Praising Gaw, Co-Founder of Instamonial by KnexxLocal, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
If you ask most small business owners to identify their most outstanding source of new business they will almost always give you the same answer: word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers. Not surprisingly, according to a recent VistaPrint Survey word-of-mouth referrals from customers had the largest impact on customer growth.
While traditional word-of-mouth marketing is built on one-to-one relationships, emerging, online social channels have transcended old models and essentially provided an environment for one-to-many amplification of key brand messages, news and information of all sorts — including praise from customers.
Today, a single Facebook post extolling the virtues of your kitchen contractor can reach hundreds, if not thousands of latent customers, depending on the influence of the person responsible for the post. Furthermore, the recent influx of third-party online review sites, such as Yelp, has changed things even further, opening the door for an entirely new way to use word-of-mouth referrals: companies can leverage content without needing to connect with the initial reviewer.
While these changes can make certain marketing tactics easier, it also creates new expectations from consumers. Today potential customers are much more likely to seek out reviews from your past customers prior to purchasing your products and services.
With this in mind, here are three simple tips for any business wanting to harness the power of online word-of-mouth.
Keep customer testimonials fresh
According to research, 64 percent of consumers read online reviews before making purchasing decisions. This means that it is critical for your business to feature customer testimonials and reviews on your website. While encouraging positive reviews on third-party sites is great, don't forget to display them on your own site as well. In fact, testimonial pages can have a big impact on SEO. Consider how often people search for the term "reviews" along with your company name. Would you rather they land on the reviews you've placed on your site or on a review site that gives them easy access to your competitors as well?
Authenticity is key
Consumers know that you're not going to feature a review from an unhappy customer on your website, so they naturally factor this in when reading information on your site. This doesn't mean that reviews on your site aren't influential. In fact, there is strong evidence that they have a significant influence on conversion — but they need to be credible and authentic
The key — no models, no canned quotes — real people with real reviews. A great way to do this is to include photos with the review. Seeing photos of your work helps build credibility and allows consumers to feel confident that the review they are reading is from an actual customer and hasn't simply been manufactured.
Sharing makes the referral go round
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all great places to expand your reach and influence. Every time you post a new review on your site, you should also be posting it on social channels that make sharing it easy. Even better, give your customers a way to automatically share their reviews on their own social channels when they submit their reviews to your site: one click, many places.
Technology has made creating and sharing customer reviews as simple as snapping a picture, writing a few words and hitting send. By making sure each review is shared instantly across as many platforms as possible, small businesses can develop word-of-mouth marketing programs that, with a single click, can reach thousands.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.