The Crucial Component Your Inbound Marketing Funnel is Missing

Online reviews aren't vital.

"They're not that big of a deal. We're doing fine without them! I mean they can't be that important, right?"

It's a common assumption businesses make. Online reviews are important but somehow they're neglected and placed on the backburner.

Some aren't sure how to ask (or when). A few are too busy chasing customers and putting out fires to take them seriously. A few feel their business doesn't depend on reviews (good or bad) to be successful. 

Ignoring online reviews = burning money

A good inbound marketing funnel has three stages. These stages are pretty straight forward.

  1. Attraction. Customers discover your business. They're drawn to you via a lead magnet, offer, tool or incentive.
  2. Conversion. You give customers a compelling reason to become a subscriber, customer or evangelist. Customers at this level are uneasy but have enough of the information they need to trust your business.
  3. Consumption/ascension. People in this category use your product or service. Naturally, they're more likely to promote your business to others and write reviews.

Here's the problem.

Businesses tend to focus on the consumption/ascension stage. They know prospects will look for positive reviews and they understand the difference reviews will make in drawing customers in.

They're right, and that's the problem.

We treat reviews like a piece of the puzzle

Some of us think, "Okay, let's use reviews to attract customers to our business." When customers are happy with our products, we ask for reviews.

But we quickly move on to the next customer, ignoring the value of what we've just received. We treat customer reviews like tiny puzzle pieces.

Do this and it's like you're burning money.

This perspective creates problems because it leaves prospects feeling anxious and unsatisfied. It's tough for them to get many of the answers they need. Sure you can give them those answers, but that's the problem. They don't trust you yet.

Here's why that matters.

Online reviews are a crucial part of the entire inbound marketing funnel. 

What does that mean exactly?

It means online reviews, when used properly, are a continual, never-ending part of your inbound marketing funnel.

It means you...

  • Attract customers with a compelling customer review, using your ads, content, images or video as the delivery mechanism.
  • Introduce yourself with content reviews that establish credibility.
  • Share the problems you've solved for customers, in their own words.
  • Provide social proof whether that's with raving super positive testimonials, a large volume of positive reviews, or a non-stop drip of happy customer feedback.
  • Defuse objections by showing customer fears - the risks they took and how things improved.
  • Tie reviews to your offer giving customers a compelling reason to convert - join, buy, sign-up or watch.
  • Use reviews to upsell. Once customers have purchased your product or service, you use reviews to lead them to the next step.

Here are a few examples of what this looks like in action.

Personal trainer Diamond Dallas attracts a never-ending stream of new clients with before and after video reviews like this.

Boxing toolmaker Hykso uses an inspiring but soul crushing review to introduce themselves to customers.

Digital Ocean shares the story of a massive problem they've solved for their client .IO.

Cards Against Humanity is an incredibly popular card game with more than 35,000 reviews and a solid 5 star rating. Tough to pull off on Amazon but the social proof is there.

A mother has a "problem" with her teenage sons that only Kleenex can solve.

Dollar shave Club shares 30,700 positive reviews from passionate customers, inviting you to "Try the club". Mixing customer reviews in with their offer.

Amazon uses reviews to routinely upsell customers, using clever wording, social proof and low prices.

Can you see what's happening?

Used smartly, reviews turbo-charge your inbound marketing funnel. At every turn you're teaching prospects, showing them what it's like to be your customer. 

Because customers won't trust you

At least, not at first. But they do trust other customers. The more unbiased the review, the more likely customers are to convert. The more transparent customers are in their reviews, the better they perform.

Customers are jaded, skeptical.

They're looking for 3rd party proof, for evidence at every turn. They don't really want that proof from you. They want it from your other customers. From the people who've taken the risk and spent their hard earned money. On you.

So they do what anyone in their position would do.

They search for businesses on 3rd party sites like Yelp, Google reviews, Facebook, the BBB and other niche review sites. This makes it incredibly important that you optimize your reviews for these channels. If customers are searching for you on Yelp for example, claim and optimize your listings.

Neglect this seemingly minor detail and you’ll lose money as customers leak out of your funnel.

Okay, okay. Reviews matter.

But do they really matter that much?

Are online reviews the "make or break" ingredients your marketing funnel needs? Absolutely. How do I know?

Fight club.

Have you seen the movie fight club? The one where Brad Pitt and Edward Norton start a fight club, then proceed to beat each other to a pulp?

A local daycare decided to re-enact fight club. Only the fighters were toddlers. At a daycare center.

That's right.

Caretakers forcing toddlers to fight for entertainment.

Forcing toddlers to fight is untrustworthy

This story is horrifying but shows the effect reviews can have on an inbound marketing funnel.

While existing customers empathize with staff, new customers (parents) probably won't take the chance. This isolated incident while unfortunate, has permanently damaged this daycare's ability to attract, convert and serve customers.

Their marketing funnel is in bad shape.

Here's the good news. If online reviews can do this kind of damage to your marketing funnel then the opposite is true.

Positive online reviews, as we've seen, have a dramatic effect on the marketing funnel, enabling marketers to attract, convert and sell to customers.

Where do online reviews fit within the inbound marketing funnel?

The answer is everywhere. Your online reviews shape, impact and guide marketing throughout your funnel.

Just one problem. Inbound marketing works without reviews

That's the fear.

Only it's completely untrue. Because prospects are afraid they'll make a mistake, they'll lose money, look stupid, lose their job, etc.

Inbound marketing leads new customers to an offer.

That offer creates fear. Those fears come from our past experiences, perceptions and/or inexperience. Ignore these details and inbound marketing stops working.

Fail to give customers a compelling reason to buy and customers won't.

Reviews aren't exclusive to inbound marketing.

They're exclusive to marketing in general. If we want to convince and persuade, our customers need compelling evidence. Evidence in the form of online reviews.

Done well, it's objective, unbiased and brutally honest. 

Online reviews are must-haves

They're vital because they dramatically reduce risk. They give prospects the persuasive evidence they need in order to trust. If you've neglected online reviews you're essentially burning money.

Online reviews are often neglected, placed on the backburner.

That doesn't have to be your story. Can you see customers bragging about your business? Imagine having customer evangelists promote your business to everyone they know. It's possible if you know when and how to ask.

Reviews aren't just a piece of the inbound marketing funnel, they're the core. Give them the attention they need to generate the results you want.

About 

Will Hanke owns Saint Louis’ top independent Internet Marketing firm, Red Canoe Media. In addition to helping some of St Louis’ most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.

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