What Is Remarketing and How Does It Work?

 

Heard of remarketing as a marketing tool but not sure how it works?

Remarketing can be a very effective advertising tool and something that can help give you more bang for your buck across all your marketing efforts.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing (also called retargeting) is when you continue to market to one of your website visitors after they have left your website.  You have the ability to follow and advertise to them as they surf the internet and to keep your company top of mind.  You can also use forms of email remarketing where users receive an email after taking a certain action, like shopping cart abandonment emails used by e-commerce sites, but here we'll be focusing more on ad based remarketing.

How Does Remarketing Work?

In order to start a remarketing (also knows as retargeting) campaign, you would need to sign up with a company that offers remarketing services.  Google Adwords and Facebook are two of the biggest companies offering remarketing services, though other platforms like Twitter also offer remarketing.  You can also use a third party platform like AdRoll to manage your remarketing campaigns and will also give you access to multiple remarketing platforms.  Sharpspring is a popular example of a marketing automation service that ties in with your email marketing.

If you're new to online marketing you can also hire a web marketing company like 3Bug Media to setup and manage your remarketing campaigns across multiple platforms.

1- A visitor comes to your website.  When they arrive on your website, the remarketing code you have on your site drops a tracking cookie onto their computer and can now track them after they leave your website.

2- Once they leave your website you now have the ability to serve ads to these users as they surf the internet.  The ads can be in the form of text ads, banner images or even video.  You can also use marketing automation that triggers emails to visitors based on actions they take (or don't take) on your website.

3- Where the ads show depends on what remarketing company you signed up with.  If you signed up with Facebook, you can serve ads on Facebook as well as third party platforms they have partnered with.  Same with Google Adwords, you can serve ads across Google products as well as thousands of partner sites through their Google Display Network.

4- A recent visitor to your website sees your ad, which reminds them of your company and why they were there in the first place, and a percentage of them click on the ad and return back to your website.

What is Remarketing

How Does This Help You?

Visitors that come to your site are added to a remarketing list, which is determined by the parameters you set.  You may want to build a list for every visitor to your site or maybe people that visit certain pages of your site.  You can customize your remarketing lists as you like and set how long you would like to remarket to them.

Once you have these lists created you now have a second chance to turn some of those visitors into customers through targeted advertising.

You may offer a discount offer on a product, a reminder of the product or service they were last viewing on your site, or just a reminder of your brand so you can stay top of mind.

The nice thing about remarketing is that it doesn't matter how the visitor got to your website, you now have a second chance to convert those visitors into customers.  Remarketing is a great way to squeeze some extra ROI out of your existing marketing activities.

While remarketing isn't a highly scalable because it depends on previous visitors to your website, it typically offers a better conversion rate and ROI that other online marketing

How Do You Get Started With Remarketing?

If you want to create a remarketing campaign for your business you can either sign up directly with a company like Google or Facebook or you can work with a web marketing company like 3Bug Media to setup and manage your remarketing campaigns across any of the remarketing platforms you would like to use.

If you have questions about remarketing for your business and how to get started, you can contact us here.

5 Things Mortgage Brokers Can Do To Generate Leads Online

 

Online lead generation for mortgage brokers is hard.  Between the banks, mega-affiliate sites like Lending Tree and thousands upon thousands of competing mortgage companies, it's no wonder most mortgage brokers can't find success when it comes to online lead generation.

Many mortgage brokers resort to buying their leads from online lead gen sites, typically paying between $50-150 per lead.  And that is usually for a lead that is also being sold to several competitors.  How can they charge so much money for a poor lead?  Because they know the average mortgage broker has no clue how to generate their own leads.

If you want to find success online and eventually generate your own leads, you'll need to create a long-term and layered online strategy for your business.  The suggestions below do not cover everything when it comes to a great online marketing strategy, which would include SEO and a comprehensive PPC/Conversion strategy, but they are great places to start and well within the reach of any mortgage broker ready to start getting serious about online marketing.

Connect with Real Estate Agents

Let's face it, real estate agents are the primary gateway to the homeowner for a multitude of services.  They are usually the first point of contact for a home buyer and can be influential as to what home-related services they use throughout the process.

But they are usually not easy to connect with and get inundated with pitches from other real estate related services.  So what do you do?

The first thing is to not ask for anything, that's the fastest way to get tuned out, especially if you don't already have a relationship with that agent.  What you want to do is to promote and market them to the point where they feel the need to get to know you better.  Or just feel so back for all of the work you are doing for them that they feel the need to return the favor.

Here are some things you can do

Social media.  If they are active on social media, make a point to Like, Retweet and post their content on your own social networks.  They most likely won't have many people sharing their stuff so it's pretty easy to become a standout in their eyes.

Your blog. Ask to interview them for your blog or to add an expert comment on an article you are writing.  In the blogging world we call this “Ego-Bait“, to give someone all the limelight in the hopes they will share your content on their own networks.  Better yet, ask the top 20 agents in your area to share their best tip for home buyers and create a roundup blog post. Now you will have 20 real estate agents eager to share your post because they were highlighted as an expert on your blog.

Give them content.  Most people love the idea of blogging but most business owners hate the actual blogging part.  It's time-consuming and even for seasoned writers, will often leave you with writers block when you actually sit down to write.  Create mortgage-related content in the form of a PDF guide, infographic or even a guest blog article they can freely use for their own website.  Even offer to co-brand the PDF with them, they will be much more likely to use it if their name is on it as well.

Add them as a resource.  Ask if you can add them as a resource on your own website and create a profile page for them on your site.  We did this with a mortgage broker client and they managed to get connected with 20 new real estate agents who loved the idea of getting free advertising, 5 of which became active lead referrers for them.

The common theme to everything above?  Give (and then give again) before you ask for anything.  Actually, if you do it right you won't have to ask.

Remarketing

What is remarketing?  Remarketing is when you advertise to someone online after they have visited your website.  So when someone visits your website, a “cookie” will be placed on their computer, that will allow advertisers to track and follow that visitor after they leave your website.  This is done across various sites that have advertising agreements in place and can be in the form of text ads, banner images or even video.  Yes, it is creepy, but it's used by most quality online advertisers and works great.

Why it's good.

It's good because it allows you to get extra mileage out of every visitor to your website, regardless of how they got there.  Since the majority fo people “rate shop” when looking for a mortgage, it allows you to stay top of mind during this process.

Google Adwords offers a remarketing product that will give you the broadest reach across the internet, being able to show your ads across thousands of websites.  Facebook also has a great remarketing platform that allows you to advertise to your website visitors inside Facebook with an assortment of advertising options.

