Business yelp: Learn from a business that cuts as it grows

Sometimes, I find examples of social media smarts in the most unlikely places. Business yelp mastery is something very mysterious to many enterprises, but this is a story about how making the social media outlet work for a business doesn’t have to be complex or difficult. I will not join the yelp reviews firestorm. You can read about that elsewhere. Let’s just agree a LOT of people use yelp business reviews every day, and many businesses large and small want to have good reviews. OK?

barber at work

lynda.com online training tutorialsThe story starts simply enough. I lost my barber. Or I should say she left the shop she was working at, and the day I walked in, I had another barber cut my hair. It was OK, but I decided to look around for another Barber. Enter Yelp as a place to check for barbershops in my area, and find out what people were saying.  I found quite a few with different ratings, and most of the best had about a dozen reviews, tops.  Even fewer had photos posted with the reviews. But one barber shop had over 40 reviews, with 31 being five stars. There were photos of the shop, cuts, and more, and the few negative reviews I found were bordering on circumstantial if not downright nutty.  So given it was local, heavily-reviewed, priced right, and took walk-ins, no appointments, I decided to give this place a shot. The most I was risking was a bad haircut.  The place had no website, but given the type of walk-in service enterprise it was, that was not a problem. I didn’t need an appointment interface. I already know how to find them, phone number and knew their hours of operation (all thanks to their Yelp business page).

Taking Business Yelp Farther. Things every business can apply

Once I got to the shop, I started to see how they had not left their yelp business fortunes to chance. In a very natural way, they took deliberate steps to make their yelp business social media work harder, and include it into the total customer experience. Here’s how:

  1. Upon entering, in addition to the familiar Yelp LOVE sticker on the window and on the cash register, they had several signs around the shop to ask “How did you hear about us?” Nothing fancy, and some even hand-done. Conversation cues and signage consistent with the Brand are part of the customer experience
  2. When the barber, a woman in her late 40’s, started working, she engaged in conversation asking if this was my first time there, welcoming letting me know how experienced all the staff was (average 15 years, and she had 20 years, with 6 at that shop). Very good engagement technique and probing questions
  3. She asked if I’d found them through Yelp, and knew they had very high ratings, and appreciated all the testimonials given. Employee awareness of customer perceptions on the Web.
  4. When she learned it was my first time there, she said there was a 10% discount on my hair cut because they knew how hard it can be to try a new place, and it was the shop’s way of saying thank you. Unexpected reward offer for customers.
  5. Because I found them through Yelp, I also received a discount on any hair products. Even more reward for customers and cross-sell.
  6. She also told me that if I posted a review for them, the next time I was there and showed it to the barber on my phone, I’d get an additonal discount that day. Additional, simple incentive to provide rating/testimonial
  7. Before I left (with a great trim, and some hair products), the cashier handed me a ‘buy 9, 10th cut FREE’ punch card, and two postcard-sized, colorful referral cards to give to friends with room to add my name on it, so I’d get a discount, and they would get a discount. Samples were posted on a spot on the wall behind the cashier. Continuity program, and referral incentive

I took notice of what was going on in the other chairs around me.  The other 5 barbers who were working (all were busy, and there were at least 3 people waiting at any given time) were either having similar conversations with new people, or were cutting repeat customers. Everyone left with referral cards for friends.

Before you get the wrong idea that this place was a high-ticket hair salon, it isn’t. Because of where it’s located, it serves families with a wide range of incomes and demographics, and their haircuts average about $12.  From what I observed, the leadership at the shop found a way to make every employee there understand how important these seven tactics were, and how to successfully incorporate them into what their contact with customers. business yelp ratings were probably not what started this, but the management found a way to use it in conjunction with other smart business tactics.

While your business may not be walk-in, the principles of communication, incentives, and making the ‘ask’ for testimonials or ratings that this shop can be applied to enterprises of all sizes. These people ‘get it’ about business yelp. That, plus a good job at cutting hair.

This is a business case I think is worth writing, and reading about. What else would you like to hear about?


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I’m a creative problem-solver helping clients who use Direct Marketing but need more effective lead generation and deeper customer relationships. You can learn more about me on LinkedIn.

3 Comments

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  1. Pat says:

    Very thoughtful analysis of successful business building. I often wonder how such techniques could be applied in my community children’s choir for recruitment and retention of choristers.

    1. carlos@perezworks.com says:

      Great question, Pat! The needs for recruitment and retention of organizational members certainly do have the added element of association and affinity, but some core elements like value reinforcement and use of personal stories (testimonials) are relevant to your group’s efforts. Your question is a great thought-starter for a future post. Thanks!

  2. Great article. This barber shop gets what many companies don’t, whether they’re large or small: the critical importance of staff training and consistent experience for everyone who deals with customers. Marketing can’t be silo’ed anymore, if it is to be successful.