We live in an online society where comments and opinions are easily shared. In fact, before most of us make any major personal purchases, we check the reviews, the number of stars and make sure to read both the good and bad comments. There are multiple review sites out there that ask customers to weigh in on businesses, but one of the most impactful for SMBs is Google. A good or bad review, or even no reviews on a company’s Google My Business page can make or break a business’ reputation, especially if that business has multiple storefronts where it interacts with customers, which is the case with many imaging dealers.

Google reviews are factored into Google’s local ranking algorithm, which considers not just the quantity, but the quality of those reviews as well. This very concretely means for a local business that the more reviews that business gets, the more chances that someone searching on Google for say, “copiers in Albuquerque” will run across your local business in Albuquerque. Additionally, your business ranks even higher with Google if the multiple reviews you have are generally positive. You see, Google rewards businesses that have both frequent AND positive reviews, so it is not enough to just get a large quantity of reviews. You also need to do such a great job that your customers are willing to literally gush about you online.

Benjamin Franklin said famously, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” This is especially true when it comes to Google reviews, especially if you only have a few reviews to begin with. Think about your own behavior as a consumer: if you see a product or store with four good reviews and one bad review, you are likely to focus on the one bad review to make sure you aren’t making a mistake with your purchase (also, it’s so much more fun to read the bad reviews). However, if you are checking out a business and four out of the 50 reviews are negative, you are likely to conclude that most of the reviews are positive and there is no need to look at the few bad reviews. This is even more true for imaging dealers, who not only sell product to customers but who also service and set up those products. Customer service is key and if you are doing a great job, potential customers have a right to know, don’t they?

How to get started

Now that I have convinced you that Google reviews are important, you may ask how to go about wrangling your local Google My Business page(s) so that you can make sure the correct information about your business is online and you can respond to customer reviews. Let’s be clear, if your business has been around for a while, chances are it’s already been picked up by Google through information it has collected around the web. If this listing goes unclaimed, this could mean bad things for your business’ reputation, so you need to go ahead and claim it. If you are not sure whether Google created a listing for your business, go to Google Maps and search for your business name. If it comes up and you see “Claim this Business” in the panel, it means it is unclaimed. To claim it, click on the link, log in to a Google account using the email address you want to associate with the listing (preferably with a company Gmail account, not a personal one, so you always have access to it, even if someone leaves), then click on “Manage Now.” The listing will automatically be linked to your Google account. However, you will still need to be verified before you can consider this account your own. Google wants to make sure you are the true owner of the business and will mail a postcard to your business address that contains a verification code, which you can use to verify your listing. If you have multiple people working out of your office, it is important that they know to expect the postcard so that it doesn’t get lost and further delay the verification.

How to get more Google reviews

Now comes the fun part. Here is where you can leverage all of those nice things your customers have been saying about you for years. It seems like an easy thing to have your customers go to your Google page and leave a 5-star review, right? Well, it might be easy, but there is still a process. In order for your customer to leave a review, they have to first search for your business, then pull up your Google profile, then scroll down to the reviews section and then write a review. It takes about a minute, but why not make it even easier for them to do it? Here are some things you can do to help your customers leave a review:

1. Create a Google Review short link and add it to your website. If your customer wants to leave you a review, the first place they might visit is your website. You can give them a direct link to your Google page by going to your Google My Business account Home tab and finding the Get Your First Review card. You can copy this link to your clipboard and then add it to your website. Make sure that it is clear and easy to see when embedding. One idea is to create a banner for your website that very clearly states: “Leave us a review on Google” and then have that link directly to your Google My Business page. Whichever method you use, make it clear and clutter free so that it is easy to get to and be obvious about what it is for so that your visitors know what to expect when clicking on the link.

2. Create postcards to leave behind. If you are like other imaging dealers, you are constantly interacting with your customer, either in person or online. It might make sense to create a postcard that includes a link to your Google page that you give to the customer when you have finished working with them. You can use bit.ly or a QR code or some other link shortener to shorten your Google page link and make it super intuitive for the customer. A nicely designed but simple postcard that says something like: “How was your visit? Simply go to: bit.ly/XYZCompany to leave us an online review,” can help nudge the customer into action. One important thing to note, you are not allowed to give any incentives (monetary or otherwise) to customers so that they leave a good review. This is a violation of Google’s Terms of Service and should be followed carefully.

3. Create and distribute a script for your sales and service people. Though some find it easier than others, not everyone has a simple time asking for reviews. To assist your more reluctant sales and service members, create a script that helps them ask via email, through LinkedIn, over the phone and in person. Keep it simple. Here’s a quick example of something you can send via email: “I am so glad you like our service. Would you mind writing a Google review of your experience? It will help other customers make more of an informed decision. Here’s a direct link to our Google review page.”

4. Run an email campaign. Speaking of email, running an email marketing campaign is another great way to ask for Google business reviews. Just send your customer an email after a service or sales call and clearly ask for a review, while providing the link to the reviews section on your Google page. You will be amazed at how many customers are willing and able to write a review and are only looking for the opportunity to do so.

5. Instigate some friendly competition. Giving incentive to your reps to make it easy for the customer can go a long way towards enhancing your reputation on your Google page. We held two Google Review contests among our sales and service reps at different times of the year and managed to triple our overall customer reviews in one year. You can too! By offering your reps prizes for the most 5-star reviews or monetary incentives per 5-star review, you can help them make the most out of each sales or service touch with the customer. We found it was helpful to also provide call/email/social scripts, postcards and signature graphics to make it easier for their customers to leave reviews.

6. Don’t forget to interact with your existing reviews. Did you know that among customers who read reviews, 97% read responses to reviews? It is always a good idea to let your customers know that you are listening to them, whether the reviews are good or bad. Here are some tips on how to respond to reviews:

   a. If the review is positive. Get back to them in a timely manner and make sure to express how grateful you are for the positive review.

   b. If the review is negative. Respond politely and also promptly and do your best to help the customer to resolve the issue. Do not ignore the review in the hopes that it will simply go away. It won’t and you will look like you don’t care about your clients.

Google reviews not only enhance your online exposure, they also help with search engine rankings. Claiming your Google My Business page is both free and easy and well worth your while if you own an imaging dealership or similar business. Additionally, there are numerous things you can do to let customers know that you have a page and are open to comments. At the end of the day, you not only want your customers to know that you value their feedback, but you also want to give them an easy way to provide that feedback.

Associate Director of Content and Communications at Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America | Posts

Naeran Rubio is the associate director of content and communications for Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America. She has extensive experience in technology marketing and has been marketing for the imaging industry for nearly 10 years. In her current role, she leads Sharp’s content and communications team that creates and promotes helpful industry content.