Photo Credit: © Can Stock Photo / jirsak
Positive online reviews and testimonials can help grow your business. But making the ask can feel salesy and pushy. Today’s guest, Alan Katz, is known in his industry as the King of Reviews and he has a system to help you crush it with online reviews.
What You’ll Discover About Online Reviews (highlights & transcript):
* Why you need online reviews for your business [2:11]
* Knowing when to ask for online reviews [3:46]
* How to properly ask for online reviews [5:26]
* Why short URLs increase the likelihood of online reviews [9:47]
* The most important phrase to use when asking for online reviews [11:05]
* How best to deal with bad online reviews [12:45]
* AND much more.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:01] Positive online reviews and testimonials can help your business grow, but making the ask can feel salesy and pushy. But don’t worry, because my next guest is known in his industry as the King of Reviews and he has a system to help you crush it with online reviews. Stay tuned.
Announcer: [00:00:20] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matters to your bottom line.
Hanna: [00:00:32] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s guest is Alan Katz. Now, he may not be a household name to you, but in the wedding industry, he’s known as the King of Reviews. He has over 2000 online reviews and testimonials and dominates the market in his field.
Hanna: [00:00:54] Alan is the owner of Great Officiants. Basically, he marries people. He has formed a team, a professional officiates that go out to wedding venues, hotels, backyards, beaches, almost anywhere to perform the most creative ceremonies. He owns a boutique wedding chapel, a beach wedding design company and a theme wedding division in Southern California.
Hanna: [00:01:18] His company represents the gold standard of officiants in style, with affordable prices. So if you want to put a ring on it or renew your vows, Alan is your man. Alan, is also a requested speaker at wedding industry conventions, wedding association, educational events and, of course, podcasts. His multipoint plan to get customers to review him has obviously been very successful. And today he’s going to share his secret sauce with us.
Hanna: [00:01:48] So welcome to Business Confidential Now, Alan.
Alan Katz: [00:01:51] Well, thank you for having me on, and I’m going to give your show a good review.
Hanna: [00:01:57] Excellent, excellent. Can never have enough of those. That’s wonderful. I appreciate that. Now, let’s start with the importance of online reviews and testimonials. Alan, why should a small business want such reviews?
WHY YOU NEED ONLINE REVIEWS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Alan: [00:02:11] Well, you know, we’re all driven by reviews. When you’re going to go to a restaurant, what’s the first thing you do? You go on to Yelp and you look up what other people think about it. And if it has really bad reviews, you’re like you don’t want to go there. Let me find someplace else.
Alan: [00:02:26] So reviews are very essential for a business to make sure that they can show people what they do, that other people have had a great experience, and that they want that same type of experience that other people have had. If they had a bad experience, they want to know that.
Hanna: [00:02:44] OK. Now you have a fascinating business marrying people. And I’m sure there are some listeners who are right now saying to themselves, “Come on, how easy is it to get a good review from someone on their wedding day?” Which for most people, they’re really, really happy on that day. Now, will your system for crushing it with online reviews work for businesses whose customers, clients, patients, guests are not in their happy place?
FIRST STEP TO GETTING POSITIVE ONLINE REVIEWS
Alan: [00:03:09] Absolutely. Absolutely. There are a couple of things that you want to do when you’re trying to get a review from someone. First thing, the most important thing is to not suck at what you do. All right. If you do a bad job at what you’re doing, you’re never going to get a good review. In fact, you are going to bring on bad reviews.
Alan: [00:03:27] So the first thing is making sure that whatever you do, you do it right. You do it with the customer in mind, with value, with service, and give the people what they want, but not just give them what they want, exceed, excel and make them feel like they got the best possible experience with what you or your product are selling.
KNOWING WHEN TO ASK FOR ONLINE REVIEWS
Alan: [00:03:46] The next part is, once you know that you’ve done a good job, is to be able to ask for it. Now, depending on your business, you may have contact with the people or a way to contact them. You may not. But one of the most important things is to get people to review you.
