Invite by Widewail: Q&A

Widewail is a technology-enabled online engagement management agency founded by native Vermonter, Matt Murray. In anticipation of a new product launch & their move to Hula, I caught up with Marketing Manager Jake Hughes, to hear what’s new at Widewail.

CP: What is Invite?

JH: Invite is review generation software for local businesses. Invite makes it easy to send a request for a review to past customers, directing them from SMS to a review page in just a few steps.

CP: Why are reviews important for scaling businesses?

JH: Focusing on Google to start, if you are a local business and customers are nearby searching for your product/service (think car dealership, hair salon, pizza place, bank branch, general contractor) reviews have the capability to provide your business with a constant stream of new user generated content.

Google loves this content because it is current and unbiased. Accordingly, Google uses it to determine which businesses are “most likely to give the searcher the best experience.” More reviews and higher quality reviews will move you towards the top of local search rankings.

A local business’ potential customers use reviews as a form of social proof and a final sanity check, if you will.

The total number of reviews a business has is a top-level indicator for social proof of quality. For example, at quick glance if a business has 10 reviews most customers will pass without reading any of the reviews, there are just not enough to be influential.

Once a prospect gets to reading your reviews, you need enough current ones to be relevant. According to Brightlocal, the average customer reads 10 reviews before they can trust a business. Further, 40% of customers only take into account reviews written in the past 2 weeks. Putting those stats together, all businesses should shoot for a minimum of 10 reviews every two weeks, or 20 a month, on an ongoing basis.

CP: When should start-ups start thinking about aggregating reviews?

JH: UGC and social proof is a great marketing tool to always have available. Start as soon as you can. Tech start-ups can improve their own visibility by collecting reviews on G2.

For local businesses, you want to get to 100 lifetime reviews as soon as you can. A foundational amount will establish your business as reputable, providing prospects with enough social proof to make them confident a visit will result in a good experience.

With that said, there is no limit. We work with clients that have 6,000+ reviews. The key is always to have that set of 10 good reviews within the recent weeks.

CP: How is Invite different from other review management platforms?

JH: To start, it is designed to be paired with our unique, human-powered engagement management services. Our high-touch approach makes us the best in the business, responding in <24 hours with custom, brand-forward, and SEO-focused content. Just as important, we are a small team that is able to work directly with all our clients, providing quality customer service.

When developing Invite, we knew we were not the first to market. and Birdeye, among others offer similar services. But for us, after talking with customers, it became a no-brainer. Around 40% of our sales or onboarding calls included the question “can you get us more reviews?” So with that the work began on what eventually became Invite - a software tool to feed the reputation engine we manage for our clients.

We designed it around SMS because that is where customers are paying attention. 98% of text messages are opened. We made the process 3 steps because an easier process generates more reviews. And we built personalization into the customer communications to make the review requests feel natural to customers.

CP: How has Widewail managed growth while navigating through a global pandemic?

JH: We work hard to provide a quality and reliable service for our clients, and as a result we have seen minimal churn this year.

We are benefitting from the worldwide shift online due to COVID-19. Local businesses have had to swiftly adopt digital retailing strategies, and managing your online reputation is an important part of that process.

A strong partnership with Lexus has been a key win for the team recently.

In the past year, we have been fortunate to grow the company even with the challenges presented by COVID-19. Our team has grown by 8 to 15, revenue 4x, and our list of clients has grown 132%.

Local businesses have had to swiftly adopt digital retailing strategies, and managing your online reputation is an important part of that process. We work hard to provide a quality and reliable service for our clients, as a result we have seen minimal churn this year, and a strong partnership with Lexus was a key win for the company this spring.

CP: What were some specific challenges the team faced in preparing to launch a new product amidst the changing pandemic market?

JH: The most obvious being we have not worked together in person since March. Brainstorming remotely has been a learning experience for the team, we’ve had to learn how to recreate the energy without being together.

CP: What should we look forward to from Widewail in the future?

JH: We are pumped for our move to our new space in Hula this October! Looking forward, the Widewail product suite is useful for so many types of businesses! We will be exploring product and content ideas in a wide variety of industries.