Marketing for Mortgage Brokers

Facebook Ads

In addition to the remarketing options we just discussed, Facebook is a golden opportunity as an advertising platform.  There is no other platform that knows its customer's interests and behaviors better than Facebook.  They encourage you to Like, Share and Connect for demographic gathering reasons for their ad platform, not because they really want you to re-connect with your high school sweetheart.

If you have a solid understanding of who your potential customers are or want to target a specific audience, Facebook is great.  You can create a targeted audience based on age, sex, location, interests and behaviors and advertise directly to that audience.

If you have an established email list, you can also create a custom audience using your email list and advertise to your list via Facebook.

The ways Facebook is willing to use  information for advertising purposes never ends.  I forgot who said this, but it's true, “When you use a service for free, your are not the customer, you are the product”.

Google My Business

Originally called Google Places, GMB is a free Google listing for businesses.  You will see it show up when a local search is triggered in Google, which means the map shows up along with pin icons showing local businesses on the map.  These listings do not happen because of your website but from your GMB page.  It's a free page and you may already have one, but you should spend some time reviewing and editing your page to make sure it is complete and accurate.

Most searches are now local, meaning the local search results and the GMB listings show up very often.  Since they tend to show up above organic search listings, good rankings for your GMB page is just as important as your website.

So what do you do?

Log into your GMB listing (or create a new page if you do not have one) and make sure it is filled out complete and accurately.  If there a place to add information or an image, do it.

Get reviews for your page.  Google reviews are one of most important spots for customers reviews online as it's often the first review they see when they do a Google search.  Not only will reviews help with ranking your GMB page, lots of positive reviews will greatly increase the amount of clicks (and conversions) you get from your listing.  A recent survey by BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers now read online reviews for a business before making a purchase.  Yes, reviews are important.

Inside your GMB page is also where you can use Adwords Express, which is a lighter, easier version of Google Adwords, meant for businesses trying to advertise on their own without the help someone experienced with using Adwords.

Local Customer Reviews are Important

LinkedIn

While linkedIn is mostly a BtoB platform, it is fueled by individuals, most of which will need a mortgage at some point.  The thing I like best about LinkedIn is that it has the most detailed and up to date user profiles out of any social platform because people use it to promote themselves and their accomplishments.

We recently worked with a mortgage brokerage where we wanted to offer special mortgage deals to specific industries.  We had offers and landing pages made up for dentists and used LinkedIn ads to identify and target the offering directly to them. The nice thing is that we were able to do this for several industries, creating specific offerings for each one.

For a longer term strategy, LinkedIn groups are a great source for potential customers as well.  Posting thought leadership content to groups, actively engaging in discussing, and keeping your eye out for mortgage related questions is a great longer term way to pick up new leads.

 

Use a layered marketing approach

Using more than one of the approaches above helps to create a layered online marketing strategy for your mortgage business.  Things like Google My Business, blogging and online ads can help drive targeted visitors to your website.  Some will convert but most won't.  From there you can use remarketing strategies to continue the engagement process after they leave your website and the opportunity to convert more of those original visitors you worked so hard to get in the first place.

The 7 Best Places To Advertise Your Business Online

As a small business owner, do you feel like you're constantly wasting your marketing dollars?

Join the club.

Although print advertising, direct mail, tv and radio still have some relevance for some industries, for many, it's a giant waste of time and money.  Consumer attention span is getting shorter, coupled with an ever increasing amount of advertising, you can see why people go about their day with blinders on.

One area of marketing that is growing though is online advertising.  According to a study by Zenith Optimedia, the current global display advertising market is predicted to reach $25.27 billion this year(2012), with a 36% growth to $34.4 billion in 2013.

If you aren't advertising online yet, or are looking for new avenues to pursue, below are 7 places you can market your small business online.  While I'm a huge proponent of optimizing your website so you can get found in the search engine results for free (SEO), the reality is that it takes alot of time, patience and persistence to rank high in the search engines.   While you're slowly and methodically building up your organic search rankings, why not spend your advertising dollars more efficiently online right now?

Note:  Many of the programs below offer a free credit for new advertisers.  If you don't have one or see one on their website, do a quick Google search online to see if you can find an offer code you can use.  If not, I would call them directly and ask for one, competition is fierce for advertising dollars and most will give you a credit for trying them out.

Google Adwords

The grand daddy of online advertising.  Since Google owns the lions share of the search engine market, it makes their advertising platform Adwords the biggest platform for Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing.  Adwords lets you create text, image or video based advertisements targeting people who search for specific keywords (you bid on keywords in an auction type market) and terms in the Google search box or through demographic and behavioral targeting via their Display Network.  You can also get very specific in when your ad displays, making your marketing dollars very efficient.  Setting up a campaign can be a bit complicated for beginners, luckily Google offers an easy way for small businesses to get started with Google Adwords Express.

Some options available to you via Google Adwords:

Search Ads – These are traditional ads you see when you perform a Google search.  There are usually 2-3 ads above the organic results as well as several ads to the right of the organic search results.  Here you target specific keywords people are typing in as they search and compete in an online auction with competitors for top placements.

Display Network – These are ad placements outside of the traditional Google search.  Google owns dozens of properties such as Gmail and YouTube where you can place text, image and video ads across all of their networks.  They also partner with thousands of 3rd party websites giving Google Display Network the biggest reach out of any online advertising platform.

Remarketing – With a remarketing campaign, after someone has been to your website, you have the ability to advertise to that individual person as they surf the internet.  Between Google's own properties and their 3rd party network, you have the ability to reach that person almost anywhere on the internet.  Remarketing is available for both Search and Display Network campaigns.

Bing Ads

Similar to Google Adwords, Microsoft uses it's Bing search engine to serve ads in it's search engine results as well as partner networks.  The Bing search engine has a much smaller audience than Google, but this typically makes bidding on keywords less expensive and could save you money as it extends your marketing dollars a bit further.

 

Over the past few years Bing Ads has made great strides in improving their ad network as well as making it easy for business owners to run their own campaigns.  Bing Ads offers free advertising credits but they can be hard to come by.  If you go to the link below and submit your site to their search engine, they will offer you an advertising credit for trying it out.

Submit site to Bing

7 Search

A smaller player in the paid search industry, 7 Search uses smaller, niche search engines to display your Pay Per Click (PPC) ads.  They claim a better ROI than their bigger competitors and bidding on keywords is cheaper than both Google Adwords and Bing Ads.

