On top of the SEO, citations, and all that comes with local marketing, we put a heavy emphasis on helping them get the most local reviews. Any tips on how to close more people with strategies or incentives?
Four years ago, I started a local daily deal site which grew to the largest in East TN & Southwest VA. In that period, we pivoted by learning how to solve the digital marketing problems of the restaurants and spas we featured on our site.
I have a number of tips for you on this. First, most small merchants will be lost and not truly see the value of SEO and citations. Those are long term efforts without short term results. Even then, the results are not tangible, at least not readily visible to the owner of a store.
Reviews however are an immediate pain point - and also a quickly solved problem. So I use this as the way to prove value upfront to our clients. In fact, I have yet to pitch our marketing program to a small business owner and get a "no" since I began my emphasis on Reputation Management. Why? Because normally only disenchanted customers leave reviews. And the negative reviews seem to personally affect the ego of the business owner (as they should). Especially because they can massively affect bottom-line revenue, especially now in light of new developments and agreements between the search engines and the review sites. Reviews directly power search to a large degree.
Feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk specific cases - I have found that the pain points and need are the same across almost all industries (hospitality, food service, medical, etc).
I don't leave reviews most of the time because the people asking me about to leave those reviews are boring -- or at worst, whiny.
They say something like: "Our business depends on you leaving reviews. Help us out..." (Which is complete bullshit).
Be awesome: "So.... we see you dropping opinions on Facebook like a champion. How about dropping some science on the people who pass by this website? We want your onion peels in salad."
Mix it up. Ask two or three or four times. Mix it up. Have fun. What's the worst that can happen -- people laugh?
I agree with Dan - Ask Awesomely, but I'm going to expand a little more.
I used to handle retail reputation management for the auto industry and worked with brands like GM, Chrysler, even Fisker... I handled reputation management for over 500 multi-million dollar brick & mortar locations and shifted internal policies towards a public reputation management system.
Ask _genuinely_ and punctually.
Genuinely care about the opinions of your customers. Ask for their reviews so that you can actually implement their feedback. Customers use public reviews to gauge the health of your business. You should too. Don't get defensive over a negative review, they said out loud what many customers experienced but were too afraid to mention. Instead shy customers just "reviewed with their feet" and went somewhere else next time.
Ask punctually. You want real genuine customer reviews. Use a CRM, loyalty program, foursquare, twitter, to reach out to customers 1-2 days after they have made a purchase. Tell them you genuinely want to know about their experience, and that since you run a transparent business you want to know publically through yelp, g+, etc...
I have several more industry secrets that I have picked up over the years in the biz. Let me know if you'd like to schedule a call so that I can discuss specifics over a less permanent medium.
Here's a head-up that my answer is going to be on the contrarian side... And it's gonna be on the long side as well.
Okay - I know reputation marketing is a hot topic right now. And businesses that hear about it might want to rush into getting reviews so they have the "most" and "highest" reviews. It sounds great but unless it results in an increase in business (i.e. sales, leads, etc) and generating a return on the investment it ends up just being an activity trap and a waste of resources.
This is very similar to helping a client get to number 1 for a Google search for a specific long-tail keyword. So many businesses bought into this as a "sure-thing" strategy when it was (and continues to be) a useless tactic.
I'm not saying that these tactics are wrong for all businesses... But I am saying that (1) they aren't necessarily right for all businesses either and (2) unless they are being employed strategically they have a low probability of helping the business achieve it's goals.
So when it comes to local reviews - however popular and "in" it might be - it's simply NOT right for all businesses and markets.
The "right" tactics are those that are aligned with a strategy that is specific to a given business based on the market, product/service, owners, goals, etc.
So my suggestion is that putting "heavy emphasis on helping them get the most local reviews" might be YOUR strategy for them - but unless it's THEIR strategy as well you might be setting yourself (and them) up for failure.
That said - here are some tips to generate leads for those businesses whose business model and strategy it makes sense to invest in:
1. Know Your Market
If your market either searches for your client's service or product online AND they use reviews to choose whom to do business with - then reviews make sense. The key then is to find out which sources they go to make their buying decisions and post reviews there.
2. Know Your Message
The content of the reviews must be consistent with what the potential customer / client is looking for. And if you did your homework with #1 (Know Your Market) you will be intimately familiar with the trigger words they will respond to. This will allow you to know which comments to capture as you instruct your reviewer on how to leave the review.
