Dealing With Bad Reviews

Sept 2013 dealing with bad shutterstock_8910133Some things never change. And one of them is the importance of good worth of mouth advertising. A good reputation amongst your pool of consumers can make the difference in profitability or the poorhouse.

In a pre-internet world, a bad review or experience could take a while to make the rounds before it had any real effect. However these days, we are blessed with the ability to share our views and complaints instantly, and that’s why you need to be extremely proactive when it comes to managing your online reputation. One bad review mishandled can have a magnified effect that can a long time to reverse, if it can be at all.

A look at the numbers…

Don’t think it’s all that important? Let’s take a quick look at the numbers.

Here are some sobering statistics:

72 percent of consumers report that they regularly investigate companies through social channels before making purchases (Cone Communications)
59 percent will use social media sites to air their frustrations about your customer service (Cone Communications)
89 percent of consumers are of the belief that these online channels are trustworthy sources (Society for Communications Research)
80 percent changed their minds about purchasing after reading a negative comment or review (Society for Communications Research)

Now that we have your attention as to how bad online reviews can hurt your business, let’s look at 3 ways to head them off at the pass!

Make stellar customer service a priority

Probably the most important thing you can do to make a difference is to take customer service very seriously. You may think you do that, but in a world where a negative review can be shared thousands of times in a few hours, taking a week or so to try and rectify the problem could be the death knell you hear ringing. Contact the customer, privately if possible, (most review channels like Yelp have this facility) and subjugate your ego. The customer is always right, especially when they can do so much harm.

Encourage and reward positive reviews

You can’t please all the people all the time, and one of the best ways to help negate the effect of the occasional poor review is by encouraging and rewarding good reviews from your happy customers. This has several benefits, among them creating a positive culture surrounding your online persona, as well as by pushing the negative reviews further down the search results, where they most likely won’t be seen. You might even go so far as to social bookmark positive reviews, giving them links that the negative reviews won’t have.

Respond publicly

If you’ve done all you can do and the customer still won’t amend their review, you can make a public entry to state your side. Use this wisely, and only to present the facts. Don’t flame, and don’t use this as a way to appear as anything but humble. Just the facts, Ma’am. Getting defensive and unprofessional will only make the situation far worse.

Make it your business to deal with your online reputation just as diligently as you would any other aspect of your business. It’s that important!

What We Can All Learn from Kuwaiti Entrepreneurs

September 2013 what we can learnCDNL-article1Don’t you just love it when a new technology comes along and becomes very useful for your marketing whether it was intended to be used that way or not?

This seems to be the case with Instagram, the photo sharing platform that is growing by leaps and bounds daily. Not only has it been purchased by Facebook and has now surpassed 100 Million users (FSLocal) it has become the newest playground for marketers seeking ways to get their message out. And as what come as a surprise to many, nowhere is that more true than in…Kuwait!

Kuwait’s Love Affair with Instagram

While Kuwait’s economy is still largely powered by oil exports, (nearly 50%) some enterprising Kuwaitis have taken to selling nearly anything you can think of on Instagram. All you need is an account, a smartphone, and you’re good to go!

Some recent examples include clothing, manga, makeup services, dried fruit and… wait for it… sheep. You read that right! Now, the regulation may be a tad different in the States, but you get the idea. People are using this platform to reach out and sell someone, and apparently it’s been a huge hit. There was even an “InstaBusiness Expo” held in April by the Entrepreneurship and Business Club of the American University of Kuwait.

Ingenious Kuwaitis are finding things to sell, making them their own, and slapping a price tag on it. While there is currently no payment processing available on Instagram, that isn’t stopping anyone, as they make arrangements by phone. I’m sure you’ve probably already thought of a couple of ways around that as well.

What can we learn from the Kuwaiti Instagram economy?

