When it comes to real estate, the bottom line is simple; leads. New listings are your lifeblood, and finding ways to acquire them is the top reason real estate professionals turn to the internet for marketing and advertising. But what’s the best way to track down new leads? The tool might have more to do with looking back than looking forward.

Word of Mouth, on Steroids

Recommendations from real people carry a lot of credibility. And recently, as marketing and advertising budgets have grown, more and more people are turning to online reviews and discussion forums to help them make informed decisions. According to a a 2014 study by BrightLocal, up to 88% of people read customer reviews when researching a company or service. Some industries are more heavily reviewed and searched than others, but the growth in online research is significant across the board.

People Trust People

The level of trust clients place in online reviews is growing steadily. Today, on average, consumers trust a set of multiple online reviews almost as much as they would trust an in-person recommendation from someone they know. Compare this to people’s opinions on paid marketing or advertising, and you’ll see the real value of user reviews. According to BazaarVoice, customers trust reviews by other customers up to 12-times more than marketing materials created by a company.

Build Reviews into Your Services

Good reviews are important. But a steady stream of new reviews is even more so. Your competitors haven’t stopped acquiring reviews, and neither should you. Think about how you can make it clear for clients to review your real estate firm without it being an inconvenience. Add a review link to invoice emails. Get in touch with clients a week or two after the fact and ask them about their experience. Then see whether or not they would be interested in posting something online. You can even design a simple reviews section into your website using a free plugin like this. Reviews are a resource that compounds over time. Think of your body of online reviews as a something that takes effort in the moment, but yields results forever after.

Reviews as the Magic Mirror

A big body of awesome reviews, and a simple system to bring in more, is all well and good. But the value of reviews doesn't end with building your professional image and brand. They're also great inspirational material. Create a system of rewards for people on your team who generate new reviews. Adorn your walls with highlights from real reviews. Reviews can help you see beyond the bubble, and understand more about what you need to do to succeed.

The Good, The Bad, The Bizaare

You do your best for every single client you work with. But you can't make everyone happy all the time. So how should you respond when a furious review shows up on your website or Twitter? After all, shoppers are much more likely to post about a negative experience than a positive one. First off, don’t panic. A lot of the time, all it takes to make a person happy is a little attention and effort. Reach out, find out what the problem was, and then make a real and concerted effort to resolve it. You might well be able to change the person’s opinion and convert a negative to a positive. Even when you get a tough cookie that won’t budge, don’t chalk it up as a lost cause. Respond to the review politely and with real compassion, in the same place where the review originally appeared. This is a chance to show future prospective clients exactly how to respond when the going gets tough. Sometimes, a rocky review can give you the footing to explain more about your operation, values, and offers.

Getting Started with Reviews

Here are some unbelievably easy steps to start collecting and leveraging reviews from your clients, today. 1) Create a Yelp profile, and use social media icons to link to it from your website. 2) Add a survey or feedback form to your invoicing, to identify happy clients who might be willing to write a review. 3) Feature longer testimonials on your website to provide ‘social proof’ about your real estate business. 4) Use a free review plugin to capture new reviews right on your website. 5) Get to know your clients during your normal interactions, then expand the relationship to social media. Once you have a good online rapport, ask if they'd be able to write a short review or recommendation.

How have reviews and public comments impacted your business? We’d love to hear about it, in our own public comments section!