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.

 

 

 

 

Bulletproof E-commerce: Six Surefire Ways to Boost Engagement and Conversions

E-commerce arrived long ago, but it's still pretty impressive to sit back and see how it's progressing. According to a report by the U.S. Commerce Department, e-commerce sales grew by nearly 20% during the second quarter of 2013, rising from $54.7 billion to $64.6 billion over one quarter to the next. The massive boost in spending can be attributed to the legions of people making purchases from their desktops, smartphones, and tablets.

Whether the catalog consists of a single product or multiple services, the key to e-commerce success lies in your ability to drive engagement and generate conversions. Why waste time gambling on methods that may or may not work? We have outlined six strategies that if executed early in the game, are sure to drive engagement and chalk up those crucial conversions down the road.

Increase email click through rates

Use Social Features

Stop viewing social media as an option. Start viewing it as a necessary element of your business strategy. This influential channel can help bolster your marketing efforts in a variety of ways, but when it comes to the e-commerce component, one of the easiest things you can do is simply integrate the experience. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and several other social networks offer tools that allow you to easily incorporate functionality such as liking, tweeting, and following right into your website. The presence of these features alone will drive engagement from some visitors who may have otherwise chose to browse your store and leave.

 

Engage with Email

Email is often an afterthought in today's social world, but it is a powerful marketing tool nonetheless. People you communicate with via email are likely to be far more engaged than new visitors because they've already been exposed to your brand through direct one-to-one conversations. You can keep engagement up by treating those subscribers to relevant content tailored around their needs. When designing your store, be sure to include an email sign-up form that is easy to find, and try to capture new sign-ups wherever you can. Over time, your email subscribers can be some of your most dedicated customers.

 

Be Mobile

Mobile is another critical area you want to anoint to priority status. Tech savvy consumers are wielding their gadgets to perform a broad range of functions and at the very least, they are expecting an optimal website experience. As a merchant in the e-commerce space, you have no choice other than to deliver. Your ideal customer is armed with all the capabilities they need to browse, research, and shop, so make sure you can accommodate them with a safe, and fluid experience. Work to make your web presence is mobile-friendly from day one.

 

Knock Simple Out the Park

The evolution of internet technology has made it possible to alter the user experience in some powerful ways. With that said, the simple route is usually the most seamless path to success. Only request mandatory information during sign-ups and purchases. Keep the number of options you present on your app's interface to a minimum. Use one potent call to action that drives the user directly into the next phase. When presented with less, the consumer can think more clearly, leading to more informed purchasing decisions.

 

Optimize Through Testing

Are all the elements of your marketing strategy working in harmony? Do some A/B testing to find out. With Halloween coming up, you can test a simple black and orange background against a background that combines bats, pumpkins, and ghosts to get a feel for the response. One background may blend in perfectly with the matching visual content in a blog post, yet make your social buttons difficult to notice. The other might be so busy that it lifts the potential for confusion. From product thumbnails to “pay now” buttons”, testing will reveal the path to engagement and conversions with actual results.

 

View Your Reports

Measuring e-commerce conversions is a pretty straightforward process. Either you rack up sales or your don't. Measuring engagement, on the other hand, tends to be a lot trickier. That's why it pays to have a good analytics system you can rely on. Google Analytics is the perfect tool for the job. This free software gives you an Engagement report that tells you how long people visited your site in increments and what pages they viewed. Seems almost trivial, but these details are crucial. If you see visitors are spending a lot of time on your product page without buying, it could mean you need to tweak your checkout process to move faster.

 

The engagement game is more competitive than ever. Brands are going all out to gain the willingness and affection of the consumer. What are you doing to make e-commerce a worthwhile ride?

 

About the author:

Chiko Noguchi is a best practices activist and advocate for Benchmark Email marketing services. She can be found on @email_wiz.

 

Sources

http://www.internetretailer.com/2013/08/15/e-commerce-returns-pre-recession-growth

How to Use Your Employee’s Benefits to Your Marketing Advantage

Ken-Blanchard-quoteThe corporate world is full of companies that don't treat their employees fairly. We have all heard the stories of employees being denied benefits or losing their jobs for no reason at all, as these corporate entities view their employees as expendable.

Increasingly, however, customers are staying away from organizations that lack the moral framework to treat employees with respect and are now choosing morally sound companies.  Companies like the Dish Network are finding that their treatment of employees is having a direct affect on their brand. This opens up an interesting marketing opportunity for small businesses with a reputation for taking care of their employees. These small businesses can now use this history to attract new customers, as people want to make purchases from companies that take care of their own.

