ROI of Online Review Management

How To Prove the ROI of Online Review Management

If you're a digital marketing agency prospecting for reputation management clients, demonstrating the ROI of online review management will close the deal.
Reading Time: 13 minutes

Updated: 6/17/2021

What’s the toughest part of review management? 

It isn’t getting the review. It isn’t even dealing with a flood of negative reviews from a horde of angry customers. No, the hardest part of online review management is something unexpected. 

It’s demonstrating the ROI of online review management. 

It’s a difficult thing to demonstrate, but as you’ll soon see, it’s absolutely necessary.

Ignoring the ROI of online review management means you'll lose

It’s not because you aren’t doing an exceptional job (you are). It’s also not because you don’t know what you’re doing (you do). On their own, these are legitimate reasons to validate your performance. But that’s not the real reason. 

Your competitors are looking to take (steal) the credit for your hard work.

If you’re serving a large organization, you’ll have competition from a variety of internal and external sources. At any given time, each of your competitors are looking to accomplish several specific goals:

1. Internal depts. want to maintain their current budget. Corporate depts. and teams are under a tremendous amount of pressure to justify their usefulness. When internal teams are successful, their budgets are maintained, team members keep their jobs, and the work continues. When they’re unsuccessful, budget cuts and layoffs are often the result.

2. Internal depts. want to increase their current budget. A select number of organizations like Accenture or Amazon subscribe to the “if you’re not growing you’re dying” mantra. Their corporate culture is a hyper-competitive form of social Darwinism. The amazing results you achieved yesterday will cost you your job today. Teams in these environments are expected to move up or move out.

3. Individuals are looking for a career-defining moment. In every organization, employees are jockeying for position. They need results to snag an upcoming promotion, win a coveted salary increase or snatch that corner office.

4. External competitors are looking to attract a bigger share of business from the organization. It’s common for organizations to work with a mix of external service providers. It’s also common that there’s a bit of overlap; your agency and a local PR firm both offer review management services.

When it comes to demonstrating the ROI of online review management, you can make a case for the obvious. Decision-makers want to know the work is worth their continued investment.

The hidden reason is much more nuanced.

You’ll need to demonstrate the value of online review management because those around you will take credit for your work if you don’t.

How are you supposed to do that?

How exactly do you go about determining or proving the ROI of online review management services?

First, learn how to sell review management to the C-suite

It’s a good idea to approach this from a few different angles; to do that, you’ll need to identify: 

1.  Your role in the review management process: If you’re an agency, you’re responsible for selling your client (via the executives) on the strategy for their review management campaign. You’re also responsible for implementing the work and managing the process. 

What if you’re part of an in-house team? Same thing —you’ll need to identify the information I’ve covered above, only it’s likely to be a bit more difficult. If you’re an in-house customer service or marketing team, you will be competing with other departments to maintain your current budget. 

2. The degree of influence you have on the decision-making process: Depending on the silos and internal politics at your company, the other departments may not be as willing to share all of the information you need to sway key decision-makers. That said, where there’s a will, there’s a way (more on that later).

3. Decision-maker goals, objectives, and metrics: The decision-makers in your organization — the owner, executives, directors, all have their own set of goals and objectives. Specific and actionable goals like increased traffic, revenue, profit, etc., are simple enough to achieve. If you do your homework (see below), you’ll have a clear idea of the potential impact this will have on your company. 

You’ll need to make sure that: (a.) you’re achieving your decision maker’s desired outcomes, (b.) your team (agency, dept, in-house team) receives ample credit for those outcomes, and (c.) you accommodate the individual goals that are also vying for attention (e.g., a career-defining moment, increased budget, avoiding layoffs, etc.). 

Your ability to manage macro and micro, group and individual goals will determine your ability to prove the ROI of review management. 

4. Your ability to achieve favorable outcomes: Telling someone something isn’t the same as showing them. When you sell decision makers on the ROI of review management, you’re also selling them on your ability to achieve these results. 

They’re going to need evidence from you showing that you have the appropriate systems and procedures in place to manage your review management campaigns effectively. If you’re part of a larger organization, you may also need to verify that certain legalities have been taken care of. 

This means you’ll need to show that your team can: 

        • Manage the current volume of reviews and content
        • Scale and manage reviews over time 
        • Respond appropriately to customer feedback across all profiles
        • Demonstrate the specific impact reviews have on the business
        • Amplify positive impact while minimizing the negative impact

All of this needs to be discussed ahead of time and demonstrated during the campaign. Management is an essential part of demonstrating the ROI of review management. 

Here’s the problem.

How to protect your review management gains

In-house departments want to maintain (or increase) their current budgets. Individuals are looking for a career-defining moment to make their big break. If you’re part of an agency, you’ll want to retain your client and expand your role. 

None of this is possible if you fail to protect your gains. 

Remember, there are a variety of competing sources working against you. Your competitors — in-house teams, other departments, individuals who feel they want to make an outsized impact on the campaign — they’re all looking to take credit for your gains. 

Don’t let them. 

