Tag Archive: online_reviews

Top Ideas in Growing Your Small Business

Top Ideas in Growing Your Small Business

A satisfied customer is one of the best marketing tools around. Small business owners can harness the power of positive word-of-mouth by asking their biggest fans directly for a recommendation.

 

The best testimonials are created with good timing and specific questions about your customer’s experience, say small business experts. The most effective results come from putting them where they can influence potential new customers and clients.

 

“It helps every kind of business to have a real person in front of you saying, ‘These guys are the real deal,’” says Paul Schwada, owner ofLocomotive Solutions, a business consultancy based in Chicago.

 

Testimonials work for the same reasons that social media helps brand awareness and loyalty: people trust recommendations from other customers more than the company’s own marketing. That’s what Forrester Research found last year in a consumer survey about branded content. In that poll, 70 percent of respondents—U.S. adults who go online—said they trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family. Just under half (46 percent) trust online reviews written by other consumers. Only one in 10 said they trust online advertising.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask

The good news is that recommendations are not difficult to get. Every business has its cheerleaders—top customers, clients, and admirers who would be happy to recommend its services or products.

 

“If you’ve built a rapport with clients, you know which ones are approachable,” says Maciej Fita, director of search engine optimization for Brandignity, an inbound marketing firm in Naples, Florida.

 

Fita says he likes to ask once and let a client consider the request. If he doesn’t get a response, he doesn’t push. But Schwada recommends soliciting testimonials when customers are at the peak of satisfaction.

 

“The moment they recognize the satisfaction and the value of your company is the best possible moment to ask,” he says. “It could be a bouquet that they loved, or a service that worked right.”

 

And businesses should have a mechanism in place to collect that feedback right away, Schwada adds. If you’re on the phone with a client when you ask for a testimonial, send an email at that moment for them to respond to. Or direct them to an online survey.

 

In person, it can be even easier to get an immediate response, which you can then reshape into a testimonial. Schwada recommends having a smartphone recorder ready when asking a customer to explain what they appreciated about their experience with your company. It’s better, he says, than bothering them to write it down.

 

Fita says video testimonials are growing in popularity, too. Try asking clients or customers you see regularly in person if they would sit for a short video interview.

 

Using_Recommendations_PQ.jpgListen for positive comments that could be cultivated into a testimonial, Schwada says, and be sure to coach your employees to do the same. When a customer says something positive, ask if he or she would be willing to have their comments crafted into a testimonial. Track positive comments on Facebook and Twitter and consider reaching out to those consumers as well.

 

You can also offer a premium, such as a free consultation, gift, or coupon, in exchange for a testimonial. Fita says even though it’s more like a transaction, it’s unlikely that a displeased customer would give false positive feedback.

 

The more detail, the better

Once you’ve figured out how to ask, the next step is figuring out what to ask. What aspects of your business do you want the testimonial to promote?

 

Business coach Katya Barry, who specializes in working with female entrepreneurs, advises business owners to craft a few questions that will get clients thinking in specifics. “People are often open to doing them but don’t always know what to say apart from ‘You’re great, and I’ll recommend you.’”

 

To elicit a richer recommendation, consider asking:

 

  • What was it like before you used my service or product?
  • Why did you choose to work/shop with me?
  • For services: what progress have you made during our time together?
  • What specific feature did you like the best?
  • What were your results from using our product/service?
  • What was it like working with me? Feel free to describe my personal and professional qualities.
  • How would you recommend my services or products to others?

 

These interviews can also give you insight about how well you’re achieving your own business goals, Barry says.

 

It’s okay to reshape what your customer says so that it reads well. Just be sure to keep it in his or her voice, or it won’t sound genuine.

 

George Aspland, president of eVision, a web marketing and design firm in Connecticut, says a well-placed testimonial can have a direct effect on sales. “They can make a difference in the conversion rate on a website, particularly among people who may not know anything about you other than what’s on the site,” he says.

