Congratulations! You’ve formed your new business. Now, you face one of the biggest challenges every new business faces: getting new customers. You’re the unproven new kid on the block, and have yet to establish your online reputation.
The Catch 22 Every New Business Faces: Building Sales and Trust
Your competitors have been in business a long time. People already trust them. Why should they take a risk on your new and unproven business?
Normally, people trust a local business because of what they hear from friends or family.
Every new business faces this uphill catch 22. You need customers to get word-of-mouth referrals, but you also need those referrals to get customers.
So, how do you break through, build your reputation, prove you’re trustworthy, and convince people to give you a try?
Accelerate Sales and Your Reputation with Online Reviews
Online reviews can dramatically accelerate establishing the reputation of your business.
As it turns out, online reviews on major sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook are now nearly as effective at building trust as traditional word of mouth. According to a consumer survey by BrightLocal, 93% of consumers read local reviews to decide if a business is good or not. 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations!
Online reviews also have one big advantage over traditional word of mouth recommendations. One online review can convince hundreds or thousands of potential customers to trust your business, instead of a few close friends and family.
Your business needs as many positive reviews as possible from your early customers to break out of its catch 22. This allows you to quickly catch up to your competitors’ online reviews.
Thankfully, there’s a way to accelerate how quickly you get positive reviews. Very few businesses use these advanced techniques. So, there’s an excellent chance you’ll quickly catch up to your established competitors and even surpass them!
1. Focus on the Right Review Sites (One at a Time, Then Alternate)
First, pick the most important online review site for your business and focus on it exclusively until your profile on that site is in great shape.
After that site works out well, do the same for the second most important site.
If there’s a third site that can have a significant impact on driving new customers to your business, focus exclusively on that site, too.
It’s very rare for a local business to need to focus on more than two or three main review sites. Usually, the top two or three drive the vast majority of new customers and sales to the business.
Which review sites are most important to your business? The answer varies based on your industry and local market. Chances are that Google, Yelp, or Facebook are in at least one of the top spots. Consider Google if SEO is important to you. Look into Facebook if your customers often engage on the social network. Or, go to Yelp if it’s popular for your industry in your local area.
Think about industry-specific review sites, too. Zillow is a top choice for real estate agents, TripAdvisor for bed and breakfasts, and Avvo for law firms. If your industry has a major review site dedicated to it, include it in your top two or three sites.
How will you know when a review site is in good shape and it’s time to focus on the next site?
Simple. Take a look at your local competitors’ review profiles. You’ll know that a profile is in good shape when you reach both of these goals:
- You have a star rating that’s equal to (or better than) your key competitors.
- Either (a) you have as many reviews as your key competitors or (b) you have at least 30 reviews. If a competitor has a lot of reviews, you may want to move on at 30 instead of spending too much time on one review site. For 76% of consumers, 30 reviews are enough to establish credibility.
Once your top review profiles are in good shape, alternate between them. Spend a week on one site, then the next week on the next site.
Alternating between sites will make sure each review profile has “fresh” reviews. If your newest review is older than one month, 51% of consumers will think your reviews are too old to make a decision about your business. Keep feeding fresh reviews to those main sites on an ongoing basis!
2. Pre-Screen for Positive Reviews
Now that you’re focused on your most important review site, how can you make sure you get a high star rating? What’s to stop customers from giving you a 3-star review…or worse!?
For every 1-star review you get, you’ll need seven new 5-star reviews to bring your average back up to 4.5 stars.
Asking customers for reviews without pre-screening is like playing Russian roulette. Don’t gamble with the future of your business by asking for reviews from customers who aren’t ultra-happy.
Pre-screening is simple. First, send an email or text message to a customer, asking them how they would rate your business on a 5-star scale. When a customer gives you a high enough rating (like 4 or 5 stars) then ask if they would be so kind as to share their experience on the review site that’s most important to your business.
Be sure to give them a link to the review page that is very easy to use. If the link or the page is even slightly confusing, you’ll see a huge drop in how many customers actually leave a review.
When a customer gives you a rating that’s lower than you need (like 3 stars or lower) don’t ask them for a public review, since that will only hurt your star rating.
Instead, ask for feedback. Ask how you could have earned a higher rating. You’ll get great insights into how to make future customers happier…and earn more positive reviews.
No matter what, everyone wins! You get positive public reviews and feedback on how to keep improving your business. Your customers get to let you know how you can serve them better. And prospects get more online reviews to read, so they can make a better decision about your business.
3. Ask EVERY Customer (To a Limit)
Now you’re focused on the right review site, and you’re pre-screening to boost your average star rating. The only thing left is to get as many reviews as your top competitors, or at least 30 reviews.
But, you don’t want to spend years on this project, so how can you accelerate getting reviews?
Simple. Pre-screen EVERY customer… Up to a limit.
Make it a standard process. Set a schedule. Every day, or at least every week, set aside a dedicated time to send pre-screening emails or text messages to every customer you’ve concluded business with during that day or week.
Thanks to pre-screening, you don’t need to fear asking unhappy customers. So, instead of guessing who to contact, just ask them all! It will take you less time and effort, and you’ll max out the rate at which you get new reviews.
Just be careful not to get too many reviews.
Yes, you heard that right. It’s possible to get too many reviews.
Major review sites use special algorithms to detect fraudulent reviews. If you suddenly get a lot of reviews, those algorithms will think your reviews are fake, even though they’re not.
So if you have the kind of business that gets a high volume of customers (like many retail businesses) then shoot to get no more than 1 or 2 reviews per week on average.
4. Bask in the Warm Glow of Victory!
Congratulations! You made it to the end of this article.
Now you know more than most businesses (including your competitors) about how to accelerate getting lots of positive reviews, so you can build your new company’s reputation, earn trust, get new customers faster, and generate sales.
You’re well on your way to basking in the warm glow of sweet, sweet victory!
Chas Cooper is CEO and Founder of Rising Star Reviews, which offers a web app that helps local businesses get more 5-star reviews from their happy customers. He spent 20 years as a marketing professional for Silicon Valley companies, then decided to start Rising Star Reviews to help small local businesses by applying what he had learned. Chas is also author of the recent “ultimate guide” on how to get Google reviews. Feel free to reach out to chas directly by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.