We all want to make purchase decisions with businesses we know and trust.
Creating a Successful Review Campaign
Creating a Successful Referral Program
Let’s start with two basic questions:
Chances are you answered a resounding yes to both of these questions, and the reason for this is simple: We all want to make purchase decisions with businesses we know and trust.
Before we dive into the importance of customer reviews and referrals, we first need to understand the differences between the two.
Although the two are often associated with each other, they’re actually quite different—and how you generate them can vary depending on what goals you have.
In short, yes. Similar to how you approached the buying process if you replaced your washing machine in the past few years, 86 percent of buyers say they’re influenced in their purchase decision by online reviews.
In particular, adults ages 55 and older value online reviews with considerable frequency: Fifty percent use online reviews in purchasing decisions at least monthly and nearly one-third use reviews at least weekly. And there is a magic number for building trust. It takes 10 online reviews for the average consumer to actually build trust with a business. Although older adults may use review sites slightly less than their younger counterparts, reviews can help future-proof your efforts, with adults age 18 to 34 trusting online reviews as much as a referral from a friend.
So how can you build programs that help you build that trust with your prospects and current customers? You guessed it: Fueling your sales and marketing machine with reviews and referrals.
In this e-book, we break down the importance of reviews and referrals in the senior care industry, share tips on how to tactically generate them, and explain how to measure the success of a new referral or review program.
Before you can even consider asking someone for a review or a referral, you first need to “walk the walk.”
Think about it this way: If you were going to ask someone for a recommendation on LinkedIn, you wouldn’t make a request out of the blue or of someone with whom you had a bad experience or interaction. Instead, you would likely choose a former manager or coworker to whom you feel you’ve demonstrated value and worth.
Keep this analogy in mind when thinking about referrals or reviews, because you need to make sure you’re delivering value well before you ask someone for their review.
Reviews and referrals are earned through trust and consistent positive experiences. Within the senior care industry, we’ve seen the following programs and initiatives work well for building trust and community with residents and their families:
At the beginning of your journey, focus on either reviews or referrals: Walk before you run. The question of where to start, however, doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. Before you launch a program, it’s important to look at where you currently stand.
You might need to focus on referrals if …
You may want to start with your review strategy if…
Understanding your current benchmarks will help you determine what you need more of and where your best opportunities lie.
If you’re starting with reviews, it’s important to take a minute and develop your review strategy before you start asking residents and their families to provide their input. You should be prepared to answer these five questions:
Before you answer this question, you first need to understand the current review landscape for a community. What does that mean? Let’s talk about the hypothetical senior care provider, Sunshine Senior Life.
Sunshine Senior Life has communities across the western United States, and one in particular is struggling to meet its occupancy requirements. This community, Sunshine South, opened two years ago and is located within five miles of three major competitors. As one of Sunshine’s most beautiful communities, the only good source of new leads is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and most of those leads fall out of the sales process pretty early. Why? Nearby competitors have an overall average rating of 4.5 stars, but Sunshine South’s average is hovering around 3 stars.
Reviews on Facebook are great, but there are only two Google reviews and they are both only 2 stars. In this case, it’s clear that Sunshine South should focus on generating more 5-star reviews, and because of the lower frequency of good reviews on Google, that’s the first place the Sunshine South team should send happy residents and their families.
The lesson behind this example is simple: Before you start a review campaign, you should know where—that is, on which websites—you need to gather the most reviews.
Identifying gaps, as Sunshine South did in our example, is just one way to make this determination. Another is to take a look at your current traffic and lead sources, assess how those leads translate to move-ins, and focus your review-building efforts on those lead source sites. Put another way, if people are finding you organically through Google, more positive reviews will ultimately help you close more leads. If you have a thriving paid social program, adding reviews to Facebook should drive more volume at the bottom of your funnel.
If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend the foundational sites, including:
Take a look at your current reviews and ratings and compare them to your three biggest or closest competitors and come up with a plan of which site to tackle first.
You might notice Yelp missing from this list. If you’re just starting review campaigns, Yelp might not be the best place to begin. Yelp is notoriously selective with the reviews it accepts and features and even tracks the IP address of contributors. Although you can ask residents and their families for relevant, meaningful reviews on Yelp, flooding the site with too many reviews, too quickly will trigger the protocols that can actually get you banned. Think of a Yelp strategy as a longer-term, incremental play.
Your review strategy should start with your current residents and their families. These are the people who know the quality and dedication of your community and its staff best and can truly attest to the services and senior care you provide.
As you can imagine, not every resident or family member is someone you may want to ask for a review—but many are. Executive directors and sales counselors often have the best handle on which residents and customers are in great standing with you and can be asked for a review.
If you want a more systematic approach to identifying candidates to write reviews, we recommend using surveys and the Net Promoter Score—a measurement of how likely your customers are to recommend you to a friend—to identify potential promoters.
Prospects and business partners are also good candidates for leaving reviews.
Prospects who have toured your community and have raved to the team about their positive experience may feel comfortable writing a review.
