We value your input; How to solicit consumer reviews for business success

Five stars! Love it! Thumbs-up!

A review from a consumer is a gift to any business. Great reviews point the way for future customers to engage with your business. Bad reviews signal customers should keep looking and avoid your business. A couple years ago consumer reviews were not terribly important. Today, reviews are essential to marketing any business.

When a consumer likes a product, a service, an experience or just the relationship with a business, they are apt to talk about these very positive experiences online.

By now you have, hopefully, seen consumer reviews and you probably have made buying decisions based on reviews. The majority of consumers report they read reviews and factor them into their purchasing decisions. Critical reviews of restaurants and movies were once what we read. Today we read reviews about hotels on, restaurants on, attorneys on or, home care specialists on and so on. Virtually everywhere you look online you can read consumer reviews.

Why do reviews matter?

1. Good reviews help consumers choose your product or service, bad reviews may repel them and suggest they should look elsewhere.

2. Reviews (good and bad) inform the Google algorithm. The more reviews your business receives the higher in search results your business will appear.

3. Reviews clue business owners into what people love about a business and what can be improved. The smart business owner watches reviews, replies to reviews and works to continuously improve thanks to these consumer insights.

How does a business owner go about earning reviews?

Though it takes a bit of focus and effort, it is not terribly difficult to gain reviews.

1. Ask your customers for a review.

2. Email your clients and contacts requesting a review and include convenient links to the sites where you would like to have reviews published.

3. Maintain a link on your website that brings people to the precise spot where reviews can be published.

4. Collaborate with a third-party service to automate reviews and reap the benefit of receiving as many ratings and reviews as possible. This is especially helpful for businesses where there are a lot of customers such as bakeries, roofing companies, doctor's offices or legal practices.

5. Request reviews of people close to a purchase experience, a special event or a service rendered; people are apt to write reviews for recent experiences.

Ideally your business receives glowing reviews but sometimes you might not earn the highest rating. Don't fret in those instances as your customer may be offering you tremendous feedback which you can use to improve your business. Be sure to respond to reviews, especially negative ones to demonstrate that yours in a business that cares about its customers and stakeholders. Once you begin receiving many good reviews you can re-purpose them as nicely styled memes for social media.

Shoppers and clients are a lot like theatergoers, they want the actors to succeed. More than anything people want to love your product or service.

When they take the time to comment about it that's worth a lot to you and your business.

Make the most of these consumer touchpoints and continue to build an increasingly successful enterprise.

• Rebecca Hoffman is the founder and principal of Good Egg Concepts, a strategic communications and brand marketing consulting practice serving clients around Chicagoland and nationally.

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