How To Turn Online Reviews Into A Competitive Advantage


The good news about today’s online reputation is in its ultra-simple rule:  If your business has a better online reputation than its competitors, you’ll own the competitive edge.

Because most people research a businesses’ reputation before contacting them, a positive online reputation can be a prospect generating asset.  Conversely, failure to work at building a trusted online reputation will lose business to competitors with better reputations.

Why You Need To Pay More Attention To Your Online Review Numbers

In our work with prospects and clients, we often see a resistance to fully participating in the online review ecosystem, as if somehow, this whole online reputation thing will go away.  Attitudes vary, but here are some of the more destructive ones we’ve run across:

  • Who cares what people say?  You can’t please everybody
  • We can’t control what people say online – so why bother?
  • Professionals like us don’t need to worry ourselves with this internet marketing stuff
  • If we ask, they might say some bad things about us
  • Wait! What? someone left 1-star reviews for us online?

We recently sampled 900 local businesses in senior care services – an industry that depends heavily on the trust factor for their success.  In this sample, we found that almost 40% of them had 0 reviews, and the majority of them had less than 5 reviews. Overall, their average rating was 3.8 – in an industry where customer trust is the most important factor!

By the way, having 0 reviews is almost as bad as having a handful of negative reviews.  Neither one builds trust.

Some industries such as restaurants and the fashion industry, for example,  will tend to naturally attract lots of review activity.  Nonetheless, the simple fact is that online reviews are becoming part of an organization’s assets, and they show no signs of ever becoming less important, no matter what business you’re in.

The more positive online reviews your business or practice has, the more people are willing to try it.  And if the business is good at what it does, it will convert those businesses to paying customers, clients, or patients.

Negative reviews are online forever, and the only way to offset them is by having a lot more positive reviews than negative.

Six Tips On Creating A Company Asset From Online Reviews

So here’s our best advice on creating an online review asset that helps grow your business:

    1. Embrace both positive and negative reviews.  Sure, people love the good things people say about them, but negative reviews are the way they can find out how to improve their business.  Pay attention to negative reviews, look at them as welcome news, and fix the underlying problems.  In addition, a mix of negative reviews and positive reviews looks more authentic.
    2. Respond professionally and publically to both negative and positive reviews – and to as many as possible.  This allows you to voice your branding message to people who read reviews and lets them know that your company listens to and cares about their customer’s experience.  This is particularly important for negative reviews.  People care less about the negative review and more about how the company responds to it.
    3. Ask everyone that experiences your business to leave you an honest review as soon after the experience as possible – while it’s fresh in their minds.   Here’s another perspective on that: “This may seem obvious, but it can be a more difficult step than you think. The best time to ask for feedback is when customers are satisfied. They understand how the online world works and how important reviews are to a business. When a customer compliments your company, ask them directly to post a positive remark on a review site. If they are not familiar with any review sites, suggest one or two to get them started. Be sure to train your employees to ask customers for reviews. Since they are the frontline of your business, they are in the best position to gather favorable comments.”
    4. Create a system that automates as much of the work of requesting and monitoring reviews as possible, without losing the personal touch of engaging them about their experience.  Automating some of these steps helps to generate more reviews with less effort.

    5. Make sure all employees know how important online reviews are to the business.  Employees are the key to making this work.  They need to be enthusiastically involved in seeking reviews.  some companies offer internal incentives for employees with outstanding performance in getting and responding to reviews.

    6. Utilize brand journalism.  Create a regular drumbeat of blog posts, articles, or press releases that position the company as the trusted authority in your field.  Press releases syndicated to local, regional, and national news outlets are an excellent way to build an online reputation, as well as backlinks to your site that help in local search rankings.

What ideas do you have about getting reviews in your industry?

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