Alan: [00:04:02] Now, if you have a product like mine, I’m not going to, in most cases, ask the people immediately, “Hey, can you review me?” Because what’s going to happen after my wedding? The people are going to go on their honeymoon and they’re going to get back into their real life and they don’t have time for it.
Alan: [00:04:17] So usually when I’m doing a wedding request, a review from a wedding, I asked two weeks after the wedding. So they have time to get back into their life. Each different company that’s trying to get a review, has to have their own lead time, what they think is the perfect amount of time to request the review. And sometimes it’s immediately sometimes it’s a month down the road. You just have to assess what’s going to be good for you. You have to think about who your customer is, who your client is, and when they’re going to be able to be in their best mindset to give you that review.
Hanna: [00:04:54] Ok, so now let’s talk about this system, because it sounds like you’ve just identified one very important step about when to make the ask, when they’re in a good place. Like you said, it could be different depending on the type of business you’re in, the product, the service, after they’ve had a chance to reflect on the great service or product you’ve been able to deliver. So, yes, you’re going to excel at what you do. Let’s take that as a given and let’s talk more about the process of making the ask.
KNOWING HOW TO PROPERLY ASK FOR ONLINE REVIEWS
Alan: [00:05:26] All right, so making the ask is very important, because people get inundated by emails all day long and you have to make sure that if you’re going to email somebody or text them, that you have a compelling line to give to them.
Alan: [00:05:40] So in other words, if you’re emailing somebody you know, maybe you would say, “Hey, your gossip can pay off. Let other people know the great experience that you had.”
Alan: [00:05:49] Think about this. You’re going through your email and you get all this junk email, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. You’ve got to make an intro and the beginning of it to make sure people actually open the email, open and read the text, because you’re going to want to make sure that it actually happens. Most people just delete stuff.
Alan: [00:06:08] Somebody wants to tell me something. But if you can give a tangible way of focusing on what your emails about in the subject line and make the first couple of words in that request easily identifiable of what they want, what you want them to do, then that will save it from getting deleted because a deleted email for a request for review doesn’t work.
Alan: [00:06:29] There are also companies that actually specialize in doing this. They have an online portal where you would send the clients an email an email and say, “Hey, review us here,” and it actually will link to one of these specialty companies. At those specialty companies, they can have a special rating system where you can actually do it right there and it’s really easy to do that way. But if you don’t want to have the extra expense of paying for one of these services, because they’re not always cheap, you basically have to hand do it person by person. And make sure that they can really find a way and a reason to open your email or to read your text.
Hanna: [00:07:07] So what’s the system that you use? What works for you?
Alan: [00:07:11] Well, what works for me is two weeks after the wedding, I send them an email or I utilize one of these services. But we’re going back to just a direct email because I think it’s a little more personalized. And each wedding I send an email to say, “Hey, thank you so much for choosing us for your wedding. Please respond with a positive review about your service. We want other couples to know and have the same experience that you did.”
Alan: [00:07:40] That way, we’re letting them know, hey, here’s how now. When you tell them that, if you just tell them to do that and don’t give them any resource, then they’re just going to go “where the heck do I review you?” All I know is Yelp. But many different industries have different review sites that they go.
FINE-TUNING THE ASK
Alan: [00:07:56] If you’re staying at a hotel, you know, you got the travel sites, or you got Yelp. You have other sites that specify that. Google, Yahoo, they all have review places. Facebook, they have places where you can review that. So you have to let them know and you have to guide the people who you’re trying to get the review from, guide them to where you want to go.
Alan: [00:08:19] Now you can give, in most companies, they have, with Google with, if it’s The Wedding, it’s The Knot, and Wedding Wire. Or if it’s other places, you know, the travel sites have actual links that you can take them to where, you can give them, to go right from your website, right from the emails to their website and place a review. And you can give them several different links because most people are signed up with one thing or another.
Alan: [00:08:44] Except and this is a big, big, big, big, one more big, BIG exception, except for Yelp.
