Barbara Oliver and Co. Jewelry, an owner operated jewelry store with one part time employee in Buffalo, NY was referred to me by my sister about a year ago for help with marketing of her “new” website.
Like many small businesses she has trouble integrating new procedures whether from inertia, fear or lack of time. Getting her involved with establishing a review process was a struggle. When I received this email on February 13th of this year I felt like she had finally hit escape velocity (the place where the client no longer needs hand holding):
Hi Mike, this week 6 new customers in the store based on reviews alone. 6 sales, have I mentioned lately how much I love you? If we continue to do this right, I can forego some of the expensive advertising and build up my wallet and our businesses. WooHoo
The review process that we set up has been made so that it is as simple as possible for both her and her clients. She will ask appropriate customers at the time of providing a receipt if they would be willing to leave a review. She qualifies them and with the younger ones that are comfortable leaving reviews at the site of their choice, she just makes the ask. If they are older or less confident she shows them and provides them with a url: www.barbaraoliverandco.com/review on a small slip of paper. The url is set to redirect to the review section of her jeweler testimonial page.
On the bottom portion of this testimonial page the visitor will find a list of review site urls for her business from which to select. Being on her testimonial page, folks seem to get a sense of other comments and confidence from the fact that others have endorsed her. They can choose the site with which they are most comfortable. This allows the customer a certain freedom and avoids forcing the choice. My theory at least is that in the case of an angry customer, seeing other testimonials and reviews might temper any venom.
It was very difficult initially to get her to ask. She was reticent and did not remember. But she started seeing some ranking benefit and vowed to “do better”. I even put a note into her monthly analytics report to automate the “nag”. After a rocky start and 8 months of monthly reminders (automated, verbal & emails) she has integrated the “ask” into her write up routine and has started to get regular reviews at a range of review sites that are now showing up in Google. The reviews are coming in at a steady pace with a nice mix of diverse sources. You can see some of them on her Places Page.
Could you provide a brief overview of your process to garner reviews?….
I simply ask after a sale or service has been concluded if the client would mind reviewing my business, as it does help me grow. I do find that it is peoples’ nature to want to help you if you have made them happy.
How long have you been actively seeking reviews?
Since last year around January 2009 (Editors note: we started the process in January but she actually started asking reliably in September)
What has been your experience with customer reviews?
I know have 16 very favorable reviews and have watched my presence rise. The influx of new clients is actually measured as more than any other form of advertising that I have invested in previously.
The internet marketing we have implemented aided my business growth more than I could have imagined. Although reticent at first to ask clients to post reviews, as they did start to appear, so did new customers. They came in pre-sold on our service and products ready to do business just based on what they read from others.
What process have you implemented to make it easy for your organization to get reviews and for clients/customers to give them?
We created a spot on my web site to make it a breeze for customers to input their thoughts. By keeping it simple for even non-computer savvy clients, I get a lot more reviews from a less limited client base, who might feel overwhelmed by having to search out the method of posting reviews.
What review sites do you recommend to customers? Why?
Google,google,google, then Citysearch, Insiderpages, Yelp (just started) & Yahoo Local just to mix it up a bit.
What were the barriers to getting a smooth process set up?
None, that’s what Mike does, he handles all my web and computer needs,usually before I know I need them. Typically, he gives me new ideas for ways to grow and expose my business. Then the dinosaur in me fights the idea as I am change resistant. Then we do it his way and it always works.
Do you incent clients in any way to provide reviews?
So far, a handwritten thank you note and a diamond made of chocolate. Happy customers genuinely want to help you grow.
I always tell them or show them to make it easier.
How do you handle negative reviews?
Have not had to deal with that yet. So far so good.
How has the world of online reviews impacted your business?
I truly have seen a big increase in new faces that are buying. Usually the client starts the introduction with “I googled jewelers and I loved your reviews”. I have spent a fortune on TV, radio, print and yellow pages. I honestly can say that the increase in reviews has given me an immediate satisfaction with a venue of clients I know was not reaching before. The importance of reading someone else’s opinion is so very strong. I am having my web site redone now to mirror the strength of the ratings. I am now able to reduce my advertising budget and put the money into more inventory with the 7 to 8 new faces I see each week.
Oh…and if you need some advice on buying jewelry …call Barbara Olive and Co Jewelry at (716) 204-1297! She does a great job matching the man (and woman) to the right jewelry. Tell her I sent you.