Review: noun, another word for advertising

As business owners, we hear a lot about the benefits-and potential detriments-of client reviews. We all want those five stars and the kudos for our great work and talent, but we shy away from asking for these tacit endorsements that could serve us well in our marketing and advertising. Shameless self promotion is not a crime, but there are basic strategies that can be used to create stronger publicity arcs that serve as your earned advertising-ads and marketing you don’t have to pay to put out in the world.

According to Agility PR Solutions, “More than 90%” of SMB business owners “thought online reviews are important” yet only 63% ask the people who do business with them for these reviews. These business owners know something that 37% of us do not, and it is simply that some have figured out how to utilize these reviews to create advertising content they can use in unique ways to sustain their visibility; that they also value and appreciate constructive criticisms; and that they understand how to use these insights to improve their business culture, protocols, and delivery.

Let’s start with the ugly bare truth: negative press scares us and makes us run away. We really don’t want to hear about the warts that make us less than perfect. Let’s face it, we have been told that the image we project to the world must be one of perfection and professionalism to the nth degree. Can we reframe this conversation, please? A person who has had a bad experience but is willing to tell you about the specifics is a person who wants your business to succeed. They care enough to let you know, and this is potentially the very best customer or client your business will ever have. The tone may get snarky, but it is the responsibility of the business owner to make it right, and ultimately the larger audience will look at the reaction and resolution to determine if you are the type of professional they can see themselves using. Especially when you know you fell short, make sure to invite that person to provide feedback and a review. This is your chance to make it right.

Making it right isn’t just about acknowledging the wrong or the shortcomings, it’s about addressing the internal strengths and weaknesses of your brand. Did you go as far as you could have with the project? Was there enough data to support your conclusions? Did you ask enough questions and ask the client to put in writing what their own objectives are? Just as we sincerely write our own mission statements so that we adhere to our why, written or specific objectives provided by our clients are the mission statement for the project. Even when dealing with a specific product or good, that widget really must answer the consumer’s actual and stated needs. Really examine the review for important information about your business. Accept it, build on it, move forward with intention.

Using the review as sustainable advertising makes all the sense in the world. Unsolicited, good press shared publicly is a dream come true. Why don’t we do more with it? Some of us leave it on our pages for the world to find, and stop there. Others of us seem to have a knack for shouting out our clients and thanking them publicly in ways that seem truly genuine. Then there are those of us who feel strangely detached and awkward. This is for us: put it out there! Your prospects want to know what others think!

It’s easy to copy and paste the review to your website. This is a perfect place for you to use the unsolicited good advertising. Your review should live on the platform of its origin, and then it should have a second home on your website, with a first name and a mention of the platform. For example, “Reviewed by Tina, on TripAdvisor”. (Sidebar: whenever possible, use those backlinks across the web so the web crawlers see more of you!) Go the next step and create a quick graphic that highlights the most golden nugget in the review and use it for your stories, posts, and newsletters. As Tricia at KO Integral Marketing says, “use that owned content to your advantage”. Any number of things can happen on social platforms that are not owned by you, and “your” content can disappear.

Ultimately, we need to realize that even if all the prospects we could wish to have see our good press they do not necessarily act on it. People need to see a message a dozen times before they act on it, so skip the self-depracating think speak of “my clients already saw this” and push it out there. You started this business to make your industry or business niche more accessible. Reviews, good or bad, make you human and your people will find you.