Happy customers are your best salespeople

The great thing about your existing customers is that they can bring you more customers. “Happy customers have the power to influence your potential customers,” says Maureen McCabe, head of McCabe Marketing, a small-business marketing consultant based in Toronto.

The popularity of Angie’s List, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other online customer-reviewed websites reinforces the notion that shoppers for both big-ticket and smaller products and services can be influenced by crowdsourced reviews. Indeed, it has become a key component of buyers’ research.

What’s more, online local review listings like Bing Place and Google Places are displayed prominently in Web search results, making your customers’ opinions extremely important in today’s era of online research. More reviews make you more relevant to users in the eyes of search engines.

If you don’t have any customer reviews posted online, it’s harder for potential customers to decide whether they want to purchase from you or work with you instead of your competition. But many small business owners don’t know how to ask customers for reviews, or how to explain to their customers exactly how to post a review online.

If you don’t have one already, set up your free business listing on Google or Bing today to ensure your customers can write rave reviews. Over the past few years, Google has used multiple names
for its free local listings. You may know this service as Places for Business, Google Places for Business, G+ Local, Google Places or Google Plus.

Trolling for compliments

How do you go about getting great customer reviews? One word, says McCabe: ask.

You’ve got to ask multiple times and in multiple ways. Ask for feedback right away after a customer makes a purchase. Let customers know why you’re asking for the reviews — explain that you are using it as a new strategy to bring in new business. If a customer gives you a compliment or positive feedback in person, in an email or over the phone, request that they turn that into an online review.

Customers can also leave recommendations on your LinkedIn Company or personal LinkedIn profile page. Some industries even have niche-specific review sites such as HomeStars and RateMDs.

If you regularly send email promotions or newsletters to your customer base, include a link to leave a review in your next email blast. Send personalized emails to VIPs or regular customers requesting reviews.

Maximize the impact

Once you’ve collected some online customer reviews, McCabe suggests maximizing their impact by asking reviewers to review you on a variety of sites. “Even if they’ve written a review on Yelp, ask them to write you one on Google or Facebook as well. The more people who see the review, the better.”

If your clients use buying teams, ask multiple people involved in the purchase to review.

Consider featuring a “review of the week” on your LinkedIn page, or on your website. Not only will this be seen by potential customers, but will also encourage others to write their own reviews.

Finally, if you put yourself out there to be graded, it’s a sure bet that not every review will be rosy. Plan for managing negative reviews. If you get one, respond immediately and try to resolve any issues. “Turn a negative into a positive by replying politely and quickly,” says McCabe.