• Sara Mays

What Is Your Online Billboard Telling Potential Customers?

From the time on the clock when we wake in the morning to speed limits, train schedules, and menu prices, numbers are a central part of our lives. We were taught from an early age that numbers are a clear indicator of performance. From our earliest years in school, we are

striving to get a 100 on a test, to score points in basketball, to increase our bank balance, or to reduce the number of strokes in our golf game. Numbers provide us with information about ourselves and about our business that can lead us to areas of opportunity.

What happens when we ignore these number? I’ve often pretended that bathroom scales don’t exist, and the results aren’t pretty. Ignoring information is usually the first step to failure.

In today’s world, we must look at online content as if it’s a billboard. Millions of people are "driving" or "walking" by and seeing information about your company. This information helps them decide to visit your business or to ignore it.

Let’s specifically look at Yelp. 142 million people visit Yelp each month, so if a business owner is ignoring Yelp, the impact on the brand and the business can be substantial. Take the case of a Zach, a small business owner in Ohio. Zach ran a very profitable landscaping business for many years with sales of more than $750,000. It was growing year after year until suddenly, it stopped.

In the summer of 2016, Zach’s phone calls decreased by approximately 30%. Sure, he still had a core group of clients, but it was his peak season. He had staffed up to meet the demands, so when the drop off continued for several months, it was devastating. Zach had no idea why the calls stopped coming in.

For weeks, Zach and his wife tried to determine what was happening. Then they came across Yelp. Until that point, they were unaware Yelp even existed. What they found was painful. A customer from a previous year had posted a negative review. He was not happy that Zach would not replace a tree more than a year after his guarantee had expired. At the time, it hadn't seemed like a big deal, but the date of the negative post corresponded exactly to the timing that Zach’s phone stopped ringing.

In total, Zach estimates that he lost more than $100,000 in those months, all over a $300 tree. Zach decided to contact the customer, replace the tree, and request that the customer update his feedback on Yelp. Now he has claimed his business on Yelp and responds to feedback. Zach’s business is growing once again. He now clearly understands how the world has changed, even in his small town, and how important it is to utilize social media, especially Yelp.

Whether a customer posts a 5-star or 2-star review, it’s your responsibility as the owner/business leader to respond. Regardless of the rating, when other customers see your professional response, they know that you value their business. If you ignore the ratings, it sends a strong message that you don’t care about your customers.

Ignoring Yelp or other online ratings doesn’t make them go away, no more than me ignoring the number on the scale in the bathroom helps me lose weight.

If you need support developing a process for managing online reviews, we can help. Contact us at or 866-550-8724.

Sara Mays

Principal Consultant

The Retail Coach Consultant Group-NY