When I work with businesses that aren’t yet using reviews, I tend to hear the same few lines:
- Our business isn’t exciting – no one will want to talk about it!
- How would we even go about getting people to review our company?
- People have already reviewed our company on Yelp and Angie’s List, isn’t that good enough?
- We have positive feedback from customers in our inboxes but we don’t know what to do with it.
But the most basic question still remains, how can you get the kind of reviews from customers that will help drive your business? Here are some great ideas to get you started!
Great Idea: Make a product people love and want to talk about
The best way to get reviews is just to do something that people will appreciate and remember. This may mean offering a killer product or service, or it may mean going the extra mile to make customers feel appreciated and remembered. Basically this involves taking whatever your competitive advantage is and doing it unbelievably well. Whatever it is, just be sure that it’s authentic and deliberate! The goal isn’t to have to ask people for reviews, the goal is just to get them by being so darn great that people can’t help but say it out loud.
Terrible Idea: Delete negative reviews so all that’s left are positive ones
Great Idea: Publicly offer to resolve the matter for anyone who had a negative experience with your company
Some businesses are so terrified of negative press that they don’t want to get in the reviews game at all. I would advise that these businesses take a good, long look in the mirror and fix whatever is making them so paranoid. Of course, you can always have a crazy person that wants to say something bad about your business, but the truth is that that person will do that regardless of whether you give them a vehicle to review your business or not. The worst thing that you can do, however, is delete these reviews. Why? Because everyone with an internet connected device knows that there are crazy people online and they expect some measure of discontent from these people about any business, product, or service. This is why having all positive reviews that just gush about how overwhelmingly awesome you are is a red flag to most people. It says that either the honest negative reviews have been removed or the reviews are fake altogether. So even though it might be difficult to stomach, leaving those negative reviews actually helps your credibility.
But instead of just leaving those bad reviews hanging around like some smelly gym socks, you can do something easy to get some positive press out of them. Politely reply to these reviews publicly so that potential customers can see that you’re dedicated to providing a great customer experience. Let the person know that you value their feedback and offer to make it right, and then follow-through with that promise. You may find that these people actually end up being your biggest brand advocates and most loyal customers!
Terrible Idea: Email customers specifically to ask for reviews
Great Idea: Ask for reviews in transactional emails
This is kind of a controversial point because you can probably skim your inbox and see a handful of emails from well-known companies asking for a positive review, but I would argue this… Asking for a review is asking for a favor. How much more likely are you to do a favor for a friend if you two are hanging out and he asks you to do something for him in the natural course of that interaction rather than him calling you up in the middle of the night and asking? And that’s a friend that you already have a close relationship with! Now think about the difference in perception of a business sending you an email (or in some cases multiple emails) with the sole purpose of asking for a favor rather than sending you an email confirming your order or notifying you that your refund has posted and slipping the request in there. Email open rates on transactional emails are always going to be higher than promotional emails, so you’ve already won the battle there, but then people tend to feel more charitable when you’re not just filling their inboxes up with self-serving requests.
Terrible Idea: Write positive reviews for people that they can customize and submit
Great Idea: Feature your most powerful reviews prominently on your website to give people an idea of what your other customers are already saying
At one point I actually worked for a company that got glowing reviews from customers by writing them on their behalf. This is definitely a bad idea! It’s also really transparent because what you’re hoping someone will write about your business is not what people ever actually write. You want people to say, “This product shows so much innovation and market attentiveness! I can tell they had a dedicated team working long hard hours on making this so awesome. It’s filled with all the features I want and need. I couldn’t have designed it better myself if you gave me a billion dollars, a year-long vacation, and an unlimited supply of coffee. This product literally makes my life complete!” but really they say, “Great product! Love the features!” and shoppers can tell the difference! If you want to subtly persuade people to hone in on certain ideas, post real reviews that touch on these areas on your site to give people a sense of what they might want to say. There’s something to be said for social proof and you can use it to your advantage here.
Terrible Idea: Pay for good reviews
Not so Terrible Idea: Offer a giveaway in exchange for honest reviews
You should never pay for reviews. Ever. Seriously, never do this! Not only is it illegal, but it makes you look shady and unprofessional. If you really feel like you need to incentivize people with something to break them out of their apathetic stupor, you can offer incentives in exchange for reviews as long as you abide by state and national laws. It’s still not the best idea because studies have shown that people actually write better, more authentic reviews when they’re organically generated, but at least you’re not being sleazy.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!