If you are a local business and don’t have any online reviews or even just a few, you’re putting your business and your online reputation at tremendous risk.  Just 1 bad review could instantly start driving business away.  Today’s consumers are all turning to local online reviews as a vital piece of the decision making process on who to call or what store to visit. Therefore, here is a list of the top 10 ways that you can generate new reviews.  To be successful, you need to initiate a review campaign company/store wide and get all your employees behind it.

  1. Email.  The best way to get customers to give you a review is while they are online.  It’s unrealistic to think that simply asking them when they’re at the store and expecting them to remember later.  If you have a newsletter or a customer list, shoot an email to your list and ask politely for a customer review.
  2. Ask your fans!  If you have a Facebook page and have customers and/or partners who have become fans of your business, they are great targets to ask for a review.  They are already fans and they are more likely to be online and familiar with the review sites.
  3. Ask your followers!  If you have a Twitter page, post a message and request your followers to please review your business and include a link to the listings/sites that you want reviews.   You’ll need a URL shortener, such as, http://bit.ly/.
  4. Ask for reviews right on your website. This can allow you control to decide which ones you like. Publish your favorite endorsements right on your homepage and have a separate page listing all your endorsements.
  5. Include links on your website to your listings on the most popular local search sites (Google, Yelp, Citysearch, etc).
  6. Include review requests in all offline customer touchpoints: (Back of business cards, thank you cards, invoices, receipts, etc.  Be sure to include links.  Again, use a URL shortener, so it’s easier for your customers (and it looks much better than a long URL).
  7. Ask satisfied customers if they have a smartphone (iPhone, Blackberry, etc).  If appropriate, you can ask them to post a review before they even leave the store!
  8. Post a sign at your location as a reminder.  “If you leave here happy, please let us know on Google, Yelp, Citysearch., etc).
  9. Run an employee contest:  Those employees who get mentioned the most in reviews that month get a prize (Cash, paid day off, gift certificate, etc)
  10. Offer an incentive for reviews either through discounts, coupons, or other promotions (drawing).  For customers who write reviews, they will be automatically enrolled in a drawing for a prize (perhaps a discount for future service).

Some people are concerned that the last tip is bribing a customer for an online review and sometimes frowned upon.  Of course, these are only ideas so use which ones you like.  Reviews today are much like referrals today, and it’s pretty standard to offer discounts for referral business, so it may not be too out of line to offer a discount for a review.  Of course that depends on you, your business, and your customers. A few other important notes: You may get a negative review.  Don’t panic.  Negative reviews are normal and actually can be a good thing (if you have many more positive reviews).  Negative reviews provide validation that not all your reviews are made up.  Unfortunately today, many businesses do make up reviews, which is a shady practice at best. DO NOT make up your own reviews!  Sometimes it can be tempting.   Hopefully this isn’t happening at your store: Please whatever you do, don’t make up your own reviews.  There are review filters out there to try and prevent you from doing so, but they are not always caught.  However, consumers can quickly figure it out.  It’s pretty obvious when a business has hundreds of reviews and they are all 5 star.   In fact, often customers that have had a bad experience will see these reviews and call you out on it.  Or worse: One New York company was forced to pay $300,000 for fake online reviews. In fact, negative reviews are great feedback for your business and they provide you with an opportunity for a great turnaround.  If possible, reach out to the customer and see if you can turn the negative into a positive by offering a discount or even a refund.  Users will often update their review and talk about how great it was that you cared…or if you prefer, sometimes they can remove the review altogether.  For list of what’s possible on each site and more on how to monitor online reviews, see our article here: Be proud of your reviews!  Be sure to have your reviews posted on your website. If you are the top rated provider on Yelp, Google, Citysearch, etc, then post that on your site along with links to your profiles so potential customers can see them.  You may even want to post great reviews in your store.  Whatever employee gets the most reviews gets to wear a special pin that month.  Get everyone excited and motivated – that’s the key to a successful review campaign. Here are some related articles:  TOP 10 WAYS TO GET (AND PROFIT FROM) CUSTOMER REVIEWS: