How to Get Positive Online Reviews

Don't just sit back and hope for good reviews of your small business. Use these strategies to solicit them.
happy online shopper receives shoes
Sending notes with purchases asking for online reviews is a great way to get customers to give feedback. (Photo: Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock)

Success on social media is no doubt key to your small business. Part of that success is getting positive reviews from happy customers.

It’s no surprise that, according to Michael Fleischner, an Internet marketing expert and CEO of Big Fin Solutions, 88 percent of consumers have used online reviews to make purchase decisions.

Positive reviews not only make your business look good, they can help your website rank higher in Google searches so that more potential customers find you. “Good reviews will get you into local search results. Google My Business directory savors companies that have good reviews,” said Fleischner.

Don’t just sit back and wait for those reviews to appear — actively solicit them.

Ask your best customers for a thumbs-up

“A couple of weeks after you finish a project for someone or sell them something, reach out to the client to make sure they got the result they were after. If they did, that’s a great time to ask for a testimonial or review,” said Fleischner.

Focus on getting reviews from your best customers — it’s about quality, not quantity, he noted.

“You don’t want all customers leaving reviews, you want your best customers to leave them. This would include frequent customers, customers that purchase large quantities from you or customers you have personal relationships with. You need to focus on those people.”

Send a freebie — with a note

Many companies offer a discount or reward for sending in a review. This practice often results in customers leaving terse reviews just to get the discount, Fleischner said.

“Small businesses would fare better if they sent their customers a free sample for being a good customer, and then asked for a review,” he said. “Send the product with a note saying ‘Enjoy this product and if you’re feeling extra generous, leave us a review.’”

Arm the whole team to solicit reviews

Get everyone in your business involved in collecting positive feedback, advised John Jantsch, a small business marketing consultant and author of “Duct Tape Marketing.”

“Give everyone printed cards with review instructions and links so that when that service technician is told what an awesome job he did, he can pull out a card and show someone how to do a review.”

Make it easy to leave a review in store

Set up a kiosk or laptop in your store and ask satisfied customers if they are willing to leave a review in your Yelp or Google business profile, said Fleischner.

Susan Blizzard, CEO and owner of Blizzard Internet Marketing, who blogs about the hospitality industry, wrote, “Post an iPad on your front desk and encourage people to leave a review and take a selfie!”

Another option is to display a QR code customers can scan with their phones that will take them directly to the website where they can review you. “Millennials love this,” said Fleischner.

Email or text a review request

You can also ask for a review through email or text message. “The best practice is to send something short and sweet with a direct link to where they can leave a review,” Fleischner said. “Something like ‘Thanks for coming into the store today. If you’re willing to leave us a review, click here.’ Simple and straightforward is the big takeaway here.”

“It’s important to ask for a review within a couple of hours after the person has left the store,” Fleischner added. “Some business owners say they send an email once a month. At that point, the train has already left the station.”

Use your own website to solicit reviews

Post a contact form on your website where people can send you comments. “The reason you want to do this is to screen the reviews,” said Fleischner. “If positive, you can then send a request back to them with a link to your Google My business Profile, asking them to leave a similar review there. This helps to generate positive reviews, and minimizes the chance of a negative review.”

You can also include a link to a relevant review site, such as Yelp or Google+ or TripAdvisor if you’re in the travel industry, on your website.

“Some businesses are creating review sites, such as reviewyourremodel.com, with links to all of the important review sites. This can be a great way to make it easier to review your business,” said Jantsch. On reviewyourremodel.com, you give the company one to five stars. If you give four or five, you’re taken to a page with links to review sites such as Yelp, Google and Houzz. If you give it one to three stars, you’re taken to a page that asks you to explain why so the company can work to resolve any issues.

Blizzard tells her readers it’s OK to ask clients for reviews through Facebook or other social media platforms if you already connect with them that way. “Remember to err on the side of caution, to respect their privacy,” she warns.

Publish and promote

When you do get those good reviews, don’t be afraid to use them in your marketing tools, Jantsch said.

“Post them around the store, aggregate them to your website and put them on print materials,” he said.

“Reviews on your website turn more ‘lookers’ into ‘bookers’,” noted Blizzard.

A word about bad reviews

What should small businesses do when they get a negative review?

“Tactful, honest responses to negative reviews can make more of an impression and show how much you care even more than a glowing review,” wrote Blizzard. “Why? Because people are suspicious that a positive review is truthful. When you have a negative review, and you respond showing you care and work hard to make things right, it is more believable.”

Learn more about when and how to respond to negative comments online.

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