Social Media is all the rage right now, and online reviews are a big part of the social scene. Local companies that stay current in their marketing efforts understand how important those online reviews are to building and maintaining a competitive edge in their market.
In the past five years the world has changed. I’m not saying that the world is changing or might change in the future. It has already changed and if you aren’t adapting to the new marketplace then you are already falling behind. Local businesses need to understand this new landscape and adjust their business practices in order to thrive.
So what am I talking about when I say the world has changed? More and more people are spending time online and there is a great reason why. There is a mountain of information available to them with just the click of a mouse or a swipe of a finger. 95% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses and 85% read reviews about local businesses. Even more incredible is that 79% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. What does that mean? People can instantly get hundreds of word of mouth recommendations about local businesses in their area and compare them side-by-side. People no longer trust traditional forms of advertising alone. They use online reviews to see what other people think and feel about services and products they are in need of.
Take the real life example of Jon and Becky. Jon and Becky graduated college with master’s degrees, landed their dream jobs, and after a couple of years, Jon got a great promotion. The only hitch was that they had to move to the beautiful city of San Francisco. So they packed up their lives and baby boy and made the trek to “the city”. Upon arriving in San Francisco, they realized that it had been too long since they had been to the dentist. Having no trusted friends or family in this new area, they turned to the internet to find a dentist that they could trust. After a quick Google search of dentist in their area, they decided to look on Yelp to check out their reviews. Becky, the real decision maker of the household, narrowed the search to dentists within 5 miles of their home and then sorted those dentists by highest star rating. In Becky’s words, “The choice was obvious once I did that.” She found a dentist in her area that stood out from the rest. This dentist had a 4.5 star rating with 33 authentic reviews posted by happy patients. Becky confidently picked up the phone and booked an appointment for her family to get their teeth cleaned and checked. They have been loyal patients at that practice for three years now.
Online reviews are critical and local businesses need to encourage their customers to be online advocates for their brand.