As a blog mentor and digital marketing consultant, my business’s online presence means everything. So today I want to share some thoughts with those of you also running an online venture – whether it’s full-time, part-time, or you’re hoping to use it to eventually leave your current 9-5, evaluating your online reputation is an absolute must.

Making a decision to purchase a product or invest in a service isn’t an easy one. If you own a business, it is important to not just attract good customers, but to retain them as well. There is more competition than ever, and customers expect to be delighted and thrilled at every turn. If your business falls short, they will visit your competitor– sorry, but that’s reality. More importantly, a customer will tell twice as many people about a bad experience as they will about a good one. As a business owner, it’s critical to encourage customers to leave reviews, and to respond to every single one.

For example, let’s say you’ve got someone looking at Charleston townhouses for sale, hoping to soon move there from across the country. Guess what? They’re also likely looking at other area businesses as well! You have to make sure you’re staying competitive by managing your reviews because you never know just who might be looking at you online, even if they’re not currently in your target area.

Managing Your Online Presence and reviews as a business owner

Getting Customers to Leave Reviews is Easy–Just Ask Them

Before you begin looking for reviews, take a look at your competitors. Read what their customers are saying, and most importantly, look at how they respond. Are they proactive in their responses?

When you’re ready to start culling reviews, start small. Getting too many reviews at once looks suspicious and can diminish trust of potential customers. Aim for 1-2 reviews per month, increasing from there. You can incentivize reviews, but it is very important not to pay for them or go a not-so-legit route. You want good reviews that accurately depict a customer’s experience.

So how can you actually encourage a customer to leave a review? It is as simple as asking.

If you have a customer who always praises your work, ask them if they would kindly leave you a review. After you ask them, send them a reminder to encourage them to do so. When you send that reminder, include a discount or coupon thanking them for leaving the review, and encourage them to spread the word. If you have employees, be sure to train them to ask customers for reviews–make this a regular part of everyday business.

Include calls to action on your social media channels that allow customers to leave a review right then and there and share the positive reviews you’ve already received. Thank every customer once they’ve reviewed your business.

Another effective method to encourage customers to leave reviews is the “tip” trick. This strategy works by having an employee tell the customer “If you had a good experience and include my first name in the review, the company will give me a $10 tip!” – this offers customers a little incentive to leave a review, especially when they’ve had good service.

Building Your Online Reputation

After you begin to amass reviews, take a few minutes to respond to each one, even if they are negative. Never ignore a bad review—that can backfire quick. It is important to respond quickly, usually within 24-48 hours. Always, ALWAYS be polite, no matter what the review says. Be authentic, staying away from using canned responses. Address the customer personally and offer to make it right. Give them the opportunity to visit your business again, and, with any luck, change their minds about their previous experience.

Always be sympathetic to your customers and respond offline wherever possible. Contact the customer after you’ve responded to their review and provide an opportunity to make things right for them.

By encouraging your customers to leave reviews, you’re making it a regular habit. Provide honest dialogue, even when the feedback is not what you’d hoped for. You’ll create raving fans of your business before you know it.

Comments make me smile!