Turn positive word-of-mouth into booming business with these best practices.
To have a healthy business today, you need to have a healthy online presence. And one of the most important parts of your business’ online presence are your online reviews. A good review can help you reach new customers you would have never run into in real life—and a bad review can turn someone away from your business before you’ve ever said a word to them.
Megan Hinz, marketing community manager at Sherwin-Williams, and her team read and reply to every review for every Sherwin-Williams store across Google, Yelp, Facebook, and sherwin-williams.com. They read hundreds of reviews every day. For this article, she talked to us about her team’s best practices for garnering good reviews, responding professionally, and creating a positive impression for potential online customers.
First Impressions Matter
For many customers, online reviews will be their first impression of you. You want it to be a good one!
A 2023 survey by BrightLocal found that 98 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses at least occasionally, and 76 percent do so “always” or “regularly.” That’s even more true for painters—the same survey found that Service Businesses and Tradespeople are one of the three industries where business reviews are most important to potential buyers.
It’s worth your time to invest in generating good reviews for two main reasons. First, reviews and testimonials can make potential customers more likely to trust you.
“Consumers are more likely to trust a brand or company with online reviews,” Hinz says. “A lack of reviews makes consumers feel increased risk, which makes them less likely to buy a product or schedule a service.”
Second, good reviews improve your business’ reputation—and a good reputation can give your business a financial boost. A 2018 study in the Journal of Marketing Management found that some consumers are willing to pay up to 22 percent more for the same product or service if the company they’re buying from has a good reputation. In other words, people will pay a premium for premium service.
Discover Your Key Strengths
Pay attention to what people say about you and your business, and you’ll find out what sets your business apart from the crowd. Terry Begue, owner of Begue Painting in Hartville, Ohio, says it was through listening to reviews and testimonials that he identified his business’ key strengths.
“When I first started doing this, I expected the customer to say they liked the paint job first and foremost,” Begue says. “I was surprised to see most people talked about our people skills moreso than the painting we did. They would say things like, ‘Terry and his crew were polite and easy to talk to and work with’ and ‘They stayed on schedule and did more than promised.’ Look at the good things your clients are saying about you, then go all-out to provide those same qualities to the next customer.”
Make Yourself Known
If you’ve ever wondered why your business doesn’t show up higher on Google search results, consider asking more customers to review your business. That’s because online reviews are an important factor when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization) and local search rankings. In fact, Google’s Quality Rater guidelines reveal that Google heavily weights reviews when it comes to determining whether a business should be ranked highly in its search results.
This means that when people in your area search for local painting businesses, a highly-reviewed business will show up higher in the results than a business with only a few or negative reviews.
Generate More Reviews
One way to garner more reviews is to impress your clients with the quality of your customer service. BrightLocal found that most customers who felt a business “went above and beyond to ensure an exceptional experience” or “turned an initially negative experience into a positive one” were likely or highly likely to leave them a positive review.
Another way to get good reviews is simply to ask customers to leave you a review. While some painters may feel like this is pushy or unusual, it’s actually a very common business practice. Roughly 80 percent of consumers were asked by businesses to leave a review last year. Best of all, this method actually works: a majority of the people (65 percent) left a review when asked. Consumers generally responded best to requests made by email, on a receipt or invoice, or in person. Never underestimate the power of simply asking people politely.
If customers liked you but feel insecure writing a review, Begue recommends asking them questions.
“Just ask them what they liked the most about working with you, then listen to what they say,” Begue says. “Tell them to write out what they just said. You can even remind them of what they said to some small extent. It’s still their testimonial. It just needs to be in their own words.”
Other methods for getting reviews could include sending customers a questionnaire designed to collect testimonials, and pulling out your phone to record a video testimonial from a satisfied customer. Get creative.
While more reviews for your business are good, you should never try to fake customer reviews. Not only is this unethical, but customers are getting increasingly good at detecting fake reviews. If they realize you have been leaving fake positive reviews for your company, it will only damage your business’ reputation—the exact opposite of what reviews are supposed to do!
Reply to Every Review
Another best practice is to respond to any reviews you receive on major platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Doing so demonstrates that you know what people are saying about your company and that you care about customer feedback.
That doesn’t just apply to positive reviews. Even negative reviews represent an opportunity to improve your reputation.
“Consumers are looking for negative reviews when deciding on a service or product,” Hinz says. “It is important to acknowledge the reviewer’s concerns, show empathy, and redirect the conversation to a private discussion, whether that be a message to a social page, website, email address, or phone number.”
For example, you might respond to a negative review by writing, “We are sorry that you had this experience. Please send us a message at xxx so that we can further discuss your concerns.”
“You are not promising a solution, but acknowledging their concerns,” Hinz says.
Your replies don’t have to be long, but they should sound personalized and not like they were copy-and-pasted or written by a bot. It’s also better to respond to reviews quickly, though any response is better than none at all.
Responding to reviews is not only important for retaining past customers, but attracting new ones. BrightLocal found that 88 percent of consumers “are likely to use a business if they can see the business owner responds to all reviews, whether positive or negative.”
To start improving your business’ online reputation today, come up with a team strategy for reading and responding to reviews.
“Consider what makes the most sense for your business, where reviews are being left, and what you can commit time to when engaging with your customers,” Hinz says. “Consistency is key.”
Following these best practices for online reviews will help grow your business’ word of mouth, which will attract more customers, keep your crews hard at work, and improve your bottom line.