The number one lesson to be gleaned here is that we as marketers need to constantly be thinking outside the box. Marketers are now dabbling using Instagram to send traffic to their Tumblr blogs, which are direct linking (as of this writing) to CPA offers. This is but one example of how people are monetizing this type of traffic.

Sending Instagram followers to an optin page is yet another way innovative marketers are using to get targeted followers onto their lists.

Connecting the dots from your Instagram account to the destination of your choosing is the nut you have to crack. Make the content and offers, seamless, relevant and logical. Anything less will avail you little, as it does n most any social media platform you can name.

The time is now, and the market is huge!

If this sounds like a market you’d like to exploit, then you need to strike while the iron is hot! A massive number of users and little regulation equal opportunity! But remember, Facebook owns Instagram, and change is inevitable. But for now, get out there and sell some sheep!

Using Vine to Promote your Business

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If you haven’t thought of employing Vine videos in your small business, you may want to seriously consider it. You probably have what you need to get this done in your pocket. Using the Vine app on your smartphone, you are able to create and upload these short, sharable videos to Twitter as fast as you create them.

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Well, in case you missed the video, Vine is an innovative video sharing platform on Twitter that enables you to create and upload 6-second videos to Twitter. So you may be thinking, how exactly can a 6-second video help my business? Well, look at some of the ways these companies RedVines, Urban Outfitters and Nintendo made it work for them!

These companies found a way for videos to help further their brand, promote their products and services, and promote their businesses in different ways. They know that this service, that is trending very hot right now, can do for them. One of the major attractions of a service like Vine is that getting your content in front of people is getting more and more difficult as people are less willing to take the time to read. People are less willing to read, so a 6-second video is exactly what the doctor ordered, and you’d be surprised at a few of the ways people are using Vine. As reported by Biznology.com, businesses are making use of them to introduce new employees, announce events, give an insider’s look into the business, and even creating short commercials to display their latest product or service.

Publiseek.com offers even more innovative ways to use Vine. Some of these include:

  • Recording live customer reactions and testimonials
  • Recording short introductions from your company principals
  • Real estate professionals have found Vine useful to present virtual tours of new listings
  • Restaurants are broadcasting daily specials. Picture a scrumptious plate overlaid with the link, “Click to Smell”, that takes them to the reservation desk. Lots of possibilities here!
  • Decorators and designers are employing Vine to display before and after pics

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Confused About Google+?

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So, have you logged into your Google+ account today, or updated your business page lately? Perhaps not, and while this is a fairly common scenario happening around the Web, as Google+ struggles to find its audience and ultimate usefulness. Lots of people are still divided, and the jury is still certainly out as to whether Google+ is or ever can be a workable tool for business.

Why we think it’s worthwhile now and in the future!

One astonishing undeniable fact that really doesn’t ring true (yet) is that Google+ is now larger in terms of reach than Twitter. This is certainly because of the proliferation of Gmail and the convenience of having Google’s entire suite of web services at your fingertips. Since Google Plus Local Listings already include such small business services as Zagat, StreetView and Google+ User ratings, it has essentially replaced Yelp.

Also, Google Hangouts has a direct effect on where Google+ is headed as well. The advantage of using a Hangout, as an alternative to perhaps Skype, to do video conferencing is a major plus (no pun intended). Yes, we understand that Hangouts is still a tad clunky and a hassle to figure out, however if you do, it’s by far the leader of the pack. Just the integration and automation that Hangouts shares with YouTube is worth the price of admission. (Which of course is free!)

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There are scads of ways to make use of Google+ in your small business. Just a few would include:

  • Build networks of like-minded people with Google+ Circles
  • Use #hashtags to enable posts appear in Google search
  • Be sure and Link Google+ to your blog or site, and reap the Google Authorship benefit in the search pages
  • Use Google Hangouts for webinars, meetings, launches, interviews or you name it!
  • Use tags to reach out to people directly

To see a wonderfully comprehensive selection of strategies and infographic for Google+, see this informative article on Copyblogger. Google+ may not seem like it’s worthy of effort just yet, but we feel as though it is both in the present and future!

