Yelp Me! 6 Ways to Use Yelp to Grow Your Business

Yelp has nearly 142 million unique visitors each month, and 67 million reviews and growing. When people need to decide where to eat, drink and celebrate, they turn to Yelp. A rating, customer reviews and incentives from the businesses themselves can make the difference between a pass and a sale.

Consumers are going mobile more than ever, using their phones to search and choose. In fact, 200,000 daily calls to businesses generated from the Yelp mobile app. So, if your establishment is not interacting with customers on Yelp, you're missing a huge opportunity to generate leads and ultimately profits.

Paul Weinstein, the Dining Room Manager at the East Hampton Grill oversees a busy and demanding clientele- especially during summers in the Hamptons. He has worked for three years at the Hillstone Restaurant Group and takes customer reviews, including Yelp, very seriously. The company has a tight internal system for monitoring feedback. Weinstein explains, “Our executive, guest services and on-site management team use a service called Reputology that filters all online reviews into a consolidated email.  This email is distributed daily to our entire company to ensure that no review is missed and all reviews are given proper investigation.”

What else can you, as a bar or nightclub owner/manager do to ensure positive, useful, and profitable Yelping?

1.  Claim Your Business Listing - If you haven't claimed your Yelp listing, you need to as soon as possible. Why? By claiming your Yelp listing, you can upload photos, add a detailed description, and make sure your business information is current. Keep in mind, customers may have created multiple inaccurate listings for your bar or restaurant. You will need to claim them all and merge them.

2.  Add Professional Photos - Adding photos to your listing is vital. Yelpers stay on a business page with photos 2x longer than on a page without. While your customers will upload their own photos, it's important to have a collection of professional images that entice customers.

3.  Respond To Reviews - Good and Bad - Good, bad or ugly, you need to respond to your reviews. By answering even negative reviews and complaints, you show fans that you care and are willing go the extra mile to solve a problem. It's customer service at its finest. Plus, when a negative comment is posted and then resolved favorably, the "Yelper" will write that the business rectified the situation. This raises the outcome to positive PR.

Yelp allows two different options for responding to reviews -- public comments or private messages. Public comments can be seen directly below the Yelper’s review, but private messages are sent only to the Yelper, like an email. If you get a negative comment, it's best to respond briefly via a public comment and then address the deeper issues with a private message. Your other customers don't need the full dialogue. 

4.   Market Your Yelp With a Campaign - Are you offering a Yelp Deal or Yelp Certificate? Try setting up a check-in deal like a free cocktail or $5 OFF Happy Hour appetizers. Yelp stickers are also great for encouraging Yelp reviews- you simply stick them in the bar or restaurant window, so customers know they can find and rate you on Yelp. You can request your stickers via the website. You can also encourage Yelp reviews with a simple take-home card that offers a discount on a future visit in exchange for a positive review.

5.  Be a Yelpful Neighbor - What businesses normally stop in for Happy Hour? What other shops do you have around you? Create a local Yelp circle of influence with local businesses. All of the businesses can review each other and everyone can encourage their loyal customers to review other businesses in the circle of influence. You can also reach out to elite Yelpers and ask them to come in and try your establishment. Their posts have a lot more clout and will help improve your reputation.

6.  Respond to Every Review -- Positive and Negative - A recent study indicated that readers who saw no response to negative reviews on Yelp had a worse perception of the establishment than if the business owner had commented on the post.

Hillstone uses reviews as a means of improving their internal performance and staff training. Says Weinstein, “When we get a negative review we pull all related information about the guest and their experience to find out where we went wrong.  We then make a plan for how to fix the situation and most importantly make it right for the guest.  The guest may receive a phone call from the GM or an email from guest services.  In some scenarios we may contact the guest for a mailing address and provide him or her with a gift card so that they return as our guest.”

He continues, “When we receive a positive review, the specific restaurant or employee mentioned receives a congratulatory e-mail from Guest Services and is recognized by his or her local management team.”

For more tips on this, check out “Everyone’s a Critic” by Bill Tancer.

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