Online Reviews Are The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Small Businesses

If you run a small business today, the single most important thing you can do to attract new customers is to take control of your online review score on sites like Google, Facebook, FourSquare and Yellowpages. More on that soon, but first, let’s take a quick look at how technology has transported the classic small business storefront onto the internet.

When a consumer uses a review platform like Google or Facebook, the decision and urgency to buy are exactly what prompted the person’s search. If traditional advertising is a megaphone that enables businesses to shout and see who’s listening, review sites are tractor beams that pull consumers toward local businesses precisely when they’re actively looking to spend money. That’s an invaluable opportunity for small businesses with tight — or non-existent — marketing budgets.

Think about it. When you’re looking to try a new restaurant or find a plumber, what do you do? You might get a recommendation from friends or family, but you probably also do a “near me” search on Google or Facebook. This is the new normal: 97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses, and one in eight search online for a nearby business every single day. Review sites are at the epicenter of “near me” searches.

90% of customers say that what they decide to buy is influenced by positive online reviews, and

94% will use a business with at least four stars.

If you run a small business, the very best thing you can do to attract more customers is to maintain a high star-rating on the most popular review sites.

Small businesses have more control of their online star ratings than they know. First, they can proactively encourage their customers to post reviews about their experience. This activates the business’ happiest customers, buries any unfair negative reviews and ensures that the company’s “review ratio” is healthy.

Second, small businesses can turn negative reviews into a second chance. Everyone has a bad day, and business owners deserve to know when something’s wrong. In the past, dissatisfied customers might not even fill out a comment card — they’d just lambaste the business via word of mouth, and the owner might never know anything was wrong.

Small businesses can use online reviews to uncover any legitimate blind spots and show acts of good faith for all the public to see. Engaging with dissatisfied customers in online review forums can actually lead to repeat business, and up to 70% of complaining customers will give the business another shot if their concerns are resolved.

If you run a small business, it’s time to embrace online review sites and use them to your advantage. Word of mouth happens online now, and small businesses finally get to add their voices to the conversation. Better yet, leaning into the world of online reviews might be the only marketing plan a small business needs these days.