The Power of Advertising Employee Benefits

If you offer things like disability insurance, life insurance, a retirement plan, employee discounts and flexible spending accounts, make sure that potential customers are aware of this. These customers will see that you treat your employees fairly and will, in turn, see you in a more favorable light.

Disability and life insurance are particularly important in this regard, as they provide support for family members should something tragic happen to an employee. If you choose to offer disability insurance, keep in mind that it is very expensive. While this will cost you out of pocket, the public relations that it will gain for you could make it a worthwhile investment.

With an aging workforce in the United States, retirement benefits are becoming much more important. If you can show potential customers that you intend to take care of your employees after they retire by matching their retirement contributions, it can go a long way towards improving your standing with the general public.

How to Get the Word Out

While you are surely doing these things to benefit your employees, making sure the general public knows about these benefits is great for public relations and, therefore, your bottom line.

Start by creating a LinkedIn profile that summarizing the benefits that are available to all employees. Although having this information on your profile could attract new employees, it also makes the benefits that you offer public knowledge. This space also gives you the chance to answer frequently asked questions like “do rehabs take insurance?” or “Will my insurance cover all of that?”

Twitter is another important tool when getting information about your company out to the public. While you should not tweet about the benefits that you offer your employees every day, periodically reminding your followers that you treat your employees well can build goodwill.

Using Twitter also allows you to include pictures of your employees in the workplace, which adds a human element to the benefits that you provide.

In addition to Twitter, more businesses are now using business-based social networks like Foursquare. It is possible to link this account to your Facebook and Twitter profiles, which provides potential customers with access to all of your social media pages.

Foursquare and other similar platforms offer a check-in feature. Through this feature, you can let all of your followers know when you visit a physical location. Checking-in at your insurance provider's offices, at locations that accept your insurance company's plans and at banks where you make employee retirement fund deposits acts as a reminder that you are doing everything possible to provide your employees with the benefits that they desire.

Running a Small Business

The main issue with offering these benefits is that they can cut into a small business’ profits. At the same time, however, treating your employees with respect is a great way to succeed long term in today’s economy, as society is paying much more attention to how these organizations operate. If you can develop a reputation as a great employer in your area, you can use that stellar reputation to attract new customers.

 

Be Awesome at Customer Service or Die a Slow Death

Sticky post it note with "Thank You" wording.When you offer no more value to a customer than your competitors do, the only thing you can compete on is price.

As a small business, once you enter that arena, you're done.

How can you compete on price (or anything) with Amazon?  What about Walmart or Target or any other giant box retailer that can undercut you and starve you out until you have nothing left.  You can't, you have to deliver something beyond decent service and decent prices.

You have to deliver an experience.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Maya Angelou

You want your customers feeling good about their interactions with your business.  Even after you screwed up and let them down, there are multiple opportunities to make things better and create a loyal customer.

Too often, businesses fail to look at customer service as a marketing channel, even a profit center if run properly.  The support you deliver will determine if that customer buys from you again, tells their friends about you or turns to social media to let millions of people know how your business wronged them like the video below.

My Blendtec Story

My wife recently purchased a Blendtec blender made somewhat famous from  the popular “Will it Blend” series on Youtube.  Let's just say it's not your average blender.  It's definitely not inexpensive and was a planned purchase months in the making.  We were really excited to try out everything it had to offer (it can do a lot) and read through the recipe book, spent a bundle on food from the super market and got ready to spend a week of experimenting.  It broke on the second day.  It sucked, we were bummed out.  It was a Sunday when we called customer support and got a voicemail message, I don't think they provide live support on Sundays.  We left a message describing our situation.  On Monday morning a customer service rep called us back and listened to our story.  She was outraged at the experience we had with the blender and said they would mail us a replacement immediately and apologized.  It arrived the next day via FedEx overnight and they upgraded us so we received a second blender jar at no cost. They turned a potentially negative experience into one where they now have a raving fan who is blogging about his experience to thousands of people.

That's what great customer service can do for your business.

The business that can deliver the best service and support for their products and services are the businesses that will not only survive, but thrive in the hyper-competitive business environment of today.  Delivering excellent customer service and support is what will make you stand out among your competitors.

People have a lot of power in their hands, a few bad reviews can literally ruin your business (if you're small enough).  This doesn't mean that you need to be a butt kisser to every pain in the @ss that walks through your door, but it does mean that you need to take your customer service seriously and understand that too many poor experiences will come back to haunt you.

