Turning Leads Into Customers With an Email Autoresponder

Today’s Guest Post is by Jack Reamer – Enjoy!

Imagine if your marketing ran on autopilot…

You could sit back, kick your feet up and watch your sales go through the roof.

You could grow your business (and take that much-needed vacation) without worrying about how you’ll get your next customer.

Sounds good, right?

Now, you know that marketing isn’t that easy. But a good email autoresponder can bring you new customers like clockwork – even when you’re not working.

What is an email autoresponder?

An autoresponder is an automated series of emails that gives your leads value, draws them closer to your brand and eventually makes them buy what you’re selling.

Basically, it puts your email marketing on autopilot.

How can your business sell with an autoresponder?

Photo credit: Banquet hall via flickr (license)

Photo credit: Banquet hall via flickr (license)

Picture yourself in a 10,000 square foot banquet hall that’s packed with your potential customers.

You’re holding a microphone, and your potential customers are waiting to hear your best sales pitch. What would you say? What would you want them to know before they made a buying decision?

Those are your selling points. And as long as you have your lead’s attention, your email autoresponder can deliver your selling points just like this fictional banquet hall sales pitch.

You need to know two things to sell with an email autoresponder:

  1. What do your leads care about?
  2. What are your selling points?

If your autoresponder messages are about things your leads care about, they will open and read your emails. So earn their attention by sending emails that will help your leads solve a problem or reach a goal.

Then how do you sell? Easy. Just connect one of your selling points to each email.

Let’s look at an example:

Let’s say you’re a bookkeeping company that wants to turn your leads into customers with an autoresponder.

Your leads are busy small business owners who care about saving time running their business. And one of your selling points is you can save business owners one hour a week by doing their bookkeeping.

An email that would work well in your autoresponder is:

“How any business owner can save 5 hours this week”

Then, inside that email, give five time-saving tips for small business owners.

Make sure one of the tips talks about hiring a bookkeeper to instantly save 1 hour every week. (Include a link back to your website so your leads can click to learn more about your bookkeeping service.)

Why does this email work well?

  • It’s a topic your leads care about so it will get opened.
  • You provide five helpful tips so it will get read.
  • You tie your selling point to the email so your leads can click for more details.

Three email ideas for an autoresponder that sells:

1) Welcome Email

Use this email to get your leads to look forward to future emails (by telling them what’s coming up) and to ask, “what are you struggling with?” so you know exactly what your leads need help with.

2) Problem Solver

Help them solve a problem they’re struggling with. (Just make sure the problem relates to your business.) Give your leads helpful tips to establish your credibility and to prove you’re an expert.

3) Case Study

Talk about a past customer’s problems (and how you helped them solve it), so it’s helpful to your leads. Make sure to provide insights with this case study, but don’t forget to include a testimonial.

Have any questions about selling with email? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll answer each one.

Jack ReamerJack Reamer is an email marketing expert who specializes in helping B2B companies turn leads into customers with helpful & engaging emails. Jack shares actionable email marketing insights on his blog emailsthatsell.com. Want to bring in more sales with your emails? Click here to learn the four biggest mistakes business owners make with email marketing (and how to avoid them.)

A Simple Approach to The Customer Journey

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, David Smith – Enjoy!

customer journey

Photo Credit: OneDollarPhoto, gustavofrazao

If you are a small business owner, you instinctively know it’s a wonderful thing when a customer receives value AND has a very positive experience when they deal with your business.

If the journey is hard and the experience is on par with your peers, or worse, unpleasant, you’ll have no chance of building a lasting relationship (loyalty) with the customer. You’ll miss out on the repeat business and referrals that delighted customers bring.

Plainly speaking: The better the experience with your business, the more opportunity you will have with the customer.

That is why Customer Experience (CX) has become a much talked about element for building a successful business.

The major consultancies (Gartner, Forrester, etc.) define Customer Experience in a common way: customer feelings and perceptions caused by interactions with your business. Large companies are advised to have coordinated and consistent experiences across their multiple channels and business units. Many large organizations have an entire department focused on nothing but Customer Experience.

