How to Ask for Your First Reviews

As a startup, it can be tough getting those first few reviews—especially if you are looking for great reviews! People are much quicker to dole out complaints and criticisms rather than compliments, (particularly in writing), and actually sitting down to write a review takes a lot of work and effort. Unfortunately, even one bad review can be troublesome for a new business. Since so many people check online for reviews to get recommendations or look for suggestions before trying a new shop, restaurant, or professional agency, a negative review (whether warranted or not) can keep you from achieving success.


Founders already face a slew of hurdles from loneliness, to defining company culture. Don’t let worry over reviews, or lack thereof, add to the struggle. Remember: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking your customers for reviews—or enticing them to review. It’s not ethical to ask only for positive reviews, but it’s perfectly fine to offer discounts, giveaways, or entries into a contest in order to give an incentive for your customers to use their valuable time for writing an honest review for you. You don’t want a bunch of “reviews” that just say, “Great place!” or something else too short and sweet.


The Big Ask

Reviews can be a great way to improve traction for your business, and ultimately let your customers do some of the marketing and PR for you. However, as well meaning as your customers may be, it can be difficult to get them to sit down, pull up the review sites you prefer, and write a thoughtful review. They may have every intention of doing so, but forget the moment they leave your place of business. One easy solution is to provide tablets, laptops or other devices on site for reviews—and don’t forget about those incentives.

Some ideas for incentives may include a generous discount for their next service or purchase if they write a review on the spot, (or provide proof of a review they’ve written at home). Make sure the enticement is attractive enough to catch their eye. This could be a free pastry if you operate a bakery, 20 percent off their next service if you own a salon or mechanic shop, or in-demand marketing swag like thumb drives with your company name on it. Check out Inc.’s tips for the best giveaway items that are hot commodities, (not dust collectors).


The Snowball Effect

Once you have a handful of reviews, you can expect more to start rolling in. Make sure to share the best reviews on your social media sites. Link your website to your favorite reviews, blog about them, and encourage others to share. However, bear in mind that this snowball effect is for better or for worse. Positive reviews breed more positive reviews, while negative reviews do the same. If you find yourself caught in a downward, negative review spiral, take action and take control.

Depending on the review site, you may be able to request reviews be removed if they’re abusive. However, the vast majority of the time, they’re there to stay. You have two options: Reach out to the unhappy customer publicly and professionally, or “bury” the negative reviews with positive ones (compliments of new happy customers). Always consider reaching out first, unless the reviewer is clearly uncommunicative and unwilling to work with you.


Problem Solving

Many times, negative reviews stem from customers feeling unheard and unappreciated. If there’s anything you can do to remedy a situation, do so. Apologize genuinely, offer solutions, and ask what can be done to make the customer happy. Doing this publicly is akin to a positive review from the perspective of outsiders. How you act in the workplace is also how you should act when responding on review sites.

If this approach doesn’t work, it’s time to double your efforts of positive review encouragement. Direct your customers towards the review site with the negative posting as well as other review sites where you want a stronger presence. Most people realize that a thriving business isn’t going to have 100 percent glowing reviews. However, if over 95 percent of your reviews are positive, you’re on the right track.