Amazon.com built a multi-billion dollar company off of the concept. Social proof is key when it comes to tipping prospective customers into actual paying customers. It's nice when loyal customers take it upon themselves to leave you a glowing online review, but did you know that most of your loyal customers will never leave a written review unless you ask them?
Too many business owners still go by the old adage that “If I do quality work, people will recommend me”. While that may still be true, that customer may only be telling close friends and family about the quality of your business, and usually only when they are asked about it. Wouldn't it be great if you could use that trust and good will of your loyal customer and put it online so hundreds and even thousands of prospective customers can read the social proof that you truly rock as a business??
Getting your customers to leave online reviews for your business can sometimes be difficult, but if you follow the steps outlined below you will have a much better success rate in garnering those coveted online reviews that Google and Bing oh so love!
Don't mass broadcast your request for online reviews. I know alot of bloggers will tell you to insert the request in your email signature, on your website and even on your business card. It's mostly nonsense.
When I was in the Fire Department in NYC, we were taught if we needed a civilian to go get help for us, we would point to a specific person (even if there were dozens of people around), and say “You! Go call 911 now”. Do you know why we did this? Because if we just yelled out “Somebody call 911”, it's about a 50/50 chance anyone would actually do it. It's known as the Genovese Syndrome, or the bystander effect
If you want your customers to take action, take the time to ask them directly, and in a personal way. By making the interaction one on one and personal you will increase the likelihood of getting a review by a million percent, or at least alot.
Have a plan. When a customer starts raving to you about what a great service you offer and you sense an opportunity, are you prepared? When I say prepared I mean, can you immediately direct them to take action? I have several email templates handy in my Google Apps account that direct people to one of several review sites for our business. All I have to do is open the template, write a quick note and send. Easy.
Strike while the iron is hot. Timing is everything. If you just did something awesome for one of your customers and they are declaring their undying devotion to you, thank them and ask for a review. Tell them you would greatly appreciate it. People are always looking to reciprocate when you do something nice for them, the key is to ask for it before that need starts to wear off. Look for those opportunities and jump on them when they present themselves.
Make it easy for your customers. To greatly increase the likelihood of getting reviews online, you have to make it super easy for them to leave one. Nothing is more frustrating for a reviewer than having to jump through account setups, email verification and other nonsense just to leave a single review. Many customers will abandon the process if it starts to get complicated. Here are a few tips to follow:
Yelp. Yelp is a pain in the butt for customers. Many customers will abandon leaving a Yelp review because of the registration process. The other annoying this is that Yelp will most likely sandbox your first several reviews, just in case you are trying to game the system. While it is a pain, Yelp can be a powerful source of reviews for your business. So what do you do?
Upload your customer contact list (you have one right?) to a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo email account you own. After you sign into Yelp under you own account, click on the “Invite Friends” tab on the menu bar. Here Yelp will scan your contact list to see who is already on Yelp. If you have customers already registered on Yelp, they are more likely to be familiar with writing reviews there and they do not have to go through the registration process. Sweet!
Facebook Fan Page Reviews. Most people are on Facebook already so this should be easy. Scan your Fan Page to see who would be a good candidate for a review request.
Google Places. Though many people have Google accounts these days, many still do not. Look through your contact list and see who is using Gmail and start with them first.
The key to getting reviews is to make it personal, act when it is relevant to do so and to make the whole review process as easy as possible for your customers. Obtaining customer reviews is a long term benefit, consistency is the key here. If you can get just one review a week, you will have more reviews than most of your competitors.