Building Relationships Through the Customer Loop

Today’s Guest Post is by Sam Balter – Enjoy!

The customer journey is a simplified expression of the complex thought process of a customer looking to purchase something. A quick Google search for ‘customer journey’ brings up a myriad of complex diagrams full of hundreds of metrics. The truth is that every company has a unique customer journey; each marketing channel has a unique customer journey, and every product has a unique customer journey. All customers go through a different journey and engage with a brand in a unique way.

The customer journey model relies on seeing a buying decision as linear and a one-off interaction. Brands that will succeed in cross-channel marketing are building a relationship with their customer in every stage of the journey. When thinking about mobile, specifically mobile messaging, it’s all about creating a frictionless and compelling experience for the customer.

Let’s take the basic model of the customer journey: Awareness -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Retention -> Advocacy. The most successful businesses will foster a relationship each step of the customer journey, and along the way, delight their customer.

waterfall, the customer journeyAwareness:
Using physical signage or online advertising is a great way to create awareness of your brand. Visual advertisements capture customers’ attention and use the present moment to start building a relationship via mobile. Here’s an example of a simple text Call-To-Action (CTA) on a billboard:

Get 20% off your next purchase
Text KRUSTY to 55155

Using a text call-to-action on outdoor signage helps get more from marketing dollars because the billboard creates an impression, and the mobile messaging gives you a way to speak directly to your customer. Mobile messaging adds a CRM component to an awareness campaign.

To take this a step further, a brand might want to ask their customer for their zip code so that location-specific offers can be delivered. If you want to see some great CTAs, check out our site where we’ve compiled examples of successful CTAs, Art of the CTA.

Consideration:
To optimize the efficacy of mobile as a channel, it’s imperative to send the right message at the right time. If Krusty Burger wants to increase lunch traffic, it makes no sense to send a message at 4:15pm. Instead, achieve optimal results by sending a message one to two hours before a customer is encouraged to take action. That way, when their stomach starts to growl, they know they’ve got a Krusty Burger coupon in their pocket.

To take it to another level, consider using a share-with-friend function that will allow more people to get in on the savings while capturing more phone numbers in the process.

Purchase:
This is an incredibly powerful step of the customer journey. I am very cheap, so sometimes purchasing things can make me feel a little guilty. It is important to offset these feelings of guilt with heart warming offers. For example, offer customers the ability to receive a receipt via Multimedia Message, thereby saving paper, or the chance to enter a sweepstakes, to win a prize. If you have connected unique coupon codes with your point of sale system, you can even deliver the customer a coupon just moments after their purchase.

Retention:
An excellent part of mobile messaging campaigns is that in the awareness stage, a customer can opt-in to a loyalty program, and from there, consistently receive coupons and deals. For mobile messaging loyalty programs, we suggest the offers vary; mix SMS and MMS, and collect different pieces of information every few messages. Ask questions like: What is your favorite meal? When is your birthday? What is your email address, etc.? Encourage customers to provide information with incentives, and only ask for information if you will use it to delight your customers.

Advocacy:
It seems like only a few years ago, the only way for people to advocate for a brand or product they believed in was through word of mouth. Now, every customer has access to a digital bullhorn. Capitalize on customers’ social media connects with mobile messaging by embedding ‘click to tweet or post’ within your message copy. At Waterfall, we are big fans of viral sharing campaigns. Dropbox built an enormous user base through a viral sharing campaign in which every referral you signed up added additional storage to your account. This is a great way to provide value to your most helpful customers by leveraging the power of social amplification.

Customer Loop – The future of the customer journey
The customer journey has long reigned as a keystone of modern marketing. As we move into a cross-channel world, where brands are advertising to, providing content for, and engaging in conversations with customers, the journey will be replaced by a loop in which each interaction strengthens the bond between brand and brand advocate.

Sam Balter WaterfallSam Balter is a Marketing Manager at Waterfall, a mobile messaging and CRM provider that helps companies engage their customers on their phones. Sam writes about mobile strategy, industry trends, and how to create successful cross-channel marketing campaigns.

60 Ways to Screw Up the Customer Experience

I rarely lead with the negative, but sometimes it’s the best way to get someone’s attention.

Customer Experience

photo credit: Untitled via photopin (license)

When I present marketing strategy to groups I’ll often ask them to identify the characteristics of their ideal customers, and they can’t seem to narrow their thinking beyond people with money. But when I ask them to tell me who they “don’t” want to work with, many characteristics leap to mind.

