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5 Ways to Grow Your Startup With Online Reviews Online reviews are perhaps your #1 asset for winning new customers, even as a startup. Here's how to use reviews creatively to win more business.

By Kenneth Burke

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Online reviews are crucial, even for new businesses in entirely new market categories. In fact, reviews may be more important for you because you have to prove two things to potential buyers:

  1. That you can actually solve their problem

  2. That your company is good to work with

You're brand new, so without someone else's say-so, you have no way to prove this. Online reviews help you stand out and prove your value. Here's how they can be used to grow your startup:

Related: 4 Things to Know About Online Reviews (and Why You Can't Afford to Ignore Them)

5 ways to leverage online reviews for growth

1. Rank higher in search results

Online reviews are a key ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Google et. al. want to show searchers the most relevant, helpful and authoritative results, and they use online reviews to help them do it. This doesn't just apply to local businesses. It applies to everyone.

If you're creating a brand new market, this will take time to show results. But as soon as people begin searching for [XYZ] services that you offer — and they may be already — this will turn into a lead funnel for you.

2. Become the category leader

It's tough to create a new category, but it's much easier to stand out in an existing one. All you need is a good product and enough people saying that you're great. You can stand out in review platforms, market research reports and approved vendor lists — all by simply earning more online reviews than other companies in the same category.

3. Get on "Best of" and "Top 10" lists

An unfortunate truth: Most of those "Best [XYZ] Providers" and "Top 10 [XYZ] Tools for [Industry]" are written by junior editors who do a Google search and reference whoever shows up on the first two pages.

If you earn more online reviews, you will show up higher in those search results, giving you a significantly higher chance of getting on one or more of these "Best of" lists, which then:

  • Causes you to rank even higher in search results

  • Gives you high-quality backlinks

  • Helps you get on even more "Best of" lists and other recognitions

  • Drives more ready-to-buy traffic to you

It's a virtuous cycle that you really want to tap into. If you aren't included in these lists organically, you can reach out to the platforms to ask for inclusion and point to your reviews to back up your case for why you should be included.

4. Turn market opinion into "dark social"

Dark social is a marketing term for word-of-mouth in the internet era. It's difficult to track, but it's incredibly valuable. The more positive reviews you earn, the more people you have primed to mention you in online chat groups, direct messages, social media comments, emails, text messages and more.

The more people you have saying good things about you, the more likely you are to win new customers and become the market leader. Isn't that what every startup wants?

5. Use social proof throughout the buying cycle

Turn those reviews into mini-case studies, weave them into your blog posts and emails, share them on social media, and create ad campaigns out of them. These are incredible assets to help create demand and sway prospects into choosing you. Why? Because you've proven that you can solve customers' problems and that you're good to work with.

Related: Online Reviews Are the New Social Proof

How to get reviews (and what to do when you get them)

1. Pick a platform

There are tons of third-party review platforms, like Google, G2, Capterra, Angi, TripAdvisor and Glassdoor, to name a few. The most important one for you to focus on is wherever your potential customers are most likely to search. If you're not sure, look at where your competitors are putting most of their review efforts. There may be multiple, but for starters, pick the one where customers are most likely to find you.

2. Make the ask

Snag your review link from your platform of choice, and then ask customers for a review after you've given them a great customer experience. Ask for the review:

  • In-person

  • By text message

  • In an email

  • And/or through a QR code included in what you mailed them

You can just say: "We loved working with you! Please leave us a review at [review link]. Thank you!" You may want to use a review management platform to request and manage reviews from one place, but you can also start including asks into your regular communications.

3. Respond to reviews ASAP

Potential buyers aren't only looking at who has the most reviews. They're also looking at how companies respond to those reviews. Whether and how you respond are clear indicators of what you'll be like to work with. If you want to prove that you're reliable and can solve customers' problems, you've got to respond.

Online reviews are a crucial asset for startup growth. You can earn more of them — and get all the benefits mentioned above — but you've got to actually start asking for them.

Related: Here's How to Get Your Customers to Leave Positive Reviews (And Why You Can't Afford Not To)

Kenneth Burke

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Vice President of Marketing

Kenneth Burke has written over 1,000 articles on business growth and helped companies from pre-launch startups to billion-dollar businesses achieve their goals. He's also a champion for Chattanooga, TN and always open to a new book recommendation.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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