Step 1. Commit – or don’t.
What do you want? What disaster are you trying to keep away from your reputation?
You’ll need to be patient and have a little fire in your belly – no matter what you’re trying to accomplish or avoid.
And you’ll need to learn from your reviews to make your business better. Or else your reputation will own you, and not the other way around.
Remove duplicate and incorrect listings along the way.
These sites are the only places you can get online reviews – at least the kind that can really help your local visibility and rankings. If you don’t have listings on these sites, nothing else matters and you will get zero reviews. Testimonials – AKA bits of “fan mail” that you post on your site – don’t count.
Mend bridges with those customers. Work on the underlying issue(s) they complained about, if humanly possible.
Step 4. Make it easy to leave spontaneous reviews.
Link to a couple of your listings in your email signature.
Put a gentle nudge on your invoices or receipts.
Link to some of your listings from your site – preferably with noticeable “buttons.”
Step 5. Start asking all your new customers – and preferably old and existing customers – for their email addresses.
Find a way to make it worth their while. This will be important for later.
Step 6. Pick about 5 customers and ask them to review you somewhere.
Try to ask them in-person and to provide simple printed instructions, if possible (example).
Step 7. Check back a week or two later to see who posted a review, and follow up.
Thank any customers who did. Reconnect with the ones who didn’t. Ask if there’s any way you can help them in general, and mention again that you’d really appreciate a review.
Step 8. Set up whatever system you want to use for contacting customers by email
Consider using a tool like GetFiveStars. It makes it easy to follow up with customers by email (remember step #5?), and it lets you track your reviews.
Email a handful of your customers to ask if they’ll review you. These can be people you already asked in-person and are just reminding, or they can be another batch of customers you’re asking for the first time.
Don’t ask all your customers at once: You don’t want to wear out your welcome while you’re just trying to figure out what timing and language seems to work best, and how email should fit in.
Step 9. Apply whatever you learned from the previous batch of reviewers. Not only in terms of how to make your requests easier to say “yes” to, but also in terms of what they might have said in their reviews. What were their gripes, and what can you do about them?
(By the way, if it seems like you’ve done this step before, you’re right. And you’ll do it again and again. If you don’t learn from your reviews, they’re just dots on the screen.)
Step 10. Respond to any reviews you can. Tell the less-happy people what you’ve done to improve (see Step 9). Say thanks to the happier customers, where appropriate.
Step 11. Continue asking small groups of customers – like 2-10 – every week for reviews.
It doesn’t need to be the exact-same number every week. But don’t ask zero customers one month and then 40 the next month. Be somewhat consistent.
Ask everyone twice: ideally you ask in-person first, and then by email. Don’t be a pest. Just give a friendly reminder. Space these out by 5-10 days.
Step 12. Experiment. Try something different every few “batches.”
Ask customers to go to different sites – not the same one each time. (Make new instructions for new sites if needed.) Try sending printed follow-ups by snail-mail. If you usually ask customers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, try asking on a Friday. Mix it up. See what seems to work.
Step 13. Keep repeating steps 9-12 to infinity. Tweak your processes as much as you feel you need to, but never stop asking, refining, and acting.
Enjoy the great reviews and happy customers.
What steps have you done in your review strategy so far?
How do they compare to the one I suggest?
Any questions or advice for me? Leave a comment!