I was in a meeting with a friend who is a prominent entrepreneur last Friday. This gentlemen started his first business (an advertising agency) at a young age and grew it to the point where he could sell it and make a nice buck. He then parlayed that cash into a successful career of starting restaurants/pubs. As a business owner who has advertising experience I was shocked to hear that he does very little advertising outside of the local independent magazine. In fact, his budget is less than $500 a month. He tells me that this is common amongst his industry. Advertising does very little for these kind of businesses. Seeing a billboard for your restaurant a week ago will not influence my decision tonight about where I will go to eat. However I did learn that most of his reticence is due to his lack of time and resources. Like himself, most restaurant owners don’t have the knowledge or the time to manage their marketing strategy. So, they resort to posting things on Facebook & Twitter, often sporadically and with little to no results.We started talking about the kind of advertising that would be effective. We discussed a recent experience he had with Yelp, the popular online review website. He worked with the local Community Manager of Yelp to host an event for Yelpers where he invited them to try his knew menu and seasonal cocktail list. Although at first he was skeptical about the outcome the Yelp event would have, he explained that was incredibly impressed with the results; here’s why.He Found a Digital Sweet Spot – unlike Twitter and Facebook, Yelp is largely geared around reviews of restaurants. Yelpers are notorious foodies who love to discover and frequent independent restaurants. In fact, some of the best reviewed places on Yelp are total hidden gems that without the help of Yelp may have never been shared. And even though Facebook and Twitter are great for branding they reach a wide segment of people from all kinds of demographics. Yelp on the other hand is a digital sweet spot for restaurant owners. Although some see it as a complaint board, smart business owners know this is a gold mine.He Had Expert Help – as I mentioned, the Yelp Community Manager was there to provide direction and support for the event. My friend did not have to take time out of his busy schedule to organize, plan and execute the minutia of the event; he just had to check-off on the concepts and direction it was heading. This put him in the driver seat without needing to worry about the road. He had the expert on call to help him make decisions and that seemed to make him feel comfortable and more open minded.It Blended Online & Offline Marketing Strategies – the event was promoted via Yelp’s newsletter and social media channels but a lot of the buzz came from word-of-mouth. People who found out about the event shared it family, friends and co-workers to drive even more awareness. The results was more people at the restaurant than he had all year. This is essentially blending the online and offline promotional model to drive results. My friend has never been happier with a marketing campaign and thanks to an approach that had tangible, visual ROI (people buying food & drink) he could determine immediately if it was worth it. That gave him closure and a willingness to try something else.What I learned from this that social media and digital marketing can be combined with offline events to create revenue opportunities for restaurants. It’s great to share a happy hour special on a Facebook page but going the extra mile to make it an event is another ball game.One key takeaway I had was that the hospitality industry would benefit from having a dedicated community manager to organize these kinds of events. This person should have a good mix of both digital and event promotion skills, on and offline. Furthermore, if you are unable to locate such a person or cannot afford to have one on staff, consider reaching out to your local social media mavens to see what opportunities there are.
Social media marketing has taken the world by storm in recent years and many businesses and services have flourished because of it.For local businesses and services, there is one website giant that rules them all and every local business owner should look to be “king of the hill” in their industry on this particular website.That online giant is Yelp which commands a monthly 25 million visitors…and growing.You will see how, as a the local business owner, you should “claim your business” and you can immediately get some exposure to the millions that visit Yelp each month in search of good recommendations. Claiming your business on Yelp is free and you can start the process of building a good solid reputation that will attract more customers.As a business owner, you spend a lot of time and energy focusing on operating your business. You have also spent countless hours thinking of ways to advertise and set yourself up for customers to come through the door. You have probably even spent money advertising in phone book directories, sent out flyers and postcards, bought ads in local newspaper, and even spent money advertising online using Google AdWords.Yet, since the beginning of time, the best way to get people interested in your business or services you have to offer is and always has been word of mouth advertising.Some things never change and this is still the best way to promote your business.Typically, word of mouth advertising takes time and builds slowly and can take years to build momentum as more and more people learn about your business or service “through the grapevine.” But in today’s world, with a combination of your focus on customer service & satisfaction and websites like Yelp, you can spread the good word about your local business immediately.Here’s how in 2 steps.
1.) Let’s say you have a restaurant or just opened a restaurant this month and you just found out about Yelp today. Let’s also say you want to focus on your customers being completely satisfied with their “experience” at your restaurant. So, you put on a friendly smile and walk to each table as they are enjoying the food that was brought to them and you asked “How is everything? Are you enjoying the food?” Then listen for any feedback, good or bad, and be ready to correct ANYTHING that will help the customer have a better “experience” in your restaurant. Then walk to the next table and do the same. You don’t have to stay for a long conversation, but a quick “hello” (followed by the simple questions I mentioned), will give your customers that feeling that they’ve hit the jackpot and found a great restaurant where even the owner and or his staff took their time to walk around and chit-chatted with them. If you can’t do it regularly, have your employees do it regularly. A tiny genuine effort like that will go a very long way and will bring your customers back.
