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Online reviews: How they can build your brand and help convert referrals

What is a brand?

A logo?

The colour palette?

What about the fonts used?

Sure, these all have a part to play, and it’s where the branding journey starts. But, it’s much more than that.

Take a look at Apple. When they launched their new iPhones this week, the technology geeks were nonplussed and their share price fell. But, people will still buy them. One leading technology blogger, who 10 years ago queued up for 36 hours to purchase the first iPhone, said on The Today Programme (and I’m paraphrasing a little) “It’s only ok, but I’ll still buy it.”

That’s the benefit of branding. He wants to be associated with Apple, and to do that he must be seen with one of their products.

The online world

My favourite way of looking at branding is encapsulated in a quote from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon:

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

That of course includes your online presence.

What people say about you online, including social media and review sites, affects how people view your business. And your flow of new enquiries.

I often talk about the part an effective website has to play in a successful referral and recommendation strategy. The same is true of your wider online presence.

Consider a referral’s journey to you:

  • They are chatting to an existing client of yours about a financial problem they are having. The client (because you have trained him or her well!) passes on your details
  • That friend may pick up the phone immediately. But there’s a fair chance they will do a little more digging online (even if it’s just to get your telephone number, find your office or learn what you look like)
  • That means Googling either your name, or that of your business

What they see will affect whether they take that final step and get in touch.

If they see a search results page is dominated by you and your business, with your website appearing prominently, your Google My Business page well completed and positive online reviews, the chances of the friend getting in touch are increased.

The opposite is also true.If the search results page doesn’t display your website, or indeed anything to do with you, or your business. Or worse, negative reviews appear, the chances of that friend getting in touch are diminished.

A quick word about new businesses

While I think about it, if you’re starting a new business, and in the process of choosing a new name you must consider the likelihood of being able to dominate the Google search results page for brand searches i.e. people searching for your business name.

We are working with a small handful of clients who have an existing brand (they would rather not change) which has almost zero chance of getting on the first results page for brand searches of their business name.

That’s a problem with no easy solution.

Gathering online reviews

The digital equivalent of “what people say about you when you’re not in the room” is of course online reviews.

For advisers and planners that means:

One of the most effective ways of marketing your business is still word of mouth. Reviews provide reassurance, evidence of your expertise and are generally trusted, even if the reader doesn’t know the people writing them.

However, most of your clients won’t have left you an online review. I chatted to one adviser who has 160 reviews on VouchedFor, that proves clients are (generally) happy to leave reviews, but you have to make it easy for them:

  1. Make sure they know you welcome online reviews
  2. Tell them your preferred site (Google, VouchedFor, Trust Pilot etc)
  3. Make it easy: send them links to your preferred sites, explain what they need to do

But, never, ever, write the review for them.

Make reviews work for your website

I have spoken at length about search engine optimisation (SEO) in the past. For example, in this post, where I explain, at length, why advisers shouldn’t spend money on it.

Point seven states that any reviews, whether they are Google reviews or not, will improve your SEO. Google wants to display sites that are useful, and gives priority to those that are seen to have value. Reviews show Google that your website is one of significance, and play a huge part in online search prominence.

Never underestimate the small things


In the online world, the tiny things add up to something far bigger. Before you know it, the trickle of reviews that you once had will have turned into a vast sea of genuine, high quality testimonials, that will leave your audience engaged and more likely to contact you.

So, what are you waiting for?

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