What’s a tricky business? It’s a special category of companies that tend to create negative reactions through advertising. How is a funeral home supposed to gain online reviews? Can criminal defense attorneys advertise to criminals? When a B2B company’s customers are spending $20+ million on construction projects, can customers be expected to react the same as those from an ice cream shop? The short answer is no. Tricky businesses require a unique approach. For today, my goal is to only tackle Local business reviews.
Many businesses are simply review magnets and can easily receive hundreds of online reviews in a month. It’s nice to have a product and a service that consumers love, but when a business provides a service that is a necessity, it can be much harder. Google has already taken some steps against tricky businesses. For many, the local carousel isn’t even an option. For others like consulting companies and agencies, the local pack doesn’t even appear in results. Here are several other reasons why it will be difficult, if not impossible to receive reviews for your local business.
Why Your Customers Won’t Leave a Review Online
- Your customer’s aren’t excited for your product or service, often due to need vs. want (ex: morgue, funeral home, cemetery)
- Your customers are too busy and don’t see the value (B2B businesses that target C suite executives)
- Your customers aren’t internet savvy (ex: nursing homes)
- Your customers want to remain anonymous (ex: criminal defense attorney’s, strip clubs)
- Your customers don’t know you (ex: B2B company working for clients with multiple contractors)
Ice Cream Shops Aren’t Competing with Funeral Homes
Luckily your competition is other local businesses that are just as tricky. Your quantity and length of reviews can be much less than other industries. Receive only a couple of reviews and you should see a direct increase in local rankings. If you do have a competitor in your industry with many reviews, it’s probably a sign of foul play. Read the reviews and look for these signs:
- Were the reviews written all in the same month or in chunks of time?
- Are the reviews overly promotional, too well written or all positive?
- Are the reviews from employees or vendors? In Google, you can click on the name and arrive at someone’s Google + profile.
If you believe a competitor is creating false reviews, you can report it. Most review sites include guidelines on what is a false review. Here are Google’s. A word of caution, report the review at home and use a non-work or non-identifiable email address.
If the reviews are valid, it should give you insight into who is leaving the review, information you can use to increase reviews for your own business.
Step 1: Identify Your Customer Lifecycle
A recent Moz blog on local reviews is worth reading, especially for the customer lifecycle section, which can’t be overlooked. It is critical to analyze when and how you interact with customers, the stages of the relationship, and especially when the customer is happiest.
Take those insights and define when the customer should be encouraged to review. Keep in mind the guidelines for review sites which include: no incentives for leaving a review, no negative reviews for a competitor, no reviews on business premises and a few more.
The idea isn’t to ignore reviews and wait for them to happen, you’re probably doing that now and it isn’t working. The idea is to meet the guidelines of review sites, yet encourage reviews through proactive planning and education within the customer lifecycle.
Step 2: Identify Customer Loyalty
Next, it’s important to call out and define which customers are most loyal. Whether it’s repeat business or a customer who has turned into a loyal friend, chances are you have a small list of customers who would be more than happy to write a honest review if you simply asked them.
Take advantage of these friendly customers first, before putting in place a process for the future. Make sure to space out the reviews, you don’t want a lot to hit your profile all at once, it’s a sign of spam and they could be removed.
Step 3: Identify Which Sites Are a Priority
It’s confusing to ask customers for a review on any site so point them to those that matter most and only recommend 3. Look at the top citations by industry or research your competition. If a restaurant, Urbanspoon should be on your list or for a law firm, Avvo is a good bet. Google and Yelp tend to impact rankings more heavily for every industry, so don’t overlook the big players over those in your niche.
Also, take into careful consideration the experience of the review sites you are asking customers to write a review on. If your customers tend to wish anonymity, don’t encourage reviews on Google +. Or at least explain how customers can create an alias name for a new Google + profile. Google + can be one of the most valuable citations, but often requires the confusing and tedious creation of a new Google + social profile. Use clear, step by step directions on how to leave a review depending on your method of execution.
Step 4: Execute Your Local Review Campaign
Depending on your customer lifecycle and how you interact with customers, execute your review campaign. In person can be effective, especially for those with very difficult online customers. Instead of blatantly asking for a review, consider a survey which can be a printed handout or taken online. Not only will you get direct feedback from customers on many levels of your product or service, but at the end you can ask for a review and maybe even provide an incentive, for completing the survey – not the review. A review is a true indicator of customer satisfaction, and it can allow for a data crunching moment, your net promoter score.
An email campaign can also be effective, but don’t send a one off campaign. Reviews will arrive after constant engagement. Depending on your industry, consider a monthly email newsletter which provides ongoing touch points after a sale and provides value to your customers through editorial content from your blog. In the email, you can periodically send a reminder to leave a review or for those customers who engage most with the email, send a segmented campaign, asking for their honest feedback.
Combine a review strategy with other elements and you will reap multiple benefits including changing one time buyers into loyal, repeat customers.
Step 5: Use Workarounds for Reviews & Improve Local Rankings
If you still struggle with the idea of asking any customer for a review, even indirectly, than some of these suggestions might be helpful…
For a large organization, especially B2B, Foursquare can be your friend. Don’t overlook the power of a large group of employees. Announce an internal Foursquare competition, encouraging check ins between offices. The excitement could even likely carry over to your customers. Either way it adds a ton of social activity and contributes positively to your Local ranking factors. Employment sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed.com also should be a focus for employee reviews, especially if recruiting is a key component to the success of your business.
For a truly tricky business, review other businesses as your business. This can be done on Google + and many other citation websites. If you have created a Google + Local or Brand Account, login and review vendors, suppliers, friendlies in your industry and more. Just make sure you can actually vouch for their services, remember it’s your company reputation on the line. This is also of great benefit. A business to business review on Google + links to your business Google + account! This could lead to more visibility and hits to your local business review page. It also sends a message to the business to reciprocate and review your company, adding more reviews to your own profile. David Mihm popularized this practice, now seeing a resurgence as barnacle SEO.