Alan: [00:08:51] Never give people your exact Yelp link to your Yelp page, because Yelp knows. Yelp knows that if you give somebody a direct link, they know that it didn’t come from a generic search. They’ll know that they’ve been prompted and then they’ll do what’s called a hidden review. Yelp says, hey, this this person is, you know, was asked to review us. We want to make sure that this review is legitimate and we want to make sure that this review is perfect.
Alan: [00:09:21] And so Yelp will hide those reviews. In fact on my Yelp page, I have like I forgot what the numbers were, seven hundred views and like three hundred are hidden. Which is something we can get into a little bit, if you like.
Alan: [00:09:34] So you’ve got to make sure that you do everything you can to get people to not. Give them that direct link, so Yelp does not have that link. But for the rest of the part of it, for the rest of the places that you’re going to send them to, send them the exact link.
HOW SHORT URLS INCREASE LIKELIHOOD OF ONLINE REVIEWS
Alan: [00:09:47] Now, sometimes those links are like really long, like, you know, www.gottravel-blah-blah- your-business/Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba. And it’s a huge link and people don’t want to have to click on a huge link.
Alan: [00:10:01] So what do you want to do is you want to shorten that link. You use something, one of those link-shorteners like Bitly.com And if you sign up for an account with Bitly, you can actually make custom links to your website. So in other words, if you were getting reviews on, say, WeddingWire, you could create a special bitly, you can put that link in there. We will shorten it to ReviewMeOnWeddingWire and then when they click it’s much easier.
Alan: [00:10:32] They know exactly what they get. Review me on the travel site. Review me here. Where they know what they’re clicking and what they’re expected to get when they click. If it’s one of those long URLs, they don’t know where that’s going to take them.
Hanna: [00:10:46] So how did you come up with this system, Alan?
Alan: [00:10:50] You know, I actually listen to other people, I’ve gone to seminars and listen to it, and then I took what they did and I tweaked it to be something that was good for me. Something that would work with my client.
MOST IMPORTANT PHRASE WHEN ASKING FOR ONLINE REVIEWS
Alan: [00:11:05] And one of the one of the important things that I learned is the use the word “positive” review, don’t just say, “Hey, could you review me?” Because if they’re mad at you, they’re going to give you a bad review. So if you just make sure you say, “Please leave me a positive review. Or if there was an issue, please reach out to me directly at this email.” That way you can stop any reason that they would have for putting a negative review up. You ask for a positive review all the time.
Alan: [00:11:34] The reviews, the review, companies that I work with, if people rate you as a three or less, it actually sends you a special email that says, “Hey, this person gave you a three-star review and this is what they said.”
Alan: [00:11:47] And that way it’s really great because you can go back to that person, address that issue and see if you can find out where the problem was. What went wrong. And then you can show those people, oh, my gosh, I’m really sorry that happened. You know, how can I fix it? How can I make it better? And you may be able to take that review and have them review you again and give you a better review.
Hanna: [00:12:10] Well, that’s also an opportunity for improving the customer experience and demonstrating some customer service. So it’s nice that those services provide that.
Alan: [00:12:21] Oh, yeah. Because otherwise, you know, if you set down a hundred things for reviews and, you know, you’ve got to imagine 20 percent of your people are cray, crays, that 20% is going to put a one-star review. They did this blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, you know. Whether it’s warranted or not. So this at least captures that and lets you know that, hey, there’s a problem which you can either ignore or address.
HOW BEST TO DEAL WITH BAD ONLINE REVIEWS
Hanna: [00:12:45] Right. Well, let me ask you, what are your thoughts about addressing them? Because like you said, there are some people that are you know, they just love to give ugly comments and, you know, what can you do about it? Especially if it’s not merited and they don’t appreciate what you’ve tried to do to fix a problem that you understand that they had. Made mistakes happen. Well, what’s your thoughts about addressing bad reviews?
