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If you knew that 95% of your potential customers were going to do something before deciding to buy your product or service, would you pay attention?

Well, 2017 data from Spiegel Research Center found that 95% of consumers check online reviews before deciding on a purchase. There are a lot more studies with the same stunning numbers, including one from BrightLocal that showed 93% of local consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad.

Customer reviews have a powerful influence for all types of businesses. No business can afford to ignore this aspect of the voice of the customer.

Reviews Feed the Need for Authenticity

You may be tempted to discount any online review that isn’t at your own website. That is a big mistake.
No one expects to go to your website and see a bad review. People are savvy. They know the content at your site is carefully curated. They are quasi-authentic at best.

People give more credence to reviews at Google, Yelp and other places that they know authenticate reviewers. They know that businesses do not control these reviews, and that’s a good thing.

People want opinions they can trust as authentic. This has led to an increased level of dependence on online reviews. Research has consistently shown that people seek information from several sources before making a local purchase.
Embrace credible review sites. They provide social proof that no website testimonial could ever offer.

There are many places where people can leave reviews about businesses. Among the most generally influential are:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Yelp

There are also review sites that focus on one or more types of businesses, like Home Advisor, Angie’s List and Trip Advisor.
The reviews at these sites get a lot of attention because they always come up in related searches. If someone is searching for a great restaurant, they are sure to get at least one result from Trip Advisor offering top choices in the area. What determines those top choices? Reviews.

Be Intentional About Getting Reviews

Every business should have a plan to ask for reviews from customers. While some people will write a review without prompting, many won’t think to take that step unless you ask.

You can ask at any point in your customer relationship cycle, but you do need to ask. Make sure you make a personal outreach. A mass, impersonal email or won’t get the results you need.

No matter when you ask, provide clients with easy step-by-step instructions for providing a review. If they are sending the review to you rather than submitted directly to a website, be clear about where the review may be used.

Consider these approaches:

  • Ask for a review when you issue the final invoice.
  • Once a week/month/quarter follow-up with a past client to check in and ask for a review.
  • Use your email marketing program to maintain a list of clients who have not done reviews and send periodic reminders.
  • Monitor social media for positive comments from clients and reach out to ask for a formal review at one or more locations

Make Reviews Visible

Your website should at least link to the review sites that are essential for your type of business. Once you have reviews, use them in your marketing.

On your website: A testimonials page is good, but it is even better to feed reviews into every page. Even better, provide reviews that are relevant to the particular service covered on the page.

Email signature: Link to your reviews in your email signature.

Marketing collateral: Tout your average rating in your offline and online marketing.

Social media: Make note of new reviews on your social media. Thank the person providing the review and highlight a feature of the project or service provided. Use a related image along with the review.

Reviews Help You, Too

Be sure to monitor your reviews and respond to them. Thank everyone for taking time to share their experience. Acknowledge what went well, clarify any errors and be authentic in your concern to make every customer experience great.

Most review sites will give your business more credibility and visibility if you regularly interact with reviews and other content. Plus, your engagement with your reviewers will only improve consumers’ perception of your brand.

The content of reviews can help you to improve your business and your services. Positive comments help you understand what customers value most. Critiques show areas for improvement. There is something to learn any time a customer takes time to report on their experience.

Even if you don’t do a lot of online marketing, you can’t afford to ignore reviews. People are using them to determine if you are a business they want to engage with. If you want them to become your customers, you need to know what they are finding out about you in online reviews.