Losing Sleep Over Yelp?

July 24, 2017

I have been known to lose sleep over business related headaches. Yelp, the very popular review website, has contributed to my sleeplessness in recent years – for good reason.

Yelp is best known for restaurant and hospitality reviews, but they are happy to allow anyone to submit a review in the Business to Consumer (B2C), or even the Business to Business (B2B) space, including coffee service, vending and micro markets.

This means that a disgruntled secretary for one of your clients, who did not get a coffee service delivery due to credit hold issues, can go on the Yelp site and describe your company as unreliable and your customer service people as rude. That one star rating will not help your image or your average rating.

At this point, you probably think I am anti-Yelp. I was, until I began to research this topic and discover the marketing opportunity that exists because of Yelp and our industry’s lack of attention to it.

More than ever – Yelp matters

Even the customer service people at Yelp will tell you privately that they do not belong in the B2B space. Unfortunately, they are in the game and it does matter. More than ever before, your prospective clients are checking your Yelp reviews before they meet with your account executive.

There are plenty of studies out there throwing out statistics about the importance of Yelp, including Michael Luca’s ongoing Harvard Business Review Study, “Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com.” His big conclusion pertained to the restaurant and hospitality industry: “A one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.” Every “Online Reputation Consultant” will tell you that Yelp reviews are becoming more important in the B2B space.

I don’t disagree about the importance of Yelp – hence the sleepless nights. In fact, I did my own study and spoke to 10 office managers and facility managers asking the question, “Do you rely on Yelp reviews when you are sourcing a vendor?”

Exactly half admitted (almost reluctantly) that they did look at Yelp and Google reviews and those five also agreed that they would conceivably kill the appointment if the reviews were bad enough. Three of the five Yelp users agreed that no Yelp reviews or an unclaimed Yelp page for a company was a sign of “dysfunction.”

Fortunately, there is still hope for the dysfunctional. The other five office managers were not Yelp users and took a more traditional approach to sourcing. “For business, I rely primarily on recommendations from other facility managers whether via LinkedIn, IFMA or just word of mouth,” said Kimber Riggs, Global Facility Manager at Inphi Corporation in Los Angeles.

How are we doing as an industry?

In the Southern California Market, I found eight coffee service and vending companies on Yelp.

· Four of those companies had a 1 star rating

· Two had a 2.5-star rating

· One had a 3-star rating

· One had a 3.5-star rating.

The total number of reviews between the eight companies was a paltry 21 – on average, less than three reviews per company. This type of result was consistent around the country.

In cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Dallas and Miami, I was hard pressed to find one company who had claimed and established a Yelp page. Even the biggest national names were nowhere to be found on Yelp.

Learn from my mistakes

Patience is required to build a strong brand on Yelp. They make it very difficult to have bad, obviously bogus reviews removed, while their “recommendation software” regularly takes down legitimate, positive reviews.

Over the past two years, I personally became focused on a few negative reviews that my company received - focused on how to minimize the negative impact of Yelp – focused on how Yelp was dedicated to ruining our business reputation. In fact, after seeing some positive reviews taken down from our Yelp listing, I developed an alternative strategy that worked.

We asked several clients to write us a review – three to four lines, to be used on our website and marketing materials. We slapped those reviews (adorned with a very Yelp like 5-stars) on all our marketing materials and our website. We brought the Yelp experience to our prospective clients whether they wanted it or not.

In retrospect - I should have been working to overcome those nuisance reviews on Yelp with a wave of positive, 5-star ratings from clients.

A huge Yelp opportunity

If reviews are important to decision makers and your competition is not moving forward with a controlled presence on Yelp, then your company can seize a huge competitive advantage by putting together a simple and controlled Yelp strategy – a four step process.

1. If you haven’t claimed your company page – do it now.

2. Make your Yelp listing look good. Post a company description, photos and key links on your Yelp page.

3. Call your favorite clients and find out if they are Yelp users. If so - send them a link to your Yelp Page and invite them to review your company. (You can ask for reviews, but you can’t offer an incentive). This process should occur regularly, like right after a smooth and successful installation. Set a reasonable team goal – 15 reviews every 90 days.

4. Advertise on Yelp. If a prospective client types in “coffee service” or “vending” or “micro markets” to find reviews, they may not see much in certain markets, but they will see your ad and your listing - you will get results, guaranteed. It’s great to be the only game in town! Also – I just think it may be easier to get occasional negative reviews taken down when you are an advertiser. On this – I speak from experience.

While our account execs appreciated being able to point to our “home grown” reviews in the marketing materials as evidence of our strength, being able to flaunt actual Yelp reviews is the ideal strategy. From what I saw looking at Yelp listings around the country, for those who are willing to take the four simple steps, there is an opportunity in our industry to build a dominant brand through Yelp in just about every major market.

See the opportunity for yourself. Go to Yelp and type in “Coffee Service,” “Vending Machine Service” or “Micro Market.” After you have reviewed that result, type in your company name. Try not to lose any sleep over what you see. If you do – at least you now know what needs to be done.


I welcome your feedback.

Cell 818 261-1758 - [email protected]

Visit the website - www.tullioB2B.com

About the Author

Over the last 37 years, Bob has sold video games, cigarette machines, cranes and juke boxes to bars and amusement centers, full line vending to public locations and office environments, pay telephones to retailers, OCS to thousands of office locations and of course, micro-markets. He has a very successful track record as key strategist, sales trainer and media manager under the title, "Director of Business Development" for World Wide Vending and Gourmet Coffee Service.