20 min read

Episode 41: Breaking the Review Barrier with Zach Garrett

Ask April Porter

Zach Garrett is the founder of 5 Star Business - a fast-growing Indianapolis-based company that helps businesses accelerate their online reviews and build a strong reputation. Before starting 5 Star Business, he was leading digital marketing for a large global enterprise. He has been featured as a rising Millennial leading digital transformation in the US and lives in Indianapolis with his wife and their two young children.

On today’s episode, Porter together with Zach Garrett will talk about his expertise, story in his past, and how he started his marketing career.

Be on the waitlist for our latest upcoming programs. Click the link below! https://www.askaprilporter.com/aap-program-waitlist

 

Prefer to read what we talked about in the episode? Read below!

April Porter: Welcome back to the infinite franchisee show and this week I have a special guest, Zack Garrett is here with us. He has been featured as a rising millennial leading digital transformation, he actually led a marketing department in a very large corporation for several years before turning his attention to helping small business owners succeed in a very niche piece of marketing -  getting reviews. And we've talked about this before as part of your R4 program, reviews is one of the R's, and it is one of the things that helps you build a stellar reputation, which keeps your clients coming back to you again, and again for repurchases and gets them referring more business to you. So I'm very excited to welcome Zach to the show to share his expertise with us. Hi, Zack. 

Zach Garrett: Hi, April, thanks for having me.

April: Oh, it's our pleasure. We're so excited to get to the nitty gritty here. And we've had the pleasure of talking about your story in the past. And I know it's gonna resonate with a lot of our listeners. So I'm gonna let you start off. But first, tell us a little bit about how you started your marketing career.

Zach: Yeah, absolutely. So was, you know, studied marketing in college actually spent some time in a couple of tech companies in college, interning in companies and always liked the technology side of it ended up going in full time to a really large company to sell a ton of opportunity where they had capital, but they didn't have a lot of marketing expertise, and decided to dive in there when I graduated school and over several years, worked my way up, taken on all kinds of roles in marketing, with a heavy focus on digital and on, especially technology and focusing on that, but worked kind of my way up over many years working with a large organization, and was running all of their digital marketing for North America and for Europe. So kind of started that journey there, got my hands on a lot of things, but really kind of always went back to the digital and to the technology.

April: So obviously, you're not in the corporation or the corporate world anymore. Right? And you are now your own small business owner. We're gonna get into that in a moment. But I'm guessing like many of our listeners, you took the leap from the corporate world into business ownership for many of the same reasons everybody else does, you know, wanting to really take advantage of unlimited income and hopefully, unlimited freedom of time and flexibility of lifestyle. Is that what led you to do it?

Zach: Yeah. So you know, what's funny is I actually never thought I would take the leap and building my own business, I always I wanted to get into more entrepreneurial things, I always had that itch I liked, you know, kind of tech startup world, but never thought I would take the leap myself and kind of our journey, like a lot of good products, I think the best inventions kind of happened organically by just kind of figuring things out and really saying, “wow, we really got something here”. Our story is really founded in the pandemic, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was running marketing for a large global company, and it was home-work, wasn't traveling as much was kind of stuck at home, when we all got locked down, and really just felt compelled to help local companies, you know, I know the marketing stuff, I know the technology stuff, and I really wanted to find a way to help local businesses, because a lot of them were really scared. And you know, the beginning of the pandemic, unsure of what was going to happen. And so actually, what I, you know, just from my own personal life, we had bought a house a few years ago, and when we looked for a couple of home service things we put on a roof, we had put in a patio, we had put in flooring, and different things, each time I went to look for a local company, we were new to the area, I didn't know any local companies didn't have any referrals. And each time that I did, I couldn't find any companies that had a ton of great reviews, especially recent reviews, you know, most of them just hardly had any. And as a consumer, it was really frustrating. Because these were big purchases for me, big decisions, and I didn't know who to trust in my business, or for my home and you know, with my money. And so, you know, that idea kind of popped in my mind when we were at the beginning of the pandemic? And just that question on “Hey, I know the marketing tech, like I'd love to help local companies, maybe this is way I can help”. Like, I don't know why local companies aren't better at this. It's not a technology problem. You know, you and I both know that there's, you know, a lot of technology solutions out there to communicate with people. And so, you know, I just kind of had the wrestling with thought something I had experienced as a consumer and said, I'm gonna go figure this out. And maybe there's something here, maybe there's a reason I can't understand why people aren't doing this and it just will never work. But really, it started with a belief. And I think this is really important to kind of the mindset of what we do that people buy based on reviews. The way that Amazon, the way that TripAdvisor, the way that Yelp when you go to eat at restaurants, I mean, everything we do as consumers revolves around reviews. You know, we recently went on a vacation to Arizona a few months ago and my wife picked every hike we did, everywhere we stayed everywhere we ate, all off reviews, I mean, 100% based on the reviews, and that's how people buy today. And it's how they buy from local businesses as well, even if people refer them. And so I had this belief just on my own experience, the way we live that says, “I do this, all my friends do this”, and I don't think it's just a millennial thing. I think, you know, people in all generations are doing this more and more, and I think it matters to companies, you know, that was kind of the thesis for what we tried to go figure out was, I think this matters. And so what we did was I was home, you know, still doing the corporate job, and doing that during the day, and kind of as a side hustle connected with a few local businesses in the area, I'm based in Indianapolis, and just through my own network said, “Hey, I've got this premise that I want to chase and figure out if we can help some companies during the pandemic get better and build a better reputation”. And it was a, you know, no loss thing for them, if they can be helped at all great, basically did it for just about nothing. And we got a few companies together and really began to figure out and kind of dive into the details of “what is your current processes?” “How does it work?” You know, “do you want reviews? - Yes, they did.” Okay, why don't you have them and really started trying to investigate that and figure it out. And that was really the beginning. And I'm sure we'll talk more about kind of where it's gone since then. But that was the genesis of it, just trying to solve a problem, help companies in the pandemic. And it really started something that I never really anticipated.

