We’ve interviewed some of the brightest minds in digital marketing here on the Grade.us blog. Many of these individuals spend a lot of time teaching companies how to develop review strategies.
It’s easy to think of them in a certain context: industry experts and specialists who know everything there is to know about the online review ecosystem.
They’re all that and more, but they’re also people. They use services, eat out, and visit hotels just like the rest of us do.
So we were curious:
What drives people who eat, drink, sleep, and breathe digital marketing to leave reviews themselves?
To find out, we asked some of them to tell us about the last review they wrote an online review, as well as what inspired them to write it.
One of answers I received was pure marketer (in a good way!), and it’s worth taking note of because it’s a technique agency owners and consultants might use with their own clients.
That was Jason Barnard, who told me:
“I wrote a review for a bar in Paris to demonstrate to a client how easy it is for a client to pick holes in decent service and write a negative review. I wanted them to see how hard it is to get an average of four stars and above.”
Not a bad way to demonstrate the need for a top-notch review strategy.
The rest of the answers offered some solid insights into the subconscious processes that can drive reviews, processes you can use to your advantage when you set out to build a review strategy.
Providing Solutions to Major Problems
“My last review was for our appliance repair guy. Our dryer conked out. He fixed it and I wanted to give him a shout-out—with a few relevant keywords, of course!”
Andrew didn’t come right out and say that he was relieved to have a working dryer again, but…c’mon. Bad dryer, a need to wear clean clothes, and a growing laundry backlog?
I’d be feeling relieved.
How to use it:
If you know you’ve just fixed a major problem for your customer and you know they’re feeling the relief, go ahead and ask for a review then and there. If you’re lucky, you may even get someone to use a few relevant keywords!
"I love you guys, but..."
“The last review I wrote was for a restaurant in Copenhagen. Now, I am a self-confessed foodie and we had a wonderful meal, which I wanted to share, but there was one negative—the restaurant was too hot, and I felt the owners needed to know to be able to improve.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that people who leave reviews do so out of a genuine desire to help a good business get better. What’s interesting about Becky’s statement is how much she liked the food.
How to use it:
Becky didn’t mention what star rating she gave the restaurant, but the takeaway remains the same.
Stay open to reviewers who tell you about their three-and-four star experiences.
It’s really easy to get caught up in focusing only on 5-star or 1-star reviews. In reality, the real meat of your review profiles, the stuff that’s really going to help you make your business better, may well be in those reviews that lie somewhere between the extremes of fury and glowing praise.
Finding a Diamond in the Rough
“The last business review I wrote was a couple of weeks ago for a small gift hamper [gift basket, for those of us in the States] company in South Africa for my mother’s birthday.
Being in the UK, trying to find a great gift service in South Africa is a complete nightmare. I have had more deliveries go astray than I can count.
The business was brilliant, and helped create and hand deliver the gift hamper on the right day. I was blown away and I had to leave them a review.”
We all know what it’s like to have trouble finding even a single company capable of doing a good job or treating people right. See also: cell service providers, insurance companies, and gyms.
So when you do find someone like that, yeah, you absolutely want to reward them. Heck, forget rewarding them. You want to make sure these guys stay in business so you don’t have to go back to dealing with their god-awful competitors!
How to use it:
While you might not be in an industry full of terrible choices, you are nevertheless in an industry full of competitors. Make a list of all of your competitors. What are they getting wrong? Way wrong?
Figure it out, then set out to do those things incredibly right.
Here’s an example. A client of mine builds decks in the northeast. He observed that 99% of deck builders in his area were not taking the time to properly attach decks to homes. He also observed that none of them were using ice and water shielding to prevent those decks from rotting right off the home and collapsing.
He of course did both, and gained a reputation for being one of the most, if not the most, professional, trustworthy, and skilled craftsmen in the area.
He also tackled all those other nasty “contractor things,” like failing to show up on time, failing to stick to the budget, and failing to complete the work. He focused on being a joy to work with, and it’s paid off. He now owns two businesses in that area, and both of them now have a 4.9 to 5-star profile across multiple review sites.
The Personal Touch
“The last review I left was for a small place on a beach that teaches people to surf.
I left the review because I had a great experience with it, and wanted to share that. However, I was pressed for time, so I just left a star review with no content.
My intention was to come back and write something later when I had more time, but within 15 minutes of leaving my review, I received a personalized response from the business, which I felt was a nice touch.
It made me feel like I was more than just a random customer, and because of this tiny, positive interaction, I’d absolutely recommend this place to everyone I know.”
The owner responded. To bang the drum one more time: you should be responding to every review, whether positive or negative. You should even respond to reviews with more text. We already know that means more reviews.
This tells us you can do even more.
How to use it:
First of all, the owner responded fast. 15-minutes fast, not 24-hours or 48-hours fast. How fast are you responding? Can you set up a process to make it faster?
Second, the owner personalized the response. A thing you can do even if there’s no text. For some ideas, check out: 15 Ways to Spice Up Your Positive Review Responses.
“The last review I wrote was about six weeks ago, for the birth doula my wife and I worked with at the beginning of this year.
I had meant to review her since our little guy was a couple of weeks old, but I like to put a lot of thought into reviews. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, over seven months had gone by.
You know what made me finally put in the time to write my finest review for our excellent doula?
Asking is awkward. Asking can seem super weird. Asking means remembering to have to ask. Stop telling us to ask, marketers, and tell us how we can have a supercharged review strategy that doesn’t make us feel so vulnerable.
Look, I totally get it, because I don’t like asking either, but I’ve got bad news: asking is still the power strategy in the review ecosystem.
How to use it:
Warmth and Kindness
“I stayed at a hotel on the coast just north of Barcelona. Nice place.
After we got home, we got a message letting us know they’d found the necklace. What necklace? It turns out the custom silver pendant I’d given my wife had fallen between some cushions…and it was on its way back to us.”
We offered to pay for shipping, but no. They would accept nothing. They just wanted to make sure we got it back safely.
I was very impressed, so I dropped everything, opened my laptop, and wrote a review.
I did it because they showed honesty, integrity, and generosity. I did it to say thank you.”
There’s probably some sort of social commentary to be found in the fact that honesty, integrity, and generosity are unusual enough to warrant praise. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic story about some really good people.
How to use it:
For just a moment, step away from your processes. Step away from sales. Step away from the notion of “customer service” entirely…all too often, customer service is a canned process.
This takeaway isn’t about improving operations. It’s about heart.
It’s about caring about people, doing the right thing, and treating people as people. It’s about putting people over profits, over convenience, over external rewards. It’s about being a person yourself, not a “brand.”
These people didn’t treat Andy like a customer. They treated him like a friend. This stuff is hardwired into our psyche. It’s basic. Fundamental.
So, if you treat all your customers that way too, success is sure to follow.