When it comes to achieving consistent business growth, it can sometimes seem like we have an overwhelming number of marketing options to choose from. Yet, time and time again, social proof has proved to be one of the most powerful marketing tools available.

From onsite testimonials to Facebook reviews, obtaining social proof offers potential buyers something far more persuasive than any paid marketing message. The words of your actual customers present the view of a neutral third party -- someone who isn't financially invested in your success.

These reviews are a powerful way to persuade customers to buy your products, but only if you obtain reviews in the first place.

Here's how you can get more:

1. Deliver an experience that exceeds expectations.

If you want to get customers talking about your brand with family and friends and leaving reviews online, you have to exceed expectations.

An average, serviceable experience with your brand may be fine, but it won't be memorable. The extremes -- both good and bad -- are the ones that stick in your customers' minds, and are the ones that are most likely to see them leaving reviews online.

Unfortunately, negative experiences often make a bigger impression. A survey from ReviewTrackers found that after a negative brand experience, customers are 21 percent more likely to write a review than they would after a positive interaction.

You don't want your online reviews to become inundated with negative feedback. Naturally, the best way to avoid this is to go above and beyond during each phase of the customer journey. When you seek to truly delight your customers, you're far more likely to get positive reviews.

2. Find ways to automate the ask.

Because people who have had a positive brand experience are somewhat less likely to leave a review on their own, many companies do best when they proactively ask for a review. In fact, Search Engine Land reports that 70 percent of customers are willing to leave an online review for local businesses when asked.

This doesn't have to become a time-consuming process, either. I recently spoke with Ryan Chaffin, founder of KAHA, a company that specializes in helping companies obtain more online reviews. He explained that KAHA's clients obtain best results through an automated email chain that sends three emails over a one-week period. Most customers actually leave a review before the third email is even sent.

By automating the ask, companies are able to get more reviews without having to go through the extra effort of reaching out individually to their customers through other means. Of course, after any interaction with a customer, it doesn't hurt to ask for a review.

3. Think beyond Google.

While reviews on your Google My Business listing are undeniably important, this is far from the only place customers might go to obtain social proof for your business. Yelp and Facebook are both highly trusted platforms with significant traffic.

Industry-specific review sites could also benefit your brand. For example, Amazon is great for companies selling physical products. Angie's List specifically caters to contractors in the home improvement sector.

Claiming your profile on relevant review sites gives current customers another place to leave their opinion -- and a new way for potential customers to find you.

4. Respond to your reviews.

You're more likely to get reviews and feedback if your audience knows that you're actually paying attention. Because of this, it's generally recommended that you respond to all the reviews that you get.

In fact, this practice is strongly encouraged by Google as a way to build trust and increase visibility with potential customers and the search engine. Responding to reviews tells customers you take their feedback seriously, prompting them to leave more detailed, high-quality feedback. The combined social proof and SEO boost can greatly increase your reach among local customers.

A public response to a negative review, paired with some private customer service, can further improve your online rating. A Harris study found that when businesses directly addressed negative reviews, 33 percent of customers changed their review to a more positive rating, while 34 percent simply deleted the negative review.

According to HubSpot, an incredible 88 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. Generating social proof is an undeniably powerful tool in your marketing kit.

Don't be content to wait for customers to leave you a review. By taking a more proactive role in your customer engagement process, you will get the reviews that strengthen your brand and drive even more sales.