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The Key to Engaging Your Customer Base Marketing expert Elizabeth Sexton shares how Aligned Modern Health, the multi-location holistic wellness business, manages their online presence while subtly showing their customers the power of online reviews.

By Emily Washcovick

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Aligned Modern Health

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

"A little over a quarter of your customers will leave a review—just a quarter of them," said Elizabeth Sexton, marketing director of Aligned Modern Health. "This is a good reminder to all of us that your review engagement should be as organic and community-inclusive as possible."

Today, customer engagement is crucial to business success, but no matter how well you know your target audience or how much you spend on marketing campaigns, chances are you'll receive negative feedback or worse: none at all.

Elizabeth's team is in charge of multiple locations across multiple review sites, and she shared the key elements of her marketing strategy that boost review engagement.

"There are several actionable marketing tips that you can employ to nurture engagement and help shed light on positive reviews," she said. "Paying attention to your review strategy can also show that you value your customer's opinion, and this can further increase their trust in you."

Her first tip is to be open to the good and the bad. "It's actually good to have bad reviews. But you need a process in place so that you don't have panic and reactivity that sets in. So it's all about process over panic.

"It might bruise your ego, and it potentially damages online reputation, but you can find that negative feedback is incredibly valuable. I like to think of the business expression: "It's not personal; it's business.' If we do get an occasional bad review, that might not be so bad. Real reviews—from the good to the not-so-great—can humanize your brand."

Elizabeth encourages business owners to remember we're all human and that any review, good or bad, is an opportunity to make a positive change. Reaching out to customers who have left a negative review can go a long way in rebuilding the relationship and the company's online reputation.

"We actually find, quite often, that a reviewer appreciates this authentic reach-out so much that they'll update their review. They may not delete the whole story about what happened, but they might just share this positive experience too. And that shows we're making an effort."

The key to customer engagement is authenticity. If your reply isn't genuine, other customers will likely see through it or find out later, either from word of mouth or when they visit themselves. At the end of the day, authentic responses show that you are dedicated to building a better customer experience.

This type of authenticity also applies to new reviews. Guests should be leaving reviews on their own accord—not because someone asked them to post a review. This helps ensure reviews reflect real experiences that consumers are inspired to share. At Aligned, Elizabeth uses visual cues to remind patients that excellent service is their priority and there are ways to share their experience with others.

"We display reviews in all of our locations," she explained. "We know that this type of strategy works because we've gotten direct feedback from patients that seeing these reviews actually made them more excited to share their stories. So this is a way that we show, not tell, without making that direct ask or a solicitation for the Yelp review. We also find that it keeps the conversation top of mind for everybody in our space, including our team members. It keeps them a little more driven to be more aware of a 5-star experience and to be able to have those organic conversations if a patient asks about the signage."

Another great way to strengthen engagement is to share positive reviews on social media.

"A lot of people like a shout out from a brand that they like," Elizabeth said. "So that's a no-brainer that helps you expand your online community engagement and increase the reach of [your brand]. It never hurts to take that extra step and reach out: "Thank you so much for your review. This means so much to us. Referrals and reviews are so important. Do you mind if we share this with our community?' Approval is always a great way to further nurture that relationship."

When fostering organic review engagement, keep Elizabeth's three tips in mind:

  • Be open to good and bad reviews. Good reviews are great for morale and reputation, but analyzing the root of bad reviews can help your business grow even further and gain the hard-earned trust of your customers.
  • Be authentic. Reviewers are humans who appreciate decency and kindness. Reaching out to someone who has left a bad review helps put a face to the business and can turn a bad experience into a positive one. Likewise, you should never outright ask for reviews. Fine-tuning your customer experience and treating people fairly will resonate through your customer base and organically lead to better reviews.
  • Build relationships with your reviewers. Posting positive reviews on social media can help extend your brand reach and strengthen your reputation. Asking a reviewer if you can feature them on your social media platform is a great way to start building trust.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Elizabeth, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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