We’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, the next thing they do is Google you to see what others have to say. Whether a prospect was sent your way by a friend or heard your name somewhere else, they’ll usually begin your relationship with an online search, which most often surfaces your reviews at the top. That’s why understanding how to get online reviews for your business is crucial to your success.
Not convinced reviews carry heavyweight? Here are some stats from BrightLocal:
- 82 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses.
- 76 percent trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends.
- 91 percent of people say positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, and 82 percent are put off by negative reviews.
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.
Get Online Reviews for Your Business in 10 Simple Steps
You’re probably wondering how to get online reviews for your business. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think.
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 clients are a prerequisite for all the other steps in this guide.
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: Set Up 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 now has 214 million reviews.)
- Results show up when your business or name is Googled.
- They make sense for your business and industry.
Once you’ve got a shortlist 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 — which can lead to inaccuracies and missed opportunities. 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 My Business
Once you’ve claimed the relevant online profiles, you can make sure your business is represented accurately and in the best possible light.
Step 3: Identify Your Best Candidates
With reviews, there are two important points to keep in mind. First, you’re asking someone you’ve worked with in the not-so-distant past to candidly write up a review of your business. Second, not everyone you’ve done business with will be the best choice for a glowing review, so be selective about who you approach. Try to focus on those who not only had a good experience with you, but also interacted with you recently enough to remember your name.
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 take it lightly.
A side note: If you want to truly better your business, you should make a habit of asking even the not-so-ideal customers for feedback. Ask them in a private email, but ask for an honest answer. Take what they say to heart and really strive to improve your business with their feedback. Not every client is a good candidate for a review, but every client could be a source of information that helps you get better at what you do.
Step 4: Find the Right Time to Ask
Some of those reading this may be in more transactional businesses like salons, spas, auto repair and the like. 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 how to get online reviews will have to be more strategic.
We’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 a transaction has been completed, and you’ve tied up loose ends and any post-sale issues, but before so much time passes that their memory of the interaction starts to get fuzzy. You want reviewers who still have their experience fresh in their minds, which usually means asking for a review within a couple of weeks.
Step 5: Then…Ask!
You can do the ask in 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.
An example scenario:
You recently bought a home and hired movers. It’s a newer company working to build their company. They are eager to get reviews on Yelp. As they were moving in the last of your furniture, they mentioned how much they’d love feedback on their services on Yelp.
Two days after moving in, the lead mover emails you to make sure everything went smoothly with the move. Again, he asks if you’d be willing to write a review, and he provides a link to his company’s Yelp page. You agree; this two-day time frame was enough time 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, have some downtime, or are near a computer. Maybe this is an email at 7:30 p.m. on a weeknight or a phone call over the lunch hour. 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 smooth as possible.
Similar to the story of the movers, a loan officer should have a strategy in place to get reviews after a client buys a house.
The loan officer waits a week after you move in and gives you a quick call to see how everything is going. She pairs her check in with some information you actually need: how, when and where to make your first mortgage payment.
At the end of the call, she asks if you’d be willing to help her out with a review. Specifically, would you write about your experience with her on her Facebook Business Page? You agree and she says she will send instructions. Within minutes, you get an email with a link to her Facebook page, asking to write about your experience.
Her request was simple, specific, clear and easy to follow. In addition, this process is another positive client interaction. All of these factors help to elicit a glowing review.
Step 7: Follow Up & Ask Again
Guess what? People are busy and easily forget things. You’ll have to develop a bit of a thick skin as you’re working on the best ways how to get online reviews. Don’t take it personally if you get a verbal confirmation of someone willing to write a review but it doesn’t happen. Be tactful. Reach out after an appropriate amount of time and prompt them again.
Take the loan officer example from Step 6. Perhaps you’re the new homeowner who forgot to write a review after a phone call. A week before the first mortgage payment is due, your loan officer reaches back out. She lets you know that the first payment has to be mailed instead of paid online so you should drop a check in the mail a few days before it’s due. Super helpful to know!
During that call, she makes one more attempt at asking for review help. This prompt makes you write a review that very instant so you don’t forget again.
Step 8: Say Thank You
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 the referral business.
Step 9: Assess, Tweak, and Repeat
All said and done, you should keep track of your approach as you get started. Perhaps a Google or Excel spreadsheet would be helpful. 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.
Soon you’ll figure out the optimal rhythm of how to get online reviews. Then, make it part of every deal you close or transaction you complete. Repetition will help make it a habit.
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.
Step 10: Don’t Stop There!
The importance of continuing to build relationships with clients after the transaction is complete cannot be understated. 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.
Remember, 85 percent of small businesses say that word-of-mouth referrals are 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 a client and when their friend asks for a referral? Attempting to recall your name months or years after that client worked with you might not be as easy as you think.
That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your network after your official business has ended. When clients and customers know your name, you don’t have to wonder how to get online reviews for your business.
Take Control of Online Reviews
Online reviews happen whether you like it or not. And people take them seriously. 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 learning how to get online reviews for your business is so critical. (OutboundEngine can help you with this!)
If you’re looking for a hand with gathering online reviews and your overall online marketing strategy, OutboundEngine is here. Whether it’s your social media presence or generating referrals, we’re here to help.