How to embrace online reviews for your business

Love it, loathe it or hide under the bed from it, your customers are going to talk about you. And the chances are that at least some of that will be online.

A government study in 2015 estimated that £23 bn a year of UK consumer spending is potentially influenced by online reviews. With a prize that big up for grabs, focusing some energy on the review process could be great for your profits.

And when it comes to winning over new customers, independent feedback is the magic sauce that will flavour your marketing efforts with authenticity. We’re social animals and busy ones at that, so knowing that a bunch of people already use and value a product reassures us in a way that no amount of corporate description will.

Here are five steps to embracing online reviews for your business:

 1. Be bold and ask for them

Be polite, be friendly and take a chance when someone next gives you feedback: “thanks for the kind words, we’d really appreciate you leaving us a review.”

The surprising thing is that, while we might feel like we’re imposing on a customer by asking, they may well get a little boost out of it. People love to be asked their opinion, and you are showing that you value what they have to say.

2. Find out where people are talking

If you’re not sure where you’d like your customers to post reviews, ask them how they heard about you. Are you appearing on Yelp, Google, OpenTable, Facebook…? Ask others to post there in future. Many online review sites offer widgets, badges or tools that you can then link to your website.

The other benefit of chatting with your customers about how they found you is that it might flag up online hotspots you’ve never heard of. My neighbourhood is networked with a 4,000-strong secret Facebook group for parents. The smart businesses don’t try and advertise there, but they do keep an eye on the conversation so they can thank their advocates.

3. Offer an incentive… maybe

It might be tempting to offer free drinks for a 5-star review, but you are in dangerous territory. TripAdvisor, for example, bans properties listed with them from offering any review incentives. They even have a team dedicated to spotting and punishing anyone breaking the rules. Get familiar with the terms and conditions of any site you’re hoping to feature on.

In general, though, offering a reward for a review is a great way to encourage people to get writing. Just be absolutely certain to reward all reviews – good or bad – if you want to boost, not bust, your reputation.

4. Keep it real

Never, ever make up a review. Like the TripAdvisor example, lots of review sites are hot, and getting hotter all the time, about weeding out fake reviews. Their own reputation relies on it after all. The potential damage to you from being found out is simply not worth it.

5. Don’t fear the odd bad review

It’s inevitable that you’ll get some less-than-glowing reviews but don’t panic. They can build confidence that all your good and great ones are real. In fact, there is evidence that consumers are switched off by a stream of 5-star reviews.

Do try and respond quickly to these reviews though. You’ll demonstrate that you’re responsive to your customers and committed to their happiness.

With luck, you have opened the door to a river of fantastic and reassuring words about your products and services.

In the next post, I’ll talk about how you can use these words to supercharge your business’s copy and content marketing. And If you need some help squeezing the goodness from your existing reviews, please get in touch.

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