There’s a myth surrounding reviews. It's a nefarious myth that lulls your clients into a false sense of security. Despite that fact that it can be challenging to earn reviews in the first place, many clients think:
Get positive reviews and the money rolls in automatically.
You know there's more to it than that.
But your clients don't. They approach the review process with a sort of one and done mindset. They get their customers to write a glowing review, then it's on to the next.
Here's why this is dangerous.
Your client's review site listings are dynamic
They take on a life of their own.
Review sites abide by their own set of rules. Some details, like images, videos or recommendations, are displayed more prominently. Other sites place more emphasis on keywords, content and data.
Your clients don't know the rules.
It's your job to know these rules, especially if it's your goal to provide clients with the care, guidance and protection they need. These rules determine outcomes, they impact:
Pull the right lever on your client's review profile and you alter these details significantly. Do nothing and you lose control over many of these areas.
Your clients have lost control over their listings
With most organizations, their review portfolio isn't something they optimize and cultivate.
It's something that happens to them.
Their reviews develop organically on each of their review site listings. Often times they do the bare minimum, not because they're lazy, but because they simply don't know any better. They don't know their listings need optimization and care.
That's where you come in.
Your client's review listings need to be tended to. The better you and your clients are at maintaining their review listings, the better their results will be.
How do you give clients a clear picture of the kind of amazing things you're able to do with their review listings? Most of the time, clients don't have the resources, time or attention to dedicate to that task.
Where do you start?
Do you have an optimization framework?
Don't worry if you don't already have one. We're going to create an optimization framework together. One you can use to: (a.) help clients understand the value they're losing. (b.) present the value you're able to provide and (c.) offer metrics you can use to measure that value.
Let's start at the beginning.
Step #1: Assessment of current performance
You'll want to meet with your clients in-person, over the phone via conference call or online to discuss their current situation. In that meeting you'll need to get clear answers to very specific things.
· Traffic. What type of traffic do they receive (e.g. online traffic, foot traffic, direct traffic, social traffic, etc.)? Where does their traffic come from currently? How much are they getting on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis?
· Conversion. How many visitors are converted to customers? How many of them become long-term customers? Are these customers motivated by value, price or something else?
· Customer profile. What type of customers do your clients attract? Are they value customers, or are they price conscious Groupon customers who haggle and demand discounts? Are they willing to pay more for a product with a strong value proposition?
· Sales and revenue. Are your clients meeting their sales and revenue goals? Are they on track to meet their projected goals for the upcoming quarter? Are discounts and other incentives eating away at their profits?
· Up, down and cross-selling. Are your client's customers receptive to these alternative selling opportunities? How consistent and immediate is their response to these specialty offers?
· Revenue/profit per channel. Which sales channel is their most profitable? Which sales channel produces the most/greatest amount of conversions for your clients?
This is where you win or lose.
If you get detailed and comprehensive answers to these questions, you'll have the data you need to provide compelling evidence to clients. Proof of your amazing work.
Ignore this upfront work and you lose.
Your clients may have doubts about the positive results they achieved from your hard work. Was it actually because of you? Fail to justify your agency as a profit center and clients may not want to continue paying you.
Step #2: Creating, designing and implementing a plan
You'll need to create a plan for your clients.
It's common for agencies to walk into a meeting with clients and shotgun their ideas all over the place. The results are often hit or miss. Maybe your clients see the value in what they're doing, maybe they don't.
There's a better way.
Ramit Sethi calls it the "Briefcase technique." Here's how it works. You give your clients a 30, 60 and 90 day plan to address specific problems your clients are facing. This plan outlines your client's problems. Then it covers what you'll do, how you'll do it, and the results you'll achieve.
Remember our list above?
That's your in. Your clients have already given you (directly or indirectly) the details you need to present your plan. The Briefcase technique gives you the structure and framework you need to create a plan your clients can say Yes to.
· Tell the whole story. You won't know which details matter most to a particular client. So you simply tell the whole story. This is a nuanced point that indicates your desire to give clients the whole story, not every story. Don't bury them with data. Focus on providing value.
· Outlines and summaries. Your plan will give clients the executive summary. A high-level overview view of what you'll do, why you'll do it, how you'll get it done. You'll present them with a concise retelling of the expected results.
· The plan, in detail. Your plan goes through the nitty-gritty details of your work. Your plan should always be value driven, tying everything in directly to the action steps you have in mind. For example, keyword optimization leads to more traffic + discovery. This leads to more conversions and sales.
