Whether your business is selling a product or a service, an online presence is vital if you want to maximize your growth. Putting your business on Yelp is a quick, easy way to get online, reach more customers, and if you have a company website, boost your SEO.
More than 142 million users use Yelp every month to find crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses. That’s 43% of the United States. The majority of users (66%) are college educated, 44% have an income level over $100K, and age is fairly evenly distributed across the spectrum.
According to a BCG study of 4,300 small businesses, the average Yelp listing results in an additional $8,000 in annual revenue. And a Harvard Business Review study on restaurants showed that each star increase can result in a 5-9% increase in annual revenue. Taking into account that setting up your profile takes less than 5 minutes, it is definitely worth the effort.
It Doesn’t Matter How Great Your Product Is If People Can’t Find You
If you show up in a Yelp search result, someone in your area wants to buy what you are selling. That means you are missing out on potential customers if you aren’t listed. Particularly if there are few competitors in your area.
This is a screen shot of the results when I search for “beef jerky” near my home. You wouldn’t know it, but there’s a boutique beef jerky store with a fantastic product right in the center of the shaded area. Since it doesn’t have a Yelp listing, interested consumers who searched for the product this company sells, in the area the store is located will spend their money somewhere else. It doesn’t matter how great your product is if people can’t find you.
List Your Company, Even If You Don’t Have a Storefront
It’s worth listing your company even if you do most of your business online and don’t have an actual storefront. Adding your business to Yelp not only increases visibility to Yelpers, it also boosts your listing on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Plus, if you are willing to let people drop by your location or make deliveries, you increase the odds of local sales and save on shipping costs.
How To List Your Company On Yelp
As I mentioned, it takes less than 5 minutes to set up a Yelp profile, and it’s totally free. Simply go here and click the “Claim my business button,” then fill out your name, address, business category, and website. Yelp will verify within 1-2 business days.
If you decide to invest a little more time on Yelp, you can also respond to customers, offer paid promotions (which I usually don’t recommend), and take advantage of free analytics.
How to Get Positive Reviews
Yelp prohibits trading discounts or services in exchange for positive reviews, so how can you ensure that your company maintains a positive rating? The same way you ensure that you stay in business in the first place—by keeping your customers happy. In my experience, when you exceed expectations, customers will be happy to leave a positive Yelp review if you ask them to.
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I’m convinced that everyone has a really great idea for a product or service that would make life just a little better. It wouldn’t even surprise me if you had two or three ideas right now that would somehow ease frustration, solve a problem, or streamline a complicated process. I’m also convinced that most people have an inner voice that whispers fear and doubt and keeps them from acting on their ideas. Today I want to highlight someone who ignored the voice of negativity and took action, becoming incredibly successful along the way.
When Sara Blakely first got the idea for seamless panties, she wasn’t the billionaire fashion guru that she is today. She was a door-to-door salesman selling fax machines, and she was irritated by the way her panties showed through her business suits. So what did she do? It wasn't complicated. She snipped the legs off some pantyhose and created a working prototype. When her prototype worked and she realized there was nothing like it on the market, she bought a “how-to” book at Barns & Noble and wrote her own patent application.
From there, it took persistence, hard work, and more than a little luck to build Spanx into a billion dollar company. But in my experience, most people never get to the critical first step of building a prototype.
So what would it take to create a prototype of one of your ideas? It might be as easy as cutting the legs off of a pair of pantyhose. But if you need more help, here are some practical takeaways from the Sara Blakely/Spanx story to give you guidance:
1) Pay attention to your "felt needs." If you experience frustration, chances are others do too, so find a solution that works and try to sell it. This is the core of entrepreneurship. Sara's problem? Visible panty lines. Her solution? Using thinner material.
2) Always be ready with an elevator pitch. When you have an idea or product, you need to develop a 60 second pitch clearly explaining the problem, the solution, and why your product is different than anything else on the market. You never know when you'll have a chance to pitch to potential backers.