If you are a small business, the complexities of multiple business units may not exist. Your sales transaction, support, service, training, and other opportunities to craft customer experiences go through a small set of people and systems within your business. With limited resources, effectively designing and managing the Customer Experience can become overwhelming to a small business.

By taking a simple approach, a small business can achieve the same results as a large organization that has a Customer Experience Officer or Department.

Using a small business perspective may be the best way for you to think, plan, and implement interactions that achieve positive feelings about your business.

Instead of thinking Customer Experience (macro) think Customer Journey (micro).

Simply put – break it down.

Practically speaking, the Customer Experience is made up of many Customer Journeys. The Customer Journey is the path customers take to solve a particular problem or need. In some cases, the journey results in a transaction for a good or service, which is why the Customer Journey is sometimes also called the Buyer’s Journey.

Customer Journeys are repeated for every instance where the consumer is purposely engaged and looking to achieve a value outcome. The cumulative effect of these interactions creates the Customer Experience.

By breaking it down, moving from the macro view of Experience to the micro view of Journeys, you can begin to simplify and design the interactions of your customers one at a time. The Journeys are simply the interactions and opportunities you have to deliver value and build positive feelings in your customer.

There are potentially dozens of major points of interaction within a small business. Examples include interactions from:

  • the initial purchase
  • returning customers
  • support or service
  • training or instruction
  • billing or administration

If you use a consistent framework, such as the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™, you can define the customer progression toward value and positive feelings. The Hourglass will allow you to map the progress the customer takes from discovering they Know, Like, and Trust your business, into the conversion phase of the Hourglass, Try and Buy.

The Customer Journey doesn’t have to be complicated. Breaking it down into small parts allows you to successfully build systems that deliver value and create positive interaction.

David Smith Valens PointDavid knows first hand the strains of expanding a small business while continually delivering optimal customer and financial results. He comes from a long line of entrepreneurs and understands the ability to gain additional customers and revenue has proven to be the critical element of small business. David helps customers install effective sales and marketing programs via his firm ValensPoint. He earned a degree in Business Administration from Faulkner University (Montgomery, AL). He resides near Anniston, AL.

How to Determine When A Lead Is Sales-Ready

Today’s Guest Post is by Ellen Gomes – Enjoy! 

Relay runners know that the exchanges make or break a race. The same is true for businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re an enterprise industry with huge marketing and sales teams or a small business owner piecing everything together yourself, figuring out when a lead is ready to buy can be tricky business with potentially serious consequences.

Leading scoring is how successful business of all sizes “practice” the exchange. It is a key element to lead nurturing that helps companies determine whether prospects need to be fast-tracked to sales or nurtured further. There are four basic dimensions to lead scoring:

1. Lead Fit
2. Lead Interest
3. Lead Behavior
4. Buying Stage

Each dimension will help you assign a number value to actions and characteristics that create a “score” for each lead. All you have to do then is determine what score makes him qualified for a sales contact.

Lead Fit

Scoring lead fit means collecting some data on your prospect. You can collect data with online forms for gated content or registrations.

  •  Demographics—This consists of information on the lead himself, such as his job title, years of experience, etc.
  •  Firmographics—This is information you want to capture about organizations, like the company size, revenue, and locations served.
  •  Budget, Authority, Need, Time (BANT)—This is more advanced qualification, but can tell you where the lead is in the buying journey by collecting information on her budget, purchasing timeline, etc.

Calculating an initial lead fit score will help you focus on those who might actually become sales.

Lead Interest

Determining lead interest involves monitoring a prospect’s interest in, and interaction with, your content and networks. This score will tell you how interested someone is in your brand, in addition to your information. Monitor behaviors like email opens and click-throughs, social media engagement, and downloads.

Lead Behavior

Monitoring lead behavior starts to move beyond determining if a lead is a good fit, to determining where she is on the buying journey. These scores are developed and honed over time, but if you know your audience and your industry, you can put together a strong initial estimate.

