You’ve just won the contract.
Your new review management client has signed on for a 30 or 60-day pilot.
At this point, your clients may be interested in a month-to-month arrangement while they evaluate your performance.
Deliver results, and they continue.
Fail to deliver results, and your clients decide against renewing or extending their contract. It’s a wonderful, difficult and exciting time, all at once. How do you make it through your first 30 days? What are the strategies and tactics you’ll need to use to keep your new client happy?
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A knowledgeable local client is a happy local client
Your client needs a plan.
They’re focused on a specific set of details because they’re afraid. They’ve just taken a risk. They’ve signed on the dotted line, but they’re now feeling nervous.
Are they feeling buyer’s remorse?
At this point, they’re still happy with their decision. But there’s a nagging bit of doubt in the back of their minds.
What if my agency fails to deliver?
This is why it’s important to present clients with a plan that covers the first 30, 60, and 90 days of their campaign. This strategy isn’t new, and it isn’t complicated, but it’s incredibly important. Here’s why.
When you present your clients with a plan you…
Your client’s stress and anxiety grow when they don’t have a plan. Their mind attempts to fill in the blanks, outlining the important steps they’ll need to prevent a disaster.
Which, of course, they can’t.
They don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t have the knowledge and expertise needed to plan their campaign properly, and they know it. It’s a nightmare for you and for them.
This is why I recommend the briefcase technique.
With the briefcase technique, you have a clear presentation template you can use to present your plan.
What your plan should focus on first
You’ll need to determine whether you’re going to be focusing primarily on review management — getting reviews, monitoring reviews, marketing reviews, review reporting, etc. Review management is a fairly straightforward service.
On the other hand, if review management is part of your larger agency offering — PPC, SEO, local search, content marketing, etc., you’ll want to make that clear to any prospective clients you’re planning on taking on.
If review management is part of your full agency services package, you’ll want to do the things you always do, connect your service to the traffic, leads, and revenue you generate for your client.
Your review management campaigns are a bit of a paradox. In most cases, 30 days isn’t enough time to deliver truly game-changing results (by overcoming competitors that have been earning online reviews for a much longer period of time). But that’s exactly what inexperienced clients want.
They want validation.
Local businesses want you to deliver the quick wins they need to soothe their fears. Let’s take a look at how you go about using this playbook before we dive into the details of your 30-day plan.
You’ll want to approach this service with flexibility. Your clients have different preferences.
This playbook is a framework that’s oriented around two things:
- Action items
This framework ensures that you’re able to deliver reporting that meets your client’s goals in a way that suits their preferences. Adjust the framework as-needed with each of your clients.
As you’ll see, after the first meeting, you’ll have a better sense of the type of client that you’re working with and how the state of their reviews will influence your plan for them over the next 30 days.
In essence, this playbook includes kickoff meetings for intake, review site listings, review generation, and review monitoring.
After those initial meetings are squared away, weekly meetings that go over review responses, review marketing opportunities, and review performance reporting can be combined and conducted via Zoom or in person.
Let’s dive into the various kick off meetings we’ll want to cover.
Table of Contents
Week #1 - Meeting 1: Pre-client Review Management Services Intake
You’ll need specific information from your clients if you’re going to create a successful pitch, proposal, and campaign. Your intake process should provide you with the information you need to develop a review management strategy that’s customized around your client’s needs.
Summary: Client intake process
Your intake plan should provide you with information on your client’s:
You’ll need to address this ahead of time.
It’s important that you identify your client’s willingness to fulfill their role during the campaign ahead of time.
3. Goals and objectives:
You’ll want to differentiate between your client’s wants and needs. Wants take priority in a client’s mind because they’re desired. Needs are important but often ignored. Your client’s wants and needs give you clarity on their goals.
4. Preferred metrics and KPIs:
These are all important review management metrics. You’ll want to identify the metrics and KPIs that matter most to your clients, well before your kickoff meeting.
6. Current benchmarks:
You’ll need to get clear answers to qualitative and quantitative questions (e.g., traffic counts, conversion rate, revenue, profit per platform (e.g., Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.). You’ll also need a clear idea of the review sites (if any) that are being monitored.
Questions are the foundation of intake management.
You’ll also want to identify your delivery model vs. the delivery model your clients expect. There are a variety of options you and your clients can choose from. We’ve tied their delivery services into our pricing review management eBook if you’re looking for more guidance.
But in essence, there are five common options:
Diving into client expectations, goals, and objectives often reveals the answer that works best for your agency.
It’s still about questions though.
Your meetings should be focused primarily on gaining an understanding of your client’s business and their current circumstances.