I have had limited experience with 7 Search so far but their customer support has been really good and their Cost Per Clicks are definitely cheaper, though you won't get the same click volume as Adwords or Bing Ads.

Advertise.com and InfoLinks are two other smaller players that offer paid ad placements.

Facebook Advertising

Advertising on Facebook can be a gold mine for small businesses and their ad platform has come a long way the past few years, both in effectiveness and ease of use.

Facebook ads work similar to traditional Pay Per Click advertising (pay only when someone clicks on your ad), but the great thing with Facebook is that you can add an image or video along with your text.  Even if people don't click on your ad, you're still getting lots of great exposure to a targeted audience for free.

While platforms like Adwords and Bing Ads typically target user behavior (searching for a product or service), Facebook lets you target according to demographic makeups and user interests.  Their platform is unmatched in this respect and if you know exactly who your target market it, can be a powerful advertising platform.  Their video ad platform seeks to rival even YouTube and they seem to be pushing out new advertising features every week.

Twitter Advertising

While Twitter has allowed advertising for quite some time with promoted tweets and trends, it has been way out of the budget for small business owners (unless you had a min of 10k to spend a day!).  Twitter since launched a small business advertising program that will make it much more affordable for businesses to advertise on Twitter.

While I do not know anyone currently using it that is getting a good ROI with Twitter Advertising, it still has many possibilities as they are still trying to figure out how to make advertising work on the platform.  Some interesting features that have come out are Twitter Cards as well experiments with e-commerce, where users can buy items without having to leave Twitter.

Stumbleupon Ads

Still relatively unknown to most people, Stumbleupon is a neat social service people use to discover (stumble on) new websites they never knew existed, related to their interests.  It's simple to use, create a profile, select your interests and start stumbling!  Stumbleupon has an advertising platform called Paid Discovery where you pay between .05 cents and .25 cents for every person that stumbles on your site.  You can select the interests you want your website to be included in and pay according to how targeted you want your stumbles to be.  There are no advertisements here, the website page you select becomes your ad for visitors.  They also have a traditional advertising platform with paid placement opportunities.

While I love Stumbleupon, I would only consider using it if you have a product or service that has general appeal as it's not nearly as targeted as PPC or Facebook advertising.  I also wouldn't use it to drive sales, but to get content you have created out in front of people fast.

LinkedIn Ads

If you're in the BtoB or professional services industry, LinkedIn Ads may be exactly what you're looking for.  Linkedin can serve highly targeted ads to other professionals and businesses on Linkedin.  The Cost Per Click (CPC) is higher than pretty much any other platform listed here, but you can target your ads to very specific people.

I would recommend this if you are BtoB or offering professional services and you are looking to acquire high value clients.  The advertising platform is pretty easy to use and with so many highly detailed user profiles, offers incredibly detailed targeting choices.

Bonuses

Pinterest Ads

Pinterest is a very interesting platform, driving more traffic and sales for many businesses than other social ad platforms.  Pinterest an advertising tool called Promoted Pins.

You can buy Promoted Pins for all of your marketing goals:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Traffic

.  If you have a business that targets women and you can create visually appealing graphics, Pinterest can be a a top performing ad platform for you.  They also offer social analytics to measure the success of your ad campaigns.

Instagram

Ever since they purchased Instagram, Facebook has been trying to figure out a way to monetize the platform.  They have been experimenting with different ad formats and will be opening advertising to everyone in the near future.  Advertising was originally reserved for big brands but has since opened up to everyone via a self-serve platform.

You can also create and run your Instagram ad campaigns directly inside the Facebook Ad manager, where one of your targeting options is now Instagram.  The great part about it is that you do not actually need an Instagram account to target Instagram users via the Facebook Ad platform, though I suggest you do.

 

Online advertising works

Relative to traditional advertising like newspaper ads and direct mail, paid online advertising is very efficient.  The thing I like best about advertising online is that you can see exactly where your money is going and if it's generating an ROI that makes sense for you.  I also like that fact that it's usually a pay for performance scenario, where you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad and visits your website.  Image if you only paid for your newspaper ad if someone called or walked through your front door?  The newspapers would go bankrupt!

Final note, paid advertising should coincide with your organic marketing efforts (Search Engine Optimization), you should really be doing both as the two of them working together can bring awesome results for you business.  Have questions about paid advertising online and how to get started?  Contact me here to learn more about how we can help.

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The Small Business Owners Guide to E-Commerce

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Ecommerce-memeThere's a whole world of commerce  happening outside of your local brick and mortar store.  People that live right around the corner from your location are buying the same product that's sitting on your shelf from a person half way around the world.  Why?  Because they can.

Welcome to the world of E-Commerce. People just love to buy stuff online, not only for the deals, but for the experience of getting stuff delivered to their door, minus the drive, taxes and  the sometimes annoying sales clerk.

No matter what you sell, whether it's swimming pools or handmade sock puppets, the internet is the perfect place to cast a much wider net than you could ever cast with just your physical store front.

You may think it's too technical to create an e-commerce store for your business, and five years ago you may have been right.  Luckily today there are so many resources and new technologies that let even the technically challenged business owner create and run a successful e-commerce store.

What we are going to discuss here are two things:

1- How to actually create an e-commerce store for your business, including all of the tools you will need

2- How to successfully market your e-commerce store and turn those eyeballs into paying customers

Why Create an Online Store?

Because it allows you to reach a much bigger potential audience than your local brick and mortar store could ever do.  And because it's not terribly hard to do, though it does take quite a bit of work.

Think of it as your second store front. You probably spent a pretty penny building out your store, why not spend a fraction of that amount and possibly build a store front that can totally launch your business into a new level of awesome.  If you run your business from home, it's your opportunity to create that awesome store front you dreamed about at a fraction of the cost.

E-commerce is easy to get into but hard to execute

With an e-commerce store, you don't have the business owner or salesperson there to answer every objection, to sweet talk the potential customer into making a purchase.  You need to make all of that happen virtually, without ever getting the chance to speak to that customer before they decide to purchase or not purchase.  What this means is that you need to carefully plan how you will take the potential customer from window shopper to customer.

The Tools You Will Need

E-Commerce Software

There are several great e-commerce and shopping cart solutions available to you.  Some of the solutions are called hosted solution, which means they not only provide the software to create your e-commerce store, they also host your website on their servers as part of the monthly fee.  A self hosted solution is where the software is provided to you, but you are responsible for hosting your website on your own hosting account.

