When you’re searching for a new product or service, where do you go to learn more about them? Let’s assume you’ve already looked through the website, maybe even opted-in to their email communications or requested a whitepaper or ebook. The natural next step is to discover whether or not the company has worked with an organization like yours (or a person like you) in the past. Often, bigger brands tout their largest clients on their homepage or even on a page of testimonials. But, you don’t want to take the brand’s word for it, do you? You want to hear from the client. You know, someone like you.

Not too long ago, this meant an email or (gasp) a phone call, “Hey there, I saw you work with so-and-so and we’re similar companies so I wondered what your experience was like.” Sound familiar? If not, that’s probably because you have grown accustomed to online ratings and reviews.

According to Review Trackers, six in 10 consumers admitted to relying on Google reviews before making a purchase last year. And, an astounding 94% said a negative review has prevented them from purchasing a product or service. While these statistics are certainly startling, they aren’t new. People (also known as consumers) have been talking about the brands they love and hate since well, forever.

Word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising. What was once water cooler talk, book club or girls night gossip has now become Facebook updates, Tweets, YouTube videos, and Instagram stories. The world has become a much smaller place thanks to social media and, as a result, we can share the brands we love, how they show up for us, and why we’re loyal faster and with a larger audience than ever before.

But why should you care? It’s one thing to use reviews as you make consumer purchases or even enter into new vendor relationships, but it’s quite another to proactively seek these reviews from your clients, customers, or members. Right?


Your audience, let’s just refer to them as people (because that’s really what we all are), is likely already telling people about you. So, why not ask them to share their thoughts in a more public fashion?


Unsure of the benefits?

Consider this: 80% of consumers say the star ratings they trust the most are 4.0, 4.5, and 5 stars. But don’t get cocky! The old adage, “Any press is good press,” does not work with online reviews. According to Moz, four or five more negative articles or reviews about your company or product in Google search results can cost you 70% of potential new customers. But you should give your audience credit, too. We all can tell when someone is on the high end of the “I love this brand” spectrum and when someone has lost their temper. One star and five-star reviews tend to hold less credence with people because nothing is really THAT good or THAT bad. We tend to focus on the middle and a 4 or 4.5 is a great place to be!


Where do you start?

Google and Facebook have become No. 1 and No. 2 for online reviews. If your audience is spending time performing a Google search for your business or looking to connect with you on Facebook, then you should definitely ask your most engaged people to share their experience with you on either platform.

But your ratings and reviews quest shouldn’t end there. People expect brands to respond to their reviews. If someone says you provided excellent service, they want to know you saw it. Similarly, if they provide critical feedback, they want to know if action was taken to rectify the issue or prevent it entirely in the future. This response is so critical that over 50% of people expect businesses to respond to their online review within seven days. Admittedly, I think this is too long! So, if you’re asking for feedback, prepare to read and respond to it within 24 hours.

Looking for the big takeaway? Word of mouth marketing is still vital for brands – it just looks a bit different in 2019 than it did in 1999. And, if your organization’s rationale for not seeking reviews and ratings is because “we don’t know what they’ll say” then maybe you have a bigger problem on your hands. Because the truth of the matter is, they’re saying it whether you ask them to or not. It’s up to you to respond and improve their reviews (and experience) over time.