When you’re running a small business, word-of-mouth marketing is essential to your success.
And in 2021, word-of-mouth marketing takes form in consumer reviews.
Reviews provide social proof to potential customers. They make your brand seem trustworthy, and offer valuable feedback from the people who know your product or service best – your customers. Most importantly, reviews play a critical role in the purchasing process, with 97 percent of shoppers saying reviews influence their buying decisions.
Reviews are becoming increasingly important to the success of your small business, so how can you go about obtaining them?
The following tips are tried-and-true methods for driving consumer reviews. More importantly, they’re easy to implement, making them perfect for the time-strapped small business owner.
Read on to the following tips and you’ll be gathering reviews (and reaping the benefits) in no time at all.
Timing may not be everything, but it’s certainly something.
And when you’re asking somebody to take minutes from their day to review your product or service, it’s important to get it right. This means timing the ask at the moment the potential reviewer is most likely to say yes.
Of course, this will differ on a person-by-person basis, but there are a few tried-and-true times that are likely to result in a review.
If you monitor mentions of your brand on social media, you should reach out to users who are posting about their experience with your offering. Since they’re already talking about their experience, a review would be a natural next step. If you ask, they’ll likely oblige.
Another opportune time to ask for a review would be if a customer refers a friend to your business. Just like the social media mention, this customer is already talking about your business – all you need to do is ask them to write it down!
Customers shouldn’t have to bend over backward to write a review for your product. If you’re asking for their time, the process following the ask should be as seamless as possible.
For example, if you’re emailing somebody to see if they’d write a Yelp review, the email should include a link to the exact review form. The customer shouldn’t have to log on to Yelp, search for your restaurant, determine which of the eight “Lobster Shacks” listed is the right one, and so on. It should be built directly into the customer journey roadmap.
Asking for this extra work may seem inconsequential, but it can be incredibly frustrating for the reviewer and may result in a less-than-positive review (or worse – no review at all).
Small-business owners are already wearing a lot of different hats. They’re their own marketing team, sales team, website developer – and that’s just scraping the surface.
All of these responsibilities combined create a hectic workday, and it’s easy for review generation to fall to the backburner. Luckily, small-business owners are also scrappy. They understand how to work smarter, not harder, which is why so many implement an online reputation management software tool.
These tools will help you monitor different review platforms, aggregate and interpret online reviews, and most importantly, provide a vehicle to garner new reviews.
Whether you’ve always struggled with review generation or would simply like to ramp up your program, implementing a software tool may be the best solution.
Before we continue, we need to make one thing clear: incentivizing positive reviews is not just immoral – it’s illegal, too.
Incentivizing an honest review, on the other hand, is totally fair-game (and common business practice). Your customer is taking time out of their day to offer insightful feedback, and sending them a small token of your thanks (think: a gift card, coupon code, or similar) is a simple way to show your appreciation.
If gift cards aren’t your thing, there’s a new trend in incentives that’s sure to delight your customers – acts of giving.
Instead of offering a $10 gift card, brands have opted to donate the money to a charitable cause they’re passionate about. This can almost be more appealing than that Starbucks card, with reviewers excited about the idea of contributing to a cause that resonates with them.
Your customers are more than just a potential positive review, and they should be treated as such.
This means starting a real conversation about their experience with your product or service. Instead of diving straight into the review request, try asking open-ended questions (via email or a survey form) to gauge their satisfaction (or lack thereof) with your business.
You can have these conversations in person, over the phone, email, or even on social media – whichever way you typically communicate with your customers. Regardless of channel, these conversations are especially valuable, as customers willing to speak with you will likely take the extra couple of minutes to write a review, too, meaning this review ask will have a higher conversion rate than others.
When the conversation wraps up, thank the customer for their time and ask if they’d be willing to document their feedback in an online review.
If they say yes, then great! Your team gets another review and you won’t be taken off-guard by its content.
If they say no, that’s okay, too. Don’t think of it as a total loss – you’ve still gained valuable feedback and started building a relationship with your customer for future follow-up campaigns.
Another effective way to encourage positive reviews and overall customer satisfaction is by regularly sending your customers feedback surveys. Not only will surveys make them feel heard, they'll also help you understand which aspects of your business could do with some improvement.
Feedback surveys are incredibly cheap and easy to run. With an investment of 5 minutes, you could be collecting some extremely valuable data to take your business to the next level. This guide on conducting customer satisfaction surveys is all you'll need to get started.
While there’s an abundance of ways to finetune your sites mobile experience, the following are a couple that should be relatively easy to implement – perfect for those small-biz owners lacking time and budget.
As a rule of thumb, users shouldn’t have to pinch to zoom, which is preventable if you increase your font size on mobile. Additionally, touch elements should be far enough away from each other so that users aren’t struggling to tap an element without hitting the one next to it.
If you’re really strapped for time, optimizing for mobile can be as simple as selecting a responsive template or theme – this means the display will adapt depending on the device being used.
The act of engaging with or responding to reviews may seem secondary when it comes to review generation, but in fact, that’s not the case at all.
To understand this, we need to look at the real reason consumers write reviews – validation. Offering feedback on a product or service is one of the ways consumers will choose to make their voice heard. Put simply, it’s empowering.
In a world where so many reviews go unread, responding to reviews makes it clear that your team values the feedback. For potential reviewers seeking validation, seeing a response from the brand could be enough for them to start writing.
Do you want to make it evident to your customers that you value authentic reviews? Easy! Use them in your social media marketing efforts.
Not only are customer reviews a great resource for free, user-generated-content, but sharing them on various social media channels will encourage your followers to offer their own feedback, too.
You’re officially equipped to start gathering reviews. Gathering reviews may seem daunting, but it shouldn’t! Using the tips above, you can start driving reviews today. And get excited, because you’ll start seeing the benefits shortly thereafter!
Claire Brenner is the content marketing team lead at G2.com. Hailing from the University of Dayton, Claire found her way back home to Chicago upon joining G2 in May of 2016. An avid writer and eager learner, she discovered a passion for content marketing – one that continues to keep every day at work even more exciting than the last. In her free time, you’ll find Claire practicing calligraphy, seeking out the city’s best BYOB sushi restaurants, and planning her next trip.
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