DIY Guide: Build an Automated Customer Review Solicitation Program

Increase the number of favorable customer reviews your company has on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. Ben Beck explains how to set up an automated review system in just an hour or two.

#martechmondayIn our world of ever-increasing connectivity, your prospects are spending more time reading reviews and listening to others and less time evaluating your product or service on your website or with the help of your salespeople.

And one of the best ways to shine above the competition is to stand out in the review engines.

google search results

But how do you get those reviews?

This do-it-yourself guide will help you set up an automated review system to increase your exposure on the most important websites, such as Google and Facebook.

If you know HTML and CSS and have a good email sending provider or marketing automation tool already set up for your organization, then getting an automated review system set up will only take an hour or two.

Overview of automated customer review solicitation program

Before we get started, it’s important that you have a good understanding of how this automated review system is going to work. If your company operates in a competitive space, then you may already have competitors with a lot of reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. If you do, you’re probably wondering how they are getting all those reviews?

They ask for them.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to ask more and properly route the reviewers to the appropriate review platform or feedback form. After you’re done setting up your program you’ll have:

  • An email that automatically goes out to your customer asking for a review
  • An easy-to-click call to action in your email, such as an image of five stars which they can click on
  • A smart system to tell which rating they’ve clicked on in the email and route them appropriately — for example:
    • If they select a four- or five-star rating, the automated system will direct them to a review platform (such as Google or Facebook) where they can leave their review
    • If they select a one-, two- or three-star rating, they’ll be directed to a feedback form on your website where they can tell you why they weren’t amazed by your product or service

Step 1: Building the review solicitation email

clone desired email templateFor this example, I’ll be using Marketo as the marketing automation system, though almost all the email solutions out there handle this step in the same way.

First, find an email that has a template you already like and think will work well for your review. Clone that email.

 

Next, clear out all the existing content and write a new message that thanks the customer for their purchase and asks them to leave a review. In my example below that I built for my main employer, Kuali, you’ll see that we’re requesting feedback on our Kuali Research product.

Feel free to use the content below for your own inspiration. One important “asking a favor” best practice that you’ll see I used here is to explicitly tell your benefactor how long it will take them to help you – in this case, 3 minutes.

Creating a review solicitation

Lastly, you need to insert the stars (or whatever ranking icons you’d like) to allow your customer to easily click on the ranking they’d like to leave. For this, you’ll need an image of the ranking item. Here are some important notes on the image:

  • Be sure to use an image that fits the theme of your brand and email template.
  • Use an image that is colored gray – to indicate that it hasn’t had action taken on it yet. In the case of star rating icons, if you use stars already colored in gold then it indicates five stars have already been ranked for the product. Using gray stars, instead, shows that the customer can click on the stars to leave their own rating.
  • Below is a star icon, in three convenient sizes, that I’ve custom designed myself. Feel free to use it if you’d like – no attribution needed.

large starmedium starsmall star

Step 2: Build the HTML

Now you’ll need to build the underlying HTML that handles the redirection. That sounds harder than it is. In fact, I include some sample HTML below that you can easily use in your own email.

  • In the below example, you’ll see that I’ve used the 75 x 75 pixel sized star (the middle size above) because that, with sufficient padding around each star, makes it take up the majority of the template width. It also looks good on mobile devices and is easy for fingers to easily click on one of the stars.
  • I’ve linked stars one, two and three to a form where disgruntled customers can leave feedback. This is important because you need to be gathering this feedback and closely evaluating it. If you’re seeing more people clicking through stars one through three you know you’ve got a problem and really need to take their feedback into consideration.
  • I’ve linked star four to Facebook reviews, though you can link this to any location you’d like. My thought is this – getting reviews on Facebook is important, but not as important as Google where there is considerably more SEO impact.
  • I’ve linked star five to Google reviews – the grandaddy location for most companies. You should closely evaluate where your buyers are researching your product and drive these customers to that location.

Kuali research code

I’ve provided you with the HTML that you can easily copy/paste into your own email. Please note, however, that you’ll need to customize the link locations before using this code. Also be sure to save the images of the stars to your own email server instead of leaving them as is. I may take them down or change them in the future which would change your emails.

{Megan Krause: I don’t believe I can Insert HTML myself b/c of limitations of this WYSIWYG editor. Can you insert it here? Here’s a downloadable version of the .html file}

Step 3: Push go

The last step of getting more reviews is turning on the email and getting it in front of your customers! If you run a SaaS company then this is an easy step. Simply tie your email sending platform (MailChimp, Marketo, Hubspot, etc) into your customer relationship management tool (SalesForce, SugarCRM, Hubspot CRM, etc) and send all new customers into the email tool.

Be sure to set up an appropriate delay step in the automated email send. For example, if a customer just purchased a widget from your website make sure you give them sufficient time for to receive the widget and get to try it out before asking them for a review.

You’re now well on your way to gaining valuable business insights, better understanding what your customers really want, and getting reviews on the web that will help you get more customers.

Please comment below to share how you anticipate using this review system for your business.

Tags: content marketing

Category: Optimization
Ben Beck

About Ben

Ben Beck loves working at the intersection of technology, security and marketing. From his early youth selling discount candy from his locker to building his own SMS marketing tool that he sold to the State of Utah, he has learned the value of entrepreneurial thinking and smarter marketing. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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