Hosted solutions are a great way to get started with e-commerce.  They require little technical knowledge as they handle all of the hosting responsibilities and they are truly a one stop shop when it comes to creating and running an online store.  The down side is that you don't have 100% control over your site, meaning if you ever decide to leave and switch to a new platform, you may be faced with having to rebuild much of your store over again.

Self hosted solutions are more difficult to setup as you have to manage your own hosting as well as configure several things like your shopping cart and payment solutions yourself.  This is a good option if you are a bit more technical and you are the type of person who wants full control over your own online store.

Below are a few of the more popular e-commerce and shopping cart solutions

Hosted Solutions

Shopify – Create a beautiful e-commerce store without knowing a lick of code.  Hundreds of themes to use, you can get a storefront open in a weekend.  Plans start at $14 a month for a basic store with several options if you're looking for more.  They run a great blog where you can learn everything you need to get your own store open.

Big Commerce – Another really popular hosted e-commerce solution.  Tons of themes available as well as add-ons and payment options.  Plans start at around $25 a month, though they do not charge transaction fees, which Shopify does for their smaller plans.

Self Hosted

Magento – Magento is one of the most popular e-commerce solutions when you want to host your store on your own web hosting service.  There is a steeper learning curve involved over any of the hosted solutions, but it's not too difficult once you've spent the time getting used to it.  The Community Edition is free to download and is probably all you'll need.  There are hundreds of third party apps that can extend the functionality of your store.

Open Cart – Another self hosted shopping cart solution that has been around for a number of years and has a good reputation.  They have a large community of developers and it's easy to find help in building your store if needed.  Open Cart has a GPU license, which means it's free to use and modify as you see fit.

Woo Commerce – If you're currently using WordPress or you know that's the platform you would like to use, Woo Commerce is a great option for building an online store.  It comes from Woo Themes, which has a solid reputation in the WordPress community and is free to download and use, though there are several add-on features that you would have to pay for if you need additional functionality.  It's not as robust as all of the options above, but a solid choice if you know you will be using WordPress.

Payment Solutions

Paypal – Probably the fastest and easiest way to start taking payments online.  It's a great option to get started, though yu may want to switch to a different provider if your sales start to grow as the transaction fees are typically a little higher than other options, though they don't have monthly charges which makes it great for starting out.

Authorize.net – Very popular payment processor that gives you more options than PayPal.  Low monthly fees to use the service, and lower transaction fees than PayPal.  You have more control of the payment process with this method over PayPal, though you have to go through an application process and it's a little more technical to setup than PayPal.

There are several other payment processing solutions available, you can read more about them here.

Hosting

If you're going to use a self hosted e-commerce solution then you'll need to get your own hosting.  The cheapest alternative is known as shared hosting, which will only set you back $5-10 a month to host your website on your own hosting account.  Shared hosting is when you share server space with other websites to reduce costs, kind of like living in an apartment building.

Your next step up would be a Virtual Private Server (VPS) where you are still technically sharing server space, but you are essentially walled off from the other websites and have much greater control and security over a shared hosting account. A VPS will run you anywhere from $20-$150 a month, depending on the hosting provider and features you are looking for.

After a VPS, you're getting into hosting your own server (Dedicated Hosting)which is probably too expensive for you at this point (hundreds a month) and requires advanced technical skills to create and maintain.

If you run an e-commerce store, you will be required to purchase a private SSL certificate for your site.  This security certificate encrypts communications on your site, which is required if customers will be entering in any kind of payment information during the checkout process.  The cost will run you anywhere from free, depending on your hosting account, to around $50-75 a year.

Technically, if you implement a payment process where the actual transaction occurs off of your site, like how PayPal typically operates, (they take you to Paypal for the payment and then return the customer to your site after the payment is processed) you may not need an SSL certificate, though I still think it's a good sign of trust to have one anyway.

A Small Orange – Nice independent hosting company that provides reliable service, good support at a great price.  I used to use HostGator, but their service has gone downhill so much I cannot use or recommend them anymore.

WP Engine – If you're going with a WordPress website, WP Engine provides dedicated and managed hosting for WordPress websites.  A little more expensive than a typical shared hosting solution, but you'll get better performance and support.

Converting Visitors into Customers

After you've learned the technical details of creating an e-commerce store, you'll be moving onto the harder part, driving visitors to your website and converting them into paying customers.

You'll have to learn how to:

1- Drive qualified traffic to your website

2- Turn them into paying customers

Between steps 1 and steps 2, you'll have to manage all of the steps in between and know how to deal with issues like shopping cart abandonment, product descriptions and how you charge for shipping and handling.  These are all issues that need to be addressed as it doesn't take much for someone to drop everything and leave your online store if they don't feel totally comfortable during their visit.

You'll need to educate yourself on how to run a successful online store as well as converting visitors into paying customers.  Below are some great resources that can help you along the way.

E-Commerce

EcommerceFuel.com – Great blog and podcast on creating and running a profitable e-commerce business.  Talks about niche e-commerce businesses, interviews and general tips for e-commerce.

Get Elastic – Popular e-commerce blog that covers pretty much anything and everything you need to know about e-commerce.

Buildmyonlinestore.com – Another blog and podcast dedicated to creating and running an e-commerce store.  Offers case studies and interviews with people who've already had success building and running their own stores.

Marketing & Conversions

Conversion XL – Probably my favorite blog when it comes to learning the details on how to convert visitors into customers.  Dives deep on on all the little things that make people want to buy.

Hubspot – This blog offers a ton of marketing research and advice on how to market your business successfully.

CopyBlogger – Great blog on copywriting for the web, creating an audience through thought leadership and fine tuning your website so it gets found online.

PPC Hero – Great blog about Pay Per Click marketing.  Has a bunch of articles on advertising online for your e-commerce store.

The hardest part is getting started

There is a ton of information and a steep learning curve to build a successful e-commerce business, but the thing that stops most people from doing it is actually to start doing it.  It may be confusing at first, you'll make mistakes, but you'll also see that after you spend some time doing it, it's not as hard as you thought.

Why not extend the size and reach of your physical store front by building a potentially bigger and and more successful virtual store front on the web?  Everything you need to get started is above so get going!

There's a lot of information above, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me here.

How Do I Get Traffic To My Website?

Good Question.  If you're a new business or one that's just starting to focus on online marketing, this is a good question to get you started in the brainstorming process so you can decide which marketing channels will work best for you.

You probably shouldn't try to do everything, but focus your efforts on just a few and expand as you have success with each channel.  It also depends on how much time and money you have to spend.  Some channels depend more on time, like social media, while others require money, like Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising.

