Online reviews and ratings by the general public is still a relatively new concept. Certainly within the last ten years or so. And there are still very few businesses that I come across that have truly grasped the importance of getting a large number of reviews.
For you to be ahead of the rest, the first principle for you to understand is this: build a war chest of reviews. “So what is a war chest?”, I hear you ask. Well, a war chest is a large number, hundreds of reviews, on a particular site.
So stop thinking about trying to get one or two extra reviews, and start thinking in terms of hundreds. Why? Well, this is about brand protection. Hundreds of positives will counter a bad day or two when you get that inevitable one star. If you don’t have enough rebuffer, or a war chest, as I call it, then what you’ll find is that one star will drag your rating down considerably. If you only have five stars, and you get an extra review and it’s a one star, you may well find you’ve dropped to almost four stars from that original five.
If you get an extra one star, you may well drop to 3.5, and keep going down, and down, because Google has an algorithm, and the other sites as well, which averages these amounts. If a business drops below three stars, it’s likely to be dead in the water. Especially if the businesses that it’s being compared to have four or five stars. This is the double edged sword of the reviews landscape. Whilst you can be promoted by your happy customers, you’re also a little vulnerable if things don’t work out during a phase of your business.
So the main thing to shift is your psychology. Think about hundreds of reviews from satisfied customers. And make sure that you have everything in place for people to be over the moon happy with your service as well as your products before you scale your business. I’ve seen restaurants that open the first month and get terrible reviews, which then remain part of their digital footprint for years to come. Even when the food and service deserves five stars now, they may well be dealing with the legacy of the past.
And you want to make sure that your launch and your continued growth is at a pace that is reasonable enough for customers to be delighted. You’ll find that many businesses who have entered the review space a few years ago will already have hundreds of reviews built up. They get it. If you can take my advice and look at hundreds, yes, I’m saying it again, instead of tens of reviews, you’ll become a force in your industry. It is the exceptional business that is able to put in place the processes that will get them a substantial number of reviews.
You most probably will need to ask people to review you, but never incentivize them and think that you’re building a community of people around your business that are supporting you in your efforts. One useful tip is connecting with people on social media who are already there, already talking about you.
For instance, they may be tweeting your content, and this is a perfect opportunity for you to reach out and ask them to leave you a review. I’ve had this happen, where people have got in touch after I’ve shared their podcast, and they will say would I go and leave them a review on iTunes? And in fact, one entrepreneurial podcast host called Johnny Dumas, did this recently, and I left him a five star review.
Hopefully, now you’ve adjusted your view to thinking in terms of hundreds of reviews. And your brain is already starting to work on how to adjust your business processes so that in a hundred days time you could achieve the goal. So what’s next? Take one step forward today and you’ll be closer to filling the war chest and being ahead of the rest.
Don’t be shy. You can ask people for reviews if you want to get more reviews. And from all of my testing in California, this is one of the most critical factors that led to businesses getting more reviews. Now, this is really important for you to know. Some sites don’t mind if you ask people for reviews. For instance, Google right now is okay, and Trip Advisor seem fine with you asking. Yelp, on the other hand, doesn’t like it. They don’t want you asking for reviews. So you do need to check the sites and the terms of service.
And please note, you must never incentivize reviews. But asking, “Would it be okay for you to leave us a review” on your preferred site is absolutely fine for most sites. Also, you may well have an email drip campaign.
What’s an email drip campaign? Well, it’s a sequence of something like three emails that are sent out to customers asking them whether they’d leave a review on a particular review site or sites. You may send an SMS message, a text message, and do the same sort of process that way as well, whereby people click the link and they go through to an app and leave the review on the sites that you want.
You may also have printed invites and things that people can take away. Now, these can have the URL, that’s the website address, where you want people to go and leave a review. This can really help people be reminded later that reviews matter to you. And they can talk about their experience. You could even think about putting up a sign requesting that people leave a review. I’ve done this in front of cash tills, and it works incredibly effectively because you have people’s attention there once they’ve paid. And it’s something that people understand is important to you.
And that when they leave a review on the site, it can help you as the business owner, as well as the online community for that particular review site. There are so many other creative ways to get people to leave you a review. You could even look at things like having Review Tuesday, where people wear t-shirts as your staff members that say, “Hey, we love reviews,” and you run it as a campaign and you see how many reviews you can get every Tuesday. Be creative, have fun, and, as I say, literally unlimited options.
So let’s take a look at some of the top reasons your happy customers don’t already leave you reviews. I found they include that writing reviews is too tedious, and the people feel that or that they forgot to write the review, even though they said they were going to or that they have no time. But more than anything else, the reason I found that people don’t leave reviews is because you don’t ask them. And many business owners just expect them to happen. So have a look at the ways to ask people and make an important factor an important metric within your business, and you’re gonna get more reviews.
