Online reputation management (ORM) has evolved into an essential necessity of digital marketing. Any business with an online presence needs to actively manage their online reviews. With many businesses adjusting to the new normal, your online reviews can highlight your customers’ current expectations of you, but also support you as you future proof your business. Online reviews increase your company’s visibility and social proof benefiting your customer growth, customer retention, and repeat business.
But like most marketing channels, it’s critical for your business to take a proactive approach to your online reviews and control the narrative.
What does that look like for online review management? It means having ORM strategies in place that address:
- Review generation. How do you consistently earn a steady stream of positive reviews across multiple online review sites?
- Review monitoring. How do you respond to positive and negative reviews in a timely, efficient, and effective fashion?
- Review marketing. How do you take your best reviews and elevate them to help you bring in new customers and celebrate your happy customers?
Not only will we help you think about how to tailor an online review management strategy tailored for your business and industry (since different industries have different nuances), we’ll help you implement these strategies with an actionable checklist for you and your team.
Let’s get started.
How to use this review management checklist
The details we’ll share have a cumulative and compounding effect on your business. The more of these tips and strategies you include, the better your review portfolio will be.
Think 2 + 2 = 400.
These details give you the leverage you need to dramatically improve the results you’re able to achieve from your online reviews.
Treat this checklist like a buffet.
Pick and choose the tools and resources that will work best for your business. I recommend giving all of these details a try as you’ll find your results increase exponentially when used holistically.
The Business Fulfillment Checklist
It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a service or product business. Whether you’re focused locally, regionally, or nationally. Your fulfillment needs to be top-shelf.
This is the basis of every review.
Prospective customers want to know:
a.) Are you safe and trustworthy?
b.) Did you deliver as promised (or over-deliver)?
c.) Have you helped businesses similar to theirs?
Here are a few examples demonstrating the impact business fulfillment has on your business.
Several customers have proclaimed that this restaurant is the best restaurant in all of Chicago. Dig through these five-star reviews and you see something significant. Negative feedback! That’s right, these five-star reviews still mention fulfillment details that can be improved.
Fulfillment plays a significant role in healthcare as well. Patients want to see that the healthcare professional that they’ve selected prioritize them in a time of need. Often times they’re terrified or overwhelmed by the medical issues they face. Good bedside manner is a byproduct of the relationship and intentions hidden beneath.
This example demonstrates the care, guidance, and protection service providers are expected to deliver, even in the legal industry.
Home renovations and repair
Take a look at the highlights in this review. “The response to our call was immediate and promptly scheduled and arrived on time. Work was done in very little time and it was beautiful work.”
Here’s another reason why fulfillment is so significant. You aren’t always privy to the “why.” This customer had a herniated disk injury, the owners at this gym customized his training, enabling him to continue to exercise. He achieved greater mobility after a major back injury.
It’s an unpleasant and uncommon example for the hospitality industry, but it demonstrates the importance fulfillment has on your business.
Here are a few ideas you can use to delight customers with your fulfillment operations.
- Ship products on the same day orders are received.
- Intention has a smell. Show your patients, customers, or clients that you have the very best of intentions for them.
- Provide customers with a service timeline outlining what will happen and when.
- Always act in your customer’s best interests. Provide them with the care, guidance, and protection they need. If you’ve made a mistake or there’s an error in a customer’s order and they need assistance, provide it even if that hurts you financially.
- Consider providing free/discounted shipping both ways.
- Ensure products are delivered on or before delivery due dates.
- Give service customers regular status updates (e.g. weekly, monthly, etc.).
- Provide service deliverables early or on time.
- Give customers more than you’ve promised whether that’s faster delivery, a lower price, more than expected, or additional surprise bonuses.
- Provide customers with advance notice in the event that you’re unable to meet/keep your promise.
- Provide customers with advance notice in the event that you’re unable to meet/keep your promise.
- Share a concise recovery plan with customers when you’re unable to keep your promises. Explain why the failure happened, how you plan to fix it, and when results will be back to normal.
This can be tough to do.
Eating the cost of a mistake, for example, can be a bitter pill to swallow. It’s far more tempting to hang the mistake around your customer’s neck instead. Fulfillment forms the basis of your review management portfolio. Your ability to deliver on your promises sets the tone for the reviews you receive.
Review Management Audit Checklist
Reviews are the foundation of almost any marketing campaign. At some point, customers will want you to prove or validate the claims you’ve made about your business.
Reviews do that.
