Online ReviewsIn today’s internet world, businesses are struggling to get a return on their marketing investment, and many business owners are focusing their effort and attention on their website’s ranking in the search engines. This can be a very costly strategy, and, even though it can bear fruit, can also take a very long time to achieve any kind of real results.

Too often overlooked in many small business marketing campaigns is the tremendous power of online reviews and positive word-of-mouth, now known as social proof. Specifically, sites like Facebook, Google+, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, among many others, provide the small business owner with a powerful tool to market his or her business.

Social proof works for one simple reason… people like to do what they see others doing. When I look for a product or service online, one of the first things I do is try to find what others have said about it. I look for businesses that have lots of positive reviews. I’ll be you do, too.

I don’t mind a few negative reviews sprinkled in among the positive ones. After all, nobody pleases all of the people all of the time. In fact, I’m pretty suspicious when all I can find are positive reviews… one or two negative reviews help me trust all the positive ones.

So, if you’re a business owner, don’t underestimate the power and effectiveness of a strong internet reputation, made up of a number of real reviews from real customers. If you provide a great service or product and you know it, don’t be afraid to ask for reviews. If you know there are some problem areas in your service or product, get those straightened out before you start asking for reviews. A number of bad reviews can hurt your business greatly, and can be almost impossible to get rid of.

Simple Steps To More Positive Online Reviews

All of that said, here are a few simple steps you can take to get your customers to leave you reviews in the places you need to have them…

1. Ask friends and family members. No doubt many of these people are also your customers, and there is nothing wrong with them leaving hones, positive reviews for you. Ask themĀ  to do so.

2. Add a signature to the bottom of every email you send out, asking for reviews. You could word it something like this… “If you have done business with us recently, would you mind leaving us a review on Google+ or Yelp?” Make sure you provide them with a link to your review site pages to make it deads imple for them to click on it and write a review.

3. Ask every customer. Anytime you see them. All the time. Any questions?

4. If a customer leaves you a positive review, thank them, and ask them to leave the same review on another site.

5. Have a “review handout” available. On your handout, tell customers how to leave you a review, along with the URLs to your review pages on Facebook, Google+, etc.. Give this handout to every customer you serve.

6. Create a review page on your website, with the same information as on your review handout.

7. Use an email autoresponder. Make sure you collect the email of every single person you do business with, so you can follow up with them via email. And, one of the very first follow-ups you send them should be to ask them for a positive review.

There you have it… a set of tactics you can use to help your business grow through the power of online word-of-mouth. It’s a great marketing strategy that won’t take a bite out of your limited online marketing budget! If you have discovered other sure-fire methods to obtain more online reviews, please share them in the comments below.