Entrepreneur. Manager. Product buyer. Accountant. HR. Marketer. Small business owners wear a lot of hats. An owner may slip in and out of many roles which, in a larger company, would be divided among a large staff. But a small business owner who’s juggling all of these roles most likely doesn’t have the time or expertise to adequately address them all.
Small business owners know they need a marketing plan, but they may be overwhelmed or intimidated by the idea. And they may already have profiles on customer review sites, but struggle to to keep up with them—despite the fact that reviews attract new customers and drive website traffic.
That’s where you and your marketing agency come in!
The Rise of Reviews
In Harvard Business Review article “What Marketers Misunderstand About Online Reviews,” co-authors Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen identify three factors in a customer’s purchasing decisions:
- prior experience with a product or company (i.e., habit)
- marketing strategies, such as ad campaigns or discounts
- others’ opinions, such as word of mouth, reviews, and recommendations
The individual weight of each factor changes from customer to customer and from purchase to purchase, but as one factor increases in importance for a particular decision, the other two decrease. With the still-growing prominence of review sites such as Yelp and of social media in general, we depend more and more on others’ opinions to inform our buying decisions.
Positive reviews are especially important to small local businesses, which can’t rely on brand recognition to attract new customers and often can’t compete with big box stores’ “doorbuster” discounts. These businesses need good reviews to showcase their value to new clientele. More reviews also frequently mean higher ranking in search engine results, increasing the business’s visibility. Clearly, soliciting and managing reviews should be a priority in any small business’s marketing plan.
As a marketing agency, you are already beyond well equipped to handle the needs of a small business and their review site presence. Here are five fantastic skills your agency can offer small businesses when creating and managing review site profiles.
- Pro Photos
Bad photos of a business location, service, or product (especially food!) is a turn-off. Luckily, marketers know a lot about creating polished, engaging photos. High-quality photos are essential—not only for enticing new customers to visit a store location and in influencing buying decisions, but additionally for getting click-throughs when listings come up in search results. Represent your client’s business in the best light with clear, professional photographs of their premises and offerings on a review site listing’s photo gallery.
- Engaging with Customers
Set up Google alerts to be notified of any incoming reviews on a client’s review site and reply to them. It’s important to promptly acknowledge positive reviews with a thank-you. Seeing negative reviews early is even more crucial: it allows you to minimize the impact of a customer’s negative feedback, address concerns, and show other customers that your client responds quickly and thoughtfully to complaints. You will be in a position to notify your client first of any bigger PR issues, and help them to plan an appropriate response.
And reviews can be a great source of content for other marketing strategies as well. Quote reviews in ads and on the company’s website to provide social proof of your client’s awesomeness.
- Keyword Optimization
As a marketer, you know how to use keywords to attract customers and to target specific demographics in an audience: both crucial when increasing the hits for a business’s review site profile. You can optimize keywords on your client’s review page by including location-specific, service-specific, and product-specific terms. If you’re running an integrated marketing plan for the client across several digital platforms, you can implement keywords consistently for all of them.
- Effective Promotions
Many review sites provide simple-to-use tools for small businesses to offer sales, discount codes, or gift certificates to their audience. When potential customers look up your client’s business on a review site, a tempting offer to choose them is right there on the listing. You can help your client decide when and how to offer promotions, and handle managing them right from the review site listing.
- Advertising Know-How
You know how to get the biggest bang for advertising bucks in ways small business owners might find totally unfamiliar. Help clients to put their advertising dollars to good use by using great reviews in ads and by running paid promotions with review sites themselves. Premium listings on sites like Yelp, Yahoo! Local, or Google Adwords (used with Google My Business) increase views on the review site itself, of course. Even better, they bump the listing to the top of search engine results, target local customers, and post alongside competitor’s pages. You can help your client to navigate the pros and cons of various premium listing options. With the analytics tools included in premium listings, you can also track the performance of various ad campaigns.
Using the expertise you already have, you can maximize the effectiveness of a client’s review site presence. Add review site management to your offerings and help your clients make the most of this valuable tool—and increase your own customer base in the process!