The hardest part of starting any business is getting people through the door and building upon the customer base that begins with your first clients. Reputation is key to growth, but how do you build a reputation from nothing with a small budget?
After starting my naturopath business, Herbaceous, in Hampton (in suburban Melbourne) just over three years ago, I came to realise the importance of an online reputation also.
When I opened the doors to Herbaceous it was hard work to get people through the door and I didn’t have a large budget to spend on marketing and advertising. Originally, I focused my attention on getting maximum exposure on the local shopping strip where my shop is based. I would set up outside on the weekends to make sure people knew about me and my services. This was a great idea to help get locals to try my business and give me my first set of clients. Once I had them, I reached my next roadblock - how to expand on my original clients to grow a thriving business.
It was around this time that I was introduced to WOMO.com.au and the power of managing your online reputation.
Online review sites not only helped me spread the word about my business but also allowed to me gain the trust of potential clients.
With Naturopathy and for anything health related there is a huge level of trust involved - people need to be comfortable that they're seeing someone that’s knowledgeable and who can get them results – and that’s why online reviews are so important.
After my first set of clients started seeing significant improvements in their health and were ecstatic with the results, I asked them to write about their experience on my online page. This was essential in helping spread word of mouth and grow.
I know when I'm making decisions about the businesses I use, I feel much more informed and empowered by basing that decision on reviews, and clients are the same. People want to know they are getting their money’s worth.
After three years, I still get more and more bookings coming in. Many people call and say; ‘I’ve read good things about you’ when they book and we’ve done no other marketing except for local activities and our online review profile.
As a new business, an online presence is a great way to get the word out about our services and build up a fantastic reputation quite quickly. We find that the clients we get from our reviews are also more likely to re-book, tell their friends, and review their own experience - so it just keeps fuelling further growth. An amazing 60-65% of our new clients come from WOMO, many of them from outside our local area.
Bookings at Herbaceous have more than doubled in the last year as our reputation has grown.
Being so deliberate about using customer feedback has also helped shape the business. Clients come with a preconceived idea and expectations about us. We strive to live up to that. When people go away and then leave a great review, it gives me more confidence - it's very visible evidence that we're helping people and that people are very grateful.
To benefit from online review sites you need to make sure you have a great relationship with your existing customers, as keeping them happy and healthy will drive them online to discuss their experiences. Below are my top tips on how to use online reviews to grow both your reputation and business:
1. Make sure you are providing the best service possible. If your customers don’t enjoy their experience or don’t see results they won’t be interested in spreading positive word of mouth
2. Ask satisfied clients and customers to spread the word. Explain how online reviews can help your business and how much you would appreciate they help in promoting you. If you don’t ask you can’t expect them to talk.
3. Check online for new reviews. It is important to make time to see what is being said about you online.
4. Take time to think about a review, then respond. Sometimes when you see something negative online you just want respond immediately but you should take time to think about your response. Online reviews are a great way to start a conversation with a disgruntled client and help bring them round.