Since I work with a lot of small business owners, I thought I’d give the community a little insight on what has worked well to get them customers. This information is from my latest report, Yelp Lead Machine. Feel free to pick up a copy here at no charge. Interestingly, as we see countless advertisements for website promotion in forums like these, most of my clients DO NOT get the bulk of their business from promoting their website in search. That’s still important, but the number one source of business for them comes from Yelp. For those of you who don’t know, Yelp is an online business directory where consumers can rate and review businesses such as general contractors, florists, plumbers, mechanics, attorneys, restaurants, salons and just about any small business you can think of. I often hear new cleints say, “I don’t want to be in Yelp because I heard that people can post bad things about me.” This is true. They can, but Yelp scrapes the Internet for small businesses they can add to their directory. Consumers have the right to post their opinions about a business and Yelp has the right to give them a forum to do it in. That means you’re probably there whether you want to be or not. Here’s the real question: Are you going to control your message or are you going to let others do it? I hope you want to control it because if you do, there are a lot of consumers waiting for you in Yelp. Here are a few tips: First, rather than focusing so much on your website, promote your Yelp profile instead, especially if it has a lot of gold stars. Google shows the stars right in search results. If a consumer searches Google and finds both your competitor’s website and your Yelp listing, one next to the other, which one will they choose? If it were me, I’d choose the one with all the gold stars next to it—that would be your Yelp listing. Second, Yelp ‘recommends’ that you not ask your customers for reviews and that you should just let reviews happen naturally. That’s BS. They do this because they think if you only ask your satisfied customers for reviews, that it will not accurately reflect the true quality of your service. Don’t buy it. You should ask every customer who is happy with your service to write a review in Yelp, Google and anywhere else they can think of. They can even share it in their Facebook, Linked In or Twitter feed. Add a link back to the review and you’re golden. Third, you absolutely must respond to negative reviews. Yelp has a function for you to respond publicly to all reviews. Get in the habit of doing this. Check your profile every day. If someone posts something negative, respond in a nice, professional way. Do not go on the defensive. The best response is to thank them for their feedback and to promise to do better. Take your slap on the hand. As a consumer, I don’t care about using the company with the highest rating. I want to use the one that cares the most. If you get a few negative reviews, don’t sweat it. Consumers know you’re human and that you make mistakes. Just apologize for them. Never offer a discount to disgruntled customers. This will cause others to write negative reviews just to get a freebie. Alright, I’ve got a lot more tips to share with you on this, but this post has already gotten too long, but I want to stress that you guys should get active in Yelp. More than 97% of consumers use reviews now to make purchasing decisions and Yelp is the place they’re going. I’ve been using a “customer review” marketing strategy for my clients for years and they clean up. That’s how I know this works. Ignore online reviews at your own peril. If this stuff helps, let me know and I’ll be happy to share some other tips that my clients are doing that are making them market leaders. If you have any questions, be sure to let me know.