Consider which behaviors and online activities tend to correlate with leads which eventually become customers. Those are “active behaviors,” and should come with high scores. Conversely, “latent behaviors”—like early-stage content and blog posts—earn much lower scores.

Buying Stage

Determining a lead’s buying stage is the final touch to pinpointing where he is on the buying journey. One simple way to structure and score the buying stage is to align it with a traditional sales funnel.

Untitled

  •  Early Stage—A person who is aware of your business but may or may not ever become a qualified lead. She will read blog posts, download infographics, and share funny videos.
  •  Mid Stage—This is when a person becomes a lead. He has engaged with your content over time, and displayed some of the usual buying behavior. He has moved on to content like buying guides and ROI calculators. He may have contacted you for more specific information.
  •  Late Stage—These are qualified leads that would either pass to sales or start receiving content like pricing, demos, and discount offers.

Once you establish criteria for your buying stages, it will be much easier to score leads and get an objective perspective on where they are on the buying journey.

Lead Nurturing Means Lead Scoring

Businesses that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost, and the metric for effective lead nurturing is a strategic lead scoring system. This process can help SMBs from the start, and scale as the business grows into an enterprise.

If you don’t have a system in place for scoring leads, it’s never too soon or too late to start, and no business is too big or too small. Start at the top by identifying some of the simple lead fit data points that characterize your target audience, and then score your current leads against them. Before you know it, you’ll be nurturing more effectively, timing sales calls perfectly, and closing more business.

Author: Ellen Gomes is a Content Marketing Specialist at Marketo and co-author of The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing—a newly released eBook that offers unique insights, and practical lessons for nurturing leads like the pros.

How to increase conversion rate on your blog

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

featured-imageDo you often ask yourself:

How do I get more people to sign up to my blog?

Why is no one joining our email list?

Generating leads from your blog is no easy task.

It can be difficult to keep writing content when your conversion rate is low, 1% or even less.

Through testing and trial and error we came up with a technique that not only makes your visitors happy but also increases your conversions rates.

Convert more visitors to email subscribers using the Content Cliffhanger Technique

I struggled with conversion rate just like you, I had a pretty ok conversion rate of 3% until I discovered a fairly unknown marketing technique.

The Content Cliffhanger Technique

In three easy steps I went from 3% to a site-wide conversion rate of 22.46%!

First I’ll explain the psychology behind the technique then I’ll show you how.

Information Loops

Just like in a tv series or film, when it comes to blog conversions cliffhangers work like a charm!

This is due to something called the ‘Zeigarnik effect’.

It is when a piece of information starts but does not finish, our brains then keeps hold of the information, pushing it into our mind time and time again until the information is complete.

It seems to be human nature to finish what we start and if it’s not finished, we can’t forget it.

Bluma Zeigarnik a Russian scientist learned the phenomenon when her tutor Kurt Lewis noticed something very interesting about waiters and waitresses.

After observing them when waiting tables, they realised the waiters had much better recollection of unpaid orders than paid ones.

To the point that, when the table left the restaurant and closed the cheque the staff member would forget their order all together.

The information loop stayed open in the persons mind until the table was complete, because the narrative of that table was not complete.

Get more emails with Zeigarnik’s Findings

We can leverage this technique in our blogs to help us collect emails.

Start a narrative or information loop in the blog post and ask for an email opt-in from the visitor to complete the loop. The ending to the narrative.

The way you do this is simple:

1. Write about niche topics

For example ‘The 6 Most Effective Endurance Exercises’.

In the post start an information loop, the beginning of your narrative, the set up for your cliffhanger.

In this example they talk about 3 of the 6 best ways their readers can improve their abs.

6-best-workouts

They then offer a bonus content area to email subscribers with videos showing in detail how to do all 6 exercises.

Your bonus content could be a PDF, video or even a swipe file.

2. With the Content Cliffhanger plugin give away free bonus content

Create a download for the post that shows the reader in video form all 6 exercises in detail.

This means the reader can close the information loop by downloading the free content.

