Bonus episode | Host Emily Washcovick does a quick deep dive into a topic affecting small businesses, sharing small but mighty changes you can implement in your business.
Our first Biz Bites episode explores the critical concept of translating your in-store consumer experience into a compelling online presence. Creating connections with your customers in-person is crucial, but the next step is to leverage online listings, review sites, and social media to reflect your uniqueness and attract new customers. By responding to reviews and showing up online, you build trust. This digital consistency ensures you make a lasting impression and attract future customers.
Hey there. I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert and the host of this podcast, Behind the Review.
Normally, on Thursdays, we drop episodes in your feed sharing stories with a business owner and someone who wrote one of their Yelp reviews. But now, we’re going to add something new. On Tuesdays, we’re going to drop what we’re calling “Biz Bites” episodes. Biz Bites are 7-10 minute episodes where I dig deeper into a topic affecting small business owners. And I’ll give you some tactical steps that you can use to implement changes in your business that are small, but could maybe have a big impact on future customers.
So let’s dive right in. Biz Bites episode one: translating your in store experience online. I have to say this topic is the basis of almost everything I do with business owners. It’s the basis of your entire marketing strategy. How do you take the incredible things you’re doing in person with your customers and translate it digitally, so you can attract future customers?
Let’s take it back a step. First, you’ve got to build that incredible in store experience. If you have a brick and mortar, it has to be inviting and you have to welcome folks into that space. If you don’t have a brick and mortar, what are you doing in-person to create that memorable connection to your business?
And then how do you translate that where most people are spending their time – on the internet. Well, you probably have a website, sure. That’s great! It could even just be as basic as a splash page with your business information. Many of you probably have social media, maybe different accounts even on different platforms.
But what you all should be leveraging – no matter what – is your online listings and review sites. And the reason being is they’re free and they have built in customers searching for what you do. You just need to appear as an option for them. So let’s dig into it a little bit deeper.
Online review sites are all about highlighting who you are and what you offer. A lot of times before a customer ever interacts with your business. Whether the person searches themself, or maybe they’re referred to your business and they look you up online. Maybe they saw an advertisement that you placed somewhere and they look you up online. They want to see if that online reputation matches their expectations. And you can do that.
A lot of people think that online review sites are just a place where consumers share their experience. But in fact, business owners have a lot of power on those pages to provide accurate business information and also give a better sense of who you are and what you offer.
And this builds trust! Many consumers don’t even go to review sites only to read reviews. A lot of the times they want to check hours. They want to see pictures. What is the space like? What kind of clothes should I wear? What can I expect when I go?
By not claiming or engaging with your digital presence, you’re practically leaving your brick and mortar’s front window bare. Leaving customers to wonder if you’re open or even legit. You want to show yourself off. Let people know who you are and what you do. And that starts by simply filling out the ‘about the business’ sections and adding some photos with captions.
If you’re in a niche industry or the services that you provide are different, that’s the spot to talk about it. And I’ll give you an example.
MF Strong. It’s a personal training business. I happen to know the owner. They’re based in New York. And they actually are multi operational. You could come to their studio in Brooklyn to work with one of their trainers. Or a trainer could come to you. Maybe you have a gym in your home, in your apartment complex. They do either thing.
And so on their Yelp page and on their social media accounts and on their website, they need to explain that. They’re not just personal trainers. That doesn’t fully encompass who they are and what they do. But through images and additional information in the about section, the owner is able to highlight that.
For one of her photo captions, she actually wrote, “At our studio, under the watchful eye of an experienced trainer, learn how to properly utilize gym equipment without the stress of a big box gym.” So that’s great short sentences that are direct, but they also incorporate She’s trying to make sure you know they have experienced trainers. She’s letting you know they have a physical space with equipment, but she’s pointing out that they’re different than your traditional gym.
And so that’s how you can use the different sections of your online profile to translate who you are offline.
The keywords and phrases that you choose here will help you appear in search results and connect with customers looking for more information.
So I want you to think about it this way – It’s not just a list of keywords. Okay. It’s a description of the image with a keyword incorporated. And the way you want to think of the types of keywords you want to use, is to think about the distinguishing factors that someone might search for. For example, if I search for Mexican food, and my boyfriend searches for fish tacos, we’re going to see relatively similar results, but the business pages that have mentions of fish tacos in the reviews, In the about section or in the photos and photo captions are going to rise to the top of that search result.
So what’s your fish taco? What’s the unique thing that you want to make sure you can be found for if someone drills down lower than just searching by industry?
And this is true on social media as well. Consumers want to see behind the scenes of your business. So make sure that you’re maximizing that smartphone by taking photos and videos of your menu items and service offerings all the time. Share images of your staff if they’re comfortable. And let people know more about the story behind the business.
For example, maybe you have a menu item that’s really important to your family’s culture. Instead of just listing that as the menu name on the photo caption, give a little context to why this menu item is so special.
Responding to reviews is the biggest part of showing up online, in my opinion. You would never ignore a customer who shared their concerns with you directly or in-person. So why do we do that to our customers online?
Lots of business owners have admitted to me over the years that they’re afraid of the criticism. But that happens far less than the positive. There are more 5 star reviews on Yelp than 1, 2, and 3 star reviews combined.
There’s a great opportunity to show you care about your customers and want to hear their feedback. When you think about responding to reviews, I don’t want you to think of it as just a response for that reviewer. I want you to think of it as a response for every future customer who looks at your page and sees that response.
We actually did a study at the end of last year that showed all of the different ways business owners can build consumer trust online. And responding to reviews was one of the biggest ways. The study also found that 87 percent of consumers said they’re willing to look past a critical review if the business owner responds and addresses the concerns.
Responding to reviews is so powerful. It allows you to express your thanks and also show future customers that you care. It’s also a great opportunity to mention anything in particular that you’d like to address. But really, responding to reviews isn’t supposed to be a long and lengthy process.
You want to keep it simple. First, thank them for sharing their feedback. Then address one or two of the things that they mentioned. And lastly, take the conversation offline. Either let them know you sent a direct message, or give them a phone number or email address to get in touch with you. The point of this is not to get into a back and forth dialogue with the reviewer. The point is to show that you care about your customers, and are willing to hear them when they bring something to your attention.
And don’t forget, respond to those positive reviews too. Those are customers who love and care about you. They took the time already to tell you how great you are. So take a moment to deepen that connection by saying thanks and letting them know you appreciate the feedback.
At the end of the day, you want to be able to show up digitally the same way you do in person. When someone shares their enthusiasm for your business with a friend or colleague, you want to make sure that everything they say about you is matched – digitally. And you want to make sure that people know how they can get in touch.
So make sure that at a bare minimum, you claim all of those online listings and fill out the basic business information to let people know who you are and what you do. And never overlook the value of images. Make sure that on your review sites, as well as your social media and your website, you show people who you are.
They want to see a little peek behind the curtain and behind the scenes of your business. So take out your cell phone and snap a couple shots. Then upload them and give people context to who you are. And let them know how you can be the next great business that they connect with.