Having positive customer reviews is important for pretty much every business today, but especially for a new business working to build its reputation. And the impact of online reviews on local businesses has been growing. According to a 2020 survey by BrightLocal, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, a 6% increase over 2019.


So, how does a new business generate glowing customer reviews? Here are some tips:


1. Set up profiles on business review sites

You’ll need to set up profiles on the key business review websites if you want your early customers to leave reviews. For most local businesses, Google My Business is the best place to start. “Most people search online through Google, and your profile, along with your reviews, shows up on the right-hand side of the page,” says Todd William, founder of Reputation Rhino, an online reputation management company.


Make sure to add as many details as you can to your Google business profile, including adding your business address, phone number, hours of operation, a link to your website and photos. It’s a quick and easy way to increase your online search ranking.


Other places to create business profiles that offer reviews include Yelp and Facebook, which are for all kinds of local businesses, and TripAdvisor—which is especially useful for travel-related businesses and restaurants. Angi (formerly known as Angie’s List) is great for home service providers.


2. Ask for online reviews—but also know the rules

Most major business review sites are fine with you proactively asking your customers to leave reviews—and you should do that. As a new business, you need as many positive reviews as you can get, so it makes sense to ask your happy early customers to leave them. You might send them a thank-you email and even link to, say, your Google profile and ask them to leave a review of their experience.


“Doing a great job and really taking care of your customers is the first step to building your business and getting positive online reviews,” says Ken Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, a reputation management company. “After that, create a system to go back and ask customers for reviews.”


That said, every review site has guidelines around soliciting reviews—and not every site allows it. Yelp, for example, specifically states that you cannot solicit reviews. According to the company’s guidelines, “Yelp’s software tries to identify any reviews that appear to have been requested, and not recommend them.” Moreover, if its software determines that a review was solicited, it will treat that review as less trustworthy and may not even be counted toward your Yelp star rating. Angi requires that you use specific language to ask for a review.


One thing every review site has in common: they all agree that you cannot compensate customers for leaving reviews. That means you aren’t allowed to offer money, gifts or discounts in exchange for a review—positive or negative. Some review sites, such as Google, don’t specify the penalty for this behavior, but others, such as TripAdvisor, can go so far as to blacklist a reviewer’s account and mark a business profile with a red badge, or language stating that the reviews listed may be fraudulent.


3. Maximize the impact of your business reviews

Being systematic about how you solicit and collect reviews will help you generate more of them and make them more impactful to your business. “After every service, send out an email or text message survey or ask for a review,” Wisnefski says. Many customer relationship management platforms allow you to set up email messages and texts to go out automatically after a service. “You can even go old-school, and hand out a card asking for feedback,” he adds.


Adding customer reviews to your website has been shown to increase sales, as well as provide a visual reminder to customers that you are looking for feedback.


Here are two other ways to increase the impact of your reviews:


  • Respond to every review within a day of its posting. Responding to your online reviews shows you care what your customers think. While it’s great to thank a customer for a positive review, be prepared to do more for a negative review. “Do not underestimate the power of a phone call,” William says. “When addressing a complaint, a phone call from the owner or a manager to the disgruntled customer can have a tremendous impact in turning around a customer service debacle into a triumph.”


A quick, personal response may also lead to an updated review from the reviewer. When that happens, potential customers see that the company may make mistakes (like all companies) but is willing to fix them. It gives a company more credibility, William adds.


  • Post reviews on your website. Adding customer reviews to your website has been shown to increase sales, as well as provide a visual reminder to customers that you are looking for feedback. Podium and Birdeye are two platforms that make it easy to share your reviews, but there are several others.


As a new business, you need all the positive word-of-mouth you can get. Having online reviews is one of the best ways to do that.

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