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Who would’ve thought that ONLINE REVIEWS would be more important than CAPABILITIES, REPUTATION & EXPERIENCE?

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

About a year ago, I wrote about a trend we were seeing, that online reviews had become “the nitroglycerin of online marketing.”  They were now extremely powerful, which meant they could be VERY GOOD or VERY BAD.  As stated in a now widely-published survey of residential homeowners:

  • 88% of survey respondents said their buying decisions were influenced by online reviews.
  • 86% of those respondents said they would PAY MORE for a company with good online reviews.
  • And 86% of the respondents said they’d be reluctant to buy from anyone with NEGATIVE REVIEWS.

So I dutifully encouraged you to start soliciting positive online reviews.  I even gave you an e-mail template you could use to do this yourself.  For FREE!  But as best I can tell, very few people actually implemented it. (I understand  “the best of intentions” and “other things came up…” etc.) And that’s BAD, because all of your marketing and sales efforts can be squashed by a couple of ugly 1-star reviews.

If you’ve got negative reviews, you MUST take action,
or forever suffer the consequences.

I know that Yelp has this notorious habit of hiding your GOOD reviews, and letting your one or two NEGATIVE reviews bubble to the top.

It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, and it’s probably even financially painful, because it can stop your phone from ringing.  But calling Yelp to complain about it is a waste of time.  They’re just going to tell you “We have no control over it.  It’s a computer algorithm…”  Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter, because the bottom line is that they’re not going to help you.

So I suggest you try the only 2 things we know that work:

1. Write a response to all negative reviews.

I’ve heard some people say “you shouldn’t respond, because that will prove you’re guilty.  I think that’s absolutely horrible advice.  Because if someone says something nasty about you (especially along the lines of “they never respond to me…“), and you don’t respond, then you just proved their point.

It’s MUCH better to write a response that is at the same time:

  • Concise
  • Unemotional
  • Empathetic
  • Humble
  • Exhibiting concern and disappointment in the outcome, and a desire to “make things right.”
  • But not going to get you into trouble in a court of law.

Hey, I didn’t say this would be easy.  But this is nitroglycerin we’re talking about, right?  You’ve got to say SOMETHING.  Just remember – the goal is NOT to try to change the mind of the complainer, but instead to influence the minds of the 1000 OTHER people/prospects who are quietly “observing” this conversation, and wanting to see how you’re going to handle it.

2. Dilute the negatives with as many positive reviews as possible.

As mentioned previously, you COULD do this yourself using the e-mail strategy I described last year. OR you could do what I did, and let a 3rd party company manage it for you.

I recently tested the services of a company out of Dallas Texas called Survey Local.  All we had to do was upload a list of e-mails through their “dashboard” and they implemented their program.  It works like this:

  • They invite the homeowners to comment (privately, via email) on their experience with your company.
  • They REWARD the homeowner with the opportunity to win a $100 gift card, in return for their effort.
  • If they say something POSITIVE, they are directed to Yelp, Google+, HOUZZ, etc., so that they can immediately post that comment online.
  • If they say something NEGATIVE, the comment goes back to YOU so that you can take the appropriate actions, and make sure it DOESN’T eventually wind up online somewhere.
  • They will “trickle” these messages out so that Yelp doesn’t “red flag” the reviews as suspicious.

Within 5 days, we had 3 brand-new 5-star reviews
All pushing the negative reviews down the page.

Yes, we were VERY happy.

The cost was something like $149 a month, with no long-term contract. (Are you listening HOUZZ?) If you’re interested in giving this a try, I suggest you contact Sean Packard directly at Survey Local.  He already understands the swimming pool industry, and he might even give you a discount if you mention my name.

Call Sean at (469) 454-1741, or e-mail him at seanpackard@surveylocal.com.

If you don’t want to solicit the reviews yourself, hire Survey Local to do it for you.

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