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Does Yelp work for social media advertising?

With so many social media advertising sites out there how do you choose which ones to pay attention to? Do you advertise or only use their free functionality? Everyone is different and I can tell you what’s worked for me and for my clients.  But, the answer depends a lot on the type of business you have, the types of customers you get and whether you think your potential customers are searching for your service on these social media site directories.  I’ve used Yelp with no success, Facebook and Google with limited success and LinkedIn with very good success.

I’ve advised many of my clients on the subject of how to market their business, where to market their business and why.  In other words, the market, the message and the media.  I’ve operated with the mindset that you have to experiment and have fun with it, but you have to try to measure what’s worked and what’s not.  Over the past 10 years, I’ve tried many forms of advertising, marketing and promotion to get the word out about my business.  Let me think for a moment of what I’ve tried.  They include:

  • Networking in Chambers, LeTip, BNI, Provisors and at special events, social situations, etc.
  • Referrals from centers of influence
  • Strategic partnerships – joint venture seminars, affiliate email marketing to other people’s lists
  • Trade show attendance and having a trade show booth
  • Direct mailings of postcards, letter campaigns with long form sales letters and tons of proof
  • Telemarketing to a targeted list
  • Bold-walking into businesses in commercial neighborhoods
  • Email marketing to cold lists and my subscriber list using comic strips, video, text-based emails only and more
  • Pay-per-Click advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Adwords and Yelp
  • Online banner advertising on magazine websites focused on a targeted industry
  • Display advertising in industry and association publications
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) and Search engine marketing
  • Webinars, Seminars and Workshops marketed through telephone calls, email blasts, website promotion, calendar listings and display ads
  • Public speaking at industry, trade, association and special interest groups
  • Blogging, article marketing, video blogs and written blogs
  • Book and e-book authoring and promotion
  • Social media promotion on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter   … and probably more I cannot remember right now

I’ve discovered marketing that worked well or worked well for me and what didn’t.

One of my best campaigns was:

  • A low-cost, subscription service that sourced an opt-in email list of about 10,000 names and generated a series of 28 similar marketing messages that were dripped out to my list about every 10-12 days.  I ran this program several years back and generated $192, 635 on a $24,064 investment for a 699% return on investment.  Not too shabby!

One of my worst campaigns was:

  • Online, pay-per-click advertising on Yelp.  After a prospective and ideal client called on me saying she found me on Google or Yelp, I got this idea that Yelp could be the new frontier.  So, I pitched a tent there and quickly got sold by a Yelp advertising rep on why I should consider advertising with them.  I was suitably impressed by the information they provided that there were enough search queries for my type of service in my geographic area that it would make sense.  So, I jumped in.  After one month and no results on a 6 month contract, I was offered to switch from a click per impression (not measurable except by Yelp) to a pay-per-click (also only measurable by Yelp).  I never could get an answer from any of their representatives as to why my bill each month was exactly $400.  The answer seemed to be that they back into the cost-per-click to reach that minimum level of advertising.  For the absolute worst leads that have ever been delivered to me,  I paid between $11 to $13 per click!  Now, I’ve had some solid results on LinkedIn for a fraction of that cost on a pay-per-click basis.  And, I’ve had some wear results with Facebook and Google Adwords – also for a fraction of that cost on a per click basis.

In summary, my campaign cost me about $2,350 and delivered 2 to 3 phone calls.  One complimentary consultation with a demanding and difficult prospect almost cost me a bad reputation write-up – my first ever!  I was over billed by Yelp $800 – they billed monthly for two months after my campaign was ended.  The $350 early termination charge was an exorbitant form of extortion.  And, their total lack of customer service focus – that is an apology, an offer or a reduction in fees – led me to want to share my experience with the public.  I offered them a chance to change my mind on sharing this, but they volunteered nothing.  So, I’m volunteering my experience with you.

My conclusions were pretty simple.

  1. Don’t use Yelp if you are selling a high-end professional service i.e., something priced over $1000 per month
  2. Yelp is strictly a business-to-consumer advertising model and hasn’t been proven as a business-to-business model
  3. Yelp sells you into a minimum term contract, which I avoid like the plague.  With just-in-time advertising and decision-making, why do we need Yellow Pages type of contracts.  (Oh, I tried a listing in the  Yellow Pages years ago and that too was a waste of money!)
  4. Beware of the typical Yelp buyer.  They can be extremely price sensitive and have written bad reviews of my clients including those who they only had a phone consultation or free estimate from, which can be extremely damaging of one’s reputation.
  5. Tell more of my clients who are selling a high-end service not to use Yelp.  Yelp may work great for a lawn care service (inexpensive) but will work poorly for a landscape maintenance service (more expensive).
  6. Listen to my instinct more.  I’ve always felt I had to make the mistake to be able to tell my clients how to make something work and why it’s going to work or not going to work.  Every time I’ve challenged/questioned my instinct I was usually wrong.  And, sometimes I used my instinct and it was still wrong.

If you agree or disagree with anything I’ve written let me know.

If you have any questions about how to improve your marketing programs or campaigns and want to book a complimentary conversation with me, let me know.   In the meantime, happy marketing!

avatar
Jonathan Goldhill is a business coach and consultant who has transformed the lives of many business owners showing them how to increase their profits and revenues, improve their organizational effectiveness, build better teams and live a more fabulous life.
  1. avatar
    Jake Nonnemaker
    Great article. We have tried Yelp with very poor results as well. We had a 3-month marketing campaign and got a few calls which didn't turn any work. As you say, Yelp users are extremely price sensitive and balk at pay a fair price for quality professional services. Jake Nonnemaker CEO - AXICOM, Inc. @jakenonnemaker http://www.axicom.net/blog
    • avatar
      Jonathan
      Thanks Jake. I have been waiting over 3 weeks for my credit card refund from them overcharging me for two months. And its been like pulling teeth! I'm wondering if this is common practice for #yelp.
  2. avatar
    Jeff Cecchini
    I agree with Jake, it was a great article. You are a fearless experimenter, and thanks for sharing your experience with us! Is there a way to rate Yelp! on it's advertising program? Jeff Cecchini - QBPros, Inc.www.qbpros.net @QBProsInc
    • avatar
      Jonathan
      Jeff, There should be but I know of no way to do that. I hope posting things on Facebook and here with tags to #yelp might help them.
  3. avatar
    Jonathan
    P.S. This is amazing. Over 3 weeks ago my credit refund was approved. But, this email came in Thu 1/28/2016 at 10:21 AM Hi Jonathan, Thank you for your time today. I appreciate your feedback about our billing process. Since you have contacted your bank for a refund of the amounts you paid Yelp, it doesn't seem like a manager calling back is necessary. However, if you would still like to speak with a manager please let me know and I'll pass along the message to have them call you in the coming days. As we talked about, your refund is in process. Once it is approved, you should be notified. Thank you, Freddie Robinson-Zanartu Yelp Account Management ref:_00D30vCN._50033tAmU5:ref
The Goldhill leaf

Expertise in family-owned, fast growth companies and construction trades

The Goldhill leaf

30 Years Experience as a Business Consultant & Business Coach in Los Angeles, CA


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