You may be wondering where to invest your marketing efforts. It can be overwhelming as there are many different roads you can take, but keep in mind, good advertising isn’t always costly. In fact, one of the most effective advertising campaigns is good old-fashioned word-of-mouth and in the digital world, online reviews.

Today, one of the most effective ways to cultivate a word-of-mouth campaign is through Yelp, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.  It has become a key resource in customers’ decision making process.

As you know, Yelp publishes crowdsourced reviews on its website and mobile app to help people find great local business and services. It also trains businesses to cultivate positive reviews.

Here’s how it works. Yelp allows people to compare local businesses and services (such as restaurants, swim schools, gymnastic gyms and health clubs) based on location, offerings, cost and (most significantly) customer reviews. Yelp allows customers to post a one to five star review of a business, which it then aggregates into an average score. It also serves as an online bulletin board for customers to post individual reviews and comments about the businesses they visit.

Because Yelp ratings and comments are public and not subject to editing or removal by the businesses being reviewed, they are a powerful tool for the consumer. Which is why it’s so important for you to actively maintain your company’s Yelp and other local profiles. You cannot remove comments, but you can control the narrative by using the public forum to engage with customers and demonstrate your core company values and great customer service.

For instance, a swim school business can respond to comments, reinforcing positive customer experiences (“We are so glad your child enjoyed class and we’re looking forward to seeing you both again soon!”) while rectifying negative customer experiences (“We are sorry that your child was unhappy during class. I’d love to speak with you to resolve any issues and take your feedback to improve our class structure. Please contact me directly.”)  Though it can be difficult to prevent an unhappy customer from leaving a negative review, businesses that use Yelp to demonstrate their commitment to addressing customer concerns will go far in establishing a trustworthy reputation that can weather any storm.

You can also use Yelp to get a leg up on your competitors. One way to do this is for you to maintain a robust online presence. You should ensure your Yelp profile reflects your current website, location, contact information, and business hours, as well as your menu or list of services and plenty of photos.. Companies that appear welcoming online will have an advantage when attracting new customers over those that do not have an online presence. If you aren’t doing this, you should!

Another way you can use Yelp to stand out from competitors is to offer Yelp-exclusive deals and trial offers. A free class or a 20% off coupon can go far in attracting first time customers, bringing back a former customer, or even serving as the tipping point for convincing an undecided customer to walk through your doors.

Now, of course, Yelp also offers paid opportunities like targeted local advertising and premium placement that you can also take advantage of. But if you aren’t at the very least encouraging your customers to give you positive feedback online whether it’s on Yelp, Facebook, Google, etc, you’re definitely missing a HUGE opportunity. We also put together this Ultimate Guide to Customer Reviews that may help you get started in the right direction.

If you don’t have time to create an online review strategy, we can definitely help! We can also manage all your online local profiles and make sure all your key contact information and business details are complete, accurate and continually updated. We are dedicated to helping companies like yours get the most out of their marketing budgets. Contact us to see what we can do to help your business stand out from the rest!