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SEO | Apr 19
Jessica Greene on March 25, 2021 • 19 minute read
It doesn’t matter if you run a B2B or B2C business, marketing agency or SaaS company, eCommerce shop, or local store: reviews are important for every business.
But it can be tricky to get people to write positive reviews about a business. As Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray says, “Most happy customers will never tell you that they’re happy. Unhappy customers will let you know.”
So, how do you get happy customers to write raving reviews for your business on public websites? To find out, we asked more than 100 marketers to share their best tips.
One reason customer reviews are important is that they help with SEO, especially if you are a local business. But speaking of benefits for any business in general, having reviews on popular review sites lets you own more SERP real estate for branded search terms.
Most importantly, reviews are crucial for your business because they have a huge impact on the buying decisions of your prospective customers. As consumers and prospects have turned more to self-guided research, they rely more on the opinions and experiences of other customers in reviews when evaluating options and making purchasing decisions. Our own research also confirms that “customer proof” is the most important factor when evaluating 2 (in our case) software products.
Lastly, having positive reviews helps build trust and confidence in your business and its products/services.
If you’re struggling to figure out how to encourage customers to write reviews, consider these proven tips that our respondents recommended:
According to Greenvelope’s Alex Kelsey, the best way to encourage customers to write reviews is to “just ask. More often than you think, your fans and customers will be happy to write about their experience with your business, product, or service.”
Our respondents offered lots of ideas for how to ask customers for reviews:
One way to make sure that you’re asking customers to write reviews is to have a process in place for making the ask.
“Chocolate Films has been pursuing Google reviews for a year,” says Alexandra Lens. “We quickly reached a 5-star rating and have maintained it since.”
“To achieve this, we made asking for reviews an integral part of our production process. At the end of each great video project, our account managers ask the client to leave a review as part of their sign-off emails.”
“Clients and account managers are happy at the end of a successful project and will have established a great relationship, so incorporating asking for a review as part of the production process has worked really well for us,” Lens says.
Other respondents use a series of tools to create and automate the process of asking for reviews.
“If you can automate your review process based upon specific actions, then it will be even easier to scale and ensure continuity for review requests,” says 9Sail’s Kyle Kasharian.
As LoclWeb’s Jorge Sheffy says, “Asking for reviews manually is not recommended. It will become too much of a burden on you and will also be much more inconsistent.”
Several of our respondents shared examples of how they automate their review-request processes.
“We use a pop-up form on our site to get reviews after customers have made a purchase,” says John Holloway of NoExam. “This form automatically populates the review on Shopper Approved, a third-party review site.”
“We then follow up two weeks later via email and ask customers to write a more thorough review of their shopping experience. We’ve collected over 1,000 user reviews with this method.”
“We send out customer feedback emails every month asking our clients and candidates to complete a 30-second survey about our customer service,” says Fiona Kay of Nigel Wright Group. “At the end of the survey, we ask if they would be happy to submit a Google review.”
“Since introducing this, we’ve experienced a huge increase in the number of reviews we’ve received, the vast majority being positive. We now have an average star rating of 4.6 across our nine office Google My Business pages.”
“Some of our clients use online booking systems for their services,” says Niles Koenigsberg of FiG Advertising + Marketing. “We’ve used these systems in the past to successfully acquire customer reviews.”
“After their appointment is finished, customers receive an automated message (text, email, etc.) that asks them to:
“It’s a great tactic to engage with customers when the quality of the service is fresh in their minds. This way, you receive more honest feedback and get that review in quickly before they forget about it.”
“The best way to encourage customers to write reviews is through a dedicated review acquisition service,” says Michael Anderson of GeoJango. “These companies will automatically send an email to your customers and ask them to leave a review after a specified number of days.”
“Some are geared towards eCommerce and will have their own review-capture platform. Others focus on local businesses and will work towards acquiring reviews through Google, Facebook, and Yelp.”
Editor’s note: If you’re using HubSpot Marketing to send automated emails to your customers asking for reviews, grab this free HubSpot Email Campaigns dashboard to track your performance over time and see which emails get the most opens and clicks.
“You shouldn’t just focus on getting reviews,” says HealthJoy’s Rick Ramos. “You need to focus on getting good reviews. You can do this by encouraging reviews after a customer has expressed satisfaction.”
David Peterson of HealthMarkets agrees: “We’ve had success inviting reviews from customers who provide us with positive survey results. If they can be stewards for our company and brand because of the experiences they’ve had, we encourage that.”
So, how do you find out who’s had a great experience sending review requests to the right customers? Our respondents offered several suggestions:
And Chas Cooper of Rising Star Reviews says you can also use this process to “turn unhappy customers into happy customers.”
“First, ask the customer to rate your business privately. If the customer would give you a 5-star rating, then encourage him/her to write a review. But if the customer gives you a bad rating, ask what you could do better, fix any problems you discover, and go the extra mile to make the customer happy. Then encourage a review.”
