Friday, February 28, 2014

Help 'em Yelp it! Six ways to help small business owners make the most of Yelp

According to a recent Fox Business news article small business fail to understand the importance of on-line reviews, and I might agree. But what can you, as a commercial district manager, do to help? (For a link to the article, click here: “Survey: Small Businesses Underestimating Online Reviews" )

What is “On-Line Optimization”?
This is a term we coined a few years ago while working with the New Rochelle Business Improvement District (see “Putting Your District’s Best Foot Forward” ). It simply refers to a process by which a 
Many small businesses use review sites like Yelp
and Foursquare as marketing tools.
Your business should be doing the same.
commercial district manager can actively help local businesses build a positive online presence that generates additional customers and sales. While Google is by far one of the most important search engines, Yelp is nearly as important for small businesses looking for exposure. With an average of 120 million MONTHLY unique visitors, and one of the most downloaded review apps in the nation, being on Yelp assures a business that they will be seen when someone is looking for a place to go, whether on their mobile phone or at their desktop.

But commercial district managers face some challenges in harnessing Yelp as a tool, in part because businesses need to claim ownership of their Yelp page to do basic things, like make sure the business profile is complete, including the name and category of business, detailed contact information, links to website and a menu (if a restaurant). In some communities, mom and pops don’t even have email addresses…so asking them to manage an on-line presence can be near impossible.

That said, many businesses owners do know the power of the internet, but just don’t know where to start. The good news is that you can do something to help them. Below are a few waysyou can play an effective role as an intermediary to help your local businesses use Yelp to attract customers. 

1. Make sure their business pages have great photos. This is really important. People REALLY like photos. In fact, research shows that people are more likely to visit a restaurant or store for the first time if they can check it out first. Consider hiring a professional photographer to take attractive pictures of your district and local businesses. If restaurants are included, be sure to take photos of a variety of dishes. Fortunately, anyone can upload photos to a business page so this is something that you do directly on behalf of your businesses.

2. Building awareness of a business’s Yelp page with check inserts, stickers and tent cards. Did you know that only 13% of businesses owners are approaching customers about posting reviews online? While Yelp actively discourages soliciting reviews and will downgrade reviews that they perceive as solicited, they do encourage businesses to let customers know they are on Yelp. Consider printing small index cards for your businesses that they can include with the bill that say something like, “Hey, check us out on Yelp!” with a link to the business listing. With this you are creating awareness that the business is listed, which in turn will help them get reviews.

You might also consider printing transparent stickers and giving them to local businesses who have a presence on Yelp. These “Find us on Yelp” stickers are different than the “People love us on Yelp” stickers (which are issued twice a year based on having a greater than 3.5 star rating from a certain number of reviews). You can also have table tent cards printed, this might be a better alternative for a business that wants to put this on their counter or by the register. “Find us on Yelp” signs and tent cards can be found on the Yelp Flicker stream

3. Making sure your restaurants have their menus on Yelp. Help your restaurants by making sure their menu and price list is displayed on the businesses page. Send a copy of your current menu directly to Yelp via their contact form. You could also consider having your photographer takes a picture of a menu page for you to post as an image.

4. Unfortunately, sometimes it just comes down to better management. Ultimately, reviews are a reflection of the level business goods and quality of service they provide. The reviews – both good and bad – offer important feedback that an owner ignores at their peril. Don’t let your business owners rationalize away negative reviews and low ratings. If they do, they are killing their own business. According to a study by Michale Luca, a professor at Harvard Business School, there is a correlation between high Yelp rankings and revenues. There is a 5-9% jump in revenues for every star in a review. Considered another way, every loss of a star means loss of revenue. So if worse comes to worse you'll need to do some direct business technical assistance. Which leads us to the next suggestion...

5. Hold a business seminar about managing on-line listings. Since most of what a business needs to do is manage their own page, consider inviting a specialist to offer a workshop to your business owners. A few things they should cover include:
  • How to “claim” your Yelp business page. It is free and allows the businesses to make sure their business information is up to date and allows them to add photos (which you can do too) and respond publically to reviews (although they should do this very cautiously as it can easily backfire if not handled correctly)
  • How to respond (or not) to negative reviews. 
  • An overview of the various business platforms that exist that allow business owners to manage multiple social media sites, including Locu by Go Daddy (Costs range from $4.49/month to $26.99/month) and Singleplatform by Constant (Pricing is $79/month). 
  • The impact of reviews on sales
6. And finally...measure the impact of your effort! Why? Because you are in the business of showing that an investment in your effort and the work of your organization is an investment in a business's bottom line. The straighter the line you can draw between your efforts and a business' sales, the better poised you will be to ask for and receive more resources that have an even greater impact. In this case, you will want to know whether your businesses are seeing an uptick in sales as a result of your efforts. You can do that by surveying them within a month of the effort taking off. And then an a bi-annual or annual basis thereafter. Another option is to ask them for their Yelp metrics. Every business that claims their Yelp page has the ability to track metrics, including the number of monthly visitors and user views to their page. See if participating businesses will share this information with you for your records. Better yet, require it as a condition for helping them.

No comments:

Post a Comment