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“Chris, our customers constantly tell us how much they love us … but they won’t share it with Google. It shouldn’t be this hard to get online reviews!”

This sentiment has been shared with me dozens of times by our own clients. Their frustration is understandable. Positive reviews from a third party demonstrate your authority in a more credible way than you could yourself. This breaks down buyer resistance, which can be the difference between a prospect clicking through to your website or continuing their search without you.

Consider these findings from BrightLocal’s 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey:

  • 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
  • 74 percent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

Referrals will always be valuable, but the evidence suggests your local lawn and landscape company needs additional third-party assurance to establish trust with prospects.

Create a process for generating reviews.

No, it should not be this hard. But, the reality suggests otherwise for two reasons: lack of process and lack of courage. It takes some serious courage to ask your customers for feedback. It requires an effective process to pull it off. I’ll assume you have the courage, so let’s detail our recommended process.

First, ask for feedback.

Implement a “feedback first” approach before suggesting to your customers that they leave an online review for you. Use a simple survey technique like net promoter score to sample “how likely they are to recommend you to others.”

This strategy will allow you to surface the customers most likely to leave a positive review online. This is when your courage comes into play because, undoubtedly, you will receive some unexpected and bristling feedback from customers.

Second, ask for a review.

It’s time to request that your happiest customers give their valuable time to your business by leaving a glowing review online. Use email and keep it simple. Lead with why online reviews are so important for your business. Your customers need to be reminded of this.

Next, tell them exactly what they need to do. Make it easy on them by providing links directly to where they can leave a review on Google, Facebook or Yelp. Link to three services or fewer, with Google being mandatory and Facebook a close second. Yelp, Angie’s List and Houzz should also be considered, depending on your type of business and where you are most active.

Third, develop a response plan.

Do not actively solicit reviews if your company is not prepared to respond to both the positive and negative reviews. Timely follow-up is important for both – and this is the difference between being viewed as a capable, trustworthy business or just another “typical landscaper.”

Marketing automation software will be required to execute these three steps most effectively. I recommend GetFiveStars.com, but there are others like it, all of which are affordable. This software allows you to control the timing and how you stagger your requests for feedback. You’re asking for unnecessary trouble by emailing your entire customer list on the same day. You want your reviews to trickle in organically, even though you are proactively soliciting them.

More frequent positive online reviews will ultimately lead to more opportunities in your pipeline. Without the courage to seek candid customer feedback, and without this proactive three-step process, infrequent and negative comments threaten your business and become a roadblock to growth.

Chris Heiler is the founder and CEO of Landscape Leadership.