The not-so-secret to getting reviews and referrals

By Aaron Ward
on 17 September 2017

One of the very first things you learn in Marketing School(tm) is that happy customers are awesome. Happy customers buy more things and say nice things about you – to their friends, their family, to complete strangers on the internet… And those friends, family members and internet strangers can also turn into happy customers if you play your cards right. So you want to encourage reviews and referrals by doing a few very straightforward things.

AskNicely on G2Crowd

Reviews & referrals are marketing gold

TLDR: when you come across customers who want to say nice things about you, hold them tight and never let them go.

Positive word of mouth lowers the cost of customer acquisition, improving marketing effectiveness by over 50%. It also drives purchases: 77% of consumers are more likely to try a new product off the back of a personal recommendation, and 74% say it’s a key influencer of their purchasing decisions. These reviews and referrals are more effective when they come from a known and trusted source, but people still value the opinion of total strangers when it comes to buying things. Like, a surprising amount: 88% of us trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

How many times have you checked out reviews on Amazon for a product you’re interested in? How many of those reviews come from people you know personally? Chances are the answer is ‘none at all’, and yet you’ll still pay attention to – and pay up based on – what they have to say.

This is all very good news for marketers.

First, catch your advocates

Number one fans give great reviews

Your Number One Fan

Some happy customers will be super obvious; they’ll be the raving fans giving you 5 stars on every site they can find and defending your honour on Twitter. These ‘true’ advocates will promote your brand because they want to, not because you’ve asked or incentivized them to. You’ll still want to engage with them and shoot them occasional recognition though; very little makes fans happier than acknowledgement.

You’ll also have potential advocates among your customer base, though you may need to identify and activate them before they’ll actively start referring people your way.

Not sure how to go about unearthing these potential gold mines? The great thing about Net Promoter Score is it specifically identifies your promoters. These people have already told you they’ll say nice things about you – so make it easy for them to do it.

When you score a 9 or 10, ask for a testimonial and turn the feedback into a review onto Facebook or Yelp (or whatever site makes most sense for you) as soon as possible.

If you get low scores and comments that indicate escalating frustration or impending implosion, follow up directly. And fast. Negative word of mouth makes it more expensive to acquire new customers and can do serious damage to your brand’s overall reputation, so you want to nip it in the bud PDQ. Because NPS also identifies in real time those people who are feeling a bit down on your brand, you can leap in and get fixing before things get out of hand.

If people want to say nice things about you, help them do it publicly

The Wharton School of Business found 83% of satisfied customers were willing to refer a brand based on their positive experience, but only 29% followed through. And BrightLocal found that 71% would review a business if askedso ask!

Asking for reviews isn’t a big deal. Just send an (automated but still personal) email with a link when a completed survey meets the criteria. You can use your NPS tool or your marketing platform for this, but you don’t have to – and probably shouldn’t – rely on automation to do it all for you. If the customer fits a specific profile: high value, long tenure, already an advocate, it definitely makes sense to reach out for the review in person.

Publish testimonials on your website

I immediately regret this decisionIf you’re getting fantastic feedback, the first place it should go (after you’ve shared it internally) is on your own site. Every company on the internet says great things about itself, and most consumers have learned to ignore pretty much all of it. Instead of talking yourself up, let your testimonials speak for you. Do your customers like you? Do you deliver value? Do you listen? Does anyone seriously regret doing business with you?

This is important social proof, and it belongs on your website – the first place most customers will visit when they want to learn more about you. There are also additional benefits to this – user generated content is great for SEO – but since we’re all about the happy customers, you’ll be happy to know testimonials have been found to improve customer conversion and revenue. It’s not all for show, people.

Choosing external review sites

Which review sites you send people to depends on what works best in your space: a software company shouldn’t be asking for TripAdvisor or Zomato reviews, no matter how many squillions of views they get. Check your analytics and you’ll probably find that certain sites convert better, bring you more valuable customers or net you better scores, making the decision a no-brainer.

Incentivizing feedback

Some sites don’t let you bribe people for incentivize reviews, so check the terms of service first. You may find that the people who love you the best don’t need a sweetener to say nice things in any case; most will recommend a brand simply because they’ve had a good experience or want to be helpful.

If you do want to incentivize reviews, non-monetary bribes incentives are also an option, and may work better than cash incentives – they’re 24% more effective according to the University of Chicago. Like any kind of reward you want incentives to be relevant to whoever you’re bribing incentivizing, so if you go that route make sure you’re offering real value in exchange for their time and effort.

You might go with swag, or VIP experiences, or a free upgrade or feature unlock in return for a review – but you do need to have a good idea of what they value before you rush in and offer them that branded mouse pad…

One of the very first things you learn in Marketing School(tm) is that happy customers are awesome. Happy customers buy more things and say nice things about you – to their friends, their family, to complete strangers on the internet… And those friends, family members and internet strangers can also turn into happy customers if you play your cards right. So you want to encourage reviews and referrals by doing a few very straightforward things.