 

Aspland recommends placing testimonials on website pages where customers are deciding whether to buy a product or use your services. He also recommends asking top clients to serve as references for your company.

 

“A big part of our sales process is to have a prospective customer talk to one of our happy customers,” Aspland says.

 

Don’t overlook online reviews

Aspland says online reviews can drive people to your website in two ways. Good reviews on sites such as Yelp can produce leads, and getting customers to review you on Google+ can improve your search engine rankings.

 

Fita says Google+ reviews are especially good for driving traffic to brick and mortar businesses through local search results. Business pages with reviews are ranked higher in search results, he says. And if your business has received negative feedback online, the best response is getting people to post positive comments that show up ahead of the negative ones.

 

A caveat: if you solicit online reviews, ask for only a few at a time, Aspland says. The review sites may flag a batch of reviews that come in all at the same time as inauthentic.

 

Aspland recommends business owners ask for either a testimonial or an online review, but not both. Determine which suits your strategy better, and then start identifying whom to ask. It’s a simple and effective way to turn satisfied customers into ambassadors for your brand.

Your Online Reputation: Who’s Watching Out for You?

Your Online Reputation: Who’s Watching Out for You?
by Erin McDermott.

“Awful work and unethical business practices! Stay away!”

“I will be sure to tell everyone I know how disgusting this place is.”

“They will suck the money out of you any way they can and do substandard work. AVOID AVOID AVOID!!!”

It’s the Wild West of web commentary out there for small businesses today. Cloaked by online anonymity, customers can and do say anything—including the real examples above, for a dry cleaner, a restaurant, and a portrait studio—often leaving trails of remarkably hostile reviews, false allegations, and even shockingly personal attacks.

But in an increasingly digital world, your search results are also your online résumé, written by people you most likely don’t know.

“People have a tendency to hide behind their computer screens and they’re unedited,” says Ruth Ann Wiesner, founder and CEO of RAW Marketing, a social-media management and online marketing consultancy near Chicago. “They don’t take into consideration that they’re hurting a business or an actual person.

Recently, Wiesner had a client dealing with a commenter posting negative comments on a review site. This unhappy customer even went as far as to attack the small-business owner herself—including nasty remarks about her hairstyle and shoes. “That’s not even the business she was in. I mean, why?” Wiesner says.

Often, companies wait until the web or social-network heat hits a boiling point before they make a move to address their online reputation. (And even old-school shops that don’t have a website aren’t immune: Sites like Google Maps, Yelp, Kudzu, YellowPages, epinions and others include any and all businesses, and offer a review function as well.)

If you’ve been procrastinating about protecting your Internet rep, where do you start? Below you’ll find what a few pros suggest to get started.

First rule, don’t fake a review—ever

You’ll get caught. And forget dirty tricks.

Take a deep breath and Google yourself

Don’t wait until the rabble reaches a crisis point. Take a good look: Is your company site the top result during a search of your company name? Is the information you see accurate? Is it positive or negative? If it helps you sleep at night, Internet search experts say only two percent of users ever skim past the top 10 results. But business owners should dig deeper and look down into search-result pages two, three, four and five. You may see a pattern of where certain comments originate. And who knows—you might even see some glowing recommendations, too.

Be proactive

Sign up your business for official Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts. These will be yours to control—including which messages appear on them and which don’t. And be sure to get a Google Alert for your company’s name, as well as your name—that way, as soon as the Google scanners come across new references, an email will pop up in your inbox and identify it to you.

Another thing, and this may be difficult to hear, gentle reader: Several experts advise small businesses to also query their company’s name on Google Alerts with—sad to say—the word “sucks” next to it. “Yep, you read that right,” says Wiesner. “Make sure you are being notified every time someone on the Internet uses your name along with the most preferred way of showing disapproval.” Another tactic to consider—buying that negative URL as it prevents it from falling into the wrong hands.