“If you ask for a private rating before asking for a public review, you’ll get a second chance to impress unhappy customers, and you’ll raise your average star rating in the process,” Cooper says.
Editor’s note: Does your customer service team use HelpScout? If so, use this HelpScout for Customer Support dashboard template to track your most important customer support metrics and KPIs.
Several respondents said you’ll get more reviews if you personalize the ask.
For example, Casey Hill of Bonjoro recommends “sending a personal video to the customer, thanking them for supporting you, and asking if they would leave you a review. Personalization is a key lever in rapport-building and a great way to maximize reviews.”
Ollie Roddy of Catalyst Marketing says that “the best thing to do is ask someone personally. Call them and physically go through the feedback/review form with them. It will only take your account manager two minutes, but the likelihood of someone saying no is insanely low.”
“Your submissions rates when sending someone a link though will be much lower. That’s not because people are rude; they’re just plain busy,” Roddy says.
Another way to personalize your ask, says Digital Marketing Consultant Rotem Gal, is “to create a specific review funnel for each product/service.”
“If someone is buying a product directly from your mobile app, he/she should be able to review it from the mobile app. If someone is buying a service from your website using a desktop computer, he/she should be able to review the service from the desktop via a follow-up email.”
“To increase positive reviews for your business, inform and educate your customers on how important reviews are to your business,” says Miva’s Luke Wester. “The customers who want to support you will show their support in the form of positive reviews.”
Lauren Triance-Haldane of PathFactory agrees: “Before the vendor sends out a review campaign, we send a heads-up email to our customers letting them know we’re about to run a review campaign, asking for their participation, and outlining why it’s beneficial to everyone to leave reviews.”
Brooks Manley of Engenius gives us an example on how to explain why reviews are important for your business: “Push the idea that leaving a review benefits other consumers. Some people are much more apt to help ‘others like them’ find the best business, product, or service—as opposed to helping the company get one more 5-star reviews.”
“It’s important to remove any friction from writing the review,” says Garrett Sussman of Grade.us.
“We use an email drip campaign and send customers to our review funnel landing page. The review funnel provides our customers with a few review site options to choose from. Each option has a direct link to the write-a-review URL of the various review sites.”
“When customers have a few review sites to choose from, they are more likely to take the time to leave a review on the site that they’re familiar with,” Sussman says.
Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles agrees, recommending that you “send your best customers a direct link to your Google My Business review section.”
“When sending the email, keep the email short, make the customer feel special, and include a link to take them straight to the review process,” says Hans van Gent of User Growth. “You want the process to be as easy as possible for them so that it will take the least amount of time.”
And Samantha Kohn of AutoVerify suggests “using a platform that automatically requests the review and takes customers directly to Google, Facebook, and the system’s own review platform.”
“Review services that have their own platform are the only way to encourage reviews from non-tech-savvy customers without asking them to sign up for a Facebook or Google account in order to write the review,” Kohn says.
Editor’s note: Not sure which review sites to link to in your emails? Grab this free Review Site Referrals dashboard that uses Google Analytics data to determine which review sites drive the most traffic to your business’s website.
Another way to make it simple for customers to leave reviews and write testimonials is to write some part—or all—of the review for them.
The Blogsmith’s Maddy Osman recommends “providing a template in terms of the response you’re looking for.”
“To give an example, whenever I reach out to people I’ve done business with to get a testimonial, I share a few bullet points about what I perceive as the highlights of our business relationship that they can either use or ignore.”
“A nice side effect of this approach is that it allows me to influence what they’re going to say. And as a bonus, my clients appreciate that they don’t have to think too hard about sharing feedback, which increases the likelihood that they’ll provide a testimonial,” Osman says.
Lika Djukic of Best Response Media says that the best way to encourage customers to write reviews is to engage with the people who’ve already written reviews.
“People who wouldn’t generally leave reviews—regardless of whether they are satisfied or not—will feel encouraged to leave a review if they see replies and feedback from businesses.”
“It’s better to respond to negative reviews and try and resolve the issue rather than shying away and ignoring the review. The same goes for positive reviews: a simple thank-you message goes a long way,” Djukic says.
Lots of our respondents agreed that engaging with your reviews is crucial. In fact, when we asked our respondents how often they respond to customer reviews, 53.5% said they always respond, and another 30.7% said they respond most of the time.
Another way to show customers that you’re engaged with their reviews is to share your reviews on social media.
Here’s a client’s review of Databox we shared on Twitter.
If you do decide to offer an incentive for reviews, consider this advice from NeverBounce’s Nick Harley: “If you’re going to offer an incentive, make it clear in your email subject line. Otherwise, you may not attract as many respondents as possible.”
Our respondents offered lots of suggestions for types of incentives that work for their customers.
