As a small business owner, your online reputation matters . More than you might think. In fact, research shows that a negative online reputation can cost you customers . But, other studies have shown that a positive reputation can actually help you gain them. That’s because 49% of local consumers  are more likely to use a business after they read a positive review about a business online.
So, what can you do to build a glowing reputation that helps you stand out to potential customers online?
Turn to your secret weapon: your happy customers!
Unfortunately, people tend to naturally turn to the Internet to share negative feedback about a company.
You know the saying: a happy customer will tell one person, but an upset customer will tell ten.
When you take the time to ask your happy customers to share their feedback, you might be surprised just how big an impact it can have. Many satisfied customers are glad to share their feedback, they just may not know it’s valuable to you as a business to have their reviews posted online. In fact, you may already receive notes, letters, or comments from happy customers. It may just be a matter of giving customers another avenue to share their feedback.
So, here are three ways you can put this idea into practice inside your business:
1) Get Your Team Onboard and Involved
Take time to explain to your staff that your online reputation is an important area of improvement for your business. Get them involved in the process of reaching out to customers to ask for reviews. It’s important to know and share with your team that you can’t pay for positive reviews, but you can certainly ask people to leave them. And sometimes, all it takes is to ask.
Encourage employees to ask customers for reviews every time they have a great customer interaction and recognize your team for their effort when they do.
2) Create and Share a List of Top Sites
When you start focusing on building your reputation online, select a list of a few top review sites you would like to get more reviews on such as Google Places Pages  or Yelp . Then, create signage with these sites prominently displayed to serve as a visual reminder of your request. Post signs in your business reminding customers that you appreciate reviews on these sites. You can also create small cards to share with your customers so they can easily remember and navigate to a site to leave you a review.
This can help you develop your reputation on important sites – an important first step.
3) Leverage Current Communication Channels
Another way to encourage customers to leave a review of your business is to use your current customer communication channels to share your request. For example, you could put an article in your monthly customer email newsletter, or post a message to your Facebook fans. The benefit of this is that your customer is probably already at a computer when they see your request. Think about how you currently communicate with your customers and find ways to include this message in a friendly, professional way from time to time.<
These are just three ideas for how you can leverage your secret weapon – your current customers – in building a great online reputation.
Do you currently let your customers know you appreciate reviews online? Have you tried any of these tips? Feel free to share your ideas and thoughts in a comment.
Secret Photo  via Shutterstock