The better your questions, the easier it will be to score quick wins for your clients in the short term, and consistent wins in the long term.
If your clients require you to create or optimize their Google My Business and industry-specific review site listings, you’ll need to ensure you’re gathering that information as well. You can always send out a more tailored questionnaire about business attributes for the listings before or after the initial intake meeting.
During the intake process, we discussed scenarios. Here are three of the most common scenarios you’ll see with clients.
Scenario #1: No reviews, no systems
In this scenario, your client’s review portfolio is non-existent. They have no listings, minimal internet presence, these clients are starting from scratch.
Your major goals for the first 30 days?
This scenario is by far the most ambitious. You have 30 days to validate the campaign (e.g. generate actionable results) for your clients. You’ll need to hit the ground running.
They’re most likely inexperienced.
Here’s why this scenario is so challenging. These clients, due to a lack of experience, are more likely to have a set of unrealistic, unspoken, or fuzzy expectations. If your clients have been in business for a while but haven’t earned any reviews, they may not have the tech-savvy needed to do that. You’ll need to focus your attention on giving these clients the extra help they need to generate results quickly.
They could also be opening a brand new business and have yet to develop hype in the form of online reviews. There may not be a large group of customers to initially send review request campaigns to.
Scenario #2: Some reviews, but no systems
Your client has some/a good portion of reviews but they don’t have systems in place. They’re not earning reviews consistently. Their review management campaigns are hit or miss, or simply nonexistent.
Your major goals for the first 30 days?
Implement systems to collect customer information and send out review request campaigns via email or text.
You’ll want to follow the protocols, processes, and schedule explicitly on your client’s behalf. This is primarily about consistency. Systems give you the chance to score quick/big wins.
It’s the low-hanging fruit you’ll need to pursue to keep this client type.
Scenario #3: Bad reviews or a bad reputation
Your client’s portfolio is filled with negative reviews. Their reputation is poor and they’re in dire need of a full review management/reputation rehabilitation.
Your goal for the first 30 days?
Stop the bleeding.
You’ll need to focus your attention on positive PR. Depending on your client’s industry you may need to:
Each scenario requires that you adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, clients with a poor reputation will require more outreach, PR, and customer service correction to repair the damage. Clients with no review portfolio will need a greater emphasis on review generation from their agency.
What about review management campaign setup?
Once you’ve completed your intake call, you can start working on the most intensive week of your ongoing review management service. Setup and onboarding.
If your clients do not have any listings claimed or setup, this will require more work on your end to start.
Week #1 - Action items: Goals, Tracking, and Listings Management
Here’s a list of the tasks you’ll complete once you’ve identified the type of client and scenario that you’re working with.
These tasks should be completed in your first week after the intake meeting, but before your kick-off meeting but after you’ve closed the deal with your new client. Let’s briefly go through and clarify each of these items.
Claim, set up, and optimize review site listings (if you’re offering listings management as a service):
Setup and verify relevant mainstream and industry-specific review sites for your clients.
You’ll want to confirm that the information on each profile is consistent and accurate, including your NAP, Q&A, descriptions, keywords, tags, reviews, call-to-action, incentives, attributes, amenities, and tracking details.
Action step: Claim, create, set up, and optimize each relevant review site. Setup the review listings for your mainstream, niche, and industry-specific review profiles.
Create an audit review site listings sheet
This worksheet lists the mainstream, niche, and specialty review sites in your client’s review portfolio. It’s an important assessment that shows you whether your review portfolio is balanced or top-heavy. You’ll want to create an audit spreadsheet or use an automated tool like Grade.us to assess your client’s initial performance.
Action step: Add your client’s review profiles to Grade.us or your spreadsheet.
Benchmark client review portfolio
It’s a snapshot of the beginning. Your client’s review portfolio at the start of their campaign. You’re also taking a snapshot via analytics. If your clients don’t have any of their listings set up, that’s fine, you’re starting from zero.
If they do have an existing set of listings, you’re looking at traffic sources, conversion rate, conversion rate by source, top content, revenue, and more. You’re looking at the data outlined in your goals, objectives, metrics, and KPIs.
If you’re using Grade.us, this is a semi-automated process once you’ve added your review site listings to your account.
Action step: Connect your client’s review site listings to their Grade.us profile and generate your first client report.
Set goals, objectives, metrics, and KPIs
Work to distinguish between the various goal sets (or packages) you have in mind — e.g., review management, conversion, and revenue goals.
Avoid vanity metrics (i.e., page views), focus on core metrics that correlate to specific goal sets (e.g., sales, # of leads generated, revenue, MRR, etc.).
