Ratings help your customers decide. They help customers decide which product to buy, but more importantly, they help customers decide whether to buy at all.
Online rating sites have shaken up almost every business category. You can adapt that idea in your business whether you sell products in a downtown store, services online, or something in between.
If you sell products
Rating scales like 1-10, or 1-100 are common for wine and cigar ratings, but could apply to any products. You might also use school-style letter grades, (A, B, C). Even a simple “good, better, best” comparison makes it easier for customers to make choices.
You can also rate different categories of products, so customers know where to start. In my store, I’ve grouped wines by varietal. I rate the sweetness, the intensity of flavor, and add a one word description with a matching icon. So white zinfandel is described as semi-sweet, light bodied, and fruity. Every wine variety has a similar description. Because they all follow the same pattern, it’s easy for novices to compare two different wine varieties.
When you sell products from different manufacturers, there is no standardization of ratings or explanations across brands. It’s up to you to add ratings that are consistent and helpful.
While online reviews and ratings by customers can be helpful, don’t discount your own knowledge. One critical element of your success selling in a small town is to offer your own valuable insights. How many years have you been around this industry? Don’t you know a few things that would help customers? So make your own ratings.
Want to crowd-source your own reviews? Put out a pad of sticky-notes in your store and invite customers to rate away!
If you sell services
Show off your ratings from online review sites. Have a stellar reputation on TripAdvisor? Promote it.
Share your ratings from trusted experts, whether that’s a Triple A rating for a motel, a Zagat rating for a restaurant, or a performance rating for a hospital. I still remember the time a local eatery posted their perfect score on a health department inspection.
Look online and see what others have written about your service. Find “Top 10” or “Top 100” lists you might be featured on. Share those ratings with customers.
Share your credentials as ratings. If you’ve gone to the effort to achieve a credential, explain what it is and why it makes you different. In Namibia, Africa, your safari might be lead by a Hunting Guide, with relatively few requirements, or a Certified Professional Hunter, who has demonstrated knowledge and skill and put in years of work. That amounts to a rating that helps customers make a decision, but only if you explain it to your potential customers.
Are you doing something cool with ratings?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.