Here’s the deal – every way, shape and form that your business comes into contact with prospects, customers and friends of friends of both, you are performing a marketing function. So let me ask you this – have you considered the impact or lack of impact of every touch point in your customer’s journey?

In order to expand your thinking on this point, let’s audit the real and potential touch points that impact the customer experience and ultimately your brand, in general. (The main thing we are looking for is an appealing, positive, consistent message across these touch points and a call to action that makes someone want to go on a continuing journey with you.)

Some of you might recognize the categories of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer as stages in something I’ve been calling the Marketing Hourglass, that point to the logical way to think about a perfect end-to-end customer experience.

Know – This is how people become aware of your business and brand.

  • Website – Many times a prospect visits your website first to learn what you have to offer – what message does this touch point send? (add this question to every point below because that’s what I want you to consider.)
  • Advertising – Your ads may be the first way someone is introduced to your business.
  • Marketing materials – Don’t forget offline materials that help tell your story in more tactile ways.
  • Networking – How you network, where you network and who you are in conversations with, are all part of your brand
  • Networks – What social network you choose to engage in, and how deeply you choose to participate matters.
  • Referrals – When a raving fan refers someone to your business, how are they greeted? Are they treated special?
  • Content – How are you using content to both create awareness and act as a home to send those who encounter your ads?

Like – This is the stage in which people are starting to notice your brand and decide if they want to know more.

  • Community involvement – Encountering your brand through other communities and community involvement can send a strong signal about what you’re passionate about.
  • Events – Demonstrating your expertise and giving advice before you ever start to promote is one way to gain respect and authority.
  • Physical presence – What does your office, your store, your dress say about your brand? I’m not suggesting what it should say, simply that it does speak something.
  • Value proposition – Do people automatically understand that you do something very, very well that matters to them?
  • Social engagement – How you engage on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is observable – have you considered the impact of this on your brand?
  • Graphic design – Many companies have won with a focus on design. Many more don’t give it a second thought. What does the design of your product, service, website, communication, email signature say or not say?
  • Content – Again with content – it has an intentional use at just about every stage, but you must understand each use – for like, content might just be mostly about telling your story.
  • Your people – Culture is marketing and for the most part people experience culture through people. Do your people understand your brand and have they been recruited because your story resonates?

Trust – No one buys from companies they do not trust and it’s never been easier to learn who is trustworthy, and who is not.

  • SEO – I like to put search at the top of the trust list because today if you’re not showing up in a variety of online fronts, you’re throwing off a huge trust downgrade. If you don’t dominate the entire page one for a search on your company name, you’ve got an issue.
  • Reputation – We won’t do business with companies that even total strangers have told us don’t keep their word. Proactively managing your reputation online and off has to be part of the marketing puzzle.
  • Referrals – Referrals, like other elements, show up in different stages because we are no longer really in charge of how people go on a journey. A referral can be the ultimate trust signal if you treat it that way.
  • Demonstrations – People often misinterpret a demo as a way to show what a product or service does – it’s not, it must first be a way to show why what it does is so awesome for me. Fix this part!
  • Influence – Like it not, the last time I checked my Klout score (okay it was today) is was considered pretty good. Yes, people obsess over social proof and that’s what makes it matter as a factor. Work on building your influence by helping others build theirs – more on that.
  • Success stories – Show me proof that other people just like me actually achieved what I want to achieve by working with you.
  • Public relations – I believe someone else who says you are super talented more than I believe you telling me that. Seeing your name penned by others or reading a piece you contributed to a publication I respect send huge trust signals.
  • Consistency – This is a tough one. I guess this is actually a rallying cry for process documentation, but know that one of the greatest eroders of trust is an inconsistent experience. How do you make sure I get the same experience every time and every place?
  • More events – Getting to experience your knowledge and slightly sarcastic sense of humor by way of a webinar or presentation at the lunch network I belong to is one powerful way of building trust.
  • Connecting – Who you are connected to, who you have as a guest on your podcast, and who you reach out and connect me to suggests you are someone to trust.
  • Content – Oh no here it is again – what content are you offering freely that takes our relationship to entirely new level now that I’m really paying attention?
  • Sales process – This might be another call for consistency, but simply having a process for when someone completes an online form or requests a demo is a start. Even better, what could you do that would blow me away in response to my hinting I might need what you offer?

Try – This is a stage that many neglect, but now that I think you have the answer, can you prove it?