2.) As your customers are leaving, or better yet, as they pay their bills, have your waiters ask your customers to take a moment to go to Yelp and give your restaurant (or business) an “honest review.” You can even have your waiters write at the bottom of each receipt “Please review us on Yelp.com!” Another option is to have one designated person like the host/hostess to pass out your little restaurant/business card to every table and they can be that daily persons who will ask the customers to “take a minute to leave a review of your restaurant on Yelp.com- tonight (while the experience is fresh in their heads).”
Can you see how if you started this procedure with 20 customers today and 3 of them actually took the time to go to Yelp and leave great reviews, you would have about 100 reviews by the end of the month! But you have to do it diligently everyday.In addition, with you and or your staff trained to “want the best experience for your clients,” by interacting with your clients in that way (as opposed to just reciting the specials and bringing out the food and saying “enjoy”) you’re ingraining into their subconscious minds to always look to improve your customers experience, your business reputation, and your overall customer relations.Here’s a quick note. Starbucks built its reputation not by offering daily discounts and specials, but rather they focused on the “customers experience” while they were there. This is why when you walk into Starbucks, they’re usually very cheery and you feel like you’re in a nice big lounge and you’ll pay the high price for coffee over and over again because of this “experience.”So, to build an effective “online word of mouth” campaign about your local business or service remember, you have to initiate this. You have to decide to want extremely satisfied customers (all businesses should strive for this) and work hard to make sure they leave completely satisfied, and you must also ASK for your customers to leave reviews. Ask everyone, because only a fraction will ever take the time to do it.Can you see how, if you fully executed these 2 steps faithfully and religiously, your business could be the talk of the neighborhood within the next 30 days?Start now and take control of your business and steer it in the right direction. Regardless of how long you’ve been open, it’s never too start working on improving your image and quality of your products or services, building customer relations, and asking your customers to give you an honest review on Yelp.Make it happen now and reap the rewards of great business practices.
Yelp democratized restaurant reviews by allowing peer evaluations of restaurants and business on the Web. For those who are not familiar with Yelp, before its creation previous attempts at creating such a platform did not succeed. Most of Yelp’s competitors were lacking large quantities of quality reviews, of any but the most popular restaurants and businesses.There are countless social networking sites (i.e. Facebook and LinkedIn) as well as popular restaurant reviews (i.e. Zagat) but there is only that meshes both concepts into a fun and usable website, Yelp. If you are familiar with the site and use it regularly, you’ll find the iPad version of Yelp an upgrade.How Yelp for iPad brings an enhanced an in our opinion, superior user experience compared to its own website is the location awareness feature. This allows the Yelp app to give recommendations based on where you are located. The app shows what you need to know, stripped down for faster and easier browsing, display, and reading. While the app is simplified for an enhanced user experience, you do not lose any of the core features that make Yelp the most important website of its kind. You will still have the insightful comments and reviews of millions of Yelp loyal user base. The only negative about the Yelp App is while you can write drafts of your reviews; you can only submit them on the website at this time.Highlights & Key Features:Yelp for iPad has numerous features but most of the advanced features require you to have an account to use them. A Yelp account is totally free so there is no excuse not to have one! Below is a list of features we enjoyed using on this app:Talk – Yelp has a Talk feature that allows you to discuss topics of your choice with other Yelp users close by. The discussions are threaded and allow for orderly discussions.Bookmark – When logged into your Yelp account, you will be able to bookmark locations and also retrieve any links you have saved.Quick Tips – Instead of writing long reviews, you can quickly add a “quick tips” via the app. Quick Tips has a Twitter like feel (without the 150 character limitation) that allows you to give your opinions on a restaurant while its fresh on your mind. Quick Tips doesn’t have the limitations of a Full Yelp Review, so you can have them posted via the App without having to log into the website.Nearby – You can tap the Nearby tab to choose the type of business you are searching for with the option to sort by distance.Check-in – The App allows you to broadcast to your friends where you are. You can also win badges for being a regular at a restaurant, bar, or other place of business.Monocle – Monocle mode is located in the Nearby tab’s upper right hand corner. This weird, but fun feature, allows you to see opinions and other items such as video as you go from place to place. It tries to predict what you want to see but also serves as a walking guide. It’s not perfect, but it will expose you to new and different things.OpenTable – Yelp for iPad integrates with OpenTable. If a restaurant participates in the Opentables network, you’ll be able to see if you can stop by or make a reservation on your iPad. This is a great feature that saves you time without having to call around but at this time the number of participating restaurants is limited.