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You might want to re-think the ask
You want to increase the number of reviews written about your dealership on online consumer and automotive review sites, right? The first step in any review-building initiative is developing a system or process for consistently asking satisfied customers to write reviews. But if you want to accelerate your results, maybe it’s time to take another look at how you are positioning the ask.
Think about it this way: have you ever had a friend who tended to dominate every conversation by always talking about him or herself? Did you wind up tuning him out over time? Perhaps you’ve had friends who always need a “favor” and rarely, if ever, offer help in return. Did these friendships last, or did they wane because they were just too one-sided?
Now ask yourself whether you have a one-sided relationship with your customers. Before you answer, pause for a moment and put yourself in your customers’ shoes; after all, their perception is all that really matters in this scenario. Is it always all about you (and your dealership) with your customers? Buy a car from me. Please give me good scores on the factory survey. Service your car with me. Refer your friends to me. Write a review about your dealership experience for me. Me, me, me, me, me! Is it possible that you’ve asked your customers to do so much for you that, by the time you ask them to write a review about your dealership on Google+, Yelp, DealerRater, CitySearch, or one of the many other consumer review sites, your customers are ready to scream, “Why is it always all about you?!”
Of course you want to win the hearts and minds of the seven out of ten car shoppers who consult leading consumer review sites before making buying decisions. You’ve been following the studies, so you know that 70% of customers trust consumer reviews, while only 47% trust paid advertising (2012 Global Trust in Advertising Report by Neilsen). You also know that 80% of customers have changed their minds about a buying decision after reading a negative review (2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker study from Cone Inc.). And you know that dealerships without many reviews on Google receive less web traffic—and by extension, fewer sales—than dealers with more robust review presences. As if that’s not compelling enough, having a well-optimized presence on review sites and a steady supply of user generated content (UGC) in the form of consumer reviews also helps with organic SEO.
The increasing significance of consumer reviews is part of the wave of consumer empowerment taking place online. Brands and businesses are no longer in control of the message. The days of relying exclusively on one-way broadcasting with controlled advertising are over. Conversations are taking place between consumers online on social media sites, and personal experiences with products and businesses are being posted regularly on online review sites.
The feedback shoppers share about their experiences buying or servicing a car at an automobile dealership means more to other consumers with an automotive need than anything the dealership could ever promote through advertising.
In addition, while it is well known that many consumers interact with businesses in social media primarily to access deals or special offers, many consumers post information about businesses or products because they enjoy sharing knowledge, being an authority, and/or helping others. Money is not the only currency that has value in the real and virtual worlds. Information is currency. Thought leadership is currency. Knowing something that others don’t is currency. The good karma that comes from assisting others is currency. Would Wikipedia, Amazon reviews, Dell’s Idea Storm, the blogosphere, and countless other knowledge-sharing sites exist if it weren’t for these natural human impulses?
Bearing all of this in mind, instead of asking your customers to write a review about your dealership for you, try asking them to write a review describing their positive experience in order to help others. Appealing to the Good Samaritan in everyone (or the ego as the case may be) and asking them to contribute to the collective intelligence online by writing a review will likely resonate more with your customers than asking them to do something else for you.
But enough about me and what I think. I’m interested in what you have to say. How are you reaching out to your customers to encourage them to write reviews? Has anyone experimented with different approaches? What kind of results have you seen? What has been most effective for you?
A version of this article was originally published in the August issue of “Hot Off the Wire” the official 3 Birds Marketing newsletter (http://www.3birdsmarketingnews.com/news/2012/3BirdsAugust16Newsletter/ ). You can connect with Kristen here, on Twitter as @kwjudd and @3birdsmarketing or on LinkedIn.