How to Choose the Best Service Providers for Your Small Business

October 10th 2013 | Small Business Tips

For independent small business operators and freelancers, any number of important business services can be found reviewed and rated on the Internet.

The list of services you might need can include online business tools, marketing specialists, bookkeepers, lawyers, a business consultant – you name it.

How to Choose the Best Service Providers for Your Small Business

Too Many Options

It seems like every day the Internet falls in love with some new app or service. The news sites, blogs and the people in your social circles seem to all be hailing this new tool as the ultimate business solution. How are you to know if it’s really worth trying out?

How to Choose the Best Service Providers for Your Small Business

Choosing between more established tools can be just as daunting as deciding whether or not to adopt a new one. Advertisements and marketing messaging for these types of products can be so convincing that you might even feel your skills of better judgment getting duller. Thankfully, however, we’re living in times when the consumer is empowered more than ever before.

Where to Turn for Help

Just a few years ago, app publishers and service providers could find success offering an inferior business product or service, and as long as management was careful about the flow of information, their prospects would have no idea what they were getting into. Thanks to the social web, review sites and rating directory sites, vendors’ reputations are forged by the people whose opinions matter most – customers.

Today’s vendors are held accountable for their products, and smart small business owners do “due diligence” to research the quality of almost anything they’re being offered. This is the revolution of user-generated review powerhouses like Yelp (for restaurants etc), TripAdvisor (for tourist experiences) and Amazon (for, um, pretty much everything).

How to Choose the Best Service Providers for Your Small Business

And there are trustworthy niche review sites that you can reference for all kinds of special interest services and products. CNET is great for software and gadgets, Lifehacker leverages a strong user community to discuss productivity tools with authority, and Metacritic aggregates entertainment and gaming reviews from hundreds of news publications – as well as from fans.

Engaging with your braintrust of friends, loved ones and mentors can also go a long way. You may be pleasantly surprised how much you can learn by posting “Does anyone have any experience with [name of product or service]? What are the main advantages and disadvantages?” on your Facebook timeline.

Following Solid Advice

Studies show that people trust reviews, comments and ratings when it comes to actually making purchase decisions. Almost a quarter of Americans claim to have published comments on their purchases, and 58% do research online when they’re evaluating products and services. Approximately 48% say they often or always refer to review websites and blogs to assess a vendor’s reputation.

How to Choose the Best Service Providers for Your Small Business

Questions for Evaluation

When doing your research online, here’s a handy list of questions to ask yourself about vendors to help you decide if their product or service is right for your business.

  • Do you get the sense that the vendor might disappear overnight and stop supporting their solution, or do you feel that they’re likely to stick around?
  • Are they constantly working to innovate and improve their product so that it stays relevant as your needs evolve and the times change?
  • Are their prices fair compared to what others are offering and compared to the value you feel you’d be enjoying by working with them?
  • What channels do they offer for support and customer care?
  • Does this solution offer the features and versatility that you need?
  • How intuitively usable is it?

While We’re on the Subject

Positive sentiment online helps to build reputations and bolster trust among prospects that are not so familiar with a given product. In the same way that you would be wise to check out what people are saying online about a vendor you’re considering working with before you opt in, don’t forget that your audience is also evaluating you!

As a marketing tactic, publishing testimonials and getting review sites to cover your own brand can have major impact. You don’t need to look any farther than Wix to see this phenomenon in action. Many Wix users get to us by referrals – from other clients or from reviews they read on the web. Wix has been enjoying lots of positive ratings and media coverage, which works as a magnet for drawing clients who are interested in creating a powerful web presence. Here’s a taste of the glowing references you can find by Googling Wix.