Marketing and advertising have come a long way in a short space of time. As a business owner, your brand reputation is no longer entirely in your hands. Like it or not, people are no longer in the habit of only taking your word for it when considering buying your product or service.

82% of people look at online reviews before making a purchase (this rises to 93% in the 35 to 54 age group) and they read an average of 10 online reviews for each purchase [source: brightlocal.com]. The numbers for 2020 aren’t available yet, but the word is that with the surge in demand for online shopping driven by the pandemic, those numbers will climb even higher.

This means that customer testimonials are now a powerful marketing tool in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Real positive feedback, stories about user experience, and emotional reactions to using your products create confidence in a purchase decision – this is sometimes referred to as “social proof”- and it should be a vital part of your marketing strategy.

Where to Publish Customer Reviews

Once the sole province of Amazon, there are now plenty of free platforms where you can encourage your customers to write reviews independently of your own marketing channels. Using these platforms, you can give your customers the confidence that their words won’t be edited, abridged or otherwise modified by you in any way.

  • Google My Business: If you haven’t already, you should claim your free Google My Business listing. It provides a shortcut to a review page with a link you can share with customers google.com/business
  • Trustpilot: Anyone can use Trustpilot to give feedback on any business, so if your business has been reviewed here then you can add the average star rating to your marketing channels via a link trustpilot.com/
  • Facebook: If you have a Facebook business page then you can add “Facebook Recommendations” to your profile. Rather than leave a star rating, your customers can simply answer “Yes/No” to the question “Do you recommend (business name)?” and add tags, photos, and text facebook.com
  • TripAdvisor: If you’re in the hospitality or travel business then (like Trustpilot) anyone can use TripAdvisor to give feedback on any business. Also, you can request to be listed on the platform directly tripadvisor.com/Owners

How to Get your Customers to Leave Feedback: Some Dos and Don’ts

Do ask them – and don’t be shy! Add a request for feedback as part of your after sales process and let them know how important it is and how much you value their views.

Do make it easy. We’ve seen a lot of commentary on social media from consumers being overwhelmed with feedback requests, so the less painful you can make the process the more your customers will be encouraged to respond. Provide a link to your chosen platform, or use a dedicated reply email address.

Do reply to all feedback, both positive and negative (all the above platforms will allow you to do this). It lets your customers know that you have seen the review and appreciate it.

Don’t offer a discount or a refund for a good review. It’s OK to incentivise people to give feedback but if you only do it for a favourable response then it will look like sharp practice.

Don’t suggest what they should say. Ask specific questions but don’t put pressure on them to answer only positively.

Trust is a key factor in business these days, and the display of an average star rating is often the first thing your potential customers will notice. So, make sure you’re using a feedback process in all of your customer interactions.

By Helen Say, a freelance writer and blogger www.cblservices.co.uk