A Guide to Getting Online Recommendations and Using Them to Your Business Advantage
One of the strongest influences on your purchase decisions may well be someone who is not there at the moment you decide. You will probably take the words of the sales representative with a grain of salt. However, if you are aware of how other purchasers have really felt about their purchase, then that may have a strong influence on your decision. Clearly if others have expressed their discontent and said they regretted their purchase, then you may well be stopped in your tracks. On the other hand, if everyone seems to be very happy with their purchase and you trust what you are reading, then this may help you take the purchase decision more easily. How can you as a business owner get recommendations that potential customers will trust and that will influence them in a positive direction about their potential purchase.
What Kinds of Recommendations Are Possible
It is important to be realistic about what kinds of recommendations can be obtained. You should make sure that most purchasers are very satisfied with their purchases. Otherwise you may find that in offering some visibility to those who are delighted with their purchase, you may give an opportunity to those who are less satisfied to express their discontent. It’s almost like opening Pandora’s box. Unless you are confident on how most people view their purchases, you should not be trying to use recommendations. Displaying only positive reviews may do more harm than good and be met with a storm of negative reactions. Assuming that all is well on this fundamental question, then you can consider what kinds of recommendations can be obtained. Here are some examples:
- Comments written on survey forms or in a guestbook
- A written comment on some site such as Yelp or Foursquare (particularly for hospitality websites for hotels or restaurants)
- A response to an online multiple-choice survey (sometimes including a final open question on their overall feeling about their purchase or visit)
- Comments made on the company website or blog
- Comments made in email messages to the company
- Tweets about their purchase made on Twitter
- Likes expressed on the company page on Facebook or Google+
It should be apparent that the earlier ones in this list are more difficult to obtain but are usually more valuable. Clearly the company should be made aware of all messages or mentions that appear on the Internet, and hopefully these will all prove to be positive.
Who or What Is Influenced by Recommendations
Remember that it is not only potential purchasers who are influenced by recommendations in this Internet age, but also the various directories and search engines that attempt to give an overview on which companies, products, and services are most appropriate answers to searchers’ queries. Yelp places a great deal of emphasis on customer reviews. Aware of the possibility that some companies might attempt to gain advantage here by loading up somewhat questionable reviews, Yelp has an algorithm to identify such inferior items and ignore them. Unfortunately, this may on occasions throw out authentic recommendations too. In a similar way, Google Local Search places some weight on customer reviews in ranking the local suppliers in any given market. This again requires Google to have some vetting mechanism to throw out questionable reviews. Given that Yelp and Google Local Search do carefully monitor the value of any customer reviews, it is important to avoid any questionable methods for obtaining recommendations.
Be Proactive About Recommendations
Given the general suspicion of reviews and recommendations, any company should be very proactive in trying to get well-considered recommendations. The pursuit of good recommendations by the routes mentioned earlier should be ongoing. Displaying only unquestionably trustworthy recommendations should be the goal with a clear identification of who made each recommendation. Such a display is a major asset for the company, and careful attention should be paid to its contents. A good collection of testimonials will provide clear endorsements of the customers’ satisfaction in using the products and services. Every factor that is a strength for the company should be mentioned somewhere in the testimonial list. Given that this list can be a most persuasive tool in making the sale, it should be featured prominently on the company website and in sales brochures. The effort involved in doing this will be well rewarded through increased sales.