Online reviews can be essential to bringing in new customers and developing a loyal following. According to Time, nine out of 10 shoppers consult online review sites when purchasing products or services. Getting positive online reviews, then, are key to developing a better online marketing plan.
In the pursuit of a better online presence via customer comments, businesses – especially startups – need to keep in mind two things. First, quality customer service is important, lest they want their reviews poisoned by negative comments early on. When a company only has one or two reviews to begin with, a dissenting perspective could be a death knell. Second, they want to encourage customers to go online and write comments. The more consumers who review your products, the more valued those opinions will be, and the more likely customers down the line will trust those reviews and be willing to take a chance on your service or goods.
There are a number of strategies that businesses can employ to get customers to head online. Many of these involve simply reminding customers to do it, whether through signs, receipts or promotional products.
Signs from above
According to Small Business Trends, an easy way to remind customers to review a business is to post signs throughout a store or restaurant. A simple banner or even a card stand at a front desk is all that's needed to let customers know that a business has an online presence with which they can interact. As SBT noted, Yelp even has downloadable "Find us on Yelp" buttons, banners, table tents and check-in cards. A reminder can even be included on store receipts and checks. All businesses need do is write a small blurb that asks customers to review on certain sites through which they hope to gain recognition.
More creative approaches to spreading the word include using social media and promo items as helpful reminders. Clickable links posted on Facebook that lead to review sites can be a great way to pave the road to more reviews. Planners and pens stamped with a "Find us on Yelp" sticker can make for double-duty marketing.
Of course, like any form of advertising, there is such a thing as overdoing it. Customers shouldn't feel overwhelmed with suggestions to go visit a review site. Businesses can either pick and choose between the above options, or stage advertising blitzes that last no more than a couple of weeks long, where consumers are made to understand that the heightened emphasis on Internet reviews is only a temporary means to establish a baseline presence. This tactic could be paired with a larger general marketing strategy, such as a grand opening or a restructuring of some aspect of the business. Say, for example, if a restaurant has renovated its interior that previously garnered bad reviews, it could encourage clients to write about the change in business.
Avoiding shady behavior
Encouraging customers to write online reviews is a perfectly acceptable plan. However, organizations should never under any circumstances bribe customers for positive reviews, including a promise of money or gifts in return for favorable online comments. Promotional products with a reminder to review is one thing – giving such a gift on the premise that the recipient is obligated to write a review is quite another. In addition to being morally dubious, the practice could earn a company online notoriety. In the same vein, companies who pay people to write positive reviews or pen their own false endorsements run the risk of receiving a fine. If customers catch wind of the behavior, they may even write negative reviews of those businesses' suspect actions. Overall, it's better that organizations earn their positive reviews through hard work and quality products.