Marketing Tip — Making the Most of Online Reviews | A Four-Step Guide

Obviously your studio is offering excellent classes to young dance students as you are here reading this content for licensed Leap ‘N Learn studios. Likely your staff is full of experienced, knowledgeable, and genuinely enthusiastic teachers that want nothing but the best for their little dancers. Your days are probably full of smiling children and their pleased parents. Like any well-operated dance studio, you’re probably looking to retain and gain students to keep enrollment high and to keep everything peachy. (Woohoo, great work so far!)

One very important thing you need to pay attention to in order to keep things running so smoothly is reviews! What people are saying can make or break your business, if you aren't careful. One bad review can throw it all off (and we all know upset customers are often the loudest). At the same time glowing reviews can be your best, and easiest, source for new business.

In our digital age where everyone can be connected online at all times, transparency is unavoidable. People will talk about your business online, whether or not you are present. So ignoring the online chatter is not an option. Instead keeping a strong online presence full of positive reviews and having the tools to do so is a must — and thankfully it isn't difficult.

Here we go! Just follow our easy four-step guide to making the most of your reviews...

Step 1: Listen

Stay alert! Continually read reviews about your business from online sources such as Google Plus, Facebook, Yelp, FourSquare, online business directories, etc., as well as keep an eye out for local publications that may discuss your studio. Moderate emails and any online forms submitted for feedback. Watch for articles or blogs written about you and your brand online (Bonus Tip: Setting up Google alerts will help with this). Search for mentions on social media platforms. Listen to the buzz in your studio, and simply ask your employees and student’s parents for their input.

It’s important to know what people are saying about your studio, staff, classes, and really every aspect of your business. You need to know the perceived reputation of your business so that you can work toward matching it with your standards, if they aren’t already aligned. Listening allows you to learn what needs to be improved and to know what is important to your customers. Constructively use this to overcome any shortcomings and to find out what to promote. Who knows what you may learn!

Step 2: Respond

Respond to each and every review, good or bad. This will show that your dance studio is involved and cares about the experiences of every student! Thank the person for taking the time to provide their input and respond accordingly to what they've said. If it's positive, that makes it easy to respond. Just be sure you take the time in return to respond uniquely (no one likes a canned message that everyone gets). If it's negative, try to offer a remedy when possible and provide a way for that person to contact you directly (i.e., email or phone number). Working out a problem offline can be so much easier, and if it's resolved amicably, you can always follow up to the original review online to publicly thank that person again for getting in touch and let them know you're glad you worked it out together. Remember that other people, especially ones that may be future families of your dance studio, will be reading comments that are on public websites, so when writing consider those audiences as well as the original reviewer. 

Responding to the reviews and having an action plan for what to do with reviews will help maximize their value or minimize their negativity. People value what their peers have to say, so it’s a vital aspect of your studio's reputation to monitor and manage.

Step 3: Promote

Help your positive reviews reach a higher potential and larger audience. Here are some ways to promote these reviews further:

  • If it's an article or blog post reviewing your business, add it to a press page on your website. You can PDF it or link to it, but be careful of leading people away from your website. You don't want to send someone to a website that may feature competition to your business. Any links should open in a new tab or window, so the user can easily go back to browsing your website and taking action there! 
  • Make it easy for visitors to find good reviews on your website or from your website. Consider creating a customer testimonial page to showcase positive quotes and keep it updated with current ones so that readers find it more credible (and find your business as more active; no one likes seeing something that looks like it was forgotten about). People visiting your website are smart; they will know that you hand selecting good reviews to publish (who's going to add a bad review in a place everyone can see it). So you should also make it easier for them to access all unbiased reviews by linking to where they are found from that page (and then ideally they will see the majority of reviews are positive). 
  • Post about reviews on social media sites that your studio uses. Keep in mind that you don't always have to post the full review, just the most "share-worthy" part. Remember to cite who said it and link to the original source (all about credibility again for turning any skeptics into believers). Also, try to incite fans or followers to like, comment, share, reply, re-tweet, etc. the post to virally spread it further — and perhaps even encourage more feedback. Here are some more tips and examples (using real online reviews about our good friends over at Leap 'N Learn licensed studio Front and Center):
    • Facebook: With longer character limits, Facebook is perfect for longer reviews or quotes and for sparking more conversations. Sample posts:
    • Twitter: With 140 character limits, tweets should be reserved for shorter reviews and quotes. They can also be a great way to link back to your website for more information or to view a full press piece. If possible @tag the user who wrote the review or retweet any reviews posted on Twitter with a personalized comment before. Sample posts:

      • "A place filled with warmth, love and energy!" - @[Toni's Twitter Handle] What three words would you use to describe Front and Center?

      • That's right — We've got the best dancers and teachers! RT @E_DaddySciotto Love the @Front_N_Center kids! Always up for a challenge! 

  • Get creative by sharing what others are saying through channels and efforts you already spend time on. For example, feature a "review of the month" in your monthly studio newsletter! (Psst, you can share ideas you have and brainstorm together in the comments below.)

Step 4: Encourage

Finally, you want to keep those reviews coming! Continually encourage people to leave reviews and share about their experiences. This will help your dance studio stay ahead of the competition not only through an active online reputation, but through the insight you'll have about what improvements your business may need. People researching your studio will find fresh reviews and be influenced through credible peer feedback. In the case of poor reviews, having newer, positive reviews push down the older, negative ones will help keep the reader's first impression a good one and provide them with updated content that reflects current feelings toward your studio.

Here are some ways to encourage more reviews:

  • Comment on past online reviews with the intention of soliciting future reviews. Saying things like "Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. We really appreciate it." or "We love getting reviews like this; keep them coming!" will encourage more people to do the same.

  • Post questions directly asking for Facebook fans and Twitter followers to share their experiences. Facebook has a place for fans to rate your business and leave reviews, which is a great visible spot. You can also link to other places your business is present and may need more reviews (Google Plus, Yelp, FourSquare, YellowPages, etc.).
  • Consider adding an online comment card  or survey to your website if you don't already have a way for people to leave reviews there. If you do have a system like this, you can update it to have open-ended questions to get better customized insight. Remember that shorter forms with less mandatory fields have higher completion rates though. Then if you receive positive feedback and a way to get in touch with the person that submitted it, why not ask if they will share it with others (and direct them to your preferred place for online reviews if they don't have one of their own). 
  • Have your studio staff and teachers remind parents to please share their experiences online when they are re-registering for classes or having a discussion that lends itself to this topic. You'll typically know which parents would love to help spread the word and advocate for your business, so definitely just ask them for the favor! We're sure they will be tickled to help. You could also use comment cards at the front desk to encourage feedback and reviews if desired.
  • Again, don't worry about re-inventing the wheel or making extra work for yourself. Think of ways that encouraging reviews could be tied into what you already do. Add a note on your end of the year performance program, include links in marketing emails, etc. What ideas do you have?

Bonus Tip:

Having the responsibility of listening, responding, promoting, and encouraging reviews surrounding your studio spread among employees is a great way to make this simpler and more efficient. This will also keep them informed of the studio's reputation and allow them to receive gratitude or critique where needed. The more the teachers see their effect on a student's experience, the more they may feel tied to making it even better. As long as you establish clear guidelines for what is allowed and not (i.e., only the owner is allowed to respond to negative reviews) or how the process works (i.e., each teacher is responsible for checking an assigned channel each week and filling out a form for what needs action), it will be easier to keep up with this and ensure careful monitoring when shared with multiple people. Plus, it can be an interesting topic to add to staff meetings! 

Did you learn something from this marketing tip? Do you monitor and manage reviews already or in a different way? What other ideas do you have surrounding this topic? Did we leave any questions unanswered? If you try it out, keep us posted on how this guide works for you.