Word Gets Around

How can your company harness the power of rave reviews? A customer-driven social networking site makes it possible.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the September 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Home Energy founder Phil Wheeler is embarrassed to admit that he has no idea how his company's name first showed up on Kudzu's website, kudzu.com. He just knows that his business has doubled in the three years he's been actively working with the customer reviews and social networking site. Kudzu, named after a fast-growing Southern plant species, stands apart from other social networking and review sites because it focuses specifically on helping consumers connect with services they need in their everyday lives, like doctors or home or automotive repair providers. The site lists about 13 million businesses, and 6 million jobs were performed last year through leads from the site.

"What made Kudzu really different from other local business listing sites was the customer ratings," says Wheeler, 40, who started his Norcross, Georgia, home insulation and energy audit business in 2003. "I started promoting and talking about it and pulled in $200,000 off just a few reviews." This year, Wheeler believes he'll generate more than $500,000 in sales for his $1.2 million company solely from Kudzu activity.

Wheeler says the leads coming off the site are highly qualified because people can search specifically for what their neighbors are saying about a service provider. "I would say that 99.9 percent of the customers I get are the customer I am looking for," Wheeler says. "It is the best thing I have ever done to find leads."

Wheeler works the site every day himself, encouraging new customers to catalog their experiences and checking up on any new postings that might need to be addressed with his own comments or a phone call. "Every job we do, we need to do a really good job to get that customer to go write a good review," he says. "People are quick to write a bad one."

Heather Clancy, a freelance journalist and consultant, has been covering the high-tech industry for close to 20 years. She can be reached at hccollins@mac.com.

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