Now that you’ve determined where you need reviews and who you’re going to solicit those reviews from, the next step is to determine how you’re going to ask for reviews.
In our work with senior care providers, we’ve seen that successful review campaigns often include the following tactics:
When it’s time to ask for a review, keep your template simple. Here’s an example:
At Sunshine South, we're committed to providing all of our residents with 5-star service every single day. If you think we're hitting that mark, we'd love for you to share your thoughts in a review on Facebook.
If you don't feel like you've experienced the 5-star service we're committed to, let's talk about that. Please contact Executive Director [Name] at ##########.
Your friends at [Community Name]
Depending on the context, you might send this note from the executive director, a sales counselor, or a different executive within the organization.
The goal of any review campaign is to build up a net score of positive reviews. But not every review you have today—or will have in the future—will be positive. As you ask for more reviews, you’ll need to have a plan in place for addressing negative reviews that may arise. You might see negative comments in a few scenarios:
Every business receives a negative review at some point. What makes a business stand out, however, is how they react to the review and resolve any issues that the review brings up. Having a resolution plan in place, as well as consistent guidelines for how to resolve customer complaints, will prepare you for any and all reviews that come your way.
Having a game plan in the senior living industry is especially important, because there may be circumstances in which you legally cannot respond with the level of detail and transparency that businesses in other industries can share.
You’ll never know the outcome of a review campaign unless you have a way to track results. Some of the best ways to track review results include:
Having a good number of reviews—between 20-50, according to Matt Moog, CEO of PowerReviews—is critical for transferring confidence to consumers. You also don’t need 100 percent of your reviews to be 5-star reviews because purchase likelihood actually peaks between 4.2 and 4.5 stars, according to a study by Northwestern University Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center and commissioned by PowerReviews.
As you receive traffic from review sites, it’s important to benchmark how much of that traffic becomes leads (your visitor-to-lead rate) and how many of those leads become customers (your lead-to-customer rate). As you benchmark these conversion rates, set the goal of improving them by individual review site. This may require some attribution set-up in your marketing analytics platform to get right. The idea is simple: As a result of generating more positive reviews, you should begin to see an increase in the conversion rates of referral traffic coming from review sites.
If you generate the majority of your traffic from organic search, reviews can help increase the number of people who visit your website. By measuring monthly traffic as a function of new reviews generated, you can gain some insight into how new reviews are helping drive more traffic.
Also, identify your success KPIs (key performance indicators) and establish your current benchmarks before you kick off a review campaign so you can accurately track improvements over time.
Now let’s dive into how the actual strategy and execution of a referral program are different from those of a review campaign.
As you develop your strategy for generating referrals, here are the questions you need to consider asking:
Do referral leads close with greater frequency than leads from other sources? Will increasing referral business help you reach your business goals? Knowing how a referral program will help you is crucial for developing a successful, measurable strategy.
You should also consider what (if any) success you’ve had historically with referral programs. Did a previous incentive work really well? Did you offer something that no one thought was worth their time? Looking back on past successes or failures is important for mapping out your ongoing strategy.
To consistently bring in referrals, it helps to create an incentive. By sharing gifts or offering discounts, you’re rewarding people with something tangible for sharing their experience and referring a friend or loved one.
As a senior care provider, what can you give residents to incentive them to refer their friends, family, or colleagues to your community?
Some tactics that we’ve seen work well include:
Besides offering a discount, there are a number of other ways to help residents share their positive experiences. Here are some ways to help residents engage their friends and colleagues:
In order to measure success for your referral program, you’ll need to set realistic goals for the number of referrals and subsequent conversion rate you want.
Be sure to keep meticulous records of referrals, especially if you’re offering incentives. You’ll want to know who your best referrers are and, of course, keep track of their incentives.
We recommend adding “Referrals” as a source in your customer relationship management (CRM) system if it’s not there already. This will help you keep track of how many referrals you’re receiving at each community and how they are converting.
After you’ve run your referral program for three to six months, take a pause and analyze your CRM data. Are you hitting your goals for leads and conversion rates? If you are, fantastic! If not, ask yourself why and make adjustments to your program or your selling process to improve the likelihood of hitting those goals.
Whether your focus is on referrals or reviews, we recommend implementing one campaign at a time—starting with what’s most important to your business—so that you can focus your efforts on proper execution and making improvements as ROI data comes in.
If your business, like many in the senior care industry, has multiple locations and communities, it can be tempting to try and gather reviews or referrals for every location at once. However, we recommend starting small with one or two communities so you can generate the blueprint for other communities to follow.
As you kick-off your referral and review programs, remember that positive reviews and a steady stream of referrals all start in the halls of your senior living communities, so make sure your current residents are living meaningful and vibrant lives.
Delight your residents with the best amenities and senior care possible, and the reviews and referrals will inevitably follow.
Now that you have the blueprint for tackling your overall review and referral strategies, don’t forget to map out the tactics and technologies to put your plan into action.
At SmartBug Media™, we have a proven track record helping companies in the senior care and senior living spaces plan and execute review and referral strategies. Why wait? Let’s chat about your goals today.