It’s important to make a habit of monitoring reviews of your own business for a couple of reasons: 1) bad reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp can scare off prospective customers unless you respond to those negative reviews appropriately; and 2) critical reviews from customers—while painful to read—can actually help you identify problems with your business that need to be improved. Along the same lines, review sites can also provide you with an often overlooked but priceless market insight in the form of your competitors’ negative reviews. No we’re not suggesting you read your competitors’ negative reviews to get some sort of sadistic satisfaction in their misery. Rather, we want to look at how you can distinguish your business from the competition by excelling in areas where your competitors fail.
Identify the Right Competitors
To get started, you will want to identify the primary competitors to your business. You likely already know your primary competitors, but if you’re not sure, simply go to Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, or Google Maps, and search for your business type in your city.
Ideally, find three to five competitors, including several independent businesses and one national chain, if possible. Your goal is to identify specific areas where your competitors aren’t meeting the expectations of customers, so having several competitors to look over will make it easier to identify trends.
Filter Your Competitor Reviews
Since you’re looking for areas where your competitors aren’t meeting customer expectations, you want to skip right past the positive reviews. Most of the review sites should have a way to filter the reviews for “lowest rated.” If not, simply scroll through the reviews and look for any review that is scored 2 stars are lower.
Take Note of What Reviewers Complain About
For each negative review you come across, read it and jot down why the reviewer left a negative review. Some common categories of complaints you’ll likely run across include:
- Poor customer service
- Sub-par products or menu items
- Slow service
- Unfair pricing
- Unfair return policy
- Other misleading policies
- Dirty or chaotic setting
- Unwelcoming/discriminatory environment
Look for Patterns and Determine Where You Can Distinguish Your Business
As you jot down the reasons behind the negative reviews for your competitors, you’ll likely start to see a pattern for each business, where they regularly disappoint in certain categories. These are the areas you want to focus on, especially if you see that several of your competitors are making the same mistakes.
With this list of categories in hand, identify the ones where your business meets or exceeds customer expectations—or, if your business has similar weaknesses, identify the categories where you can work to improve your business in those areas.
Make Sure to Brag About Where Your Business Excels
Once you’ve identified or created your clear market advantage over you competitors, make sure your customers know about it.
- Marketing emails. If, for example, you provide great customer service where your competitors fail to do so, tell your customers how offering stellar customer experience is a top priority for you so that you can meet their needs.
- Social media. Take the same route we mentioned above for marketing emails, or better yet, share a positive review from one of your customers that highlights how your business excels.
- Review sites. Make sure to be active on review sites where customers are leaving reviews. Monitor your reviews in real time, and then thank customers for leaving positive reviews while making sure to call out that you take pride in excelling at whatever categories you’ve identified.
If you successfully market your business’s strengths where competitors fail, you might even attract the disgruntled consumers who left negative reviews about those competitors. Do that, and you’ll find that they can become your most vocal advocates. After all, they took the time to complain about a competitor—they’ll be thrilled to praise your business for listening to their concerns and meeting their needs.
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