AskNicely on G2Crowd

Reviews & referrals are marketing gold

TLDR: when you come across customers who want to say nice things about you, hold them tight and never let them go.

Positive word of mouth lowers the cost of customer acquisition, improving marketing effectiveness by over 50%. It also drives purchases: 77% of consumers are more likely to try a new product off the back of a personal recommendation, and 74% say it’s a key influencer of their purchasing decisions. These reviews and referrals are more effective when they come from a known and trusted source, but people still value the opinion of total strangers when it comes to buying things. Like, a surprising amount: 88% of us trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

How many times have you checked out reviews on Amazon for a product you’re interested in? How many of those reviews come from people you know personally? Chances are the answer is ‘none at all’, and yet you’ll still pay attention to – and pay up based on – what they have to say.

This is all very good news for marketers.

First, catch your advocates

Number one fans give great reviews

Your Number One Fan

Some happy customers will be super obvious; they’ll be the raving fans giving you 5 stars on every site they can find and defending your honour on Twitter. These ‘true’ advocates will promote your brand because they want to, not because you’ve asked or incentivized them to. You’ll still want to engage with them and shoot them occasional recognition though; very little makes fans happier than acknowledgement.

You’ll also have potential advocates among your customer base, though you may need to identify and activate them before they’ll actively start referring people your way.

Not sure how to go about unearthing these potential gold mines? The great thing about Net Promoter Score is it specifically identifies your promoters. These people have already told you they’ll say nice things about you – so make it easy for them to do it.

When you score a 9 or 10, ask for a testimonial and turn the feedback into a review onto Facebook or Yelp (or whatever site makes most sense for you) as soon as possible.

If you get low scores and comments that indicate escalating frustration or impending implosion, follow up directly. And fast. Negative word of mouth makes it more expensive to acquire new customers and can do serious damage to your brand’s overall reputation, so you want to nip it in the bud PDQ. Because NPS also identifies in real time those people who are feeling a bit down on your brand, you can leap in and get fixing before things get out of hand.

If people want to say nice things about you, help them do it publicly

The Wharton School of Business found 83% of satisfied customers were willing to refer a brand based on their positive experience, but only 29% followed through. And BrightLocal found that 71% would review a business if askedso ask!

Asking for reviews isn’t a big deal. Just send an (automated but still personal) email with a link when a completed survey meets the criteria. You can use your NPS tool or your marketing platform for this, but you don’t have to – and probably shouldn’t – rely on automation to do it all for you. If the customer fits a specific profile: high value, long tenure, already an advocate, it definitely makes sense to reach out for the review in person.

Publish testimonials on your website

I immediately regret this decisionIf you’re getting fantastic feedback, the first place it should go (after you’ve shared it internally) is on your own site. Every company on the internet says great things about itself, and most consumers have learned to ignore pretty much all of it. Instead of talking yourself up, let your testimonials speak for you. Do your customers like you? Do you deliver value? Do you listen? Does anyone seriously regret doing business with you?

This is important social proof, and it belongs on your website – the first place most customers will visit when they want to learn more about you. There are also additional benefits to this – user generated content is great for SEO – but since we’re all about the happy customers, you’ll be happy to know testimonials have been found to improve customer conversion and revenue. It’s not all for show, people.

Choosing external review sites

Which review sites you send people to depends on what works best in your space: a software company shouldn’t be asking for TripAdvisor or Zomato reviews, no matter how many squillions of views they get. Check your analytics and you’ll probably find that certain sites convert better, bring you more valuable customers or net you better scores, making the decision a no-brainer.

Incentivizing feedback

Some sites don’t let you bribe people for incentivize reviews, so check the terms of service first. You may find that the people who love you the best don’t need a sweetener to say nice things in any case; most will recommend a brand simply because they’ve had a good experience or want to be helpful.

If you do want to incentivize reviews, non-monetary bribes incentives are also an option, and may work better than cash incentives – they’re 24% more effective according to the University of Chicago. Like any kind of reward you want incentives to be relevant to whoever you’re bribing incentivizing, so if you go that route make sure you’re offering real value in exchange for their time and effort.

You might go with swag, or VIP experiences, or a free upgrade or feature unlock in return for a review – but you do need to have a good idea of what they value before you rush in and offer them that branded mouse pad…


About the author

Aaron Ward

Aaron is the Co-Founder and CEO of AskNicely and one-time undefeated boxer (because it was only one time). He's a passionate evangelist for the new religion of advocacy but when he’s not spreading the gospel of NPS, he’s spending time with his lovely family. Or binge-watching Rocky movies.

Other posts by Aaron Ward

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