For the most part, people are generally happy with any kind of decent treatment, you can thank the airline, banking and telecom industries for lowering the customer service bar so low.  But decent service will only get you so far, you need to deliver excellent service.  And this level of service needs to be delivered consistently.

These are some of the things that I feel can make for a great customer service experience.

Say Thank You – These two words go a long way.  Thank your customers for stopping by your store and for making a purchase.  A little surprise like a hand written Post-It note saying thank you when they open their package can go farther than including a coupon or other kind of incentive.  People want to feel appreciated, let them.

Being Positive – Having a positive attitude and using positive language can go a long way in creating a positive atmosphere when working with a customer.  Instead of saying “no, sorry, we don't have that in stock” say something like “we're going to have that in next week, would you like me to put one aside for you and call you when it arrives?”  Keep the experience on the positive side and you'll find your customers responding in-kind.

Follow Up – Whether by email, phone or a hand written note, follow up after the sale to make sure your customer is happy and if they need help with anything.  Provide them with resources they can use to get the most out of your product or service.  Some companies are afraid to reach out after the sale fearing they might open up a “can of worms”.  If you have this fear, maybe you should re-think how you do business and what quality you deliver.  Be proud of what you have to offer and don't be afraid to make sure your customers are getting the most out of their purchase.

Respond Promptly – Have you ever sent an emotionally charged email or voice message and the other person didn't respond? Every crazy thought imaginable enters your mind.  You start playing out sceneries in your mind where the other person is laughing out loud, plotting to ruin you.  Then the next day they call and apologize for the late response, they were out of town. Yeah, all that pain and personal anguish for nothing.  This is how your customers feel when they have a problem and you don't respond promptly, they start telling themselves stories and start gearing up for a potential fight.  Don't let it get to this point, even if you don't have an answer yet, respond immediately and let them know “I'm on it!”

Give Updates – Just like above, if you are working with a customer on solving a problem, don't let them linger too long without communicating with them.  Even if you don't have an answer yet, letting them know that you are still working on a solution and it's still a priority to you will make them feel at ease.  Communication is so important when dealing with potentially sensitive issues.

Let Your Customers Deal With People – Have you ever signed off an email to a customer with, “From your friends at your-business”.  That's all well and good but people want to do business with people, not a faceless entity.  I recommend all customer support communications be signed off with an actual name.  If it's an automated response you are sending, leave the name of the customer service manager or the owner of the business.  People feel much better knowing there is an actual person speaking to them at the other end.

Offer Solutions – Please don't ever tell a customer, “sorry, there's nothing I can do”.  You can always do something, it may not be exactly what the customer wanted, but at least you've offered potential options.  And if you've left your customer service team without the authority to offer solutions to routine problems, then shame on you.  Customer service reps that are solution oriented can often create a very positive outcome (for all parties) from an initially negative experience.

Avoid Passive Aggressive Responses – Have you ever been told by a customer service rep, “I'm sorry you feel that way, our customers are usually very satisfied with our service”.  How this translates to the customer is, “You're the only idiot using our service that doesn't love us so you must be in the wrong here”.  You may not mean it, but avoid passive aggressive responses like this, it can only serve to fan the flames of an already tense situation.  Stop talking when you reach, “I'm sorry”, and start figuring out a way to make things better.

Always Let The Customer End The Interaction – You shouldn't be the one deciding when the situation is resolved, the customer should.  When you think you've reached a successful outcome, ask the customer if there is anything else you can help them with.  Let the customer decide when it's resolved and they are satisfied with the conclusion.

Be awesome at customer service

Whether you're doing it face to face in your little store front or you have a complex support system that services thousands of customers, all of these principals still apply.  The only thing that changes is the system and technology you use to execute it.  If you want to really watch your business grow and your word of mouth marketing take off, look at taking your customer service to the next level.

 

 

5 Traps To Avoid When Building a Website For Your Business

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Everyone dreams of having a killer website for their business.  It looks great, is a customer magnet and acts as your virtual salesman 24 hours a day.  While this can be achieved, the reality is that the road to creating a great website is usually filled with potholes….and sometimes land mines.

meme for building a website

Whether you decide to DIY-it or hire a web designer and developer to help build your website, there are a few things you should watch out for when you get started.  The below 5 items are some of the common traps I see new business owners make when they set out to build the website of their dreams.

