By in large, people buy from people they trust. And when they are in need for a product or service they are unfamiliar with, they generally ask friends and family for recommendations. This is because trust can be transferred from person to person in what is known as Social Proof. This psychological phenomenon allows people to make decisions by trusting experiences others have with an otherwise foreign situation: “Hey Bob, my tooth is killing me, you know a good dentist?”
That is why referrals are so darn effective. People don’t need to take the time and effort to build their own opinion of a specific business - they figure their friend has done that already. But if Bob, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t know a good dentist? Well, in this instance over 67 percent of people are headed right to Google and finding out who other people recommend (1 percent are even using the I’m Feeling Lucky button).
People are essentially looking for Social Proof outside their direct network. Just last year Google released an update to their search engine algorithm known as “Pigeon”. This update greatly impacted local search results; effectively giving an edge to businesses targeting nearby prospects. Great news for businesses that are on top of collecting online reviews! People are hungry for unbiased feedback, and Google reviews are perhaps the next best thing to direct word of mouth.
The effectiveness of Social Proof on a prospect is impacted by:
The perceived familiarity with the products or services by the reviewer
How accurate and unbiased the review appears to be
Google is pretty good about maintaining their reputation for unbiased reviews. In fact, they go to great lengths to keeping their reviews free from outside influence. Because of this they are trusted by prospects as a way to evaluate a company. But there are ways you could go about collecting more for your business - and I encourage you to be active in doing so.
Although directly soliciting for reviews is not encouraged by Google, they say it’s okay to ask your clients for them. Below is a response from one of Google’s forums discussing this topic:
“It’s fine if you reach out to customers to ask them to review, but I do not recommend that you do this in waves. If you want to reach out to legit customers and ask them to review, I recommend you contact them immediately after you have done business with them.”
When going about collecting reviews from your customers it is best to follow a process, and spread it out over time. Collecting too many reviews at one time could lead Google to delete them all together. A consistent approach is important, and I have outlined some steps which is a great place to get started.
Make sure you have a business Google+ page
Identify who your happiest and most vocal customers are (NPS)
Gather as many testimonials that you can
Ask your most vocal promoters to review you on Google
- Do not get busted for soliciting for reviews - spread them out!
- Carl Maerz, Founder and COO - Rocket Referrals LLC