Let’s talk about everybody's favorite four-letter word: Yelp.
I know, you're already getting heated. But here's the reality: love it or hate it, online reviews are here to stay.
Today’s consumers research everything online. And, in a service-based industry like ours, we rely on our social media reputation to build our business. But people aren’t just checking out businesses on Facebook and Instagram anymore; they’re looking at Yelp too.
And you’ve even seen it in action: your friends rave about this great new place they found on Yelp. So if we know that it works, why are we so scared of it? It's two things. It's the fear of the bad review and the fear of filtering.
But instead of avoiding Yelp, I want you to embrace it. Why? Because that’s where your clients and potential customers are.
Tip 1: Own Your Presence on Yelp
Did you know that anyone can make a Yelp page under your name? Maybe a client who decides you're terrible after sitting in your chair, or even a competitor trying to steal your guests away. And I don't know about you, but that scares me.
Instead of allowing somebody to create a Yelp page on your behalf, think like a proactive business owner you are and create your own right now. It takes about 15 minutes to do the initial set up, including the validation process (phone number and address to verify you’re a legitimate business). It may take up to a day to get approved and then you’re up and running.
Fill out your profile: upload photos or videos, build out your bio, and list your hours, pricing, and contact details. Make your Yelp page a one-stop shop for all the information a client could want to know about your stylist services.
Tip 2: Think of Yelp as Social Media
Most of us don’t consider Yelp social media. I totally get it. But think of it this way: Yelp is an online forum where the public can leave feedback posts photos share stories. Sound familiar?
With other social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, we’re totally cool if it takes 18 months or two years even to gain traction. But we want Yelp to work immediately, writing it off as a failure if there aren’t 15 reviews in 30 days and four new clients in your chair.
But how long did it take you to learn to use Instagram or get your first request from Facebook? It probably took you some time to learn the tool and get up to speed. Once you did, it started working! Or maybe for some of you, it's still not working, but you keep showing up to it.
Give Yelp the same patience and attention before you write it off. Part of the reason it's not working for you is you're not working for it either.
Tip 3: Get Authentic Reviews to Stick (Without Bribery)
Getting your first reviews to stick is the hardest part. When Yelp’s algorithm chooses what reviews to stick, it checks for two things: established reviewers and established accounts.
When you're starting off, you don't have an established account yet. Give it time to gain some traction and start asking for reviews. Chances are, at least a few of our current clients are established reviewers, making their reviews more likely to stick.
How do you get reviews? All you have to do is ask your clients. Don't be afraid to open your mouth and just ask. What's the worst thing that can happen? They forget or just don't do it. And that's not that bad.
But don't email your clients and say “I just started a Yelp. If you leave me a review, I will give you twenty-five dollars off.” You don’t need to bribe for reviews because you might get more authentic reviews if you just ask. And Yelp is very against bribing for positive reviews.
The secret is out. Your clients know you're trying to build a business, so don't be nervous to ask.
Tip 4: Don’t Stress About Negative Reviews
I hear so many stylists say they don't want to do Yelp in the first place because they’re afraid of getting bad reviews. Well, guess what: the bad reviews are coming whether you have Yelp or not.
Listen, if you're not seeing a steady flow of guests, your clients aren't sending you referrals or commenting on your Instagram page, the bad reviews out there. Yelp isn’t keeping them from happening.
So instead of being afraid of negative feedback or being afraid of being perceived one way, use Yelp to take control of your online reputation and make it look as great as you can.
Tip 5: Respond to All Reviews (Even the Bad Ones)
Respond to every Yelp review. Good bad and indifferent.
Let’s say somebody does leave a really negative nasty review. Give yourself 24 hours to have a reaction behind the scenes. The next day reread the review with an open mind and choose to accept any feedback that might be helpful to you in the long run.
When you respond, at no point say “I'm sorry.” As soon as you use words like “I'm sorry” or “we apologize,” you're actually taking on the burden and the blame.
Most of your clients don't actually need to have that apology. What they’re looking for is to be seen, heard, and validated. Use language like “thank you for your feedback. I can understand why you felt like this was an [fill-in-the-blank] experience.” This verbiage validates your client’s feelings but keeps you from taking on blame or arguing.
Always try and offer at least one solution in your response and end with, “please feel free to reach out if you have any other concerns.” Yelp is set up, so the consumer always gets the final word, so make sure yours is classy and professional.
Tip 6: All Publicity is Good Publicity
If your clients are already talking about you (and they are), Yelp lets them publicly brag about how amazing you are, which helps bring new guests into your chair.
That is how you win in the marketing game: sparking conversation and having space for people to talk about you.
Use Yelp to embrace the 50 clients who can’t stop talking about how amazing you are. Don’t avoid it because you worry about that one crazy client who's going to leave a negative review. Yelp is the place for them to help you build your business.
If you have any more questions about Yelp or building your business, you can always check out my Thrivers Society program where we have an entire module dedicated to online reviews and how to harness both.