How To Get Customers To Leave Reviews

online reviewsLike most people, you've probably used online review sites like Yelp and Google+ to zero in on the right companies for various products and services. When it comes to promoting your own business, though, does it pay to encourage online reviews? While there are pluses and minuses to having reviews for your business posted for the whole world to see, it's far better to have reviews - even if some are negative - than to have none at all. In this day and age, a business without at least a handful of reviews isn't going to inspire a whole lot of trust. The question, though, is how can you encourage people to post reviews in the first place?

Pros and Cons of Online Reviews

Before delving into the best ways to encourage online reviews, let's consider the advantages of having them in the first place. First, online reviews inspire brand trust and can be highly influential; according to a survey by Dimensional Research, 90 percent of respondents stated that positive reviews influenced their buying decisions. Second, online reviews are great for SEO, and that's particularly true about reviews on Google+. Finally, people expect to be able to find online reviews. When they can't, they are left wondering what's wrong with a company.

As for the cons of online reviews, they are minimal. You can't please everyone, so there are sure to be a few negative reviews. Also, it's fairly easy for competitors to post fake negative reviews. Still, these downsides aside, online reviews are far more advantageous than problematic.

Top Ways to Encourage Online Reviews

So, how do you go about getting people to post online reviews about your business? A few great tips include:

  • Let Customers Choose Their Favorite Review Sites - Maintain presences on as many popular review sites as possible. Some folks love Yelp while others prefer Google+. Still others are happiest posting reviews on Facebook. Don't back your customers into corners; let them stay in the driver's seat.
  • Make it Easy - If people have to jump through hoops to post a review about your company, they're unlikely to at all. In follow-up emails and other correspondence, include direct links to your various online review site profiles. Alternatively, have the information printed onto receipts, or hand out flyers in your store with the information printed on them and put them in customers' bags at checkout.
  • Keep Demographics in Mind - Think about your typical customer. If he's young, he should be fairly savvy about using online review sites. Don't pester him too much about it, or you'll risk alienating him. On the other hand, if your typical customer is older, he may not be as well-versed in the world of online reviews. A little extra prompting may be in order, but you should still avoid laying it on too thick.
  • Be Transparent - Don't beat around the bush when soliciting online reviews. People will be able to see right through your ruse anyway, so be blunt, open and transparent. Tell them you'd appreciate an online review, and give them a few reasons for why you're asking. By helping people understand your motivations, you're more likely to get positive results.
  • Offer Incentives - Offering incentives for online reviews is effective, but there's a fine line. Never offer incentives in exchange for positive reviews, for instance, or no one will take positive reviews for your business seriously. At the very most, tell people they will receive a special offer for taking time out of their busy schedules to post an online review for your business.

Don't hold off on encouraging reviews because you're scared of receiving negative ones. When handled properly, negative reviews can be big opportunities. By making things right, you can show customers that you're willing to go the distance for them. That negative review could be followed up by a glowing one outlining the fairness of your business, so don't let those concerns hold you back!