5 Ways to Utilize Online Reviews to Better Your Business

One of the best forms of social media there is to enhance your business and expand your customer base is online reviews. Yet, many business owners underestimate and under-utilize this powerful way of marketing themselves and communicating with their customers. Online reviews appear everywhere, from personal reviews on social media sites to websites that do nothing but aggregate comments about businesses. For better or worse, these online reviews are going to be out there, so here are five ways that you as a business owner can use online reviews to your advantage.

Solicit Reviews from Customers

Soliciting reviews from customers is the first thing your business needs to do. In order to understand what your company’s strengths and weaknesses are, you first need to pick the customer’s brain. If you offer services or products online, make sure to include an option for the customer to give a review or feedback. You can give an incentive by offering them a certain percentage off their next purchase. You can also solicit feedback from customers through social media, asking them what they think about a certain product or offering. There are several channels to obtain customer feedback. Here’s a quick list that you can use to get customer feedback in a timely manner:

  1. Email or Contact Forms
  2. Online Surveys
  3. Interviews
  4. Social Media Tracking
  5. Tracking On-site Activity through Google Analytics
  6. On-site Comment Sections

Reaching New Customers

Standard advertising in mainstream media can be effective, but it only goes so far. To reach wider audiences, you need to go to places standard advertising doesn't reach. Online reviews allow you to go where your customers gather but where you would not normally advertise. Best of all, this added recognition comes to you free of charge. Online reviews help your business maintain a wide online presence among potential customers that you wouldn't normally reach, as long as reviews are positive.

Communication Among Your Customer Base

It can be frustrating to a business owner to introduce new products or make important changes that would enhance their sale and profitability, only to find that potential customers don't even know what’s happening. However, thanks to online reviews, customers that do know what you are up to will inform those who do not. Online reviews educate the wider public about you and your products and services in a way that might be expensive if you relied upon traditional advertising.

Product Enhancement

Every product or service can be improved. There is no one who can tell you how and why you should make those improvements better than your past and current customers. Online reviews often contain pearls of insight about what you're doing right and wrong. For example, the home automation company Vivint used Vivint reviews to improve their products by adding solar options, improving existing systems and otherwise tweaking and fine-tuning their offerings. Better products mean higher sales, so don't ignore the product improvement tips you get from online reviews.

Managing Your Image

Obviously, not all the online reviews your business gets are going to be positive ones. However, if handled correctly, negative online reviews can be a great opportunity to neutralize any bad impressions that negative reviews might otherwise make. Rather than ignoring any less-than flattering online reviews, when you see them just jump right in and join the conversation. Don't attack or insult the negative reviewer. Instead, respectfully acknowledge the criticism and then either politely defend yourself or apologize, depending upon which seems appropriate. The result will be to neutralize the criticism while also earning the respect of readers who might otherwise have blindly accepted the negative review.

Online reviews have the potential to have a positive effect on your business. People trust online reviews because they come from real people describing their own experiences, as opposed to traditional advertisements where people are being paid to repeat a scripted response. Because of that trust, online reviews can help you to reach new customers, communicate with the public about your latest business activities and show you how you can improve your product and website while helping you to manage your online image. Don't make the mistake of overlooking the opportunities that exist for you to effectively use online reviews to better your business.


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