PQ_OnlineRep.jpgEngage your reviewers—carefully

Keep cool-headed and stay polite when addressing negative comments. Be firm, but offer solutions to problems. Avoid getting sucked into an unending battle with critics.

Still, watch out for “brand terrorists,” says Andrew Barnett of Elasticity, a St. Louis-based firm that manages corporate reputations, marketing, and social media. He once dealt with a bedding retailer who had a customer whose bed remote control stopped working. After a dispute arose about a replacement, Barnett says the customer went on a tear, bad-mouthing the business on nearly two-dozen sites, even warning off would-be customers who were researching a purchase. Eventually, the retailer broke down and got the customer a new remote. “There are plenty of people out there who have figured out that if you complain enough and loudly enough, it can work to [their] advantage,” Barnett says.

Find a pro to help

Reputation-management services work to emphasize positive remarks about a person or company online and diminish negative search results, by addressing problem comments, boosting new content, and reacting to changes in search-engine algorithms.

“You can’t remove negative comments but there are a great many things you can do minimize their effect,” says DeAnne Merey, president of New York’s DM Public Relations, which specializes in crisis management and online-reputation work. “The goal is to balance the entries and dilute their impact. While the solution is not overnight, with the right response these comments will be displaced and moved further down the search results over time.”

But beware: If you engage a reputation-management company and they don’t ask if the allegations online are true, be worried. “If they don’t mind the fact that you’re ripping somebody off, chances are they might be ripping you off, too,” says one industry insider who declined to be named. Ask for references from businesses they’ve worked with and look at those companies’ search results.

Price-wise, reputation-management companies charge anywhere from $200 to $600 a month for small businesses, depending on the type of business and its geographic region. For bigger companies, the services are much more complex, and the price goes up accordingly.

Double down on customer service

It may sound simple, but try to not give your customers reason to complain. Most of the time, when bad things are said, talking directly with the customer can remedy the situation. This also gives customers a great story to tell that will make you look good and help spread positive word-of-mouth.

Sort of like Ruth Ann Wiesner’s client with the nasty commenter. Wiesner said she worked with the owner to respond to the reviews. The commenter actually apologized and, a few days later, even showed up at the business with flowers, saying she didn’t realize how hurtful the comments were until she re-read what she’d written.

The business owner spoke with the customer and gained some new insights on her criticisms. “She said she would put new policies and procedures into place to avoid the bad situation from happening again,” Wiesner said.

But, the business owner added, “I’m not changing my hair style!”

Your Online Reputation: Who’s Watching Out for You?

Your Online Reputation: Who’s Watching Out for You?
“Awful work and unethical business practices! Stay away!”

“I will be sure to tell everyone I know how disgusting this place is.”

“They will suck the money out of you any way they can and do substandard work. AVOID AVOID AVOID!!!”

It’s the Wild West of web commentary out there for small businesses today. Cloaked by online anonymity, customers can and do say anything—including the real examples above, for a dry cleaner, a restaurant, and a portrait studio—often leaving trails of remarkably hostile reviews, false allegations, and even shockingly personal attacks.

But in an increasingly digital world, your search results are also your online résumé, written by people you most likely don’t know.

“People have a tendency to hide behind their computer screens and they’re unedited,” says Ruth Ann Wiesner, founder and CEO of RAW Marketing, a social-media management and online marketing consultancy near Chicago. “They don’t take into consideration that they’re hurting a business or an actual person.

Recently, Wiesner had a client dealing with a commenter posting negative comments on a review site. This unhappy customer even went as far as to attack the small-business owner herself—including nasty remarks about her hairstyle and shoes. “That’s not even the business she was in. I mean, why?” Wiesner says.

Often, companies wait until the web or social-network heat hits a boiling point before they make a move to address their online reputation. (And even old-school shops that don’t have a website aren’t immune: Sites like Google Maps, Yelp, Kudzu, YellowPages, epinions and others include any and all businesses, and offer a review function as well.)

