Word-of-mouth advertising has long been the most powerful form of promotion. A personal recommendation can be considerably more effective than all other advertisements and commercials combined. By finding ways to solicit and publish customer reviews and recommendations, you build goodwill and reinforce your company's industry reputation
In the digital age, online reviews are key. According to Retailing Today, a 2013 study found that 81 percent of consumers conduct research online before making a major purchase. In a situation where price and other factors are equal, excellent customer reviews can give you the edge over competitors.
Asking for customer reviews can be uncomfortable, particularly when you approach important clients with busy schedules. To increase your chances of securing a thoughtful, positive review, make the process as painless as possible. Avoid putting customers on the spot. Instead, give them time to think about your services and write a review at a time that is convenient. For smaller businesses, the easiest option is to send a personal email. Explain where you will use the review, and mention any specific products or services you'd like the client to address. Give the client a frame of reference for length—stress that even a few sentences will be highly appreciated, but leave the door open for longer, more in-depth reviews.
If your business serves thousands of customers, personal emails are not feasible. Instead, you might try adding a "leave us a review" form at the end of the online ordering process. Brick-and-mortar businesses might put a stack of fliers at the check-out desk with a URL and a review request. Consider requesting customer reviews on a third-party site like TripAdvisor, Google+, or Yelp to ensure anonymity. When positive customer reviews roll in, you can import them directly to your company's website.
When you are requesting customer reviews for your website, take steps to ensure transparency. In some cases, customer reviews on a company's website have an air of falsehood about them. This is particularly true when viewers have no way to verify the customer's existence. To give an online recommendation a sense of credibility, include a link to the customer's website. If possible, link directly to the reviewer's profile. The promise of a link—and the associated free publicity—can also be a way to encourage customers to provide reviews.
If you are looking to grow on a more local, personal level, consider asking customers for an online recommendation on their social media profiles. Target repeat customers who have a wide social media reach, and request a personal review. If possible, offer a discount in return for a review—positive or negative. Explain that you want honesty, and encourage customers to review only if they feel strongly about your product. In doing so, you can avoid the appearance of buying reviews.
The process of getting customer reviews can be time-consuming, but the potential payoff is worth the investment. By securing positive reviews from influential industry players, you can reinforce your company's reputation and bring in new clients.
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