It can be hard to get happy customers to write local business reviews online. It doesn’t have to do with the use of technology, but rather with the approach you take to land a review. While there are plenty of technical ways to prompt a review: from offering QR codes for smartphones to directing customers to Google, ultimately the client themselves has to do the review. That means that no matter how many technical options there are, you must still do the work to encourage customers to take the time to leave a review. It can help to think of landing a review as a type of sales funnel, like the one used to convert a prospect to a loyal client. In this approach, the funnel is a way to convert happy customers into online spokespeople, through creating offers that bypass objections to getting it done in the first place.

How to Close the Gap

To make the process go more smoothly, you can set up a path that guides clients through the steps necessary to leave a review. Any business owner can follow these 6 steps to get started right away:

Identify Your Target Clients

The same way you would identify your ideal prospect, you can also identify your most enthusiastic and happy existing customers. These are the people most likely to give a positive review. He or she can find these online, through their social network profiles, or through interaction with them on a day-to-day basis.

Identify Review Sites

As a business owner, you want to have reviews on sites like Google+, however it requires that the reviewer have a Google account. So, you should also pick alternate sites for those customers without a Gmail account so that they can still post a positive review.

Provide a Written Guidance for a Review

People who want to leave a good review, but are shy with their words, can be encouraged by reading examples of other testimonials left by happy customers. Also, give people step-by-step instructions on how to leave a review.

Always Ask for the Review

You can do this through an email campaign, on your business cards, or as part of a sales receipt. You can also ask for reviews at events, as part of your promotional activities. The more people that a you ask, the more likely you’ll end up with multiple, positive, reviews online.

Set Up a Review Portal on Your Business Website

Set up a portal page on your website where you link your many social profiles and local listings like Google+, Facebook and Bing. You can also include links to popular review sites, like Yelp, or trade specific review sites like Avvo or Angie’s List. This way a happy customer can go straight to that page to post a review on the sites you want to target the most.

Do Follow-Up

After a few weeks of an email campaign, if no reviews show up, you can follow-up with a gentle reminder and maybe a few key points on what can be included in an online review. Realize that not all the people who commit to doing a review will actually complete the task, so if you don’t get one don’t be too intrusive with the request. It’s a delicate balance between asking and pestering your clients to give you an online review and you should always be sensitive to this dynamic.

Why Online Reviews Improve Local Sales

It is a lot of hard work to get those reviews, but it’s well worth the extra effort.

A recent 2014 study on the impact of online reviews, conducted by the Local Consumer Review Survey, shows that 88% of people trust online reviews to influence their buying decisions.

Next time someone is looking for a pizza place or tailor shop in their area, it’s very likely they will check out an online review first on their smartphone before heading out to that local place of business. Make sure your reviews are excellent and you can guarantee more foot traffic through your doors.