Thought Leader Series: What Your Online Reviews Can Tell You About Your Brand

Online reviews
Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a content marketing & social media firm. She's written three business books, and blogs about small business on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and The Marketing Eggspert Blog.

Is your business paying attention to what’s being said about your brand or products in online reviews? If not, it should be.

Consumers make buying decisions based on what other customers are saying about your brand. Are your past customers leaving rave reviews, which will help attract new business, or are disgruntled customers turning potential customers away?

Paying attention to what your online reviews say can give you valuable insight that can help you strengthen your brand and improve customer service.

Why Online Reviews Matter

Before you discount Yelp and the like as useless, consider this: 90% of customers read online reviews before buying from a business. So those reviews hold serious clout for your company.

What are people saying about you online? Both positive and negative reviews stand to shape the future of your business. Positive reviews, of course, can attract new customers for you. Many reviewers go into great detail to describe their happy experiences, which can help others make a decision about buying from you, and even what to buy.

On the other hand, negative reviews may send people into the arms of the competition (though they’re not necessarily a death sentence. More on that in a minute).

What to Learn from Reviews

If you pay attention, you can leverage reviews to your benefit.

First of all, they’re excellent barometers of customer satisfaction. You may assume your staff is doing a stellar job at making customers happy, but if you see a trend in your reviews stating otherwise, you know that’s not the case.

Reading that many customers have had unpleasant interactions with a particular employee tells you exactly the problem, which you can deal with in the appropriate manner.

You can also get feedback on your products. Maybe everyone’s complaining about a particular product. In that case, you might consider dropping it from your offerings. Or on the converse, maybe people are begging for new products. That’s also great feedback that saves you a little on research and development costs, because you already know there’s a market for something new.

Online reviews tell you exactly what your audience wants. You don’t need to conduct complicated market research; it’s all there in the review. You could find out that the music is too loud in your store, or that your sales team is too aggressive. This feedback gives you something to work on to continually improve that customer experience.

Why a Negative Review Isn’t All Bad

Many businesses fear getting a negative review online, but the truth is that you’ve got to have a lot of them before they do any real damage. Most consumers are willing to overlook a single, negative review if the others are stellar. Your best strategy is to step in before any negative trends are created.

What you do with that negative review will be the real metric for how it affects future business. Ignore it and, certainly, it can grow into a larger problem. But, if you respond with an apology and a commitment to remedy the situation, you can turn around negative feedback and even sway the opinion of the reviewer for the better – especially if the negative reviewer writes a positive review about how you resolved their complaint!

Online reviews will continue to be important tools to help consumers make purchasing decisions. Make sure you include monitoring and responding to them in your marketing strategy.

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