3) If you get permission to give a pitch in person, do whatever it takes to make it happen. When Sara was finally given the chance to pitch to Neiman Marcus, she knew she wouldn’t get a second chance so she dropped everything, got on a plane and flew to Dallas
4) If you have a good pitch, but people aren't receiving it, figure out why. In Sara's case, it was a gender barrier. Men just don't have experience wearing panties, so when she pitched to men, they couldn't see the problem. When she finally pitched to a female buyer at Neiman Marcus, she had to take her into the women's restroom and show her how the product actually works to convince her to place the products.
5) Don't give up. Others may not give you the time of day, but if you know that your product is valuable and that there is demand for it, persevere. We all love overnight success stories, but most of the time what looks like a catapult to fortune and fame from the outside took years of hard work behind the scenes.
6) Just because you got your product into a store, doesn't mean you can relax. There's a lot of legwork necessary to make sure it sells and stays in the store. Sara got Spanx into department stores pretty fast, but they weren't selling because their placement was not intuitive for her customer base. She made it her full time job to stand in the department store telling people about her product, and even went so far as to move the display to a more prominent location without asking management's permission.
Do you have an entrepreneurial success story, or a question about how you can get started on your own path to success? Leave a comment, or click the contact button and get in touch. And be sure to share on Facebook and twitter!
Instagram is the kind of success story entrepreneurs dream about. Founded in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, it gained over 100 million users within its first two years, and today has grown to more than six times that number.
If you are interested in founding your own tech startup, here are 10 takeaways from Instagram that can help you succeed:
1. Learn to forecast the future. Ask, "What will people do with this technology that nobody expects right now?" When Instagram was founded, most people were carrying camera phones in their pockets, but there was no great way to share the photos. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger found a way to make photo sharing easy.
2. Entrepreneurs don't always invent something new, sometimes they develop a new way to use a technology that already exists. As Kevin put it in his interview with Guy Raz, "Everyone knew you could take photos with your phone, they just didn't know the photos could be interesting." Can you think of a technology people are already using, but not fully implementing? Figure out how to increase implementation, then monetize it!
3. Sometimes a little legwork pays off. Cash was in short supply in Instagram's early days. On one occasion, Systrom and Krieger heard that some investors were having a meeting and showed up with a working demo. The investors were so impressed with the product, that they signed on immediately.
4. If an investor tells you to change something, change it right away! Meeting with an interested investor creates a sense of energy and movement. If you wait to make your next move, energy will wane and the investor may think you are not serious and is likely to pull their backing.
5. Don't ask why people are not using your product/company, ask why they continue using it! Loyal customers are worth ten times more than new customers. They are your brand advocates, and are likely to do some of your marketing for you. A significant portion of your energy should be focused on satisfying and retaining these customers.
6.Figure out a way to make people feel better, and your invention will be a success. In the language of economists, people consume a product or service because it increases their "utility." That is, the satisfaction a consumer derives from your product, minus the price they paid for it, is greater than the satisfaction they would receive from another product. Instagram wasn't the only photo sharing app launched in 2010, but it was the first to use filters well. Filters make your photos look better, and that makes you feel better.
7. Ask friends and family for input on your ideas. Getting outside input is one of the quickest ways to leap over a hurdle. And friends and family are the easiest people to get feedback from. Kevin's wife was the one who suggested adding filters to Instagram, and she came up with the idea while vacationing in Mexico. (Maybe I should add another tip: Work hard, but take a vacation before you burn out!)
8. Innovation can happen in the way a product is shared. Instagram was the first app to allow open sharing, so you can follow people without waiting for them to accept you as a "friend." This was another reason for the app's success.
9. When you make a mistake (and you will), apologize and be transparent. Remember the whole fiasco about "Instagram now owns the photos you post, and will use them in advertising?" According to Systrom, that misunderstanding occurred because they didn't put enough effort into writing their terms of acceptance. Instead of blowing off critics or hiding it, they apologized for their mistake and moved on.
10. It takes grit to succeed. When the stars align and your product works and you have investors who back you, getting your product to market is still going to take sweat, sleepless nights, and a strong desire to succeed. This is what it means to be an entrepreneur.
How about you? Do you have any tips for success? Share them below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter.