How to Maximize Online Reviews
Updated: Jan 5
Reviews of your brand, services, projects or products are one of the best ways to help reassure qualified prospects to enter your showroom and make a purchase. Its sort of like their buyers’ journey was done for them – by a trusted community of people who went through the process of working with you before. Word of mouth might have been the gold standard in the past, and might still work for some industries, but you’re missing the mark if you aren’t leveraging your online reviews and reputation. Online review management is an excellent way, coupled with SEO, ad spend and other best practices of showcasing your digital showroom, to get targeted customers to trust and work with you.
Word of Mouth in the Digital Age
Word of mouth has moved online. Even when one friend says to another, you should check out so and so’s showroom, what is the first thing that person will do? He googles that showroom. She looks at reviews, galleries of finished projects, maybe that store’s Instagram...just to know it exists. It’s hard to pinpoint what factors consumers are evaluating when they search, scroll and click online, and which platforms resonate with which particular customer. That’s why it’s so important to cover all your bases, professionalize your digital showroom and capture all possible leads who want to make a home remodel purchase now or in the future.
Getting Started – and Then Getting Started
Word out mouth used to be just that – from the mouth of one to the ear of another. But if you enter the digital realm, you can’t just rely on reviews getting sorted out without some human intervention. First, you must get your online digital storefront in order (I sound a bit like a mob boss, but you get the idea). This means, Google My Business is set up and optimized. You’ve set up profiles on online directories that are most important to the industry you're in (Angie’s List, Yelp, etc.). Then, you sit back and wait, right? No. I'm not gonna make you an offer you can't refuse, but I think you should read on (no more Godfather references from here on out, I promise).
Let’s go through some step by step instructions to not just set in motion your online digital review management process but also some email tips and key actions to take while your customers’ projects are being completed. That way, you’re not chasing reviews that never materialize.
"Automations not Conversations" for Digital Reviews
Let’s start with the “easy” part (for us at least!): your digital review mechanisms. Let’s hone in on your website first. Does it have links to review sites like Angie’s List, Houzz and Yelp so that prospective customers can click those links and read a review or two? Do you have a few of those customer testimonials highlighted directly on your website? This adds a lot of credibility to your website so that even a lead who is seeing your website for the first time feels like he or she is getting the thumbs up from a community of home remodelers.
You’ll also want to actually set up those online directory accounts! Most of these sites have easy to use, step by step instructions on how to set up your business profile, like Yelp. Check out which sites your competitors use, or just benchmark other companies that Inspire you, and make sure you have the same profiles set up.
Besides online directories for reviews, there is Google My Business for organic search. This is where SEO comes into play. GMB allows you to show up in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps and organic rankings in general (see image below). Most important, it’s free and helps you show up in front of targeted users at the top of the Google search results page.
You must start by claiming your GMB account. Sounds easy enough, but it’s actually a recurring process you must continuously stay on top of. You obviously enter some things that do not typically change, like your business category, phone number, URL and showroom address. But you’ll want to regularly update photos, respond to reviews and make sure random users haven’t updated your account for you...because anyone can suggest an edit! So you’ll want to build into your marketing process a regular GMB check-in to make sure you’re optimizing your profile to show up at the top of GMB listings.
Next comes the human element, or at least almost-human (we work in digital marketing after all and love automated processes): email marketing and communications! This way you’re avoiding too many conversations and instead using automations (we love rhymes, too, apparently)!
You can’t ask your customers to leave you reviews before their projects are complete, and it’s easy to forget to follow up when a project is done and dusted, so this is why it’s important to have a process for review requests at optimal times and in optimal ways. You also probably don’t want to ask a customer who was less than thrilled with her finished project (it happens), so instead of a totally automated process, you’ll probably want to set up a task reminder to ask for the review instead of an automatic email directly to the client.
If you have a larger, multi-location business, and you’re managing them yourself, email review requests might be your jam. If you have time to reach out by phone or SMS, however, this could also be a great way to get back in touch with a happy customer.
So, get your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to generate tasks to remind you to reach out by email (create a template with “tokens” – placeholders for their name, salutation and more). Follow up with an email that has direct links to all your review sites, including Google! Don’t just expect them to go track down all these sites themselves. As mentioned earlier, those links should also be embedded on your website, for the customer who wants to beat you to the action!
How to get started?
To wrap up, to get reviews you must be reviewable. You do need to have happy clients first, but then you need to set up a recurring process to make sure your digital assets are up to scratch in order to capture and promote your reviews. There are a handful of software tools that can help you manage your located-related information across multiple directories, like Yext. Or you can choose a CRM likes Salesforce (which is designed for companies with 20 or more salespeople) that automates tasks and project work. Or, as always, you can work with a specialized digital marketing agency that will do the heavy lifting for you, because they’ve done it before and they know what they’re doing.