Push and pull – the connection between a business and its hoped for customers. What fills the gap? What drives one toward the other? What are the most effective and easiest ways to ensure customers are actively drawn toward a business as opposed to being reached out to?

“93% of consumers read local reviews to decide if a business is good or not  . . .”  (BrightLocal, Local Consumer Review Survey, 2017)

A good metaphor for the force that pulls a potential customer toward a business is gravity. Nothing works like gravity does. A business that surrounds itself with a mass of positive online reviews creates its own gravity well, a well that nurtures and grows the business, not for the coming months or years but for the lifetime of the business. The more reviews, videos, links to social media pages, every mention of what it does, makes and sells, that a business can accumulate, the stronger the field gets.

“Online reviews, on the other hand, point a consumer who wants to spend, toward a business . . .”

Think of the difference between a newspaper advertisement and online reviews. Newspaper advertisements, for example have to achieve two things at once – convince a consumer to spend and to create an urgency to do it before they are distracted. It is yelling out hoping to be noticed. Online reviews, on the other hand, point a consumer who wants to spend, toward a business on the strength of great reviews, four or five stars, and an overall positive reputation. They are the gravity pulling a motivated buyer toward someone they can trust – all based on the opinions and experiences of past customers.

It’s important to remember that online consumers are looking for reviews before they purchase and they have searched for what they want to buy, or what service they want to use. In other words, they have walked on to the car lot and they’re not there to kick tyres.

“When a consumer uses a review platform [. . .], the decision and urgency to buy are exactly what prompted the person’s search. If traditional advertising is a megaphone that enables businesses to shout and see who’s listening, review sites are tractor beams that pull consumers toward local businesses precisely when they’re actively looking to spend money. ” (Cory Capoccia, Forbes Technology Council, Forbes, April 2018).

Businesses can’t afford to rely on analogue forms of marketing online. They do not work precisely because they do not satisfy customer needs and desires. People do not want to be sold to, they want to be assured – to feel safe that they are making a decision that will not blow up in their face. They do not want to engage a business, or purchase a product that they know nothing about. They do not want to take what a business says about itself as a marker of its customer care and satisfaction, quality, or reliability. Consumers are actively seeking online reviews to give them a sense of security and safety before they decide to buy.

Display or transmitted advertisements are no longer as effective as they once were because they not not speak the language the large majority of consumers speak. We have changed, the ubiquity of the internet has altered how we communicate, how we are entertained, how we consume.

“Consumers are actively seeking online reviews to give them a sense of security and safety before they decide to buy.

Consumers trust online reviews and ensuring they are an active part of a business’ marketing strategy closes the gap, harnesses the true energy of gravity, and makes the exchange between customer and business far easier. Having customers come to you is so much better than transmitting into the void, hopeful something may happen. The trend toward reliance on reviews will not abate. Over the past decade the numbers of consumers who use the internet before they decide to purchase has grown, year in, year out. For better, or worse, online commerce, and online as a precursor to physical purchase will only increase. Ensuring that they are in the best place to meet consumer needs, with a robust online reputation, is essential for every business that wants to have a long term future.