For review management, you will want to focus on the number of reviews, improving the ratings, and freshness of your reviews.
Action step: Send goals summary to clients via email or chat.
Set conversion tracking tools
With review management, this will be tied primarily to your review site listings setup (e.g., Google Reviews, Facebook Recommendations, Yelp Reviews, etc.)
If you’re using call tracking, tracking URLs, bit.ly links, tracking pixels, or something similar to track content posted on review sites you’ll want to outline which conversion tracking tool is used where and when. Claire Carlile has a great blog post on using UTM Parameters for your Google My Business listing. You’ll want to test these details ahead of time, making sure your review and conversion tracking tools are working properly.
Action step: Set up tracking tools on an as-needed basis (e.g., adding UTM params)
Set review conversion goals
You’ll want to outline the conversion path from your client’s reviews on a particular review site from A-Z. Then, outline your review profile listing pages and finally concluding with the review and conversion (e.g., revenue, subscription, download, etc.).
Action step: Tie review goals to a specific business or financial goal.
Week #2 - Kickoff Meeting 1: Listing Optimization Review
Here’s a brief summary of the details that should be discussed in your kickoff meeting.
This is the start of your campaign and it’s a confirmation of the work that was done during the intake process. Once you’ve launched your client’s campaign, you can move into your weekly meetings and action steps which we’ll discuss below.
Week #2 - Action Items: Review Generation
Review generation works best when it revolves around a predetermined system. If you’re generating reviews manually, you’ll want to create a spreadsheet and templates to manage your review requests. You’ll also need to send these out manually.
What if you’re using review management software like Grade.us?
Here’s a list of the steps you’ll need to take to set up review generation ahead of your review generation kickoff meeting.
Your listings optimization, review portfolio audit, and goal setting should have been completed before your first kickoff meeting. In this phase, you’ll be covering the actual setup of your review funnel and review generation campaigns.
Set up the review funnel landing page
This is the landing page customers will see once they click the link in your review request email or text message. You can set this up in Grade.us directly.
Action steps: Create a review funnel page in Grade.us and add your review site profiles to your account. (3 to 4 min.)
Add the review funnel button and review stream to your client’s website
This next task may be something you are doing on behalf of your client or providing the code for their website manager to install. Identify a few places on their website to add the ‘Review Us’ button. This can be on their homepage, in the footer of their site, or on a specific Our Reviews page.
Action step: Send the embed code to your client’s developer to add to the site or add the code yourself if possible.
Create your email review request campaign
Design your email review request campaign. You can use the Grade.us default setup or you can customize the copy, the number of emails, and the design using these email review request campaign best practice recommendations.
Using the templates I’ve shared with you in a previous post, you’ll want to create review request email and SMS autoresponder templates. If you’re using software, load these templates into your review management software.
Time required: 5 to 15 min. depending on customization versus defaults.
Upload your client's customer list
Add recent customers to Grade.us in small batches (e.g., 5 to 20 customers). Make sure you have your customer’s permission to send them email or SMS messages.
Action steps: Upload customer lists to client account (5 to 20 min.).
Time required: 5 to 15 min.
Create the future workflows needed to get customer information
Gathering your customers’ email addresses, phone numbers (and their permission to contact them). This involves asking clients to:
- Send a list of customer contact details so you can add it to your Grade.us account or
- Have your client upload customer data in Grade.us themselves by providing them with the custom invite form.
You’ll want to identify the CRM your clients are using. If your agency is using Grade.us, you can integrate your client’s account with CRMs and MSPs like Zapier, Hubspot, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Constant Contact, and more. You can use these tools to trigger email and text review request campaigns.
Action step: Create a list of integration channels and integration requirements.
Review generation implementation
This is a full rollout of your review generation. Your review requests are integrated into various channels in your business (e.g. social, email, SMS, customer service, etc.). You’ll want to make it easy/natural to ask your clients’ customers for a review.
Action step: Send emails and SMS campaigns out to review request candidates.
You can begin sending your review requests when you’ve completed these steps.
Week #2 - Kickoff Meeting 2: Review Generation
Week #2 - Action Items: Review Monitoring
Configure review monitoring email notifications
The action items for review monitoring are simple. Ensure that your client and the appropriate employees are set up to receive email notifications when new reviews or feedback are received. You’ll want to verify that your review monitoring is being managed appropriately.
Action step: Add email addresses of your clients to Grade.us for review monitoring.
Create response templates
Customers expect your clients to respond to their reviews.
