Whilst reviews in the consumer world are hugely influential, glowing testimonials in business can also be a powerful signal for trust and an excellent marketing tool.

That’s not to mention the local SEO benefits.

The upshot – this translates into sales. According to a survey by G2 and Heinz Marketing, a whopping 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review.

If you’re just starting out in business, it can be a challenge to gain people’s trust. Reviews and testimonials are essential. Even for more established businesses, social proof can have a massive impact.

Referrals, or word of mouth, have long been a powerful form of marketing. In fact, for some small businesses they are the most effective way of winning new clients, alongside networking.

As small businesses often work with tight marketing budgets, this is incredibly important. It requires no specialist knowledge, just that you deliver a great product or service – one that people will be happy to recommend to friends, family and their wider business network.

With all that said, you still need to be proactive in order to make the most of your satisfied customers.

How to ask for reviews

Before you start asking your customers for reviews, it’s a good idea to set up your Google My Business page. If you’ve not done this already, they’ve written some comprehensive instructions.

This isn’t the only place you should look to collect reviews (other options include Trustpilot, Yell, Yelp and industry-specific ones, such as Trip Advisor) but it’s often the first thing people see when they search for a local service.

The most genuine reviews will be those left spontaneously, without prompting from you. While it’s nice when people do this, you can’t rely on it.

There’s no harm in giving your customers a nudge if you go about it in the right way:

  • Make it simple – send them a link and explain how to do it. Include it in emails, newsletters and on your website.
  • Timing is everything– fairly obvious, but if a client compliments some work you’ve just done or a problem you’ve solved, why not ask them to put those words in a review?
  • Stick at it – most people lead busy lives. Politely remind them if they don’t do it the first time. Just don’t be a pest.

Make the most of good reviews

If you’ve managed to gather some good reviews, it makes sense to use them whenever and wherever you can:

  • Website – embed them from review sites or rewrite them as testimonials on a dedicated page.
  • Case Studies – a case study is more powerful when the results are explained in the customer’s words.
  • Social Media – if you want to talk about how great your company is, why not let your customers speak for you?

Think of your good reviews as mini advertisements for your business – the main difference being, more people trust them than actual adverts!

How to deal with bad reviews

It would be too simplistic to only talk about good reviews. In business, things don’t always go to plan. It’s not about who is to blame, but how do you deal with customers choosing to complain via a bad review?

Here’s what you should do:

  • Respond quickly – acknowledge the problem, address it professionally, and apologise if necessary.
  • Solve the problem – how can you rectify the issue?
  • Learn from it – think of it as feedback. How can you avoid a similar situation in future?

By dealing with bad reviews in the right way, you can turn them into a positive and show that you take all kinds of feedback seriously.

If you handle them unprofessionally or ignore them altogether, it sends out a negative message.

How to get referral work

As a spin-off to good reviews, happy customers are much more likely to recommend you to other people.

If your business provides customers with an amazing experience and excellent value, word spreads.

Referrals are a brilliant form of marketing because they cost you nothing – other than a bit of time and effort!

There are a few things you can do to swing the referral odds in your favour:

  • Partners – if you work with other businesses offering complementary products and services, why not see if you can refer work to one another as a mutually beneficial arrangement?
  • Network – get out there and network with like-minded businesspeople. You never know when an opportunity will arise, and your name could be at the front of their mind.
  • Promotions – if you can incentivise referrals through discounts or other special offers, they become a much more attractive proposition.
  • Content – by producing content that answers the questions your clients ask, you increase the chance that they’ll share it with others.
  • Service – what goes around comes around. Treat clients as partners and make them feel special by giving them a great experience.

Practice what you preach

When it comes to reviews, testimonials and referrals, remember to thank people for sending them your way. And, if the opportunity arises, provide them for great businesses you work with too.

It’s worth remembering that your clients can be the best marketers for your business. A glowing testimonial from someone who has first-hand experience of your product or service will say it better than you ever could.

Concentrate on providing a great service and delivering on your promises. Then, every once in awhile, check in on your customers to ask for their feedback.

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