April: Yeah, and we're definitely going to get into because I do think so many of the our listeners, they understand that people shop with reviews, and they definitely desire to have all of their customers leaving them five star reviews. But there's some also technical things that reviews can’t help them with, but that I'm not sure everyone has a really good handle on as far as which platforms are the most important to have reviews on and how does that affect other other ways that people can find you, in addition to just, you know, reading good words, or a good opinion about an experience within your restaurant or somewhere like that? Could you talk a little bit about that? 

Zach: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So two key questions come out of that. The first we get a lot is: What platforms matter? You know, there's like hundreds of places, it's a lot of times overwhelming. You know, there's all these review sites out there. I think it depends a little bit by industry, but not really, Google is number one, if you're the local business, 95% of all the traffic is flowing through Google. So if you want to win the local reputation game on Google, you know, that's what we tell customers is, you know, you really simplify it, right? Google is number one, usually in a local business, Facebook is number two, the power of neighborhood groups, mom's groups, these community groups that are really powerful now, where people are often asking for suggestions on everything from “Hey, where do you work out?”  to, you know, “I need a plumber” to, you know, whatever people are asking in these groups, so we think it's really important to be strong on Facebook. Beyond that, you know, we would call everything else kind of secondary application. So very niche specific to your business, you know, think about if people are really honing in on a certain place. So if you're a realtor, places like Zillow, realtor, obviously matter. In addition to Google, and Facebook, if you're a home service company, you might also try to get reviews on housing next door, you know, if you're a restaurant, you might try to get reviews on Yelp. And so there is a little variety of what we would call the secondary applications. But for every business, I would say, focus on Google, and then focus on Facebook from a local level. And you know, you're gonna win if you do those two things. And I think that that leads into the other question on what are the benefits of doing this beyond just having a lot of reviews? You know, how does it tangibly help your business? What we're seeing in the data right now, and we don't label ourselves as an SEO company, you know, we are a reputation building company. But we believe that reviews are the number one factor for your local rankings, like we're seeing, when you turn this on your search rankings, the way that Google positions, your business goes through the roof, and you know, that leads to more customers choosing you. And it makes sense, right? When we talk to businesses, what we say is, look, Google's goal is to provide their customer, which is the consumer, the best companies to work with. And they've spent an enormous amount of energy and money building this ecosystem called Google My Business and Google reviews, it's the entire way they rate how good your company is. So if you want to show up at the top of Google, be the best company at your thing in the way that Google has measures you and rate you, and that's through Google reviews. And so SEO can be what one of my customers recently described to me as a black hole, right? It's like I just don't know. You know what this is. We're not saying don't do other activities with SEO, we think you absolutely should and find a good partner to do that. But what we do see is when you focus on reviews, it has a tremendous power to drive your ratings up and your exposure and more people will find you. And also your close rate will go up. A lot more people will choose you even when they're finding you, if they're not seeing reviews recently, and they're seeing competitors have recent reviews, they're calling them and not you, I think that missed opportunity of who's not showing, you know, who's not calling, because you don't have those reviews, a huge missed opportunity for businesses. So you know, obviously, it builds a strong reputation, but very tangibly, it will put you at the top of the search engines, more people will see you and more people will call.

