By Adam Robinson, Cofounder/CEO, Robly Email Marketing

At Robly, we find the customer review space fascinating. The public markets have recognized that there is tremendous value in the power of customer reviews – just look at the market capitalizations of companies like Yelp and Angie’s List.

Despite the broader recognition of customer reviews’ value, most small businesses don’t solicit, collect, or utilize customer feedback frequently or effectively. Why? Small businesses have been trained to only use marketing products that provide immediate and quantifiable value to their business. Stand-alone customer review collection and display products simply don’t fit that profile.

While focusing on the short term may make decision making easier and provide you with quick feedback on whether you did something stupid or not, approaching business with a short-term mindset can cause you to overlook truly valuable opportunities.

Even worse, a series of short-term “wins” over time can leave your business in an uncompetitive and potentially fatal position in your market. Clayton Christiansen has fascinating ideas to share about this topic.

Despite being a long-term investment with no immediate payoff, having a substantial number of fresh customer reviews WILL legitimize what you are doing in the eyes of a many potential new customers that you otherwise would have missed over time. How much will it help? Impossible to say … but it will help your business.

I would encourage all of you to invest 30 minutes of your time to set up a method that will collect and display reviews for your automatically, then make sure that new potential customers see them in the daily flow of your business.

Use a Customer Review Automation Solicitation, Collection, and Display Tool

At Robly, we are huge believers in the power of customer feedback. We actually collaborated with Facebook when they announced that they were going to add customer reviews to their Facebook Business pages and created Robly Customer Reviews.  It’s a free add-on to our email marketing service. Other services are that are similar but don’t integrate with Facebook are Reseller Ratings, Customer Lobby, and Shopper Approved.

Setting up these tools takes around thirty minutes, and once they are set up, you don’t have to do much at all to keep them working for you. The first part of the process is to actually collect reviews, and in general, there are three ways to do it:

  • Via email campaign: Send an email to your list that we have already created asking them to leave you feedback. If your audience is very engaged with you, you’ll see spectacular conversion from this campaign … If not, you’ll see better conversion from the other methods.
  • Check-Out Survey: Drop some javascript into your site to pop up as users are checking out, catching them at their highest point of purchase euphoria.
  • Solicit via Email: Bcc: an email address unique to your Robly/Shopper Approved/Reseller Ratings account to solicit feedback after each entire purchase experience has completed, for example, seven days later.

If you implement one or more of these review-collecting methods, you will continue to gather fresh, keyword-rich customer feedback, with no ongoing time commitment.

You can display reviews in several ways:

  • Put a display widget on your website: All reviews vendors provide a widget that you can pop on your website that will display recent reviews
  • Link to a testimonial page: Most vendors offer a public page they host, and you can create a “reviews” or “testimonials” link in your NAV bar, and link to the page. People will read the reviews as they click through your site.
  • Link to your Facebook Reviews page: same as above, but just takes people directly to where your customers are leaving reviews, if you’re using the Robly tool.
  • Make your employees add a “Click Here to Read Reviews of XYZ Corp” to the bottom of all of their email signatures: This is my personal favorite. All Robly employees have 14pt signatures, and 18pt blue text asking users to click to see our reviews, linked to our Facebook Reviews page. Every email is a branding opportunity.

As mentioned in the title of this post, setting up a review collection and display tool should take no longer than 30 minutes. There’s no hard research backing exactly how investing this time upfront will help your business, nor will you get clear, immediate, quantifiable feedback.

However, if you take 30 minutes to do it now, I can assure you that you’ll be reaping the branding benefits of your customers’ voices for years to come.

Adam Robinson is cofounder and CEO of Robly (Switch to Robly – Five Minutes Will Save You 50% on Email Marketing). Follow him at @Adam_L_Robinson.