We're going to talk about the broad channels available to you to drive traffic to your website, but within each one are specific platforms you can use, so there are lots of choices and decisions to be made.  So if you decide to focus on social media, then you'll also have to decide on which platforms to use, such as Twitter, Pinterest or the ever frustrating Facebook.  I'm not going to dive into every option, that'll be for you to decide where to start.

My suggestion is before you spend any time or money trying to drive traffic to your site, is that you make sure it's ready to receive your visitors and hopefully turn them into customers.  Good copy (the words on the page), logical navigation and a great offer/call to action are just some of the basic things you will need to make sure you have in place before you driving traffic to your website.

Driving traffic to your website

This isn't a complete list, I'm sure there are ways to drive traffic I don't even know about (after doing it for 7 years), but I've done all of the below at some point in time and know that they all work.  It really comes down to how good you are at executing and how much resources (in time or money) you are ready to invest.

Current Contacts

This is usually a good starting point.  You take your family, friends, former co-workers and just about anyone else you've ever come in contact with and ask them to check out your new website.  Yes, you're probably not driving new potential customers, but they play an important role for your new website.

You want to ask them (or beg them) to do one of two things for you as a personal favor.  You'll want them to Like, Tweet, Pin or Share your website on their social media channels which will give you some intital exposure and send some positive signals to the search engines that your new website is something worth checking out.  The other thing you will want them to do which might be a tougher sell is to leave reviews online for your new business.  Google reviews for your Google+ Local Page are my favorite, but it depends on your type of business.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) might seem mysterious to someone new to online marketing.  It's one of those things that every business owner has heard of, they know they need it, but don't have a clue how to get started doing it.  You're not alone.  The SEO space moves so rapidly that people that do it as a profession (myself included) can have trouble keeping up with all of the changes.  But if you are someone who has patience and is ready to invest for the long haul, SEO can be the most powerful channel for driving qualified traffic to your site.

The big issue with SEO is that it takes time.  And depending on your industry and the resources you put behind it, a lot of time.  You may be spending time and money on activities that may not see fruition for several months down the road.  And if you do it wrong or hire the wrong people, you may be wasting your time and money.

My best recommendation?  Work on shorter term channels first that will start delivering traffic and customers for your business first.  Pay Per Click advertising is an example of a channel that will drive qualified traffic fast.  And once you have some revenue going and get your feet wet online, look into planting some SEO seeds for your business.  If you are one of the few (the majority quit long before they see results) that are patient enough to invest in good SEO, you'll be amazed at how it can snowball into a constant flood of high quality leads for your business.

Pay Per Click Advertising

If your campaign is set up properly, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising can be a great way to drive leads very quickly for your business.  The problem?  It's kind of complicated to setup and most people that try and do it themselves end up doing a poor job and wasting their advertising dollars.  If you have no idea what PPC advertising is, click here to learn more about it.

PPC advertising works and it works fast.  You can create a a campaign and start driving quality leads to your website in an afternoon.  You just need to have someone set it up properly for you.  You also need to have money set aside to pay for the advertising spend and possibly to pay for someone to manage the account for you.  Google, which is the largest PPC platform online, will tell business owners it's really easy and they can do it themselves.  They even have specialists that will help set up the campaign.  As a Google Partner for the last 4 years, from my experience, it is not easy to setup an effective PPC campaign yourself and the reps they employ to help you setup an account often don't know much more than you do, at least from my experience.

Display Banner Ads

Display Banner Ads are the image banners you see when you go to sites like Yahoo or The New York Times.  They can be images, animated images or videos.  You can use a platform like Google Adwords to run your display banner campaign or you can work directly with a website that offers advertising and place your image banner on their site for a fee.  Typically you will either use a Pay Per Click model where you pay only when someone clicks on your banner and goes to your website, or a CPM model, where you pay a set price for every 1,000 impressions your banner gets.

My suggestion is to use a platform like Google Adwords to run your campaign as it gives you the ability to show your banner ads on thousands of websites in your target market.  Just like with Pay Per Click, it's not something you would want to try and set up yourself as you can waste a ton of money is wasted advertising trying to get it working right.

I'm actually not a huge fan of banner ads, but it's a good and cheap way to get your brand in front of lots of people online.  It works sort of like an online billboard.  The real power of banner ads is if you run a remarketing campaign where you can pretty much follow people online after they've left your website and show your banners wherever they go.  If you want an example of how it works, just go to any major online shoe store and look at some shoes.  After you leave the site, watch what happens as you surf the net.  Click here if you want to learn more about remarketing.

Social Media

I'll keep this section short and sweet.  Everyone knows what social media is and what the major platforms are.  If you want to drive traffic using social media, you'll need to decide what platform is best for you and start building a following by being super useful and interesting.

This is a channel that does't really cost anything but can literally suck up every minute of your day (without results) if you don't manage it properly.  Social Media Examiner is a good site for learning all about using social media.

Social Media Advertising

Every major social media platform has some sort of paid advertising available for businesses.  It comes down to which platform has your target market.  LinkedIn is good for BtoB, Twitter is good for younger and tech savvy crowds and Facebook can be good for a wide range of consumer audiences.

The thing with advertising on social media is that you still have to keep it social.  People tend to frown upon direct sell ads (unless it's an insane deal you're offering) so you'll have to be a bit more creative with your offerings.  This also means that you might be taking a roundabout way of getting customers which might not drive sales right away.  You may have to start with trying to get people back to your site to read an interesting article or trying to get them on your email list and then trying to sell to them.  Click Here for some examples of where you can advertise online.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is probably an advanced marketing technique, especially online.  But you can start an affiliate campaign online or offline and drive traffic to your website.  In short, affiliate marketing is when you offer another person or business a percentage of your profits if they send leads to your business and they end up making a purchase.

The nice thing with this model is that you only pay when a sale is made, saving you lots of money up front.  The downside is that you usually have to offer a big piece of the pie (sometimes over 50%) to get others to want to participate in your affiliate program.

For a new business, an example would be to work out a deal with another business that has a similar customer base as yours.  You strike a deal with them where they will promote your business or specific offer to their customers and whenever a sale is made, you cut them a commission check.  You might track this with a special offer code or use affiliate software if you are making sales online.  Pretty much every retailer has some sort of affiliate marketing program setup.  Amazon.com has the largest, you can learn more about it here to get some ideas.

