I’ve mentioned before that 85 percent of small businesses say that word-of-mouth referrals are the No. 1 way new prospects find out about them, which is great for business. However, even when someone tells their friend about your business, more often than not, the first thing they do is Google you to see what others have to say. That’s why understanding how to get online reviews for your business is crucial to your success.
Not convinced? Let me throw some stats at you:
- 68 percent of consumers trust opinions posted online.
- 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 90 percent of people claim that positive online reviews influence their buying decisions, and 86 percent say their decisions are influenced by negative reviews.
Pretty crazy, right? Here’s the bottom line: One way or another, potential customers will likely decide whether to do business with you based on what others are saying about you online. You can either sit on the sidelines and ignore this fact, or you can get involved by actively working toward thoughtful, effective online reviews.
How to Get Online Reviews for Your Business in 10 Simple Steps
Now you’re probably wondering how the heck you get online reviews for your business. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think and once you’ve figured out the basics, it’s streamlined from there.
Step 1: Do Good Work!
It should go without saying that doing solid work will increase your potential to get more reviews, but it’s worth emphasizing. Take feedback and reviews seriously to make sure you’re delivering the best service possible. Happy customers tell their friends.
Before you’re done working with a client, do your part to drop hints. Get a conversation going by asking them how they found out about you. Maybe casually mention that you get a lot of business from your online reviews and referrals. Consider adding a window sign at your office or a link to your Yelp or Facebook page in your email signature. Plant the subliminal seeds ahead of time to make asking for reviews easier.
Step 2: Setup Your Profiles and Claim Ownership
You know your industry better than someone else will, so make sure you’re selecting review sites that accomplish a few things:
- They attract dedicated users. (Yelp averages 142 million unique monthly visitors.)
- They show up in search rankings when your business or name is Googled.
- They make sense for your business and industry.
You don’t have to overdo it either. For most businesses, any combination of Yelp, Facebook, Google+ and an industry specific site should be more than enough. Once you’ve got a short list of appropriate review sites, get those accounts set up!
More often than not, if you didn’t take the time to set up the business page yourself, someone has already added it for you. This is when you need to take ownership of the page so you have some level of control. Here are a few links to help:
- How to Claim Ownership of Your Business on Yelp
- How to Claim Ownership of Your Business on Facebook
- How to Claim Ownership of Your Business on Google+
Step 3: Understand What You’re Asking
With reviews, there are two important points to keep in mind.. First, you’re asking someone you’ve worked with in the not-so-distance past to candidly write up a review of your business. Not everyone you’ve done business with will be the best choice for an all-star review, so be selective about who you approach for a review.
Devil’s advocate note: If you want to truly better your business, you should make a habit of asking even the not-so-ideal customers to write reviews for you. Take what they say to heart and really strive to improve your business with their feedback.
Also understand that when you ask someone to write a review for you, you’re requesting that they put their own credibility and reputation on the line in order to endorse you. That’s a big deal, so don’t treat it lightly.
Step 4: Find the Right Time to Ask
Some of you reading this are in more transactional businesses like salons, spas, auto repair and the like, and you have the luxury of being able to ask for a review more casually because you’ll see that customer again in a reasonable time frame. Having a physical location where you can display review stickers also helps.
For those of you in businesses with longer sales cycles, like real estate, mortgage, and insurance, planning the right time to ask for a review will have to be more strategic.
I’ve put together a whole blog post on this topic with tips on how to pinpoint the right time to ask for a referral or review. However, here’s the short answer: Ask for a review after business has been completed, and you’ve followed up with them and supported any post-sale issues. You want reviewers who still have their experience fresh in their minds.
Step 5: Ask
You can do the ask in a hundred different ways — from phone calls, texts and emails to postcards or face-to-face requests. Use whatever method makes you most comfortable; just do it. Because if you’re not asking for reviews, they’re likely not happening.
After the transaction is complete and your client is 100 percent satisfied, it’s time to make your move. Thank them for their business and explain that great clients like them are what help you grow. Be direct with your request, polite in your approach and stay humble.
I recently bought a home and hired movers. It’s a newer company and desperate for web presence and reviews on Yelp. As they were moving in the last of my furniture, they mentioned how much they’d love feedback on their services on Yelp. Two days after I moved in, the lead guy called to make sure everything went smoothly with the move and asked if I’d be willing to write a review. I agreed; this two-day time frame was enough time for me to get settled in, but it was still soon enough after the job to have specifics in mind.
