Word-of-mouth has always been the most coveted channel of marketing. Why? Marketing from peers is effective. A fellow buyer understands the factors and is presumably not acting in his own self interest when rendering a suggestion. Common ground allows trust to form for a transparent discussion about the motivations behind a purchase decision. Suggestions from an unbiased, transparent, trusted source will always prevail against the alternatives. This is the reason that, despite their numerous flaws, review sites are so popular today.
In his recent book, Everyone’s a Critic: Winning Customers in a Review Driven World, Bill Tancer summarizes the environment that business owners currently face:
Today everything is reviewable: this [blog] that you’re reading right now, what you had for lunch yesterday, the cafe that you frequent most mornings, your dry cleaner, your doctor, your dentist, your blender, your professor, your favorite music, your date, even you.
Indeed, people have become captivated with review sites in a way that many businesses simply did not foresee. A Google trend analysis shows the explosion in popularity for the review site Yelp over the last ten years. According to Yelp, the site now serves content to more than 140 million visitors per month and hosts over 77 million reviews. Needless to say, this phenomenon has had drastic impacts, both positive and negative, on many companies.
There is a lot of negative sentiment towards websites which collect reviews. In a world where one star can cost a company between four and nine percent in revenue, the temptation for the disgruntled or unethical to misuse review platforms is obvious. Nevertheless, the popularity of review sites is at an all time high with the Digital Influence Index reporting that almost 90% of consumers consult reviews at some point before making a purchase decision. For the prudent business owner, this trend represents an opportunity to interact with customers while they are in the process of making a purchase decision. Therefore, what will ultimately separate the businesses which succeed from those which fail in this environment is the strategy they employ to generate positive reviews online.
A window of opportunity exists for any company that is willing to make reviews a priority right now. The fact is that most business owners are either in denial or too preoccupied by the inherent flaws in online reviews to use this channel as a way to market their business. Bill Tancer studied this concept in depth and concluded that “those small business owners who have figured out how to harness the power of reviews find themselves with a flood of new customers, while those who choose to turn a blind eye…are left wondering where the customers have gone” (Tancer, 2014).
It is not difficult or time consuming to create alerts or claim your Google My Business and Yelp pages. A free social media monitoring dashboard like hootsuite ensures that you have an active overview of what is being said about your brand online. Alternatively, you may consider purchasing reputation monitoring software to ensure that you are always taking an active role when your company is being discussed on the Internet. At the moment, paying attention and participating will set you apart from your competition and help you generate positive reviews online because your business will become more available, responsive, and transparent.
Andy Beal, an online reputation Guru, has written an entire book on the advantages of being transparent today. In his latest offering, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation, Beal gets to the heart of the matter, “It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or how you conduct your business, your customers are checking out online reviews in an effort to judge whether to trust you or not” (Beal, 2014). Trust is everything and the best way to build trust is to be transparent and available. Companies that do what they say they will do, listen to customer concerns, and correct problems when they arise will not only be more likely to generate positive reviews, they will be far less likely to sustain any reputation damage from negative reviews. Beal continues, “Find a way to connect with your customer directly and make a positive impression. That way if your customers have a problem, they reach out to you first, not the review app on their smartphone” (Beal, 2014). Being transparent with your customers will increase their confidence in your company and build trust. Once customers have faith in your brand, all you need to do to generate positive reviews online is give customers a topic to write about.
Go the Extra Mile
Napoleon Hill is is a name synonymous with timeless business advice. Consider his thoughts on the extra mile: “You can start right where you stand and apply the habit of going the extra mile by rendering more service and better service than you are now being paid for.” Simply put, most people are not motivated to write a review about a normal experience with a company. After all, normal experiences happen all the time. People are motivated to write positive reviews when they are impressed. Tancer adds, “One of the most effective anecdotes to commoditization is to provide something that falls outside the equation, something unexpected and memorable.” (Tancer, 2014). This does not have to be a big thing, it just needs to be unexpected and leave an impression to work effectively.
A great way to learn how to generate positive reviews online is to read reviews for other businesses. Take stock of what people write about in both negative and positive reviews. Learn what your customers are most displeased with, and what inspires them to publicly complement companies online. Find ways to apply this information to provide your customers with a better experience. Remember that many companies are still neglecting reviews despite their demonstrated impacts on revenue. Companies choosing to make reviews a priority, be available and transparent with their customers, and go the extra mile will win out in the review economy.
What other strategies have you used to earn great reviews?
Tancer, B. (2014). Everyone's a critic: Winning customers in a review-driven world (p. 4, 17, 146). New York, New York: Penguin.
Beal, A. (2014). Repped: 30 days to a better online reputation (p. 91, 93, 96). Raleigh, NC: Andy Beal/Marketing Pilgrim LLC.