Another approach: Justin McGill says offering gift cards and credits has worked well for Gist. “We combined a partnership with Capterra to give $20 gift cards for reviews with three additional account upgrades should users choose to leave a review.”
“We partner with our G2 Gives program to create social good through user reviews,” says G2’s Lauren Pope. “Anyone who leaves a software review on our website can choose a participating 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and G2 will give that charity a $10 donation for their review.”
“Currently, we partner with Chicago Tech Academy, and all of the money we donate through our review campaigns goes back into helping prepare the next generation of tech employees. It all aligns with our mission of creating an inclusive tech experience and promoting real-time, fresh user reviews,” Pope says.
Best Company, according to McCall Robinson, uses a similar approach: “We run fundraising contests to encourage people to write reviews. For these contests, we partner with a local organization and commit to donating a certain amount of money for every review we receive within a certain time period.”
“This encourages consumers to write reviews on our site because they are, in turn, helping raise money for a local organization. It’s a great way to get the word out about your company, incentivize review generation, and to do good in the process!”
“Customers also love a company that is willing to give back to the community,” Robinson says.
“When customers provide us with reviews, we always backlink to their websites and tag them on social media,” says Danny Peavey of One Week Website. “We make it a priority to highlight one or two customer reviews per week. Our customers love the shoutouts and the attention for their businesses.”
Vito Michael of Vaetas takes the free publicity incentive even further: “We started a vlog (video blog) and invite our customers on for guest episodes. We interview them using Zoom and record the interview. They range in time from five to eight minutes.”
“The format is:
“We also post a link back to their websites and LinkedIn profiles, as well as share the videos on social media.”
“We send out a personal video email invitation to each customer based on our content calendar. The response has been overwhelming because it’s a win-win strategy,” Michael says.
“Content is an extremely important commodity, so it’s always an excellent place to start when looking for an incentive,” says Angela Ash of MailCharts.
“Create short ebooks that offer information, explain your company in more detail, and provide additional products or services that might appeal to your current customers. Once a review is submitted, you can automatically email them a copy of your ebook as a thank you for sharing their experiences. It’s that simple!”
So, when is the best time to ask for a customer review?
When it comes to getting customers to write reviews, many of our respondents said that timing is everything.
Getting the timing right when asking customers to write reviews is important, but it varies greatly from business to business.
If you’re seeking product reviews, Graham Charlton of SaleCycle says to “time emails so the purchase is fresh in the customer’s mind and they’ve had time to use the product.”
Frank Pinder of Oxatis recommends “sending an email after the customer has purchased the product and following up 1-2 days after he/she receives it.”
However, the type of product purchased should influence when you ask. As Kim Kohatsu of Charles Ave Marketing says, “If your product is, for example, a skin cream, wait until enough time has elapsed from delivery for the customer to notice the product’s effects.”
“If you ask for reviews at the right time—when customers are feeling positive about your product—they are more likely to leave them,” Kohatsu says.
Knowing when to ask for service reviews, again, depends on the type of service you’re offering.
“Try to ask for a review as close as possible to the completion of the service,” says Marc Howard of BizPayO. “If you’re a digital agency, ask for the review right after the project is complete or the payment has been made. Even if the service was a free consultation, it’s still an opportunity to ask for a review.”
For service businesses that work with clients on an ongoing basis, Kurt Uhlir of ShowCase IDX recommends asking for reviews at major milestones.
“Even the happiest customers are busy,” Uhlir says. “But when they’ve worked with your brand and are approaching a new milestone (e.g. renewal, completion of a campaign, additional purchase, etc.), they are usually focused on the benefits of your product/service and are motivated to see you succeed.”
“Timing your request for an authentic review to right before a milestone does two things:
While most of our respondents agreed that asking is one of the best ways to get more reviews, several noted that it’s helpful to ask more than once.
“You should ask for a review,” says Donna Duncan of B-SeenOnTop. “And you should also remind those who are agreeable to writing a review but don’t follow through.”
“We have obtained nearly 100 Google reviews from our clients within the past 1-2 years with an email campaign,” says Alex Cascio of Vibrant Media Productions. “Both direct contact and follow up were key, as many of the customers would put it off or say they would ‘get to it soon.’”
There are tons of potential review sites you could include in your email when asking for reviews, but you probably don’t want to add links to every possible review site. Instead, it’s better to focus on the channels your customers are already using.
To provide you with a starting point, we asked our respondents to weigh in on which business review websites they think are the most important for B2B businesses. The top responses included Google My Business, Glassdoor, Capterra, LinkedIn, Trustpilot, TrustRadius, and Clutch.
None of these tactics will work if you don’t focus on one thing, and that’s making sure you’re providing an exceptional product or service. In most cases, exceptional customer service is enough to encourage your customers to write a review. Or if nothing else, they will certainly spread the word around. 🙂
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