  • Demonstrations – The demo shows up here again because now I just might want to know how the thing is going to work for me and my team – this is a different kind of demo, but it still needs to be about me and my team.
  • Freemium offer – Is there a way to let me try it for 30 days first?
  • Starter offer – Is there a smaller version  that would give me a greater sense of why I can’t live without you and your solutions?
  • Switch offer – It’s painful to switch – what could you do to make it fun and risk free?
  • Proof of concept – Personalize something just for me so I could see just how great life will be when you’re my partner.
  • Events – Events are also a pretty good way to let someone see what it might be like to work with you – an event can be a meeting with the executive team of a prospect where you facilitate a discussion and help the team align on priorities.
  • Conversion materials – Blog posts and ebooks are great in the start, but now you have to personalize and demonstrate or calculate the return on investment for me.
  • Upsell process – Okay I’ve tried it out and I love it, but now you want me to pay? What have you done to hammer home the value and let me see that I would be a fool to not jump in full time now?
  • Incentive program – Sometimes you’ve got to have a plan to sweeten the deal to get me act today – let me bring a friend, give me annual pricing or surprise with me something more than I was expecting.

Buy – The buying experience itself is an often overlooked touch point in the marketing process, but it must be as intentional as everything that led to this point.

  • Sales process – What do you do when the phone rings? Remember if this has been done right, I already know, like and trust you – what do you in the sales process that keeps the experience useful?
  • Nurturing process – I can’t make a decision right now or at least I don’t know how to – what do you do to continue to show value – what materials, training, education can you shower me with?
  • Orientation process – I’ve said yes, now what? Do you have a process that makes certain I know what’s going on at all times, I know who to call, what to send, how to get in touch?
  • Training materials – Yes I know you explained how to use your gizmo, but that was a while ago – where can go to learn how again, where can I send my people, how do I become a ninja user?
  • Cross sell process – Worst phrase a business can hear – Oh wait, I didn’t know you also did that, I bought from XYZ company. How will you let me know what else I might need in a way that a friend might tell a friend about something cool?
  • Contract process – Wait, you mean legal is part of the marketing team? Oh yes, and how many sales have been killed by this branch of the marketing team? The contract process is what it is, but does it have to be so painful? Why not make it one of the most playful parts of your brand?
  • Financial engagement – You expect me to pay, I know that, but did you know your billing, shopping cart and even how you communicate about being paid are also marketing functions? Consider this touch point as part of the buying journey.
  • Project management – Depending upon what you do, how you manage the work, communicate progress, add and assign tasks weighs heavily on how smoothly a project goes and whether there will be another.
  • Delivery – This can be the delivery of information or of a physical product in a box, but it’s a marketing touch point. Think about the coolest present and wrapping you ever received, and work from there.
  • Communication – As you work with clients you have to adjust to how they want to communicate. Sometimes that means you have to offer options, show them how to unify communications and teach them some new ways to communicate that will benefit their productivity and amplify your results.

Repeat – One of the best ways to grow a business is to do more with existing clients while you add new.

  • Results review – Now that you think I’m happy what are you going to do to make certain? Do you actually know the value of what you’ve delivered?
  • Events – Events and content are staples in every stage but now that I’m a customer I want to know that you consider me a part of your community.
  • Testimonials – Part of the process of finding out how much value you’ve delivered is to use it as a way to consistently collect rave reviews.
  • Case study – Do you have a process to document what a great result I got?
  • Cross sell – Do  you have a process to make sure I know what else you can do for me?
  • On going training – Keep teaching me more about how to do things I want to do, and I’ll keep buying more of those things from you that allow me to do that.

Refer – Every business loves referrals – most get referrals for good work done, but few intentionally generate referrals.

  • Referral education – Do you have a process to teach your referral champions the best way to spot and refer a prospect?
  • Events – Bring your champions together and make them a network – empower them with extra attention
  • Referral offers – Make a game out of referring your business, and keep your offers (rarely financial) top of mind by reminding me quarterly how to play the game.
  • Referral materials – Do you make it easy for your referral champions to put something tangible in the hands of their friends, neighbors, and colleagues?
  • Partner outreach – Don’t forget about the power of building a team of best of class providers for almost everything your clients might need. This team could be the greatest source of new business for you.
  • Co-marketing – Have you identified 4-5 other businesses that target your same ideal customer? How could you multiply the number of people that come into contact with your brand through this group?
  • Referral content – Yes, I’m going to end on content. What eBook, webinar or presentation could you take to your partners with the idea that they could use this content to shower value on their network while also subtly referring you?

