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Build Your Online Celebrity Status: Why Online Reviews Are Essential to Your Success

In today’s high-tech business environment, credibility is more important than ever. There’s an expectation that a business, in almost any industry, will have an online presence. A business that doesn’t have such a presence is going to be written off by many consumers as "behind the times" or "unprofessional."

But increasingly, we are finding that simply having a website isn’t enough. Many consumers want to see some sort of "social evidence" that your company is worth doing business with. One powerful way to accomplish this is by using testimonials on your website—especially video testimonials. But many consumers today want more. They want to see evidence from a source other than you and your website. They want to hear from other, unbiased consumers. And that is where online reviews come into play.

Sites such as Yelp, Yahoo Answers, and Mahalo offer platforms for consumers to read and write reviews of various local and national businesses. And because these sites are very search-engine friendly, it’s common to see reviews for a specific business display high on the search results when you search for that business.

Obviously, this presents both a threat and an opportunity. The threat is that poor reviews are likely to hurt your conversion rate—and there’s very little you can do to prevent a negative review from being posted if a customer is determined to do so. The opportunity is that, if you are able to secure positive reviews, they often serve as a final "stamp of approval" for prospects who are trying to decide whether or not to do business with you. In other words, these positive online reviews often serve as the "final step" in a successful sales funnel.

Now, five years ago, most businesses didn’t have many online reviews—positive or negative. Today it’s different… many consumers expect to see reviews of your business. And if they don’t, they get suspicious. They begin to question everything they saw on your website or via social media.

In fact, I just heard from a client who experienced exactly this. He writes "I just lost a transaction because my lender partner had no Internet footprint and no feedback. So the client judged both of us and felt uncomfortable."

It wasn’t enough that my client had a great online presence, including positive online reviews. The fact that his partner didn’t have similar online credibility was enough to scuttle a potential deal. This is MUCH more common than any of us realize—because in most cases, when a customer decides that they aren’t satisfied with your credibility, you never know it. It’s not like they call you just to tell you that they’re not impressed with your lack of Yelp reviews—but you lose out on the sale just the same!

So here’s the bottom line. If you are serious about growing your business online, you need to secure positive online reviews on major sites.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be hard. Here are a few easy ways to accomplish this:

1) Identify "raving fans" and ask them to do you a personal favor by leaving a review. All of you can identify at least two or three customers who count as "raving fans" of your business. I can assure you that, in almost every case, if you ask them to leave you a review on sites like Yelp.com and Yahoo Answers, they’ll gladly do so. (One recommendation: make it as easy for them as you can. After they’ve agreed to help you out, send them an email with a link to the sites you’d like them to post a review on. You can also mention "key phrases" that you’d like them to include—like "provides great customer service" or "can’t beat their prices!")

2) Prompt every single customer to leave reviews by including language in your packaging or elsewhere urging them to do so. Many customers are glad to leave a review and just need to be prompted to do so. If you sell physical products, include a little note asking them to visit specific sites and leave feedback. You can also include an item in your email signature… something like "If you love our service, please let the world know! Leave a review…" As long as you’re consistently asking, you’ll find that a percentage of your customers are more than happy to oblige.

3) Ask for reviews on your website and via social media. By including a prominent link on your website or using social media to encourage customers to leave reviews, you’ll get the attention of customers who might otherwise not have thought it. You don’t have to be over the top – just a friendly reminder that you would appreciate their help will get results!

If you don’t spend too much time on the internet, the whole concept of "online reviews" may seem unnecessary. Especially if you’ve been in business for a long time, your initial response may be "I don’t need something called ‘Yelp’ to establish my credibility!" Trust me, I completely understand where you’re coming from! But whether we like it or not, today’s consumers DO expect to see online reviews of your business. And if they don’t find what they are looking for, it is entirely possible that you will lose out on business that you should have won—so don’t put this off!

Again, the good news is that this doesn’t have to be hard. Most of you have at least a handful of customers that will be more than happy to help you out… all you have to do is ask!

If you’ve got questions, I can help! You may be wondering what types of things you should ask your customers to say, which sites are the best review sites for your industry, or what you can do about poor reviews that may have been posted about your business. I’d love to answer any of these questions that are specific to your business or your industry, so feel free to get in touch with me! You know how to reach me. J

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