Alan: [00:13:11] So imagine this, you’re waking up in the morning. The first thing you do is you grab your cell phone and the first thing you see is a bad review. It can ruin your whole day. You scream like that screaming sheep; you’ve seen that sheep? That’s how you feel that, screaming sheep.
Alan: [00:13:28] The first thing you want to do is write the nastiest letter you can write, the meanest, nastiest thing you can toward that person and then delete it and throw it away. Because at least you got that off your chest. Because getting a bad review is the worst thing. It’s the worst feeling you can have in your heart. And sometimes you just want to get that stress out of your system.
Alan: [00:13:49] Next, you want to look at what the review actually said and figure it out. Hey, did I make an error or did I mess up? Did I? Am I the one who caused this bad review to happen? If you realize yes, well, then you need to address it, if you realize no, then you have a couple of choices.
Alan: [00:14:04] If it’s no, you have a couple of choices. Either, just let it go. You can dispute it. Like this person says all these bad things about you and they’ve never been to your business. You can dispute it with a lot of these places and say, “look, this person has never been into by business, I’ve never had a contract with this person. This person is saying disparaging comments about me and then many times they will remove it. I’ve gotten several bad reviews removed because I never had a contract with these people.
Alan: [00:14:31] If there’s something that you need to improve on and it’s something you did mess up, then the best thing to do is actually confront it. Don’t let that sit in your craw, just eating away at you. Reach out to the people. “Hey, you know, I just got, I want to thank you for taking time out to review me, but I just got your review and I’m blown away that this happened. That you felt this way. What happened? What did we do wrong? How can we correct this?”
Alan: [00:15:00] And many times they just want to get it off their chest. They just want to get, they just want to start yelling at somebody, and they want the satisfaction of knowing that you made an error. And sometimes, like, OK, well, now that we made that error, but you fixed it or, you know, you’re calling, OK, now just upgraded from a three star to a four-star review and edit the language. OK, great. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they’ll even write an update. Say this guy called me and tried to get me to remove my review. You know, it’s basically called a Hail Mary. You got to try. You have nothing to lose by trying.
Hanna: [00:15:37] Ok,
Alan: [00:15:38] But when you do get a bad review, this is the best way to answer a bad review, that if you indeed did something wrong. Confess to it. In your usually most review sites have a way you can respond to review. First off start by thanking them for giving you the review.
Alan: [00:15:54] “Thank you for taking time out to review me. It’s very important that I know what is working, what’s not working with my clients. And obviously, the problem that you have is something that I am addressing personally right now. And I want to make sure that nothing like this will ever happen again to any client who comes to my company. But I want to make sure that I do this right and then I make the appropriate changes, and I want to thank you for pointing this out to me, because you did, you made my future clients’ experiences that much better.”
Alan: [00:16:27] Now, that’ll do two things to them. That will either make them mad and they’ll just delete the review completely because they don’t want to see anything bad happen. Or nothing can happen, and they just leave it as is or, you know, they can sometimes change it. And they’ve done that. And they’ve changed the review. They’ve upgraded the review. So we have nothing to lose by trying to get people to change the review.
Alan: [00:16:49] If it’s a cray, cray-person, most people, when they’re looking at a review, can tell a cray-cray, they can tell this person is just off in left field. All right. So just address them, you know, with “Many people who have come to our company have been very satisfied with this. I’m really sorry that you had a bad experience. I’m not sure where this happened. But, hey, we wish you the best of luck in everything you do.”
Hanna: [00:17:13] Well, those are some great ways to answer. I really like the way you worded that, taking ownership of a problem, appreciating the fact that you had an opportunity to address it as feedback, as an opportunity to improve, because it also lets somebody reading the review and your comment to it know that, “oh, my gosh, you know, this problem is getting fixed.” So it’s encouraging.
