Many small businesses have a love/hate relationship with Yelp. On the one hand, it’s an amazing tool for people to provide authentic testimonials about their business. On the other, it’s a forum for anyone to post malcontent, malicious and sometimes misinformed and misleading opinions about something business owners put an enormous amount of time, effort and passion into.

This exercise uses it as a model to identify both bright spots and potential weaknesses to address for your business.

  1. I want you to write a Yelp review about your business. No, don’t actually post it. That would be deceiving and against their policies to begin with. Just write it for the purposes of this exercise. Every Yelp Elite knows that being charmingly candid and providing genuinely useful information are keys to a good review. So focus on doing that. Don’t go on and on about how everything about your business is awesome. Write it how you would if you were a real customer. Talk about the good things. And don’t be afraid to write about some of the things you may not be too proud of. It’s ok. Again, this isn’t actually going to be public anywhere. It’s just for you.
  2. When you’re done, print out your review and highlight the key things that you noted. Use yellow for good things and red for bad things. For example, if you’re a restaurant, what were the dishes you raved about? If you’re a retailer, what were the main products you talked about and what did you say about the service?
  3. Now, print out about 25-50 of your actual reviews on Yelp.
  4. Go through each one and highlight the things you also wrote in your review, using the same colors.
  5. Compare how similar your results were by making a list:
    • The good things that both you and your customers wrote are: your core strengths
    • The good things that you wrote that actual reviewers didn’t are: items you may need to reevaluate. Perhaps they’re not as significant as you think or maybe you need to work on them a bit more.
    • The good things that actual reviewers are writing, but you didn’t are: potential core strengths. You should evaluate if there are ways that you can further promote them to a larger audience.
    • The bad things that both you and your customers wrote are: the things you know you need to address.
    • The bad things that you wrote that actual reviewers didn’t may: actually not be a big deal. Perhaps you think it’s a major thing, but possibly your customers don’t care.
    • The bad things that other people are saying, but you didn’t may: be blind spots. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with them, they may be or may soon become major weaknesses for your business.
  6. Use this list to inform your marketing efforts as well as operational issues you need to address.