How Online Reviews Can Boost Your Business Growth Strategy

Focusing Your Customer Acquisition Objectives

A word-of-mouth recommendation used to be the gold standard for marketers, and no billboard or radio advertisement could outweigh the word-of-mouth endorsement in a business growth strategy. A potential customer hearing that their aunt had a bad experience with you was enough to tank any possibility of you gaining their business.

With online reviews and frequent social media conversation happening around brands, a word-of-mouth recommendation doesn’t play quite the same role in customer acquisition. It still holds major sway, but operates as part of a more complex web of how people gather information about a company.

A word-of-mouth recommendation is still likely to take precedence over the online reviews of strangers, but it may be less effective than a pool of friends and family all discussing a brand in a social media conversation.

Your business growth strategy may have limited resources, so how do you decide whether to prioritize objectives around word-of-mouth recommendations versus online reviews?

A new path to purchase: The answer is that ever since the Internet got into the mix of personal recommendations, it has shifted the path of research and decision-making in a purchasing decision. Even when a friend tells you about a brand, your likely next step is to look up the company online. Picture this: you compliment your friend on her new glasses over lunch, she tells you about this great discount site, and as you’re still in the conversation, you’re already browsing frames together on your phone.

It turns out that online reviews are trusted even more than a personal recommendation from a friend or family member by 85% of people. You might think that goes against human nature, to trust a herd of strangers over a friend. When you go back to the glasses example, imagine that your enthusiasm is dampened when you get home from lunch and sit down to make a final decision on some frames when you notice that the average reviews are around three or 3.5 out of five stars.

You read a few reviews and find out that despite their fashion appeal, those frames don’t last very long and may not have the greatest fit. You start to doubt your purchase and think, “Well, maybe I’ll hold off.”

The role of online reviews: Online reviews are important, and trends are showing them becoming more important. In 2016, seven percent said they would visit a physical store after reading positive reviews, but by 2017 that number had bumped up to 17%. In addition, 73% said they trust a local business more if it has positive online reviews. When customers want to know about a business, they look online, rather than looking for word-of-mouth information.

Clearly, word-of-mouth recommendations still hold an important place in your business growth strategy. It’s important to focus some resources there, because it’s easier to monitor your online reviews and influence their outcome than it is to stop a customer from telling their friends about their negative experience with your company. Keeping word-of-mouth conversation about your company positive should be a priority.

To discuss specific strategies and objectives for your word-of-mouth and online reviews, contact us at SJC Marketing. We have some ideas for your customer acquisition process that we would love to share with you.