Alan: [00:17:41] Exactly
Hanna: [00:17:41] So I think that’s really great. I really appreciate that you laid it out there like that, because I think sometimes when people get negative feedback, I mean, everybody wants to be doing their best and when somebody says, “oh, no, no, no, no, no, that’s not good,” you kind of take it personally, which in a way is good because you want to fix it. But at the same time, it feels like an attack. And what do we do when we feel attacked? We get on the defensive. So what you describe is it is not on the defensive. It’s quite the opposite. It’s like saying thank you. I’m grateful for you having pointed this out so I can fix it. So that’s really good.
Hanna: [00:18:18] You know, earlier you said that one of the things when asking for a review is to use the phrase that you’d like a “positive review.” And that’s really the good advice. I think it’s assumed, but it’s always nice to sort of have that little nudge. I was wondering if you had any other advice about what people should avoid doing when inviting reviews, things that are turnoffs.
DON’T ASK FOR AN ONLINE REVIEW IF . . .
Alan: [00:18:46] Ok, well, one big thing is, you know, not every event that I’ve done goes one million percent like I normally do. Occasionally things happen. The microphone went out, which wasn’t my fault. There’s something weird happened or you just got that weird look and that weird feeling from the bride. As I go back into my books and make a notation, do not ask for review or “do not send’ like we call it. Do not ask for review, because you know that no matter what, that person is going to give you a bad review just because there’s something you felt in their heart that was that was terrible. And so rather than send them out, “Oh, hey, you know, bright, shiny, you know, give us a positive review,” you know, they’re not going to do it.
Alan: [00:19:30] So why waste your time and the possibility of them posting a bad review? I’ve let all my team know that if they have a problem with a wedding to let me know on Monday. So in my two-week tickler file, I marked that as a “do not send out” in my company. If they don’t tell me, and there’s something they obviously did wrong, they get in trouble. You know, they could get fired because now I’m sending, requesting, a review from somebody whose wedding got screwed up because of my guy and I knew nothing about it. Now I’m asking for a view. And now this terrible review got posted.
Alan: [00:20:04] So how do you how do you handle it? When you get a bad review, if they’re not satisfied, I don’t want to take money for something that I didn’t do right. If I also called my bride by the wrong name instead of calling her Cynthia, I called her Frank, which is really bad. My job is to get the names right. Absolutely. So if I obviously make a mistake, I don’t deserve to get paid. I have I have no problem giving my money back if I fail to do what I’m supposed to do. So I’ll give my money back or I’ll do some sort of do over or do something to fix it.
Hanna: [00:20:43] I think when people give a bad review, it’s because they also want to be heard. Do you understand that you did something that didn’t meet expectations. And again, the reflexive action is to deny it or make an excuse. But when you say, “yep, you know, it happened, we’re sorry, how can we make it up to you?” That sets a totally different tone. It really does.
ALAN’S METHODS WORK
Alan: [00:21:06] I get people emailing me after my after I’ve done presentations, after I’ve given my reviews presentation and have them emailing me a couple of weeks later they go, “I got a bad review and I did what you told me to do and they changed it to a five-star review.”
Hanna: [00:21:21] Wow.
Alan: [00:21:22] And like, SEE this stuff works.
Hanna: [00:21:24] Yeah. Yeah. Well that’s great. That really is. Two things, first, any parting thoughts about how to get a positive online review or testimonial before we wrap up? And then I have one more question for you.
TIPS FOR GETTING POSITIVE VIDEO TESTIMONIALS
Alan: [00:21:40] Absolutely. Testimonials. That’s something that’s very important. Getting testimonials from your customers. Say you own a restaurant. Right? And somebody just had a great dinner. Why not get a little video of them saying, “oh, my God, I just had the best dinner at blah blah restaurant or, “hey, I just got my lawnmower repaired, you know, Bob, just fix my lawn mower. And it was good. He came out, it was done perfectly.”
Alan: [00:22:05] Video testimonials worked better than online testimonials because it’s real, because it’s a real person, a real client. You can see the emotion. You can see the excitement in their eyes when they’re talking about your product.