In order to get more reviews, you want to ask people at the right time. So I’m about to take you through a process which is ideal when you’re on site with people that is a way of discovering is this the appropriate time to ask people to leave me a review. Let’s go through it now, the three-step process. The first thing to consider is how long somebody has been a customer. In other words, the length of time. Next, you want to have a look at the frequency.
In other words, how often do they visit or how often do they purchase? And the third thing I call discovery, which is where did they find you. So we have these three factors, length, frequency, and discovery. Write those three words down so you can reflect on that a little bit later. Now, if they say they visited you many times now and then you ask how they found you, they could say they found you on Trip Advisor or on Google or on City Search. Then, it’s an ideal situation to ask them to leave you a review there.
Now, remember, Yelp doesn’t like you to ask for reviews, but the other sites are fine. However, if they’re a new customer, then the problem is they’re not a fan yet. So it’s better to wait. However, if somebody has visited you many times, then that is the perfect trigger to ask them the question, “Hey, would you mind leaving us a review.”
Getting people to the right place to leave a review is not always as straightforward as many of us would like. And in order to get more reviews, you want to make it easy for people. If you don’t make easy for people, then the friction will slow down a significant percentage of people that would otherwise be happy to leave you a review.
It really does depend on the review site as to how best to get them there. But check out the reviewer experience for the sites that you’re listed on. So you want to go and search yourself on a desktop and on mobile devices, both Android and on iPhone, and have a look, how did you get to the review site? And how does it look? Very often, on a mobile, people are going to need the review app in order to leave a review.
So you want to make it easy for people to get there. And one of the ways is for you to do some legwork. Look to create shortcuts for people by using shortened URLs and maybe have a look at QR codes. Now, a lot of people may say that QR codes are something that they don’t use, however they’re a perfect way to attract people’s attention and let them know there’s a link sitting behind them. So let’s just take a quick look at what a QR code is and how it works.
So if you search for QR code generator, you’ll find lots of sites, and you click in and you’ll be able to drop in a website URL into the box, and then click on the green button to Create QR code, and you see on the right-hand side a magic looking code is generated. You can then download that as a JPEG, EPS, or SVG file, and you’ll be able to add that to, could be your mugs, your t-shirts, or your business cards that you want to then hand out.
Now, people are going to need a QR code reader on their phone in order to activate this, but those in the know may well have that set up already, and around about 20% of people may well use that. The other thing to look at is creating a short URL, which is a way of taking a longer URL or website address and having a user-friendly one generated. So, the other thing to look at is creating a short URL or shortened website address from an appropriate reviews link.
Now to do this, have a look, for instance, at Google URL Shortener, and once you click into the site you just drop in the long URL, and then click for it to shorten, and once it’s generated the short URL you can go and cut and paste that and include it on your business cards or anywhere else you want people to be able to type it in, or click and be directed to that particular site. There are lots of different systems available and you could have even have a shortened URL that is dedicated to your business.
In addition to shortcodes and URLs, there’s new technology that’s emerging that many people are starting to use that gets a similar result, but it means you can direct people’s attention based upon where they want to go. Using this as an example, you can see here that this is my We Dig page, and I’ve got Google at the top, and people could choose that, or they could choose Facebook or Yelp. And this is on a desktop, but it’s exactly the same principle on a mobile device.
In other words, people can choose which site they leave the review on. So a shortened URL can be pointing towards multiple locations like this. And when it’s on a mobile device, it will open up the app, and on the desktop, it would open up the site within the browser. So there’s a degree of technology that’s emerging that allows the user experience to be as good as it can be, in order to get those all-important reviews. And as a super-quick demo, if I was to choose Facebook, just by clicking in, it would take me to the reviews page on Facebook, where I could click and leave a review.
There are many services in the reviews space that will help you get more reviews. Now, most of these are paid services, and looking first at Grade.us. This is one of our partners. You’ll be able to go and check out the plans. And also getFivestars.com is another is another one that is very popular, as well as Podium, and the last one we have in this list is ReputationLoop. It really is a case of you exploring which ones will work best for your business and then seeing a price and a plan that fits for your pocket the best.
Each of these has a different approach, as well. So recognize the importance of customer service and really focus on that, and most of these, I would say, are from that kind of stable of reviews platforms. They want people to have a good experience, not just give you a review. And the other thing just to keep in mind is that very often, sites like Google, will alter where you have to direct people. So, these review platforms do the hard work for you, enabling people to get the right place where they can leave you that review.
The other consideration is that many of these platforms allow you to send automated email messages where you can request people to leave you a review. If you’re keen to say on top of upcoming technology, you’re going to want to know about NFC and beacons, both of which can be used to trigger the opening of a reviews app. NFC means near field communication, and it’s particularly useful on an Android device. And then there’s also beacons, which is an Apple product, and there’s something from Google as well which is quite similar called Eddystone, all of which can be used to trigger something on people’s phones.
