There’s nothing better than landing a job off the back of a referral. Maybe it’s a happy customer passing your details on to friends or family. Perhaps it’s a glowing review of your business that leads new customers right to your door.

Even in the digital age, word of mouth remains a compelling force that any trade or service professional can leverage to bring in more work and keep customers returning.

Digital word of mouth works the same way, but navigating the ins and outs of effectively marketing your business in an online space can be difficult. After all, the internet exposes you to potentially endless amounts of praise, but the same goes for negative responses to both your business and your professional image. If approached correctly, though, digital word of mouth can help provide a trade or service business with consistent work at virtually no cost other than a bit of time and effort.

This article will explore perhaps the most important component of digital word of mouth, online reviews. We’ll cover why customers trust the opinions of other customers, how to lay the groundwork for positive customer reviews, and why you should respond to both positive and negative reviews.

Along the way, we’ll also provide tips on optimising your business to focus on digital word of mouth and capitalise on the power of free recommendations.

Part 1: People trust people.

Think back to the last time you purchased something substantial; maybe it was a television, or perhaps it was something pricey like a new car or work truck. Now consider how you formed the decision that eventually led to you making that choice. Along the way, you probably asked around for the thoughts of friends and family, researched some expert opinions on the options available and, of course, read some online reviews. In fact, a study in December of 2020 by Brightlocal found that 87% of customers read online reviews for local businesses.

As humans, we trust the information provided to us by people we deem reliable sources of knowledge and insight. This is so important for your business because your current customers are that source of information. They’ve done business with you in the past, and any new customers will want to know what they have to say before hearing anything from you.

No matter how good your service is and how hard you work, digital word of mouth will often decide whether a prospective customer gets in contact with you. This makes recommendations in the form of customer reviews an essential commodity for reinforcing to customers that you’re the best choice for them. Many trade professionals assume that a good social media presence and a flashy logo will be enough to get customers across the line. But the reality is that these serve only to showcase your ability to entice customers, not get them transacting with your business.

On the other hand, reviews are first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work with you and what kind of service you provide. They often dig into the nitty-gritty of what customers can expect and overall whether your business is worth their time. People searching for a product or service value this first-hand experience highly, and businesses that fail to foster positive reviews are missing out on work as a result.

Practical tip:
Getting in the mind of a customer can help you better understand the decisions that lead a client to choose your business. The next time you sit down to make a personal or business purchase, write down every step of the process you take to eventually making that purchase. This is called a customer journey, and the better you understand how customers search for products or services, the more impact you can have on their decision to choose you.

Now that you understand why opinions and reviews are so important to digital word of mouth, it’s time to work on setting up a system to attract some for yourself.

Part 2: Laying the groundwork for great reviews.

Attracting positive reviews and getting digital word of mouth working in your favour may sound daunting, but it’s a lot easier than you’d think to get great feedback.

The best place to start is the most obvious one; provide customers with platforms to share their reviews. Your Google My Business and Facebook profiles are likely the best places to start, and each has a robust review system that customers can use to share their thoughts. It’s important to focus on encouraging customers to leave reviews. Try attaching a link to the bottom of invoices that leads customers to a place where they can leave a review, or send a courtesy email asking for their feedback.

Regardless of your approach, though, the groundwork for great reviews is only possible if every part of your business is concentrated on getting feedback and showcasing it to prospective customers. The benefits of doing so are clear, with customers spending 31% more on businesses with “excellent” reviews. Your business website should have a section devoted to how you rank according to customers and either feature some reviews or provide links to where customers can find them.

It’s vital that you don’t add reviews that are either fake or paraphrased to seem more positive than they are. Customers are growing savvier by the day, and when the feedback on your website sounds too good to be true, they might search around to make sure it’s legitimate. You can be left red-faced and mending damaged customer relationships if you get caught, so we recommend steering clear of engineering reviews.

Practical Tip:
Third-party listing sites can be a great source of extra work if you decide the price of having a listing is worth it for your business. However, it’s important to keep track of reviews and feedback on these platforms too. Some vendors don’t allow you to interact directly with customers, and this can cause clients old and new to feel like their reviews are falling on deaf ears.

But regardless of how you go about obtaining and featuring reviews of your business from customers, it’s vital to remain proactive in responding to both positive AND negative feedback.

Part 3: Why you should respond to good reviews and bad reviews.

Good reviews

Securing repeat customers should be the aim of any good trade or service business, and the same logic applies when dealing with positive reviews. Many business owners see a positive review and leave it at that. But taking the time to respond warmly and thank your customer shows a deeper level of care and appreciation, which will keep clients coming back again and again.

You may think that customers are looking for a product or service, but the reality is that they are also looking for trust and a sense of community from your business. By reaching out and interacting with happy customers personally, you bridge the gap of interpersonal connection and foster a sense of goodwill from the people who will hopefully recommend you.

Responding to positive reviews can also be a great source of feedback for your business. A happy customer likely still has a lot to say about what you can do to make your service better and will be more willing to share their thoughts too.

Bad reviews

Every business gets a negative review occasionally, and it’s not the end of the world by any means. A negative review shouldn’t affect your willingness to provide a platform for customers to have their say. In fact, a negative review can become a positive one with some work.

When customers see a negative review, you may think it will turn them off your business, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Remember earlier, when discussing why people rely on reviews, we mentioned that new customers are seeking a first-hand experience. The review itself is part of that experience, and if you take the time to respond to negative reviews and attempt to rectify the situation, new customers will see that too.

You may think that once a customer leaves a bad review, that they won’t revisit you, but a study from Oberlo found the opposite. According to their data, more than half of customers expect businesses to respond to their negative reviews within a week. Customers want closure, and countless negative reviews can be turned into positive customer interactions by replying, asking how you can fix the situation, and doing your best to follow through.

Now it’s up to you.

Take what we’ve covered in this article and use it to grow your digital word of mouth and get customers talking about your business and hopefully telling their friends!

James Burgess
Content Specialist