Email Marketing

A good email list can be your most powerful online method for driving sales for your business.  But as a new business, you may not have a big list to market to.  A great option is to leverage another businesses email list.  Find a business with a similar customer base and see if you can work out a deal with them.  One of the easiest methods I've found to to run a contest or promotional offer exclusively for that business's customers.  Maybe give away a gift basket of your stuff or a gift certificate or create a special discount code.  It's a great way for that business to reward their customers and a great way for you introduce your business to them.

Some people (especially social media gurus) will tell you that email marketing is dead.  What I will tell you and what every serious online marketer will tell you is that your email list can be your best source of sales for your business.  You have a direct pipeline to your customers inbox, without the distractions of cat videos or vanity quotes to distract people from your message.

Offline Marketing and Advertising

Yes, offline advertising can be a great source for driving traffic to your website.  Doesn't matter what the medium is, whether it's direct mail, newspaper ads or just your business card, use your offline marketing to drive people to your website.  Car wraps and branded t-shirts may be a bit hokey, but they all help to drive interest and traffic back to your website.  Just make sure your website is prominent in all of your marketing materials.

Once people get to your website…..

Once people are on your website, you can expand on what your offer is, demonstrate your value proposition and start guiding them to take the next step in your sales funnel.  Just make sure your website is setup to do this or else most people are going to leave before finding out more about your business.

So these are some of the ways I drive traffic to my business website.  There are other ways of driving traffic to your site as well, using forums, directory listings, blog comments, etc, but the above is what I use and what has worked for me and my business.

Good luck driving traffic to your website.  If you want to learn more about growing your business, check out my podcast, The Small Business Express!

Does Facebook Advertising Work For Small Business?

Does advertising on Facebook really work?

Yes and no.  For most small businesses, probably more on the “no” side.  That is, unless you really know what you are doing when it comes to creating an effective advertising campaign.

I had 6 people email me last week asking if advertising on Facebook was a waste of time.  I thought it would make a good blog post as Facebook is doing a lot of outreach these days trying to recruit small business owners to advertise on their platform.

funny-Facebook-people-Fry-meme

I'm not a big fan of Facebook when it comes to advertising, I feel like the idea of paying a few bucks to get someone to “Like” your fan page or even visit your website (when they are not in the right mindset) is not the best way to spend your advertising dollars.  When it comes to paying to build a fan page, I would say to forget it.  A few years ago when you posted content  on your fan page, it would show up on about 40%-60% of your fan's timelines.  Guess what that number is today?  Estimates are around 5%, but many fan pages report much less than that.

Talk about a bait and switch on the part of Facebook, why would you pay for someone to “Like” your page when there is almost zero chance they will see your post unless you pay to promote it to them?  Yes, Facebook wants you to pay them twice for an activity (someone seeing your post) that has marginal value as it is.

Misleading Claims

My biggest complaint with Facebook is that they market directly to the small business owner and give the impression that it's really easy to run an advertising campaign themselves.  The same goes for Google Adwords (I'm an agency partner with them).  While the platform technically lets you create a campaign without any sort of special skill, executing an effective advertising campaign is really hard.  This is why most small businesses that try to do it themselves end up losing their shirts.

Just like any advertising medium, you have to know how to create an effective ad with an effective offer if you hope to have some sort of success.  You also have to make sure you are reaching the right audience at the right time.  If you get these things wrong, most likely your advertising campaign isn't going to be very effective.  That applies to online and offline advertising.

I do think Facebook advertising  can work, but I think you have to be smart on how you go about it or else you'll just be wasting your money.  I still think pay per click marketing through Google and Bing do much better when it comes to making sales, but Facebook can work if it's done right.

If you don't have a lot of experience creating an advertising campaign, I would strongly recommend you find someone to help you.  Also, start with a small budget but be prepared to increase it as you need a reasonable amount of click volume (100-200 clicks at least)  to see if your campaign is working.  If you decide to give it a try, below are a few tips to keep in mind.

If You Are Going To Advertise On Facebook

What Do You Want People To Do?

What action you want people to take plays a big role in how effective your campaign will be on Facebook.  If you're hoping to put a run of the mill ad up and hope people will come to your website or store and buy something, good luck with that happening.  While I wouldn't pay for someone to “Like” my fan page, I would consider paying for someone to opt-in to my email list, which seems to be how most effective marketers are using Facebook these days.  In a nutshell, it's very hard to get a direct sale via Facebook, but if you can capture them into your sales funnel, you can then communicate with them and eventually turn them into a customer.

Try Remarketing

One area that is very interesting is using Facebook to remarket to people who have been to your website before. With remarketing, you track people after they leave your website and advertise (remarket) to them as they surf the internet.  Creepy, but effective.  Remarketing can be a very effective way to advertise online. You can even market to an existing email list on Facebook through Facebook Custom Audiences.

Try Promoted Posts

With a promoted post, you can have your post injected right into the timeline stream of your target customer.  The most successful promoted posts are ones where engagement is created.  Maybe it's an inspiring blog article you wrote on your website, an interesting report someone can download or some kind of limited offer, it has to be something interesting and engaging if you want it to work.

People are on Facebook to socialize, not buy.  You have a lot of cat videos and faux inspirational posts to cut through in order to get seen so you have to be creative.  I've used promoted posts with clients successfully where we had created an interesting article and used promoted posts to get it in front of more people quickly.

Make Sure You Geo-Target

Geo-Target means to set your advertising so it only shows to the geographic area you want.  So if you are located in Charlotte, NC, you may want to only target people in the Charlotte metro area.  Be careful about running ads internationally, especially in Asia and the Middle, where there are thousands of Facebook “Click Farms” where people spend all day clicking ads and “Liking” people's posts and pages.  I'm not going to get into the crazy reasons why these are setup, but I'll just say there is an entire underground market on Facebook where people make lots of money doing stupid stuff.

If you're going to do it, do it right

So my closing thought is that I'm not a big fan of advertising on Facebook, but it can work if it's done right.  If you're a small business without a lot of marketing experience and thing you can do it yourself, you'll probably be disappointed.  You can either do two things, spend a boat load of hours teaching yourself how to do it right, or hire someone to help you do it.  Just make sure you get some examples and references as there are a lot of clowns out there touting themselves as social media experts simply because they have had mild success personally online.

5 Must Have Landing Page Elements

What is a landing page?

That's a question I get a lot, from business owners and even some marketers.  A landing page is simply the page a person “lands on” when they arrive to your website.

This landing page can be a page on your existing website or on a standalone website.

When marketers talk about landing pages, we usually refer to a very specific type of landing page.  This landing page is designed for a single purpose, to get the visitor to take some sort of action.

