Why should Small Business care about what customers are talking about them online?
Over 95 percent of customers read online reviews about a brand before availing its services. Ninety-three percent of people gauge a company’s quality based on what customers are saying about it online. It is safe to say that online reviews that your customers leave on various platforms matter.
We live in a world where people are constantly bombarded with advertising. This is why it has become tough to break the clutter. Also, compared to word-of-mouth and referrals, ads directly made by the company are seen as less reliable. After all, every company will tell you that they are the best, right?
With such skepticism floating in the marketplace, small businesses cannot afford to ignore how customers are talking about them online. Here is why online reviews matter.
1. Online reviews enhance visibility
Online review management shouldn’t just be a priority of a small business because it relates directly to customers. Online reviews also help boost the visibility of the brand online. One of the biggest challenge that any small business faces are being recognized by its target customers. During the initial years, the chances are you are restricted to a given geographic location. For instance, if you are running a small plumbing service, there is only so much reach you can have in terms of geography.
However, even for local businesses, the immediate areas surrounding the brick and mortar facility shouldn’t be the only target audience. Instead, the entire region can be your market. And through online reviews, you can create a word-of-mouth ripple effect that at least increases your brand visibility throughout your city.
How do online reviews boost visibility?
Is it enough for customers to positively talk about your brand for you to get a better reach? Yes! And it is because online reviews help with local SEO. The more optimized you are local, the higher is the chance that your company will show up for relevant local searches. Google ranks websites that feature review high on its local search rankings, thereby boosting visibility.
2. Online reviews build credibility and trust
There are a plethora of small businesses in the market. Not all of them are successful. Almost 90 percent of start-ups fail! There can be various reasons for this including poor cash flow management. The reason can also be the lack of trust that its customers place on it.
For a brand to thrive in the long run, it needs a high customer lifetime value. Getting people to purchase your services/product once is not enough. The key is to form loyal customers that take part in repeat purchases. And to achieve such high brand resonance, you first need to build your brand’s credibility and trust. And positive online reviews are an excellent way to do so.
Word of mouth phenomenon of the past has now transformed into digital conversations by customers regarding the brand. And it is just as effective in building trust. This is because people are likely to listen to their peers who have had good experience with a company that listens to brand communication.
As a small business, this means that you must invest in online review management. Know the conversation around your company. If there are any negative reviews, make sure to respond to them and resolve their concerns. Don’t take a defensive approach. Instead, be apologetic. Similarly, manage your positive reviews by showing gratitude. Ask your customers to review your brand after they avail services. The more online buzz there is surrounding your company, the more credible you will seem to potential new customers.
3. Reading reviews of customers is the first step of the consumer buying cycle
The funnel approach that business students used to learn in their marketing class is no longer applicable in real life. Now, the consumer buying cycle is more of a looped cycle, whereby customers start with fewer companies in their consideration set, enhance it by researching for alternatives online and then deciding on a product based on reviews, specifications, etc.
Over 90 percent of customers read what others are saying about the product before purchasing it. Regardless of whether you are a small business or a big one, you should care what customers are saying about you online because it governs whether or not other people will purchase from you. And when you are a small business, every customer and every sale counts. You need to grow your business, and positive reviews can allow you to do so.
4. Reviews provide your business with an opportunity to engage customers
While conventional marketing is a one-way system, this is not the case with online reviews. As a small business, you shouldn’t just take a back seat and observe what customers say about you from a dark corner. Instead, you can leverage this opportunity to interact with your potential customers directly. This further makes online conversations around your small business pivotal for branding.
Let’s go back to the example of a plumbing service. Let’s say you have an online reputation management system in place that identifies both positive and negative reviews over an array of platforms. Rather than just seeing it all, you can respond to them to improve customer experience.
If a customer has concern over the quality of your plumbing service, you can try to address their negative experience by apologizing and offering a discount or chance to rectify the problem. This won’t just help you in transforming a disgruntled customer into a repeat purchaser. Instead, anyone who looks at the interaction might be impressed by your company as well.
For a small business, surviving the various challenges is already hard enough. To ensure your growth and sustainability, do pay heed to the online conversations about your brand. Engage with your customers. Identify areas of improvement through their feedback. Use their referrals to build your brand’s credibility. If you manage your reviews correctly, you are bound to reap the benefits through better sales turnover and a stronger brand image.
Audrey Throne is a mother of a 3-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about lifestyle, business, automotive, technology and management and blogs frequently on these topics.
Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.