In the current marketplace, what you say about yourself is dwarfed in importance by what others say about you.
Customers rely heavily on the testimonials of other shoppers when making purchases.
- 9-out-of-10 customers read online reviews before they make a purchase.
- 7-out-of-10 customers will not take an action without reading reviews.
- Customers are far more likely to make a purchase based on reading trusted reviews.
- Positive reviews make customers far more likely to make a purchase.
If you want your content to be seen in digital conversations, it must resonate with your audience. Social media platforms like Facebook continue to tweak their algorithm to serve up content that users like based on engagement. If people don’t respond to your content, it gets buried.
Unfortunately, we are far less likely to share a positive experience with a brand and far more likely to share a negative experience. As a result, businesses, nonprofits and other organizations supporting our local communities and serving customers around our region must be more diligent about asking for favorable reviews when it comes to their work.
But how can we do this in a way that is both ethical and effective? There are a few strategies that can help.
Treat reviews as a reference for other customers
The data shows customers rely on other customers when making the decision to purchase, donate or take some other form of action. Ask your customers to leave a review, not as a pat on the back to your brand, but as a resource to future visitors. Sharing their story and experience can help others when it comes time to select a vendor, product or charity to support.
The Murdock Trust recently utilized this approach when we announced a major milestone for our organization. As excited as we were to share the news that our foundation had made $1 billion in cumulative grants since 1975, it was more important that we leverage the news to promote the work of the nonprofits we serve and reach more potential grantees. We asked partner organizations to share their experience with us which generated a variety of examples of grant projects that other nonprofits could consider proposing for funding. It also helped tell our story through the work of the groups we support, just like reviews are your business’ way of telling your story through the experiences of your customers.
Ask your super fans
Every brand has a core group of die-hard supporters. People who believe in your mission, who adore your products and who swear by your services. These are your earliest adopters, your biggest buyers, your most loyal volunteers, your board members and so on. Identify this core group of supporters and reach out to them with a personalized message, thanking them for their ongoing support, outlining briefly the importance of reviews and ask that they take a few minutes to contribute their feedback.
Emphasize constructive reviews, not just positive
It can feel awkward to ask someone to say something nice about you and it may put your customer, vendor or partner in an uncomfortable position if they don’t feel confident giving you a perfect review. Rather than asking for a “positive” review, emphasize that you want them to share their real experience. A review that speaks to the specifics of their experience versus a generic “Acme corporation is awesome” will resonate more with review readers.
Monitor your key review sites and engage
Make a point of identifying the most influential review sites for your organization and continually monitor for posts. For a restaurant this may be Yelp. For a hotel this may be TripAdvisor. For a small business it may be Google. When a review goes live, positive or negative, make sure you respond. This shows potential customers or donors that you are listening to feedback and that you seek to engage in a mutually beneficial conversation with your audience. This also ensures that any time a negative review goes live, you can rebut criticism that may be unfounded.
Listen, learn and repeat
Sometimes negative feedback is difficult to hear or read. It can be easy to simply blow off a negative review as a customer having a bad day but do your best to avoid this approach. Successful brands are always looking for unvarnished, constructive feedback to continually evolve and improve their audience experience. You can do this through surveys and informal conversations with customers, but you can also gather valuable insight through online reviews. Examine your reviews for trends or repeated pieces of feedback. If multiple customers experience the same pain point, this may be the only way you have to learn about it and adjust. Making this feedback loop part of your ongoing process will provide you regular feedback to help strengthen and sustain your organization.
Colby Reade is the director of communications for the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. He can be reached at Colby@murdocktrust.org.