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What You Need To Know About Referral Services

By Mary Lou Denny

Customers who don’t know about your business can still find you in a number of ways. They can ask friends and family members for referrals, visit the Yellow Pages or check the Better Business Bureau.

However, an increasingly popular approach is to consult online referral services like (Indianapolis-based) Angie’s List, Home Advisor and Yelp. Here’s a look at this trio of review web sites:

  1. Angie’s List. This site presents user-written reviews and rankings of local service professionals. For service professionals, the benefits include free registration and content management, as well as the chance to interact with consumers posting comments.
  2. Home Advisor. Formerly Service Magic, this site matches screened service professionals with consumer requests. Professionals pay a one-time $99 enrollment fee and a fee of $5 to $55 for each lead provided.
  3. Yelp. This site allows users to locate and review virtually any local business, from restaurants to contractors. Yelp is free to consumers. Companies can advertise on Yelp for $300 to $1,000 a month, providing discounts and other business generating offers.

As review web site use has grown, so too have strategies for companies to leverage good reviews on such sites – and diplomatically deal with bad ones.

Good reviews clearly will be a boon to your company, no matter what product or service it offers. On such sites as Angie’s List, good notices can lead to other opportunities as well. Dealing with bad reviews requires considerable finesse and a tactical strategy or two.

Leveraging the pros and cons

Here are key considerations in leveraging positive feedback about your company and dealing with negative reviews on the three sites:

  • Encourage reviews. When customers appear particularly happy with your work, encourage them to post reviews on these sites.
  • Respond with gratitude. Thank those who review your company.
  • Join the conversation. Angie’s List and Yelp both allow companies to monitor what’s being said about them and join in the conversation.
  • Leverage other opportunities. Only those with grades of “B” or higher on Angie’s List are permitted to advertise or offer discounts on the site. In this way, your good ratings lead to more opportunities.
  • Maintain a strategy. Your company should have a strategy and business process for responding to feedback on consumer review sites. Many companies pay dearly for consumer satisfaction surveys providing much the same feedback obtained for free by monitoring review sites.
  • Create short, private responses. When faced with a negative review, don’t wait to respond because Internet reviews travel fast. Attempt to resolve the issue with short, private responses to the reviewer. For instance, Edmonton wedding photographer R.J. Hidson defused a potentially damaging review with a thoughtful, upbeat email.
  • Be a leader. Position your company as among the leaders in its industry in monitoring good and bad feedback on review sites and incorporating it into a continual business improvement process.

Author: Mary Lou Denny is vice president of advertising and public relations at Walt Denny Inc., a full service public relations and advertising agency. She can be contacted at