The world is changing quickly and seismically for small businesses, including specialty retailers like Mardo Cigars. For three decades, the company’s namesake, Mardo Abajian, ran a storefront cigar business in Southern California. When retirement led Mardo and his wife, Ann, to Florida around the turn of the last decade, rapid changes in the regulatory and business climate were already putting immense pressure on the business. The company had to change with the times.
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When Mardo passed away in mid-2015, the mantle for carrying on — and evolving — the cigar business fell to his son, Gerard, and his son’s best friend, Neil Garcia. Neil and Gerard quickly launched a new direction for the company, named in Mardo’s memory, and built a strategy that includes physical storefronts in Laguna Niguel, California and Sarasota, Florida, in addition to a national e-commerce push.
“The physical stores are important for our loyal regular customers — it’s a place for them to hang out, watch sports, and just relax,” says Neil, who serves as president of Mardo Cigars. “We know we also have to find customers online these days, so we’re changing a lot of things about how a business like ours thinks and works. We’re launching a new website, hiring inside salespeople, and using social media and online advertising to find new customers across the country.”
For both the brick-and-mortar and online businesses, Mardo Cigars relies on its online presence to attract new customers and keep loyal ones coming back. A major aspect of managing the company’s online footprint is getting and maintaining strong ratings on popular consumer sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook.
“Online reviews have a massive impact on business,” Neil says. “Since we’re just getting started, we hadn’t gotten a lot of reviews, which means nobody’s finding us in their searches on Google and Yelp. And, if you get a negative review, it stands out more when you only have a handful of reviews out there.”
The Digital Age has put tremendous power in the hands of consumers, who can cost a business up to 30 customers by posting one negative online review. On the flip side, technology also opens new opportunities for merchants to reach more customers, increase engagement, and build loyalty. Most small businesses don’t know how to get reviews, but technology is offering solutions.
Mardo’s used Womply to get more online reviews and attract more customers. The process was simple: they used Womply to send email requests for customers to rate their experience from 1-5 stars. From there, happy customers (4-5 stars) received a prompt to click and publish their positive feedback on sites like Yelp, Google, or Facebook.
In their first week, Mardo Cigars sent feedback requests to 16 customers, and 15 responded. All of them gave Mardo Cigars high ratings and clicked the prompt to publish their positive feedback on Yelp or Google. If anyone had given less-than-stellar feedback (1-3 stars), Neil and Gerard would have been able to address the customer’s concerns privately. This prevents negative feedback from going online and creates an opportunity for repeat business, since up to 70% of customers will use a business again if their complaints are resolved.
“We only had a few online reviews before, so getting that many responses was huge for us. I plan to do a lot more with Womply,” Neil says. “We’ve had people come into the store recently and say they found us through our online reviews, so we’re getting more organic traffic.”