It is the Fourth of July. Independence Day.
We are half way through 2014 and I am frustrated.
I am frustrated because I have recommended to so many clients and friends that they actively work to get more positive online reviews for their businesses. (In my case, that means for their law practice, dental practice or medical practice because I work almost exclusively with lawyers, dentists and doctors. However, my recommendations about reviews apply to virtually every small business.) Unfortunately, very few have embraced my advice and that is frustrating.
A few of my clients have reviews on Facebook. A few clients have reviews on Yelp. A few others may have reviews on Google+, Avvo, RealSelf or one of a number of other important online review websites. But very few of you have taken my recommendations to heart and built up strong review profiles on all of your review sites. Few of you have fully embraced a comprehensive strategy to systematically encourage all of your happy clients/patients/customers to post online reviews. If you fall into this category, I guaranty you are tapping the brake pedal on the growth and success of your business.
I know you have heard many times how important it is for your business to build a portfolio of positive reviews on multiple review websites. You know that consumers make decisions to purchase after reading online reviews. You probably make buying decisions this way too. How many times have you read reviews of a book on Amazon before buying it? How often do you check reviews before going to a restaurant or a hotel?
There are many articles and blog posts on the web that highlight the importance of online reviews, but two of them from last year stand out to me: The first, a survey by Dimensional Research indicated that 90% of consumers are influenced by online reviews — both positive and negative. The second, by BrightLocal indicated that 79% of consumers trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (The BrightLocal study also indicated that only 15% of consumers don’t read reviews.
So 85% of your potential customers are reading reviews. 90% of them are influenced by online reviews and almost 80% of them trust them as much as personal recommendations.
A recent study involving law firms found that 70% of prospective legal clients will travel further for a business with better online reviews.
Google has made it clear that it values reviews and wants to show them to your prospective customers. Google is now showing full reviews in the Knowledge Graph so people don’t even need to go to a review site to see a review when they find your website in the search results. Ratings from your Google My Business page now show up along with the Google Maps listings. And, you even have the ability to embed your Google+ reviews on your website.
I know that many of you have been told to encourage your happy clients to post reviews. I know many of you have said that you would do it. (Many of my clients have anyway). Maybe some of you even made that your New Year’s resolution six months ago.
So, my question to you is: Did you take steps to increase the number of positive reviews for your business this year?
How many positive reviews do you have on Yelp? How many on Google+? How many on Avvo? How many on RealSelf? What about Facebook?
What about negative reviews? Do you have negative reviews out there? How many customers choose not to buy from you (or even contact you) because they read a negative review?
How many of you are spending all of your marketing time worrying about whether your website ranks at the top of Google’s search results for a particular search phrase? Given the influence of reviews on consumer buying decisions, don’t you think it is worth some effort to make sure that your prospective clients/patients/customers see lots of positive reviews about you and your business?
Here is what you need to do:
- Make sure every staff member fully understands that generating positive online reviews is critically important to helping your business grow. (This means that they must understand first and foremost that a positive experience with your business is important.)
- Make a list of all review sites and the URLs of your review pages. Share that list with your staff and check each review page regularly for new reviews by your customers.
- Respond to all reviews — both positive and negative.
- Set up a systematic protocol within your business to ask all happy clients/patients/customers to post reviews.
- Survey your customers — it can be a paper survey that they mail back to you or an online survey. Follow up directly with all people who complete the survey. Remind them that you value their feedback and tell the happy customers that you would like them to share their experience with your business.
- Make it easy for your customers to post reviews online. Include links to your review pages on your website. Email links to your review pages directly to your happy customers.
- Place a poster in your reception area where people can use a QR Code reader to scan links to the URL’s of your review pages. (Email me for an example of a QR Code Poster for Online Reviews.)
- Hand out professionally printed review cards with links to your review pages to all customers after every visit. (Email me for an example of this.)
- Call your happiest customers and personally ask them to post reviews — and, of course, personally thank the customers who follow through and actually post reviews.
There is no requirement that says New Year’s is the only time when you can make a resolution. Today is Independence Day. Today is your second chance. Make a resolution to systematically get more positive reviews over the next six months and beyond. Do it before the year runs out and you are thinking about resolutions for 2015. What are you waiting for?