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Why Online Reviews Are Almost As Good As Actual Referrals

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jason Keeler – Enjoy!

image 2 online business reviewsAs a business owner, there isn’t much better than a good referral. It shows that you’re doing something right, and that your customers think highly enough of you as a partner to tell other people in their circle about their great experience. Referral leads have a tremendously high closing percentage as well versus other cultivated leads. The implied trust factor allows you to skip a lot of the relationship building and get right down to business. Unfortunately, even your most vocal brand advocates will likely only influence a handful of prospective customers at most, and more than likely just one or two. But what if your happy customers were able to influence hundreds or even thousands of prospects?

The Power Of Faceless People

In the absence of a trusted business contact steering a prospect to your door, an online review can be almost as powerful. Never mind that there’s no connection between the reviewer and the prospect reading their review. According to Forrester data from a 2012 study, nearly one third of online consumers trust a stranger as opposed to a brand. That data speaks specifically to consumers buying an online product, but the sentiment holds true for prospects researching brick and mortar businesses on the web. A 20123 study by Bright Local showed that nearly 85% of customers read online reviews before trying a new restaurant, hiring a local contractor or making a major in-home purchase. The impact of positive reviews from total strangers is incredibly powerful, even if their testimonial fails to put a face with a name.

The Impact On Local Search

The value of search engine optimization to any specific business varies, but local SEO – impacting where your business falls in Google’s local search returns – can be a huge driver for both foot traffic and online visits. The online reviews of your business are a big driver for where (or if) your business appears in the pecking order. There are quite a few other factors as well, but total reviews, quality/length of reviews, having variety in the sites where you are reviewed and of course the sentiment of your reviews will play a big role in determining your place. Aside from helping you manipulate local search results, reviews on popular portals like Yelp! can be a source of referral traffic to your website as well.

Ask And You Shall Receive

As is often the case, some things can be acquired simply by asking. Ensuring that your company actively seeks both referrals and reviews will most certainly pay dividends. And for those who need more than a simple ask? There’s certainly nothing wrong with establishing a review reward similar to a referral bonus, as a consideration for their time. Smart companies may even tie it in to a discount on a future order, not only ensuring a good review but also improving the chance that there’s a repeat order from a current customer. Another unique way to improve your review rate is to use surveys. The bonus here is that you can also find out a few interesting things about your business – areas that you’re surprisingly weak or strong in – and either reward those responsible or start making improvements.

As previously noted, referrals are like gold…but good online reviews are at least like silver, or a high-grade copper. There’s real value there. Make sure you spend time focusing on reviews as well as referrals, and you’ll put more prospects in your funnel with relative ease.

Jason Keeler imageJason Keeler is the Director of Digital Marketing at EAG Advertising & Marketing, Kansas City’s small business ad agency. He’s an avid Royals fan and a lover of all things related to internet marketing.

20 Free and Low Cost Tools for Everyday Productivity

Every so often I sit back and take inventory of the tools I’m using with an eye on weeding some out and adding some in. Technology can be a tremendously useful thing when it comes to getting more productivity, but you must continually monitor what’s working and what’s not.

Below are the twenty tools I rely on most for productivity in communications, marketing and collaboration.

Workflowy – this is a simple outlining tool and I use it everyday to store notes, keep projects coming and going and even as my to do list. Lots of folks use Evernote in this fashion but Workflowy’s simplicity is what makes it more useful for me. – Lots of people have to schedule meetings with people and that can turn into a back and forth merry go round or employ a tool that requires the guest to log in and fight through some sales pitch. Assistant to connects with Gmail and allows you to suggest a couple times. When the recipient picks one of the proposed times it puts the meeting on both people’s calendars.

Nimble – I use two CRMs, which I know if not ideal, but Nimble is for my contacts that I need to stay in close contact with and that I want to make sure I know as much about as possible. The automatic social integration is what makes Nimble a great choice.

Talkwalker – This is a free alert tool similar to Google Alerts, just better in terms of the results I get. It’s a great way to keep tabs on my brand as well as my customers.

Hootsuite – All in one social media management tool that continues to evolve. My favorite feature is the columns to keep tabs of Twitter lists and search terms.

Megalytic – Tool that simplifies Google Analytics reporting. I suppose I shouldn’t need a tool like this, but I love simple, elegant data that I can use and share with my clients in a white label format.

Wufoo – Full featured form and survey tool that we use for both marketing and basic communications tracking but also for work with our clients.

Feedly – This is my RSS Reader of choice. I know people suggest that nobody reads blogs anymore, but I think that’s an oversimplification. Blogs aren’t the hot thing they were once in terms of people talking about them, but everyone reads blog content whether they know it or not – I just happen to love this format for sharing as well.

Skype – I’m doing more and more meeting on this platform and I’ve recorded my podcast using Skype for years.

Dropbox – For good or bad Dropbox has become our default server in the cloud. I guess it also functions as our remote backup and of course there’s the sharing and collaboration features. I send any file over a couple megs via the public folder.

QuickBooks online – I use a virtual bookkeeping so having this tool in the cloud is essential. Turner out the online version is way more useful than the desktop version too.

Basecamp – I’ve used Basecamp for years and I guess I’m just kind of a creature of habit. I still like it, but I have been tempted to look at some tools like TeamworkPM and Asana.

HelloSign – This is a really useful tool for me because I get lots of documents that I need to sign and I send contracts to our clients as well. HelloSign is tool that allows me to sign without the whole – download, sign, scan, send routine.

HipChat – This is simply a group chat tool, but I like that you can create chat rooms for various topics or workgroups and then keep the stream on topic with the ability to search and find files, links and past conversations.

Canva – This is a basic, free image editing tool that makes it very easy to create visual content for things like blog posts and webinars.

BuzzSumo – If you’re at a loss for what to write about a topic go here and find the most shared content for any search topic. You can also find the most shared content for any domain – you know, like your competitors! I also love to show clients that their competitors are indeed producing content and sharing it in social channels.

Google Apps – We use the branded version of apps, calendar, etc for internal teamwork and collaboration purposes.

GoToMeeting – I don a lot of large webinars and GoToWebinar is still the most affordable for my purposes although I am looking hard at the pro version of for smaller (under 100) more engaging events.

There you have it. This list probably has many entries you’ve heard of and perhaps a few new ones too. I would love to hear what you’re using and how you’re using it.

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