When I ask business owners how they acquire new customers, 99% say “word-of-mouth”. Some do no marketing at all and rely only on their customer to refer new clients. For some, this system worked for years, but with the innovation of smart phones, word-of-mouth has moved to the internet.
Not only are more consumers turning to the internet to share their experiences on a product or service, but they are also reading the reviews before they make a purchase. Online reviews are what word-of-mouth used to be…only on steroids. One customer can write a review (good or bad) and make it available to millions online. One person has the ability to influence your market, with one click.
Businesses have been reluctant to engage online reviews as part of their marketing for fear of a bad review. But, reviews are going to be out there whether you choose to participate or not, isn’t it better to have the ability to respond?
Online reviews give business owners the ability to craft their online persona. With a strategic plan, reviews can give word-of-mouth a power that has never been seen. Take advantage of the muscle that is available to your business. Make a plan.
The first thing you need to do is satisfy your customers. It is now more important than ever that your customer service be stellar.
Next, ask for online reviews. Incorporate it into your every day marketing. As customers make a purchase, follow up with a “thank you” and ask for a review then. Direct them to an online business listing (that you have claimed) like Google Places or Yelp. This way you control who is giving you reviews. You should pretty much know how they are going to review you.
Respond to online criticism. The tone should not be defensive, it should be welcoming. Do your best to make it right and it usually doesn’t take much to smooth things over. It can be a great opportunity to show that you are listening and that you care. Remember to be honest, remain calm and respond in a timely manner.
I recently came across the United States Air Force blog assessment flowchart. It provides a detailed and specific way, how to react to blog posts, but can be used in online reviews as well. Consider applying something similar in your own organization.
Your online persona will not be shaped immediately. It will take some time. Be consistent in your efforts and you will see results.