Improving reviews then requires that you take stock of your review management campaigns and portfolios with a review management audit.
Here’s a list of the basic details you’ll need to have in place to set your campaigns up properly.
1. Create a review listings audit spreadsheet
Make a list of the mainstream, niche, and specialty review sites unique to your industry.
Examples of specialty or industry-specific review sites could be ZocDoc reviews for doctors, Edmunds.com reviews for auto dealers, Houzz reviews for home services, Zillow reviews for realtors, or Avvo reviews for attorneys.
Search for your business and each location you’d like to verify. You’ll want to verify that you’ve claimed/control each listing.
Next, you’ll want to take stock of (a.) the total number of reviews and (b.) the number of reviews received in the last three months.
Why the last three months?
Because 85% of customers believe local reviews older than three months are irrelevant and not as meaningful. Don’t misunderstand here, reviews older than three months are still valuable as they establish the weight, sentiment, and tone of your review portfolio.
Customers focus on recency because they want to see that you’re still the same amazing company previous reviewers say you are. They want to verify that you haven’t changed, that service quality hasn’t declined.
2. Claim, set up and optimize review site listings (if you’re starting from scratch)
If you’re starting from scratch you’ll want to create/claim, set up, and optimize your review site listings. Here are instructions for claiming each of the mainstream sites.
Here is a detailed walkthrough and optimization tutorial for your Google My Business account.
Go through and set up profiles for optimization on each of your niche/industry-specific sites as well. An optimized review profile includes:
- NAP (name, address and phone)
- Photos + videos
- Question and answers and/or FAQs (where relevant)
- Keywords + tags + categories
- Hours of operation
- Website address
- Booking and/or appointment URLs (if applicable)
- Tracking details (e.g. discount/store codes, ad extensions, call tracking phone numbers, labels, etc.)
- Call to action
- Balanced reviews (5:1 ratio)
3. Set Quarterly Goals
If you’ve read my previous post on review management ROI, you know the value of aggregate reviews in the search results. You’ll want to set specific goals for your review management campaign.
- Internal goals e.g. five new 4 or 5-star reviews on three different review sites each month. Be sure to prioritize Google and other mainstream platforms first.
- External goals e.g. overtake competitors on mainstream and niche review sites (more five-star reviews) by the end of Q2. Make a systematic effort to catch, outperform, and surpass your competitors on each and every applicable review site.
- These comprehensive guides provide you with the step-by-step details you need to handle review management goal setting profitably.
Why does this matter?
Because prospective customers set the tone here. They decide which review site matters most to them. These review sites are a fundamental part of their decision-making process. Your business should be present on each of the review sites prospective customers use to find what they need.
Strategy and Implementation Review Management Checklist
You’ll need to determine the who, what, where, when, and how of your campaign. Take the time to define your campaign strategy, roles, and responsibilities, details, etc.
1. Set review governance and processes
- Decide who is in charge of review management. Is it your customer support team, your marketing dept., business owner, or marketing agency?
- Create review management protocols. If you’re using review management software, you’ll want to set up notifications for each of the review platforms you’ve listed earlier so they’re able to respond to reviews as they come in.
- Create employee incentive programs. What can you do/offer to motivate employees so they’re more willing to request reviews? Which employees can participate?
- Create a response policy. Which reviews do you respond to (all, positive, negative, neutral) and when? Will you provide employees with scripts and templates they can use? Are they free to respond as they need to or do they need to respond specifically as outlined in your documentation? What should the overall tone of their responses be? How much authority will responders have/receive to solve/resolve customer concerns?
- 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?
- Set distribution guidelines for incentives. Determine when employees receive review generation incentives. Are incentives distributed privately, publicly (inside the company?)
2. Review generation implementation
How will you acquire reviews? You’ll need to determine whether you plan on using review management software or plan on requesting reviews manually.
You’ll need to:
1. Set up review funnel (landing page with review site links – make it easy to leave reviews). Here’s a demo from Grade.us showing you the ins and outs of your review funnel.
2. Set up email drip campaigns to automate review requests
When determining up your email review request campaigns, there are a variety of ways to think about how you reach out and automate your emails. You’ll want to:
1. Determine your campaign’s cadence.
- How many emails?
- When will they be sent?
- Where will customers send replies?
2. Write copy for email campaigns.
3. Personalize your emails with names placeholders.
4. Include links to review sites or your review funnel.
5. Configure your review management tool with your email service provider.
Review Marketing Checklist
The more you share your reviews, the harder they work for you. Here’s a set of details you can use to improve the effectiveness of each and every review.