So, a lot of people are looking at using this technology in relation to reviews and how to get more reviews, by getting that reviews box onto a person’s phone at the right time. So for instance, just tapping the phone against the NFC chip can lead to the reviews box opening, and it be very easy as a customer experience to just type in the rating and the comment. So this is something for you to explore if you want to geek out in this area. I’ve been using this technology alongside reviews cards, that’s the printed business cards that you hand out, that have actually got NFC chips in them.
And that’s very cool and available from moo.com, as well as probably other places too. I really would encourage you not to get too dazzled by the technology, though. It’s about customer experience. And, one of the advantages of a third-party system is that you can capture potentially negative feedback before it gets put on a review site. In other words, you intercept comments that could be addressed by you before they get made publicly. This can really help you keep that high star rating you’ve been building up, and give you some very valuable feedback that’s going to help you improve your business.
So, on the one side you have about reviews and the other side you have the name or a space where you can leave a gap for the waiter or waitress to write in their name whilst at a table. Now, this really is a personal touch and I have to say it does work very, very well. People like uniqueness and anything that helps you really make people feel special is a good move in business. And you can measure how many cards you hand out and how many reviews you get.
You might even want to look at how many reviews mention a certain member of staff and this is a really good way of supporting your team engage with customers and getting more reviews. You may even decide to celebrate at the end of the month and give a prize or an award to the person who has the most reviews from the team. But, let me just say, I found in my trials though, that you want to be a little bit careful that you keep up the team’s spirit and don’t overly incentivize competition within the team and here’s an opportunity for you to get a little bit creative.
It may not be cards. It may be that you get mugs printed up or have a point of sale stand with a QR Code on or have t-shirts, or just about anything that catches people’s eye and helps them engage in the process. Now, of course, this isn’t going to work in all circumstances, and if you’re an online business, you may not have the opportunity of being face to face with your customers. So, think about how you can reach out and connect with people who are purchasing and it could be by phone or by email and then in turn, look to create that personal touch and connect with them that way.
Imagine for a second, that a review is worth $50, $100 or even $250 in future business to you. In tourism, I’ve been told that one single five star review may well be worth over $1,000 in sales. That’s a lot of money, so realize that reviews are important to you. With that in mind, the next step is for you to get those review cards printed up, knowing that sites like Google, and TripAdvisor are happy for you to ask for reviews. Then, go ahead and begin the process for your business.
Take the first step today and trust me you will be so far ahead of other people in your industry.
Even though I think you can get a long way just asking people to leave you reviews, I think that as the market gets increasingly competitive, you’ll probably going to want to have a look at the available technology that’s really gonna help, too. This is about finding a review system that is an affordable solution, as well as one that fits in with your business processes. In essence, a review system makes it easier for people to leave you a review at the right time in the customer cycle. Now there are many review systems on the market that will send that invite to people requesting reviews.
And this could be done by email or it could be done by text message. And what I want to do is run through a few of the options from my own research and working with my own clients. The first one is Grade.us and then we can have a look at Podium and Reputation Loop. Now, I don’t want to bias your decisions, because it’s going to come down to the price and functionality and what’s going to work well in your business. But just know that many of them are going to generate their own URLs and their own QR codes, and what will happen is that people will trigger that, and get the option to leave a review on the sites that are listed.
In other words, it has it all in one place as one package. Now, whichever way you go, these things work very, very well as they guide people through the review process. Also all of these platforms do a great job of dealing with changes within the review seeker systems. In other words, they ensure that people get to the right place on the right device. As you can see from the We Dig Reviews page for pleasure business, I have here a few options. People can leave me a review on Google, on Facebook, or on Yelp, and if I wanted to focus attention one week on, for instance, Facebook, I could move that up and people will then have that as the first option.
So you can switch them around and guide people to where you most want reviews to be left. Now, when it comes to Google, let me give you a resource. If you go and search in Google for Google Review Link Generator, once you click that, you’ll see the first result, which comes from grade.us. This is going to be a place where you can go and generate your own Google Review Links for your business, so let’s use the example of LinkedIn, in the location which is Mountain View.
Or I could use a post code if I have it. Click on Get Review Links, and assume that’s the right address, click Continue. And here you can see all of the links that are appropriate for that particular Google listing. And if I go to try it, you’ll see what happens. It brings up the box that makes it very easy for somebody to click Write a Review and straight away, you’ll be able to get more reviews on your Google listing.
And I must say, this is a really useful way of getting people to the right place, on both a desktop and a mobile, so that’s a great resource there. In addition to the mobile experiments, you’ll often find that these platforms give you away to email people who’ve had a positive experience. You generally find that around one in 20 people will leave a review through this method. So you can work out the numbers for yourself. You’re going to need to send around a thousand emails to customers if you’re looking to get 50 people to leave you reviews.
More than anything, consider the review software that you’re using as a way to facilitate what you’re naturally doing in your business, giving people a great customer experience. In other words, just make it easy for people to leave you reviews whether it’s by email or by phone.