How exactly do you go about protecting all that you’ve achieved with your review management campaigns? 

You use marketing attribution.

You can't take credit for your work without marketing attribution

When I mention marketing attribution I’m referring to a process that identifies a set of customer actions (e.g., events or touchpoints) that contribute, in some way, to the outcomes you want. This process assigns a value to those actions.

I know, I know, marketing 101. 

I’m not sharing this to be condescending and I’m not trying to insult your intelligence here. I want to make sure we’re on the same page because these definitions are our starting point.

Okay.

With marketing attribution you can:

Just one problem.

You’ll need an attribution model. Attribution models determine which touchpoint gets credit for what. An important distinction to make when you’re determining the value of online review management. If you’re working with a client, they may already have a preference for the model they choose.

success attribution model visual graphic

You can take the single source, fractional or algorithmic approach. Let’s say you’re using a service like Google AdWords or the Model Comparison tool in Google Analytics. You can use their tools to identify the attribution model that works best for you.

Try is for yourself!

Grade.us integrations make review management easier. Grade.us + Zapier + Google Analytics makes attribution a snap! Setup your Grade.us integrations for free on your 14-day trial. Try the Grade.us white labeled solution for 14 days free.

With the right attribution models in place, you can:


    •  
Here’s the thing about your attribution models.

The more favorable your attribution models are to other departments, the more likely they are to cooperate with you and share data. This reduces the fallout from organizational silos and turf wars. It also means that success in one department is likely to lead to success for your department. 

This is crucial for third-party providers and in-house teams. 

If marketing hires a review management agency, that provider is subject to all of the minutia and headaches that come with silos and turf wars. Cooperation is ideal whenever possible; a rising tide lifts all boats.

Doing this reassures decision-makers. 

With the right attribution model, you can show managers and executives that review management works well. This is an essential step that helps you to push through “The Dip.”

What’s The Dip?

The Dip is an inevitable part of your campaign; it’s a part of life, according to Seth Godin. 

“Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out fun…then gets really hard, and not much fun at all. You might be in a Dip—a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing.” 

Your review management campaigns are no different.

If you’ve done the upfront work to prepare decision-makers, they’ll know what to look for. They’ll have a clear sense of what to expect with the review management campaign and when it will begin to bear fruit. This is another component of “protecting your gains.” 

Why do you need this preparation? 

Decision-makers get nervous when the campaign slows down, when things get quiet and the results begin to slow. When that happens, they’re often tempted to back out or “pivot” to a tried and true strategy. Setting expectations ahead of time means decision makers are prepared for The Dip. 

It means you’ve given them the data they need to buy in. 

If there’s buy-in, decision-makers are much more likely to push through to the finish line. For your campaigns to be successful, you’ll need this kind of upfront preparation. 

Alright, then. 

What specifically are you looking for? 

And how exactly do you go about calculating the ROI of your online review management campaigns? You focus on two distinct areas.

1. Lost revenue (estimated). The revenue your client has lost as a result of negative reviews. This metric, at its core, is an estimate. The vast majority of customers won’t tell you if or why they’ve abandoned your business. This means our estimates will rely on research data.

2. Earned revenue. The revenue from your positive reviews and review content via review sites, social media, advertising, case studies, etc.

Let's look at lost revenue first

Research from Moz found businesses risk losing as many as:

So we’ll use this data for our formula.

Y = X / (100 – X)

Y = How many more customers you could have had (as a percentage)

X = Average percent of lost customers for businesses like yours

Where are we going to get X? From the data provided by Moz! If you have one negative result, X would be 21.9%, if it’s two 44.1% and so on.

Let’s say you’re working with a client with four negative results. 

4 negative results on Google SERP

Your formula would look like this: 

Y = 69.9 / (100 – 69.9)

Which means Y = 2.32 or 232% more business! 

Yikes. 

When you look at the data it makes sense, but it’s still pretty devastating. If this business isn’t on life support now, it will be if this disaster continues.

These negative reviews are killing this business. 

With more data (traffic numbers, average order values, conversion rate, etc.), you’ll have concrete numbers you can use. 

Next, let’s look at earned revenue

There are several different methods you can use to calculate this data. I’ve opted to focus on methods with data points clients are far more likely to share. 

Here’s a list of metrics you’ll need to calculate earned revenue:

Let’s plug some sample numbers for a B2B client, a small business accountant, into this figure.

$2,000 * 2 transactions per yr * 4 years = $16,000 lifetime value (per customer)

52.65 customers * $16,000 = $842,400 in projected revenue. 

These numbers are impressive.

This revenue isn't enough to overcome agency-client resistance

Why?

If you’re like most digital marketing agencies or in-house teams, you’re asking prospective clients to spend (invest) money! Experienced agencies immediately see the problem.

Which is why most agencies focus on the small-to-medium market.

This is a problem.

Small and medium-sized brands are looking for a few specific things from your agency.

Here’s a method you can use to give your clients what they want.

1. Use your formulas

The formulas above are helpful, but clients wonder about the return (after your investment is calculated). Here are some basic formulas you can use in your calculations.

