At this point, you’ve read all of the statistics.
The majority of people trust online reviews (much more than they should, really), the majority of people use them as a deciding factor with their online purchases, etc.
I won’t bore you with recounting those here, because I know you already know: Online reviews are a big deal.
The question here is not in the why, but in the how.
Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to get more reviews for your online store. Maybe your boss is also privy to the weight of online reviews and has asked you for a process to get more.
The important point here: it needs to be a process.
If your goal is simply “get more reviews,” there are all kinds of low-hanging fruit you can pick to make that happen. You can ask your friends, your family, and your loyal customers.
Maybe you generate 5, 10, even 20 positive reviews. Great. Job done.
Not really, and the reasons are pretty obvious. Reviews get old, and customers do check the dates on them – they want recent ones. Also, reviews sometimes get taken down. Sometimes your competitors just start getting way more and make your five or ten piddly reviews look like childsplay.
There’s of course nothing wrong with making a push for immediate, bulk reviews, it’s just that it’s much more efficient and consistent when you have a system in place.
My goal here is to give you the backbone of a system, something straightforward and simple that will give you a framework for how to create a review generation plan for your business.
Step 1: Do Great Work
You know I couldn’t let you get through this without this reminder.
If you have a service or product that isn’t delighting your customers, getting a consistent flow of online reviews is going to be next to impossible.
Sure, you could buy them, but that’s not something we support or recommend since it’s trying to manipulate consumers – the very consumers that you’re supposed to care about and delight – with falsities.
That aside, I’m not really just talking about people being “satisfied.” It doesn’t mean much to be “satisfied.” If your goal with your product is merely to “satisfy,” I’d predict you won’t be around that long.
People become loyal to brands because they truly have an impact on their lives. They make them happier, they help them enjoy life more, and they understand what their customer is all about. When done right, it’s a wonderful thing, and people can’t help but talk about it.
Think about it.
In scenario 1, I go to a restaurant and it was just okay, maybe even pretty good. Before I leave they ask me to leave them a review online.
In scenario 2, I go to a restaurant and have an amazing time. The atmosphere was calming, the service was friendly and funny, and the food was incredible. They say nothing but “Have a great night” when I leave
Which am I more likely to leave a positive review online for?
I assume you know the answer.
And the reason is that I don’t give reviews out of obligation. I do it because I feel an urge to share my experience. It’s a natural human inclination to share great things and encourage those around us to experience it as well.
It also feels like a favor to the restaurant for being so great, for making my night amazing. On the other hand, doing so out of obligation is never a positive experience.
The point here is twofold: 1) If people don’t love what you’re dishing, there’s a problem, and regular positive reviews are going to be tough. And 2) Pushing hard for reviews may get you a few obligatory reviews, but it doesn’t often work in the long run.
Again, not saying you shouldn’t ask for reviews. You should when the moment is right. But providing an amazing product or experience will always trump the ask.
Step 2: Be Where They Are
Notice that after nearly 700 words I never mentioned the name of one website or platform that you might get reviews on?
That’s because, quite frankly, there is too many that matter now. If you’re selling e-comm, reviews on your site are a priority, along with Amazon if you sell there. If you’re an accountant, reviews on Google will matter. If you’re a restaurant, Google and Yelp, and maybe Facebook. If you’re a plumber, you should pay attention to HomeAdvisor, if you’re a lawyer you should work on Avvo. The list goes on.
You need to figure out where people are finding you online – wherever that is – and be there. Fill out your profile as much as you can. Make it interesting and engaging, add photos, contact info, hours, and anything else you can.
This serves to legitimize your presence on those platforms and will make it much more likely to be found. Also, on many platforms, simply doing this work to build out your profile will also make it easier for people to find you in the first place.
If you’re not sure what those sites or platforms are, or if you think you could be missing something, ask some of your customers and they’ll probably be happy to tell you. Add the question to your intake forms if you have them.
