When you think about building your Landscaping business, there’s one thing that comes to mind above all else; clients. New clients are your lifeblood, and finding ways to acquire them is the top reason landscaping pros turn to the internet for marketing and advertising. But what’s the best way to track down new clients? The answer might have more to do with looking back than looking forward.

Word of Mouth, on Steroids

Word of mouth recommendations have always carried a lot of weight. And today, with the rise of a globally connected, internet savvy population, public comments, recommendations, and reviews have become a lead influencer in which services and professionals attract new business. According to a a 2014 study by BrightLocal, up to 88% of people read customer reviews when researching a company or service. These numbers vary a bit by industry, but are increasing fast across all sectors.

Consumers Trust One Another

The level of trust clients place in online reviews is growing steadily. For a typical consumer today, a batch of good online reviews carries the same weight as a recommendation from an acquaintance. 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 site.

Make Reviews Part of the Plan

Good reviews are important. But a steady stream of new reviews is even more so. Other Landscaping businesss in your area won't stop acquiring new reviews, and recent reviews are a valuable indicator of a quality landscaping company. Think about how you can make it easy for customers to review your landscaping company without it being an inconvenience. Include links for customers to review their experience in your email communications. Follow up with satisfied clients after-the-fact and solicit feedback. Then ask if they’d be willing to post something publicly. You can even develop 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

Obviously, a solid body of client reviews, and an easy way to collect new ones, is vital to growing your landscaping company. But the value of reviews doesn't end with building your professional image and brand. They're also great inspirational material. Reward and incentivize yourself and other employees who generate positive online feedback. 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.

How to Handle Bad Reviews

Not all customer interactions will be perfect, and not all reviews will be created equal. So how should you respond when a furious review shows up on your website or Twitter? Keep in mind, a sour taste is more memorable than a sweet one, and people are much more likely to post reviews about a bad experience than a good one. First step, relax. Many unhappy customers can be placated by a little tender love and care. Get in touch, diagnose the problem, and do your best to make things right. Many people are willing to change not just their opinion, but also their public reviews, if you meet them halfway. 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 customers 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.

Some Straightforward Steps

Here are some easy steps to start collecting and leveraging reviews from your customers, today. 1) Get on Yelp! Create a profile for you landscaping company. And link to if from your website with some pretty social media icons. 2) Add a survey or feedback form to your invoicing, to identify happy customers who might be willing to write a review. 3) Include your best reviews publicly on your homepage as part of the first impression for new customers. 4) Use a free review plugin to capture new reviews right on your website. 5) Connect with customers on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and when you have established a good rapport, consider asking for a recommendation or review.

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