Grow your business by following some simple tips on Yelp. // © 2016 iStock
Travel agents can point to a number of different strategies when it comes to expanding one’s clientele, from networking at industry events to partnering with a host agency.
But travel agents should not miss out on what’s perhaps the best — and cheapest — form of advertising if utilized correctly: Yelp. With nearly 142 million unique visitors each month, and more than 100 million reviews since its inception in 2004, Yelp can help agents grow their business.
Following are tips from avid travel agent Yelpers.
Respond to Reviews — Good and Bad
Although the temptation to simply acknowledge positive reviews on your page may be enticing, it’s also important to respond to the inevitable negative review.
“How you deal with it will reveal volumes regarding the way in which potential clients see your business,” said Tiffany Kappel, owner of Extra Mile Travel in San Diego, Calif. “I recommend taking a couple days to gather your thoughts, then respond to the review in a pleasant way. If you handle the negative review correctly by explaining your side, it can help gain positive attention toward your business.”
Ultimately, answering a reviewer’s comment, whether positive or negative, can highlight an attractive quality for potential customers in the future.
“I think the more you engage people, the more they engage back,” said Donna Wolfe, owner of Donchka Travel and a travel agent for Plaza Travel in Encino, Calif. “You’re not just writing a post for other people to see, but also promoting the very products you offer.”
Encourage Reviews Without Asking for Them
The reality of Yelp’s strict “no-asking” review policy is that many business owners do it anyway, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.
Instead of explicitly asking for a review of your service, encourage it through other means. Often, directly asking for a review from a client can result in a positive but brief and perfunctory comment. In other words, think quality over quantity.
Every holiday season, Wolfe likes to send out personal emails to each client she booked that year.
“I’ll write about how important it is to give back and actually send them a Yelp link to make it easier,” Wolfe said. “People are always in the spirit of giving around the holidays.”
Agents can also place a Yelp badge on their company website, which links directly to their Yelp business profile.
Don’t Be Shy About Sharing the Compliments You Receive
Earning a bunch of glowing reviews about your agency is one thing, but knowing what to do with them is an entirely different matter.
Nowadays, a five-star review hasn’t been fully utilized until it’s been shared on at least one other social media platform.
“One incredibly simple yet useful method is to promote your positive reviews on other sites,” Kappel said. “Without a doubt, I’ve gained more clients from doing this regularly. Other Yelpers realize that my business is not only highly reviewed but well-received. It makes me worth calling the next time they have travel needs.”
Taking advantage of “tagging” and “hash tags” when sharing these reviews can come in handy, too.
Got a rave review for a honeymoon you booked to the Caribbean? On Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, tag the hotel where the couple stayed in your post promoting that stellar review. A retweet on Twitter or a share on Facebook is mutually beneficial for both your business and the resort.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, Plus New Clients
On Yelp, curious travelers are a lot like a hungry group of friends trying to find the right place to eat. They want to see photos — and plenty of them.
Professional headshots and pictures of the office are perfectly fine, though what agents should really maximize are photographs from their clients’ travels. Once you have successfully booked a client, encourage them to post a collection of photos from their vacation when they return home. If the photos are of a high quality, ask if you can share them on other social media sites as well.
“I had an African-American woman contact me recently who was very honest about why she wanted to book with me,” said Denise King, owner of AST Travel in Hayward, Calif. “Ultimately, it wasn’t all the great reviews I had but the fact that other African-American clients had posted photos on Yelp. She said she felt comfortable booking her travels with someone who was familiar with the African-American community.”
Tell Your Story
It’s more common than not to come across a Yelp page without any backstory on the business itself or specific details regarding the services offered. Having boring, run-of-the-mill descriptions doesn’t cut it either.
After ensuring that all the basic (and still critical) details — such as a professional headshot, office hours, address, phone numbers, specialties, a website link and information regarding group travel opportunities — are posted on your page, focus on your narrative.
Instead of emphasizing how great your services are, provide a specific example of when you went above and beyond for a client. Rather than noting your obvious love of travel, tell the reader a few interesting or humorous anecdotes from past trips.
While people enjoy telling their story, they also like hearing a great one just as much.
“The Meet the Business Owner section of your Yelp business profile is a perfect opportunity to showcase who and what you are all about,” Kappel said. “I would also mention any certifications and awards related to travel somewhere in there, too.”