This is a guest blog post from Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects businesses with their customers and enhances the marketing process.
Online reviews were already gaining significance in digital marketing pre-pandemic. But with the onset of COVID-19 and a catalyzed digital transformation, the way customers/clients find and choose businesses forever changed. As such, encouraging, capturing, and managing reviews are essential aspects of a comprehensive marketing plan.
According to a recent report (which we’ll reference throughout this article), reviews influence 88 percent of consumers in discovering a local business. Moreover, 65 percent have read an online review in the last week, and approximately half are willing to travel farther and pay more to patronize a business with higher reviews.
How you manage reviews will make the difference between staying ahead of your competition and getting left behind.
Where do reviews fall in your marketing plan?
A marketing plan is key to ensuring that your efforts are relevant in achieving business objectives and overarching goals. It’s also essential to define the organization’s competitive position as well as gauge ROI. A typical marketing plan includes several elements:
- The message you want to send about your product/service;
- Your market research;
- Your value proposition;
- Your target audience (and how they think);
- Your company’s voice;
- Your marketing budget;
- Your marketing strategy.
Reviews impact all seven of these elements, especially your marketing strategy. People trust testimonials from other people—so much so that 68 percent of consumers form an opinion after reading as little as one to six reviews. What’s more, reviews are 7.4 times more likely to be an important factor than traditional marketing tactics.
Online reviews also play a critical role in crafting/maintaining your company’s voice. The way your business responds to and manages feedback shows what you care about and how you treat your customers/clients. Additionally, consumers read responses—56 percent say that responses to reviews changed their perspective of a business.
Reviews also provide critical insights into your target audience that you can’t receive from other sources. They generally tell you:
- Whether or not you delivered a positive customer/client experience;
- Where you excelled or under-delivered;
- How you can improve.
Smart businesses collect this feedback and make changes accordingly.
What is the most reliable review site?
In general, local businesses focus on Google and Facebook because of their sizable audiences and impact. Consumers are more than twice as likely to turn to Google to discover and choose a local business than any other site. However, each vertical is different, and industry-specific review sites can also be an important part of your overall digital reputation management. So which online review site is right for your business and which should you focus on?
According to our research, focusing on Google and Facebook while supplementing with other niche sites will give you the best chance of success. For instance, other options include:
- Avvo: for legal experts;
- Healthgrades or Vitals: host patient reviews for medical professionals;
- Houzz: for home builders;
- Foursquare or Yelp: popular options for restaurants;
- Angie’s List for service-related business.
Every industry is different and usually has a couple of leaders for online reviews that should be part of your overall strategy.
How do I manage Google reviews?
Google currently hosts the most visible reviews and emphasizes both local reviewers and organizations. If you consistently collect and manage authentic Google reviews, you’ll increase the potential to pop up in the Google Local Three Pack. There are a few things you can do to successfully manage reviews on Google:
Optimize your Google My Business Listing
After you’ve created and verified your listing, optimizing it for local search is critical. Start by uploading high-quality photos. According to Google, listings with images receive 42 percent more requests for driving directions and 35 percent more clicks to their websites. Before uploading any photo, make sure the size is optimized for relevant platforms and devices. Consider that nearly 68 percent of consumers are likely to engage with your business using a mobile device compared to 32 percent who would engage via desktop.
For more tips check out How To Use Google My Business: A Guide For Beginner’s
Add complete information
According to Google, “businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.” To rank higher in search results, add as much relevant information as possible to your GMB listing. Ensure that your NAP (business name, address, phone number) is consistent across the web.
As we mentioned, being responsive is critical to review management. Google’s GMB support page explicitly says responding to reviews “shows that you value your customers and their feedback” and helps “build consumer trust.” Another study also found that responding to reviews, good or bad, increases a business’s rating. Your responses to reviews can bring in more prospects and subsequent reviews. Building trust through review responses gives you credit with consumers in a way nothing else does.
How do I manage negative reviews?
All organizations will likely receive a bad review at some point, it’s an unfortunate but inevitable aspect of running a business. How you respond to those reviews (on a public forum) will shape how much of an impact it will have on your brand reputation. Remember the following best practices:
- Stay professional: Don’t write an emotional response or get defensive. Keep your messaging appropriate, short, and to the point.
- Offer practical solutions: Instead of focusing on what went wrong, prioritize how you can make it right. Offer proactive advice or guide them to another communication channel where you can further discuss.
- Learn for negative feedback: Look at the bad reviews as a direct way for your to improve your operations, service, offerings or product.
What is review management software?
Responding to, collecting, and analyzing reviews can be quite a task for any team to take on. But the right reputation management platform makes managing reviews a breeze for a business of any size. For example, 94 percent of local businesses who use reputation management software say it provides enough ROI to make up for the cost.
Podium’s reputation management software helps thousands of local businesses get found and chosen every day. With Podium Reviews, you can:
- Receive customer feedback;
- Respond to customers;
- See all of your reviews from all sources in one place;
- Respond to all of those reviews from one place;
- Generate insightful data to drive your business in the right direction.
The results speak for themselves—after adopting Podium reputation management, Dunn Tire saw a 5 percent increase in rating and 41x increase in average monthly reviews, surpassing 4,500.
Local businesses are 1.4x more likely to have an average star rating of 4.5 or higher if they are proactive about their online reputation vs. if they are passive.
Effectively Manage Reviews To Optimize Your Brand Presence
How you manage reviews matters. And it impacts every aspect of your marketing plan. Review management shapes the message you’re sending about your product/service and has an enormous effect on your value proposition for customers/clients. More importantly, it drives your overall experience.
Make review management a facet of your marketing strategy to not only stay relevant but beat your competition.