Today everybody can publicly give a thumbs up or down to each customer experience.
Whether you’re an Uber driver or a brain surgeon, you have to accept that online reviews are now built into the buying process.
While negative reviews can certainly impact business, it’s second only to having none at all.
When potential customers don’t see reviews or any trace of satisfied customers, you immediately fall off the short list.
Since you know customers are already going to talk behind your back, you want to make sure your business lands on the right side of reviews.
Here are eight ways you can inspire customers to talk positively about you online:
- Highlight the things people love about your business. Your stand-out qualities could be your areas of expertise, location, service, or a special touch that people have come to associate with your business. Develop a list by asking loyal customers to weigh in and share why they frequent your business. Highlight their reasons on your social media profiles, website, and online business listings and directories. This helps separate you from the pack, reinforces your strengths, and drives word-of-mouth.
- Create memorable experiences. The customer experience doesn’t need to be over-the-top or cut into your profits to be memorable, but it should make an impression and be unique to your business. After all, customers tend to remember how you made them feel more than what they purchased. Creating a memorable experience can be as simple as the welcome customers receive when they enter your physical or virtual business, recognizing their birthday or sending a personalized thank you note, for example.
- Be transparent and authentic. In other words, ditch the pitch and focus on addressing the customer’s needs. That requires your conversations and marketing content to inform and steer them toward the best products and services for their particular needs and budgets. When they know that your priority is to help them get the most from their investments, they’ll be more inclined to buy from you and recommend you to their friends.
- Freely offer your expertise. There’s a misconception among some small business owners that if they offer free advice, they’re cutting into their profits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you work for free or compromise your livelihood, but you can strike a balance by sharing enough knowledge to establish your credibility and reputation. Some simple ways to do this are through proactively answering frequently asked questions and offering insider tips and shortcuts on social media or in your email newsletter. Make those tips easy to digest and share online and your customers will thank you for helping spread the word.
- Solicit feedback and read between the lines. Nobody wants to be surprised by a bad review, which is why it’s so important to encourage customers to provide feedback, even if it’s not always what you want to hear. Along with regularly engaging customers in soliciting their feedback, consider initiating short surveys in your newsletter or on your Facebook page. Also, depending on the products and services you sell, it might make sense to follow up a few months after a customer has been using your product for a little while. Along with these overt requests for feedback, pay attention to a lack of response as it can speak volumes. Additionally, take a good look at how your customers are engaging with you online. Are they clicking on your email content and sharing it or have there been dips in your subscriber list? Keeping an eye on these subtle customer actions and reactions allows you to continuously improve the customer experience and get ahead of potentially negative reviews.
- Share great content. Follow news and trends that are happening locally and in your industry. Specifically, be on the lookout for posts that relate to your customers’ interests and present an opportunity to reinforce your value. Along with sharing the content, make the post your own by inserting your views (while giving credit to the original source). This engages your audience, inspires them to share your content, elevates your profile, and reinforces what makes your business unique.
- Foster an active online community. Use your social media platforms to spark conversations with customers and connect them with each other. You can do this by tossing out a question on social media, sharing content from followers, and spotlighting customers. Fostering an active online community helps quickly spread the word about your business while giving you great insight your audience so you can deliver more personalized marketing campaigns. Not to mention it helps instill brand loyalty.
- Shape the conversation to earn great reviews. Every small business owner knows that online review sites are getting more sophisticated at spotting fake posts and preventing them from going live. Yet that doesn’t mean you should sit idle and hope for a positive review to magically appear. When customers tell you they’ve had a great experience, let them know which review sites your business is listed on and suggest they tell others about it. If you keep the dialog light, let them know how important their online feedback is to your business, and avoid quid pro quo situations, they’ll be inspired to write authentic posts.
Motivating customers to talk positively about your business starts with providing a positive customer experience, engaging customers with helpful, free advice and consistently asking for feedback to continuously improve the products, services, and experiences you deliver. Then you won’t have to worry about those conversations happening behind your back.
About the Author
Dave Charest is Senior Manager, Content & Social Media Marketing at Constant Contact. Dave and his team make stuff to help small businesses do better marketing. For more insight and advice on marketing your small business, subscribe to the Constant Contact blog.