Engaging with customers on Yelp could save your business.
Direct engagement is key to online marketing. The best way for a small business to start directly communicating with their online audience right now is by owning and claiming a Yelp page.
Serving as the Yelp Senior Field Marketing Manager and Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick knows the future of business success is winning attention and admiration online.
She and other biz experts at Yelp help businesses achieve that goal every day.
There are many tools and tips for engaging with a business audience on Yelp as well as other websites and apps that host online profiles and customer reviews.
It all comes down to a basic fact: it’s important to respond when someone takes the time to message you online.
“But most importantly it releases the expectation and the tone for the consumer about what they can expect when they engage with your business,” Emily continued about responding to customers on Yelp.
Digital Hospitality is a business and marketing podcast hosted by Shawn Walchef, owner/operator of Cali BBQ in San Diego. Learn more online at Cali BBQ in San Diego www.calibbq.media.
Cali BBQ is a huge proponent of using Yelp. The San Diego restaurant has teamed up with the business before on charity. Shawn Walchef’s prior podcast series Behind the Smoke featured Brad Bohensky of Yelp San Diego on the show.
Tips for Using Yelp for Small Businesses
A businesses’ tone on Yelp, and their overall hospitality and service online, creates the expectation for a customer looking to engage with the business in any fashion. With more commerce being done online in 2020 and beyond, it’s increasingly important and essential to be there for your customers online — not just offline.
“To pretend like a conversation isn’t happening online is just as good as looking at a customer who brings a concern to a manager having just bold face staring them down,” said Emily Washcovick from Yelp. “No signs, no answer yet. No one in the hospitality business would do that.”
Simply put, your customer is in new places now looking for service. To survive and thrive, you must be there, too.
“That’s where your customers are now,” Emily says of digital media and app platforms like Yelp. “That’s the sandbox they’re playing in.”
By meeting them where they’re at, the likelihood of an exchange is that much greater.
“The best way to convert a potential customer into a real customer is to give them the information they’re looking for,” the Yelp employee said.
For business owners, there are a plethora of platforms and apps that it’s important to be active on. Yelp is an essential starting point.
“There’s absolutely no reason that every business shouldn’t claim their free Yelp page,” emphasizes the Yelp employee and evangelist. “The best way to think about that is why wouldn’t you want control and ownership and the ability to update and verify information about your business?”
5 Yelp for Business Tips
Claiming and using your own Yelp page is easy.
It doesn’t require any technical knowledge and thankfully there’s help available to guide you through using your Yelp Business page.
Here are some tips from Yelp’s Emily Washcovick on how to best us your Yelp for Small Business page.
1. Make Updates
To start, small updates to your Yelp page can make a major difference for your business.
“We always tell businesses you want a minimum of 10 photos on your page,” shares Emily Washcovick about updating Yelp business profiles. “That’s going to help you with straight up visibility. But if those 10 photos are captioned, telling us what we’re looking at, describing services, those captions help you appear more in search results.”
2. Get Help
Some small business owners may have been too busy to do this in the past. In 2020, there’s really no excuse. You either have to choose to grow your business by being online or eventually close down. The consumers have spoken and they want e-commerce and other digital services.
“During COVID, I’m sure you have a staff member who would want to work for you on your page,” Emily says. “Even if it’s just a few hours a week on a project. Send them on a mission, have them set up Google alerts and figure out where your business is being mentioned online. By taking 30 minutes to put some intentional keywords on your page, you’re going to not only help your visibility on Yelp but help your visibility on the Internet.”
When considering the costs of standard advertising who wouldn’t use these tools for free?
3. Engage Audience
Once your page is claimed, it still all comes back to engagement.
“The world I live in now is using Yelp’s tools as an avenue to teach business owners about marketing, about digital engagement, about working to express their brand the same way they do in person, but online,” says Emily.
Having the ability to vocalize what your brand is online may seem peripheral to some or even unimportant. On the contrary, it’s perhaps the greatest gift business owners have ever received.
“This online conversation that’s happening about your business is the same conversation you had hoped for years ago,” Emily begins. “People would experience your business and you’d want them to tell their colleagues. You’d want them to tell their sister-in-law. You’d want them to tell everyone they know about how incredible your business is. The thing you’ve always cared about as a business owner is now online.”
Jackpot, right? Yes. But how do you make that reach expand and flourish?
“The way to grow that to expand it,” starts Emily, “the way to have it work for you is to engage with it.”
“Businesses that are engaging with their online profiles, whether that’s responding to reviews, uploading photos, whatever it may be, they’re getting more reviews and oftentimes higher star ratings,” notes Emily. “It makes total human sense. If I as a consumer see that the business owner cares about their reputation, they’re responding to things, and then I go have a great experience, I’m far more inclined to share it.”
4. Use Your Voice
Yelp is a tool – a free one in many ways – and it gives businesses a voice. To be able to use your own voice on such a powerful platform is key in winning both now and in the future.
