I don’t usually do this, but let’s get theoretical for just a second:
Every satisfied customer of yours should bring you more customers, right? The ideal is for word-of-mouth to do all the work—for your happy customers to refer their friends and family to you, who in turn become customers.
But what if you’re not quite at that stage? No internal refer system that is set up, no follow up with existing customers that get’s them to pay, stay and refer. That’s when the next-best thing needs to happen: for every happy customer to influence potential customers.
More specifically, short of having your customers actually deliver more customers to your door, the best thing is for your current customers to sway potential ones by writing great reviews of your business.
You work your tail off to do a super job. Sure, that’s its own reward, because you get paid and your customers get what they wanted. Everybody’s happy. But is that the only reward you get? Or do you also get at least a little public recognition for every great job you and your staff do?
Without online reviews, it’s harder for people to conclude that they should pick you over your competitors. Plus without reviews you’re far less likely to outrank your competitors in Google.
The bottom line is you need to ask each and every happy customer for a online review. But how?
This is where even the smartest business owners—the ones who know how important online reviews are to potential customers—often get stuck. They’re not sure how to ask customers or how to show them what to do, so the reviews simply never happen.
Fortunately, you’ve got options. 12 of them.
I know of 13 ways you can get reviews—reviews that customers either write directly on your Google Places page (AKA “Google reviews”) or write through third-party sites (like Yelp and CitySearch).
It doesn’t matter how much time you have, or how many customers you have, or how computer-savvy they are. At least some of these methods will work for you.
Here are your 13 ways to get online reviews (not ranked in any particular order):
- Organic method—making sure your business is listed on as many third-party sites as possible, so that customers can find you if they feel like writing reviews spontaneously.
- Links or clickable images on your site—something that customers who return to your site can click on to write you reviews.
- Single-page handouts—a sheet of instructions you can simply hand to customers, which walks them through how to post a review.
- Personal email—a simple email with a polite request and a link. But for Pete’s sake, personalize it: none of that “Dear Valued Customer” garbage. You can also do this with your email signature: instead of a bunch of fluff at the bottom of your emails, have a little link to where customers can dash off a quick review.
- Snail-mail request/instructions—people generally pay more attention to snail-mail, especially if it’s personalized and from a business they know and like. This method is more work, but you’ll probably bat pretty well if you do it.
- Video—a short walk-through, for customers who you think would just rather watch a quick video than follow other types of easy instructions.
- Social media—in particular, Facebook. What’s nice is customers can write CitySearch reviews using their Facebook username, which makes it that much easier for them and you.
- QR code on a postcard—hand or send your customers a little postcard that asks them to review you by scanning a QR code with their smartphones. The QR code would just contain a link to your Google Places page, or a link to your InsiderPages listing, etc.
- QR code as a sticker or decal—the sticker or decal could go anywhere in your office or store, and customers could scan it with their smartphones to review you on the spot.
- Phone call—kinda old-fashioned, but effective with the right kind of customer.
- Part of a little gift that you send customers. Like a free pad of paper with your logo and phone number on it, plus a request to leave you a quick review. Or a fridge magnet. A pen might be a little too small. The gift has to be something people will actually use, keep on their desk or kitchen table, and see every day. The idea is it’s a subtle but persistent reminder.
- Asking your reviewers to write through a variety of sites. In other words, if you know for a fact a given customer wrote you a Yelp review, ask that person to write you an InsiderPages review, too. There are no rules against it. In fact, the review sites themselves share reviews: I’ve seen CitySearch reviews show up on Bing, Judysbook, Kudzu, MerchantCircle, Switchboard, Yahoo, YellowBot, and YP. Again, I suggest you only do this with really close, really loyal customers who don’t mind helping spread the good word.
These methods are NOT mutually exclusive, nor do you have to pick one or even just a few. You can use as many of them as you’d like. In fact, it’s best if you use a variety of them, so you get reviews on a variety of sites, and so you can determine over time what works best for you and your customers.