It’s happening right now. People you have never met are reviewing your business online. Are you aware of what they are saying? and do you realize how many people are making decisions whether or not to patronize your business based on these very reviews?
As I write this, I’m on a flight home from Oklahoma City where I spent five days as a visitor and a guest at a wedding in the small town of El Reno, 40 minutes west of the city.
I was not only a tourist, but I also needed services and goods while there. I needed a 24-hour dry cleaner in a small town, a men’s dress shirt, tennis rackets, public tennis courts, a great breakfast suggestion and a non-chain, neighborhood dinner in the city. I wanted to break out of the barrier that keeps tourists in one area and the locals in another. I wanted to find the authentic place.
I am your customer. And there are millions just like me.
I found everything I needed through the travel app yelp on my iPhone along with my GPS system in my car. (others use foursquare, TripAdvisor, gowalla and urbanspoon) I didn’t look at any print ads in any magazines, and I did not crack open a tour book. If you are not present on these apps, you are seriously missing the boat. And when I say you, I mean you.
My friends who own a second home in Sandpoint used Yelp to find a plumber, someone to repair the tile in their shower and a place to take their kids on a rainy day.
What does this mean for you, the business owner? I know many of you are pushing back on the idea of having a presence on Facebook and Twitter because you fear the amount of time it will take. And you’re right. It takes a lot of time to create a presence and attract your customers. If nothing else, you should be on these location-based social sites. Go where your customers already are, where they are talking about you and engage in that conversation.
Five things you should be doing (or rather, four things you should be doing and one you shouldn’t be doing)
- Set up your page: Go to each of these sites and search for your business. There are likely already reviews of your business on there. Unlock your page by clicking on is this your business? and set up your page with a complete description. Include any specials, weekly happenings. Upload photos. Keep it updated regularly.
- Respond to reviews: Publicly or privately. This is your opportunity to switch negative reviews around. Offer them an apology, and a return invitation, perhaps even a gift card or complimentary item depending on the gravity of the situation. If you respond to it, your prospective customers will see it and understand. Things happen. Learn from the feedback.
- Encourage reviews from your loyal customers: Use your email database, in-store interactions, your facebook fan page and your website to encourage customers to review. Be sure and include a link straight to the page. Make it as easy as possible. The more reviews you have, the better it makes you look.
- Learn from all this valuable data: You can now track traffic to your business page and learn all about your customers. When you have enough positive reviews, you’ll receive badges you can post on your website.
- Don’t be a poser!!! Whatever you do, do not pretend to be a customer and post reviews on your own business. This is so totally uncool and you will be caught. And it will be embarrassing.
From a consumer perspective, we are in love with these sites because it allows us to better research where we want to spend our hard-earned dollars. From a business owner perpective, you should love these sites because it easily, allows you access to your customer base. for free. I’m sorry Yellow Pages and tour books, I’m not sure if we need you anymore.
What did I leave out? What other sites and apps do you use to find businesses?[ssba]