April: Well, and it just makes you feel good, right? I mean, your customers and hearing that you're doing a good job is sometimes the thing that keeps business owners going because business ownership is not for the faint of heart, it is not an easy road to hoe. And you know, there are really tough days. And I've talked to dozens of business owners who say, You know what, when I am just having a really rough day - luckily for me, that's when a customer will say something really nice about our service. And man, it just reminds me why I do this, right? So when you have a whole cache of reviews, while you've got your own like “uplifting journal”, you can go read from every time you need a little pat on the back, because I know there are so many people out there doing a great, great job. It's just that it's not being advertised or publicized, you know, to everyone else, what kind of job they're doing.

Zach: Yeah, you're absolutely right, we find when we talk to a lot of people, they say just like on a personal level, like it hurts them that they do so much good work, they put so much energy into their business, and then nobody knows about it in their local community. And, and a lot of times, it's like, I heard this customer went to this person or this other business and had a horrible experience, they didn't treat them well. And if they would have only known like, we really do a good job in our business, we would have found them. And that's really the gap that we help and solve is, you know, we want to work with great companies and help them tell their stories, like all we're doing is helping, you know, local companies, help them share with the local community from all their happy customers. And that's all they need. They already run great businesses, I think, from switching from corporate life to running a small business that is focused on small businesses, my favorite part of it of this journey has been realizing that most small business owners are really good people, they want to do good work for their customers, they really care, they do a great job. And they want their customers to have a good experience, you know, and so we just love helping them because they need the help. And their people in their community need to know that they do a great job. And that's what we can help them do.

April: Well, and those business owners to be fair, are so good at what they do, because that's their expertise, right? So if they're the patio, I don't know what you call somebody who does like patio pours. You know, but if they do that, if they're the floor installers, if you're the florist, if you're the baker, that's your expertise. And here now as a business owner, you've been thrust into having to juggle all these other things, including technology, maybe you've never had to deal with before. And then the marketing side of things and then asking for reviews can even just be uncomfortable, right? It feels like it's a burden to ask someone to review you. And so you're dealing with all these things as a business owner to sort of have a tool that takes the pressure off and solves those problems from for you is, you know, really, really helpful. So in all this research that you did, because I know you guys really dove in and and you did a lot of case studies and and things of that nature, what do you find? Because we just talked about how all business owners really desire the reviews, they desire the recognition, but they're not getting them at the volume that makes a difference? And did you discover why that is?

Zach: Yeah, so we found two core things. So we studied this with kind of our sample group and then expanded a little bit, and now have hundreds of businesses we work with. And with every one of them, we see two things, two reasons why companies don't get more reviews. The first reason is just it's complex for the company, and they often don't execute it as well as they could. A lot of local businesses don't have internal marketing expertise, people on their team that know how to set up automations and sequences and study the analytics on email marketing, all of the different levers that you pull from a marketers perspective, right? That large companies have access to. And the other part from the company is it just takes a lot of time to do it manually. And so if you're out doing the work, it's hard if you're an owner, you have other people doing the work for you. Even getting them to manually ask is very inconsistent of the customer. And it's something you continually have to stay on top of. And so on the company side, it's just very complex to do and it's something you always have to worry about and always push with your team and it still just doesn't seem to get the best results you just a ton of work for little results. So the company execution is half the problem. The other half of the problem is companies do not make it easy enough for people to leave reviews, you cannot give them seven steps after an internal survey, to leave a review, you cannot, you know, give them something where they have to go figure out how to get to the review link, whatever. You have to make it truly one click. And so the idea of what we do is we really focus on making it simple for the business, got to to take it off your plate. So you don't need to worry about that. You'll never maximize your potential trying to do this manually internally. Plus, we have a process that makes it super easy for the customer. And we believe when you combine simple for the business plus easy for the customer, that's the recipe to maximize your reviews, and then leads in revenue. And you know, all the downstream benefits that come from those reviews.

