SBX 10: An Online Customer Review Strategy That Works

The Small Business Express

In a world where potential customers do online research from their homes, phones, and tablets the need for social proof has never been greater.

Online reviews, where customers have rated your business publically for all the world to see, has become one of the most important marketing strategies that very few businesses are using.  Some customers won’t buy anything unless it’s been thoroughly vetted by others, while others need that last bit of reassurance before having the courage to make a purchase.

Unfortunately as the need for online reviews has sprung up, so has a small industry of fake review writing.  A savvy customer can easily distinguish between a fake review and a real one, or even a “motivated review,” where companies provide an incentive for a positive write-up.  The goal here is to create a library of online reviews that are both ethical and transparent.  And to use a review forum to strategically address negative feedback and prove your concern for the customer experience.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • Pros and Cons: people will spend mega bucks off the recommendations of total strangers

  • Why taking shortcuts to reviews will actually hurt you in the long-run

  • The mentality of the happy/angry online reviewer and how to capture the middle-class

  • Better to have a laser focus versus a light bulb focus with your customers

  • The frustration of a YELP slap and why authentic Google reviews will never be discounted

  • Why your customer reviews are showing up on many small sites you’ve never even heard of

  • Reviews as a long-term game and how to develop a systematic strategy to get 10, 20, or 30+ per year


Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Pick the site you’re going to focus on.  It’s far better to do one site really well than to dabble in 3 or 4 sites.  The question you have to ask yourself is “where are my potential customers reading about me?”  It may be a niche site in your particular industry.  Or, like millions of other businesses, it may be Google reviews (created through a Google Plus account).  Populating google reviews is more beneficial than focusing on a microsite in many cases because of the added benefit of local search.  Not to mention the fact that many people have a Google account, which makes it easier for your customers to execute.  Do some research and avoid sites that have a tendency to wipe out accounts.
  2. Create a systematic asking strategy.  The only way to amass reviews is one at a time.  Businesses have to ask frequently (all the time) consistently (every time).  Most owners and employees are nervous to ask, so write out the exact words to say and practice, practice, practice.  Fear will go away with time.  An incentive can help create asking confidence but if this is the road you go down, incentive for the act of creating the review, positive or negative.  Make it simple and easy for customers to leave a review.  Review URLs are often times long, ugly, and intimidating.  Shorten them by following one of the strategies in this episode.
  3. Follow-up, with those who’ve agreed AND those who’ve reviewed.  Most people you ask to leave a review will need a gentle reminder, so don’t be shy about following-up.  It goes without saying that you will always keep your promises.  So if you made a promise to incentize a review, follow-up and fast.  Know that negative criticism comes with the territory of business ownership and, with the right response, can actually win over onlooking customers.  Somebody in your business (young business = that means YOU) should be checking online reviews regularly and respond properly to negative criticism.


Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. The definitive guide for small business reviews, including an email template you can use to ask your customers to leave a review (
  2. Google for Places – absolutely essential for ranking in Google and also for customer conversion.
  3. (
  4. Excellent tips on Yelp from Social Media Examiner that apply to any review site.  (
  5. Do NOT PAY to be reviewed on this site.  Biggest scam in America.  Watch this 20/20 investigation.  (
  6. Some tier 1 review sites other than Google, Bing, and Yahoo: City Search (, Judy’s Book (, Angie’s List (, and Homestars (  — review sites that may be appropriate for your industry.


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  1. […] simple and easy way for customers to provide you powerful and authentic testimonials (and YES, they do need a little help.  Most people aren’t naturally good at […]

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