Not Owning Your Own Domain

This is more common than you may think.  Whoever owns the domain name, owns and controls everything.  All settings and changes originate from the Domain Name Service (DNS), which is controlled by the person who owns the domain.

Whether it's good or ill intentions, sometimes a web designer or developer may tell the novice business owner, “don't worry, just pick the domain you want and I'll take care of it for you”.  What this usually means is that they have purchased the domain under their own account and thus own the domain.  I recently witnessed an ugly dispute arise when a client of mine fired her web developer, only to discover that he actually owned her domain which has been in existence for over 5 years and had a lot of value attached to it.  Ouch.

What you can do

Be sure that you are the one who actually purchases the domain name.  Services like Go Daddy or Name Cheap make it easy to buy a domain name, which costs less than $15 bucks a year.

Using a Free Website Hosting Provider

Using a free hosting solution like Tumblr or WordPress.com (don't get it confused with WordPress.org, which is the self-hosted version and highly recommended) may seem like a great way to save a few bucks when you're first starting out, and these are great solutions…..but not for a business.

A free hosting solution will usually offer you a free sub-domain on their site, eg: “Mywebsite.wordpress.com” with the option of adding your own domain “mywebsite.com” for a fee.  Number one, you should never create a business site as a sub-domain off of one of these sites, it screams the fact that you're cheap, not-committed to your business and may not be around next month.  The other problem is that you have no control over your server, meaning if it slows to a crawl or your site goes down completely, good luck finding customer service to fix it.

While I love the free model for many things online, it always reminds me of a quote I read somewhere but can't remember who said it (leave in comments if you know).  “When you use a free service, you are not the customer, you are the product.”  So true.

What you can do

Purchase your own hosting like Hostgator or BlueHost, which offer plans that start at less than $5 bucks a month.  From there you can use a CMS such as WordPress.org to build your website which you will host on your own server.  Alternatively, there are some good website builders that offer hosting also for one monthly fee, Squarespace.com has a good reputations if you're looking for a simpler solution than self hosting your website.

Not Using a Mainstream Content Management System (CMS)

If a web developer tells you they have their own “proprietary” CMS solution that they want you to use, please start running for the hills.  Popular open source Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Magento (ecommerce) just to name a few, will work just fine for your needs.  There is no need or reason to use a “custom” CMS or a static HTML website. These platforms have been tested and improved upon over the years and have huge communities of developers and enthusiasts who continue to add value to those platforms.

So why would a developer want you to use their own CMS?  The short answer is that it's a “lock in” feature, meaning that once you start down the road with them, it is very difficult for you to leave, save for scrapping your site entirely and starting over if you ever want to leave them.  While there are some companies that legitimately promote their own CMS platforms, I have yet to find one that can come close to what a seasoned CMS like WordPress has to offer.

What you can do

Insist on using an open source CMS like WordPress for a traditional site or Magento for ecommerce.  If you ever need to leave your current developer, there are thousands of developers at your fingertips that can easily take over that project for you.

Creating a Blog Separate From Your Main Website

This is a fairly common problem I find with business owners.  They create their main site, often a static HTML site (please read above about using a CMS) and then go off and create a blog on a free platform like Blogger or Tumblr for their blogging.  The reason they usually do this is that their main website is either an HTML site or some complicated CMS, where they have no clue how to use it and blogging platforms like Blogger and Tumblr are simple to set up and use.

The problems here are many…

1- You now have to manage two separate websites

2- They look, feel and act differently from each other, a big branding mistake

3- From a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective, it's a terrible option and your authority is spread out over two different websites

What you can do about it

Make your blog part of your main website.  If you use a CMS like WordPress, it's simply to add a blog as it comes installed already.  Even if you have a static HTML site, you can still add a CMS like WordPress as part of your website.  What you do is install it on a sub-folder on your server, like “blog” and anything after that folder is part of your blog.  In simple terms, it will look like this:

“www.mywebsite.com/blog/the-name-of-my-blog-post”

By adding the blog as part of your main website, you can use it to help build the domain authority and rankings for your entire website.

Letting Your Web Designer or Developer Write The Copy On Your Site

It's amazing how many people spend a bucket load of time and money building a website for their business, then blow it by treating the actual copy as an afterthought.  The words on your website is what actually sells!  I repeat, the copy you craft (or don't) on your website will largely determine if people contact you or not.  This should be one of the most important steps in the entire process, yet most people spend way too little time on it or abdicate the responsibility to a designer or developer, who will do a mediocre job at best.

