In recent weeks businesses around the world have undergone an accelerated digital transformation.
As we react to the human and economic impacts of COVID-19, the world is finding new ways to live our personal and professional lives from a distance. As the importance of digital commerce has grown, so has the importance of online reviews and testimonials.
Online reviews have always been important in helping customers evaluate products and services, and past research shows that 88% of consumers said they trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth recommendations. Trust is always a key factor in purchasing online, and reviews and testimonials that enable satisfied customers to tell your story can build trust much more quickly than your own advertising and promotions.
In times of uncertainty like the current pandemic, building trust online is especially important. And it’s likely that the millions of consumers and businesses who turned to online channels to research and purchase products will continue to do so in the future. That’s why now may be a good time to give our online reviews and testimonials a quick tune-up to build a foundation for future growth.
Online reviews – Why they matter
You may not think of it this way, but a big part of your job is to make it easy for busy people to find you and choose your services. People are busy, so choosing the local business with the highest number of five-star reviews is an easy alternative to doing tons of research or asking around to discover who is the community’s leading supplier or expert.
Google has gotten pretty good at figuring out people’s intent over the years, and there are tons of searches like “best [ real estate agent ] in [ Name of your city]. We work with a lot of housing industry clients, so we often use examples from the real estate or mortgage industries. But this search formula works awesomely for other types of businesses as well:
- Best pizza nearby, delivering now
- Best content marketing agency San Francisco
- Top accounting firm for real estate
- Top electricians in Livermore CA
The phrasing of this search query suggests that someone is not just browsing, but actively seeking the best product or service available nearby. This type of Google search now returns results from Yelp, Zillow, LinkedIn, HomeLight, Thumbtack, Google, and more. Are you visible in these results?
There’s an old joke that the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google search results – you definitely want to aim for the first page of search results, near the top.
Online reviews and social proof
Reviews and testimonials are important social proof. As noted in Robert Cialdini’s classic 1993 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The idea behind social proof is that people are more likely to perform certain actions if they have seen that many people have already taken the same action. This is especially true when your audience relates to the people who have performed these similar actions. Your satisfied customers soon become your evangelists and tell your story in a much more authentic way than you ever could. Here are some ways marketers can use reviews strategically to win business:
- Once you have earned a number of positive reviews, be sure to feature them in your marketing materials, and use them strategically. Don’t just plaster the same reviews everywhere. Try to match the reviews with related content. If you sell luxury homes, put your testimonials where high-net-worth audiences are likely to see them. Make sure you have a services page on your website that matches the search intent.
- One mistake marketers sometimes make is taking their foot off the pedal once they have accumulated a good number of positive reviews. In addition to quality and quantity, your reviews should be as current and focused as possible. If you are known for negotiation skills, your reviews and testimonials should support that.
- No matter what business you’re in, asking for reviews should be built into your regular sales cycle. That way, the awkwardness of asking for reviews is minimized, and they don’t slip through the cracks. A new category of software called reputation management tools has emerged in recent years to make it easier to obtain and share reviews. This tactic also helps you take advantage of the principle of reciprocity, another proven persuasion technique from Cialdini.
- Ask for feedback or a review every single time. Even if you think things could have gone better, ask anyway. Even if the transaction process was rocky, your clients may be grateful for your efforts and troubleshooting skills. It’s sometimes better to ask in person, or on voice call than via text or email. People are busy, and it’s easy to forget. I’ve also seen agents get good results by making a short, personalized video asking for reviews.
- Don’t feel that you need to wait until a deal is closed to ask for a review. If a client is excited and telling you how helpful you are or what a great experience she is having, ask away.
- About 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family, according to Forbes. In the age of sheltering in place, when personal referrals are challenging, online reviews could be the next best thing to personal referrals.
- More reviews can provide a boost in conversion rates – 50 + reviews per product can lead to a 4.6% increase in conversion rates. As any online marketer will tell you, that kind of increase can make or break a digital campaign, particularly with higher-priced products or services.
- In working with an online mortgage lender, our group was researching online reviews to get an idea of what people liked and disliked about the mortgage process. Reviews are a valuable resource to get an authentic read on the voice of your audience. One thing that stood out was the ability of some lenders to respond positively to all kinds of reviews, good and bad. The lenders were able to make the best of a bad situation by assuming responsibility for their mistakes and offering genuine apologies if they were at fault. It’s OK to disagree with online reviews if you do it in a professional and tactful way. Either way, not-so-great reviews can be learning experiences and opportunities to improve customer experience.
Power tip: Write your own online reviews
Here’s another powerful strategy to improve the quality and quantity of your reviews: Write your own reviews, exactly as you would like them to appear.
For serious. I’m not proposing anything shady here.
I worked with a sales trainer once who had an interesting exercise. She invited each salesperson in the seminar to stand and briefly state how they would like their ideal clients to say about them. It was thought-provoking and resulted in a great discussion about asking for reviews. This evolved into real estate agents writing their own reviews incorporating what they hoped their clients took away from the transaction. Many marketers focus on stacking up as many positive reviews as possible. Strategic marketers consider what kind of reviews they want. The language, the specific actions the agent took, the outcomes achieved, and what clients raved about.
Actually writing down the types of reviews and testimonials you’re after is a way to get super clear on the ideal outcomes and unique value you will provide to clients. Author and business philosopher Steven Covey urged people to “begin with the end in mind.” Think about your ultimate outcome: Yours might be: A closed deal, great reviews, and a referenceable customer.
Take a moment to write down the type of ideal review you would want from a customer. Each of your reviews should describe the favorable outcomes you enabled, in specific terms: Again, using real estate agents as an example:
- Lori knew everything about the neighborhood we’re interested in. The developer’s name, the history of the homes, and she even knew what types of trees were native to the neighborhood!
- Dan helped us navigate the tricky balancing act of selling our old home while buying and relocating to our dream home.
- My husband and I were relocating to Oregon and we spent the plane ride researching local agents. I cold-called Kristen from the airport, based on a ton of great reviews. She showed us the Northwest Portland neighborhoods we wanted to see. She helped us in find the right home and community!
- We thought we couldn’t afford a home in Boca Delray, but Franco went the extra mile and helped us find a home where our children can walk to top-rated schools.
- Greg was super-helpful when we bought our home 12 years ago. We were new to the area and he helped us find an ideal home for our growing family. When we were ready to downsize, we didn’t think twice about calling Greg to list our home for sale as well.
Need inspiration? Go to Yelp.com and search for “Top real estate agents in” and the name of your city or neighborhood. Identify the types of reviews you would like to see for yourself. Go deep and notice what kinds of value you can add that moves clients to post rave reviews and testimonials. Was the agent detail-oriented, good at marketing, a great negotiator?
To sum it up, online reviews can help build trust, online visibility, increase conversions, and showcase your expertise. In pandemic and post-pandemic times, online reviews will help attract customers to your business or steer them to your competitors. Online reviews are an avenue for customers to convey their experience with your business.
It’s easier than ever for businesses to manage and monitor online reviews with inexpensive cloud-based tools. Creating a system that enables your business to build out high-quality helps to maintain a positive reputation and contributes to bottom-line results.
Speaking of bottom-line results, contact us for more information on revenue-aligned content marketing and sales enablement assets.