July 28

3 R’s to Grow Business: Reviews, Referrals, and Reactivations


Jumpstarting your marketing can be pretty simple – go back to your past and current customers and engage with them to do one or all of the 3 R’s:

  • Write a review of your business
  • Refer your business
  • Reactivate – that is buy from your business again

Generate Business From Your Customers

If your business needs quick wins or an infusion of new business, there is no better place to start than with your customers, both current and past customers. They already know, like, and trust your business, so that shortens the buying cycle.

In times where a business is struggling, or marketing dollars are tight, using the 3 R’s of Reviews, Referrals, and Reactivations is a reliable way to generate a strong return on investment.

Your customers have already moved through most of the buyer’s journey we refer to as the Marketing Hourglass(™) of Know, Like, Trust, Try, and Buy. Take action to get them to complete the “Repeat” and “Refer” stages.

Creating Your Customer List

Of course, this means that you have to have a list of your current and past customers and a way to reach them. Email addresses are great. Phone numbers can work too, using text messages or even placing a call. Mailing addresses also give you a way to communicate with your customers.

The challenge for many businesses is compiling a list of customers. To create your customer list (or update it) I recommend:

  • going through emails
  • your account system (like Quickbooks)
  • paper or electronic estimates and invoices
  • customer files
  • cell phone contacts
  • social media profiles
  • contact database or customer relationship management (CRM) system
  • any other way you may have communicated with your customers

The Best Way to Ask for Reviews, Referrals, and Reactivations

Email is a really great place to start — if you have the email addresses of your customers.

I strongly recommend that before you start sending emails out though that you run the email addresses through a list cleanser. Why? Because email addresses get out of date fast, and to ensure that your emails are deliverable it is important to remove email addresses that you know are bad.

Using the phone can be great too. A personal phone call can work wonders. It may be more time consuming, but it adds an additional personal touch. In this day and age, a human connection is really important.

Text messages, direct messages from Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter can be effective too, but don’t overdo it.

Don’t forget about good old direct mail either. If you don’t have email addresses, cell phone numbers or social media profiles to use, direct mail is probably your best bet.

Ask for Online Reviews

Contact your customers and ask them to review your business. This has a big impact on helping your business show up online, as well as to provide social proof that your business is trusted.

The thing about reviews is that if you just let them happen, reviews tend to skew to the negative, or they just don’t happen. Bad reviews and no reviews can really hurt your business.

There are many studies that show that if you ask someone to leave a review, many people will write a review provided you make it really easy for them.

By emailing them with your review link(s) that take them right to the review site you want them to review your business on, you will generate more positive reviews. If you have customers that may not be very savvy online, you can even provide a simple guide on how to review your business.

Choose your review sites wisely. For most businesses, Google reviews are the best place to start. Google reviews are displayed on your Google My Business listing and are included in Google Map results.

While Google reviews are frequently the best place to get reviews, there are industry review sites that are very important too, like:

  • Houzz and Angie’s List for home contractors
  • Zillow for Realtors
  • Avvo for Attorneys
  • Healthgrades for Medical Professionals
  • TripAdvisor for Restaurants and Travel related business

You can also text a link to your review sites as well. The key is to ask for reviews and make it as easy as possible.

Note that most review sites will require a user to log in to the site in order to leave a review – this is because review sites want reviews from real people. This adds trust and social proof too.

Create a Formal Referral System

Just as with reviews, don’t assume referrals will just naturally happen. It’s important to put a formal referral system in place. You want to turn satisfied customers into active referral sources. One of the best ways to do that is to provide them with an incentive to refer new customers to you.

Leverage the tools discussed above to ask for referrals and to provide details on the incentive. Think about what would help motivate a customer to refer your business when creating your program. Is it a gift card? A discount on their next purchase from your business? A charitable donation?

Another key thing to consider is to create a referral network – who are those businesses that can become the golden geese referral source for your business. Examples include:

  • Realtors for home services contractors like home inspectors or carpet cleaners
  • Interior Designers or General Contractors for a painting contractor
  • A Bartender or Hair Stylist for a Bankruptcy Attorney

Develop a strategic referral partner network. You can deliver educational content, split or share marketing costs, and promote partner discounts to your customers.

Help your referral sources know how to refer you as well, like The Perfect Introduction in Reverse, or join a referral partner group like a local chapter of Business Networks International (BNI). BNI chapters work to train their fellow members to serve as an extended sales force for all their members.

Reactivating Customers

Your customers have already moved through the buyer’s journey. The cost of customer acquisition is a lot lower than trying to get a customer who has never heard of you.
Go through your customer list and see when they bought from you last. Segment your customers based on what they did buy. Offer them a reason to try a new product or service or get them to buy again. Give them an incentive to do so – after all you don’t have to spend as much getting them as a customer as someone who doesn’t know your business.

Why segment your customers? I think you should make the offer as compelling and as relevant as possible based on what they already bought from you. Does it make sense to get them to buy the same thing again? Or is it better to entice them to buy something else?

Some customers might be current customers where you are already delivering a service to them on a regular basis. With these customers, there is an opportunity to upsell them or cross-sell them to buy additional products or services from you.

For example, a house painter might have a customer that hired them to paint all interior rooms in their house last year. The house painter could provide an offer to hire them to paint the exterior of their home, or to power wash their home. You wouldn’t want to make the offer just to paint the interior of their home since they just had that done.

If you are a roofer, they aren’t going to hire you a year later to re-roof their house (unless there has been storm damage). But they might hire you for some of your other services.

The point is, as you are reaching back out to your customers, know what they bought from you before and use that information to create a compelling offer to buy from you again for something that makes sense.

Use the 3 R’s to Generate New Business

Referrals and Reviews both past trust to people considering doing business with your business, and can shorten the buying cycle considerably. In fact, online reviews are as trusted as recommendations from friends and family, and negative reviews can reverse or prevent buying decisions. This addresses the Refer stage in the Marketing Hourglass(™).

Reactivating a past customer, or upselling/cross-selling existing customers addresses the Repeat stage in the Marketing Hourglass(™).

You worked hard to get a customer. But the relationship shouldn’t stop just because they became a customer. Make sure you maximize the value of that customer to your business using the 3 R’s and leverage the bottom half of the Marketing Hourglass(™).


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