Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Angie’s List and Yelp: How to make consumer sites work for you

Just when you thought that you had the Internet all figured out along comes something else for you to worry about. If you have a website, you have probably already heard about search engine optimization, also known as SEO. You may have already explored using widgets such as Add This. You’re blogging, tweeting,  and Facebooking.  You are Linked In.  What else is there to do?

How about getting back to basics? Build your reputation. You can do this by understanding and using consumer review sites. Two popular Internet services are  Angie’s List and Yelp.

Both sites provide customer reviews of merchants and service providers. Angie’s list has a small membership fee, Yelp is a free service. They are not the only review sites, but they are two of the most well known. Yelp began in San Francisco in 2004, and according to their site, subscribers have written over 10 million local reviews, and over 31 million people visited Yelp in a 30 day period. Yelp can be accessed from just about any device with Internet access, and it was listed in a Time magazine article, 10 Essential Websites.

Angie’s list has been providing reviews since it was started in Columbus, Ohio in 1995 by Angie Hicks. Angie’s List groups customer reviews by service and location. The small membership fee provides access to local reviews on, live support, Angie’s List magazine, access to a complaint resolution team, and product discounts.

Why this is important to you and your business 
More and more people are using consumer review services such as Angie’s List and Yelp, and the recommendations are powerful. More than a million belong to Angie’s list, and Yelp gets more than 31 million visits a month. That is a lot of people. Word of mouth reviews have clearly moved beyond friends talking to friends. Whether you do a great job or a lousy job, people are likely to talk about you on consumer review sites.

Carpe Diem! 
If you understand the power of consumer reviews, you can make them work for you. Here’s how.
  • Don’t bother trying to game the system
  • Understand your customers and your business
  • Deliver the goods
  • Ask for referrals
Gaming the system
This is a loser’s game. The reputable consumer review sites work hard to present unbiased reviews. You can try to join the sites and review your own business, but you will probably get caught. Besides, if need to write your own review to get a good one, then you have bigger problems than a customer review site. It is a good idea to look yourself up on the sites so that you can see what your customers think of you.

Understanding your customers and your business
The key to good reviews is happy customers, and the key to happy customers is knowing what they want and giving it to them. A couple of buzzwords that you should know are “customer value” and “branding.” A customer value is simply the reason that customers buy a product. What value do customers see in your product? What are you offering? What is your "value proposition?" Branding is how you present yourself based on what you offer. Unless the goods or services you sell are inferior to others at similar price points, then the most likely cause of customer dissatisfaction is that what you say your offer, your brand, does not agree with what your customers want. Consider this extreme example.

A farmer went out to buy a vehicle and asks the salesman for the best he has. The farmer has a lot of money, so price is not a consideration. A few weeks later the farmer returned to the salesman complaining that he had been sold a piece of junk. When the salesman asked what was wrong with the Ferrari,  the farmer replied that it got bogged down in the field and there was no place to hook up the seed spreader.

If your customers want tractors, do not try to sell them fine Italian sports cars! A popular theme in sales is “consultative selling.” The idea is that salespeople should work with customers to identify their wants and needs and then demonstrate how the products meet those. This is different from the usual approach salespeople use when calling on customers to pitch their wares. Check out this blog post by Jill Konrath, Sales Classics: Why You Must Go Into Sales Calls Totally, Stark-Raving Naked for another take on the topic.

Deliver the goods
Assuming that you understand what your customer wants and that you have it, close the sale. Then deliver the goods. Your sale was a promise. Keep it. This means doing:
  • What you say you will do
  • When you said you would do it
  • At the price you agreed
If you read through reviews on Angie’s List, two things will become obvious fairly quickly. A lot of companies do not do what they said they would do when they said they would do it for the agreed price, and customers are actually surprised when companies do keep their promises. If you want the best reviews, you will have to do more, sooner, and for less than expected. However simply doing what they promised to do appears to yield good reviews also.

Ask for referrals
This advice has been around for a long time, and it works. Ask your customers to tell other people about you. Ask them if they belong to consumer review sites such as Angiel's List and Yelp. If they do, ask them to write about you. If you have done well by them, then they will do well by you.

So, how can you make consumer sites work for you? Find out what your customers want. Keep your promises, and ask your customers to tell their friends about you.

No comments:

Post a Comment