When a happy customer leaves your store, you hope he tells all of his friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors about the great experience. That’s because word-of-mouth is still the best (and most cost-effective) way to gain customers and credibility. But, you should also be concerned with what your customer says online about your business.
There’s no doubt that customer reviews are becoming more and more important. A 2014 survey from BrightLocal found that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations when it comes to finding and researching local businesses. What’s more, 85 percent of consumers said they read up to 10 reviews before they decide to trust a business. With those numbers, there’s a big opportunity for local businesses to level the playing field against national chains and gain curious customers.
If your business doesn’t have good online reviews – or any at all – you could be missing out on a steady stream of customers. To get in on the action, the first step is to see what people are already saying about your business online. When it comes to online reviews there are the obvious go-to sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Angie’s List. These sites pride themselves on providing a wealth of consumer reviews, and a negative or nonexistent conversation here is sure to threaten your business’s reputation. Check your profiles on these sites and, if necessary, respond to any noteworthy reviews – good or bad. A simple note of appreciation or apology can go a long way in fostering relationships with customers.
It’s also important to monitor what customers are saying about your business on social media. After word of mouth, customers are most likely to recommend a local business to their friends via Facebook, so make sure they’re talking about your business! If you have a Facebook page for your business, customers can leave reviews right on your page. On Facebook and Twitter, they can tag your business in a post, which helps you keep track of what they’re saying to their friends and followers.
If you find that your business doesn’t have a positive, current set of reviews associated with it, then it’s time to make a change. If you have a great encounter with a customer, ask him or her personally to leave an online review when finishing the transaction. If you collect your customers’ email addresses at the point-of-sale, try sending out an email a few days after their visits to thank them for coming in and ask them to give you an honest review online.
Customer reviews are taking the power of word-of-mouth marketing online. Harness that power for your local business by keeping tabs on your web presence and starting the conversation with your customers.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering at www.independentwestand.org/membership/. Your business will also be included in our ‘locals only’ search engine and mobile app. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local and find local businesses in your community at www.independentwestand.org/take-a-stand/join-the-movement/.