Your customers – and their reviews – are making themselves heard online. That doesn’t mean that you can’t promote your business offline. In fact, while it’s great to have online marketing, review tracking, and reputation management tools, it’s equally critical to close the loop between online and offline get the job done even while you’re away from the computer.
Here are 5 fantastic offline tips for generating online reviews:
Create special offers for walk-ins
A customer may have consulted the online review sites before heading out, but don’t think that you can’t positively influence their decision once they pass through the neighborhood. People love pleasant surprises, so cook up one of your own.
A sign outside your door announcing Happy Hour, a free dessert, or a special discounted price can encourage potential customers to walk in. Or you can wait until after a transaction to sweeten the deal and surprise them with a freebie or special coupons. The key is to identify key customer touchpoints and find ways to make these touchpoints truly special and memorable. Do that, and the next thing you know, your customers are writing a review about how happy they are with their decision to visit your place.
Promote your profiles, pages, listings, and networks
We don’t mean building links on the Web. We mean printing URLs on your business card, your press kits, your tarpaulin banners, your corporate giveaways, your window clings, your service desk signs, your sandwich boards, or even your employee t-shirts.
Don’t limit yourself to the official company website or blog, though. If you like, you can even promote your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, Google Places/ Google+ Local, and Urbanspoon pages – and encourage customers to check these out using their tablets, smartphones, or mobile devices. They just might decide to give you an awesome review right there and then.
Offer free Wi-Fi
It’s a simple investment that even small businesses can afford to make to support review management efforts: free Wi-Fi for customers. Its potential is huge, though, and it can quickly generate bigger buzz around your business. With instant Internet access, your customers can use their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and mobile devices to virtually “check in” at your place, geo-tag their posts, rate and review your business, and basically start more online conversations about you (that you can easily join, listen in, and respond to).
Engage with journalists, bloggers, industry authorities
There is a cluster of social networks out there that you can engage with, and we’re not just talking about fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Think journalists, bloggers, industry authorities. If you’re running a restaurant, it might make sense to invite a small group of food bloggers or critics for a casual roundtable over dinner. If you have a hair or nail salon, see if you can get a group of influential fashion, lifestyle, and women bloggers together for a day of pampering. The key is to reach out energetically to relevant segments and networks. Once word spreads around, the reviews will start coming.
Join events and host meet-ups
There will always be families coming and banding together, or a group of girls organizing a bachelorette party, or a community of expats looking for a place for their socials. If you have the space, why not offer your place as the venue for these like-minded people’s events and meet-ups?
Not only does this establish the capabilities of your business; it also multiplies the speed and the impact of your customers’ word-of-mouth. A bigger event means a greater likelihood that a review will be generated; to make it a positive review, you must focus on providing a positive customer experience. When people get together and have a great time, they’ll certainly be talking about it not just among themselves, but also with others who weren’t there.