Even though summer is still going strong (and hot!), fall registration is just around the corner. As you think of ways to market your upcoming programs, now is the time to think about leveraging feedback from your spring and summer program participants to build buzz this autumn. Read on to learn how you can harness the power of positive reviews to build community and drive fall registrations.
The Power of Digital Word of Mouth
Word-of-mouth is by far the most powerful form of advertising for activities and programs, and with social media and online review systems, it’s easier than ever for happy participants to spread the word about their favorite facilities and programs.
“35% of what customers buy on Amazon is driven by customer reviews,” Allison Kirkland, marketing specialist for ACTIVE Network, explains. “And it’s even higher on Netflix, with 75% of viewing choices made by how the movie or TV show has been reviewed. Reviews drive consumer habits now more than ever before.”
This is especially true of programming for today’s children and teenagers, as their parents rely more and more on internet reviews from peers to determine where to send their children for fall activities. Teenagers especially use word-of-mouth to decide which activities and extracurriculars they want to participate in, and social media is an easy way for them to communicate their preferences to others.
In a world where digital word of mouth drives community trust for a business, having no reviews almost speaks louder than having negative ones.
The first and best thing you can do to get your participants to leave you glowing reviews is to make sure you have created a space where it’s easy for them to do so. Social media sites are leveraging this business need already, so all you have to do is opt-in to start collecting reviews from your current users.
If you don’t have a functioning Facebook page, you’re missing out on a large amount of feedback that’s almost completely automatically generated.
“Facebook actively asks people who have checked into a location to add more information and review it,” Kirkland says. “So not only does your facility show up in a user’s feed when they check in, notifying all their friends, but by the next day they’ll be asked to write a review. It’s a passive way for you to solicit feedback simply by existing.”
Making sure your business profile on Google is up to date is just as important.
“People use Google for everything,” Kirkland explains. “If someone is looking for a nearby recreation facility or program on Google, your business will come up in Google Maps, with reviews from locals, along with your busiest times and your open and closing hours. Google even solicits reviews from people who are doing searches.”
Yelp is another popular review platform that makes it easy for participants to find all your information and to leave you a review. Claim your listing and keep it up to date to make the most of this resource.
You can also solicit reviews from your community members in your newsletter emails by reminding them you’re on Facebook, Google or Yelp. ACTIVE Net®’s built-in marketing tools can help you automate these messages to your constituents.
Once you’ve got your pages set up and reviews coming in, you can boost the signal by calling them out in marketing materials.
“If an individual posts a review on social media or Google, it’s in the public domain,” Kirkland explains, which means you can use it for your own purposes. “However, if your community is tight-knit, it’s not a bad idea to ask for permission or to ask for individuals to give you specific reviews you can use.”
Surveys are another way to get feedback. ACTIVE Net® equips you with tools to send surveys to participants from spring programs that you can use in fall marketing.
“Just make sure participants can opt-in to have their reviews used in your materials,” Kirkland says.
You can also use plug-ins on your website to show Facebook or Google reviews as they exist, without having to repurpose them.
Show That You’re Listening
Now that you are receiving reviews from spring or summer activities, use this opportunity to show that you’re listening to the feedback to make your programs better. This helps build loyalty among your community members to your facility or programs.
“I recommend responding to every review you get online,” Kirkland says. “Even the positive ones, depending on the volume of reviews you’re getting. Just a quick thank you can show that you appreciate the time people took to review you.”
It’s especially important to address negative reviews in the public eye.
“Moving it to a private message is a good step before things get heated, but you should definitely respond to posts on the platform so readers can see that you’re paying attention and responsive to criticism,” Kirkland says.
Even if the review seems unfair, keep your response level and dispassionate to show you’re professional.
You can also use responses to negative or constructive feedback in email newsletters as an opportunity to show that you’re listening. For example, try having a section in your email communications that addresses participant suggestions and how they are being incorporated. This is an excellent way to build a trusting relationship with your participants and show them their experience and opinions matter.
While gathering feedback should be a year-round process in your organization, getting new and exciting reviews up in the spring and summer can springboard your fall registration or facility rentals to new heights.
For more ideas on how to boost fall registrations, check out our whitepaper, The Fundamentals to Boost Participation.