review management projects

3 Proactive Review Management Projects To Start Planning Now For 2019

Why aren't more companies starting their business-boosting review management projects yet? Most businesses are reactive when they should be proactive. Read More...
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Why aren't more companies starting a business boosting review management project yet?

Most of the businesses in our country are small or medium-sized enterprises. Know what else these businesses have in common? They're terrible at planning ahead.

They're reactive when they should be proactive.

These businesses aren't focused on the upcoming year. They're focused on the details that are right in front of them.

Are you ready?

Most businesses aren't planning for 2019 in any marketing capacity yet

It's a missed opportunity.

It's an attribute that seems to be an inherent part of running a small business. When you manage a small business it seems you're always running from one fire to the next.

There's never enough time to plan ahead.

But that's exactly what your business needs. So what's the real reason, the main driver preventing businesses from accomplishing this?

They're too busy, too fearful.

You know what I'm talking about. 2019 is on its way. Are you ready? At this point, most small organizations aren't even thinking about the upcoming year. They're thinking about the holidays.

Which makes sense.

But that's exactly where your focus needs to be, especially if you're interested in surpassing your competitors. You'll need to be focused on the right projects.

I get it.

You're overworked and overwhelmed already.

Why bother?

Most organizations take their foot off the gas

They relax.

Your peers, competitors, partners and suppliers all do it. You're all struggling to achieve the kind of results you want. Then, the holiday rush approaches and everyone slows down. It's been a hard year and they just want to take a break.

Now's your chance.

If you're proactive it's your chance to pull ahead. But how? Doing what? It's not as if these details are clarified for everyone. Let's say you were willing to plan for the upcoming year. What could you do? Where should you direct your attention?

It's an important question.

You don't have a whole lot of time to throw at a problem so it's important to prioritize. Where do you direct your very limited time and attention for the upcoming year? How do you generate the most value from your time investment?

Two words: compounding and leverage.

Meaning, what?

Focus on the details that compound or provide leverage. Let's take a look at a few projects you can take on to jump ahead in 2019.

Review Management Project #1: Map the Overton Window

The Overton window is a descriptor for what's acceptable in our culture. These changes shift slowly but continually, which is why so many organizations are caught off guard.


What's acceptable today may be unacceptable tomorrow. What's popular today will fade into the past. This change is a consistent part of running a successful business.

Here's the problem.

Businesses, large and small, do their best to run from the changes predicted by the Overton window. They deny its existence, argue against it or simply refuse to accept it until they're overtaken.

Here are a few examples:

· Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 then hid it away until their stubbornness destroyed them.

· Yahoo refuses to buy Google for $1 million and is rapidly overtaken by Google.

· Blockbuster refuses to buy Netflix for $50 million and is eventually destroyed by... Netflix

· "There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share." Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, 2007

· Borders and Barnes & Noble are slowly strangled by the Kindle after refusing to adapt.

· Taxis cabs engaged in an ongoing war against Uber and Lyft.

See what I mean?

In each of these examples, the warning came, each of these companies had a chance to act on the changes predicted in the Overton window.

They ignored them.

What changes are coming for your industry? Are agencies being upended by specialists and low-cost providers like Upwork? Are retailers being smothered by Amazon and other big-box retailers?

What is the Overton window telling you?

The examples I've shared aren't limited to big businesses. Change comes for every business. Focus exclusively on your fires and, eventually, you'll run out of fuel.

Change doesn't discriminate.

How do you identify the change (good or bad) that's coming for your business? How do you overtake your competitors?

You guessed it. With reviews.

Why rely on reviews? Am I suggesting that reviews are the solution to every marketing problem?

Not at all.

So, why would reviews give you a look inside the Overton window?


Customers are conditioned to be "nice" in every other channel or setting. It can be difficult to get the truth from them. Reviewers, on the other hand, are typically motivated by:

1. Vengeance, punishment for corporate misdeeds

2. Anger and anxiety reduction. An attempt to self-soothe, to reduce negative emotions from a poor experience

3. Advice seeking to manage a poor or unfavorable experience

4. Reducing cognitive dissonance looking at positive reviews for reassurance on a decision already made

5. Helping your company in the form of reciprocity or reward for a job well done

6. Altruism e.g. looking out for others

7. Flare-ups in response to an event e.g. social justice faux pas, trending news, etc.

See it?

This is how you identify the change that's coming for you. You mine reviews for key performance indicators that matter most to your clients. You can search through...

  • Your reviews
  • Competitor reviews
  • Informal reviews (e.g. form posts, blog posts + comments, Q&A sites like Quora)
  • Job review boards

What specifically are you looking for from your reviewers?

  • Habits (good or bad)
  • Trends (positive or negative)
  • Serious problems to investigate
  • Key differentiators (e.g. clients think your product is much better)

What's so great about this data?

You're able to (a.) identify weak points in your competitor's service, product, business or strategy. (b.) You can use this data to identify triggers that will bring in more reviews. And, (c.) you can identify reviews you can use to convert more customers.

It's a mountain of data.

Review Management Project #2: Request more negative feedback

Wait, what?

Why on earth would you, would anyone, deliberately request more negative feedback? This sounds like an excruciating project. As if you're flirting with disaster. Remember the details I mentioned earlier? Here's why requesting more negative feedback is actually a good idea.

1. It flushes out dissatisfied customers. This encourages unhappy customers to share feedback they were more likely to keep to themselves.

