“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
— Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com
Do you want to know the single most important element to your marketing strategy? It is social proof: You have to get people saying awesome things about your company.
As it stands, 91 percent of all consumers read online reviews prior to making a purchase. The bottom line is that if your business has poor reviews (or only a few), you can pretty much guarantee that your company will be negatively impacted by its lack of social proof.
For many small business owners, demystifying the process of amassing a bundle of happy reviews feels like a Herculean task.
I promise it’s not as difficult or mysterious as it sounds. To help you accomplish this goal, this article lays out the two most important factors in boosting your online ratings.
First, let’s go over some reasons why this ambitious work is well worth the reward.
5 Incentives for Bettering Your Reviews
There are many reasons why you should want to increase your ratings online. A few of these reasons are:
1. Free advertising
With every review your business garners, your customers are helping to advertise your brand, effectively increasing awareness around your company.
The type of reviews you gain, however, will determine if the publicity received is wanted or not.
2. Social Proof
Studies have shown that consumers are far more likely to trust the review of a peer than any advert you can publish. While recommendations from friends, family, or acquaintances are best, folks are still inclined to lend credence to online reviews.
For instance, a 2016 Bright Local survey uncovered that out of its 1,000-plus respondents, 84 percent trusted reviews as much as a personal endorsement.
Positive reviews provide the social proof needed to generate new customers.
3. A Boost to SEO
Search engines like Google take reviews into account when ranking local search results. Studies conducted by Moz point toward the thought that reviews account for upward of 10 percent of how search engines rank listings.
Therefore, the more reviews you have and the better they are, the higher you are likely to rank.
4. Constructive Criticism
Not all the reviews you will receive are going to be good; that’s just how it goes. Negative reviews, however, are great opportunities to convert a troubled consumer into a loyal customer or to improve your business practices.
We’ll come back to this a bit later for more advice on how to make lemonade.
5. A More Intimate Relationship with Customers
Such as with social media, responding to customers who leave reviews (positive or negative) shows that you are interested in their thoughts, opinions and experiences.
Through this forum, customers can get to know you more personally and vice versa, while also feeling that they are heard as a patron.
We’ll revisit the benefits of responding to reviews momentarily, as well.
The Most Important Factors to Increased Ratings
When it comes to increasing your ratings, there are two highly effective avenues.
The first method can make a major impact, but it is far from easy or even sexy; it’s mostly just hard work, but it can be rewarding.
This technique is to merely deliver an incredible customer experience.
According to a study conducted by Walker – a customer intelligence consulting firm – customer experience will top price and product as the key differentiator among brands by 2020.
Moreover, eight out of 10 customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
Furthermore, research has shown that happy customers, on average, tell nine friends about their positive experience with a business.
The bottom line is that people care about customer service and their overall experience. If you place customers at the center of everything you do, it will be reflected in your reviews.
Secondly, the most powerful technique to increasing ratings is to respond to customer reviews.
According to a forthcoming study in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, managerial responses to reviews not only create higher ratings, but more accurate assessments as well.
The authors of the study analyzed tens of thousands of hotel reviews from TripAdvisor where approximately one-third of reviews garner a response from management.
The research uncovered that when hotels respond to customers, they generate roughly 12 percent more reviews and increase their ratings by about 0.12 percent. While this may seem nominal, ratings tend to be relatively fixed; this means that small increases can have major impacts.
As the researchers noted, “Our results suggest that signaling to consumers that managers care about their feedback is a good strategy that can boost review volume and ratings. . .”
Through this paradigm, however, reviews don’t just increase because people are more pleased with your business, but because those who found their experience lacking are less likely to post unsupported claims in the comments, deterred by the prospect of a rebuttal; which again, leads to higher ratings.
For the reduced numbers that still felt inclined to leave negative reviews, their assessments became more grounded in fact, longer, and more constructive.
This is by no means a damaging blow to a business as such detailed critiques supply business owners with opportunities to:
- Turn a negative situation into a positive one by publicly attempting to rectify the complaints, thereby winning over the customer and earning the possibility that they will change their review, and;
- Learn more about how customers perceive your business and how it operates so you can improve upon processes and systems that will lead to greater customer satisfaction.
In a nutshell, what these two tactics point toward is a stellar customer experience; both when the patron is in the midst of interacting with your business (physically or digitally), and afterward when they review it online.
Increasing your online ratings does not have to be the equivalent of a root canal. If your customers’ satisfaction is at the heart of every choice you make, feedback will reflect this care and integrity. Stay engaged with your fans and foes, and your commitment to quality and care will help you win the long-term race.
by Tina Courtney