“The Internet is a way to express your personality, the way to really humanize your brand,” says Emily. “If you’re taking advantage of that, you really can control the narrative. And if you’re not, it’s happening without you.”
5. Reevaluate Strategies
During the COVID pandemic, many businesses are reevaluating numerous components of their strategy and flow just to keep the lights on. Emily sees this time as an opportunity to make changes or efforts now that will continue to earn in the future.
“Every business has had to make an operational change or shift,” notes Emily. “If you’re doing it with a short-term outcome in mind, you’re probably not looking broad enough and how you can use this unfortunate few months in the COVID period to better your business in the long run. Really come up with a new system or a new process, a new touch fully that makes your business ahead of the rest.”
New processes mean shifting how and why you do things.
“Now is the time to take a look at that and figure out how to keep that revenue in the bottom line and expand those margins. Reevaluate where you can invest to get the return you’re looking for,” says Emily.
The best investment not only for this time but the long run? Digital Hospitality.
“People want to know what you’re up to,” Emily states. “They want to know what weird challenges you’re having in the kitchen, trying to figure out how to keep stuff hot in delivery format. Let them know how things are going. Bring them in behind the curtain of your business and really use this opportunity when as a society we’re feeling a little disconnected to bring that connection with your consumer in through that digital chain.”
Don’t forget: Engage, engage, engage.
Hospitality Career from Marriott to Yelp
“I came across this small department at Yelp, the business outreach team,” recalls Emily. “What we work on is strictly the free tools and the education of those free resources for business owners. I’ve been on that side of the company now since 2016.”
The free tools provided by Yelp are Emily’s expertise as an educator. They’re also the foundations of what Digital Hospitality is all about.
When it comes to treating customers and clients with dedication, care and respect, her pedigree dates back before the modern digital era.
“I really got into the hospitality side of things by working for a catering company when I was in high school,” Emily Washcovick recalls. “I learned on the job from some really great food professionals early on.”
After attending the prestigious University of Wisconsin and earning a degree in Communications and English Literature, her early work after school suddenly placed her back in the hospitality space.
“I transitioned into working for Marriott when I graduated from college,” Emily looks back at her career. “I felt so honored to work for that brand. I really loved everything that they were all about and I got put through the ringer those few years with Marriott. I really learned firsthand what the customer experience is like.”
The last part of that quote is important and telling of who Emily is. While her time at Marriott could’ve easily been defined by serving customers – and it was – it was just as important if not more important to listen to customer needs and understand their experiences.
“Whether it’s customer sharing the great time that they had, but more often sharing what really went wrong, in hotels, it’s all about making that experience different,” says Emily of her time at Marriott. “It’s about making that experience go to a new level.”
This understanding of how to listen to feedback and improve experience proved pivotal when she began working for Yelp.
“After I transitioned from Marriott I went over to Yelp,” Emily looks back. “I was empathizing with these business owners really coming from a place of understanding how hard online feedback and reviews can be — especially from a place of criticism. I tried to just get on the same page as these business owners and understand what their frustrations were, but also make them understand that the bottom line was engagement is the only way forward. It’s the easiest way to see success.”
Engaging in negative reviews or feedback online may seem like the dirty work, and it is. Still, as Emily puts it, engagement is the way in this new landscape. Emily knows this because it comes back to the days when responding to negative feedback wasn’t a choice, it was the rule.
“At Marriott, we didn’t have a choice,” Emily notes. “We had to respond to those reviews, it was brand standard and that made us better.”
While Emily’s early days working at Yelp were dealing with small businesses as part of the Yelp sales team, her evolution at the tech company has allowed both her background and new learnings to flourish.
“I think a lot of business owners who do well on Yelp and have succeeded are ones who have been very, very easy to engage and to get active on that.”
– Article by Cali BBQ Media content producer Ian Stonebrook. Follow Ian on Instagram at www.instagram.com/ianstonebrook
About Emily Washcovick
Emily Washcovick is a senior field marketing manager and small business expert for Yelp in Chicago.
The Yelp employee is tasked with building a network of local business owners, operators and marketers through education and networking events.
She also hosts a series of online and offline events to provide business owners with resources that help them succeed and grow in the world of online reviews.
Before joining Yelp in 2014, Emily Washcovick ran “guest experience and large scale event execution” for Marriott. She comes from a family of business owners and has history helping businesses learn about the world of online reviews and consumer engagement. Bio abridged from Business Insider
Follow Emily Washcovick on Instagram @washcovick
Email Emily Washcovick at [email protected]
Sign up for Yelp Business at https://biz.yelp.com
Read the Yelp Blog Business Section at https://blog.yelp.com/section/business
Connect with Cali BBQ
Email the Cali BBQ Media and Digital Hospitality podcast team at [email protected]
Visit Cali BBQ online for some of the best BBQ in San Diego, a business blog, online marketing help, and more https://calibbq.media
Listen to another helpful podcast episode about Yelp at https://calibbq.media/042-maximize-your-digital-marketing-by-taking-ownership-of-your-online-business-profile-yelp-san-diego/