The modern digital economy certainly does not operate in a vacuum. You cannot simply release a product out in the wild and keep your fingers crossed that the sales will come pouring in.
Despite what the movie cliché may have taught you, even if you build it, they may not come.
What’s more, you are not in full control over the communication surrounding your company. Your customers have a voice, a voice that’s arguably louder and more powerful than your own, and they aren’t afraid to use it. You just have to learn how to leverage that dynamic to your favor.
Customer reviews are not something to be feared. Quite the contrary! They’re something to be embraced because authentic reviews from real users can boost brand awareness, develop brand trust, and grow your return on investment (ROI) now and well into the future. Here are some of the key ways in which this happens.
1. Search engine boost
Whether they are product reviews on Amazon or brick-and-mortar business reviews on Yelp, customer reviews provide your brand with a significant SEO boost on platforms like these.
All else held equal, listings that have more reviews – particularly higher ratings and more in-depth customer reviews – tend to rank higher in searches than listings with fewer reviews. You may have noticed that this is also very much true in Google, where local listings are generally given preferential treatment where relevant.
2. Social proof
Many surveys have concluded that the average consumer is much more likely to trust a review from a fellow customer than they are to trust the marketing, advertising and other messaging that comes directly from the company itself. As you build up a collection of customer reviews, you also build up a well of brand trust. When potential customers see that so many other past customers have been pleased with your products and services, they are more inclined to trust your brand and purchase your products and services themselves.
A perfect example of this can be seen through various online experts and marketing gurus. Not only do many of them have massive online followings and social reach, but they often have plenty of product and customer reviews published about them. Check out reviews of Neil Patel’s marketing agency and education products, as an example. With Neil’s name and reputation spanning across a wide range of niches and business markets, you will find a wide range of testimonials, reviews, and recommendations all over the web.
The same holds true for other industry experts like Darren Rowse, Lewis Howes, Jeff Bullas and many others. It’s not just social proof that is important for these top thought leaders, it’s the actual reviews and recommendations that are found across the internet as well.
What’s more, customer reviews can provide the added bonus of serving as customer testimonials that you can then highlight on social media or feature on your website directly. This adds further social proof and helps to further bolster the credibility and legitimacy of your brand – but only if the reviews are truly authentic.
3. Authentic feedback
Inevitably, not all of your reviews are going to be wholly positive. Nor should they be! If your product or business is already perfect (it’s not), then you have no room to grow and improve.
With authentic reviews can come authentic feedback, providing insight into shortcomings and weaknesses that you may have otherwise overlooked. Take this feedback in your stride, thank the customer for their thoughts, and consider how you can integrate some of these suggestions into your future offerings.
Customers appreciate when they feel like their concerns are valid and they’re being heard; this also boosts brand trust, because they trust you’re listening to them.
4. Augmented reach
It’s common practice for companies and PR firms to distribute review samples of products. Some of these might go to regular users who sign up for review programs or beta testing; other review samples may be given to professional reviewers, site owners, or YouTubers and online influencers who can then share their thoughts with their readers, viewers, and followers.
As a result, your product is being looked at and considered by potential customers who may not have otherwise known about what you have to offer.
Remember, however, that you should never require glowing reviews; you want authentic reviews with honest impressions. If the influencer or reviewer starts to look like a shill, the value of their opinion diminishes quickly.
5. Expert endorsements
Regular reviews from people can be very useful on platforms like Amazon, Yelp, Google and others. What you’ll find, though, is that when there are established expects and respected authorities in your industry, their opinions tend to carry a lot more weight than the average Joe or Jane.
When these personalities review your product or service, this puts your product or service in front of a much wider, and very interested audience.
Remember that this audience is also much more likely to trust and believe the influencer or reviewer they’re following than if you were to communicate with these potential customers directly. If your press release or product description claims something, and the expert reviewer is able to verify that claim, customers will come to trust your brand when you make similar claims in the future.
6. Demonstrated care
Positive reviews are excellent. Negative reviews might feel, well, negative. But here’s the thing. Users can become very suspicious if all you ever get are over-the-top 5-star reviews. That screams a lack of authenticity!
Recognize that negative reviews represent an opportunity to demonstrate legitimate care and concern, an opportunity to demonstrate transparency. It’s important that you keep track of what’s being published about your brand and address negative reviews promptly, without getting defensive.
Acknowledge where your company or product may not have met the customer’s needs and how this may have made them feel. Tell them that their feedback has been recorded and you will be taking it into account for future product offerings. Then, offer a way to make it up to them in some meaningful way. When you show that you actually care about your customers, they’ll learn to care about (and trust) you too. Responding to positive reviews is equally important.
7. Encouraged loyalty
One customer review on one product on one website might not seem especially meaningful, and it might not seem like it would deliver much ROI. However, you really have to think about authentic customer reviews as more of a long game in this regard. They can help boost sales in the short term, for many of the reasons listed above.
The more you encourage and share reviews over the long-term, however, the more you can encourage brand loyalty among your customers.
When a customer shares an authentic review of one of your products, they’ll be more inclined to trust your brand when they look into one of your future products as they compare it against the competition.
Snowballing brand equity
The cumulative effect of reviews and feedback is strong. If your brand or products consistently receive positive reviews and consistently rank near the top in search rankings as a result, one-time customers quickly convert into long-term brand loyalists. And that’s some serious ROI.