How Little SEO Can Your Business Get Away With?

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One of the biggest mistakes that a startup website can make is to totally ignore SEO right from the start. It is definitely a substantial task to execute, especially if you’re a new comer to online marketing, but we feel it’s an effort worth making, even at a minimal level. The primary reason why is that you’re giving Google an incorrect message right away. They will attempt to index your pages, and if your pages are lacking any SEO, often times they are either not able to index, index the page incorrectly, or because on-page SEO is such a big part of the search algorithm, rank them so far down the search results they might as well be invisible. That’s a shame, as there are some very easy methods for getting started with SEO that don’t call for a full-blown SEO firm to get done.

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Priceonomics.com coined the term, “minimum viable SEO“, which means basically what it says: what can you get by with in terms of SEO to start. Even though this is by no means an ideal strategy, it’s a lot better than doing nothing. Below are some of the things they pointed out, with a few of our own ideas tossed in.

=&2=& This should help you see not just what your site structure should look like, but also how quickly you’ll be into profit. One option is to go after the long tail of search, meaning keywords which are typically 3-5 words long, often with product or model numbers. They don’t get a ton of searches daily, but are infinitely easier to rank for. Add a few thousand of these up, and you win. An alternate way to go is to go after a single keyword, like “auto insurance San Diego” you’ll typically be trying to rank only your home page. If you’ve got a business with a local presence, be sure you have local geo-modifiers on your keywords, as in the above example.

=&3=& You’ve seen this on many web pages. It is a set of links that show where you’ve been on the site, and where you are now. This is great for the searcher, (which Google likes) and covers a good deal of internal linkage. Here’s what it usually looks like: Home > Tablets > Apple > Ipad 2 3g

=&4=& Making certain the title tag on your page is accurate; which means that it is the keyword you wish that page to be ranked for, is perhaps the most important SEO task you can do. Using local geo-modifiers is very important here too.

Performing minimum viable SEO is a good way to start, and infinitely better than not doing anything. Just don’t let it end there!

Automation

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A frequent mistake a lot of people make is thinking that marketing automation software is essentially a tool for email marketing. While it’s factual that its origins are form there, what we’re referring to is a totally different sort of creature.

According to Wikipedia, Marketing automation refers to software platforms designed for marketing departments and organizations to automate repetitive tasks. Marketing departments, consultants and part-time marketing employees benefit by specifying criteria and outcomes for tasks and processes that are then interpreted, stored and executed by software, which increases efficiency and reduces human error. Originally focused on email marketing automation, marketing automation refers to a broad range of automation and analytic tools for marketing.

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Since some 93% of B2B buyers are using the search engines to begin their buying process, it was clear that to be successful businesses required a way to streamline the inbound marketing process, and make it simpler to manage, at the same time reducing the resources and time required for day-to-day marketing activities. Marketing automation software makes this happen, allowing you to manage every part of the lead generation pathway. Good software of this type will attract visitors to your site, and lead them down the path of the buying process with offers and follow-up emails. It can also segment your leads as to source, product interests or any specific parameters.

The way this works is the system relies on a complex series of rules to trigger action items; that can be either more content, an offer, or follow-up email message. This offers the visitor precisely what they are looking for and frees up your staff for other tasks. One particularly important thing to note is that if you choose to opt for a marketing automation software, there will have to be a commitment keeping the content funnel filled, as this is what it operates on.

If your small business is fighting to keep up with all that you are tasked with, or if you are looking to bring your business to another level, then you may want to take a hard look at marketing automation software.

