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The Beauty of Patiently Developing Brand Awareness Business owner Kristin Near's successful strategy has sparked stellar customer referrals and online reviews, keeping her in business for eight years and counting.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Botanica Skin and Brow Studio

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

Skincare isn't just a vanity project—it's an important part of overall health, especially in the United States' sunniest locations, where ample sun and low moisture can quickly result in parched skin and sun damage. Because our skin is a crucial part of how we present ourselves to the world, however, we seldom trust it with just anyone.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, owner of Botanica Skin and Brow Studio, Kristin Near, said this caution is precisely why the industry relies so much on customer referrals. "Referrals are absolutely one of the most important things when it comes to business," Kristin said. "I want other clients that are like my clients who are already coming. So the best way to do that is referrals."

Kristin realizes that building a business with quality referrals can take time, and she's willing to be patient. "Little by little, all those efforts you make and the buzz and the word of mouth, the website and social media… it all works together. Eventually, it just starts happening. But it takes time, money, and a lot of work."

That patience and tenacity carries over into how Kristin staffs her business. In addition to the 600 hours of schooling and final exams estheticians must complete to become licensed in New Mexico, Botanica has its own set of rigorous standards for employees.

With more than 20 years of experience, Kristin knows quality and how to train her employees to achieve it. "We require an internship regardless of experience, at least three weeks to three months, where I can really see whether it's gonna work out. And sometimes it doesn't, and that's okay."

By carefully curating her staff as much as she does her treatments and products, Kristin can ensure every customer receives the level of personal attention she herself would provide from any of her estheticians. Rather than seek rapid growth by lowering her staffing standards, Kristin chooses to put in the extra time and effort to create a uniform experience that leads to happy customers every time.

This intentionality has led to many 5-star reviews on the business's Yelp Page, like the one from Yelp reviewer Beth C., who found Botanica through a referral.

"I found Botanica because my friend gave me a gift certificate. She said that Kristin was the best at brows, and she goes to her regularly. Larissa, who I had as my technician, is also a Reiki healer, so I'm pretty sure that's why I left feeling amazing as well. Her presence was so natural and inviting. And she just knew exactly what she was doing and made me feel super comfortable."

Outstanding employees who are carefully hired, trained, and managed, are crucial to the entire customer experience, and those great experiences can lead to great reviews and referrals. While receiving 5-star reviews is a cause for celebration, Kristin recognizes that responding to reviews can be a huge boon.

"I think it's important to acknowledge that this person took time out of their day. And people can say all day long, 'Oh, I'm gonna write you a review. I promise.' But for somebody to actually do it, we'll acknowledge that because it took their time and their effort, and it means a lot."

Responding can really resonate with your customers, creating a positive customer experience that inspires them to refer others. "It makes you feel important in a way, like your words are significant and that you are helping other people find their business," confirmed Beth.

Of course, some reviews aren't as glowing, and removing personal feelings from online criticism is key to forging on with a positive outlook. "Reviews are unfiltered, and people can say what they want. You just gotta know that going in and kinda take it for what it is. Learn from it and move on," Kristin said.

While the internet might demand tough skin, esthetics customers expect the opposite, which is why many offer lotions, serums, and other beauty products for sale. But the hard sell some customers have come to expect from other studios just isn't Kristin's style, and she believes that her soft-sell strategy pays off more in the end.

"When you're selling someone too much, it can be a turn off, even if they were into it at the time. We want people to really be interested in maintaining their results at home. That's what we're doing. We want them to keep coming in, and we want things to be progressively looking better."

Beth appreciated this sales approach because it can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive, to buy multiple skin care products at once. "[Botanica] kept it very simple, straightforward, and everything felt very natural. I didn't feel forced to buy any products after. They just showed me what I could potentially buy if I wanted to. And I went ahead and bought a new lotion to try on my face."

There are many lessons to be learned from Kristin's experience building Botanica Skin and Brow Studio that apply to many small businesses, including:

  • Building a business takes time and patience. Take advantage of longer training for employees to create the best team for your business and a streamlined experience for customers.
  • Great teams lead to great customer service. When customers receive excellent service and results, it can inspire them to refer others to your business.
  • It's important to respond to reviews, but it's not personal. Keep a healthy distance between negative reviews and your own self worth. Identify areas for improvement to your business and try not to take criticism too harshly for the sake of your own mental health.
  • Product sales can be important to your revenue, but you don't have to make the hard sale. Time, experience, and knowledge of customers' individual needs help build trust, which can lead to more purchases in the long run.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Kristin, Beth, and Emily, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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