Online reviews are no longer only for restaurants and dry cleaners. According to a recent Nielsen survey, recommendations from family and friends are still the most trusted source of referrals, with 92 percent of consumers trusting word-of-mouth recommendations. However, trust in online reviews is significant and growing, with 70 percent of consumers worldwide trusting customer testimonials. That is a 15 percent increase in just four years.
Many small businesses have already jumped on this free online marketing opportunity. Here are a few reasons why increasing online reviews should be a top priority in your marketing efforts.
1. Online Endorsements Make Your Company Look Tech Savvy. Often clients want to see additional reviews, even if the client initially contacted you because of a glowing review from a friend or family member. While it has traditionally been sufficient to provide them with typed up thank-you notes or reference lists, this type of presentation may make your business seem out of touch. Why not point them to your LinkedIn profile or Yelp reviews? This makes your company look in vogue and also gets you closer to the close by saving customers the step of contacting (read: bothering) past clients.
2. Online Reviews Will Eventually Be a Large Part of Your Referral Business. Online referrals will not be a large source of new business immediately, but it is likely that it will be in five to ten years. The millennial generation is coming into its own and making up a larger part of the national consumption. Unsurprisingly, the tech friendly millennial generation weighs friends and family referrals 50/50 with the online reviews of total strangers, according to a Bazaarvoice study.
3. Reputation Management Is Trending for a Reason. Many large companies and public figures are concerned about their online reputation, but maintaining a positive image online is especially critical for small businesses. Smart business owners know that not all clients will be perfectly happy at the end of every project and that these clients can be big trouble for business. There is nothing that can prevent crabby clients from taking to the streets of the Internet, but you can diminish the impact on your business by preemptively padding the blow with loads of positive reviews. Most people will dismiss the one person that had “the worst experience ever” if ten other people love your work. At the very least, a mix of reviews may make consumers open to investigating further instead of immediately crossing you off the potential vendor list.
Where to get reviews largely depends on your industry and where consumers are researching about projects or looking to find qualified professionals. However, here a few sites to consider.
- Yelp.com: With 39 million local reviews, Yelp is the place to be for any local business. Not to mention four out five Yelp users visit the site when they are prepared to spend money. Many of your clients probably already use Yelp on a regular basis and will be happy to provide a testimonial using the site’s familiar format.
- LinkedIn.com: LinkedIn is one of the top social-networking sites for business. While it is not the first place people will look to hire you, LinkedIn profiles are always ranked high in Google searches, and therefore it may be one of the first sites to come up when consumers do their investigative homework. Recommendations not only live on your profile, but they also live on the profile of the individual who wrote the review, which instantly expands the number of individuals outside your network that could see the endorsement.
- Houzz.com: Houzz is fast-growing platform dedicated to home remodeling, design, and construction. Creating a free profile on the Find Local Pros section is an excellent way to showcase your work and happy client testimonials.
- Peopleperhour.com: PPH allows you to create a free profile to display a portfolio and clients’ reviews. The site makes it easy for you to obtain reviews quickly by providing a template email for you to send to past clients. The more reviews you receive, the higher you move up in the search results on PPH. An easy-to-install HTML widget can immediately link your website to your profile on PPH.
Ultimately, obtaining reviews from clients is very much like sales—it’s a numbers game. Two responses out of 10 requests is a successful response rate. It will take considerable time and dedication to build up a solid arsenal of five-star write-ups, especially if you are a team of one. Don’t forget to be strategic. You aren’t going to be able to ask a client to review you on multiple sites, so focus on gathering endorsements on one site at time.