It used to be that online marketing was driven by web design and search engine optimization. Whether you sold products or services, and whether you dealt over the internet or through person-to-person contact, those were the two things you needed to drive business growth. Then, a few years ago, social media marketing took on a new importance and some industry experts began to wonder whether platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn would ultimately prove to be even more important.

In 2019, there is a valid debate about online reviews. Could they be the real key to driving business growth, both today and in the future?

Whether you think so or not, there isn’t any argument over their importance and necessity. There aren’t many businesses that can get ahead without a strong online reputation in today’s market. Let’s look at why that is, how you can get the reviews you need, and the best ways for you to use them..

Why Reviews Matter

Forbes conducted a survey a few years ago and found that more than 90% of all buyers would look up online reviews before trying a new product or company. Subsequent studies have backed that figure up and even suggested the real number might be even higher.

Regardless of whichever statistic you trust, it’s clear that customers go on to the internet to find out if they’re getting a good deal before they make a purchase. We all intuitively understand that because it’s something we do ourselves in our personal and professional lives.

That fact alone gives online reviews enormous marketing power. When you consider that they can be indexed by search engines, found on social media sites, and shared through review platforms it’s easy to see why the right feedback can either boost or sink your online sales.

What Makes an Online Review Impactful?

Not all online reviews have the same marketing power. Any kind of positive review is better than none at all, of course, but there are specific traits that make them more compelling to other prospective buyers.

The biggest is specificity. When customers say exactly what it is they like about your product or service, other buyers can imagine themselves enjoying the same qualities and advantages. If the feedback left tells a story about an event that took place, a problem that was solved, or a positive outcome that was achieved, it carries more weight than it would if they simply noted that they were satisfied with their purchase or service.

Likewise, it’s much easier to get mileage out of your reviews if the people sharing their comments identify themselves and give insights into their circumstances or buying criteria. Then, others can understand exactly how they made their decisions and which factors were most important to them at the time.

And finally, reviews that have been updated over time are also powerful. People want to know that they won’t just be happy in the first few days of working with you but satisfied with the value and service they receive over a longer period of time.

How to Get the Reviews You Need

By this point, we hope you’ll agree with us about the power of online reviews and the specific components that make them most effective as marketing tools. So, the question becomes: how do you get the reviews you need?

The first obvious step is to simply ask for them. Reach out to your most frequent or satisfied buyers and see if they wouldn’t mind sharing their thoughts online. Many will be happy to do so. If they aren’t, you could always try incentivizing them by offering a coupon for each review posted. Just be careful that you don’t try to steer the content of those reviews since that will get you in trouble with most platforms. You can encourage the feedback, but you can’t tell customers what to say. Simply let them know that their reviews will help others to find out about your company and its products or services. You might even provide a sample review or ask them to share details they think others would want.

Another way to get lots of reviews is to simply be present and active on sites like Yelp and LinkedIn where customers and colleagues tend to share their experiences. When you have complete profiles that are easy to find, a higher number of customers are going to share their thoughts because it’s convenient for them to do so. An added advantage is that these profiles also serve as marketing contact points for other similar customers to find you.

Putting Your Great Reviews to Use

Once you have a good review strategy in place, making the most of it is incredibly simple. If you follow our advice and maintain profiles on the major sites that host reviews, your reputation will grow as more and more people see them. Just having all that positive feedback in a visible place tends to generate sales momentum.

We don’t want you to just stop there, though. Using simple, low-cost tools, you can send the links to your buyers to encourage them to leave more reviews, or at least to keep tabs on the things that are being said about your company over the internet. That way you can always know when new reviews are being posted, see what customers are talking about, and respond to any reviews that might require your attention.

Finally, you can link to all these sites and reviews from your website, email signatures, email newsletters, and social media posts. When someone has nothing but good things to say about your company, you want everyone to see it. So, make the effort to spread the good word around!

Are You Ahead of the Online Marketing Curve or Falling Behind the Competition?

If you feel like your company isn’t using the internet as well as it could be to establish a strong brand, create new sales opportunities, and become more profitable, it’s time to get help from business growth and efficiency experts. A talented and reputable digital agency with a proven track record for success will be well equipped to run winning campaigns.