Building trust with your audience is the most important job for any busy tax or accounting professional. This process starts when a consumer or small-business owner is first introduced to your brand. Whether they were referred to you or found you in a search, they most likely will Google your name. New research from BrightLocal indicates that local listings with reviews get a greater share of clicks from potential clients. This means that you will get more or fewer clients based on the strength of your review profile.
In a recent article that I wrote for Forbes.com, I explained why a tax or accounting professional’s biggest asset is trust. Although this seems like common sense, many professionals ignore the easy steps that they can take to strengthen their reputations.
Some key takeaways from the BrightLocal study:
Reviews and social proof are now the factors that consumers use most often when determining which business they are going to work with. Gone are the days when people relied on just one person’s recommendation. The Internet now provides consumers access to an entire community’s opinion of a business.
Building a five-star-rated practice
Step 1 is to make asking for a review part of your daily business routine. You can do this via email, in person, or on social media. Best practices include asking for the review right after a successful engagement. Review freshness is one of the ranking criteria, so attracting new reviews year round is important.
It is good to build as many websites with solid review profiles as you can. We start our clients with Google My Business and TaxBuzz.com. Once we have a solid start, we start working on Yelp and other sites that rank well in your area. One of the challenges with Yelp is that its algorithm suppresses the reviews of clients who are not active yelpers.
The goal is to have a robust review profile that will consistently show searchers five-star reviews. This is called “social proof,” and it will help you convert more prospects into clients. However, you should absolutely not fake reviews or game the system. Many spammy reviews will get flagged—or worse. Consumers are savvy enough to see through a fake review profile. Having a negative rating surrounded by five-star reviews, in fact, helps give more credibility to your review profile by making it more believable. Real client reviews tell a story in a way that you can’t. They also make you look at your relationships in a different way.
We have found that, once professionals attract 10 reviews or more, they actually pick up steam in building out their review profiles (with clients trying to outdo each other in their praise, like students in high school). Showcasing the reviews on your website and linking back to the review site will help you convert more visitors into clients. Social proof works, so reviews should be displayed prominently on your home page and throughout your website.
In the BrightLocal survey, 56% of consumers chose a business because of positive reviews and 5-star ratings. If you are in a noncompetitive market, reviews are a huge differentiator. The opposite is true as well: If one of your competitors has built out a strong review profile, that professional will attract more clicks and new business than you will. Of those who search, 52% click on one of the first three organic search results. Businesses with reviews are usually ranked higher than those without. Think about that. If you are ignoring this important element of marketing, you are already missing out on over half of prospects who are looking for help. Before this, you probably didn’t even realize that these opportunities were out there.
Beyond the benefits shown in the research, positive reputations also help build trust with current and potential clients. Trust really is the most important asset for any CPA, enrolled agent, or accounting professionals.
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