The free market has always been viewed as democracy in action: customers pick who they like best, spend their money with them, and those people stay in business. Inextricably linked with this is the notion of word of mouth, which has been dramatically transformed since the social media explosion. Whereas people might solicit the opinion of a friend before trying a new or unfamiliar business twenty years ago, they can now solicit the opinion of thousands of consumes online, and no site has facilitated this more than Yelp. It is therefore important for any business that relies on word of mouth to develop an effective use of Yelp and ensure that it is going to help increase sales, rather than drive potential customers away. There are several ways to accomplish this.
Claim Your Business: Claiming your business on Yelp is important for several reasons. Firstly, you want to have control over your Yelp page. If somebody else creates one, and you aren’t managing it, then you are essentially letting strangers handle the comments and reviews your business is getting. Claim your business, and when comments and reviews are offered, you will have an opportunity to promptly respond to negative reviews. This is important not only because it will allow you to explain anomalous issues you may have had and/or explain how you have improved your business, but also because you will be made aware of issues your customers are having in real time. This is central to improving your business and maintaining long-term relationships with your customers. Claiming your business also ensures you get notifications, so you can have quicker response time if there is an issue. You will also get positive feedback, and so can use that to determine which of your practices and policies are most important to your success. It likewise allows you to add photos so people can see what your business looks like, and allows you to post updates on recent deals and products.
Read Your Competitors Profiles: Because your potential customers will be reading your competitors profiles, and because they will be comparing them to yours, you must stay abreast of what your competitors are doing. How often do they offer updates? What is the depth of images and specials they are posting? What are they promoting as their key selling points? Their key strengths? Be sure that in every respect, your profile is framing your business at being on no less than parity terms with your competitions, and in as many instances as you can, be sure that you are outpacing them. Does a competing restaurant offer halal meat, or vegan options? Be sure you do to. Does a competing retailer offer a 30-day, money back guarantee? Do the same, or better yet, offer a 60-day money-back guarantee. This does not mean that your profile has to be identical. Indeed, you want it to be different. To do this, identify the things that you do differently and highlight them in your profile. This way, when customers compare you with your competitors, you will come out on top.
Read Your Competitors Reviews: Part and parcel with this is reading your competitors reviews as well. What is it that customers like about your competitor’s business model? If there are things that are repeatedly praised, be sure to incorporate these things into your business model. Likewise, take note of the things that you see your competitors are criticized for. If these are things that your business does well, or if there are issues that your business has already addressed, be sure to promote those things as they are obviously on the minds of your clients. This will give you a further competitive edge.
Embrace Instagram Culture: Twenty years ago, when a meal looked good, people ate it: now they take pictures. Instagram is plastered with pictures of delectable meals, selfies of people in new outfits, and pictures of pets playing with toys. Whatever it is that your business is selling, be it food, clothes, pet supplies, or some other product, be sure to offer an extensive photo gallery. This is central to keeping up with the way people communicate today. It is no longer words that people write reviews with, but also images and videos. People writing pay-per-click ads know the value of images as ads with images have a much higher click-through rate than simple text ads. Be sure that you are speaking to the culture that is viewing your pages and include images. If you can afford it, be sure that these images have a professional sheen to them; this will improve your branding.
Follow Yelp’s Metrics: Yelp offers a great service by providing metrics for your page. Be sure to monitor this frequently so that you can see trends in how people are using and responding to your business. If a new approach you are using leads to improved reviews, or perhaps more negative reviews, then you will know whether to maintain or adjust your approach. Perhaps you have new staff, or a new product that correlates with shifting trends. If so, this will give you information you need to evaluate the changes in your business.
Take Advantage of ‘Yelp Deals’: Yelp has a service call ‘Yelp Deals’ that allows businesses to sell vouchers, gift certificates, and coupons. This is a great way to seal a deal before a customer even comes through your door. Though Yelp does take a cut (10% on vouchers and 30% on coupons), there are no upfront costs, so you only have to pay if you are making money. The percentages can be a little high, so be sure that whatever it is you are selling is something you will still make a profit on after Yelp takes their commission. This is an effective way to make sure a potential client commits to a sale before they even visit your business.
Though big businesses have seemingly taken over most markets, the internet allows small, independent businesses, like retailers, hotels, and restaurants, to remain competitive. In this regard, there is perhaps no social network that does this more effectively than Yelp. National and international brands can whether a few bad reviews, but independent businesses depend on word of mouth, and so Yelp is vital to maintaining and improving the sustainability and profits of small businesses. It allows tourists and travellers who would otherwise rely on national brands they know to find quality hotels and restaurants, and helps businesses keep abreast of how local customers are interacting with and viewing with their business, thereby providing vital information. It also gives businesses an opportunity to communicate with customers who weren’t happy with their service, so that entrepreneurs can develop their business model and improve customer relations. It also allows each businesses to keep a watchful eye on their competition so as to stay competitive. For each of these reasons, it is vital for any small business to maintain and active presence on Yelp. If they don’t, they may be falling behind without even realizing it.
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