How does a small coffee and smoothie shop compete in a city not so “small business friendly”?
It’s a question I had to tackle . . . and fast . . . because my business was $500K in debt just two years ago. Today, I’ve transformed it into a profitable 7-figure business.
How you ask?
I focus on my reputation, both offline and online.
Offline I make sure we’re living up to our guarantee of “We’ll make you so happy you’ll do the hula or your money back.” I have a checklist to ensure everything from beginning to end is in place to get rave reviews and referrals. That means the equipment is clean, the vehicle we’re going out in is washed, the staff are wearing their Hawaiian shirts, smiling and saying “Aloha”, every customer we serve loves their beverage. We take pictures which are emailed right after the event and we also send a handwritten thank you note. Our goal is to make the host/hostess look great. They’re so happy they actually send us testimonials before we even ask for them.
Focusing on our online reputation as well is critical. According to BrightLocal, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Having honest, authentic and objective reviews online not only helps consumers make informed decisions, it can also help boost search rankings.
As you can see from the image below, if someone searches for “best smoothie catering”, Google shows the top rated businesses right below the ads. We’re in the #1 spot with the highest rating.
There are over 400 online review sites (if you’d like the master list, go to http://bit.ly/2h2Bvme). It’s unrealistic to think you’ll be able to effectively manage your online reviews on all of those sites. So which online review sites should your business focus its reputation management efforts on?
Below are the top 5 review sites where local businesses should strongly consider a presence:
Love it or hate it, you need to be proactive on it. Customers rate businesses on a five-star scale. This is a site you should check regularly so you can respond to reviewers. Thank those who leave you rave reviews. Respond politely and proactively to those who don’t. When possible, try to address negative feedback outside of Yelp.
Do you have to “pay to play” on Yelp? Officially no, but Yelp has come under fire with respect to it “pushing bad reviews down” for those businesses that advertise. Don’t be strong-armed into advertising. Instead, proactively work on getting positive reviews posted on the site. Consumers using Yelp know to look at the “big picture” – one or two bad reviews will usually not turn someone away.
Yelp reviews will often show on the top of the Google search results, as seen here for my coffee and smoothie business:
Make sure your Yelp profile information shows correct information like your store hours and location information.
2) Google My Business
Have you done a search for something online and on the right you see lots of information about the business, such as pictures, a map, as well as reviews?
Here’s what it looks like for my coffee and smoothie business:
Google loves Google so that’s why you want to make sure you’re registered with Google My Business. As you can see from the image above, it makes it easy to write a review and add a photo. Note that only verified local Google+ pages can respond to reviews. Keeping this information current can give you a boost in search and it makes your business look much more professional and reputable. Encourage customers to leave reviews here. You’ll start seeing results quickly.
3) Facebook Ratings & Reviews
When someone wants a recommendation for a business or they’re looking for a specific product/service/solution, who they gonna ask? Their friends on Facebook. And where will that person look if you’re recommended? The Facebook Ratings & Reviews section of your business page. It’s on the left side:
It’s super easy to have customers leave reviews on Facebook so definitely add this to your reputation management strategy. Anyone logged in can post a rating or review of a business. All they have to do is go to the Reviews section of your Page, click the grey stars to choose a rating, and then write an optional review. They can then make that review public, visible to friends, or visible only to them.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would someone post a review on Twitter? It’s too fast-paced. People may not go directly to Twitter to search for reviews on your business (unless you’ve got a specific hashtag for that), but did you know that tweets are indexed in search results? That means that every time someone tweets about your business, whether it’s great or horrible, you could pop up in the search results.
Here’s an example of a company that posted a review and mentioned Maui Wowi DC, my smoothie company:
As part of your social media strategy, you should have someone actively monitoring your name for mentions, likes, and reviews. Nothing will make you feel better than seeing something positive someone posted for which you can thank them publicly and re-tweet for the world to see.
5) Your Website
The review sites I’ve mentioned so far don’t give you a lot of control over what the world sees. One place where you do have total control is your website. Take advantage of it! Post reviews you receive, (and perhaps embed some of those tweets you saw?). You could carve out a section of your website dedicated just to showcase your reviews and testimonials like this:
Not everyone has accounts and/or wants to post a review on a “public” site like Yelp or Google, yet they would be happy to give you a positive review. Consider adding functionality to your website that allows users to enter a review directly on your site.
Integrating your offline and online reputation management efforts will payoff. It has given me a competitive advantage of competing with the “big boys” without having to spend a ton of money.
Get out there and work those social site reviews!
NOTE: If you need help in managing your online reputation, let me know. The Small Biz Marketing Specialist is here to help!
About Stacey Riska
Stacey Riska, aka “Small Business Stacey” is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits Training Program, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn’t!) and spending time with her amazing husband.