Getting Local Reviews For Your Business
Tips on how to get local customer reviews for your business the right way
It’s the bane of every business that relies on local traffic: reviews. Reviews are not new to business. We have been dealing with them in business since we had businesses and people could talk. In the last few years, we have been able to participate in the conversations that happen between consumers. Local reviews are just an extension of word of mouth marketing. It’s a permanent record of consumer’s thoughts of your business much like social media.
The worst part is having no reviews, or having reviews (GLOWING reviews) from real customers, and Yelp doesn’t show or count them. Reviews are the links of the local world. They drive new business and are imperative to growth. However, if you ask for one or incentivize their posting, they might not count.
“You shouldn’t ask your customers to post reviews on Yelp.”
“Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased … Don’t offer money or product to others to write reviews for your business or write negative reviews about a competitor. We also discourage specialized review stations or kiosks set up at your place of business for the sole purpose of soliciting reviews.”
What’s a business owner to do?!
Learn from link building
This is going to come at an odd time as link building (guest posting) is hot in the search media right now, but the link building world has been through this exact situation and local businesses can learn from it.
Don’t chase tactics. Look for inspiration from other businesses but modify ideas to your business and your users. Just like link building, if your reviews show up in a pattern, that pattern is detectable by a computer algorithm and will likely be discounted.
Anything that is pattern-based is detectable, including:
- IP address of the reviewer: Never ask for reviews from your location(s).
- Timeline: This means if a number of reviews come in together over a period of time, think all in one day or one week. It reflects that they were asked to leave a review in one big push.
- Same phrases: If many reviews use the same phrasing, it can look orchestrated.
Scale is the enemy. Along the same lines as the patterns discussion above, trying to scale reviews is going to produce detectable trends. Don’t try to go out and get reviews en masse. You need them, yes, but a slow trend is the better way to get them. This brings us to the next point: influence.
Influence and integrate
We just covered what not to do; now let’s review how to go about getting reviews that are approved, shown, and can help grow your business. Just like links, reviews are best when they are placed there without your interaction, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the matter completely. Businesses can influence people to leave reviews. Influence, not entice or coerce. Influence with communication.
Guaranteed reviews: knock down, drag-out fantastic customer service
This is the one solid way to get reviews without ever having to mention the word review. I’m talking Zappos, Nordstrom, and Amazon level of customer service. You treat your customers—all of them—like they are kings and queens. Give them no choice but to tell people about you. The following is a review for one of my favorite food trucks in Seattle:
This is a long time investment though and I know not everyone has the time or thinks about leaving reviews. You can’t make great customer service happen IRL sometimes, it’s not always you in control. Regardless, this is still the best long-term solution.
But businesses have immediate needs, so here is how to address getting more reviews now.
Define your customer lifecycle
The key is laying out the standard lifecycle of a customer. I am going to pick on a favorite local business that inspired this post: Dreamclinic Seattle. The blue is online interaction, purple is in-person interaction. You can get more color coded with medium (email, organic, yellow pages, etc.) but I went with simple.
The main point of outlining the customer lifecycle is to see the cycle part of it and realize you have more than one opportunity to influence a review. Most businesses that rely on reviews have a customer lifecycle. If you haven’t defined yours, do that now.
Integrate with all email marketing
1. Define email contact points
Once you have the customer lifecycle, add in when you normally contact your customers via email. You want to know when they are already online and thinking about you (this is key to online engagement!). There should be a few opportunities like newsletters, offers, post-purchase, post-visit, and confirmations. It doesn’t matter if you are selling a good or a service, there should be communication throughout the customer lifecycle.
2. When will the customer be in the right frame of mind to leave a review?
Now consider when the customer is going to be able to write the best review. Sometimes it’ll be almost immediately after the purchase, sometimes a few weeks after. For example: Dreamclinic needs to have a “Drink water!” reminder email an hour after a massage with a mention of social media and scheduling the next appointment (the mentions being side thoughts and the water being the main purpose).
3. Communicate for something other than a review.
Once you know when the best time is, line that up with a communication with the customer that is not about a review. Find another reason to get a hold of them. It can be a customer service survey or just a check in about their purchase. In this email, don’t attempt to sell them anything, be genuinely interested in how they are feeling. If you get a reply (an engaged customer), then be sure to mention (one-on-one) that you would appreciate a review.
Notice that this whole process is basically identifying people that want to leave a review, are engaged with your brand, and are conversing with you individually. There is nothing about scale here; it’s all about identifying people individually and helping them help your business.
Mention social media in all communication
Beyond email, you should be mentioning your best converting and favorite social media outlets for your business to your customers. Not for reviews, but for engagement. Reviews will come with engagement.
Start with the questions:
- Where do you get the most community involvement?
- Are you a new business? If so, where do your competitors see more engagement?
List those places, don’t just use Facebook and Twitter because you “should.” Once you know your top converting communities, mention them to your customers in all parts of the life cycle. Think about your business cards, mailers, receipts, the chalkboard outside, your menu, and more. Check out some inspiration I found from Heidi Cohen.
Remember, mention your online communities and integrate the mentions into the whole lifecycle, and the reviews will roll in naturally.