You have no doubt heard the expression “Content is King”. For local business marketing, ratings and reviews drive more customer traffic than content.
Over the past two years, there has been an explosive shift in how local business services are being discovered. The two factors that are ushering in this change is the combined growth in smartphone use and the popularity of social ratings and review sites. The result of this shift is that action-takers can gain an advantage right now by focusing on marketing programs that increase their online ratings and reviews with mobile users.
Smartphones are wired to share their location, which means a website can provide you with more relevant results based on proximity. You are probably familiar with Google Maps and their ability to provide driving directions to any address when you enter a starting address. On a smartphone, you simply tell Google to use your current location, and Google uses your phone’s global positioning service to determine your starting location. This same technology can be used to show you the 5 closest barber shops, meat markets, or juice bars, giving you more relevant results based on your location.
Ratings and reviews are used by people to help decide whether they want to give their hard-earned cash to a business that they’re unfamiliar with. Business ratings have been around for a long time on sites like Yahoo and Tripadvisor, but there is a fast-growing interest in social applications that allow you to “check in” to a business and share your feedback. Yelp is one of the more popular services, and even Google has gotten into the game with Google+Local.
Yelp and Google+Local combine both your proximity and your ratings score to deliver the best possible results to their users. Are you looking for a restaurant in midtown Manhattan? These services will provide you with a list, sorted by how close they are to your location, how many ratings each restaurant received, and the overall strength of that score. Business owner, do not miss this point! Results are based on proximity and your reviews. The more positive reviews, and the higher ratio of positive to negative reviews, the more likely you will show up at the top of the results, which is an endorsement of your business.
Business owners are starting to catch on to this, and are inviting customers to leave reviews. This is a great idea if you always deliver perfect service, but you also run the risk of inviting negative reviews. A better solution is to put a gatekeeper between your customers and your online review sites. One solution is to provide your customers with an automated system that allows them to rate your service, and then based on the rating, different actions are taken.
At ProSocialTools, we have developed two different rating systems that do exactly this. One is better for businesses who want a completely automated process. When people leave positive reviews, they receive a thank-you message and a suggestion the they copy/paste their review to one of the review sites where you would like to boost your reputation. The other is a more proactive solution where the general manager or owner receives a text message with each review, giving them an opportunity to immediately contact the reviewer to thank them, or resolve any issues.
Both systems work. The difference is that one is more suited to a “set it and forget it” approach, where the other is great for building deeper relationships. If you deal with a more expensive product or service, you probably want to provide a more personalized response to customer feedback.
Mobile is an essential piece of your online marketing program. Google is anticipating mobile search will surpass desktop search in 2013. That means the majority of people in your market who are searching for your products and services will use a mobile device. By optimizing your online reputation today, you can boost your sales in the coming years.