Email Marketing

9-13-email-marketing-optionsNeed an Email Marketing Application? – Here’s How to Choose

Identifying which email marketing application to get is a significant part of your business foundation. You need to use a service that will not just deliver your emails promptly and dependably, but will also contain the tools needed for you to analyze, track and properly market to your lists. You’ll want to make sure your service covers the basics like, sending and scheduling emails, allow you to use both plain text and html, tracking, analytics, form building and more. That said, whom to choose? There are many fine services, each a bit different to pick from. Listed below are five of the most popular ones used by online marketers, and why that is.

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  • AWeber – AWeber has gained a reputation as one of the best, due in large part to best deliverability in the business. They also have quite explicit policies regarding the makeup of your lists. No adding lists you’ve purchased or otherwise bumped into into their system; they have to be very clean. They stress double-optin, and even though you can do single optin, you have to jump through some hoops to make it happen. They also have a user friendly interface, good reporting, and their forms builder is easy to use. Prices start at $19 a month.
  • GetResponse – This service is the favorite among quite a few affiliate marketers, being that they are very friendly towards them. Supplying a good form builder, GetResponse is a terrific option to start. They offer a 30-day free trial, and prices start at $17 after that. (Good deals are available!)
  • MailChimp – An awesome spot for beginning email marketers, they have a free option (albeit with no autoresponders) and are quite simple to use. They also have good analytics, including tweet trends, goal tracking, revenue charts and social analytics, good deliverability, and easily integrate with your social media accounts. Their builder is sub-standard, but all things considered, MailChimp may be the best value for your money.
  • iContact – For people who are into easy to use interfaces, iContact might be your best choice. In addition they are also attractively priced, starting at around $10 a month. iContact integrates with a lot of other services as well, such as SalesForce, Analytics and more. One bad thing is they offer no customer service on the weekends.
  • Constant Contact – ConstantContact is more than an email service provider. They offer a number of other services, such as app and integrations to enable you to sync up other services, a deal application (think Groupon) and will offer you a free trial. The one thing we don’t like is they are not that great in deliverability, and the site is difficult to navigate.

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Local Reputation Management

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Myles Anderson of BrightLocal just released the 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey at SearchEngineLand. What is eye-catching within the study is that there are very clear and indisputable results that we can easily see.

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  • More people are trusting online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. A full 79 percent (up from 72 percent just a year ago!) say that genuine online reviews (emphasis on genuine) carry the very same impact if not more than a recommendation from someone they know.
  • The trust in online reviews is growing. A stunning 72 percent are of the opinion that genuine, positive customer reviews make them trust a business more. This is up from 58 percent in 2012! It’s very apparent that buyers are seeking and taking note more than before and are placing their trust in reviews. At the same time, only some 12 percent of consumers said they pay no attention of online reviews, down from 17 percent in 2012.
  • Also, people are viewing far fewer reviews before making their buying decisions. Notably, 67 percent of consumers read 6 reviews or less, up from 52 percent in 2012. Consumers are also reading less than 7 reviews – 22 percent now vs. 35 percent in 2012.
  • It’s now more significant than ever to make sure you manage your online reputation. Since the number or reviews read are shrinking, as well as the impact of those reviews heightened, it’s important to make sure you are monitoring your online reputation for all current activity. As the most recent reviews are swinging the buying decisions, you’ll want to find out if anything negative shows up and act on it. Create a policy for handling negative reviews in an open manner, and a system for generating new, positive reviews which will send those less than desirable reviews further down the page . Be sure that these are genuine, as consumers are getting better at ferreting out fake and corporate-generated “reviews”.

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5 Surefire Tips for Location Based Marketing

5surefireways-aug-2013As business moves more and more in your local direction, you will want to make sure that you’re doing all that you can to ensure that not only is your business being found locally, but that you’re winning the space!

Here are 5 great tips to help get your location based marketing on track!

Optimize and complete your listings – According to Yext, businesses are losing out to the tune of some $10.3 billion dollars a year as a result of missing or sketchy listings. This one should be a no brainer. Take the small amount of time it takes to get your business listed correctly on sites like Google+ Local, Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, MapQuest and others you are using. Not only does this ensure you’ll show up in local search, but the correct images, addresses, phone numbers and additional information can result in actual money coming in. Small price to pay!