2. Provides catharsis to dissatisfied customers. Give them a chance to unload on you privately rather than publicly. You're able to get detailed feedback from those carrying a grudge.

3. Find out "why." Why weren't prospects willing to work with you? Why were customers unhappy with your work? What were the risks, fears or doubts that kept prospects from signing up?

4. Identify your evangelists. Reaching out to evangelists gives them a chance to hold you accountable to the standards you've set in your business.

It can be frightening.

But it's also essential. If you'd like to attract more leads, sales and customers you need this data. Most organizations are taken by surprise. Then, only when they're hit with an avalanche of negativity, do they try to fix the problem.

It's too late to prevent the problem.

When you ask customers for their negative feedback, you gain an ally; because even if it's bad news, it's good news to know. Does this mean you ask customers to share their negative reviews online?

Absolutely not.

You ask customers for one-on-one feedback directly.


· Using a review funnel via tools like to capture negative feedback preemptively

· Request a five minute phone call using tools like UberConference

· Send out a group survey via tools like Typeform or Survey Monkey

· Send out email requests via your email service provider (e.g. MailChimp)

What are you looking for? The same details as before.

  • Habits (good or bad)
  • Trends (positive or negative)
  • Serious problems to investigate
  • Key differentiators (e.g. clients think your product is much better)

Here's the significant part about all of this. You can request negative reviews about your business and your competitor's businesses.

It's incredible.

With the right approach, you can gain insights from your dissatisfied customers. In addition to the details above you gain insights on:

  • The strengths you can use and the weaknesses you need to fix
  • Your competitor strengths and weaknesses
  • Areas of growth and decay (in your competitor’s business and your own)
  • The direction of customer sentiment (good, better, best; bad, worse, worst)
  • Clarity on what matters to customers

Wait a minute. How exactly do you go about getting these unhappy customers to talk to you?

1. Haro. If you or your competitors are established in your niche you can send out a request. You can make a specific request (e.g. I'm looking for customers of [competitor] who have had a bad experience). You can also make a general request (e.g. I'm looking for people who have purchased review/reputation management services and had things go awry).

2. Clearbit. Make a list of unhappy candidates. Then, use a tool/plugin like Clearbit to find reviewer email addresses. Then use our subject lines and email templates to reach out to unhappy prospects. You may receive a negative or aggressive response. Just remember, it's not personal to you. Don't let these reviewers pull you into their psychological frame.

3. Direct messages sent via review platforms themselves can yield good results. Reach out to active customers who are regular users to ensure that your message is received.

4. A cold contact via social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook) is a good way to attract attention from the unhappy reviewers on your list. You'll want to vet your list of candidates against the social media profiles you have to ensure you have the right person.

This can be painful.

If you're emotionally invested in the business as an owner, founder or executive it may hurt to hear the negative feedback. Don't ignore the pain. Don't try to stuff it down or act as if it hasn't hurt you.

Face it. Own it.

But process this pain privately. Provider/customer relationships are a lot like parent/child relationships. Give your customers child appropriate reactions. Be the protector or shield.

Protect them from your pain.

Don't take it out on them, but don't pretend it isn't happening.

Review Management Project #3: Balance your review portfolio

Pick a customer, any customer.

Can you tell me exactly what they're going to do in the next 30 seconds? A step-by-step retelling of every thought, word or action?


Neither can I. So why are review portfolios so imbalanced? Why do so many organizations assume they know which review site or review content matters most to their customers?

Strange, isn't it?

Customers decide which review sites matter to them and why. Industry-specific review sites tend to attract sales-ready prospects who are sophisticated shoppers. General review sites (e.g. Yelp, Facebook, Google) tend to attract generalists who aren't sure what they want.

There are pros and cons.

Generalists are teachable but they're typically not sales ready. Specialists are educated and knowledgeable but more difficult to close.

A balanced review portfolio gives you both.

You're able to attract a variety of customers via the review platforms that matter most to them. This gives you independence and power. You're protected against review platforms that shut down or go out of business. Against suspensions, reductions or eliminated reviews.

Makes sense?

It's simple and straightforward.

1. Make a list of the general and niche review sites relevant to your industry

2. Send customers to each of the sites in your list, taking note in Google Analytics of your top referral sources

3. Divert 80 percent of your reviews to top performers and the remaining 20 percent to the rest of the sites in your portfolio

4. Rinse and repeat

This 80/20 strategy gives you the performance boost you need from top performers and the balanced, sales-ready prospects from niche/specialty sites.

See the difference?

The majority of businesses aren't ready

They're focused on fires.

On the holidays, payroll or meeting customer needs. They're so focused on the fires that they neglect the details of the future. The details you need to outpace the competition.

They're reactive, never proactive.

They're doing their best to simply keep their head above water. Businesses large and small, they all face this problem. They're overwhelmed and overworked, it's the reason most organizations take their foot off the gas.

They're tired so they relax.

Your peers, competitors, partners and suppliers all do it. They're struggling to achieve the kind of results they want. Then the holiday rush approaches and everyone slows down. It's been a hard year, they just want to take a break.

They're too busy, too fearful.

You're aware of the problem so this means you have a choice. You have a chance to prepare and plan. Pursue the right projects and you'll have what you need to pull ahead of your competitors.

Pursue these projects and you'll find opportunities are everywhere.

About the Author

Andrew McDermott

Andrew McDermott is the co-founder of HooktoWin. He shows entrepreneurs how to attract and win new customers.