Why reviews are so much more than social proof
Online reviews are a crucial part of marketing these days. The presence of lots of great reviews provides a layer of proof that you keep your promises.
But often overlooked in the obsession for 5-star reviews is the actual words used by the reviewers. A 5-star review often implies that this is an ideal customer. They had the right problem, you solved it wonderfully, and they had a great experience.
Then, they voluntarily turned to a 3rd party review site such as Google, Facebook, or Yelp and told the world how great you are – effectively referring your business to anyone who cared to read the review.
You want more of those ideal customers, don’t you?
Here’s the real point – if you want more customers like the ones leaving great reviews you should pay very close attention to how they talk about your business – in particular, the words and phrases that show up repeatedly.
There’s gold in those phrases as it’s essentially your best customers telling you over and over again exactly what it is that you do that solves the real problem they have.
Here’s a real-life example of excerpts from some reviews for a local business to drive this point home.
- “They came and worked as scheduled and cleaned up nicely after it was done.”
- “The guys showed up on time and did a wonderful job.”
- “In the past, we have dealt with people who don’t show up or do a professional job. Everything was cleaned up very well.”
Do you spot a pattern here? It’s not ever clear from these excerpts what service this business provides, but the clues to how they provide it are obvious.
The core message this business should put at the top of the fold on their website is – “We promise to show up when we say we will and clean up everything before we leave.”
It turns out this business is a tree service, but the real problem they solve for their ideal customers is that so few people in the home services industry are organized enough to offer appointment times and often leave a mess behind when they leave.
For this business and so many others that I’ve worked with over the years, reviews are a strategic marketing asset as much as a vehicle for social proof. Mine them for your core message and they will become a tool to help you attract even more ideal clients.
The process of review research is pretty simple.
Turn to your reviews on Google, Facebook, or any industry-specific review sites and start carefully reading your positive reviews. (Negative reviews can tell you a lot as well, but for now, that’s not what we are looking for.)
As you read the reviews start noticing words, phrases, themes, and patterns that are repeated. This is your customer explaining the problems your company solves for them, the things you do that others don’t, these are the words, phrases, and themes you need to start using in your marketing message right now.
Sometimes you’ll discover that your happy customers simply love your people or your approach. That’s great, don’t discount how powerful this can be as a message. In some cases, you’ll uncover a complete and creative core message hidden inside a review.
A few years ago we were working with a subscription-based lawn mowing service that attracted busy professionals as their ideal customers. After culling through their reviews we spotted the following in several reviews – “I just love coming home on mowing day.”
So it seems that the problem this company solved was that they were very professional, did a great job, and could be relied upon to do what was promised, but the ideal customer expressed this as experiencing a moment of joy in an otherwise hectic world. That’s kind of magic.
So they began to promise that – “You’ll love coming home on mowing day” – begging prospects to wonder if that’s true for them with their current service.
Using reviews to develop a core message of difference – one that offers precisely what your ideal customers value is how you turn a simple review into a powerful marketing strategy. But, you can also often find a handful of recurring themes that make great blog posts topics, FAQs, emails subject lines, and ad copy for your Google Ads.
It’s all about using the words of your ideal customers to attract more of the same.
Now that you have this review thing down let’s expand it a bit. Studying reviews is also amazing for competitive research. Finding themes in both the negative and positive reviews of your toughest competitors can provide a sales advantage or spark an idea or two about some things you could do better based on some of the reviews you read.
Reviews and the words they contain are more than social proof, they’re amazing content and a path to better messaging in your marketing.
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