Yodle just recently published the results of a small business survey that focused on owner’s views of online reviews that took place in December 2013. They interviewed 300 small business owners on a variety of topics. The report calls out five significant findings that we will comment on here.
1. Only half of small business owners think positive online reviews are important.
More importantly, nearly 25% of the business owners thought that online reviews were unimportant. One thing that is missing from this survey is the type of businesses that were interviewed – it turns out restaurants (for example) were not part of the sample. However, 25% of business owners thinking that online reviews don’t matter is a significantly high number. How are customers finding and interacting with those businesses today? Even people that have a strong and loyal following should not overlook the importance of having a strong online presence. It takes months (if not years) to build up a loyal presence online, and the time to start is *not* when your business starts to falter. I fully expect that the number of businesses that think online reviews (of any type) are important will increase dramatically over the next few years.
2. Most small business owners aren’t receiving or asking for online reviews.
I wonder what the answers would have been if Yodle had used the term “feedback” instead of “review”? One of the biggest issues with online today is the negative connotation of review sites. Bizyhood enables online conversations – the idea isn’t to get 100% positive reviews. Frankly, that would not be realistic. The idea is to show your customers and potential customers the type of owner you are by highlighting your excellent customer service skills and interactions online. We believe small business owners will enjoy asking for feedback – they already do! They just need to direct their customers online so the entire world can share in the conversation.
3. A significant number of small business owners aren’t responding to or monitoring for online reviews.
I realize that old habits die hard, but small business owners who don’t start to embrace online social interactions are going to talk about the “good old days” of old fashioned, one-directional advertising while their customers leave for more savvy and current social marketers. This is simply an area that small business owners need to invest in. The good news is it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and most small business owners already do it in their personal lives. If a small business owner sends emails to friends or uses Facebook, they already have the tools (and time) to handle customer service and word-of-mouth marketing online for their business. Online platforms such as Bizyhood will give them an easy and powerful way to connect with current and future customers with a user experience similar to what they are already used to.
4. Small business owners don’t effectively leverage customers’ online reviews.
One of the most important things that Google uses for ranking sites is fresh, new and compelling content. What do you think your customers comments (and your responses to those comments) are to Google? Exactly – fresh content. It’s a double win – you get to hear directly from your customers, get lots of praise (hopefully!) and address any critical feedback (which we know you get, everybody does). You also get some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) love from Google who will see fresh new content about you being written, every single day. It always surprises me how business owners are “afraid” of what their customers are going to say online – how come you’re not afraid of what they’ll say when they talk with you face to face? I’m sure you’ve handled an irate customer who acted up in front of others – and it’s very likely that your ability to handle that difficult situation impressed the people who witnessed it. Online is no different!
5. Many small business owners believe that the online reviews system is unfair.
Many online review systems are unfair…. to a point. Any site that promotes consumer and business interaction should be setup as a win-win for the consumers and the business owners. It’s true that many people on both sides try to game the system, and there is not perfect system to eliminate these tricks. The reason business owners believe that many current online review systems is unfair is that it’s too heavily biased to the consumer. The scale must be more balanced. Bizyhood is working hard to create a balanced interaction between consumers and business owners – where neither side has the “leg up” on the other. It’s a challenging goal, but we are confident we can do this and are working proactively with both business owners and consumers to make sure we’ve got the right safeguards in place.
The bottom line is that online conversations are an important part of a small businesses marketing and sales strategy. They engage your customers online, and at the same time promote your business. This may seem challenging, but Bizyhood is working hard to make this process as easy and seamless as possible – you have nothing to lose, give it a try!