Your designer or developer may tell you they can create the copy for you for an additional charge, unless their have an experienced writer on their team, this is a really poor choice.  It's an easy upsell for them, poor results for you.

If you want to understand what good copy-writing is for the web, sign up for the free course over at Copyblogger.

What you can do about it

Once you have your website layout completed and you know what pages will be created, you need to get yourself someone who can write.  There is a big difference between a writer and a copywriter, a copywriter writes with the intent to persuade and sell, which is what you want for a business website. Even if you have a small budget, you can find quality copywriters either locally via meetup groups or online at sites like Elance.com.  With a small budget, I recommend to start with your homepage and main product/service page(s).

Get it right from the start

Avoiding some of these mistakes can help you avoid headaches later on down the line.  My best advice is to seek multiple opinions and do your research before spending your time and money.  Have questions about creating a website for your business?  Feel free to contact me here.

 

Asking and Receiving Customer Testimonials: How to Do It and Why It’s Important

Thank You sign for giving testimonialCustomer testimonials offer a powerful means of building trust and credibility, but many companies ignore the rich possibilities client endorsements offer. This is especially common among small businesses, who act as if adding client testimonials to their websites is bragging or boasting.

It’s only bragging if you say it yourself. With a well-written testimonial, you’re not tooting your own horn: a customer toots it for you.

Customer testimonials sell your services better than you ever could. A testimonial describing a previous customer’s results resonates with potential clients, because they’re looking for similar outcomes. Your words may be dismissed as marketing, but a testimonial is a peer’s experience, and as such carries significant weight with new customers.

Provide Quality Service

Unless you’re providing excellent service, your clients won’t be willing to provide testimonials. In fact, they’re likely to do just the opposite and post unfavorable comments in social media or on review sites. Customers are only willing to provide testimonials if you impress them with the quality of your services and produce tangible results.

Asking for Testimonials

Again, it seems obvious when you see it in type, but you won’t get many testimonials unless you ask for them. The occasional client may offer a spontaneous testimonial, but if you’re serious about building a collection of endorsement, you need to request client feedback.

Asking for testimonials can take several forms, but one strategy should be avoided. Never contact your client and ask directly for testimonials to put on your website. While some may do it, this makes you look more interested in collecting marketing content than sharing your clients’ stories, and their response will usually be lukewarm at best.

Instead, watch for openings in conversations with customers. If a client shares her positive results with you at the end of a project, ask if she would mind sharing her story with others on your website. The difference is subtle, but simply asking for testimonials makes the process all about you, while asking her to share her personal story and results puts the customer in center stage.

Help Customers Write Testimonials

Providing guidelines and advice to customers writing testimonials sounds like cheating, but all you’re doing is offering some support to the customer (writing your own testimonials and trying to pass them off as your own — now that’s cheating). Remember, not everyone feels comfortable writing.

Suggest the testimonial include three main points: the client’s situation before your services, his experiences with you, and the positive results he saw from your services. If the customer really feels uncomfortable, ask him for a bulleted list of these three topics and work with him to massage the information into a few short paragraphs. The client, of course, gives you the final approval for the finished testimonial.

Another option is to create a case study: a short survey or interview exploring your customer’s response to your work. Ask questions encouraging clients to discuss their experience with your services, and ask permission to incorporate study results into your website content.

Reward Testimonial Writers

Be sure to thank customers for their time, whether they’re providing a written testimonial or participating in a case study. How you thank your customer is up to you. Some companies offer discounts or small tokens of appreciation for testimonials, but often a sincere hand-written note of thanks is enough to show your appreciation.

If the customer is in business, offer to include a link to their website below the testimonial. You both benefit. The client gets added exposure, and you get marketing material.

Other Sources of Testimonials

While asking for testimonials will bring in the best results, sometimes testimonials fall into your lap. If a customer sends an email praising your services and results, contact him and ask if you can use a quote from the email on your website and in other marketing materials. Here’s an example of testimonials of a product. Some products, even when you think they wouldn’t need testimonials, do! Get creative like this mosquito trap review and give your customers the freedom to write what they want!

Searching for your company name, services and products is an important part of market research. Since you’re running searches anyway, keep your eye out for positive comments in reviews, forums, and social media. Contact the person who write the review and ask if you can quote them.

Value-Added Authenticity

Some companies, unfortunately, make use of fake customer comments, causing potential customers to question the veracity of any testimonial. Fake endorsements tend to have three things in common:

  • The “author” is often only identified by first name or initials.
  • The testimonial is about how great the company is, not the client’s own experience.
  • The website overused testimonials, often providing page after page of endorsements.

