Does your business rely heavily on word of mouth marketing? Today the online version of word of mouth is reviews. If your business doesn’t have any online reviews, it’s the offline equivalent of not having any word of mouth.
Many small businesses struggle to get customer reviews, but the online shoe company Zappos has mastered the art of getting customers to put their thoughts on the web. Below are four key techniques that Zappos uses to generate these reviews:
Ask – It’s not enough to hope that your customers will be magically motivated to find the time to write a review about your business; you need to ask for the reviews. Here is where an email I recently received from Zappos illustrates this point beautifully. One month after ordering a pair of shoes from Zappos I got an email asking me to review the shoes that I had bought. Zappos didn’t wait for me to be spontaneously motivated to write a review, they politely asked.
The above said, asking for reviews can be controversial because it can be easy to bias the reviews. Yelp for example says that you probably shouldn’t ask for them for fear that you will only ask happy customers. Additionally, offering something in return for a review is clearly a big conflict of interest. However, if you can genuinely and legitimately ask an unbiased sample of your customers (like all of them) to review your business (with a write-up that is good or bad), asking for reviews should still preserve the integrity of the review system. At the end of the day, reviews that are trying to game the system generally show through and make your business look bad; so don’t encourage them.
Make it easy – The same Zappos email that I received contained three links directly to the web page where I could review the exact pair of shoes that I had purchased. Don’t send a generic link to the site where you want your business reviewed, take the customer to the exact location where they can instantly start filling out a review. Whether you follow up with customers via email, hand write a web address on a customer receipt, or send a postcard with a reminder; make it as easy as possible for customers to review your business.
Give a reason – Here again, Zappos didn’t simply ask me to review my shoes. Instead, both the subject line of the email and first sentence of the email read: “Help Others! Write A Zappos.com Review!” Helping others is a far better reason than no reason at all to write a review. Additionally, the premise of asking someone to help others with a review is a credible commitment to asking for an unbiased review. Asking your customer for a review so that you can get more business would clearly be a bad idea.
Do what you do well – All the reminders and fancy wording in the world is not a substitute for your business being great at what it does. Zappos world renowned customer service is a major motivator for people to give back by writing reviews. Lousy service is going to result in few reviews, or worse, bad reviews. Unlike offline word of mouth, which tends to have a finite lifespan, online reviews are forever. Put your best foot forward.
Too many small businesses fail to realize that there is such a thing as online word of mouth, and that they need to be establishing an online reputation. Find a review website that is relevant to your business (most small businesses will get more leads from reviews on a high traffic 3rd party site than from reviews on their own site) and start gently prodding your customers for reviews. Before you know it the lead generation from your online word of mouth might just surpass the lead generation from your offline word of mouth…
Image Credit: modenadude’s