If you’ve ever tried to earn reviews for your business, you know that it’s the wild, wild west out there. Guidelines are unclear, customers are fickle and terms of service are heavier handed than a boxer in steel gloves.
It begs the question: How can an honest business get customers to offer up reviews without falling on the wrong side of the tracks?
We’re going to briefly walk through the obstacles that stand in your way, arm you with some guiding principles to make your tactics more effective and wrap up with some acquisition tactics to send you riding off into the sunset.
Saddle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Three Laws of the Land
While you’re on the hunt for reviews, you’ll come up against any or all of the following:
1. Strict “no-incentives” rules
Incentivizing reviews with discounts, a chance to win a contest or free product will land you in hot water with virtually every reviews website. Just asking for a review is encouraged by most, with the exception of Yelp who insists you don’t mention reviews at all.
Not sure what constitutes an “incentive”? From TripAdvisor:
Incentives are any rewards or preferential
treatment offered to guests in exchange for
But if that’s not abundantly clear, check the terms and conditions of a few popular reviews sites:
TripAdvisor’s Incentive Policy
Yelp: To Solicit or Not to Solicit?
Removals of Google Places Reviews (See: Conflict of Interest)
2. No onsite kiosks allowed
Having a laptop or iPad for customers to leave reviews on at your workplace (a kiosk) sounds like a great idea, but both Yelp and Google have come out and said it isn’t allowed. Incoming IP addresses of reviewers are tracked and reviews websites will filter them out if too many reviews come from the same place.
3. Overambitious review filters
Earning a review is only half the battle – getting it to stick around is tougher than you might expect. Popular reviews websites use algorithmic filters and count on the members of their community to find and eliminate fake reviews.
Unfortunately, legitimate reviews get caught in the crossfire, including reviews from one-time or new reviewers, overly glowing/scathing reviews (especially those that appear shortly after a new listing goes live), reviews that appear in waves (See Google Employee Jade W’s comment) and the aforementioned IP address issue.
Failure to obey the rules can result in lost reviews, public shaming or penalization within that review platform’s rankings.
A Few Guiding Principles
Not every tactic I’m about to share will work for your specific business model. That said, here are a few guiding principles that will make whatever tactics you choose more effective:
1. You can lead a horse to water…
…but you can’t force your customers to be active on the platforms you want reviews on.
Identify 3 – 5 key review platforms and give customers these options to make it easy for them to leave feedback the way THEY want to.
2. You’re in this for the long haul.
Earning reviews is a game of ones. Even the best tactics may only result in a trickle of reviews over time, but the goal isn’t to get a lot of reviews quickly – it’s to get them at all.
Whatever you do, don’t stop asking once you’ve started. As Mike Blumenthal accurately put it,
“The reality is that you don’t need 10 reviews a week … In fact you don’t need 10 reviews a month or a quarter there to succeed. Most businesses need to accrue one review every month or two so that at the end of 3 years you will have 30.”
3. Don’t be too slow on the draw!
Timing is everything. Asking a customer to review your business months after the transaction has happened isn’t likely to bring much success. Make sure you’re asking your customers at the right moments in the buying cycle.
4. Show customers that their reviews pack a punch.
It’s not enough to respond to reviews – you need to show customers that their feedback actually matters. Make bad experiences right and let your fans know their feedback carries weight. This isn’t a “tactic,”, it’s a necessity.
You have the opportunity to learn from your reviews and make your business better, to engage a group of people who are passionate enough about your business to write about it online. Being unwilling to step up means you’ll be left in the dust.
Got all that? Good, because I think it’s about time we moseyed on into some tactics.
A Fistful of Tactics
Starting Out: Create a Feedback Page
A straightforward feedback page will serve as your hub when asking for client reviews – it can be linked to from e-mail newsletters, shared on business cards, targeted in ad campaigns and so on.
Create a page on your website dedicated to displaying reviews and testimonials and ask users to share their own. Be sure to give users 3 – 5 reviewing options and make the process as easy as possible.
Quality Mitsubishi gets this mostly right, but their call to action leaves something to be desired and they might have been better to show fewer options – or just fewer options at a time.
Consider using the “Zig-Zag” method method developed by Phil Rozek. This guides your customers through their review options, starting with the most crucial websites you want a review on (Yelp, G+) and “zig-zagging” through available options. It looks a bit like this:
The best example of a feedback page done right that I’ve come across is Flood Masters, who have prioritized their list and made it easy by describing what customers will need to do to review them on each platform.
In The Saloon: Point of Sale & Offline Tactics
Offer Free Wifi in Exchange for an E-mail
If you offer free wifi, set the default landing page to ask for their e-mail and an opt-in before they can log on. With the e-mail in hand, you’ll be able to remarket to them with e-mails and follow-up requests.