As I read back through this long and winding post it dawned on me that you could view this as a way to guide the customer experience or you could simply employ this as your entire marketing plan – either way, you win.

6 Ways to Develop Repeat Customers

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing’s own Kala Linck – Enjoy!

You may have heard us talk about the Marketing Hourglass. The Marketing Hourglass refers to the entire customer journey, from when they first hear about your brand, to when they decide to purchase from your brand, to when they become a loyal customer and refer your brand to other potential customers. This technique, we’ve found, is the best way to find and secure business.

The bottom of the hourglass (“Repeat” and “Refer”) can be neglected when so much energy is going into finding and converting new clients and customers. Now that you’ve secured the business or converted the lead, you’re celebrating! Plus, you’re exhausted from all of the work it takes to make a sale or gain a customer. Today, I’m going to help you make sure that your clients are repeating. It’s vital that your customers return to your business a second and third time. When they become repeat customers, you rely less on the energy for new customers because

a) you’ve got customers coming back, and

b) those customers can refer you to new customers.

Products and services are different, which is why I put together three tips for each on things you can do to ensure you keep those customers coming back for more.

Services

Photo via PhotoPIn

Photo via PhotoPIn

Let’s start with services. There is a lot of pressure on the service industry to provide continuous support. Just one bad experience can turn a customer against you, and these things can help prevent that from happening and keep them coming back for more. The key is to be the most convenient offering of your particular service. You can do this by:

  1. Offer packages. If you offer packages, you’ll provide an immediate reason for a customer to keep coming back to you – at least until their package is over – giving you plenty of time to provide great customer service. By the end of their package, they won’t want to go anywhere else! A great example of this is something I recently experienced when I needed an eye exam. It’s necessary that each time I go in for an exam, I purchase contacts. So, by purchasing one eye exam and getting the next two free, my eye doctor is guaranteeing that I will make my next two contact purchases from them.
  2. Send reminders. One reason that I keep going back to my dentist is because every six months, they call to remind me that it’s time for a regular cleaning. When they call me, we schedule my appointment. Now, remembering to go to the dentist is one less thing that I need to do, and it’s that convenience that makes me a repeat customer.
  3. Offer an unexpected bonus. Many times, what we pay for is what we get. We can pay to get our yard mowed from seven different lawn companies, and when we get home we see that our lawn has, indeed, been mowed. Stand out from the other lawn companies by spending an additional half hour edging the sidewalk for a client. They will see the difference, and it will help them to remember to call you when they need lawn care again.

Products

Photo via PhotoPin

Photo via PhotoPin

What about products? All products, but especially if you’ve got a lot of competitors, need to ensure customers get value out of your product so that they will continue to make purchases. With products, you’ve got a margin to contend to. What are some subtle differences that you can offer without diminishing that margin? Here are three ideas that can help you maintain your customer base:

  1. Provide fast shipping. I don’t think I’m the only one that gets thrilled when something I ordered gets to me at the low end of the projected shipping timeline. Three days is certainly better than five! There is minimal that you can do when the package leaves your warehouse to head to your customer, but what can you do on the front end to speed up your process? Knowing how long packages take to get to your customers is the first step. Make sure your projections are accurate, under promise and over deliver, and if necessary, make some changes in your process to get your customers what they purchased faster.
  2. Offer points. Credit card companies have been doing this for years, but now products are starting to see the benefits of offering a points system. Much like the rewards program at your favorite lunch spot that you keep going back to because you’re SO close to that free lunch, rewards programs are a great way to stay in touch with customers and build loyal fans.
  3. Use special packaging. When packaging is personal or nicer than your average crushed box, customers are more likely to buy again. Most everyone wants to feel special. Whether it’s putting your product in a decorative paper bag with crepe paper before they walk out the door or adding a special customer note in their package when you ship it, that little touch of something extra will help your customer remember you for their next purchase.

There are many ways that your can make your customers feel like they are spending their money in the right place, and these are just a few that I have found to keep me coming back for more. You’ve probably been thinking about your product or service throughout this post. Have you come up with any ideas to implement into your customer journey? Or is there something that you already do that is effective? If so, please share below!

