CPA Growth Trends, Marketing

Google Reviews: An Often-Overlooked Growth Strategy

Accounting and advisory firms have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients to grow.   

But in this digital age, Google reviews are the new word-of-mouth recommendations. If a prospect finds your firm on Google — and it’s likely they will since 80% to 90% of buying decisions now include online pre-purchase research — what will they see? Does your firm have several robust five-star reviews from long-time clients? Are there some one-star reviews you haven’t yet responded to? Are there no reviews?

Google reviews and your firm’s Google My Business listing can be powerful business development resources. Positive reviews can help a firm rank higher in search results, build credibility and enhance reputation. Accounting and advisory firms may be missing business development opportunities if they overlook this effective and inexpensive tool.

So, how can a firm generate more reviews for its Google My Business listing? Like anything else in business development and marketing, practitioners must put in the time and develop a review strategy to achieve results.

How to Get Google Reviews

Think about your own habits. Do you post a review every time you eat an exceptionally delicious sandwich or have an experience at the bank that went better than expected? Probably not. We expect things to work a certain way, and if they meet or exceed our expectations, it is unlikely to trigger us to leave a review. In fact, Inc. magazine reports that only one in 10 people who have positive experiences with a business leave a good review. Your firm’s experience may prove that ratio to be lower, especially if you are not consistently asking clients to leave a review.

Asking is the best way to add reviews to your Google My Business page. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of firms that don’t take this step. It’s another item on someone’s to-do list after closing an engagement, ending a year or clearing a particular hurdle, so it’s understandable that it doesn’t always get done. Moreover, it feels awkward and there’s a chance of rejection. The good news is 71% of people will leave a business review if they are asked.

There are many ways to approach clients to ask for a Google review. One of the best ways is to send them a personalized message with links to make responding easy. Here are a few ideas:

  • Include reminders in email newsletters asking clients to leave reviews. Consider featuring a business that left a complimentary review in the same email to entice other clients to do the same.
  • Add a prompt to leave a Google review in post-engagement surveys sent to clients. Remind partners and managers to follow-up with their clients and remind them to complete the survey and leave a review.
  • Post reminders to leave reviews on social media channels.
  • Provide a link on the firm’s website that leads to the review form.
  • Use a marketing automation tool like HubSpot to trigger a review request email after a certain action is taken (e.g., project is moved to closed).
  • Use a service such as GradeUs to automatically send email or text message requests for Google reviews after closing business.
  • Encourage team members to reach out to their most satisfied, loyal clients first. They are almost guaranteed to get a positive review and that will help build confidence.
  • If your firm has multiple locations, request reviews from clients served by each office, prospects can see reviews from clients in their area.
  • Incentivize the process. For example, host a contest at the firm with a prize for whoever can generate the most reviews from clients in three months. It can encourage friendly competition and help you build your brand reputation.

There are step-by-step guides, articles and video tutorials available online to walk newcomers through the review-requesting process. Also, look for tips on what can be included in reviews, such as “in my experience,” images or quantitative measures of success, to help attract the attention of Google’s recently updated algorithm.

Responding to Google Reviews

Increasing the number of Google reviews is part of an effective strategy, but it’s not enough on its own. It is important to show Google visitors that all reviews, both negative and positive, are read and respond to. Responding only to the negative reviews can appear defensive, and responding only to positive reviews can suggest you are not engaged in addressing client experience issues.

To make the responding process faster and easier, outline sample responses based on star ratings and categories or comments. It is important not to parrot back the same lines in every review because this can appear robotic, but using basic phrases as a guide can save time and give team members a framework for responding. It is also a terrific way to reinforce brand messages. Finally, it demonstrates to prospects that they will be working with a business that is responsive. This can go a long way in building trust early in the buying process.

A firm with many reviews, a healthy proportion of which are positive and all of which receive a response, will increase its brand’s reach, improve credibility and influence prospects’ buying decisions.

(A version of this story appeared in the June 2022 AAM Minute newsletter)

Sarah Dobek, president, Inovautus Consulting. Contact at [email protected].

Ty Hendrickson, training & development director, Inovautus Consulting. Contact at [email protected].

About Sarah Dobek

Sarah Dobek is president and founder of Inovautus Consulting, a national consulting firm that develops strategies, programs, and training designed to help accounting firms grow faster and in the right direction.

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