We may run a Pay Per Click campaign and drive targeted visitors to this landing page, in hopes of getting them to take some sort of action, usually filling out a form, leaving an email address or calling the business.

A good landing page should:

  • Have a singular purpose.  One offer and one call to action.
  • Have little to no distractions.  Often all outbound links are removed from the page, leaving only the call to action.
  • Have a strong headline with your value proposition
  • Have a strong call to action
  • Be very clear and direct

You want to make sure that your offer and call to action are very clear to the visitor.  No time to waste, with a landing page, it's either take action or leave.

Below is a landing page from one of our customers, Mortgages.ca, which is based in Toronto.  It's a pretty simple setup with a single call to action.

Mortgages Toronto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Headline – A clear and to the point headline that tells the visitor what you have to offer them.  Clarity is much more important than being clever.
  2. Action – Some sort of mechanism for the visitor to take action.  This can be a sign up form, an email subscribe or maybe a download button to get a report you are offering.
  3. Image – You technically don't need an image, but it does add style to the page and grabs the visitors visual attention.  And this one has a purpose to it.  The first thing you look at is her face….what is she pointing at?  Yes, the contact form.  This is called a visual clue for the visitor.
  4. Supporting copy – Hear you can go into more detail and re-enforce the headline and sub-headline of the page.  You caught their attention with the headline, now you can dive deeper into the pain points of the visitor and how you can solve them.
  5. Testimonials/Social Proof – You want to add some supporting credibility to the page and let the visitors know that other people are very happy with their service.  You can use testimonials or social proof if you have a strong social media following or large subscriber base.
  6. Call To Action – Here you want to encourage the visitor to hit that submit button, but please don't ever use the term “Submit” on your button.  Action oriented calls to action work best.

Have a question about landing pages and how to optimize your current paid advertising?  Feel free to contact me here, I can help.

5 Mistakes That Kill Website Conversions

web-sales-funnelYour website sucks.

Ok, maybe it doesn't totally suck, but from a conversion standpoint it does.

Most business owners dream of a website that drives sales, either on their website or in their stores.  Unfortunately the majority of business owners are left with a website that acts as more of an online brochure than a sales machine.

Why is that?

The first tragic mistake business owners make is thinking of their website as an afterthought.  They'll spend 150k building out their new storefront and then try and cheap out by either building a website themselves or finding the cheapest web developer they can find to do the job.

Pat yourself on the back, you saved a thousand bucks on your website and lost the 100+K in sales your website could have given you if you did it right the first time.

You have to spend some time and money in order to get a properly working website.  You also need to either hire a copywriter or find someone who's a great writer to help you craft your message.  Bad copy is unconvincing, uninspiring and sometimes just plain silly.  And it won't convert.

When it comes to turning visitors into leads, you have to give people a clear path to conversion.  You also have to reassure them along the way that they're making the right decision.  That decision may be filling out a contact form, leaving their email address or calling you.

If you want to turn your brochure website into one that converts, you first have to understand the elements needed to get people to take action on your website.  Below are 5 common conversion killers that I see all the time on business websites I work on.

When you're done, take a look at your own site and where you can start to make conversion improvements.

Missing Value Proposition

When people land on your website, the first thing they should see is your value proposition.  What is that exactly?  It's your reason that the person on your website should choose you over a competitor.  The mortgage website below has some good calls to action, a “Get This Rate” button and a contact form right at the top of the site.  What's missing is the value proposition that reassures a visitor that it's ok to take the next step.  You need to deliver that perceived value the minute they land on your website, or you'll most likely lose them, probably to a competitor.

mortgage-value-prop

Learn more about value propositions here

Lacks Clarity

All I can say is, WTF?  What would you say is the one action this gate and fence website wants its visitors to take?  This is a pointless homepage.  It looks terrible, reads terrible and has no point except to make people cross-eyed trying to figure out what to do next.  Before you spend a dime on your website, be very clear what action you want people to take when they are there.  Once you've determined that, you can know design every aspect of your website with that in mind.  Start with the end goal first and then work backwards when it comes to building your website.  Remember, you need to give you visitors a clear path to conversion.

gatesnfences.com-wtf_

Learn more about message clarity here.

Copy Is Terrible

In case you can't read it. “Mississauga real estate agents Darlene & Wayne Foster apply one of the most advanced home selling systems in the Mississauga area real estate market. Selling residential, condominium, multi family and investment property. Searching for Mississauga MLS® listings, relocation services and a referral service for relocation are also a value added for the buyer or seller moving in or out of the Mississauga area real estate market.”

This real estate website copy started out as some sort of value proposition and then took a left turn into some seriously bad SEO keyword stuffing.  Makes no sense, inspires no one to take action and just looks foolish.  This is what happens when you let a “marketing company” take control of your brand.  The most important thing on a page are the words on it.  It's the words that sell.  Invest in good words.

Bad real-estate-copy

Learn more about effective website copywriting here

Use Of Image Sliders

Image sliders, they're all the rave in website design and everyone loves them.  Only problem?  Terrible when it comes to conversion.  Study after study shows people don't click on them, they can't remember the rotating messages sliding in front of them, and they take up the valuable, “above the fold” part of your website where you should be putting your best value propositions.  This pool website looks great, but has 5 rotating images, all with different offers.  Sounds like a great idea to cram as much as you can into a single space by using a slider, but you're better off using static images and great copy to deliver your most important messages.

Slideshow

Learn more about why image sliders are bad for conversions

Lacks Credibility

Great, somebody has made it to your website and is interested.  They want to know more, so they look for signs of credibility and trust.  They go to your About Us page, because that's where people go when they want to learn more about you and your business.  And this is what they get…

“……are a carefully selected group of people who have a distinct passion for craftsmanship and integrity. These experienced builders will use a variety of textures, colours and styles to create the aquatic environment of your dreams….”

A carefully selected group of people?  If you read the rest, it basically doesn't say anything about the company, just a lot of superficial fluff.  Good pool website that lacks credibility and trust signals.  Your About Us page, Contact Us page, Testimonial page are all prime opportunities to build on the credibility of your value proposition.  These are all supporting pages that will help you seal the deal when it comes to a visitor contemplating whether or not to reach out to you.  Unfortunately, most business owners (and web designers) think of them as filler pages and create filler content that does nothing to help with conversions.  Look for opportunities to increase you “Web Cred” by examining and refining the supporting pages on your website.

about-us-page

Learn more about building your credibility here

In Summary….

