man smiling at laptop in a coffee shop
With 68% of people saying that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, customer reviews are crucial. — Getty Images/Petar Chernaev

Bad word of mouth can put a dent in a company’s reputation. A recent BrightLocal survey found that nearly nine in 10 consumers read online reviews for local businesses. According to the survey, 57% will only use a business that has a rating of at least four stars, and 68% say positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.

Getting folks to leave you desired feedback Amazon, Facebook or Yelp isn’t easy—especially for small businesses. But with the right planning and practices, you can receive more raves and build your reputation. We reached out to a few experts on this topic, who suggested the following tips.

Provide best-in-class service and products

Haley Couch Yitzhak, head of marketing at reviews platform Sitejabber, insisted that the simplest and most effective way to motivate clients to sing your praises online is to aim for quality offerings, especially top-notch customer service.

“If a small business is doing everything it can to ensure a positive experience with its customers, it should have no trouble receiving positive reviews,” she said. “But it’s imperative that every single customer interaction runs as smoothly as possible.”

To help matters, always provide what you say you will.

“If your advertisement promotes specific services and products, ensure that you can deliver what you promise,” added Yitzhak. “Additionally, always greet your customers, by name if you know their name—whether it’s in person or via an email. Personalizing the customer experience can go a long way in building loyalty and trust.”

Plan to go that extra mile, too.

“Offer your customers something extra to make them feel special, whether it’s an extra month free, a discount or simply sending a personalized thank you note,” Yitzhak said.

Lastly, after providing good customer service, ask if that patron would mind leaving you a positive review on a particular site or social media platform, through a Google review partner, or even with a handwritten letter — the text of which you can use on your website or in marketing materials.

If a small business is doing everything it can to ensure a positive experience with its customers, it should have no trouble receiving positive reviews.

Haley Couch Yitzhak, head of marketing at Sitejabber

Use SMS text messages to solicit reviews

Chase Anderson, CEO of Lepton Marketing, said utilizing text messaging to solicit reviews from customers after they have completed a transaction is a smart tactic with high conversion rates.

“First, select an SMS marketing provider that has existing integrations with your CMS or web platform. Then, connect your SMS software to automatically import customer phone numbers from the software that runs your website, such as WordPress, from a CMS like Salesforce, or even using Google Sheets,” said Anderson.

Next, craft and send an effective solicitation message in less than 918 characters (the SMS limit). Request direct feedback from the customer in the form of a review, and direct them to where it can be posted, such as Google. Also, provide an email or phone number for them to contact if they have any issues, which may help reduce negative reviews.

“Remember—people will be more willing to review your product or service if it was a recent purchase, so try to solicit reviews as quickly as possible. The same day is best,” Anderson noted.

[See more: 3 Key Facts About Customer Reviews.]

Launch a local influencer campaign

Positive reviews don’t always have to come from paying customers; you can also ramp up your rep with the help of local influencers, including professional product reviewers, bloggers and social media personalities with lots of followers.

“Find influencers in your community who are active in your niche and offer them a product, service or monetary compensation in exchange for an honest, thorough review of your establishment,” recommended Jessica Wright, marketing and development director at Momentum Enterprises. “These reviews can be in the form of a blog post on their site or a direct review on yours, although I prefer the former because when the influencer posts on their own channel you usually get exposed to a larger audience.”

The review is best if it’s a first-person account of the influencer’s experience with your business. After you approve their writing, give the influencer an exclusive coupon code to share with their audience, which helps measure the post’s success.

“To find local influencers, search hashtags, Google local blogs or businesses, and investigate who your clients interact with online,” Wright said.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published June 11, 2019