· Metrics and KPIs. Your client will probably prefer to use the metrics above or something specific to identify success. The important step here is that you get their buy-in. Identify the metrics they feel will justify their spending. Do this ahead of time and you'll have the buy-in you need to increase your revenue.
See how everything depends on step one?
Step #2.5: What needs to be optimized?
Your clients are busy.
As a general rule of thumb, provide clients with the broad strokes in person. Spell it out for them in writing. You're most likely an experienced agency practitioner so you know what I'm about to say.
Get to the point.
Be valuable. Be brief. Be exceptional.
What about when you do spell things out? What specifically do you need to optimize on your client's review listings?
It's a lot to cover isn't it?
Some of this work is front loaded. Some of it requires a consistent amount of maintenance and vigilance. Others require more time and effort consistently (e.g. getting photos and videos).
You'll need to map these optimization facets to the goals I mentioned earlier. Some of this will be obvious to your clients. Other details (e.g. direct messaging) may be more difficult for clients to understand.
Step #3: Tracking results
You'll need to provide clients with a review monitoring tool that tracks the metrics and KPIs you discussed with your clients earlier.
You'll need a few ingredients to do that.
1. A review management tool to track the results. You and your clients have agreed on the metrics and KPIs that ultimately matter. But that doesn't mean these are the only metrics that matter. You'll need to be able to track additional metrics like sentiment, overall reputation, review activity and more.
2. A reliable web analytics tool to measure traffic, catalog conversions by channel/site and verify revenue. You'll need to know which ancillary metrics and reports impact key metrics and KPIs overall.
You'll need to have a clear idea of the reports that: (a.) matter more to you, as their agency and (b.) the data that matters to clients overall.
Here's another important detail you'll need to cover.
Your clients don't want to be the first. They'll want to see that optimization can produce results ahead of time. How do you provide that evidence?
With other businesses.
Here's an example. The Greece E Spoon is a Greek restaurant in historic downtown Sheboygan, WI. Their food and atmosphere is phenomenal so it makes sense that they have a cult following.
Here's what their listing looks like in Google.
Let's look at a service business.
Skyline electric is a service business based out of Chicago IL. They have a good reputation in their local community and they're known for doing great work.
Here's what their listing looks like in Google.
These businesses have taken the time to optimize their review site listings. They're focused on providing value to their customers so they're doing their best to be thorough.
Here's the thing.
There's always something that can be improved on. There's always another review site that needs to be optimized, managed or maintained. There's always work to be done.
How do you verify results?
There's a variety of tools and methods you can use to verify that your reviews are working. Here are a few approaches you can take.
1. Call tracking. A call is a click. Google call-only campaigns, call extensions via Google Ads, and comprehensive call tracking via platforms like Twilio are fantastic ways to track review site performance by platform. While Google provides you with a temporary number that's good for 90 days, other platforms, like Twilio give you telephone numbers you can use indefinitely. These platforms are excellent because they integrate with your review, CRM and analytics tools.
2. Incentives. You can provide channel-specific incentives on each platform. A discount for Yelp reviewers, a free download, offer or lead magnet for Google users and so on. These incentives give you the ability to attract and convert customers on your client's behalf using tried and true lead gen methods.
3. Landing pages. With offer specific content that's unique to a particular platform or channel. You can send customers to free tools (e.g. project estimators, quizzes or specialized tools). These tools prepare them to work with you, ruining them for the competition.
4. A combination. Using these three methods you can mix and match your tracking methods, identifying the approach that customers respond to best.
With the right analysis you'll be able to identify two things (1.) the tracking method your client's customers are most receptive to and (2.) which tracking methods provide the data you need to verify performance.
It's important to share your data.
You gain a more complete understanding of the campaign's performance if you integrate your data with your analytics and review management tools.
It's true, your client's review site listings are dynamic
This makes them dangerous.
A healthy review portfolio is one that's optimized and managed well. Review sites, as you know, abide by their own set of rules. Some details are more important than others.
Want to make your clients happy?
Show them how following the rules produces the traffic, conversions and revenue they need. Work with them to optimize the listings in their portfolio. Teach, protect and guide them. Show them you can produce the outcomes they desperately need.
Allow your clients to do nothing and their business begins to fade. Pull the right lever on your client's review portfolio and you change their future for the better.
Optimize relentlessly, maintain consistently and you'll find amazing results are your client's new reality.