Why Online Reviews Are a Must for Local Businesses

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This One Time On A Bus

A friend of mine told a story once that describes the importance of how local businesses can best be helped by reviews. In his own words words, “The year I graduated from high school, my family decided to take a trip back east. One of the places we visited on this trip was St. Louis. You can’t drive anywhere in that city; the traffic is bad, the parking is virtually non-existent, and the kids are always shouting in the back seat. Those wishing to save time and preserve their sanity ride the bus.”

“While on the bus one day, my parents were trying to decide where to go for dinner.  One of them decided to ask the bus driver what he thought. He had nothing but endless, glowing praise for a particular local restaurant, so we decided to try it out.  We were not disappointed. The food was great, and served in bigger portions than I had ever seen from any restaurant before or since. We talked about the place for months after.  To this day, it still comes up in conversation sometimes.”

“I don’t remember the name of the restaurant anymore – I’m sure my mom has it written down somewhere, probably in a scrapbook next to the picture she took of the place – and I certainly don’t remember the bus driver’s name, but there is one thing that I do clearly remember: we’d never have heard of the place if it hadn’t been for a local telling us about it.”

Online Reviews Make or Break Local Businesses

Word of mouth is still the #1 most trusted source of information on a local business. Studies repeatedly show that people don’t trust advertising, but they will trust the opinions of a company’s customers. Globally, 70% of consumers state that they trust online reviews – not as much as direct word from family or friends (which sits at 92%), but still a significant number.

Online reviews are the word of mouth for the Internet Age.  A local business that neglects them is missing out on a huge number of potential customers.  According to BrightLocal, 97% of consumers in the United States look at online reviews before purchasing. Of those, 85% say that they trust online reviews almost as much as recommendations from friends and family. Clearly, online reviews are important.

But they must be good reviews. Of that 97%, 49% say they’ll only go to a place if its business rating is 4 stars or above. While providing a quality product or service is the foundation of success, it’s important to remember that a house is more than just a foundation. You need at least four walls and a roof – and preferably some comfy furniture. If you want a good review, it’s important to engage your customer. Do everything you can to make the experience enjoyable. Proper follow-up with the customer can aid in this tremendously. 30% of consumers state that how a business follows-up and interacts with customer reviews is a major factor in determining whether or not they trust a business. This is also a major contributing factor to gaining reviews as well. 68% of customers left a review for a business when asked to.

Don’t Live in the Past

Traditional forms of marketing are becoming less effective at gaining you customers. Before the Internet, advertisements on TV, or in newspapers and magazines were the primary way a customer heard about you. In those primitive days of cave paintings and mammoth steak dinners, those advertisements were not just the first, but often the only impression your customer got. That’s not the case today.  Online reviews have made it possible for word of mouth to spread to levels we could never imagine before.

On the downside, that means all those tv and newspaper ads aren’t helping you as much as they used to.  On the other hand, you now have access to the most trusted method of advertising that’s ever existed. If  you’re ignoring the impact of online reviews, you’re not just missing out on a good source of advertising, you’re missing out on the best source of advertising out there.

To see how we can help you maximize your review potential, get in touch with us today!

#Entrepreneur, Online Dream Architect, and #Marketing Broker. @MatthewEVeil on Twitter, Taking online marketing to a whole new level for small to medium sized businesses.

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