I created a free wordpress plugin to enable you to easily offer free downloads.

content-cliffhanger

 

3. Record the difference in your email opt-in rate before.

I cannot promise you exact opt in rates, nothing in conversions is a hard and fast rule. There are no one size fits all fixes. But I can say from my experience I have yet to see this make an improvement to a blogs conversion rate.

The difference with this plugin and most others is that you can customize the form and its contents for every post or page. So you can have free downloads that are always aligned with your pages content.

That is the secret behind the technique, when the users search intent is aligned with the opt-in offer, you see much higher conversion rates. Because the giveaway is aligned with what they originally searched for on google.

Start an idea in your blog post but finish it in the download, like a cliffhanger in a good tv series.

People then want to close the information gap or loop, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

This works much better than generic opt-ins like, ‘Join our newsletter’.

You can have increase your blogs conversion rate too…

…but first you must take action on what you learned in this post.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. What techniques are you using to get more conversions? What do you offer your customers when asking them to opt-in?

Talk to you soon below!

giles-thomasDownload the free 65 page Guide to List Building, download the guide here. Giles Thomas writes about Content Marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization at Acquireconvert.com. He is also the founder of  the holistic design agency Whole Design Studios.

 

Using Social Media to Generate Sales Leads

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

Hand over keyboard

photo credit: Free Images

If you’re looking to generate sale leads successfully, you need to go where the people are. And currently, everybody seems to be on social media. At first glance, social media looks like a place for friends and family members to share pictures of their daily outings – which is true to some degree – as social media is about connecting people digitally through conversation.

With the average Facebook user spending 6.35 hours a month on the social platform, and 260 million active users on Twitter, you cannot afford to avoid social media. Businesses are investing a lot of money and time into their social media strategy. On the other hand, smaller businesses cannot afford to budget marketing and finding leads through social media is overwhelming.

If this sounds like your business, stop putting your head in the sand and find those sale leads through social media by following these four simple steps:

Know your audience

People join social networking websites to socialise. They don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements. Advertisements belong in magazines and not on social media. You should treat your social media accounts like you would your mailing list. Be personal, be engaging and be human. Always remember to reply to customer comments.

Give them what they want

You know who your prospective customers are but they don’t know about you. Why should they come to you? Be interesting, be entertaining and be informative with your content. Be reliable, be dependable and don’t ask for anything in return. Soon your prospective customers will find you.

Become the go-to person

You should have an integrated blog on your website. You should be addressing current issues that your customers are facing, updates on your business and daily ramblings. You should be sharing these posts on social media. People are quick to dismiss the brands that they believe will not deliver the services they require. By becoming the go-to person in your industry, you will attract more customers and strengthen existing relationships.

Utilise multiple channels

It is worth knowing that the most popular networking websites are: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Each social media channel boasts their own community. You should adapt your long-term plan to each community accordingly. Have a clear focus, be consistent and prove your expertise. Utilise multiple channels and cross promote. Nonetheless it is better to be actively involved with one or two social channels, than to be spread thinly with no given direction on them all.

Measure your success

There are many free tools to monitor your social media engagement but they do not tell you if people clicked through to your website. Google Analytics is a great tool for learning about your customers. You can see how many people have visited your website through social media. Learn what works for your audience and what doesn’t. By consuming this data you can work to making your social media a triumph.

Finally

Studies show that 70% of businesses generate leads on social media. Productively use social media and your business will see an increase of brand awareness, website traffic and conversation. Follow the above steps and advance your business by attracting more customers and strengthening existing business relationships.

Jane Smith, AllDayPA

Jane writes for alldayPA, a telephone answering service offering business a bespoke call handling service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

 

How to Create the Happily Ever After with a Genuine Business Referral

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Lisa at PA Promotions – Enjoy!

photo credit: flickr

photo credit: flickr

Once upon a time, an apple was a crunchy fruit available in red or green, but now ‘Apple’ is a global brand that has changed the way people communicate. It is a brand we all know and appear to trust; it currently sits proudly as the number one business at the top of the Interbrand top 100 brands. Apple has been referred to as one of the most valuable companies of all time, it has changed our lives and we enjoy their products and appreciate the fact that they continue to innovate.