Ask for and reward reviews – Anyone that loves your products or services and is willing to express that to you should be asked to do a review. Certainly regular customers will have no problem with this, but even first-timers can be persuaded to do so, particularly if you grease the wheels a bit with a reward of some sort. Sometimes this can be as simple as a link back, a shoutout, or a coupon.

Incentivize your local business – Incentives have become expected when it comes to location based marketing. The competition is stiff, and it is incumbent upon you to provide a reason for customers to come back again and again, and to refer others to do the same.

Coupons and geo-based local apps – According to Entrepreneur, “location-based marketing works in two directions. One, you can PUSH ads out to people based on their location. Are they in the same vicinity as your retail stores? That can help you avoid wasting money. Two, you can PULL people in who are in discovery mode. The Blue Fog Market is a new deli around the corner from my office. When I looked for a place to eat nearby, Yelp showed me they had a deal for a free cup of Blue Bottle Coffee with purchase when I “check in.”

Coupon apps are still viable, and people will use them to find deals in your local area! There are many such apps and companies out there, and you’re not limited to Groupon and Living Social.

Being responsive – Understanding that engaging and being responsive to customer and prospects needs and concerns via social media or through email or a website review is key to your success with location based marketing. This sword cuts both ways, so not only should you be mindful of how you reply, but how fast. Concerns left stewing for days or weeks can become infected, and that will not be good for the health of your business!

Location-based marketing is a great way to add value to people and money to your bottom line. Start winning your local area today!

Why Not Use Vine To Make Short, Shareable Videos for your Biz

vinevideo-aug-2013You might have heard about Vine, the latest video app available form Twitter, and wondered how in the world a six second video clip could possibly do any wonders for your business!

You’d be surprised!

In fact, smart business owners are using Vine to share these 6-second clips to help them brand, announce, introduce and otherwise promote their businesses in a way nothing else does.

Marketers are always moaning about ways to use Twitter for their business; well, here you go!

A couple of recent examples would include RedVines, Urban Outfitters and Nintendo.

How to use Vine in your business

While still in its infancy, companies are finding innovative ways to use Vine to get the word out. Here are 4 ways from Biznology.com

Employee introductions – Makes short videos of your best employees. This is terrific way to market your brand, and not simply your products and services. And don’t limit this to management: allow clients and customers see the people who answer phones, load delivery trucks and work the cash registers too. These are the ones they deal with!
Behind the scenes clips of your office – Give a glimpse of what goes on at your company, showing different departments or tasks to let your customers get a peek at your office environment. Holiday Vine videos may well be the card de jour this coming season!
Your latest promotions – Using Vine as a way to make an inexpensive commercial that is concise and right to the point. According to IAB, 10-15 second spots were the most popular ads. Show off your newest product or advertise your services through a cleverly-cut Vine video.
Vine your company announcements – You’re your Tweets about anything to do with your company far more exciting with a Vine video. You can introduce new team members or promotions, and highlight awards or special recognition in an engaging fun, and sharable way!

And even more from Publiseek.com :

Show what your product looks like from different angles.
Shoot a short personal introduction of your company owners.
Record short and crisp customer testimonials after they have used your product.
Use Vine to send out 6 sec coverage of your launch or event.
If you are a realtor, send out a quick walk through of the property that you have listed. (walk fast!)
If you are in fashion business, create a 6 sec video showing your latest, hottest outfits.
Share your website design or show how your new app or game works.
Food establishments can show menu items and specials.
Show your work process by recording its different stages.
Interior decorators can use Vine to show what the room looked like before and after.

Vine is trending hot right now, and is a great opportunity to catch some attention with clever, funny and informative short, looping videos that are drop dead easy to make! Grab that Vine before it swings away!