brand reputation does reflect on your company, but it does not ultimately define it.
You can dump loads of money into advertising your company, but there's a better, less expensive way. Take every opportunity available to leverage the customers you have today to influence and win your customers of the future.
And if you're looking for a way to boost your online visibility, even more, consider adding a 360 Virtual Tour to your Google street view listing. At Montreal 360, we'll help you invite clients into your business before they leave their home.