April: We just talked about this a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned at the top of the podcast, that in the Infinite Franchisee, we really promote and teach a strategy where you have to have your eye on the ball in our R4 program, which from our standpoint stands for reviews, reputation building referrals, and repurchases from current clients. And that is, if you'd missed the podcast a couple of weeks ago, I'd encourage everyone to go back and listen to it. Because we really get into the nitty gritty about why you have to make it so easy for your customers to help your business. They love you. And they will love to help you. But your business is not the top priority in their lives, you know, they have a million other things that take precedence over your business, whereas your business is the top priority of your life. So you have to make it easy for them. And it doesn't hurt. If every once in a while you toss out a little reward for them as well for their efforts, whether that's a rewards program, or a contest or referral bonus, or whatever it might be, which is, like I said Google is in another podcast, we'll get into more of that there. So Zach, after figuring out what wasn't working for small business owners and kind of putting something in place so that people could see higher numbers of reviews? How does that impact the businesses that you've studied?

Zach: Yeah, so kind of our story was we have that pilot group that we started with. And we started testing different enterprise grade technologies. You know, technology is not the problem. There's a lot of technologies, you can search and find 1000s of applications that try to do it. But it's not about the technology. It's about how you execute it and all of the other pieces of it that make it hard, but make to bring in somebody that can help you do that really effective. And so what we saw is we begin to pilot and we figured out, you know, what's the right technology stack? What are the right processes to do? What we saw as people's review volumes were certainly going up, they're getting many more than they ever had before. But other downstream impacts started happening in their business. As I mentioned, their search ranking started to go up, people's needs to pay for ads started to go down, because they were getting those organic leads, because they were ranking higher. So a lot of the companies we work with have paid ad budgets that they started to draw down. And there's literally a cost savings effort for them, we started to see close rates go up where somebody a couple weeks ago said I just feel like our close rate is different. Like I just feel like people are calling and they want to work with us, versus just getting a quote because they see all of those happy customers. And so those close rates go up. And you know, over the long term trend of now that we've been doing this and continue to kind of expand both in industry and the number of companies we work with. We've got case studies that are a year, two years old now. And we see doubling of rankings, doubling of leads, you know, in years, customers coming back, you know, more repeat customers coming back. And we've even had several companies who have sold their business, we work with a lot of franchises. A lot of franchisees, their goal is to one day sell their business for the highest multiple possible, right? And we've had several last year who sold their business and said, Wow, like now that we've done this for a year, we built up these great reviews, we have more leads coming in, we've got a stronger reputation in our community, I was able to sell my business for more, you know because of this effort alone. And you know, I think that in the end it will tangibly - when you focus on this and you do it well, it will help you this year. But what we really focus in is to try to push you to think about if you focus on this, the value it will provide your business in three years, five years, ten years is probably hard to fathom, you know, it's kind of like compound interest, it's kind of hard to wrap your mind around, but the value is absolutely there. So we see a ton of downstream effects. The other thing that we see that people often don't think about is this idea of being able to either retain talent or attract talent, if you're a local business, and you are trying to find talent, and we all are today, trying to find the right talent, your potential employees are looking at your reviews, and it was you're trying to recruit them, or they're considering working for you, they want to be put in a good environment. So we've also seen people use that as a tool to go hire people, because they're like, Hey, this is the business if you're in this industry, and this is what you do, this is the company to be with. So it allows you also to attract the right talent, which only amplifies all of the other good about your business, if you have the right people.

April: This is why I find it so exciting because I think one of the things - we haven't really mentioned this yet, but one of the reasons that business owners sometimes let the review asking slide a little bit is because it seems like such a small thing. It seems like it's not going to have you know, a huge sweeping impact. But here you are after doing these case studies. And you can show the data that says yes, it actually does have sweeping impact. And as a matter of fact, like you said it compounds, right? So if you have five people review you today, and you have three people see that tomorrow, then they review and now it just boom, boom, boom, right, your reputation grows. And I think that again, that's something that when people are talking about business ownership, and there's so much focus on what do you need. And, and an acknowledgement that reviews is one of the things that you need, you need referrals, and you need people to continue to purchase. But reputation building is often left out of the equation. And reputation building is ultimately what will determine who wants to work with you. Plus, Good will is what you're selling. When you go to sell your business, you're selling assets, plus good will and that good will is entirely tied up in the reputation that you have built. Now one of the things that I wanted to bring up because you mentioned franchising is that many times franchisees believe their franchisor is handling the requesting of reviews. And they have these automated programs or emails that go out to people that ask them to put a rating inside the email, and comments almost take a little survey inside the email. And that's the review. And they believe that these are reviews that are going out to Google and other places and helping them. Can you elaborate on that aspect? And if a franchisee should rely on that, or what questions should they be asking to figure out if they can rely on that?

