Online Reviews: Why Are They Important?
Customer reviews posted online are far more important than most accountants realize.
Think about yourself, do you use reviews to determine which movie you'll watch, what book you'll buy from Amazon, what restaurant you'll make reservations for when you are away from home, and what hotel you'll stay in. Well, people do the same thing when deciding what contractor to work with, what doctor to hire, and which accountant will best meet their needs. In fact, many of us have gotten so comfortable reading reviews that we'll seldom invest two hours into a movie without knowing what the reviews said about this flick because wasting two hours on a lousy movie is just not worth it.
Online reviews help us make more informed decisions and reduce the likelihood of having a terrible experience. And while the process is not perfect, reviews do reduce the risk of having a bad experience. Reviews matter because:
- Reviews are read by small business owners and can influence their purchasing decision. While one bad review is fine and makes the reviews more credible, a pattern of negative reviews is a problem.
- Positive reviews create the basis for your reputation locally. Even people who don't currently work with you like to know who the best accounting firms are in town, so they know who to recommend. This behavior happens with doctors, lawyers, architects and accounting firms. Your local reputation spreads by word of mouth.
Online review websites are all over the place. The major search engines, online yellow page providers, and review services gather reviews already.
- Search Engine Reviews - Google+ Local, Bing, Yahoo Local
- Online Yellow Pages - InsiderPages, City Search, Superpages, Manta.com, etc.
- Review Services - Yelp, Judy's Book.com, AngiesList.com, Kudzu.com
To secure reviews, most review websites require your business to register with their website and provide some basic information. Most are free and require you to validate that you are a valid local business. Some will validate by phone and others by mailing out a postcard with a security code. Beyond the validation process, you will want to optimize your listing with each review website so that your reviews will be easy to locate (towards the top). Yes, this takes some elbow grease but is well worth the time to do it right the first time. Changes to these registries are painful and slow. Save your usernames and passwords for each major review website.
Although asking your clients to review your accounting services is something most accountants fear, it is vital to creating a positive reputation locally. I strongly recommend that you secure 5-10 favorable reviews into the major online review websites. Start first with Google+ Local before tackling the others. Yelp is the most challenging because they scrutinize each review and often need a few reviews before they'll post something live because they are trying to screen out fraudulent reviews.
If your firm has zero reviews posted online, that sends the message that doing business with your firm might be risky or you might be a new firm. In other words, a healthy accounting practice should clearly have enough clients to get some reviews posted online (positive and negative). Don't send the message to your prospects that your firm is unknown locally and might be a risky choice. Get favorable reviews posted online before that one unreasonable client posts a scathing review of how unreasonable or poor your firm is. Be proactive.
Become more proactive about managing your local reputation. Get several favorable reviews posted now to get the ball rolling.
About The Author
Hugh Duffy is co-founder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm, an accounting website design firm, accounting marketing firm and outsourced marketing services. Build Your Firm provides accounting firms with a practice development system yielding higher profit margins and higher practice valuations than the industry average. Build Your Firm has a LinkedIn Discussion group called Modern Marketing Methods for Accountants and offers free webinars on accounting marketing (both are free).