Star Hacking

Build a simple system to improve online ratings

Star Hacking

For every one star increase that a restaurant gets on Yelp, they see a 5-9% increase in revenue.

That's the hero statistic.

It's all you need to know to start deliberately working on increasing your ratings across all the digital platforms relevant to your business.

While the study is on restaurants, I'm confident that it applies for every type of business where any part of the customer's discovery journey happens online.

Anyone who’s been on holiday to well-known tourist destinations can see this in effect. Tourism businesses do it really well. There are often multiple call-to-actions to leave ratings and reviews, and prominent displays of rating websites logos. They know it works.

Local small businesses are no different to tourism businesses in terms of the benefits of ratings and reviews, but somehow they don’t seek ratings and reviews from customers.

This changes now.

You need to be deliberate and relentless in ratcheting up your rating by putting in place a system to guarantee positive online ratings and reviews.

I call it 'star hacking'.

How to Star Hack

Here's how to reliably and ethically increase your ratings and positive reviews:

Step 1. Identify your platforms

It starts with choosing the right platforms to target for your business.

A good way to find the right global platforms (e.g. Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, Foursquare or TripAdvisor) or industry specific platforms (e.g. Beanhunter or Zomato) is to search for businesses like yours and see which platforms are being used in your area for your type of business.

Based on the results and your market knowledge, narrow down the list to the top 2 or 3 platforms for your business. This will most likely include Google My Business and two other platforms.

Make sure you have optimized your business profile on each platform.

Step 2. Identify top customers

Now that you know the best platforms to target for your business, it’s time to start a list of your best customers. You’re a business owner or manager, so you know who they are and talk to them all the time. You know the ones that would be happy to help you out.

Maintain the list on paper or start a spreadsheet with their names and contact details. The added benefit of this is that you have just started a customer database in case you want to send them special offers.

However, you don’t want to ask them all at once. You want to create a constant stream of fresh ratings and reviews on your target platforms. So once you have identified the customers you believe will make good advocates, keep track by making note of the their status:

  1. Customers who have already rated and reviewed your business
  2. Customers who you will ask for a rating and review this month
  3. Customers that you will ask later

You want to avoid duplication.

Step 3. Request ratings and reviews

Armed with your target platforms and customer list, it’s time to start putting the strategy into practice. Here’s how:

  1. Each month, approach your top customers who you have earmarked to ask for ratings and reviews
  2. Ask them nicely to go online and provide a rating and/or review
  3. Be specific about the platform you would like them to leave a rating and review on, and the type of rating you’d like them to write

Chances are they’ll be more than happy to do it. But don’t write it for them, you want it to be organic and natural rather than boilerplate.

Step 4. Monitor and repeat

Track your ratings on your chosen platforms over time. Keep an eye on whether it is increasing or decreasing, and act accordingly. Respond to every review with kind words of appreciation. Potential customers see your responses too.

And finally, here’s the real trick here:

Set a recurring reminder in your email calendar or on your phone to repeat this exercise in one-months time, and every month after that.

The Takeaway

Putting in place a system to encourage happy customers to complete online reviews of your business is both ethical and smart. After all, as a business owner or manager you know the customers that had an unfortunate bad experience are going to be posting negative reviews, so don’t let them be the only ones.

It’s time to make and stick to a simple plan to grow your ratings. Map out the platforms relevant to your business, and make requests from your best customers asking them simply to let other people know what they see in your business.

Online ratings are there for a reason, and people looking for a business online should hear from your happy customers too. It’s an untapped opportunity too big to forget and too easy to miss.

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