Pro tip: Ask people for reviews when you know they’re home and near a computer. Maybe this is a quick text at 7:30 p.m. on a weeknight or a phone call on a Sunday afternoon. Make it convenient for them.
Step 6: Be Specific and Make It Easy
Simply saying “I’d love for you to write a review for me” isn’t enough. You have to know what you want before you make the ask, and more importantly, you need to make things as frictionless as possible.
Along with my movers, my loan officer had a strategy in place to get my review after buying my house. She waited a week after I had moved in and gave me a quick call to see how everything was going. She paired her ask with information I actually needed: how, when and where to make my first mortgage payment.
At the end of the call, she asked if I’d be willing to help her out with a review — more specifically, would I write about my experience with her on her Facebook Business Page? I agreed and she said she would send instructions. Within minutes, I got an email with a link to her Facebook page, asking me to write about my experience.
Her request was simple, specific, clear and easy to follow.
Step 7: Incentivize if Possible
Depending on your industry, you might be able to incentivize your requests for reviews. Do this with caution because no matter what industry you’re in, you never want it to look or sound like you’re paying people to write good reviews.
Instead, keep it fun. Maybe you could let people know that anyone who writes a review in a specific month is entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card. Or take the surprise-and-delight approach and send someone a $5 Starbucks gift card after they write a review for you.
If you choose to incentivize, be cognizant of how you word the ask. Be clear that the gift card (or whatever incentive you choose) is simply a thank you for feedback; it’s not payment for a positive review.
Step 8: Follow Up (Repeat Ask)
Guess what? People are busy and easily forget things. Don’t take it personally if you get a verbal confirmation of someone willing to write a review but it doesn’t happen. If you’re tactful, you can reach back out to them after an appropriate amount of time and prompt them again.
This was the case with my loan officer too. I let her know that I’d love to write a review for her page and even added it to my weekend to-do list. But life got in the way and I forgot about it. A week before my first mortgage payment was due, she reached back out to me to let me know that the first payment had to be mailed instead of paid online so I should drop a check in the mail a few days before it’s due. Super helpful to know!
During that call, she made one more attempt at asking me for review help, and this was just the prompt I needed. I wrote a review that very instant.
Step 9: Thank Them
Like I mentioned earlier, when someone writes a review for your business, they’re putting their own reputation on the line for the general public and for their friends who might see their reviews, so don’t forget to thank them!
Got a good review on Yelp? Reply to it publicly and thank them for their business. After that, pick up the phone and call them. Remember, just because the business is done doesn’t mean you stop building a relationship with them. That relationship is worth its weight in referral business.
Step 10: Assess, Tweak and Repeat
All said and done, you should be keeping track of your approach as you get started. I’d make a Google or Excel spreadsheet to track information like date of the transaction, first and second ask, the medium used for ask (phone, email, text, in person) and success rate of people writing reviews.
You’ll start to figure out the optimal rhythm for asking for reviews. When you do, make it part of every deal you close or transaction you complete. Repetition will help make it a habit.
Secret Step 11: DON’T STOP THERE
I mentioned the importance of continuing to build relationships with clients after the transaction is complete, and it’s important enough to emphasize it again here. You need a long-term strategy in place to keep your name top of mind with those happy customers who just wrote a review for you.
In fact, 85 percent of small businesses say that word-of-mouth referrals is the primary way that new prospects find out about them. Here’s what this looks like:
Sure, providing excellent service and delivering value to someone counts for something. But what really happens between the time you do business with someone and the time they need to recommend you to a friend on the fly? We’ve all got a lot going on upstairs, and unaided memory recall months (or years) after a client works with you might not be as reliable as you think.
Online reviews happen whether you like it or not. If you’re not taking steps to protect your reputation online, you have no control of the image being crafted for your brand.
People, including qualified referrals, will make assessments of you and your business because of online reviews, even before you have a chance to meet them. This is why generating reviews for your business is so critical. (We can help you with this too.)
Not everyone will get around to giving you reviews, even when you ask. But if you incorporate the task of making the request into your regular business routine, it becomes second nature, and your reputation online will grow your business.