It’s been said that nothing in life is free, and for the most part that is true. Think about what your business spends to acquire a customer. Costs for traditional marketing channels like radio, television, and billboards can be expensive, and each year consumers trust those channels less and less. In fact, according to a study by Experticity, only 47% of consumers trust branded advertising.

That’s not to say it isn’t important. Traditional marketing and advertising are needed to create awareness among your audience, but they probably aren’t going to ultimately be what pushes customers over the edge to make a purchase. According to that same study, what has been shown to effectively influence buying behavior are referrals from family or friends and online reviews. What this basically amounts to is free marketing for your business.

If customer recommendations really are more effective and ultimately less expensive than traditional channels, why are more businesses not doing whatever they can to enable their customers to advocate for them? The simple answer: change is hard. But in this instance, it will be worth it.

Focus on customer experience

When I said before that customer referrals were ‘free’, that might have been a little misleading. While it’s true you shouldn’t pay your customers to advocate for your business, there is some cost involved. You will need to invest in delivering a top-notch customer experience, which is something you should be doing already.

If you want your customers to shout about your business from the rooftops, you need to give them something to talk about. If your customer experience is mediocre or subpar, they either won’t recommend your business or even worse – they’ll give you a bad recommendation.

There are many tangential benefits to businesses that focus on customer experience. First and foremost is loyalty. Consumers today have a lot of choices. If you aren’t delivering the experience the customer is expecting, they will move on to the next one.

Especially if you operate in a perfectly competitive market, the only way you can differentiate yourself from the competition is by creating a better experience. And the crazy thing is that research has shown that customers are willing to pay more if the experience is better.

Make it easy to be an advocate

Now that you’ve created happy customers through an awesome experience, how do you get them to recommend your business and write an online review? A recent study found that 83% of satisfied customers are willing to offer a referral, but less than a third actually do.

In the past, the process to leave online reviews has been difficult and required a lot of work on the part of the customer. It’s one thing to call or text your friends about an awesome experience, but to actively seek out an online review site and leave a review is something only extremely happy or extremely unhappy customers have typically done.

But now with advances in technology, businesses can streamline the online review process with an online review management platform. These platforms make it possible for your customers to leave a review with just a few clicks on their smartphone. When the process is easy, customers are more than willing to leave a review.

By making it easy, your business will not only collect a lot of reviews but it will also have a large number of recent reviews. This is important because when customers research a business online, they often consider both the number of reviews a business has and how frequently those reviews are coming in. Your business might already have a lot of reviews, but if they were left three months ago or later, many customers won’t consider them to be relevant anymore.

While building up a library of online reviews isn’t technically free marketing, it can go a long way toward building trust with potential customers and could be just the push needed to get them to make a purchase. Which in the long run is what your end goal is anyway.

Learn more

Request a demo to see how Podium’s cloud-based solution can help you use text messages to invite all of your customers to review your business. Podium’s efficient, mobile process can help your business build a strong online presence on the sites that matter most. This will, in turn, improve local SEO and ultimately boost revenues.