Online reviews for a business owner can be downright intimidating. Tens of thousands of businesses exist without one single review online, and though they would love to start getting positive online reviews, they are scared to get started and have no idea what they can do to get traction.
The Fear of None or One
These two scenarios are the most common I run across for a small business.
1. They have zero reviews and are happier keeping it that way for fear of a negative review happening once they start asking for reviews. They see it as opening Pandora’s box or poking the bear, so they choose to do nothing.
2. They finally get one review on Google, Yelp or Facebook and it’s a BAD review. Now the only reputation they have showing online is a bad one. The business below has had to live with just one review online — a 2-star bad review — for over 4 years! Just getting two positive reviews would dramatically offset this.
I want to share a few tips with you to help break you free of the fears of online reviews if you fall into one of the above situations. You’re best bet is to take control of reviews, not ignore them.
3 Tips To Get Your First Online Reviews
1. Work Hard to Break the Ice
Getting that first online review on one of the main review sites can be hard work. Accept that and understand you will need to put in some effort to help it happen. One of the best ways  is asking your customers in person.
Asking Sara, who is a frequent shopper or client, if she would write your business a review on her experience with your business is your best bet. It doesn’t hurt to ask these customers if they ever write online reviews and what sites the write them on first. Asking a customer to write their first online review ever for your first review ever might not turn out, especially if they try to write you a Yelp review.
Once you have one review on a site, the ice is broken and the next customer doesn’t have to be the first.
2. Personal Emails
You can scale your efforts of my first tip by creating a personal email to your best customers. Letting them know that their opinion of your business will help attract new customers on sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook instills responsibility to help out the business they love. You can make it easy for them by including direct links to your businesses profile on these sites, making it simple to review you.
While working away on number one and two above, create a simple business card or flyer you can give customers. You can use this template from Whitespark  that outlines the Google review process. Handing out these materials at the post sale or service is a great way to ask for reviews in mass. Training your staff to distribute these to customers who are satisfied and happy with your business at the close of a transaction is a great opportunity to let them know reviews matter to you.
Things to Keep in Mind
Earning online reviews is not easy … notice I said earn. Do NOT offer up an incentive, discount or anything else to your customers for writing a review. Review incentives are illegal and can be very damaging  if you are caught.
Make sure you involve your staff so that each employee understands the value that reviews hold for the business and the benefits of your team talking to customers about leaving reviews. These personal connections lead to positive online reviews.
Once you have a few reviews at the main sites that are important to your business, you can then consider using a customer feedback system that can fuel even more reviews. The best review strategy is one that consistently builds positive reviews for your business over time. But first, you need to get over the fear of none or one and earn your first reviews.