We constantly talk on our blog about how the customer journey has increasingly changed over the last decade. You can delve deeper into the evolution of the customer journey here. One strategy that has transformed over the years is word of mouth marketing. It’s true that many traditional small business owners still rely on word of mouth referrals and feel less inclined to promote online business reviews when they see that they have a steady sales cycle. And there are other businesses nowadays that only rely on online reviews. However, the combination of word of mouth referrals and online business reviews have proven to be a powerful sales tool. In this blog post, we’re going to discuss the power of offline and online reviews, as well as the reasons behind needing both.
Offline Marketing: Word of Mouth Referrals
There’s no doubt that word of mouth is one of the best ways to engage customers and drive more sales. It’s true that according to a Hubspot study, 90% of people trust suggestions from family and friends. People are four times more likely to buy when they are referred by someone they know. That goes to show the value of word of mouth referrals.
Because of the high conversion rate, small business owners tend to rely on this offline practice. They still believe that word of mouth referrals are much more credible than online reviews. There is truth to that thought, which makes many think they get most of their business from their referrals.
However, there are two reasons why word of mouth referrals aren’t scalable.
- The reach of a customer’s referral network can only extend so far.
- The internet and evolution of the customer journey has created more interactions online.
The process after a customer hears about your business has changed. That’s why small businesses must shift from word of mouth and encourage customers to leave reviews online.
Online Business Reviews
The rise of online reviews has transformed how a word of mouth referral turns into a sale. Let’s say your friend talks with you about remodeling her kitchen. You tell your friend about the great remodeling project that your contractor just finished up. A decade ago, you would have given your friend the phone number and your friend would immediately inquire. Today, you most likely will tell your friend the name of the company and your friend will begin her research.
Since 73% of engagement happens off a business’ website, your friend will certainly run into more during her research. In fact, online reviews are the second most relevant part of a business that a consumer will seek out. Even though a prospect may hear about a business through word of mouth, that prospect may be pushed to become a customer based on your online reputation.
Online research has become the new normal and consumers can get lost online before making a purchasing decision. That’s why it’s necessary for small businesses to seek out online reviews and build their online presence sot hat when prospects inevitably search for you they won’t be left wondering more. Overall, why are reviews so important?
The Value of Online Reviews
1. Build Trust
While any business can claim that they are the best, you actually be able to prove just how good you are. Positive online reviews are the data that you need to back up your claim. When prospects read about a customer’s personal experience with a business, it increasingly builds trust. However, I’d like to note that not all reviews are trustworthy. Overly positive reviews and heavily negative reviews are often less trustworthy. Small businesses have every right to report false reviews and it’s important for prospects to be able to tell the signs of a deceptive review.
2. Create Context
Sometimes a business’ website does not go in-depth to describe their product or services. Many rely on reviews to get more details from a customer and the frame of reference for services. Online business reviews tend to provide the context necessary for prospects to make a decision.
3. Improve Comparisons
Comparing products and services is a natural process for a buyer. Online reviews are one of the best ways to find accurate comparisons. They are a way for customers to compare services and evaluate their needs, from availability to pricing.
4. Reduce Risk
When a prospect reviews real feedback from customers, they will become more comfortable with choosing your business. Negative reviews can provide a sense of risk so it’s important to maintain a good review strategy and look for areas of improvement.
With a fine-tuned online reviews strategy, you could exponentially grow your business compared to only using word of mouth referrals. And with online reviews and word of mouth referrals working in tandem, you will open up more opportunities than you knew possible.
One Platform to Manage Your Online Reputation
How do you know what review sites to focus on? There are many out there that will increase your online reputation. With so many logins and platforms, it becomes a lot to manage for one person. That’s why we custom-built the Surefire Local Marketing Platform for local businesses. Transform you and your marketing team into local marketing superheroes by utilizing the industry’s most powerful platform.
There are a lot of marketing platforms to manage your online reviews. So what makes the Surefire Local Marketing Platform different? Many platforms claim to be a one-stop-shop for online review management, however, when you want to take any actions, they force you to leave the interface and bring you to the other sites (i.e. Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, etc.). The Surefire Local Marketing Platform integrates review sites so that you never have to leave our platform. You can respond to reviews, request reviews (individually or in bulk), see any buzz words, and your overall online reputation, without ever having to leave the platform. This is a unique feature to Surefire Local and one that we are proud to offer.
Request a demo today to see the power of online reviews.