Lack of a full name on a testimonial makes it look fake. A customer testimonial should include his full name and his city of residence. Instead of “M.M., New York,” your customer is described as “Marty Mitchell, New York,” with a photo or Marty if he wants to provide one. Make sure your readers identify testimonial writers as real people.

The second point is also telling. A fake testimonial often centers on the company, and how terrific or absolutely miraculous the business is. A real testimonial is written from the customer’s perspective, and focuses on their experience and results.

Finally, use testimonials sparingly. No-one’s going to read six pages of testimonials. Place your testimonials in text boxes near page content related to the endorsement. This way you use the testimonial to add to the reader’s understanding and put in context. Here are a few examples of different types of testimonials and how to address the layout on your page. Clarity Way uses texts boxes and includes the person’s first name and last initial along with their state. They include the state to show that they service people from everywhere! It’s a great strategy to show that people are willing to travel for them.

Courtney Gordner is a passionate blogger who loves giving advice about all thing marketing and internet! Read more from her on her blog, www.talkviral.com

 

E-Commerce is On Fire, How You Can Get Started

The online business model is thriving.

Sales were up 12.6 percent for revenues of $176.2 billion in 2010, according to Entrepreneur. They're estimated to hit $278.9 billion by 2015. If you've been thinking of starting an online business from one of your passions, then now is the time. The sooner you get online, the sooner you can take part in this expanding revenue stream.

Whether you have a product, service or information to sell, there is a way to create an online business to fit your idea. There are many resources available to get started. Shopify and Cafe Press are examples of ecommerce sites available to sell your products. Ruby Lane and Etsy are ecommerce sites that cover the niche of handcrafted items. Sometimes you can use these sites to sell information as a product, such as an ebook.

Do some planning before you start building a storefront, so you'll have a better idea of what direction you'll take. Once your storefront is up, you'll continue to work with it to keep visitors coming back. Online sales is about getting visitors and potential customers on your site. There are millions of websites a person can visit, so give them a good reason to visit yours.

If you're new to E-Commerce, you can read this guide from The Small Business Playbook.

Have the Right Tools Available

You'll be spending a lot of time on the computer getting your online business going, so a good desktop or laptop is needed. A fast and reliable network connection is needed, so look at services such as Century Link for deals that give you the performance that matches your budget. Outfit your office with a small printer, because even in the digital age, you'll need to print some things out.

Showing Your Product or Service to the World

Think about how you want to portray your product or service to people. How does it uniquely solve a problem that people have? What benefits do people get from owning this product? One reason people will visit your website is because there is something unique about what you offer. If you're selling the same thing that a hundred other people are, then it's purely a numbers game in terms of whether they'll visit you over the competition.

Sooner is Better Than Later

One of the mistakes new online business owners make is waiting too long to launch their product or service. ThinkTraffic.net suggests doing some planning and preparation, but to set up a goal of getting your product or service out in front of people as soon as feasible. This may make the perfectionists nervous, but with so many business going online every day, the sooner your website is live and taking orders, the more of an edge you'll have over any new competition. Lock down your niche market as soon as you can.

Prepare to Support Your Idea

Creating a website so people can buy your product is just one step toward your successful online business. Write interesting content, such as articles and blog posts, that express your passion for what you are selling. Tap into unique ways to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate the benefits of using your product. Ask people to write reviews for you and “like” your product.

All of this creates a discussion about your product online that people carry with them into their respective networks. Once your website is up and running, you will continue the care and feeding of your product by writing, reviewing, and keeping the visibility of it on the network.

If you are passionate about a product or service, there is an online market for you. Express your excitement about it to others, and they will pick up on that. Whether this is a full or part-time effort, you can tap into part of that growing online revenue stream.

Jon Portland has been involved in E-Commerce for over 10 years and is the E-Commerce manager for Discountpoolsupply.com, one of Canada's largest pool and spa supply companies.

Combining Digital and Traditional Marketing to Maximize Reach

Very often, those who are engaged in marketing get stuck in a rut – only focused on one area of marketing that’s worked for them in the past. This can become a mistake, however, because marketing is an ever-evolving landscape due to technological advancements and shifts in consumer behavior. What may work for now will eventually fail to produce the results you are used to, creating serious frustration for even the most seasoned marketer.

