Reviews. We’ve all read them. We’ve all given one. Whether by word-of-mouth, phone survey or sharing our experience online, as consumers we’re constantly giving feedback. It’s so commonplace, that now, not only are we sharing our feedback, we’re actively seeking the feedback of others as we navigate the purchase journey. And increasingly, because of it’s ease of access, we’re seeking that feedback in the form of online reviews.

In fact, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. As local businesses, it may seem like online reviews are a marketing tool that’s risky and largely out of your control. Here’s 3 reasons that’s just not true.

1. You can ask for reviews. Many business owners think there’s nothing they can do if their customers don’t organically leave reviews. However, a recent BrightLocal survey found that 68% of consumers left a review when asked. So, even if your business has no reviews on the big 3 (Facebook, Google and Yelp), don’t despair — just ask.

2. Bad reviews aren’t always bad. This may sound crazy, but the occasional bad review can actually be a good (ok, kind of) thing. Seeing a few less than stellar reviews can actually increase the credibility, trust and authenticity of your reviews overall. We’ve all seen a business with only 5-star ratings, and that’s usually a red flag. Less than perfect reviews also offer you an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to quality. When you reply promptly to a negative review (by publicly offering to continue the conversation offline) other customers see that you’re responsive, and you care about your customers’ experiences.

3. Managing reviews doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Requesting reviews. Responding promptly. Managing the big 3. You may be starting to feel a bit overwhelmed and maybe you’re thinking, “This sounds like way too much work!” And, the truth is, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. There are tons of super affordable tools and services out there that can make requesting, monitoring and managing online reviews as simple as a couple clicks of the mouse.

There’s no doubting that online reviews are a very influential part of the buying process for many consumers these days. Don’t miss out on what could be a powerful marketing tool because you think it’s risky, time consuming or out of your control. With a little understanding and the right tools, you could be on your way to a 5-star review program in no time.