I’ve said for decades that no one cares what style you teach but you. There is no better proof of this than the proliferation of social media. If you are interested in enrolling more students, read this carefully.
The Review Economy
We live in a review economy. Search the web as I have and look for reviews of martial arts schools that say, “I was looking for XYZ-Style and glad I found this place. Five stars for teaching XYZ-Style!”
Real reviews reflect what the market is looking for and expecting. Real reviews read more like, “Sensei Ford has a tremendous amount of patience (more than I could ever have with a group of 6-9-year-olds!).”
That is from an actual review for a traditional school that has 45 five star reviews on Yelp. Check it out at the end of this article.
A Powerful Driver of New Students Today
If you are not focused on reviews, you are leaving one of the most powerful drivers of enrolling more students to chance. That is a dangerous path to tread.
Studies show that consumers will spend 20% more for a business that has a majority of 5 and 4-star reviews. Wouldn’t you?
How to Get Good Reviews without Penalty
Google, Bing and other search engines know that businesses will try to scam the reviews either by soliciting reviews or posting negative reviews on competitor’s sites. If you get caught, you get whacked. Google can stop ranking your site and any other Google properties your business uses.
The good news is that it’s not that hard to gain control of your reviews in a compliant process.
Bad Review Strategies
Writing fake reviews for your school
Paying a third party to post fake reviews, posing as a customer.
Getting too many reviews at once. They may trip filters at the review sites that will cause the reviews to be deleted.
Bribing 5-star reviews for a reward
Good Review Strategies
Link to your review sites from your website with a Review Us page.
Include listings for review sites in your printed material
Include a Review Us in your email signature
Here is a great tool to create professional looking review requests
Yelp for Your Martial Arts School: 4 Steps for Success
For local small businesses, Yelp isn’t just an option — it’s a necessity. People in urban centers use it to choose where to go to dinner, where to buy clothes, and where to be entertained. While a martial arts school is not like a restaurant, people do use Yelp to research local businesses, so you want to be where the buyers are.
If your school has been around long, you probably already have a page; you’re just not holding the reins yet. You’ll want to step in and take control of it as soon as possible, because using it correctly can bring you new students and exposure and prevent any negative word of mouth from hindering your growth and success.
Claiming or creating your Yelp business page is easy; just fill out a couple of online forms and answer a quick, automated phone call. It takes less than five minutes. Once you’re signed up, you’ll have access to tools that will help you engage your customers and spread the word about what you’re offering to the community. Here are a few basic tips for successfully leveraging the tools Yelp offers you for the benefit of your local business.
1. Fill Out Your Business Info Completely
Customers refer to Yelp business pages to learn about a business before going out to visit in person. If the information on the Yelp page is incomplete, they’re likely to move on to a competitor that provides more details simply because they’ll better know what to expect and are less likely to be surprised, be disappointed or have their time wasted.
The administration page for business owners offers a slew of fields and choices for sharing information to make it easy for users to know exactly what to expect. If you provide the information they’re looking for, they’re more likely to become reliable, paying customers. So fill out as much information as you can, and keep it up to date.
2. Respond Constructively to Customer Reviews
Last Spring, Yelp gave business owners the ability to respond to negative reviews, either to privately make apologies to reviewers or publicly correct misinformation. Don’t skimp on using this feature because you’re afraid of making things worse; it can turn a bad situation around. Dissatisfied customers will often give you a second look if you communicate to them that you value their input and are making changes to improve your business.
Yelp published an easy-to-use guide to constructive user review responses on its website. It includes examples of how not to respond to user reviews and how best to. Some of the tips are obvious, but some of them aren’t. They’re worth a look, as is my colleague Josh Catone’s recent post, “How to Deal with Negative Feedback in Social Media.”
3. Make Offers and Announcements Regularly
Yelp allows you to share special offers and announcements not just with the people who visit your page, but with members of the larger community who might not even know about your business. When you create an offer or announcement on Yelp, it appears in the offers and announcements directory for your city. People who have never heard of your business will see them there. They’ll even find you in search results.
The more of these offers and announcements you make, the more likely it will be that Yelp users will discover your business, so come up with creative ways to draw people in, then share the news.
4. Display Yelp Badges on Your Website or Blog
Yelp provides badges that you can embed on your business’s website or blog that show that you’re on Yelp and engaged with your community. They’ll even tell visitors how many positive reviews you’ve had.
These badges give potential customers the impression that you have existing satisfied customers vouching for you, so they’ll be more likely to trust you with their business. The badges also act as links between your Yelp page and your other online outreach efforts. People can click a badge to read reviews or get more information. If a satisfied customer visits your site or blog, the badge might lead that person to leave his or her own positive review.
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