Are you taking advantage of one of the simplest ways to spread the word about your business and attract new customers? I’m talking about Yelp. Unfortunately, far too many small business owners are not just ignoring, but outright avoiding, this online rating and review site.
We’ve all heard horror stories about small businesses whose reputations were ruined by a bad Yelp review that went viral. The reality, however, are that these stories are few and far between, and are vastly outnumbered by the millions of small businesses who have Yelp to thank for their growth.
A recent study by MarketingProfs has some insights about how consumers today use online review sites like Yelp and how Yelp can help small businesses grow.
Start by thinking of Yelp as word-of-mouth—just in a slightly different format. Almost three-quarters of consumers (72 percent) now say they trust online reviews just as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family.
When customers look you up on Yelp, there’s a very good chance they’re going to end up buying from you. In the study, a whopping 93 percent of people who research businesses on review sites report that they end up making a purchase from the business they are researching.
Now for the bad news: An astounding 87 percent of small businesses in the study say they aren’t active on ratings and review sites. Even among business owners who have a Yelp page, 22 percent say they never look at it. (Now, that’s what’s going to get you into trouble!)
Yelp is free, so there’s no excuse not to set up a business page (sign up at Yelp). Complete your business profile with links to your website; images of your store, restaurant or products; hours of operation; address and phone number…in short, anything that helps people decide whether to do business with you.
The key to success on Yelp is being active and paying attention to your account. Never looking at your Yelp page is a recipe for disaster. Keep your listing current with updated information and photos. Including more information helps your business show up higher in Yelp searches. Be sure to check for reviews on a daily basis (if not more often). Thanking users for positive reviews is a nice touch that helps customers feel warm and fuzzy about your business. But it’s even more important to respond rapidly to negative reviews.
Yelp offers some detailed guidance for doing this, but in general, you’ll want to take these steps:
- Stay calm.
- Don’t get defensive.
- Try to take the discussion offline. Invite the person to call or email you so you can discuss the problem in person (remembering that anything you say in an email might show up online later).
- Once the issue is resolved, post an update so customers and prospects know you care about customer service.
Encourage your customers to leave Yelp reviews by using the Yelp! logo on your website; posting Yelp! signs in your store or restaurant; or just saying something like “Check us out on Yelp!” on your menu, website or receipts. (Just be sure you don’t require or reward people for reviews—this can get you in trouble with Yelp!.)
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