Zach: Yeah, that's a great question. And very accurate as what we see in the franchising world. I think you have to understand if you're a franchisee, that there are two kind of competing metrics within most franchises. Number one is what you mentioned, which is this internal survey, a lot of people use NPS or Net Promoter Score surveying and the purpose of that survey and they do it to all of their customers kind of during an after the project or job is complete. And the purpose of that is to build a brand study and analyze things at a corporate level to one sell franchises. And to two, compare themselves against other industry leading franchises. It's a metric, what I would say is for corporate, you know, transparently, the other side of it is as a local franchisee, you really want to build up those public reviews on places like Google, because that's what really drives growth. No customer is choosing your business based on your internal survey score. They can't find that. They don't know what that is you could have a perfect score, and they would have no idea. It's not part of your sales process. And so what we see with a lot of our customers is the internal surveying is required, they can't do anything about that. And I'm not saying it doesn't have any value. It's just a different purpose, right? It's for making your business better and corporate metrics that they're trying to track, while at the same time you need to get that public review for your business. And so what you know, some things to think about if you're in that space, and you're wondering, like we do some kind of surveying, I don't know if you know, it's going well, I think the first thing to benchmark is to say, how many public reviews are you getting? And what percentage of your customers? Just do the quick math. So our benchmark for our customers, and we think this is industry wide as well across multiple industries just with reviews, your goal should be to get public reviews from more than 20% of your customers in a year. And so if you do the math, and you did 1000 jobs last year, and go to your Google My Business page and count, spend a couple of minutes counting how many reviews did you get? If it was seven, you are greatly missing the mark. Right? You should have had 200 reviews on Google. And so that's the easiest way to see like, are we doing this well? You know, I think public reviews just take the total number of your jobs, multiply it by point two, and go look, did you achieve that metric, that's probably a good first indicator on if you know, your organization is doing it well, as a whole, what we often find is that the organization is really biased towards those internal reviews. But those internal reviews often have kind of a, I'll call it an add on at the end, where you can then go write a public review at the end, those solutions don't work. You can't ask a customer to do seven steps, and then have the eighth step be, write a public review, you know, they're already done after step seven, right? And so that does not work. And so when we talk to people, we just candidly look at the math and say, Okay, you did a lot of volume, you have no reviews, would there's a huge potential here. And so that's the easy way to kind of look at it and think about it, what we do that's a little bit different is we still work with a lot of organizations that do those internal surveys, we just have a separate process to get that public review that's controlled locally, that is completely separate, that allows you to do both, you know, you have to do both. If you're in the franchising world, my encouragement would be to not rely on your franchisor to solve this problem for you. Because it impacts you, and you're the one that has to go solve it, they're never going to solve this perfectly for you. If you want to go build a great reputation, and you want to win in your market, you have to personally own it, and go in.

April: I love it, that we're talking about that all the time here, Zack. So all right. So we've learned so much from you today about reviews and the importance of them. And I would love to know how can people get in touch with you if they want to talk to you about how to get this done in their business specifically? 

Zach: Yeah, absolutely. So go to our website, 5starbusiness.com. I'm sure with this podcast, you'll include the link to that or connect with me on LinkedIn as well just search for Zack Garrett and with 5starbusiness. And we'd love to walk through some use cases in our team and show you some people that we work with and really how we can help. We have over 500 locations all over North America that we're working with. So you know, there's a good chance we came across your similar challenge or scenario that you're in and figured out a way to solve it. So we'd love to work with people. Leave you this April, I think that as we look at the future, where we think the market is going is that your reputation, and those public reviews are going to become if they're not already the most important thing to a company, because consumers are already there. And that's the way that we buy, and no matter how Google changes or Facebook or whatever. What we believe is that consumers trust other people's experiences. And to your point, you're selling goodwill, you're selling trust, at the end of the day in the companies that display trust online or that good will are the ones that are going to win. So if you're not focused on this, you will eventually if you want to survive, my encouragement would be a lot of people still aren't focused on this yet. Now's the time where you can beat them. And you can beat him to the punch and win in your local market. If you wait a couple of years or a few years to focus on this, you will be running from behind because other people will figure this out. So focus on building trust, focus on building a great reputation. And it'll have huge positive benefits for your business.

April: Well, again, thank you so much. Now, of course I know all of you. The next step you should take is to go right to Zach's Google listing and check out all of his reviews on his company. Right? So we're gonna put a link in the show notes for you if you want to get in touch with Zack, thanks so much for joining us today.

Zach: Yeah, awesome. Thanks for having me. I love what you guys are doing and believe that you know what the service you provide is hugely important for not just franchises, but local businesses. So I love what you guys are doing and however we can support well.

April: Thanks so much, Zach.

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