If I asked you “How important are online reviews to your business?” You might have a fast and confident answer available or you might have no idea.

Business owners are falling into two distinct camps right now. Those that absolutely know their online reviews are increasingly critical to their business. And then those that have no clue about reviews and contemporary consumer behaviour.

No really, just how important are online reviews?

According to this post at SearchEngineLand, 88% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

That means your customers are online, comparing what consumers are saying about you compared to what consumers are saying about your competition. The reviews they read will influence who they contact first and who gets that critical first shot at serving the customer.

Online reviews will continue to dominate

Our behaviour as consumers seems to more and more influenced by online reviews. It’s not surprising when you think about it. We all want to feel like we’re minimizing our transactional risk when hiring a local plumber, choosing a family dentist or booking a hotel room.

Maybe it’s a hangover from our caveman days. We’re seeking guidance from the crowd so that we can make a safer, less risky bet. Or maybe we just don’t want to waste time and money having an inferior experience.

Strategic vs. No Clue

Smart business owners have strategically started accumulating reviews where they matter most. Right now that’s arguable Google, Facebook and Yelp followed by top tier industry directories (think DealerRater for car dealers or TripAdvisor for hotels.) That’s what smart businesses are doing while their competitors (still) have no clue how to genuinely influence consumers to do business with them.

So what’s your game plan this year; how are you going to execute a game plan to ethically get the maximum number of reviews for your business?