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By Clare Goggin Sivits On February 14, 2022

How To Get More Reviews for Your Distillery & Why

“You’ve gotta check out this awesome distillery!” That’s what you want people to say when they recommend your distillery to friends and family, right? It’s even better when they post it as a review online. A positive review feels so good — but it’s also a smart goal to add to your beverage marketing strategy.

Man sits at a bar in a distillery tasting room.
The beverage marketing strategy for your distillery should include getting more reviews.

Fun fact: eight in ten customers read online reviews before patronizing a local business. Even we have our eye on reviews in order to compete with liquor marketing companies. It’s a persuasive tool to get people to walk through your door. The amount of reviews your distillery gets also factors into how easily someone finds you online. Of course, you want them all to be glowing but even negative reviews offer an opportunity for improvement — and customer engagement.

The challenge? Getting people to leave those reviews can be tricky. Typically it’s either the customers who’ve had an outstanding visit or the ones who had a really negative experience who flock to review sites. But you can have some influence in this process too. You may even want to make this part of your alcohol branding and marketing efforts.

If your distillery needs a plan for addressing online reviews, we can help! In our experience with beverage consulting services, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to get those reviews and how to really make them work to your advantage.

Why Ask For Customer Reviews?
Often distilleries shy away from asking customers for reviews. The fear is that an increase in online reviews may mean more negative reviews as well as positive ones. However, reviews in general are far too valuable to ignore. In fact, reviews result in an 18% lift in sales on average.

The benefit of increased reviews also translates to your discoverability online. The more reviews your distillery has, the higher it will rank in a local search. That means when your neighbors go looking for a local tasting room, they’re far more likely to find yours on Google.

Where Do You Want Reviews?
Before you go out seeking more reviews, decide where you want those reviews posted. The most obvious places are Google and Facebook but you may also want to consider Yelp and TripAdvisor, two online review platforms that still have a large audience.

Reviews posted directly to your Google Business Profile immediately deliver that search optimization benefit but if you have a decent following on Facebook, that could also help your bottom line. Yelp ranks second to Google when it comes to reviews with 45 percent of customers checking it prior to going somewhere. TripAdvisor places third in that list. If you want to target a specific audience, take a closer look at the demographics for each site and choose your review site.

How Do You Get More Reviews?
Ask. It really is that simple. Of course, there’s slightly more to it but when you don’t ask your customers for reviews, you won’t get any.

Obviously, your request for reviews can take all kinds of forms. Here are a few ways to effectively ask for reviews:

  • Email Recent Customers: When you’ve got a customer in your tasting room, take advantage of the opportunity and ask for their email. It might be something you collect while checking them out or you can go old school and have them fill out a form or visitor book. Either way, once they’ve visited you, you have the opportunity to email them. Perhaps a week two later, send them an email that thanks them for coming by then drop that question: “We’d love to know what you think of the tasting room! Leave us a review here.”
  • Insert It into the Footer of the Newsletter: If you send a regular newsletter to your loyal fans, add a request for reviews in the footer of your newsletter. This permanent link will at least make customers aware that their feedback is welcome. While they may not leave a review right away, they’ll know where to find that link later.
  • Call to Action on Receipts: You have a huge opportunity to slip a suggestion into your customers’ wallets or pockets by adding a little note to the bottom of your receipts. A simple “Tell us what you thought: Leave us a review on Yelp” could send your happy customers flocking to your review site of choice to tell everyone about their stop by the distillery tasting room.
  • Add a Review Site Icon on Tasting Room Materials: As customers sit at your bar or tables, they’ll be reading menus and any other printed materials you’ve so carefully selected for them. If you’ve already got their attention, take the opportunity to ask for a review. The vast majority of your customers have their phone handy and might just open up a review app to leave their thoughts about that whiskey they just tasted.
  • Place a Button on Your Website or Online Store: While there’s no guarantee that every single website visitor has been to your tasting room, you’re sure to catch a few former visitors. When they come to your website to find the small-batch bourbon they really liked, they could leave a review at the same time. You just have to tell them where to go. So create a prominent button on both your website and your online store that asks them to “Leave Us A Review!”
  • Solicit Reviews Through Social Media: What’s true of your website is also true of your social media platform. While not all of your followers have dropped in for a tasting, several of them surely have. Incorporate a regular request for reviews on each of your channels. Do it monthly or quarterly — whichever works best for your social media cadence.
  • Get Your Staff Involved: Have your bartenders ask. It absolutely can’t hurt! As they’re pouring whiskey or ringing up merchandise and bottles for customers, they might say, “We’re so glad you enjoyed it. You should leave us a review.” After all, they are the best judge of whether a visitor is likely to leave a positive review. Perhaps you could even find a way to incentivize this with a prize to the staff member who drives the most reviews.

How to Flip Negative Reviews In Your Favor
A customer will leave a negative review. It’s inevitable. Especially if you’re encouraging more reviews in general. Someone’s going to be unhappy and they’re gonna want to tell everyone about it. We want you to be prepared for that.

When it does happen, take a deep breath, relax. Once you’ve loosened your death grip on your mouse, take some time to write a genuine response. Consider the best way to address the customer’s complaints or concerns. Is there something that your distillery could do better? Or were they just visiting on an off day? Can you invite them back for a better experience next time perhaps with a small discount as a gesture of good faith?

However you decide to respond, as long as it’s measured and empathetic, it will help flip that negative review for you. Even if the customer is inconsolable, every other potential customer that comes across that review will see your response. They’ll get the message that you care and it’s important to provide a pleasant experience for everyone who walks through your door. It’s a good way to get those online review readers to come visit.

Bonus: How To Use Reviews for Marketing Purposes
Now that you’re flush with reviews, use them to your advantage! Share them on social media to provide that personal testimony to your followers. Incorporate them into printed materials. Integrate it into your spirit label design. Include them on your website. While it might not seem like it’s all that important to your customers, a genuine and organic recommendation — even from someone they don’t know — can go a long way. And it can act as a subtle suggestion that more people should go leave their own opinions about your distillery online.

Clare Goggin Sivits

As a marketer with a strong writing background, Clare Goggin Sivits has worked in the beer, spirits, and wine industries for nearly a decade. She oversaw digital marketing for a small wine startup as well as a craft brewery and distillery with a nationwide footprint. A Florida ex-pat, Clare now lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to write about craft beverage marketing and the industry as a whole.

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