3. Know Your CAC
It's reasonable to invest some money in capturing reviews - including online services as well as internal training for staff and printed materials to support getting reviews. So know your (client's) cost of acquisition of a customer to help determine how much they can afford to reasonably invest in the process.
4. Be Consistent (aka Congruent)
How you communicate with your clients / customers should be consistent with all of your other successful communications with them... Same style, same message, same timing, etc. So only "be awesome" if that's a part of your style. Be outrageous and ask again and again if you've determined that your clients respond to that. Be straight forward, kind and only ask once if they respond to that. In other words, once again, know your market and be who they expect and want you to be.
5. Make It Easy For Them
It's easy to just ask your clients for reviews... To ask them to go online when they get home and just go to your Google Local Page (or wherever) and write a few lines, etc. Easy for YOU, that is. The reason this often fails is that it's not necessarily "easy" for them.
So you may have to do some digging and experimenting to find out what gets YOUR clients to post a review. In one of my businesses we use three different approaches (one for each of 3 client segments) to get reviews.
For specific actionable ideas on getting more reviews let's chat. And if you want assistance with discovering or developing a business model (that directs WHICH tactics, such as getting the most local reviews, to use) I can help with that as well.
In any case, I wish you (and your clients) the best of luck and the greatest success!
I encourage clients to do this carefully. I've seen review sites that filter reviews that all come at one time- so I always recommend asking over time rather than in one fell swoop. And, if possible, to ask clients who already have reviews posted as this also increases the likelihood that the review will stick.
As far as the ask itself, an email request with the link directly to the business page on the review site (or on their website review capture page) works well and makes it super easy for the client. I've also had some clients do it via a Google form when they're planning on using the testimonials directly on their own website.
So much depends on the specifics of the client's situation. That goes without saying, but shouldn't go without saying.
Most importantly, regardless of the situation, be extremely careful with regards to incentives. This is thin ice with almost any review site that matters. My advice would be not to do it at all.
For most businesses getting 1 review a month would be plenty and, most likely, a huge improvement. With that in mind I would try to create a system/process for the long haul, rather than treating it as a campaign. The only exception to this would be a brand new business or a an established business that had almost no online reviews.
The most challenging thing is getting everyone on the team to own it. This has to be "baked in" to the culture, the systems, the physical environment, etc... (Which remind me, you could incentivize the team to get reviews.) In some situations (re: larger scale) it might be worth using a 3rd party solution that handles the customer follow-up (e.g. GuildQuality.com). For most, I suggest keeping it personal. Have requests come from the owner, store manager or sales person.
In the end, if the service or product is actually bad, then best of luck to you. There's no way to overcome that. Sooner or later the truth gets out.
Feel free to contact me to discuss a specific situation.
The best strategy is simply to ask - ask politely, make it timely, and make it easy. There’s different review sites and different users are more apt to use their preferred site. So alternate or give options. Make it mobile friendly, as that will be a majority of traffic.
I would not have an incentive - that’s is definitely not allowed within the terms of service for review sites.
This is what we do for small businesses at http://Broadly.com and it works very well.
Lot of good advice here - generally this is the process we use with clients:
...ultimately, unless you can automate this process it ends up not happening. There are a handful of tools that can do this such as http://www.getfivestars.com/home/
The first thing would be to ask them. Ideally, in person. This, of course, should be targeted. So if you have a coffee shop, maybe wait for that tech savvy girl with iPhone and MacBook. Or the guy who is constantly on his phone and takes a photo of his food and drink. These are more likely to actually understand your need for reviews. And they also tend to have the skills.
As a second approach: you could also offer them a free drink in exchange or something.
Another group would be return customers. Getting them to leave a review should be relatively simple - as they are return customers.
Overall, I would say it's about interaction and communication. If the customers don't know where your profiles are, they can't know where you need reviews.
You want to get 'feedback' from your clients experience. Whether that be on a facebook feed or via email, etc. Then reply to the person submitting that you really appreciate their feedback and would they mind if you shared that with other clients. Then you have permission to use those words to further promote your business as a review. You should never place the client in the position to 'write' their on review. Just let the process unfold naturally in the form of feedback.