Harnessing the power of online reviews

Columnist Greg Gifford recaps a session by Thomas Ballantyne about the value of online reviews, showing why businesses need to start thinking about them if they aren’t already.

Closing out the excellent first time slot in the Local track at SMX West this year was Thomas Ballantyne’s session about online reviews. Far too many business owners either ignore or don’t care about reviews, so Ballantyne — the director of marketing at Bulwark Pest Control — built his presentation as a tool to help marketers get buy-in from their clients.

Reviews are vital for success

Ballantyne began by citing a recent BrightLocal survey that showed that 92 percent of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of local businesses. Whether a business owner wants to pay attention to reviews or not, potential customers are seeking out and reading reviews of the business.

Even more important — 51 percent of people trust user-generated content over info on a company website or in news articles. Ballantyne explained that people trust reviews written by other people much more than anything written on your website, which is why it’s so important for business owners to focus on their online reviews.

According to Ballantyne, Millennials actually trust user-generated content MORE than what they hear from friends or family, so online reviews are clearly becoming more and more important to younger generations.

Reviews are the crossroads of social media and transactions. They simply can’t be ignored.

Consumers own your brand messaging

If 51 percent of people trust user-generated content more than what’s on your site, and if online reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions, that means that your customers actually own your brand messaging.

It won’t matter what you say about yourself or what you sell — most consumers will care more about what your customers say about you.

Amazon is the king of reviews

Amazon is the largest single source of consumer reviews — and they’ve embraced that. In fact, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, is taking a different approach to reviews, displaying “the good, the bad and the ugly to let truth loose.”

Ballantyne notes that Amazon realized that good reviews from customers are equal to trust, and trust is currency.

There’s no such thing as a bad review problem

In a “drop the mic” moment, Ballantyne summed up bad review problems with one of the most tweetable lines from this year’s conference:

“If you have bad reviews, you don’t have a review problem — you have a business problem.”
Thomas Ballantyne, director of marketing at Bulwark Pest Control

Business owners always blame bad reviews on crazy customers, but consistent bad reviews are a clear sign that something is wrong with the business or the product you’re selling. You’ve got to take a step back and solve your business problem before you can get good reviews.

Utter disaster over a $7 tip

Ballantyne shared a crazy story about a car dealership that shared a video they thought the public would rally behind — but it backfired and resulted in thousands of negative reviews. The dealership had ordered pizza delivery, and when they paid, they didn’t ask for change. The delivery guy assumed that the extra $7 was his tip, which would have been appropriate given the size of the order.

Unfortunately, he was wrong. The dealership called the pizza place and insisted that the delivery guy come back to return their $7. When they posted the video online to show how poorly they’d been treated by their delivery guy, the internet rose up and destroyed their online reviews.

They received 7,856 one-star reviews on Yelp and 2,769 negative reviews on Google. That’s over 10,000 bad reviews… over a simple $7 tip.

How to get good reviews

Ballantyne shared the simple solution to getting great reviews. First, you’ve got to provide good customer service. You’ve got to hire people who will love your customers.

Second, you just have to ask. If you ask customers to leave a review, most of them will do it — but most businesses never ask for reviews.

Check out the slides from Thomas Ballantyne’s presentation:

[Article on Search Engine Land.]

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