If you want your website to become a sales workhorse for you, you'll have to spend some time and money.  Don't cheap out and expect miracles.  Clarity in your messaging and design trumps any kind of fancy stuff.  The words on the page are the #1 factor in getting people to take action.  People should know right away the value you can give them.  If you want people to take action, you have to ask them and make it easy for them.  Know what you want your website to do for you and design it that way.

You Can’t Be Smart About Marketing If You Don’t Understand Your ROI

A client called me the other day concerned about the amount of money spent on their Pay Per Click campaign last month.  Now this is a great client, one that every agency dreams of.  Good people, listens and acts on suggestions, trusts you and doesn't spend their days looking over your back.  Awesome to work with.

One problem.

No matter how many times we discuss the importance of it, keeping track of their lead sources and ROI on their marketing spend still eludes them.

Now from my end I can track their Pay Per Click spend, their analytics and their goal conversions.  I can see where the contact form leads are coming from (still trying to get them to track phone calls) and where people are spending their time on the site.  I track what I can, but they also do offline advertising that isn't set up for lead tracking (yet).   I also can't track what happens after that initial contact with the company.

This is always a challenge, trying to track the full conversion cycle with offline businesses.  Unless you're given full access to their business, you'll have to rely on them to give you final conversion data.  Sometimes this happens, most often it doesn't or is too vague to quantify.

Looking back at their Pay Per Click numbers last year I saw:

About 70 Pay Per Click leads where generated via their website contact form.

They receive over three times as many phone leads -vs- web form leads.  For this example we'll play conservative and say 100 leads came in via phone calls that originated from Pay Per Click.

They claim their conversion rate is about 50% with leads they follow up with, I think it's actually lower so I'll say 25%.

That leaves us with 170 leads from Pay Per Click.  With a 25% conversion rate, that leaves us with a conservative estimate of 42 deals landed through their Pay Per Click marketing efforts during the year.

Now this is a service company that sells a bigger ticket service.  They say their average sale is over $8K.  I'll round it down to $5K.

42 deals at 5K each is $210,000 in revenue.

They spent a total of $16,000 last year on Pay Per Click marketing.

Yes, you're reading that right.  For every dollar they spent on Pay Per Click marketing, they got over $13 in revenue.  This is a low end estimate.

When you read it that way, you would be willing to spend an unlimited amount of money on Pay Per Click to get those kind of results, wouldn't you?

But when you have no idea what your Return On Investment (ROI) is, you get concerned because you spent just over $1500 in a month and have no way of connecting your revenue to that money spent.

Now this client is great and is slowly moving towards making marketing decisions based on data, not gut feeling.  But how many businesses out there are slowly killing their business with poor marketing decisions?

The data and methods of obtaining it are out there.  It's easy to set up and with a little effort, easy to track.  Take the time to put systems in place to gather the data and then spend all of the time necessary to understand it.  If you do this, you'll be surprised by how efficient you can make your marketing dollars.

 

How To Get More Online Customer Reviews

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Getting online customer reviewsNothing eases your concerns about purchasing from a new business than reading real life customer reviews of that company.

Amazon.com built a multi-billion dollar company off of the concept.  Social proof is key when it comes to tipping prospective customers into actual paying customers.  It's nice when loyal customers take it upon themselves to leave you a glowing online review, but did you know that most of your loyal customers will never leave a written review unless you ask them?  

Too many business owners still go by the old adage that “If I do quality work, people will recommend me”.  While that may still be true, that customer may only be telling close friends and family about the quality of your business, and usually only when they are asked about it.  Wouldn't it be great if you could use that trust and good will of your loyal customer and put it online so hundreds and even thousands of prospective customers can read the social proof that you truly rock as a business??

Getting your customers to leave online reviews for your business can sometimes be difficult, but if you follow the steps outlined below you will have a much better success rate in garnering those coveted online reviews that Google and Bing oh so love!

Don't mass broadcast your request for online reviews.  I know alot of bloggers will tell you to insert the request in your email signature, on your website and even on your business card.  It's mostly nonsense.

When I was in the Fire Department in NYC, we were taught if we needed a civilian to go get help for us, we would point to a specific person (even if there were dozens of people around), and say “You! Go call 911 now”.  Do you know why we did this?  Because if we just yelled out “Somebody call 911”, it's about a 50/50 chance anyone would actually do it.  It's known as the Genovese Syndrome, or the bystander effect

If you want your customers to take action, take the time to ask them directly, and in a personal way.  By making the interaction one on one and personal you will increase the likelihood of getting a review by a million percent, or at least alot.

 

Have a plan.  When a customer starts raving to you about what a great service you offer and you sense an opportunity, are you prepared?  When I say prepared I mean, can you immediately direct them to take action?   I have several email templates handy in my Google Apps account that direct people to one of several review sites for our business.  All I have to do is open the template, write a quick note and send.  Easy.

 

Strike while the iron is hot. Timing is everything.  If you just did something awesome for one of your customers and they are declaring their undying devotion to you, thank them  and ask for a  review.  Tell them you would greatly appreciate it.  People are always looking to reciprocate when you do something nice for them, the key is to ask for it before that need starts to wear off.  Look for those opportunities and jump on them when they present themselves.

 

Make it easy for your customers.  To greatly increase the likelihood of getting reviews online, you have to make it super easy for them to leave one.  Nothing is more frustrating for a reviewer than having to jump through account setups, email verification and other nonsense just to leave a single review.  Many customers will abandon the process if it starts to get complicated.  Here are a few tips to follow:

Yelp.  Yelp is a pain in the butt for customers.  Many customers will abandon leaving a Yelp review because of the registration process.  The other annoying this is that Yelp will most likely sandbox your first several reviews, just in case you are trying to game the system.  While it is a pain, Yelp can be a powerful source of reviews for your business.  So what do you do?

Upload your customer contact list (you have one right?) to a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo email account you own.  After you sign into Yelp under you own account, click on the “Invite Friends” tab on the menu bar.  Here Yelp will scan your contact list to see who is already on Yelp.  If you have customers already registered on Yelp, they are more likely to be familiar with writing reviews there and they do not have to go through the registration process.  Sweet!

Small Business Reviews With Yelp

Facebook Fan Page Reviews.  Most people are on Facebook already so this should be easy.  Scan your Fan Page to see who would be a good candidate for a review request.

Google Places.  Though many people have Google accounts these days, many still do not.  Look through your contact list and see who is using Gmail and start with them first.

The key to getting reviews is to make it personal, act when it is relevant to do so and to make the whole review process as easy as possible for your customers.  Obtaining customer reviews is a long term benefit, consistency is the key here.  If you can get just one review a week, you will have more reviews than most of your competitors.