It can be a real struggle for businesses to get positive reviews outside the food and hospitality industry. Usually, consumers don't review their landscaper, gym, car rental agency and many other types of business with which they interact on a daily basis unless something goes wrong. That's why we talk to companies every day that do excellent work and have a great real-world reputation, but have more negative online reviews than positive reviews. This difference between offline and online reputation is beyond frustrating for business owners.

So what should a business owner or general manager do when in this situation they find themselves? Ask happy reviews customers. Tip the review balance back to your favor by becoming your online advocates for those happy customers. I'll share some tips, best practices and tests below that you can run for more positive reviews. But first of all, you might wonder: Is it all right to ask for reviews? For Google, the answer is a resounding "yes." But for other review services this answer may differ and you will need to check with their terms and conditions.

So, assuming its ok to ask a customer directly for a review, let's dive into… the gold standard: Asking in person No better way to ask for, and get, reviews than to do it in person. The request from person to person is incredibly effective, especially if the requester has spent a great deal of time with the client. Studies show that asking in person can get you 7 to 8 times more reviews than asking through email.

Let's take an example of a furniture store. A sales partner may spend an hour or more helping a customer select the right couch for their home. Over the course of that time, they get to know each other, talk about where they come from, their families, etc. In the time spent together, a mini-bond is constructed. No person is better positioned to ask for a review at the end of the sale than this sales partner. The associate can explain that it helps other customers to investigate them and gives the business a true perspective. If you are thinking of asking customers for reviews, first try to figure out the touch points of the customer and who builds the deepest relationship with the customer within the company. That's probably the person to ask for reviews.

The "tip" trick is one of those growth hacks that in particular industries can work really great. The strategy is that someone who has spent a lot of time with a customer then asks for a review, but throws in the kicker of, "If you have had a good experience and include my first name in the review, the company gives me a $10 tip." This little "sweetener" gives a customer the extra incentive to leave an online review, especially if he or she has had a good experience. This strategy work best with services in and around the homes of customers. This includes exterminators, landscapers and builders, renovators, plumbers and so on. Service providers are working hard, and sometimes people want to tip them for their work; this strategy gives customers a free way to tip someone who has done a good job. This can drastically speed up the number of reviews that come in for the right companies.

It's a bit trickier to ask for reviews via email. There are cases in which a customer does not have much (or any) face time. Email may be your only option in those cases. If you are going to ask for reviews via email, we strongly encourage you to pre-screen your customers through an internal survey before submitting another email requesting a public review. Although this may sound like cheating, it's no different from what you'd do personally. You wouldn't ask them for an online review if someone is clearly upset. Similarly, using internal survey triggers allows you to apply the same human logic, algorithmically. Here are some of the best practices for your email request letter: have the email come from the email address of a real person (better yet, have it come from a name they would recognize, like someone with whom they worked). Have the email written by that same person as a personal request. Have a very clear connection / button call-to-action. Remove random social media or website footer links — just as with good conversion rate optimization, users click the review button have a unique goal. Test using an email with plain text versus an email with HTML. Test different subject lines: We found that in many instances, using the name of the person in the subject line works well, but in a few others it falls flat. Test various copies of emails to see what works best. Test all until you get the best conversion-to-review rate possible (not just open rate) as with any good campaign. Email is almost never going to perform as well as ask in person, but on a scale it can still be very effective.

An organizational initiative needs to be built. Until this occurs reviews tend to be a slow trickle until they are actually adopted as an organizational initiative, not just by marketing some side project. The best strategies to make reviews a priority across an organization include: making a top-down focus on better reviews; the importance needs to be communicated to executives. Getting organizational buy-in on the importance of reviews by helping employees understand their direct business impact. Training key staff on how to request reviews. Develop a scorecard that tracks location-specific reviews (similar to a Search Engine Ranking Performance (SERP) score, but for review). Provide bonuses and awards to locations with the best reviews online. Putting the C-suite behind the initiative of online reviews is the absolute best way to take action.

Fight back! The simple act of requesting reviews begins to put the power back in your hands. Many business owners are simply throwing their hands in the air and assuming they can do nothing. But it's quite the opposite, as you can see. Requesting reviews requires no special tools or technology, just a commitment to see through it. Using these strategies, you can fight back against the business phenomenon (outside the food and hospitality industry) receiving only negative reviews.

Contact us here if you want to learn more about how we can help you with a strategy to turn around your ratings.

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