"Holy shit."

$1 million dollars in new sales from one single source. In just 10 months.

It was October 2016 when I found out that we hit jackpot.

And this golden mine was none other than Yelp, a popular consumer review site.  

Now, most entrepreneurs kind of get that customer reviews are important for business. But they just don't know exactly how powerful customer reviews could be for their bottom line. Here's the killer stat I tell everyone: a Harvard Business School study shows that even a one-star increase on your business's Yelp rating boosts sales by 5 - 9%!  

At my company, we sensed the potential, and wanted to test it for ourselves. Back in January 2016, when we first set up our Yelp account, we tried as many strategies as possible to get good reviews. Some of them worked better than others, and by October 2016, we had a flood of 5-star reviews.

That's not too bad, I remember thinking. But what blew my mind was when I logged into our CRM, and it showed that we earned an extra $1,000,000 -- directly attributable to Yelp reviews. (Thanks to our CTO Adam, we could pinpoint exactly where our new customers come from with call tracking and a great CRM.) And what's even more incredible? The growth still continues till this day!

You can capitalize on Yelp and explode your business growth too. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Have a fully decked out Yelp profile

According to Yelp, businesses with 1-5 reviews and at least 10 photos see 200% more user views than a business with the same number of reviews and no photos. Yup -- that's your low hanging fruit right there.

But simply adding more pictures to your Yelp profile isn't enough. To make sure your business is most searchable online, you should also be geotagging your pictures, filling in your website URL, operating hours, price range, and other miscellaneous information. I also like to state in my profile what my business does differently from the competition -- this makes it easy for my customers to understand the value that we bring to them.

2. Seek and court the power users

In this case, the Yelp Elites. These folks are the site's most engaged users who write frequent, quality reviews -- and reviews from them carry more weight than normal users' ones. You can identify Yelp Elites easily by the colorful badge they have on their profile.

By targeting this group of powerhouse users, your business will get an unfair advantage from the start. I recommend attending Yelp events and networking with as many users (especially Yelp Elites) as possible. Even better? Host exclusive events for these VIP members, shower them with great freebies, and you will automatically win their favor. To start, just go to the events section of Yelp and click Add An Event.  

3. Preempt negative Yelp reviews

Let's get this straight -- you can't be paying people to leave positive reviews, because it violates Yelp's Terms of Service. But here's some good news: there's a legal and ethical workaround, which is to immediately address negative reviews even before they show up on Yelp.  

With my company, we make it a point to survey our customers about their experience after each appointment. If a customer is even the least bit dissatisfied, I step in and address the problem. The trick is to do it ASAP, so they don't get the chance to post about it on social media (by then, it's often too late.) On the same note, we also offer refunds to unsatisfied customers right away -- we lose a bit of money upfront, but we often win over the customer.

4. Offer Yelp Deals to your best customers  

Want to up your Yelp game to another level? Offer Yelp Deals. Yelp Deals is very similar to Groupon; basically giving out online discount vouchers to Yelp users. It's a great lead generation channel on its own.

But here's the killer trick: focus on promoting your Yelp Deals to your already satisfied customers. By rewarding loyal supporters and getting them to check out your business's Yelp page, you double your chance of getting positive reviews. Plus, you get them to come back to your business again - talk about killing three birds in one stone. 

One last thing: remember that Yelp might not necessarily be the killer customer review site for you. So, do your research and figure out what your customers are using most to leave reviews. It could be Yelp, or Angie's List, or Google, or Facebook. Whatever site it is, just make your customers consistently happy, because that alone can make or break your business.

Published on: Dec 15, 2017