How fair is it that your 30-year-old roofing/siding/window company has only a dozen reviews floating around online while the upstart home improvement company that launched a mere three years ago is bragging about—and selling a lot of jobs with—their 300-plus reviews?
Well, it’s not about what is or isn’t fair. People have various motives for sitting down to tap out a few sentences describing their experience with a particular home improvement company. But if you assume they will do so because you did the right thing for them and now they should do the right thing for you, chances are you’re going to be disappointed. People live in the present. Once the job is closed out, their thinking has already moved on to something else. You need a process.
Ultimate Marketing Tool
Reviews today are a key part of the marketing matrix and getting them is not a passive process. Start by understanding what they mean to homeowners and why they’re important to a home improvement company. An article on Zillow describes the pros and cons of the three primary ways people find contractors: personal referrals, directories, and reviews. But however your company’s name surfaces, a homeowner most likely will not contact you without validating that you’re legit.
And that validation comes through reviews. Studies now show that, as an information source, reviews are at least as “trusted” as word of mouth. “According to research by online daily search marketing publication Search Engine Land, 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations,” says an article on Repuvue, a reputation management site. SEO is another reason to get as many reviews as you can. The more online buzz, the greater the likelihood of turning up in someone’s search for “local roofing contractor.”
A third reason? Feedback. Reading your own reviews will “give you insight into what is working and what is not working on the job site,” notes an article by Footbridge Media. What people outside your company say in public about its performance is seen as the unvarnished truth.
Please, Please, Please
If you want to put that review-generating process in place, start with these steps:
Know the review sites that matter to you. Among the ten tactics offered by the Small Business Administration is this: Know which review sites are most likely to have published reviews about your company. Then set up profiles there.
Be on at least several sites. There may be one or two sites where you’re heavily reviewed or would like to be—Angie’s List for instance. But however loyal, Angie’s List members are only a minority of homeowners. The best strategy is to plant your flag on four or five review sites. Reviewbuzz suggests Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Facebook. Local review sites, such as the Better Business Bureau or, on the West Coast, Diamond Certified can matter a lot. And a review on Google is gold, because if your company’s name pops up in search, so will your Google reviews.
Ask for reviews. In September of 2015, Charles Gindele, president of Renewal by Andersen Orange County, went to the company’s Yelp page and found a one-star rating and ten reviews, eight from people who’d never actually bought windows from the company. He held a company meeting and explained that RBA Orange County was committed to getting Yelp reviews. Now RBA Orange County’s installers ask homeowners to rate or review the company on Yelp, Google, or Facebook and, at the end of the job, give homeowners printed cards with the installer’s name written in. The company pays installers a $50 bonus if they’re mentioned by name in a review. This incentive generated 160 Yelp reviews in 2016 and additional reviews on other sites. As noted by Sherry Bonelli on Search Engine Land, a survey by BrightLocal in California found 70 percent of consumers reporting that a business had asked for their review and in such cases, 50 percent indicated they had written and posted one. But maybe you’ve heard that Yelp discourages owners from asking for reviews. It does, but as columnist Brian Patterson at MarketingLand points out, asking for reviews does not violate Yelp’s terms of service.
Make it painless. Once you’ve planted the idea in the sales process that you’re eager to “earn” the homeowner’s review and let them know on which review sites you’re likely to be found, you’re more than halfway home. Now follow up with links to review sites in an email, asking if they would consider posting a review. Include those links on your company’s website. It’s a good idea to send multiple links. People may want to write a review but could find it difficult or inconvenient because they don’t have an account or the site requires a login, according to Jeff Foster writing on LinkedIn about Birdeye.com’s reputation management platform. You can also use mobile SMS (text messaging) software to automatically send a review request to the homeowner’s mobile phone. That software also searches the apps on that phone and forwards the appropriate link. Tom Curren Companies, in Massachusetts, has used Birdeye.com to generate 350 reviews on its own site.
Attitude of Gratitude
Though you may entrust review generation to someone else at the company, you’d be smart to make it your own responsibility. As David Waring notes at FitSmallBusiness.com, “happy customers are more likely to leave a positive review if they know the business owner is going to see it.” Thank people for their feedback, and “if you plan on changing something as a result of their feedback, mention that as well,” he says.
Personally attending to online reviews also puts the business owner in a position to intercept and respond to the occasional negative review. “Take a deep breath before responding and don’t be defensive. Keep the response brief.”