While digital marketing is always evolving, one thing remains constant: The importance of word of mouth.
In the old days, word of mouth was quite literally done by the exchange of words coming out of people’s mouths over casual chit-chats.
Those conversations about businesses still happen IRL, but have largely moved online.
Think about it – wouldn’t you rather trust a recommendation from a friend or family over a branded commercial?
In fact, people trust other people more than they could ever trust a brand or its ads.
There are many online review stats that prove this point:
91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.
82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses.
76% trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends.
The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business.
So, without a doubt, more (and better) online customer reviews can make all the difference.
It may seem daunting at first, but garnering more reviews for your local business isn’t as hard as you might think.
Just try the following eight techniques.
1. Collect Email Addresses During Billing
Asking for the customer’s email address and phone number at the time of purchase is a big step toward landing a review from them.
Because usually, if someone is willing to share these contact details with a business, it is highly likely they had a satisfactory experience and thereby, quite likely to share their experience with others.
Once you have their emails, send a friendly follow up after a week and ask them to write an honest review about their experience with your business.
Provide a choice of review platforms, such as Google My Business, Yelp, or Trustpilot, so they can pick what’s more convenient for them.
2. Use In-Store Placards to Encourage Reviews
Being a local business with a brick-and-mortar store, you can make use of in-store signage to spur reviews.
This can be in the form of banners, flyers, brochures, and window clings.
You can also include a review request at the bottom of the bill receipts.
Furthermore, you can have a kiosk with an in-store app that can direct customers to a page on the business website to leave an on-site review.
Or, you can even have a QR code that when scanned, points to a list of review profile links which enables them to choose the platform of their choice to write a review.
These are clear cues to customers about your desire and appreciation for online feedback, proving you care about their opinions and continuous improvement of your services.
3. Verbally Mention How Much You’d Appreciate Honest Feedback
Train your employees to mention how much an honest review would be appreciated, especially if a customer seems satisfied.
Of course, this tactic won’t be effective if there’s a line of customers and the person at the counter keeps repeating the same “please review us” message to everyone.
But, when the rapport is right, a friendly staff member should be authorized to use their judgment to say, “It’d be great if you’d consider dropping a review about <business name>”.
In this case, an ask for a review will sound heartfelt instead of pushy. Keep in mind that this applies to both in-store staff and online/phone support.
4. Include Review Reminders on Your Website
The easier you make it for your customers to leave a review, the better the odds you have of landing more reviews.
It sounds super obvious and yet so many businesses aren’t making any effort to simplify the review writing process for their customers.
You see, a big reason why most people don’t leave a review is that they don’t want to make an effort to “learn” how to do so.
Even if they do know how to, it’s just viewed as an unnecessary tedious process which they can’t be bothered with.
So, make it as straightforward as you can for your customers to leave their valuable feedback.
Use call-to-action buttons and pop-ups (not in an annoying way) on your website to lead them to your Yelp or Google My Business review page.
Consider using a direct link generator tool like Supple to generate a unique Google review link for your business and send it to your customers via email.
Clicking on this link brings customers directly to the URL on Google My Business where all they have to do is write the review and post it.
Don’t expect your customers to follow an elaborate path for writing reviews as it’s highly unlikely they’d do that.
5. Incentivize the Process
As there’s nothing tangible in it for them, most people need a nudge to write a review. And that nudge comes in the form of incentives such as vouchers, gift cards, reward points, and special offers.
In this way, customers would feel it’s worth their time to post a review, making it a win-win for both parties. This also serves to improve customer retention and loyalty to your local business.
Note that there’s a difference between providing incentives to actual customers to write honest reviews and directly buying fake reviews from people.
Never do the latter, not only is it unethical but it’ll only hurt your business in the long run. Always ask and incentivize for genuine feedback.
6. Leverage Social Media
You can use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to post specific questions regarding your business’s performance.
Interested followers can be directed to leave a review on their choice of review platform.
For instance, if you have a restaurant business, you might informally ask if there was an older menu item that was discontinued that your followers really miss.
You could ask customers to mention that in their review as a “vote” for bringing it back.
This technique empowers customers to share fun stories in the form of reviews while boosting the social media engagement of your brand.
7. Thoughtfully Respond to All Reviews
No matter how busy you are, if someone takes the time to review your business, it’s your duty to respond.
And while it’s always advisable to avoid sounding robotic as a brand, even a simple timely “thank you” can encourage customers to stick around with your business.
In other words, your response should ideally be personalized and uniquely worded.
When people see that you respond to every review, good or bad, it gives the impression that the business truly cares about consumer sentiment, thus providing an incentive for new customers to take a moment to share their own experiences.
Also, don’t feel dejected by negative reviews – they help make your brand more authentic.
If all the reviews are sunshine and rainbows, there’s almost always something fishy.
People would start doubting the authenticity of those reviews.
Here are some guidelines to follow when responding to negative reviews:
Respond as quickly as you can.
Acknowledge your mistake.
Explain your point of view courteously.
Write a meaningful and personal apology (even if you think it’s not your fault).
Provide an immediate resolution or compensation (such as a refund, voucher, etc.).
Request to take the matter offline if things seem to be getting out of hand.
Use bad reviews as an opportunity to improve your business and show that you care about your customers’ satisfaction.
Go back to the drawing board and fix the root cause of the problem.
Long story short, follow the golden rule of responding to reviews ― always respond and never respond harshly.
8. Delight Your Customers With a Great Experience
Your customers’ in-store experience is what’s pivotal to the amount and quality of reviews you’ll receive.
If a customer is awestruck with your product, service, or the experience they had, they’ll feel obliged to leave a review.
Delighting customers and exceeding their expectations is key to more and better reviews.
So, if you are striving to deliver the best possible customer experience, rest assured it would pay off.
Can you remember the last time you did business with a local store without first checking its reviews online?
Customer reviews serve as one of the best forms of social proof for your business.
More often than not, online reviews are the tipping point where prospects convert into customers.
Not to mention they carry a lot of weight in terms of achieving better rankings on Google.
So, if you don’t already, it’s time to give online word of mouth the attention it deserves and focus on earning more customer reviews for your local business.
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