When was the last time you tried a new restaurant without a recommendation? People are naturally inclined to seek the opinions of others before trying something new. We know that consumers look to friends, family and even strangers for feedback and recommendations on services and products. A staggering 97% of customers read online reviews before they buy and almost half of those will only trust 4-stars or better. *

There is no debate online customer reviews are important whether you are selling a product or offering a service. But where do you start? How do you get, promote and manage your reviews? Check out the five ways below to get started:

  1. Know where to position yourself
    Make sure that you have completed your profiles on popular review sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp. These sites have a combined average just shy of 300 million visitors each month.

  2. Ask for reviews
    You can ask customers for a review via your website, email, phone or comment card at your store. For example, you can send a personalized email that asks for feedback and provide a link to make it easy for the receiver to leave a review.

  3. Offer an Incentive
    Most customers will leave a review without an incentive but sometimes an incentive can motivate them to act quickly and get that review posted. You can offer coupons, discounts or some type of freebie for participating.

  4. Respond to all reviews
    Make sure to respond to all reviews both good and bad. It's easy to get caught up in the emotions of a bad review but it's important to stay professional and positive in your response. If you respond negatively - or not at all, future customers and prospects will see your response and make a decision about your business based off of it. Be sure to acknowledge and respond to positive reviews as well. This will show customers that you appreciate their feedback.

  5. Promote your reviews
    You may have noticed that many sites these days are putting customer testimonials right on their homepage. There's a good reason for that. We highly recommend finding a way to take some of your reviews and sprinkling them throughout your website to improve results and promote further reviews. You can also promote your reviews on social media platforms like Facebook.

Online reviews are a vital method of winning new business in every industry. They're seen by almost everyone and play heavily into your success both online and offline. Prioritize your customers reviews on platforms like Facebook, Google and Yelp and take some time to make sure they are set up correctly so that it's easy to review your business. Then be active in your approach to winning more positive reviews by asking your customers for their feedback and leveraging your social media channels to promote your reviews and drive more people to leave their comments.

*Bright Local Consumer Review Survey 2017