Methods of Blending Traditional Marketing with Digital Marketing

In many ways, marketing is taking on a hybrid approach by combining digital and traditional marketing methods. This is a more balanced approach that can help anyone expand their reach and become a market influencer. If you are struggling to connect with your target market, there’s a good chance that using the below combined marketing methods can help.

  1. Content marketing – Outside of your website, there are a great deal of opportunities to connect with your consumer market using meaningful content in both digital and traditional mediums. Consider the ways in which your target market finds content related to your product or service. Then create content that’s easy to digest, in small chunks, but with consistency in multiple places.
  2. Social networks – One of the most powerful ways to connect with prospects is with social networks. Yet, many people do this wrong. When focused on building your social networks using a combination of digital and traditional means, develop a specialty network group that’s both online and offline. Schedule or attend local networking events that attract your market.
  3. Email marketing– While some marketers have predicted the end of email marketing, it’s still the basis for many strong marketing campaigns for millions of business owners. Today, email marketing combines traditional newsletters and strategic promotions, along with more personalization in the form of messages from subject matter experts.
  4. Industry trade shows – One of the most powerful traditional methods of maximizing your reach is the industry trade show. Taking the time to both show and demonstrate your offerings to a targeted audience of consumers is a focused way to grow your client base in one convenient location. Use this time well by offering free consultations and premium giveaways presented with well-branded marketing booths and displays.
  5. Direct marketing – In the quest for affordable marketing methods, many businesses have turned to traditional direct marketing campaigns to extend their reach with the consumer pool. From print marketing to print on demand content, direct marketing combines the best of digital and traditional marketing efforts.

The key to successful marketing for any type of business is selecting the hybrid digital and traditional marketing mix that appeals to your market. Not all methods will work across the board for all consumers. Each market has unique habits of consuming information and content. Different demographics may prefer traditional marketing vs. digital marketing efforts. Try several combined marketing mediums, but use consistency with your brand message.

For example, when participating in trade shows, be sure to boost your reach by advertising the event in advance with digital marketing like emails and premium website content. At the event, use digital and traditional marketing to distribute information and get consumers signed up for additional premiums. Use the business social networks to build excitement during the trade show, with exclusive offers for followers. After the trade show, deliver unique content via emails and direct marketing to keep the momentum going. By using a combined effort, your marketing can expand far beyond your normal reach, which supports the ultimate goal of connecting more consumers to what your business can offer.

About the author: Tess C. Taylor, PHR is a certified Web Content Manager, Human Resources Professional, and Career Coach with nearly two-decades of writing experience. Tess also founded the popular blogazine, The HR Writer. As a regular contributor to multiple HR and Business publications, including Benefitfocus, Dale Carnegie Institute, HR Magazine, PayScale, and US News Careers, Tess is dedicated to educating others about important human resources and marketing topics worldwide. You can connect with Tess on Google+ , Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

 

5 Marketing Techniques to Use in the Last Half of 2013

So sales are in a slump and your business needs a swift kick in the pants for the second half of 2013. It can be easy to get disheartened when it's already August and you're just not performing like you thought you would be. There's usually something you can do to help sagging sales pick up in the second half of the year. Or, at the very least, you should be able to plant a seed for greater brand recognition early next year.

You still have several months before the year ends, this is your time to kick it into second gear and make the most out of 2013 for your business.

Photo by Chris Heiler via Flickr

Break the Language Barrier

Are you sure that your target demographic speaks English? Consider, for instance, a video game developer who mostly focuses on challenging shoot-'em-up games. The big market for these games is Japanese, and by keeping the game English only, this developer is missing out on what might well comprise the lion's share of their viable market. In China, in particular, we're seeing a surge in consumer demand for electronics and technology products in both urban and rural areas, as pointed out by Gallup.com.

Get in Some Trouble

Too often we worry about stepping on toes, but you can't conquer your market while being polite. That publicity stunt that you're worried will just embarrass you? The off-color jokes you want to post to the company's Twitter account? As long as it's in line with what you want for the brand, go for it. The controversy that arises from developing a brand that isn't “for everyone” is exactly the sort of controversy that let's your ideal customers know that they're not everyone.  Just be sure that's it's in line with your company's brand and it's light-hearted controversy, not offensive.

Stop Ignoring Your Data

Many companies collect data on market behavior, but few actually use that information to change the services they offer, how they advertise, and what it is that they're selling to the public. This is like reading your date's dating site profile, and then spending the whole night talking about movies that you know they haven't seen or don't like. As DMNews points out, simply putting your text-mining data to use and collecting frequent updates can make a big, immediate difference in your business's performance. You have the tools, you have the data: use them. Even your direct mail and shipping campaigns can be boosted by the data provided by a Pitney Bowes postage meter or your online customer database, so stop letting this valuable information go to waste.