Create a rough series of templates responders can use to reply to reviewers whether the reviews are positive or negative (30 min to 1 hr). We’ve created a series of templates that you can adapt with both positive review responses and negative review responses.
Action step: Save response templates.
Week #2 Kickoff Meeting 2 - Review Monitoring
Here’s a brief summary of the review monitoring details to be discussed in your weekly monitoring meeting:
- Who is responsible for monitoring reviews (e.g. marketing, customer service, public relations)?
- Who is in charge of responding to reviews?
- Who has decision-making power/authority regarding review disputes (e.g., apologies, refunds, credits, exchanges, etc.)?
- Who needs to vet a review response before it’s published (e.g. client attorneys, marketing team, managers, etc.)?
- How much time do you need to respond to an individual review or a batch of reviews (e.g. 25 – 100 reviews at once across multiple sites)?
- Your review management campaign is set up to monitor and forward review notifications on the sites used frequently by your client’s customers (e.g., Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor).
- Both your agency and a client point-of-contact will be notified when your client receives new reviews.
- The right people (e.g., employees and your agency) will receive the notification.
- Responses are routed and assigned to the right department (e.g., customer service, marketing, your agency, etc.)
- You have the templates, framework, and tools needed to respond to reviews quickly.
- You have the analysis and reporting tools you need to identify important metrics, trends, changes, and details (e.g. sentiment analysis, overall rating, performance by platform, aggregate stars, etc.).
Week #2 - Action Items: Review Marketing
Your online reviews can be promoted at any stage of your marketing funnel. You can set reviews up to attract new customers. This all depends on your client’s goals and objectives. Here’s a list of the steps you can take to promote your client’s reviews.
If you’re using review management software, you can:
Automate sharing your 4 and 5-star reviews via social media
Set up social sharing for Google reviews, Facebook recommendations, and industry-specific review sites on Twitter and Facebook. You can customize your shared review with images and review content.
Action step: Set up social media sharing in Grade.us (5 to 10 min.)
Embed the review stream widget
Promote cornerstone reviews
Cornerstone reviews create activity. They attract more (positive) reviews. Cornerstone reviews are important because they can be used across a variety of marketing channels (e.g. email, text message, remarketing, display, search, and social media campaigns). Cornerstone reviews can also be displayed in your email campaigns and on your website and social media profiles.
Action steps: Promote reviews via social media, email, client websites, and advertising.
Week #2 Kickoff Meeting: Review Marketing
Once the initial setup of the review stream widget and social sharing are configured, you can use this section of the meeting to highlight some positive reviews that have come in and could be used in other marketing materials like email and advertising collateral. You might want to take the initiative and design some graphics using Canva to to provide to your clients.
Week #2 - Action Items: Review Reporting
Configure weekly review performance reports.
You can easily set up weekly review reports at the beginning of this process and then spend these meetings reviewing the new reviews, review ratings, and performance of email and SMS campaigns.
Action Item: Set up weekly emailed review performance reports.
Week #2 Kickoff Meeting: Review Reporting
You’ll want to provide your clients with regular updates.
This will give you the chance to show clients what’s happening, reduce buyer’s remorse and sell them on an extended contract. The aim here is simple. Your reporting needs to quickly demonstrate an increase or positive lift across your client’s goals, objectives, metrics, and KPIs. You have to demonstrate the ROI to survive.
Your reporting should provide clients with answers to important questions.
Work to set reporting guidelines. Create a review reporting plan, outlining who will receive the reports (e.g. executives, dept. managers, directors, etc.).
Which reviews (e.g. positive or negative) will be shared with employees?
Will employees in your incentive program receive more data than those who are not participating?
Creating and scheduling reports give you the data you need to track performance at-a-glance and demonstrate ROI to your clients. The first 30 days are absolutely vital.
Review management for agencies: The first 30 days are crucial
Your review management campaigns are a bit of a paradox. In most cases, 30 days isn’t enough time to deliver truly game-changing results. But that’s exactly what inexperienced clients want.
They want validation. Validation can come from some of the early wins. If they’re not used to getting a steady stream of positive reviews, those first few weeks can be satisfying for your client. A few 5 star reviews from happy customers celebrating your client can deliver an emotional boost that will drive momentum to execute the rest of the review management services that you offer.
It’s important to present clients with a plan that covers the first 30, 60, and 90 days of their campaign. Their stress and anxiety skyrocket when they don’t have a plan. Their mind attempts to fill in the blanks, doing everything they can to prevent a disaster.
Your first 30 days sets the tone.
It determines the success or failure of your campaign overall. You’ve won your client over. Deliver value and you’ll have what you need to keep your clients in the long term.