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kryah 21st January 2014 02:52 PM

To The Small Business Owners!
I have a very specific question that I am hoping that any and all small business owners will be willing to weigh in on.

I own a small internet service, Online Business Improvement Services.

In a nutshell, my business helps small businesses increase their Yelp, Angie's List, Google+, Citysearch and all other online public review websites ratings.


Well, first, I use backlinking, seo, fake reviews blah blah blah... Kidding.

I actually provide "tools" for small business owners to reach out to their real customers. These tools dramatically increase the chance of their happy customers leaving positive reviews, while simultaneously providing a place for unhappy customers to complain (instead of complaining on your Yelp page..).

When I actually score a meeting, my clients understand exactly how low-risk my service is. In fact, whether my service works or not is entirely in the hands of my clients. Like I said before, I basically just rent out tools at a monthly fee.

SO! My question is:

How on earth do I reach out to you people?!

So far I have:

1) Emailed local business owners struggling on Yelp. Just a quick email explaining who I am and briefly how I can help.

2) Hard mailed a copy of local business owners struggling on Yelp. My envelope includes: First page print out of Yelp and Google, A quick letter explaining who I am and how I can help, and a poker chip that reads "Don't leave your reputation up to chance," on one side, and "Can you afford to risk your reputation?", on the other. This makes the mail a little lumpy, and I think it increases the chance of the mail not being passed over as quickly.

What am I doing now?

It seems so many people have been SCREWED over by "competitors" that talk the talk but don't walk the walk. All business owners already hate Yelp. Now, because I'm so late to the game, everyone hates anyone that has a solution to their Yelp problem, too (because they never work).

I am about to head to the post office with another 75 letters. I have decided to send these letters focusing on people who are hurting on Angie's List this time around, hoping that people will think it's less of a scam if I don't mention Yelp until I score a meeting and people can see how low-risk my service is.

Unless this is a slam dunk (doubtful), I'm stuck, friends. I haven't walked into a place with information because I don't want to be a bother to the manager/ business owner. I want people to receive my information in a low-pressure environment.

So in short, how would YOU like to be marketed to?

torka 22nd January 2014 09:57 AM

Search Engine Optimization professionals face some of the same difficulties. There are so many incompetents, scammers and spammers out there who call themselves "SEOs" that the real SEOs (who, unlike those bozos, can provide real value) have a hard time sometimes breaking through the noise. Site owners who have been burned often take a much longer time to "warm up" to the services provided by the real-deal SEOs.

Part of the problem is the bozos tell the business owners just what they want to hear: that they'll solve all the business's woes without any effort on the part of the site owner. All the businessperson has to do is sit back and rake in the profits.

(Of course, we know it doesn't work out that way.)

But when the real SEOs show up and tell them the Real Deal -- that is: they're going to have to get their hands dirty, too; real SEO will require their involvement, and it ain't gonna be cheap -- the business owners are reluctant to go along. They've been sold a bill of goods for so long, in some corner of their mind they've come to believe that SEOs can accomplish their "magic" with no intervention from the business owner, for maybe just a few hundred dollars a month (or less).

Psychologists tell us that a lie, repeated enough times, comes to resemble the truth in peoples' minds. And once they've decided something is true, it's almost impossible to get them to change their minds.

Not to discourage you. It's just that (as you've already discovered) you're fighting an uphill battle, and there are valid reasons for that.

So, in Ye Olde Day Jobbe, I handle the digital marketing for a mid-sized business. We're B2B, so we don't have a lot of issues with Yelp or Angie's List, but we have had issues with a bad review or two on Amazon. Nothing that would affect our business significantly, but we have had the experience of seeing our products dissed online. ;)

Putting on my "customer hat" and thinking of what might be a good approach for me if I were looking at a lot of bad reviews from customers...

Make a big deal out of what makes you different from the others. Everybody's promising me help with safeguarding my reputation. Be upfront that others are making promises they can't keep, or using unscrupulous methods that could end up getting the business in more trouble than if it had just let the bad reviews stand. Point out in a really obvious way (because I'm just skimming the stuff you sent me) what makes you different.

If you have any clients you've already helped, include a case study or testimonial or two. You know, some positive reviews, for a business that says it can help others get more positive reviews. :)

I don't know if I'd be impressed with having a printout from Yelp or Angie's List included. I probably already know about what's there... and might not like to be reminded. A simple mention that you'd noticed some negative reviews might be enough. Or skip mentioning it all together and just start off with what you can do for me.

Hope some of this helps...

--Torka :iratep:

kryah 22nd January 2014 09:05 PM

Thank you, Torka. Your input is very valuable. As of this moment I have 3 clients. I only recently started work with them (2 in December, 1 in January), so I can't quite include testimonials or case studies yet. But that's definitely a great idea.

I wanted to offer SEO services, but yeah. Like you were saying.. It's a battlefield. Too many scammers ruin it for the rest of us. :(

kjpublicrelatio 27th January 2014 09:12 PM

re: yelp
Are you utilizing social media? I actually just watched a really great YouTube video that someone posted online about Yelp/review sites...and I found it because I stumbled across it on my news feed (it was a promoted page - have you tried Facebook ads?)

Have you checked hashtags, like #yelp? Perhaps people are having conversations there (Twitter) where you can jump in and offer assistance.

One of the best things we've done lately is partnered with other businesses who work with an audience similar to who we want to work with. By developing a partnership or a referral program, we are able to tap into their audience/mailing list...that's been very helpful.

kryah 30th January 2014 01:19 PM

Well, in case anyone was curious on how the letters turned out... 75 letters resulted in 1 phone call. :argh:

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