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Word Of Mouse: Online Reviews Matter

In a competitive field like gases and welding, who doesn’t appreciate a referral every once in a while? Word of mouth is consistently cited by distributors as one of their best forms of marketing. And customers, too, place a lot of trust in word of mouth to make their buying decisions. With that in mind, I wonder to what extent distributors are paying attention to online reviews of their business, if at all.

Online reviews of a business are a form of word of mouth. And believe it or not, people put a lot of trust in online reviews. As far back as April 2009, Nielsen reported that 70% of people trust opinions posted online. While this was focused on consumers rather than B-to-B, anything posted about you online can affect your business. As one distributor recently told me, “Word of mouth can kill your business or it can help your business.”

Just like referrals, sometimes garnering online reviews can take some encouragement. I came across an interesting idea from a discussion on Small Business Trends—setting up an online review kiosk in your own store. Google has even condoned the practice of setting up a station for Google Places reviews, as long as you don’t offer incentives that might sway the review process. Setting up a kiosk in your store is a great way to bring it to the forefront of your customer’s mind, and to boost your visibility in local Web searches.

My guess (and I have no statistics to back me up) is that the biggest effect of online reviews in a distributor environment would be on walk-in customers. But then again, even B-to-B customers do their research, and a lot of them probably do it online.

I know when I’m looking for a particular type of business, I take into account the number and quality of reviews that a place has on its listing. Also, there’s been talk that a new wave of smartphone apps like Siri and Iris could potentially shift some weight from business websites and place it on company listings on sources such as Google Places. All the more reason to get on board and encourage your customers to review you.

How are you asking customers for referrals and online reviews?

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