If you’re someone who questions the importance of online consumer reviews, here are three statistics you need to hear. According to BrightLocal’s 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey: 

  • The vast majority of consumers, 87 percent, read online reviews in 2020. 
  • It takes an average of 10 reviews before they trust a business.
  • Around three quarters of consumers will write reviews — if asked.

When following up with clients after a real estate, mortgage or title transaction to thank them for their business, ask them to review their experience. Let them know it will help you grow your business and also address any issues that could be improved. It will generate evergreen content for your social media efforts, and aside from investing a little time, it’s entirely free. 

Reviews can truly be the currency of your business moving forward. They shift your marketing voice from self-promotion to customer testimonials. Your clients now tell the world how great you are rather than you saying it. 

In this article, I’ll outline several simple but effective steps to build up your online reviews and show you how to use them in your social media marketing.

The good, the bad and the mediocre

But before we get started, a word about dealing with reviews. If you’re good at what you do and maintain conscientious customer service practices, you will get positive reviews. However, you need to respond to every review — even the Karens.

Ninety-seven percent of those who read reviews want to see how a business responds. If you do not respond, the comment becomes stale and unrelatable, a one-sided conversation in which you are the one dropping the ball. 

If a comment is negative, quickly respond with a pledge to address the issue. Negative reviews are a great opportunity. If someone is passionate enough to write a negative review, that passion means there is a chance to turn that detractor into an advocate.

Show them that you understand and want to rectify the situation. If the consumer is mistaken, clarify what actually happened. Often, in a comment like this, I say, “We’re so sorry that you had a negative experience. We would love to have a conversation and see what we might be able to do to help.”

Sometimes, I even leave my name and phone number, and if they call, we talk it over. I’ve often seen that they go back and update their review, change the star rating or in some cases, delete the review all together. So, respond thoughtfully and courteously to that review, and you’ll be amazed what will happen. 

Step 1: Find your link

To start generating reviews, you need to grab the link that will direct the writer to the spot where you want them to leave the review. Two of the easiest spots with the heaviest traffic are Google and Facebook.

You should already have a Google My Business page. (If you do not have one, this Google My Business help page shows how easy it is to create one.) Search your business name on Google, and in the Google My Business profile that comes up on the right side of the search results, click on and copy the Leave a Review” link. 

For Facebook, go to your business Facebook page, and grab the review section link. If you get a URL with additional data in the link beyond facebook.com/yourbusinessname/reviews, simply delete the extra copy.

Step 2: Perfect your ‘ask’   

The first free way to solicit customer reviews is by sending an email. Don’t use a database or contact management program. These emails need to be personal, if you want to get a response. Part of the message can be copied and pasted to save time, but wrap that text with information specific to the individual you are addressing.

A second method is through QR codes. I think the QR code, which stands for quick response code, is the comeback story of 2021. Everyone knows how to use them, and there are websites that will create a personalized QR code for you at no cost. Into the QR code you create, you will embed those links to your review pages on Google and Facebook.

FlowCode.com is one site to generate your QR code. I like it because it lets you create circular codes and further customize them with colors and your own logo for branding. Another free source is QRcode-monkey.com.

You will add these codes to your solicitation email and other communication. Some people even put them on business cards, add them to pre-listing or pre-closing checklists, and promotional flyers. 

A third method is the handwritten note. I’m a big fan of handwritten notes. They may take more time, but because they are rarely used, they’ll have more impact.

Include the QR code for them to scan, and remind the customers that you truly appreciate the opportunity to have been of service, and would love it if they would leave a review about their experience. You can say: “Reviews are the heartbeat of our business. We really appreciate it.”

Sending a thank you in the form of a $5 Starbucks card or some other gift card can also make a lasting impression. But check your regulatory environment so as to avoid the appearance of solicitation. You might send it as a final thank you after they post a review.

Step 3: Growing evergreen social media

These reviews will provide great content for social media. Set a goal of gathering 52 reviews, and you’ll have a year’s worth of weekly posts that are evergreen and won’t go out of style. 

Use them for a “Testimonial Tuesday” campaign, incorporating new ones as you go to extend the supply or just using those 52 over again. They never become dated. And don’t forget to tag! If you can find that customer on Facebook, Instagram or whatever, tag that person. 

Remember, at the core of this process is showing gratitude to your customers. You will stand out from the crowd because people so rarely take the time to do it. I thank everybody. I’ll say, “Thanks for taking the time to leave your review. It’s how we can grow our business. If there’s anything we can do let me know. Otherwise I just want to say thanks!” 

Even for those who had an issue and leave a negative review, I thank them and say I want to help make the situation better. I’ll even pick up the phone and call them if I’ve got their contact info. Often times they just want to be heard.

Whatever you do — do something. It’s all about creating a positive experience, one that will absolutely help grow your business moving forward. These are quick and easy strategies, and if you do the work the results will follow. I guarantee that. 

Sam Trimble is a marketing and technology director at WEST, a Williston Financial Group Company, in El Paso, Texas. Connect with him on Instagram or Facebook

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