Six ways to turn Yelp into your most effective marketing channel

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

-Jeff Bezos, Founder/CEO Amazon

Guest post by {grow} community member Kathi Kruse

How important is it for your to look your best to a potential customer?  Today many companies are still ignoring what’s said about them online, both positive and negative.  Some want to put their heads in the sand and wait until the Internet “just blows over.”  Folks, your customer is online most of their day and night. They’re talking about you.  Pretending they aren’t is a risky proposition.

Your customer loves the consumer review site Yelp.  Why? It’s local and it’s easy to use.  They look forward to sharing their experiences because it allows them to invest in the community … and in turn get value from the experiences of others.

For many consumer businesses, online reviews are becoming a critical component of decision-making. Car shoppers, for example, are increasingly relying on Yelp and other ratings sites.  84% of people say that online reviews influence their buying decision (Nielsen). Reviewers can also gain influence. Many of these reviews and consumer experiences also reverberate through Twitter and Facebook.

Make no mistake, Yelp can make or break many businesses. For many B2C and service businesses, Yelp may be the most important marketing channel!

What’s the best way to make sure you’re getting some customer love on Yelp?

The key is to have a rock-solid internal process for capturing and maintaining a steady stream customers who are willing to write reviews.  Understandably, many of your frontline sales personnel may feel awkward about asking for a review, but you can put it in a way that makes the customer comfortable:  “Our business is based on referrals.  Would you take a moment to visit Yelp and refer us to your friends and family?”  This is a great start to your internal process but it’s only the beginning.

I’ve developed a proactive system of capturing reviews and maintaining a consistent stream of “referrals” from your customers. Here are six ways to get your Yelp groove on:

1.  Designate an Online Reputation go-to person who’ll take ownership of your implementation plan.  They will be responsible for getting grassroots participation from your staff, as well as monitor and respond to the community.

2. Signage. Create awareness with your customers and your staff.  Display “Love Us on Yelp!” signs throughout the store. Entryways,  sales offices, customer waiting area, customer service and the cashier area.   Give customers a card to take with them that reminds them you’re on Yelp.  Put memos on paychecks, repair orders and invoices to create awareness too!

3. Reach out to your Raving Fans. Every salesperson has them, especially those that’ve been with you a long time. These customers go out of their way to do business with you.  Ask them to share an honest review – don’t push for positive – just their honest opinion.

4.  Hold a monthly contest with the staff. Nothing motivates like a cash prize!  Example: if the store gets 20 reviews by the end of the month, you’ll draw a name and that person wins the cash.  Have the drawing open to all employees so you’ve got everyone motivated to achieve the same goal.

5. Recognize staff members who get 5-star reviews. A gift or a nice mention during the weekly sales or service meeting goes a long way.  When the other employees see it, they’ll be eager to be next.

6. Email marketing. Do a “Love Drip” campaign with a catchy subject line and a nice call to action.  Provide a link to your Yelp profile so it’s as effortless for your customer as possible.

Stellar online reputations do not happen without grassroots participation from your staff.  Leverage the power of your employees and institute an internal process to be proactive about your online reputation.  Get your groove on and let your customers feel it, baby!

How is Yelp affecting your business?  Any more ideas you can share?

Kathi Kruse specializes in automotive social media and online reputation coaching for the automotive industry.  Connect with her at her Kruse Control Blog and on Twitter: @kathikruse 

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  • Great tips. Your service in the auto industry is much needed – most of this stuff is completely counter-intuitive for them since they’ve invested in traditional for so many decades. 

  • Great article with excellent tips for businesses.  I would hesitate to agree with #2 however, I feel as a consumer if I saw an actual sign in a store that says “love us on yelp” or something similar I may feel like they are trying too hard.  Are there any case studies about this type of promoting works? 

  • Jcohen

    What you may not be aware of is the complaints of the restaurant industry that Yelp squashes all positive reviews and highlights the negative ones only. When restaurants encourage their guests to write reviews on Yelp, they never show up.

  • Yes, Jcohen, for sure Yelp does have its drawbacks. It is however a place where customers go to talk about brands they love so working with it is something we’ve found we just have to do. Thanks for your comment!

  • Thanks for your comment Jon. Yes, we’ve had many good responses with signs.  Customers are busy and if you want them to do something, you have to create awareness and then ask them to do what you want. The signs should be small enough though to be unobtrusive and then placed in strategic areas.  Employees are part of this process too so signs act as visible cues to ask for reviews.

  • Thanks Garrett! You are so right. Dealers have been marketing and advertising the same way for 50+ years. Plus, they are not generally in the Social space so they don’t see the value.  However, there are many savvy dealers waking up to this new medium and the results are a total win for the customer.  Most people put buying a car close to the top of their aversion list and busting the stereotype will take some time.  There are many great dealers out there who genuinely care for customers so it’s now a matter of getting those happy loyal customers to write reviews. In this case, it’s evolution not revolution.

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  • Anonymous

    Good article Kathi. Look forward to implementing your strategies on yelp. Thanks

  • Thanks for your feedback! Love to hear how things go.

  • Great post, thanks for the all helpful tips. I’m curious – you mention that this is an especially important strategy for B2C businesses, I’m just wondering does the analysis and/or strategy change for B2B, in your opinion?

  • I’m working with a restaurant that is having trouble with Yelp. they are getting a LOT of good reviews, which Yelp keeps hiding. these are legit reviews from customers, and the owner/chef has been on the phone with Yelp to complain, and she is told that the algorithm Yelp uses hides posts for some reason. They they pitch her to spend money on Yelp. Somehow this doesn’t seem fair or right. Any thoughts?

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  • Duncan Murphy

    Great article! Yelp is so much bigger than I realized and is so important to many small bizs. Thanks for the tips!

    @duncanwmurphy

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