The free and often overlooked area of marketing for small businesses: Customer reviews

Marketing your small business can be a hard and expensive process, particularly as big brands are pushing up online and offline advertising costs. But there’s one free and often overlooked area of marketing that small businesses can really benefit from - reviews.

Reviews are a key source of information consumers use to work out which companies they want to deal with and they have been proven to have a positive effect on which brands they select. So if your small business isn’t listed on the major review sites, has no reviews, or has only a few negative reviews, then you’re definitely missing out on sales and leads.

So how should you generate reviews?

Work out where you want to get your reviews written

This is the first step, and ideally you want your reviews written on a third party website that already has consumers using it. The most common options in Australia are: 

  • ProductReview - the biggest review site in Australia with categories for most types of businesses.
  • Google My Business - your GMB listing can get reviews and these will show up on Google Maps and in other Google products.
  • Facebook - the social network that everyone is on. As soon as someone leaves you a review on this platform, all their friends will see it.
  • TrueLocal - the biggest local business directory which also offers review functionality.
  • Yelp - this large, American directory site is now in Australia and is growing fast, so it’s worth having a presence on.
  • Word of Mouth - a review site for predominantly small businesses.

There’s also a lot of industry specific review sites, for example for real estate agents or Capterra for software providers, so make sure you hunt for any review sites specific to your industry or see where your competitors are listed. 

Ask customers to leave reviews

Once you have a list of review sites you want to use then you need to start asking customers to leave a review on the platform they're most comfortable with.

You can do this in a lot of different ways including:

  • Email - which you can automate emails to send to customers at set timings
  • SMS - which you can automatically send through a service like BurstSMS.
  • Offline - through cards you leave with a customer or personalised letters.
  • In Person/On The Phone - if you have a small number of customers simply asking them and helping them leave the review can work the best.

Regardless of how you ask make sure you’re succinct and clear and tell your customers why you need them to leave a review ie. to help them out, help out people just like them etc. Don’t be afraid to ask more than once and to use more than one way of asking as people get bombarded with different messages every day so may not have seen it or had time when they did.

Use The Reviews

As you ask more of your customers for reviews you’ll start to build some great reviews on each review platform. The next step is to then use the reviews. Firstly, transfer them back onto your website to help potential customers with their decision to use your business. You can either copy and paste the reviews onto your website, or you can use the widget and embedding options many review sites offer.

Once the reviews are back on your website you can also then start to include the reviews and star ratings in any marketing you do - people react better to someone just like them telling them why to use a business than they do a business talking about itself.

Some of the places you can feature the reviews include:

  • Email Marketing
  • Facebook Ads
  • Adwords/Bing
  • Organic Search Results
  • Youtube
  • Offline Marketing

The list is endless! Just make sure to track each campaign separately so you can work out which reviews work best for each target market. 

Keep at it and reap the benefits

If you’re consistent in asking your customers for reviews and get these reviews posted on the best sites, then over time you’ll become a top-rated business in your industry. From this you’ll definitely reap the benefits of increased conversion rates and more effective marketing - all without the high costs associated with most other forms of marketing these days.

About the author

Duncan Jones leads growth marketing at digital agency, Web Profits, and has seen first hand across small businesses in all industries the effect that positive reviews can. He has written an 8,000+ word guide to review generation, which covers all of the above & more which you can read here.