Some business owners have found that review sites such as Yelp! and Google Maps can be a boon for business, while others have developed a love/hate relationship with them.
Well, love the fact that customers can go online and express their opinion about an experience with your business or hate the fact that prospects and search engines alike are making reviews a key data point when making decisions about your business, they don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
My advice is to find ways to make review sites work for you, and you just might find a new best friend.
Below are five tactics that can help you get more from reviews:
Make your own reviews
One of the best things you can do is become a power reviewer yourself. This activity will help you better understand a tool like Yelp and make you much more authoritative and credible when you start engaging prospects on Yelp.
Google has it’s own review tool called HotPot. This tool makes it easy for desktop and mobile browsers to rate businesses. Get good at using this tool and put it on your phone so you can start building your reputation with Google HotPot.
Of course, in addition to gaining expertise and credibility, you’ll also want to target your strategic partners (B2B) and vendors and write authentic reviews about your experience with them because these reviews should logically create a reciprocal activity in many cases.
Yelp Check-in offers
Yelp has a Foursquare like check-in tool that allows mobile surfers to note that they visited or checked in at your business. This is likely more valuable for a destination business like a bar or retail store, but check-in behavior is becoming pretty mainstream and should be explored by every business.
Yelp allows businesses that claim their profile to create special offers for those that check-in to your business. By promoting these offers, you not only create an incentive for people to visit your business and tell their networks about their visit, you create very useful (and not spammy) awareness about your Yelp presence and start the logical conversation towards a review behavior. (My guess is Google has this feature on the roadmap.)
Plaster your review love everywhere
A great way to get more reviews is to make a big deal about the ones you already got. This means, of course, that you need to run your business in a way that warrants good reviews, but most businesses do this.
You should take the time to subscribe to any RSS feeds for your review profiles or setup e-mail settings that notify you when a new review or comment has been added.
You should also learn how to dispute reviews that are fake or false and add your responses to reviews that you may be able to make clearer. (Even Google added this feature recently in Places) I’ve witnessed situations where businesses have actually turned bad reviews into a positive customer resolution.
Make sure you take the time to grab and use tools like Yelp badges that can help you point visitors of your business or website towards your love of reviews. Take quotes from reviews and hand them in your business and on your site. Cross promote links to your review pages in other social networks like LinkedIn.
Hold an event
Sometimes the only thing between your business and lots of great reviews is customer awareness and attention.
When you have customers that legitimately want to rave about an experience with your business, you might want to explore ways to make this easy for them. Now, I’m not a fan of actually writing reviews or creating incentives (this is really discouraged by the review sites for obvious reasons), but I do think you should create the opportunity to be easy to review.
One powerful tactic is to build review opportunities into customer events. I’ve seen this done through the use of dedicated laptops at trade shows and appreciation events. I’m not suggesting this be the purpose of the event, but there can be some great results from adding this little idea onto something that includes interaction with a number of customers anyway.
Teach the behavior
I’ve always felt that one of the best ways to get good at something or encourage others to create a behavior is to teach it.
If you get good at Yelp, Google Place reviews, HotPot, or anything related to mastering local search for instance, make it a habit to teach others, particularly your strategic partners how to do the same and you can expect to get more of what you’re teaching.
This goes for your customers as well. In some cases they want to make reviews, but don’t know how. Turn them on to all the wonderful things they can find out there by using reviews sites and tools like HotPot and you may benefit from creating power reviewers that build even more credibility into the reviews they make on your behalf.
Image credit: ndanger