Alan: [00:22:20] And then you upload that everywhere. You uploaded to YouTube. You upload it to Facebook. You upload it to your website. That’s something that’s really important. Any time you get a good review, share it, put a link on your website to it. Or put the verbiage on your website. It helps your SEO as well. Put testimonials, video testimonials.
Alan: [00:22:37] Make sure that if you’re going to put it on YouTube, that you do it horizontally, not up and down. That way it’ll fit in the YouTube screen better for a testimonial. If you’re going to put it on Facebook or make a TicTok out of it, then have it vertical. So you just want to figure out when you’re making that review, what media, what medium you’re going to be placing that into.
Hanna: [00:22:57] So a little bit of planning ahead of time will make sure that the format fits, that you can get the most mileage out of it. That’s another really good tip to have.
Alan: [00:23:06] Exactly. And before you do the video, tell the person, OK, we’re going to do a little video. Here’s what I want you to say in your own words. “Hi, my name is blah, blah, blah. I just had blah, blah, blah from blah blah, and we had a blah blah blah experience.” That way they’re not just sitting there going, “OK, what do I say?” You kind of guide them to what you want them to say.
ALAN’S FUNNIEST WEDDING OFFICIANT EXPERIENCE
Hanna: [00:23:27] All right. Wonderful. Well, one last question here, because as a wedding officiant, I’m sure you could write a book on some of the interesting things you’ve seen happen at weddings, especially in Southern California. I was wondering if there’s a single story that stands out for you from the rest that you could share with us in the few minutes that we have left.
Alan: [00:23:52] And like you said, I could write multiple books on the craziness that happens. But I think one of my funniest weddings was just a quick elopement.
Alan: [00:24:02] This couple from out of state came. It was October 31st, 2010. I still remember the day. I have the picture on the wall and they were going on a cruise for Halloween, but they wanted to get married in their costumes. So he was dressed as a bunch of grapes. She was dressed as a bottle of wine.
Alan: [00:24:20] They walked down the aisle to Heard It Through the Grapevine and they had those giant like Mickey Mouse sized gloves. They didn’t use regular rings. They used napkin rings . . .
Hanna: [00:24:31] Oh, wow.
Alan: [00:24:32] . . .as their wedding rings. And I just made fun about wine aging well, and him not shriveling up into a raisin, and just had really just some stupid, silly fun with them. My themed weddings that I do are crazy fun. So I love doing those.
Hanna: [00:24:50] Maybe one day you’ll get around to writing a book about that because it’s it sounds like there are some fun stories there. And I appreciate your sharing that one with us.
Hanna: [00:25:01] Thanks, Alan. This has definitely been insightful and a little entertaining, so thank you for being on the show.
CALL TO ACTION
Hanna: [00:25:07] That’s our show for today. But don’t go anywhere. I have a really easy ask for you. Would you please open your podcast app and give us a five-star review and leave a comment about what you love most about the show? I do read them all and it’ll take you less than a minute. And while you’re at it, share this episode, tell someone about it, because the best way to grow our audience is by word of mouth.
Hanna: [00:25:28] And if you want the detailed show notes, links to connect with my guest or stuff that we talked about, even if you want to ask a question, have a show idea. Come on over to BusinessConfidentialRadio.com.
[00:25:39] I’ll catch you on the next episode. And in the meantime, have a great day and even better tomorrow.
Guest: Alan Katz
Alan is the owner of Great Officiants. Basically he marries people. He has formed a team of professional officiants that go out to wedding venues, hotels, backyards, beaches — almost anywhere to perform the most creative ceremonies.
He owns a boutique wedding chapel, a beach wedding design company, and a themed wedding division. In the Southern California, his company represents the gold standard of officiants in style, with affordable prices. So if you want to put a ring on it, or renew your vows – Alan’s your man.
Alan is also a requested speaker at wedding industry conventions, wedding association educational events and podcasts.
His multi point plan to get customers to review him has obviously been very successful and today he’s going to share his secret sauce with us.
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