Cross-Channel Marketing

Meg Enterprises suggests a greater emphasis on multi-channel marketing.Take that a step further and look into cross-channel marketing. Cross-channel marketing refers to an approach to marketing that involves multiple intertwined marketing campaigns, so you'll have your TV ads pointing viewers to your Web site, your Web site pointing people to your upcoming trade show appearances and your newspaper ads including coupons that can be redeemed online. Rather than leaving each marketing piece to stand on its own, you make it all a part of an overall strategy with every single piece building brand recognition and creating another way “in” for your leads.

Sponsor Something

Sponsor a local little league team, a Kickstarter campaign or an after school program. Invest in your community, whether online or locally, and you increase not only your brand, but the community that you're hoping responds to it.  It's the perfect way to get out from your desk and get to know the people in your community, they are your potential customers after all.

What will you do with the rest of 2013?

Oftentimes, improving your marketing efforts can be as simple as breaking the habit of ignoring data or coasting on your once-popular products and services, or simply failing to innovate. Treat every day as an opportunity to launch something new, as an opportunity to rethink your advertising and marketing efforts, and to change your business, your customers and the market.

5 Marketing Techniques to Use in the Last Half of 2013

So sales are in a slump and your business needs a swift kick in the pants for the second half of 2013. It can be easy to get disheartened when it's already August and you're just not performing like you thought you would be. There's usually something you can do to help sagging sales pick up in the second half of the year. Or, at the very least, you should be able to plant a seed for greater brand recognition early next year.

You still have several months before the year ends, this is your time to kick it into second gear and make the most out of 2013 for your business.

Photo by Chris Heiler via Flickr

Break the Language Barrier

Are you sure that your target demographic speaks English? Consider, for instance, a video game developer who mostly focuses on challenging shoot-'em-up games. The big market for these games is Japanese, and by keeping the game English only, this developer is missing out on what might well comprise the lion's share of their viable market. In China, in particular, we're seeing a surge in consumer demand for electronics and technology products in both urban and rural areas, as pointed out by Gallup.com.

Get in Some Trouble

Too often we worry about stepping on toes, but you can't conquer your market while being polite. That publicity stunt that you're worried will just embarrass you? The off-color jokes you want to post to the company's Twitter account? As long as it's in line with what you want for the brand, go for it. The controversy that arises from developing a brand that isn't “for everyone” is exactly the sort of controversy that let's your ideal customers know that they're not everyone.  Just be sure that's it's in line with your company's brand and it's light-hearted controversy, not offensive.

Stop Ignoring Your Data

Many companies collect data on market behavior, but few actually use that information to change the services they offer, how they advertise, and what it is that they're selling to the public. This is like reading your date's dating site profile, and then spending the whole night talking about movies that you know they haven't seen or don't like. As DMNews points out, simply putting your text-mining data to use and collecting frequent updates can make a big, immediate difference in your business's performance. You have the tools, you have the data: use them. Even your direct mail and shipping campaigns can be boosted by the data provided by a Pitney Bowes postage meter or your online customer database, so stop letting this valuable information go to waste.

Cross-Channel Marketing

Meg Enterprises suggests a greater emphasis on multi-channel marketing.Take that a step further and look into cross-channel marketing. Cross-channel marketing refers to an approach to marketing that involves multiple intertwined marketing campaigns, so you'll have your TV ads pointing viewers to your Web site, your Web site pointing people to your upcoming trade show appearances and your newspaper ads including coupons that can be redeemed online. Rather than leaving each marketing piece to stand on its own, you make it all a part of an overall strategy with every single piece building brand recognition and creating another way “in” for your leads.

Sponsor Something

Sponsor a local little league team, a Kickstarter campaign or an after school program. Invest in your community, whether online or locally, and you increase not only your brand, but the community that you're hoping responds to it.  It's the perfect way to get out from your desk and get to know the people in your community, they are your potential customers after all.

What will you do with the rest of 2013?

Oftentimes, improving your marketing efforts can be as simple as breaking the habit of ignoring data or coasting on your once-popular products and services, or simply failing to innovate. Treat every day as an opportunity to launch something new, as an opportunity to rethink your advertising and marketing efforts, and to change your business, your customers and the market.