Let customers know they can give you a review before you provide the service. This can be a primer that makes them more likely to evaluate their experience, as shared by Brian Sharwood of HomeStars:
A simple statement like, “We take feedback really seriously, so if you don’t mind leaving a review when the job is done I’d really appreciate it” - could do wonders for your review numbers. Just be sure to follow up at the end of the job to reinforce how important reviews really are.
Put Up Signage
Whether it’s a folding card on the table, a sign posted by the till or a logo on your door, go out of your way to make it obvious where customers can review you.
Print & Display Past Reviews
If you’ve got existing reviews, print them out and place them prominently in your store, preferably somewhere idle customers will read them like a corkboard, placemat or – oddly enough – bathroom stalls. This not only shows that you take reviews seriously but also appeals to a customer’s ego – will they be next to be featured?
Add Callouts to Receipts & Invoices
Adding a review callout on your receipts and invoices is just one more way to let customers know you value their feedback. Space is limited, so use it wisely with a compelling call to action and a shortened URL that drives people to your onsite “Feedback” page.
Give Customers Handouts
Give customers a printed handout detailing the review process to make it easy for them to review. You can create one of these handouts in seconds using the Review Handout Generator that Whitespark & Phil Rozek created.
While these explain the Google+ process, you may want to make your own handouts presenting multiple or more industry-appropriate options.
While you can’t incentivize a review, check-ins are fair game. Offer a special deal or discount for those who check-in at your location and make sure it’s prominently advertised both in-store and online. Those who check-in to your business are already active on the review platforms you’re trying to earn reviews on, so make sure you communicate how much you’d love their feedback.
Out on the Range: E-mail & Online Tactics
Announce Exclusive Deals Online
Several reviews websites allow you to add messages to your profile or offer exclusive deals for customers who check-in. You can use these to set up incentives and mention the deal, then promote them via social media. When customers come in, hint that you’d love to get their feedback on the platform that brought them in.
Identify Brand Ambassadors
VentureBeat shared a great idea for finding brand ambassadors: Ask customers via e-mail, comment card, web form or social media a simple question:
“On a scale of 1 – 10, how likely are you to review our business?”
It’s a 10-second survey that gives you all the information you need to start reaching out. Those who identify as 9’s and 10’s are brand ambassadors – record their contact information and reach out again with information as to how they can review.
Ante-Up Your E-mail Outreach
There’s a lot that can be done with an e-mail list.
- Segregate your mailing list by e-mail domain. Send messages with unique call-outs to Gmail members, targeted at Google+. These customers are one step closer to the platform than everyone else and can be asked more directly.
- Send a follow-up e-mail after you’ve provided a service asking for feedback
- Add links directly to your review profiles or feedback page in your e-mail signature
- Attach a subtle ask to the end of regular e-newsletters – or showcase a “review of the month” to share with your community
Don’t mass e-mail asking for reviews or you’ll wind up alienating customers and receiving an unnatural wave of reviews. The more targeted you can be with your outreach, the better your chances of success.
Ask on Your Website
In addition to creating a great “Feedback” page, display review logos prominently across your website, especially on pages discussing deals, discounts and testimonials.
Use Remarketing Campaigns
Use Adwords to target those who have completed a transaction and let them know you’d love to get their feedback.
1. Drop the remarketing cookie on a page that marks the end of your conversion funnel. How you do this is up to you, but here are a few ideas:
- Drop it on your “Thank You” page after an online transaction
- Embed it in an online copy of their invoice
- Create a splash page offering an exclusive deal for past customers and share it in a follow-up e-mail
- Add the cookie to your online feedback forms
2. Set up a remarketing campaign that drives people to your “Review Us” page that I mentioned earlier.
3. To avoid annoying your customers, have the remarketing campaign terminate when they land here or after a reasonably short time period.
Your ad creative is going to need to be excellent to stand out from other ads, so take the opportunity to play on your brand’s personality. There’s no reason you can’t be a bit more colourful than “Review Us!” – and remember to test, test, test.
Thank Reviewers Publically
Acknowledging positive reviews after they’ve happened can help incentivize others to review by stroking customer egos and showing that their reviews have an impact.
Thank individuals on social media platforms and share their reviews with your community or highlight reviews on your website or newsletters.
Respond With Video
Want to get your customers’ attention and set yourself apart? Respond to reviews with a video. When the manager of a Domino’s Pizza in Chicago responded to a negative tweet with a video, customers were shocked. It went viral.
Nothing puts a personal face or a “we mean business” on a review more than a response that shows the faces of the people who work there. Vine, Instagram Video and YouTube have made doing this easy – all you need is a webcam and a couple minutes.
Taming the Wild West
It’s not easy to get reviews – but it’s not impossible either. With the right combination of persistence, perfect timing and carefully crafted pitches, earning legitimate reviews from satisfied customers is within your reach.
Got a favorite ace up your sleeve that I missed? Let me know in the comments!