So what has this got to do with your business? The truth is everything, even though the Apple management team has undergone significant changes at the top, the business continues to thrive and keep close to its brand ethos, continually delivering even more impressive and up to date technologies. As Steve Jobs’ once said about Apple its “brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.”

You Might Not Be the Next Branson

I’m guessing if you are reading this you aren’t Richard Branson or Lord Sugar, and the size and stature of Apple is not something your business has achieved… yet. But you can still learn from them and adapt the same type of transparencies to your brand so that you can enjoy repeat business and create a strong system to generate valuable referrals.

Everyone in business is looking for the same thing, a client who will commit to using their products or services. A chance to develop a long lasting relationship with their clients and hopefully an opportunity of third party endorsement which will mean a strong referral scheme and a chance for your business to grow.

Firstly, of course you have to entice the client into your brand, your shop, your showroom or your website. How do you do that? You create a relevant imaginative name, invest in the design of a logo which will appeal to your target audience and make sure you stand out from the crowd. Brilliant, if you have done this well you can sit back and enjoy the rewards, right? Wrong.

A pretty logo alone will not ensure that your business grows or that your relationships develop. For that to happen the client needs to get a sense of your brand. What is it that your company stands for? Are you eco friendly looking to launch a new widget which will make recycling more convenient for end users? Or are you a reliable boiler engineer that will ensure once serviced your boiler will live to survive the long cold winter?

Whoever you are, whatever sector you operate in, you need to be more than just a logo. You need to have a personality that people can connect with, trust and enjoy dealing with. Every interaction with your brand needs to reflect the brand promise, if you are a health care provider, make sure your offices are decorated combining the perfect mix of cleanliness and professionalism if you are a tattoo artist display your work using your walls as your portfolio.

Let Your Brand Do The Talking

Once you have created your logo, don’t just leave it static, confined to your website, newsletters, and business cards. Lift your logo and take it to your target audience, if you can’t afford TV advertising or billboard campaigns then consider your target audience and send them a gift which you are confident they will find useful. The gift will then enjoy a shelf life and even be passed on to third party end users, who will go one step closer to ensuring a business referral.

To make your brand talk to your customers and encourage more referrals consider the following:

  • Be seen, be noticed, be on a product which will not necessarily stay with the end user but travel to hit a wider audience, for example the popular pen or pencil.
  • Create a collection of merchandise that reflects your brand, and ensure each product will enhance the image of the company. For example, if you don’t want to see your brand in the bin always choose a quality ‘stormproof’ umbrella.
  • Consider subtle branding, create a range of promotional items which are subtly branded alongside an attractive pattern so that the end user is more likely to use your mug rather than somebody else’s’.
  • Understand your target audience, what would they genuinely find useful and therefore keep? For example, a trolley coin, a keyring with a torch or a bottle opener.
  • Send them a sweet treat to thank them for their business, let them know you appreciate them.
  • Be creative with the materials that you choose, consider using pencils made out of recycled bank notes or notepads made out of tyres to create an eco friendly feel.

A survey commissioned by the bpma, British Promotional Marketing Association in 2013 found that the UK is a nation of freebie hunters and that brands who use promotional products as part of the marketing mix will reap the benefits. The research found that 3 in 10 consumers had purposely changed their regular brand in order to receive a promotional product.

So while you are waiting to see what amazing new device Apple will create, take a look at your own business, give yourself a brand health check and consider how you can strengthen your relationship with your customers and encourage that all important brand referral. Establish your own brand guidelines, personality and budget to buy products which will lift your logo and encourage brand loyalty.

A final thought from the leader in creating a leading and long lasting brand, Steve Jobs once said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that is what matters to me.”


Lisa-Author-small
About the Author – Lisa is Creative Director at PA Promotions, she has a passion for content and marketing. PA Promotions have been supplying promotional products and corporate gifts to businesses for almost 30 years.