If you’ve been procrastinating about protecting your Internet rep, where do you start? Below you’ll find what a few pros suggest to get started.

First rule, don’t fake a review—ever

You’ll get caught. And forget dirty tricks.

Take a deep breath and Google yourself

Don’t wait until the rabble reaches a crisis point. Take a good look: Is your company site the top result during a search of your company name? Is the information you see accurate? Is it positive or negative? If it helps you sleep at night, Internet search experts say only two percent of users ever skim past the top 10 results. But business owners should dig deeper and look down into search-result pages two, three, four and five. You may see a pattern of where certain comments originate. And who knows—you might even see some glowing recommendations, too.

Be proactive

Sign up your business for official Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts. These will be yours to control—including which messages appear on them and which don’t. And be sure to get a Google Alert for your company’s name, as well as your name—that way, as soon as the Google scanners come across new references, an email will pop up in your inbox and identify it to you.

Another thing, and this may be difficult to hear, gentle reader: Several experts advise small businesses to also query their company’s name on Google Alerts with—sad to say—the word “sucks” next to it. “Yep, you read that right,” says Wiesner. “Make sure you are being notified every time someone on the Internet uses your name along with the most preferred way of showing disapproval.” Another tactic to consider—buying that negative URL as it prevents it from falling into the wrong hands.

PQ_OnlineRep.jpgEngage your reviewers—carefully

Keep cool-headed and stay polite when addressing negative comments. Be firm, but offer solutions to problems. Avoid getting sucked into an unending battle with critics.

Still, watch out for “brand terrorists,” says Andrew Barnett of Elasticity, a St. Louis-based firm that manages corporate reputations, marketing, and social media. He once dealt with a bedding retailer who had a customer whose bed remote control stopped working. After a dispute arose about a replacement, Barnett says the customer went on a tear, bad-mouthing the business on nearly two-dozen sites, even warning off would-be customers who were researching a purchase. Eventually, the retailer broke down and got the customer a new remote. “There are plenty of people out there who have figured out that if you complain enough and loudly enough, it can work to [their] advantage,” Barnett says.

Find a pro to help

Reputation-management services work to emphasize positive remarks about a person or company online and diminish negative search results, by addressing problem comments, boosting new content, and reacting to changes in search-engine algorithms.

“You can’t remove negative comments but there are a great many things you can do minimize their effect,” says DeAnne Merey, president of New York’s DM Public Relations, which specializes in crisis management and online-reputation work. “The goal is to balance the entries and dilute their impact. While the solution is not overnight, with the right response these comments will be displaced and moved further down the search results over time.”

But beware: If you engage a reputation-management company and they don’t ask if the allegations online are true, be worried. “If they don’t mind the fact that you’re ripping somebody off, chances are they might be ripping you off, too,” says one industry insider who declined to be named. Ask for references from businesses they’ve worked with and look at those companies’ search results.

Price-wise, reputation-management companies charge anywhere from $200 to $600 a month for small businesses, depending on the type of business and its geographic region. For bigger companies, the services are much more complex, and the price goes up accordingly.

Double down on customer service

It may sound simple, but try to not give your customers reason to complain. Most of the time, when bad things are said, talking directly with the customer can remedy the situation. This also gives customers a great story to tell that will make you look good and help spread positive word-of-mouth.

Sort of like Ruth Ann Wiesner’s client with the nasty commenter. Wiesner said she worked with the owner to respond to the reviews. The commenter actually apologized and, a few days later, even showed up at the business with flowers, saying she didn’t realize how hurtful the comments were until she re-read what she’d written.

The business owner spoke with the customer and gained some new insights on her criticisms. “She said she would put new policies and procedures into place to avoid the bad situation from happening again,” Wiesner said.

But, the business owner added, “I’m not changing my hair style!”