Tapping Into the Great Untapped Online Marketing Tool: Review Websites

By BizFilings Business Owner’s Toolkit

It’s time to stop cowering in fear of negative reviews of your business that may lurk in the crevices of cyberspace. With consumers placing such emphasis on reading online reviews before making purchase decisions, entrepreneurs must address review sites head-on. They’re not going anywhere any time soon.
Monitor Review Sites that Matter
Initially, you’ll have to spend a decent amount of time perusing popular review websites (which we’ll list below in a minute). But instead of devoting time to searching these sites weekly for new updates, follow a systematic approach, such as:
1.      Create Google Alerts for your business and product names. You’ll receive updates when websites—including review sites—mention you. You can receive them weekly, daily or in real-time.
2.      Prioritize which negative reviews you believe warrant immediate feedback.
3.      Spend time establishing business accounts and keeping up-to-date on the most popular review sites, including:
  • Yelp 
  • Angie’s List 
  • Google Maps
  • Insider Pages
  • Viewpoints
  • CNet Reviews
  • Amazon.com/Third-Party Reseller Sites
Avoid an Online Review Debacle
Before you begin making improvements, know what can make a bad situation worse:
·        Don’t write reviews yourself. Consumers can spot owner-written reviews a mile away. And even if you’ve fooled a few people, many sites have sophisticated filters designed to flag and reject these posts. The practice violates nearly every review site policy.
·        Don’t solicit reviews from customers. A sudden rush of positive reviews will also initiate review sites’ filters. Incidentally, those filters can hide positive reviews you didn’t solicit, leaving you worse than when you started.
·        Don’t offer compensation for writing reviews. Nearly every review site forbids this practice. In turn, some customers will take offense at your request, perceiving you as a dishonest entrepreneur, and report you.
 Make Online Reviews a Trophy Case for Your Company
While it may seem like all the restrictions review sites place upon businesses have left you without any options, you have a number of best practices at your disposal:
·        Stop negative reviews with great customer service. Determine what negative reviews have in common and address the issue in your business. The best way to create more positive reviews is to create the most positive customer experience within your power.
·        Navigate the fine line of encouraging people to visit your company profile on review sites.  There’s an important difference between soliciting reviews and telling customers to promote your profile. Review sites allow and encourage you to spread the word about your online presence. Capitalize on that difference.
·        Respond promptly (and professionally) to any negative reviews.  Apologize for the problem. Explain how your business operates, and take blame if the customer was wronged. Provide contact information and encourage the reviewer to get ahold of you for a resolution.
Remember, this is a gradual process. But over time, you should notice an increase in inquiries and sales as your online review profiles become something to be proud of.

About Business Owner’s ToolkitWith an emphasis on problem-solving dating back to 1995, Business Owner’s Toolkit™ (www.toolkit.com) offers more than 5,000 pages of free cost-cutting tips, step-by-step checklists, real-life case studies, startup advice, and business templates to small business owners and entrepreneurs. The site also offers a monthly newsletter, up-to-date news topics, and Ask Alice!, a column that closely follows industry trends and provides trusted advice to inquiring site visitors.