Local businesses in 2013
When we started in 2013, most local business owners did not buy into a review-based world where customers openly share their experiences online. They thought Yelp reviewers were modern-day hippies with a keyboard, blabbing on-and-on about their eccentric visit to the coffee shop.
Sure, some of you placed Yelp and TripAdvisor stickers in your windows - but that was the extent of your participation. You didn't read many reviews. You didn't respond to any reviews. In the end, you treated review sites as if they were your evil step sister: acknowledging they wouldn't go away while trying to ignore them as much as possible.
You had reason to doubt online reviews
In 2013, you had good reason to be skeptical. Reports came out about fake reviews. Review sites tried to game the system (thanks Yelp) so you would spend advertising dollars with them. And there was a perceived belief that other web stuff - like a shiny new website or witty Facebook post - would drive more sales.
Your struggles today
Many of you are letting go of your death-grip on the phone book and starting to embrace the web. Unfortunately we see too many businesses getting sucked into over-promises and unnecessary services. There is a lot of snake oil in web marketing being sold to business owners as the "best" solution to “grow your business.”
You receive countless phone calls from solicitors pleading with you to spend a little money so they can make you more. Phone calls with promises that SEO, Print Media, Local Online Ads, Local Citations, Website Builders, and more ... will take you to the Promised Land of Infinite Customers.
They are wrong. And we have the data to prove it (but that's for another day). Local businesses do not need expensive marketing services. You do not need paid advertisements. As long as you have a functioning website (even if it looks like a 5th grader made it back in 1997) with a menu, you will be fine.
We build user-friendly tools to help local businesses foster better relationships with their customers. There is no vudu, hocus-pocus magic here. When businesses openly communicate with their clients online, they see an increase in reviews, ratings, and revenue.
All local business staff members should be updated about new reviews so they can be empowered to make changes based on the latest customer feedback.
When customers leave reviews, they should be acknowledged and thanked so they know you value their opinion and patronage.
Local businesses spending less money on low-impact marketing tactics and spending more time focusing on reviews and customer feedback.
We love what we do. We love who we work with. Every day we get to create, innovate, and do what we do best.