By: vnadal
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How to Use Customer Reviews to Boost Your Sales

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Do you qualify for a
small business loan?

Your small business has customer reviews on Facebook and Yelp, satisfied customers send you messages on Twitter and Instagram. All of which is very exciting and provides you and your employees with the satisfaction of a job well done. But, what do you do with those glowing reviews beyond that? How can you leverage those customer reviews to boost sales for your small business?

So many small businesses treat handling reviews as a nuisance, often ignoring them or just tossing them at the bottom of a product page on the website. However, the savvy businesses and major brands are budgeting larger amounts of their marketing budgets to creating custom content. In fact, in 2012, a record $43.9 billion was spent on these efforts as businesses are utilizing content to boost revenue. One of the most popular and innovative ways is the use of customer testimonials. This is user-generated content (UGC) that is free and easy to obtain, and often under-utilized. There are multiple ways that your small business can use these customer reviews to boost both your online presence and your sales:

Let Others Do the Bragging

We can all get pretty sick of ourselves, with the endless self-promotion that we have to do on social media to get our small businesses noticed. But, as someone who probably consumes the services or products of small businesses, who do you find more trustworthy? The small business owner or other customers who have benefitted from it? Chances are, you are more likely to believe the word of the customer than that of the small business owner, who of course, is going to say glowing things. To that end, why not take some well-written customer reviews and share those on social media, instead?

While you may not want to replace product descriptions with customer reviews on your company website, that is a tactic that you may want to explore when posting a new product or service on social media. This will engage your readers beyond just reading yet another product description. Additionally, given the social aspect of online reviews (it is called, “social media”, after all), it increases the likelihood of your followers purchasing your merchandise.

On ecommerce sites, it can often be quite easy for a business to falsify reviews, making them less trustworthy at a time in which online shoppers are already wary of the authenticity of reviews. However, with reviews, even random one, that are posted on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they are backed up by the real person’s profile. Social media customer reviews have become more credible and may actually boost sales and reputation for a small business beyond that of traditional customer testimony.

Still not convinced? Recent studies have shown that adding product reviews can increase sales by up to 76%. While, additionally, 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business or product, which means that you won’t have to go nuts posting customer reviews; take a handful of the best ones and them do the selling for you!

Lastly, take the time to respond to the customer reviews on social media. Don’t just provide boilerplate responses, but provide a genuine response. Not only will the original poster appreciate it, ensuring repeat business, but your other online followers will be impressed by the personal touches your small businesses puts on customer engagement.

Be Real

Don’t be tempted to sanitize your online presence by deleting negative reviews or only sharing the positive ones on social media. Any website or business page on social media that is only providing positive customer reviews is automatically going to look insincere.

As such, while it may sound counterintuitive, do not be afraid to flaunt your flaws, too, as it will boost your small business’s trustworthiness. Much as with responding to positive reviews, take the time to offer thoughtful replies to the negative reviews, as well. Believe it or not, all of this can actually work to your advantage! A thoughtful, gracious reply to a negative customer review can be influential than any paid marketing efforts, as it will enlighten your followers as to your dedication to customer service. Then, take those negative reviews and learn from them, further demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction.

Should your small business have a presence on such sites as Amazon or eBay, negative reviews can be a bit more problematic, as there is not that same level of verification that exists with social media. You may find yourself the victim of personal attacks or attempts at sabotage from a rival business. If this happens, don’t be afraid to reach out to the ecommerce site and request the negative post be removed.

While they may not always be able to comply if they feel the review has validity, they will remove it if found that the review was somehow fraudulent. It’s important to make those efforts, as needed. While you need to keep your online presence honest and trustworthy, too many negative reviews that are just vicious attacks don’t need to be responded to, and can seriously damage your brand.

If, however, you are finding that your small business is being subjected to a lot of negative customer reviews that have validity, then again, take this as a great learning opportunity to right the ship. Do not, however, fall into temptation to create your own positive reviews to somehow offset any less-than-glowing ones. If you get caught (and, let’s face it, in this day and age, there’s a good chance that you would), it will damage your reputation far more than some negative reviews.

As with all things, don’t let the haters get you down! Take everything as an opportunity to learn, as an opportunity for growth.

Optimal Optimizing

Just because someone posted a review on Amazon or Facebook, or some other social media or ecommerce site, doesn’t mean that that is the only place in which that positive energy can live. Why not really optimize your search engine optimization (SEO) by utilizing your customer reviews? After all, the presence of user-generated content on your website boosts the SEO when search engines are determining how well your online store ranks. (Google especially loves UGC, and we now use, “Google” as a verb, so ensuring that your reviews are searchable will be to your benefit!)

Unsure how to do that? No worries! It’s easier than you may think. There are several applications that can assist small businesses in the areas of, “social commerce”. Some examples include: Bazaarvoice, Reevo, Yotpo and Ratings Widget.

Many of them are free to start, which is generally music to the ears of most small business owners, only starting to charge clients after having more than 1,000,000 page views. Additionally, they allow for easy posting of reviews to your social media sites.

Take it Offline

We have spent a lot of time about how your small business can leverage your customer reviews to boost sales and your online presence. But, here’s a wacky idea…why not try leveraging these online reviews within the context of your brick and mortar shop? Are there products that have garnered a great deal of positive attention on your website or other online platforms? Then, why not print out some of these great reviews, enlarge them, and place them strategically throughout your store?

Chances are, your real life foot traffic has seen some of your business’s reviews, and seeing them in living color will draw increased attention (read: increased sales) towards those items that people have been raving about, online.

There are many ways in which being a small business owner can allow you to be creative and think outside the box, and this is yet another one! Find innovative ways to best leverage your innovative content.

Do you qualify for a
small business loan?