It’s tempting to feel like online reviews were created for the sole purpose of being a thorn in the side of new and developing brands. Well, we’re sad (or happy?) to say that this couldn’t be further from the truth, even in today’s world. Now we know what you’re thinking – yes, some people do use online review systems to cast a dark cloud over undeserving businesses – but reputational sabotage existed long before online reviews, so we do not want to let that define the opportunity. In fact, if you want more positive reviews, you will have to first change your mindset to see them as a free digital billboard where past customers can testify and sing your praises. Can you picture it? Good, now let’s talk about how to get the feedback flowing on that digital billboard.

For as long as businesses have existed, customers have decided whether they can trust a company to deliver on what they say they will do for them based on word of mouth – aka reviews. The only thing that has changed is how quickly others come in contact with those reviews. Below are the keys to getting more of those positive reviews we all love for your company.

Be authentic

When building a new brand without a huge marketing budget, your reputation is everything. In order to build a strong reputation, you have to have people vouching for you. Before those people vouch for you, they will need to feel like they really know who you are, and trust you to deliver (also to not screw their friends with faulty products or a service that doesn’t deliver). This means that the key to getting organic lift, and customers feeling good about leaving reviews, comes down to 1. Having a great product, but also 2. Your customers having a very clear idea of what you represent, understanding why you do what you do, and trusting you for who they can tell you really are. Therefore, it is important for you to be very intentional about how you are going to communicate all of these aspects to both your current customers, and to the broader world.

How effective you are at telling your story will have a direct impact on how much people feel like they can trust your company. If they feel like they know who you really are, and that they are doing a service to their friends by recommending you, then they will often leave reviews on their own or with the lightest of reminders.

Refine your platforms

Do you know how your business looks on the platforms your customers will be recommending you on? Do you even have control over what is listed on the review sites? A critical step to getting more reviews is to make sure you have control over your review-site profiles, and are putting your best foot forward. That means claiming your Yelp! Business profile, as well as building your Google My Business profile, and any other platforms relevant to your industry. Make sure to upload great photos of your business, products, or anything else that might help someone understand what makes your business unique. It may sound a bit basic, but you would be shocked how many people never claim their business pages or add their story to the platforms people will be commenting on. If it doesn’t look like you care, why should your customer?

Incentivize feedback

Have you asked your customers to give feedback? A great exercise for you is to track your customer journey and observe when they are the most excited. It might be right after you service them, or when they first unbox your product. Identify when your customer is at an emotional high, and set your system up to reach out to them. Ask if everything is okay, and if they’re happy to drop you a review! If they aren’t happy, go above and beyond to make it right, and often you will find yourself with an even more loyal customer than before!

Want other ideas on getting customers excited to drop great reviews and feedback? Consider offering coupons, giving discounts, providing freebies, or running contests with attractive prizes in exchange for them spreading the word about your business.

Inspire an emotion or create a connection with your customers

In order to thrive in today’s society, your brand has to have a personality. It does not matter what that is, it just absolutely cannot feel like another stale LLC or S-Corp set up to take their money. So you have to have a personality, even if it’s an earnest humble one that just does what it says it’s going to do. But the flip side of that coin is that now more than ever, consumers judge those personalities. They decide if they like (or respect) those personalities, and spend their money accordingly.

How efficiently your company’s personality is able to garner “best friends” (also known as brand champions) who will stick up for you online, and support everything you do, will go a long way in determining how many online reviews you get, and how positive or negative they are. Once you’ve become someone that everyone seems to like online, there develops a strong social pressure against people saying that you’re actually the worst. So put in the time to get to know your customers on a more personal basis, help them understand the company’s “why”, and give them the attention they need to fall in love with the brand.

If your business is still a work in progress, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just important for you to realize that your customers need to know that you love them and care what they think. They will understand if parts of their experience suck, as long as the product is good, they know you want to do better, and that you are actively working on it. Additionally, they have to feel like you are thankful for them, and you absolutely cannot wait to deliver them an amazing customer experience. This may sound like an obvious point, but you would be surprised how many restaurants, retail stores, and service-based companies have a cocky aura about them that screams “you’re lucky you’re here” not “we’re glad you’re here.”

If you take the time to understand what is important to your customer, and try to provide that for them, while creating an identity that is authentic and endearing to your specific audience, and taking ownership of your mistakes – you will be well on your way to a positive rating avalanche!

At Lillian James Creative, we love talking content, company reviews, and all things brand building. Reach out if you want to continue the conversation!