Saturday, November 30th is Small Business Saturday. In its fourth year, the event encourages consumers to shop local and purchase from small businesses instead of the big box stores. While this is a great opportunity to get people to use your brand and visit your stores, getting a customer to “stick” takes more than just offering a good product or service. Because after they search for and find what they need, they have to decide whether or not to choose you…or the competitor who is advertising next to you.
One of the strongest factors that will make you stand out above your competitors is your reputation. A major influence on this is what people say about you in your customer reviews. Sure price, your offer, and your ad play a definite role, but it’s what customers say that seems to have the biggest effect at this juncture. And now, Google has added a new feature which makes your customer reviews even more powerful. More on this in a minute, but first let’s look at why customer reviews can make such a big impact.
According to Forrester Research, an independent technology and market research company, almost everybody reads the reviews that appear online. In fact, 72 percent of customers say they trust online opinions as much as they trust their family and friends.
Nielsen, an American global information and measurement company, says that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations, whether from strangers or friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
Now the good news about Google’s new feature. Your “job” of getting “word-of-mouth” advertising online just got easier because you can now show your Google+ customer reviews within your AdWords.
You can place things such as third-party reviews, rankings and awards for specific sources right into your AdWords…which means your customers can now appear alongside your ads as images and names, giving you a tremendous advantage over your competition.
But, in order to get more of your customers, clients or patients showing up alongside your ads, you have to encourage your customers to “plus one” you on your Google+ Local page and then give you a positive review. If you’ll recall, two years ago when Google launched Google+ Business Pages, I recommended you set up your Google+ Business Page so you could link your Adwords to your page in order to leverage all the connections your brand received.
If you haven’t set up your Google+ Business Page yet, then I highly recommend you do so now.
Also, if you haven’t sent me your Google + Business Page URL yet, be sure to send that to me ASAP so I can link your AdWords to your account. Next make a plan to encourage your customers to “+1” your Google+ Local Page and give you a positive review. But before you make a plan, there are some rules you need to follow to do this.
Rule 1) Do not incentivize your customers to give you a positive review. Offering discounts or entry into a contest or free product or any other reward in exchange for a review will land you in hot water and is considered a conflict of interest.
Rule 2) Reviews must be done at sites other than your workplace. You can’t set up a laptop or iPad for customers to leave reviews because Google doesn’t allow this. IP addresses of reviewers are tracked and reviews will be filtered out if too many come from the same place.
So what can you do to encourage customer reviews?
Just Ask. While you can’t force customers to give you a review, one of the most effective ways is to simply ask. By saying something like, “If you were happy with your service today, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a review for me. If you weren’t happy, I’d like to hear about that now, so I can correct any problems you had.” Once you know they are happy, hand them a card printed with how and where to leave a review on your Google+ page.
Be Consistent. Not everyone you ask is going to give you a review. In fact, many won’t. Don’t let that discourage you, just keep asking and you’ll continue to get reviews. You’ll be amazed how fast they build up if you make it a focus and do it consistently. So whatever you do, don’t stop asking.
Time it right. Don’t wait to ask customers for a review. If you ask months after you’ve done business with them, you aren’t likely to have much success.
Brian Sharwood of HomeStars says that “introducing the review concept during or prior to” purchase really helps in getting the review at the end. The suggested way to do this is to say something like, “If I do a great job, can I count on you for a review?”
You can also ask when they’ve just bought from you or just used your service and you know they are happy. Another good time to ask is when a customer pays you a compliment or says something about the wonderful results they’ve received as a result of your product or service. Simply saying something like, “You know, I would love to have that as a customer review. Would you mind leaving a customer review?”
Thank reviewers publically. People love to be acknowledged. For some, it strokes their egos and shows them that you value them. Thank them online, in your email newsletter, in a video on your website, or on your social media platforms and it can’t help but to boost the number of reviews you receive.
Create a feedback page on your website with instructions. Creating a straightforward feedback page on your website with instructions on how to “+1” your business and how to leave feedback can make this easier. That way you can link to this page in email newsletters, on business cards, direct mail pieces, ad campaigns and so on.
A simple headline such as, “We appreciate your feedback. Your feedback is important to us. If you’d like to share your experience, we hope you’ll review us online. Here’s a fast way to do that.” On your page, I’d also create a form that can be directly emailed to you that says something like, “If you had a bad experience, we want to make it right. Please let us know about your experience by telling us about it here.”
Also let them know what they will need to do in order to leave a review. You can say something like: “To write a Google review you will need to have a Gmail account and a Google+ account set up. You will be prompted to set one up or log into your account before you leave a review.”
Provide cards or post a sign in your place of business. Printed note cards or putting up a sign near where customers check out or on your door as they leave asking for feedback with the link (and/or QR code) to your feedback page on your website.
Display past reviews. Print out reviews and post them in prominent places around your business. I’ve read that bathroom stalls is a great place to post them as well as on corkboards, by your checkout, on a placemat, etc.
Add a callout to your receipts and invoices. Add a message to your receipts and invoices asking them to “+1” you and leave a review. Use a shortened URL if space is limited.
Gaining more reviews will definitely help attract more people to your business, but remember to be most effective, you want to encourage them to “+1” your Google+ Local Page and give you a review there.
Getting reviews isn’t always easy, but using these tips and tactics should make it a lot easier. And now that you can have a customer’s image, name and review appearing within your AdWords, it’s definitely worth the effort.
To your online success,