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Online Reviews: Are They Dreams or Nightmares?

A few nights ago, I had a strange dream. My wife and were eating dinner and she asked how my day went. “Let me check,” I told her, and picked up my iPhone.

“Hmm, I got four stars from an employee I let leave work early to bring her dog to the vet. And three clients liked my LinkedIn post. But I only received 2.5 stars from a prospect I pitched. Bummer. Wait…I got five stars from our grandson for taking him to the park on my lunch hour! Excellent.”

I looked up from my phone and said, “Well, according to the reviews, I had a pretty good day.”

Fortunately, personal online reviews and ratings of your day aren’t the norm yet. But online reviews and ratings of businesses are. Like it or not, your current and potential customers are reading them, and they have a huge impact on businesses and organizations.

Some business owners are too lax and ignore reviews and ratings. Some take it to extremes — one CEO told me that when he monitors his firm’s online reviews and ratings, he is constantly alternating between two expressions, “Hooray!” and “Oy Vey!” The positive reviews and ratings make him extremely happy, while the occasional bad review or comment has him slapping his head with concern and upset.

But whether it’s a “Hooray!” or an “Oy Vey!” moment, you need to appreciate the value of online reviews and ratings, monitor them, be proactive and turn them into a marketing advantage. Here are some things to know about online reviews:

Your customers are influenced by both positive and negative reviews. The market research company Dimensional Research found in a recent study that 90 percent of consumers say their purchasing decisions are influenced by positive online reviews. Negative reviews have an nearly equally strong effect (86 percent) in the opposite direction.

Reviews crop up everywhere. You need to stay on top of any online locations where your product or service might be rated. Not just Amazon where products are sold, or the established review sites like Yelp! or BBB.org, but also Facebook, Twitter and other social media. An opportunity for reviews and ratings exists on almost any site where your company has an online presence.

Regular monitoring of these sites is essential to keep up on what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and how your customers view your business. If you get a very negative review or rating, apologize for the bad experience and then offer to resolve the issue — offline. Ask the reviewer to email or call you directly to discuss it.

Be proactive, but ethical. Another recent survey found that 87 percent of small business owners have never asked their customers to post reviews online. But it’s good business and smart marketing to encourage happy customers and patrons to post positive reviews and ratings. Post a sincere “thank you” when they do so.

It’s not ethical to offer a monetary incentive for positive reviews. And posting phony positive reviews yourself is flat-out illegal. New York State regulators recently levied $350,000 in fines on businesses caught doing this. Other states are aggressively policing this dishonest practice.

Whether you consider them a dream or a nightmare, one thing is for sure… online reviews are very much a reality today. A reality that you can use as a marketing advantage. ##


About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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