Step 3: Put on the Ask…
Consumers largely understand the significance of online reviews for restaurants, bars, e-comm, etc. If you’re in that sort of business, asking probably isn’t going to be the primary strategy for you, but it should still be there in some way. Consider adding some tasteful callouts at the end of thank you pages or in confirmation emails.
For service professionals, on the other hand, asking is much more important. Consumers don’t by-and-large understand that law firms need good reviews, that SaaS companies rely on them as social proof, that dentists get more business when their reviews are many and positive.
This is something you’ll need to figure out. How inclined are people to leave a review for your service? The more natural it will be to them, the less you need to push them.
Step 4: …At the Right Time
That said, it’s all about timing.
If you ask at the wrong time you might not only squander your chance of a review but even frustrate your customer or client. It needs to seem like a natural extension of a great experience, something fueled by their positive feelings towards you, as with leaving a Google review while walking out of a restaurant or on your Uber ride home.
My first marketing job was working with law firms. In a proposal meeting, a lawyer asked us when we thought he asked for reviews. “When you hand them the check?” someone said. “After they see my fee taken out? Nope. They’re thinking too much at that point. Instead, I almost immediately after I tell them I’ve won their case when they feel elated and indebted to me. Of course, I don’t ask them to write it right then. Instead, I ask for a commitment from them to write it and then follow up with them if need be.”
It’s a good principle to follow. When is the best part of your customer experience? That is, when are they most happy with you?
It’s important to really think about that because it might not be when you think.
For example, if you run a marketing agency and you help a new client land a new client of their own, your knee-jerk might be to ask them right away.
But wait – what if they feel that’s too pushy? What if they think you’re asking for congratulations too early?
It might instead be better to wait awhile. Let them develop the trust with you they need to feel confident that you’re everything they hoped you were when they signed up with you.
This is particularly true in the subscription world, whether you sell an online project management tool or a streaming service. People generate their opinions over time for some things, and they understand the relationship to be potentially long-term.
So ask yourself when that moment is and hone in on it with absolute focus.
Step 5: Monitor, Troubleshoot & Tweak
I don’t remember much from Junior High, but I do remember learning about troubleshooting from my computer science teacher. I can’t fix a computer, but the concept of systematically analyzing a system to pinpoint malfunctions or broken equipment has stuck with me.
If your reviews aren’t working out like you thought, be a troubleshooter and work through the points discussed here:
- Do your customers seem to be happy? If yes, next question. If not, think hard about why not and change your offer.
- Are you visible online? If yes, next question. If not, refer to step 2.
- Are you asking your customers for reviews? If yes, next question. If not, refer to step 3.
- Are you asking them at the right time? If not, try something new. If yes, then you’ll likely need to discuss the matter with a few customers and ask some deeper questions about why it isn’t working properly.
You might find something you didn’t expect. For example, with the lawyer I discussed above, he learned that a lot of his clients didn’t speak English well and were intimidated by the idea of leaving a review in English online.
His solution? He sketches out a draft for them, saying “Based on our discussions, here’s honestly what I think you would say about me. Do you agree?” If they agreed, he would send them a link to where they needed to go to add the review and they simply had to copy and paste.
The point being that you might have to do a little digging. Some industries are more straightforward than others when leaving are view and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. (Sorry)
For example, you might find that your customers are most happy about their purchase right after checking out on your online store. That means that you should find a way to ask them for a review right then, which might require a popup or post-checkout message.
Or, as another example, maybe you realize that customers truly begin to love your SaaS product 3 months after purchasing it after they’ve begun to realize the full potential it offers. Then send an automated email blast to every customer scheduled to go out three month after they sign on. You might also be equipped to A/B test portions of your email (if you’re using a platform like EngageBay), so you can just keep getting better and better over time.
It’s important to recognize that, when it comes to improving your internet marketing, data-backed knowledge is power. The more you can understand about your customers and how they relate to your business, the better your marketing will be as a result
So, while the first four steps in this post will give anyone a good starting place, it’s important not to view it as a one-and-done job. After all, it takes consistent effort over time to beat your competition, and a part of that is killing it with your reviews.