5 min read

A Simple System for SMBs to Improve Online Ratings

For every one star increase that a business gets on Yelp, they see a 5-9% increase in revenue. You must take advantage of this statistic.
A Simple System for SMBs to Improve Online Ratings

Here’s the hero statistic again: For every one star increase that a business gets on Yelp, they see a 5-9% increase in revenue.

That finding comes from a Harvard Business Review article. It confirms something we already know, positive online ratings can help your small business make more money. This has been true since at least 2010.

Despite this, very few businesses are deliberate and consistent about managing their online ratings. Some small businesses don’t even pay any attention to their ratings, yet alone put in place measures to increase it.

Small businesses in tourist destinations do this really well. Local small businesses are no different in terms of the benefits of ratings and reviews, but somehow they don’t seek ratings and reviews from customers.

This changes now.

You need to be deliberate and relentless in rocketing up your rating by putting in place a system to guarantee positive online ratings and reviews.

WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

Which businesses is it for? Any small business that customers discover through online search. This includes food service and hospitality, any retail business and personal and professional service providers.

What is the potential benefit? Effectively implementing this tactic can increase sales by 5% to 9% for the right small business. For a $500,000 business, that’s a $25,000 to $45,000 increase in revenue each year which will contribute $5,000 to $9,000 in additional profits at a 20% profit margin.

How much does it cost to implement? With our system this initiative takes between 1-2 hours of effort per month with no upfront or ongoing costs.

How often should I revisit this? Every month.

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Instructions for running this play

The objective is to establish a system that helps you increase sales revenue by reliably attracting more new customers to your business. The system will set a regular schedule for working on your online rating, and make sure you target the right customers to provide ratings.

Step 1: Choose Your Platforms

It starts with choosing the right platforms to target for your business.

  1. A good way to find the right global platforms (e.g. Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, Foursquare or TripAdvisor) or industry specific platforms (e.g. Beanhunter or Zomato) is to search for businesses like yours and see which platforms are being used in your area for your type of business.
  2. Based on the results and your market knowledge, narrow down the list to the top 2 or 3 platforms for your business. This will most likely include Google My Business and two other platforms.
  3. Make sure you have optimized your business profile on each platform.

Another way to do this, put yourself in your customer's shoes and imagine their typical journey to find your business. Say you run a coffee shop. A coffee lover has just moved into your area and they are looking for their new local cafe. They might type “best coffee near me” into Google, or go straight to Beanhunter and search the postcode.

This tells me I want to have an optimized profile, top ratings and good reviews on Google My Business and Beanhunter.

Step 2: Identify Top Customers

Now that you know the best platforms to target for your business, it’s time to start a list of your best customers. You’re a small business owner or manager, so you know who they are and talk to them all the time. You know the ones that would be happy to help you out.

Maintain the list in paper records or start a spreadsheet with their names and contact details. The added benefit of this is that you have just started a customer database in case you want to send them special offers.

However, you don’t want to ask them all at once. You want to create a constant stream of fresh ratings and reviews on your target platforms. So once you have identified the customers you believe will make good advocates, keep track by making note of the their status:

  • Customers who have already rated and reviewed your business.
  • Customers who you will ask for a rating and review this month.
  • Customers that you will ask later.

You want to avoid duplication.

Step 3: Request Ratings and Reviews

Armed with your target platforms and customer lists, it’s time to start putting the strategy into practice. Here’s how:

  1. Each month, approach your top customers who you have earmarked to ask for ratings and reviews.
  2. Ask them nicely to go online and provide a rating and/or review.
  3. Be specific about the platform you would like them to leave a rating and review on, and the type of rating you’d like them to write.

Chances are they’ll be more than happy to do it. But don’t write it for them, you want it to be organic and natural rather than boilerplate.

Step 4: Monitor and Repeat

Track your ratings on your chosen platforms over time. Keep an eye on whether it is rising or falling, and act accordingly. Respond to every review with kind words of appreciation. Potential customers see your responses too.

Finally, here’s the real trick here:

Set a recurring reminder in your email calendar or on your phone to repeat this exercise in one-months time, and every month after that.

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Key takeaways

It’s time to make and stick to a simple plan to grow your ratings. Map out the platforms relevant to your business, and make requests from your best customers asking them simply to let other people know what they see in your small business.

Putting in place a system to encourage happy customers to complete online reviews of your small business is both ethical and smart. After all, as a small business owner or manager you know the customers that had an unfortunate bad experience are going to be placing reviews, so don’t let them be the only ones.

Online ratings are there for a reason, and people looking for a business online should hear from your happy customers too. It’s an untapped opportunity too big to forget and too easy to miss.

Before you go...

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The little optimisations, the high-impact tweaks and the 1% gains you can make to your business to make it a little better, a little more profitable and even a little bit more pleasant to run.

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