online reviews for local businessOnline reviews are critical for brand awareness.

While you might not be engaging in online advertising or even have a website, that doesn’t necessarily that people aren’t already reviewing your brand online.

Online review websites like Yelp and do a fantastic job of taking rating power away from the domain of media or industry professionals and putting it in squarely in the hands of the customer.

Use online reviews – whether good or bad – as the starting point of a conversation between you and your customers. Be savvy enough to lead the conversation rather than having the conversation lead you.

Anatomy of an Online Review You Never Even Knew You Had

Google Places unclaimed listing

A Google search for ‘Pizza Chicago’ resulted in the following Google Places local listing.

1. Google Places has already found 142 reviews for this specific pizza business.

2. There are GOOD reviews…

3. And there are BAD reviews…

4. The listing has not yet been claimed by the owner.

The most interesting thing about this Google Places listing is that it has not even been claimed by the owner yet. In other words, the owner probably has no idea about what’s being said about this business online.

What they MUST do:

(A) Claim their listing
(B) Join in on the conversation that’s already taking place about their brand
(C) Reach out to the reviewers. Acknowledge them and thank them for their reviews – both good and bad.

The business should do everything in its power to highlight to its online customers and potential customers everything it’s doing right – in accordance with the positive reviews. But it should also acknowledge the bad reviews and reviewers and view these candid conversations as clear examples of how the business could be made better.

Foster the Conversation

Nobody likes it when an individual commandeers a conversation and turns a dialog into a monologue.

So instead of trying to ‘control’ the online conversation about your brand, just try to make that conversation easier for your customers to take part in. Provide your customers with the correct information about your business to ensure they can post the most intelligent, objective reviews possible.

For example, if you have a computer handy at your location, ask your customers for an online review right on the spot. Offer them a discount on their purchase in return.

Even if this costs you $5 each time, that’s ok. For $500 you could have the most reviewed, most trusted and subsequently most-frequented business in your local area. Money well spent!

People generally like to give positive feedback – if you do a great job AND you provide people with an easy and obvious means to do so.

Have you ever been surprised by a review about your business that you came across online? Do you have a strategy to make it easy for customers to provide you with a review? Let us know by leaving a comment below.