Bad review on Yelp? Don’t worry—be funny

Here’s how one small business turned lemons into marketing lemonade—with minimal effort and a hefty helping of humor. It’s a lesson for anyone at the mercy of online reviews.

When my friend Claudia Scimeca shared this online from someone else’s social media feed, I knew I had to share it as well.

The picture pretty much says it all, but I just love the creativity that some small businesses show, and without the assistance of any marketing consultant. I have no clue where this restaurant is located, but I sure wish I did. I’d love to talk to them, and even check on their Yelp page. And, as Claudia stated when she shared the photo, this is a great example of the old adage, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Here are a few reasons why I really like what they did:

1. It shows a sense of humor. If there’s one thing I like, it’s a good sense of humor, especially when someone has a sense of humor about themselves. A lot of businesses, when faced with a bad Yelp review, would obsess over it. They’d be paralyzed—even if it’s in the midst of dozens of very good reviews. Let’s face it, we all hate criticism. How would you react if someone told you one of your kids was “the worst”? You’d want to prove them wrong, wouldn’t you?

2. It shows faith in their products. I’m betting that plenty of customers actually like the meatball sandwich, and order it often. The business owners are stepping out in faith and saying they stand behind their products.

3. It takes a risk. Most of what we do in running a small businesses would be categorized as “safe.” Even our risks are calculated risks. We do what is easy. But what if—what if that meatball sandwich really isn’t all that good? This restaurant is walking around with a bull’s-eye, taking the risk that others might feel the same way as the one guy on Yelp.

4. It builds community. If I’m a regular customer of this restaurant, and I like their food, I’m going to rally around them. I might just eat there more often as a public declaration that I’m not going to let anyone tell me what to think or like. In times of adversity and negativity, you find out who your friends are, and in this case, your loyal customers might just step up on your behalf.

5. It draws new customers in. If I’ve never eaten at your restaurant, this sign might be just enough to intrigue me. I might just walk through your doors, and if so, I’ll likely order the meatball sandwich. One, because I love a good meatball sandwich, and two, because I’m processing through the first few points of this in my head and I know you think that sandwich is pretty good. If it is, you’ve won me over.

6. It promotes positive online reviews. Taking all of these points into consideration, by mentioning that one bad review on Yelp, the business is inviting all of us to check out its Yelp listing. We’ll go there looking for the bad review. We’ll want to see what this one guy had to say, and probably chuckle under our breath. Once we are there, we are very likely to leave our own review, and we will probably not only be positive, we might just extol the virtues of the meatball sandwich.

Of course, because this looks like it’s from a small, local business, there’s a good chance others who go there know the guy who posted the review. If they try the meatball sub and like it, guess whom they are going to ridicule. Poor guy doesn’t stand a chance. If enough people give him a hard time, he might go back and amend or remove his negative review.

7. It’s free. This didn’t cost the business anything, short of the time it took them to write the sign. I don’t know if they did anything beyond this, but something simple like this can be just as effective, if not more so, than spending a lot of money. And while I don’t know where this business is, I’m betting the person who first posted the photo does. And so do their friends. Facebook has helped get the word out.

It’s a simple little sign, and I have no idea how long they thought through what they were doing, but I’m betting it didn’t take them much time. They just acted, and did so brilliantly. Sure, it could backfire on them a bit, but I doubt it. And they could probably play this up a bit more and expand on their marketing efforts. Would something like this work in a print ad, billboard, or commercial? It just might.

Congratulations to this small business, wherever they are. You did a good job!

A version of this post first appeared on Inkling’s blog. (Image via)

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