Conversion rate: Y = X / T  or [conversion rate = converted leads / total leads]

ROAS: Y = V / S  or [Return on ad spend = Revenue / marketing cost]

ROI:  Y = (E – S) / S or [ROI = (Revenue earned total marketing expense) / total marketing expense]

If you’re an agency using these formulas to sell review management you’ll need the following data:

Using these basic formulas and the numbers above, you can provide clients with an accurate estimate of their expected return on investment (I’m assuming that you’re a competent marketer).

2. Minimize risk

The more risk your clients shoulder, the lower their return on investment. Increased risk acts as a barrier that increases buyer’s remorse. You can reduce risk in one of two ways:

How does this help?

Asking for a $1,500 to $6,000 per month retainer for review management is a tough sell. It’s doable, but it’s difficult to sustain if the results aren’t there immediately. This is the route most agencies take.

The less risky option?

A per lead model. This option is instantly attractive to most clients, especially when contrasted with sizable retainer agreements from other agencies. It’s easy for clients to swallow spending $20, $50 or even $150 for a lead.

It’s less risky, and it provides instant results for your clients as an agency (or as in-house team).

What about profit?

3. Maximize profit

You’ll want to maximize the profit for your clients and your agency. The ideal pricing or compensation model maximizes the return for your clients and your agency. Per lead pricing is a good model because it focuses client attention on the KPIs that matter most to them (e.g., clicks, leads, visits, conversions, etc.).

It’s also very profitable for agencies. 

Think about it.

Your client pays you $1,500 per month with no minimums or maximums for the results you produce. You’re paid the same whether you produce 14 leads or 14,000.

Per lead pricing changes that. 

Now imagine that you’re able to produce 750 leads per month for one client at a per lead cost of $50. You’re suddenly bringing in $37,500 per month (gross).

See the difference?

This is why the per lead model is so enticing for clients and agencies, it:

It’s powerful stuff.

What about review management? You can integrate this in any way you see fit. 

1. Charge clients a nominal fee for review profile management (with the per lead model as your main moneymaker)

2. Offer review management as a free bonus to rapidly boost trust, increase retention, and boost profitability.

What’s really incredible about all of this is the fact that your client’s review management campaigns boost the performance of your per lead campaigns! 

Here’s how it works.

Step #1: Choose specific verticals to specialize in – outdoor, banking, retail, finance, real estate, etc.

Step #2: Create (and test via analytics) landing page offers, layouts and formats for each specific vertical. Get to know what works for each industry. Create three categories of landing pages for cold, warm and hot traffic.

Step #3: Reach out to prospects in your target verticals with a compelling offer.

Step #4: Use a plugin like Grade.us Review Stream to promote your client’s reviews on your battle-tested landing pages.

Step #5: Drive traffic to the landing pages you have set up for your clients. Convert leads for your clients, then deliver those sales-ready leads to your client’s inbox.

Step #6: Invoice, rinse and repeat.

Use this system and your client’s reviews you’ve generated using a review management tool 😉 to boost conversion rates and revenue rapidly.

Can reviews boost conversions on your lead gen landing pages?

They most definitely can.

Research from Reevoo found:

“Businesses displaying ratings and reviews experience average revenue uplifts of around 18%.”

Other sources estimate the lift from online reviews to be even higher. 

Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center analyzed 57,000 reviews from anonymous consumers and 65,000 reviews from verified buyers of more than 13,500 unique products in diverse categories. Their findings mentioned reviews could increase conversion rates by 270%!

Nice!

Research from Harvard University found that restaurants experienced a significant lift in conversion.

“Each ratings star added on a Yelp review translated to anywhere from a 5% to 9% effect on revenues.”

Pretty significant, right?

Okay then. How would this affect our $842,400 in projected revenue from our earlier example if we used Reevoo’s conservative 18% lift? 

Revenue balloons to a whopping $994,032! 

Yes!

What if we used Northwestern’s numbers? We get $3,116,880! That’s a sizable lift in revenue. 

Massive!

Online reviews matter very, very much. Quantifying the ROI of online review management takes work, but as you can see, it’s worth it. Here’s another important detail to cover.

When they’re structured properly, online review management campaigns pay for themselves!

What a time to be alive.

The ROI of online review management is there. Now you can prove it

But it’s not an exact science.

Variables like sentiment – how your customers feel about your product, service or business are difficult to measure. But that doesn’t mean the value isn’t there. 

Surveys, focus groups and customer interviews enable you to draw out the qualitative data. The formulas above give you the quantitative data you need to make a solid case for online review management. It’s the best of both worlds. 

What’s the toughest part of online review management? 

It isn’t getting the review. It isn’t dealing with negative reviews from an online lynch mob – that can be fixed. It’s demonstrating the value, the ROI of ORM to decision-makers. 

If decision-makers can’t see it, they won’t invest. 

When you’re missing the qualitative and quantitative data you need, it’s easy to feel like your budget is being wasted. But as we’ve seen, the ROI is there.

Focus on the ROI of online review management. 

You’ll find a successful campaign is easier than you expected.

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