4 Steps to Leveraging Your Network to Build Your Business

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

Networking doesn’t have to be about luck, but most people I work with treat it that way. Like any marketing endeavor, some simple planning can greatly increase your chances of success. As Sun Tzu famously said, “Most battles are won before they are fought.”

Unlock the potential of your network to grow your business by following the simple, step-by-step plan below;

1. Define your Goals

Networking takes time, so any business goal that needs to be met within 3 months through networking is usually unrealistic. Therefore, list out two primary goals for the next 3 – 6 months, and then two secondary goals that you foresee being a priority in the 6 – 12 month range.

2. Identify your Targets

photo credit: Bogdan Suditu via photopin cc

photo credit: Bogdan Suditu via photopin cc

You don’t target a company – you target a person. Go narrow and deep (versus wide and broad), and find out who makes the purchasing or partnership decisions at the companies you are targeting. You can usually find this information by checking the speaker roster (and topics) from industry events, corporate press releases, and LinkedIn.

3. Identify Your “Strategic Contacts”

With the prevalence of social media, there is almost no excuse for a cold-call or cold-email anymore. As Mark Suster, a prominent venture capitalist, put it very aptly at my Founder Showcase event, “in the era of social networks, if you can’t figure out how to get access to a venture capitalist, hang up your cleats now. You don’t pass the IQ test.”

“Strategic Contacts” are contacts who can provide introductions to your targets, and creating a list of them is easy with LinkedIn’s “Advanced Search Tools”. Here are some things to keep in mind;

  • Scroll through the contacts of the people who come up in your searches – you’ll often discover positions and companies you didn’t know existed.
  • Once you’ve found a search that works best, be sure to “Save This Search” so you can use it in the future.
  • Use LinkedIn for research, but not for contacting. “InMail” and LinkedIn referral requests have become so bogged down by recruiters that most well connected people I know find them un-usable.

4. Email your Strategic Contacts

Now that you have your list of strategic contacts, it’s time to start your outreach via email, which should come in two parts.

Email 1: Create Value

One of my favorite rules of marketing is to always provide value before asking for it in return. This is doubly true for networking, and it does not even have to require a lot of effort – just a small “out of the blue” gesture to a strategic contact can pay large dividends.

For example:

  • Provide an unsolicited intro to somebody in the same industry (“… you two seem like you would have a lot to talk about.”)
  • Send a link to an interesting article about their industry (“… thought this article was interesting. You’ve been in the industry for a while – do you agree with the author?”)
  • A simple check-in (“… Yesterday I randomly thought about that event we both attended in ‘09, and how funny that emcee was. How are things going with you?  Everything well?”)

Whatever you do, just provide value, respond quickly, and keep the conversation going.

Email 2: The Ask

After you have provided value and some time has passed, it is time to ask your contact for an introduction to your target.

Keep the communication within the previous email stream, and send a simple two-sentence email;

  1. One sentence on your company, and what you are looking for.
  2. One sentence on the intro, which includes a mechanism to make the intro feel natural.

For example:

“[MY COMPANY NAME] is an app that connects parents and family-friendly events, and we’re looking for angel investors interested in mobile B2C apps to close out our seed round. I was hoping you could provide a quick intro to [YOUR TARGET] – she has invested in both parent-focused and event-focused apps, so I think we may fit nicely into her strategy.”

Closing Note

Networking is not a “one-off activity”, but if you follow the steps above, you can start leveraging your contacts to help build your business NOW.

Jonathan_Greechan_headshotJonathan Greechan is a Partner and the Head of Marketing at the Founder Institute – an entrepreneur training and startup launch program that has helped launch over 1250 tech companies across 6 continents. In addition, he is a Partner at TheFunded.com, and the Executive Producer of the Founder Showcase, a leading startup event in Silicon Valley. Jonathan has been heavily involved in startups and online marketing since 2004, and has advised hundreds of technology companies. Follow him on Twitter at @jonnystartup.

 

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.