No matter what industry you operate in, you can’t ignore the importance of online reviews, especially if you’re a small business. A whopping 86% of consumers now read reviews for local businesses, including 95% of people aged 18-34—91% of whom trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
So what does this mean for your small business? If you want your business to survive in the online age, you will need to create a strong online reputation. A reputation is different than simply having a presence like a website or social media page—your reputation is how people view your business, and it can have a measurable impact on your bottom line.
Managing your online reputation may seem like a daunting task, but there are a number of simple things you can do to ensure your business maintains a positive rep. Here are a few reputation management tips you can use today:
1. Create a strategy for reading and responding to reviews
Small business owners already have a lot to deal with, from conducting day-to-day operations to managing your business’s finances. Review management can be time consuming, and it’s easy to let this important task slip to the bottom of your to-do list.
Instead of reacting to bad reviews as they come in, smart business owners take a proactive approach to managing their reputation by creating a strategy for how they’ll read and respond to reviews before they have to deal with a negative one. Developing a strategic approach gives you a roadmap to follow when you’re dealing with a bad review, which makes it easier to respond objectively without getting emotional, and will ultimately make the task feel less daunting.
When creating your strategy, be sure to address these elements:
- What reviews will you respond to? If you are limited for time, start by prioritizing responses to negative reviews or 1 or 2-star reviews.
- When will you respond? Set aside time every day or week to read your reviews, and try to respond as quickly as you can.
- How will you respond? Whatever you do, always respond objectively and resist the urge to get defensive. Some businesses owners create template responses that can be customized as needed, but it’s important not to respond to all reviews with the same message—this is a dead giveaway that you didn’t put any time or thought into your response, and can suggest that you don’t value the review or care enough to personalize your message.
2. Respond to negative reviews
As hard as it may be to directly confront your bad reviews, it’s critically important for businesses—especially small businesses—to address negative reviews quickly and politely. 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit businesses that respond to negative reviews.
A bad review left unattended can quickly snowball if the reviewer shares their negative experience with others, or if other reviewers see their negative comments and begin to add their own. Here’s some good news: nobody is perfect, and consumers recognize this. If handled properly, a few bad reviews aren’t going to tank your business. You can limit their negative impact by:
- Responding as soon as you can.
- Accepting responsibility, even if it’s not really your fault. It’s not about you—it’s about your customer and their experience.
- Apologize for their experience. A simple “sorry” can go a long way to repairing a relationship.
- Offer a solution or demonstrate that you’ve taken steps to resolve the issue.
|GREENBOX GUIDANCE: Respond quickly—40% of consumers only take into account reviews written in the last two weeks.|
3. Prioritize customer service
The best way to ensure that your business receives positive reviews is to provide top-notch service. If you provide stellar service that exceeds your competition, your customers will be more inclined to leave a review than they would following a mediocre experience.
Your business’s customer service should also be responsive. This is not limited to answering customer questions online, in person, or on the phone—it also includes activities like affirming comments talking about how good your product or service is by responding to positive reviews as well as negative ones.
4. Monitor your reputation
Keep an eye on social media, forums, and across the web for mentions of your brand to monitor how people feel and talk about your business. This will help you understand your business’s “brand sentiment” and reputation, as well as give you an opportunity to spot potentially problematic conversations before they can seriously impact your bottom line. Regularly monitoring your online reputation can also help you uncover any potential brand ambassadors who can further boost your reputation.
|NOTE: The more sites you have a profile on, the more sites you’ll have to monitor. If you are limited for time, focus on 2 or 3 of the top review sites related to your business.|
You don’t have to do it all on your own—there are a number of tools available to help brands and business owners with social monitoring. You may also wish to conduct regular surveys of your customers to get an idea of how they feel about your brand, what you’re doing well, and what you could do better.
How To Get Customers to Leave Reviews
50% of local marketers don’t have the time to put more effort into managing their online reputation. As a small business owner, how do you get customers to leave reviews without devoting too much time to this task? Here are 4 ways to get customers to review your business:
- Be present. The easier it is to review your business, the more reviews you’ll get. Create or claim existing profiles on all major review sites (including Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Trip Advisor, and BBB) so that your customers can leave reviews wherever is easiest for them. Include a link to all your profiles on your website.
- Ask! 70% of consumers who are asked to leave a review will write one. Ask for a review at check out, post a sign near your till, or create tabletop cards for cafes and restaurants. If you collect customer emails, you can also follow up a few weeks later with an email request.
- Share positive reviews. Highlight positive reviews on your website or social media channels to provide social proof that may encourage more customers to share reviews (and good reviews to boot).
- Respond to all reviews, if you can. 89% of consumers read businesses’s responses to reviews. Responding to all reviews shows your current clientele and any potential customers that you are an active business with a vested interest in making sure your patrons are satisfied, which may in turn encourage them to give you a review.
In today’s online economy, no business owner can ignore their online reviews. A few bad reviews can be discouraging, but there are easy ways for business owners in all industries to improve their online reputation, including:
- Creating a proactive strategy for reading and responding to reviews
- Prioritizing top-notch customer service across all touchpoints
- Responding to negative reviews quickly and politely
- Regularly monitoring reviews and mentions of your brand online
Ready to boost your marketing budget? A small business working capital loan can provide the infusion of cash flow you need to jumpstart your online reputation management and keep on top of your online reviews.