- Set up a testimonials/review showcase page on your website.
- Install and connect an automated plugin with curated reviews.
- If you don’t have access to a plugin of your own, set a schedule for adding new reviews.
- Manually write reviews in review schema or an automated plugin like review stream to include schema data automatically.
- Add first-party reviews into your review portfolio mix. Create a page on your website with reviews listed which includes schema data.
- Create a sharing strategy for social sharing.
- Choose the social media platforms you’ll use to share your reviews (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.).
- Set automated share settings if you’re using a review management platform. If you’re sharing your reviews manually you’ll want to create a social sharing plan.
- Determine when positive reviews will be shared.
- Decide the ratings you’ll share (e.g. 4 and 5 stars? Only 5 stars?).
- Outline how these reviews will be shared (e.g. manually vs. scheduled, designed as an image vs. review site link).
- Create a list of one, three, four, and five-star reviews to promote. Why one and three-star reviews? You can use them as compelling evidence to show that you’ve changed.
- Create a set of irresistible offers or tripwires to pair with your one, three, four, and five-star reviews.
- Identify the advertising platforms you’ll use to promote your reviews (e.g., Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Display Network, third party display advertising, etc.).
- Create a list of internal/external sources you can use to promote reviews (e.g., proposals, quotes, as email signatures, on opt-in and sales confirmation pages, product pages, etc.).
Reviews are incredibly effective conversion tools. There are tons of ways to use review in your marketing materials.
They’re even more effective when they’re promoted and shared with customers as a consistent part of your review marketing and promotional efforts.
Customer Service Checklist
Customer service is an often neglected part of review management. Many times the decision to write a review (positive or negative) is based entirely on a customer’s recent interactions with customer service.
Customers, for the most part, aren’t unreasonable. They’re aware of the fact that you’re human and that humans make mistakes. They just want you to own, fix, and avoid repeating those mistakes.
Here’s how you provide exceptional customer service.
1. Make sure support knows the product or service
Customers expect your support teams to have in-depth knowledge of the product or service you’re offering. Many customer support teams at large and small organizations aren’t knowledgeable. Why?
Because management would have to pay them more! Knowledgeable reps are exceptionally valuable and for good reason.
- Provide comprehensive training for customer-facing teams (e.g. support, sales, etc.).
- Conduct monthly, quarterly and annual testing on business, product/service details.
- Reward employees with the highest scores.
- Provide employees with strong incentives to maintain high product knowledge.
- Consider paying more/reducing the size of your support team.
2. Monitor competitor/industry sentiment
Do you have your finger on the pulse of the marketplace? Do you know what customers are saying about your competitors and your industry?
You can use tools like:
- Google Alerts monitoring keyword-driven queries on the web.
- Fanbooster for social listening/monitoring.
- BoardReader forum search and sentiment analysis.
- Grade.us for review monitoring, management, and analysis.
Additionally, there are a plethora of additional options for you to choose from.
If your customers or competitors are on a particular platform, you’ll want to monitor those platforms accordingly.
In a spreadsheet, include monthly details on:
- Whether industry sentiment is trending up or down.
- Competitors who are gaining or losing favor in the marketplace.
- Sensitivities or expectations regarding delivery, price, product, service, or support.
- Opportunities to pull ahead of or outperform competitors (via competitor miss-steps, gaps in their offering, or +/- industry changes).
You’ll also want to analyze the general, overall direction of your review portfolio. You’ll want to analyze the:
- Quantity of reviews
- Quality of reviews
- The overall sentiment and trends in particular
It’s also a good idea to integrate the reporting in your review management platform with your Google account, so you can bring your data into their platform. Here’s a detailed breakdown that gives you a small taste of what’s possible with the data you already have.
Reviews, as you know, are incredibly important.
But they’re underutilized.
Once they’ve received them, most businesses neglect their reviews. They fail to provide their customers with the underlying structure they need to help their business.
They don’t see the connection.
You’re now in the know. Online reviews are kingmakers – if you know how to use them properly. As we’ve seen, online reviews can be used throughout the sales and marketing funnel. But only if your review management campaign has structure – the systems and procedures needed to perform well.
Can you deliver?
You can if you follow the items listed in this checklist. With a clear plan to follow and some upfront preparation, you’ll have the resources you need to run circles around the competition. A complete surprise to everyone, except you.