Garnering Reviews – A Mom & (no) Pop Shop finally Hops on Reviews

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

Thanks!

Barbara

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. :)

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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26 thoughts on “Garnering Reviews – A Mom & (no) Pop Shop finally Hops on Reviews”

  1. The case studies you’ve put together so far are exactly what Don and I see with our clients. The process for asking customers, especially if they are happy customers, for a review is pretty simple process.

    The biggest hurdle we see with all our clients is exactly that… just getting started. Recently one of our chiropractor clients has put a process in place and in 3 months has gone from 2 reviews on Google Local to 16 reviews.

    And just like Barbara’s business they are now getting more and more calls from new patients that have read their reviews online. But it took several weeks of almost to the point of pleading with the client to start.

    Getting started and getting a little momentum seem to be the biggest challenge for a lot of small business owners.

    Any tips on how to get clients to get “started” right away? Or do you think it’s kind of like diet and exercise, we all know it’s important, how fast we get started on our “new program” is dependent on the motivation of the person.

  2. Hi Randy

    I am not sure that I have any great insights into motivating the clients. Certainly repetition on my part was key and adding a note to their analytics reports seemed to get their attention and required little effort on my part. I think some clients should considering outsourcing the process as they might never get to “escape velocity”.

    As you have pointed out, process is key but even there they need to commit to the new process whatever it is.

    The reality is change is a hard thing.

    Excuse me…I need to go think about that new exercise and diet plan.

  3. Nice interview, Mike.

    Now, did the store’s Maps’ rankings go up with more reviews or is it solely the reviews themselves driving more business? I’d like to understand that.

    It’s wonderful to read about such a positive experience!

  4. @Miriam

    Great question.

    After the initial push of 3 or 4 reviews positively affecting rank, they have had no discernible affect.

    We were able to expand the terms and the value of terms on which she was showing but it was not due to the reviews.

    Obviously, the reviews have been successful at driving more business as well.

  5. Great post Mike!

    I provide how to videos to my client’s customers on how to post a review and a simple cut and paste email they can send the client asking for reviews. I found that even getting the clients to collect email address can be a challenge :).

    I have even been testing with a post card strategy (offline) to online. Prefer when people post themselves, but I am trying to make a simple and easy as possible with still playing with in all the terms, etc.

    Wish small business’s knew how important these reviews are for rankings & conversions. Glad to see you are getting small businesses to get the reviews from multiple sources. I think that is sooo essential since Google will usually import reviews from other authority sites.

    Much more natural and protects “review” virtual assets.

    Reviews seems to be the “hot” conversation with local marketers right now. Funny that!

  6. This is an excellent post! I was looking for ideas on how to make it easier for customers to provide reviews. I really like the idea of adding a page to their website with the appropriate links.

    Question for you…if you are doing a local optimization for a customer who has their own website, do you just give them code and ask them to get their webmaster to put it on their site?

  7. @Marie

    That is in fact what I do…give them code and ask them to get their webmaster to put it on their site

  8. Can anyone tell me why yahoo local doesn’t care about the local pages i called 2 times and they siad its not there problem and hung up on me

    I dont think i will use yahoo ever again

  9. Great post Mike,

    Question. How do you tackle a business with multiple locations (aka one corporate site but has a Places, Yahoo Local , Yelp, Citysearch etc. listings for each one of the store locations? (referring to the jeweler who has a testimonial page on her website)

  10. @Steve

    I would 1)put links on the location page specific to each store and 2) via emails specific to each location.

  11. I like this…and I’ve used it. It works…but…how do you handle the multiple location issue? You don’t want all reviews going to the same location…

  12. Sorry. Should have read last comments. Disregard previous post. That is exactly what I am already doing…

  13. A lot of my customers have real problems navigating the Google interface to actually provide a review.

    I have a standard text message that I send to those customers most likely to provide a review, but have to change it frequently in line with Google protocol changes.

    On average I would say that out of 50 customers, 10-15 are likely candidates to write a positive review. Of those 10-15 likely candidates perhaps 1 or 2 would actually write a review. That equates to perhaps 2-4 written reviews a month. If my on-job service levels are exceptionally good, I can probably generate 20-25 initial likely candidates.

    Bad reviews are a pain, but they are a strong motivating force in securing more positive reviews, because you are more active in trying to quickly move the bad review under the fold. Actually, I have found that a bad review for a good business such as mine is a great lever to secure more positive reviews because any customers who recognise the quality/value of my service take on my umbridge at the negative review and see it as a call to action to address this wrong…. I tend to send them something like this, “Would you do me a favour and write me a review online? I’ve had a dubious crap review that I need to move down the list…. it would really help me to get new business…”

    In the one instance that I got a dubious review, it was pretty much moved down the listing within 24 hrs.

    By the way Mike as an aside, 12-14 months ago 102 good and true reviews disappeared from my places page never to return, I have since gained another 74, but it would be lovely to see those 102 back in the fold. Will that ever happen?

  14. @Adrian Well if they have been gone that long, the prospects are not good (without the help of the Guardian or equal :) )

  15. If I set up a review page like the one for the jewelery store, will Google and the others have a problem that my review are all coming from the place (they are links that on the review page that send them to the respective site’s review section, not an organic, or searched result)? Does my question make me sound stupid? I think so. Sorry if it is dumb question.

  16. @Matt
    With the recent changes to the review spam algo, if too many reviews come from one referrer IP it MIGHT lead Google to look upon them suspiciously. I would have a page AND do email AND do verbal requests so that not too many are coming any one way.

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