IMG_2750Kala is the Community Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. She’s a specialist in digital marketing, who loves nothing more than picking up a newspaper and tuning into the local stations. She’s worked with clients spanning a variety of industries and knows that people are the heart of a successful business. She loves to travel and try new foods, and documents her travels in her blog. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

 

How to Create the Perfect Customer Journey

photo credit: Reloj.cp via photopin (license)

photo credit: Reloj.cp via photopin (license)

The Marketing Hourglass is a powerful tool to map out your marketing efforts in a way that makes sense to everyone in your organization. Most marketers view the customer experience as a funnel, but we at Duct Tape Marketing know that the customer experience ideally goes beyond the point of sale.

Mapping it out in this way has helped many small businesses think about and improve upon their method of guiding customers. Having a game plan for your customers to know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer you is necessary to ensure your customers are taken care of across all levels of the customer journey.

Keeping tabs on how your brand is represented within the Hourglass mindset is equally important.   Follow the steps below to conduct your own Marketing Hourglass Brand Audit: 

Before you get started on the Marketing Hourglass:

Step 1: Define and sketch the makeup and personality of your ideal clients

Step 2: Discover your perfect value proposition

Step 3: Brainstorm and document your vision and goals

Step 4: Create your brand personality that represents your culture statement

Step 5: Outline branding guidelines – ie colors, fonts, images, etc.

Step 6: Create a brand positioning statement including all the elements above

Once you complete the brand positioning statement, run through the following questions of the Hourglass to ensure your brand is consistent across all stages.  These questions are meant to get you started thinking through each stage. You may want to add more questions in as you go through the process.

Know

–       Do your ads communicate the brand positioning statement? Do they target and connect with your ideal clients?

–       Do your social media accounts have consistent images and messages?  Are they promoted on your website?

–       Are your guest post contributions targeted towards your ideal clients audience base?

–       Are your keywords consistent and focused on monthly themes?

–       Are your local directories complete with your core difference and branding guidelines?

–       Do you have a systemized plan to handle all referrals that come in?

Like

–       Do your print assets include your core message and brand personality?

–       Is your website consistent to your brand positioning statement and your writing style guide?

–       Do your logo and company name represent your brand positioning?

–       Do your business cards include your core difference?

–       Are your email signatures and tag lines consistent across your entire team?

–       Is your vision documented on your website for your ideal clients to relate to?

–       Is your website mobile responsive?

Trust

–       Are your newsletters consistent with your website branding?  Does the newsletter go out on a regular basis and include valuable content for your audience?  Is there an opt-in incentive for your newsletter?

–       Are your email campaigns consistent with you branding guidelines?

–       Do you follow monthly themes on your blog to establish your company as an expert on focused topics?

–       Do you regularly promote and monitor review sites?

Try

–       What is your free or trial offering?  How do you encourage people to sign up for the free trial?

–       Is your follow up for the free trial consistent with your brand positioning?

–       Do your PowerPoint presentations match your website branding?

Buy

–       What is your starter offering?

–       What is your core offering?

–       What is your members-only offering?

–       Do your contracts and invoices match your brand positioning statement?

–       Do you have a detailed new customer kit once someone signs on as a customer?  If so, does this follow your brand positioning?

Repeat

–       What are your add-ons to increase value?

–       What is your “make it easy to switch” offering?

–       What is your surprise gift to encourage repeat customers?

–       Do you have a targeted process to upsell to your current clients?

Refer

–       What are our strategic partner pairings?

–       How do you encourage your current customers to refer?  Do you share your ideal client personas?

–       Does your incentive for referrals tie in your branding and/or culture in some way?

The point of the hourglass metaphor is to get you thinking not only about how to generate and close deals but how to create the best possible experience as part of the plan.

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.  Interested in developing your own Marketing Hourglass with the Duct Tape team?  Click here to learn why a Duct Tape Marketing plan my be perfect for your business. 

As a Business, We Are What We Aspire to Be

The title of this post applies to most things in life I feel and certainly in business. Unless we have goals and aspirations for our business, it’s hard to imagine arriving at a destination of our own control.

Businesses have long espoused the virtues of mission statements, but it’s only when you live these statements through everyday acts that they become real.

My business has always been driven by a few simple ideas, but only recently did I turn them into what I call a “culture statement.” I would say these ideas represent a great deal of what I’ve always stood for, but seeing them in this fashion keeps them even more firmly rooted in my day to day actions.

The idea behind a culture statement is to come up with a set of ideas for what you stand for and then build upon them in ways that make them real in everyday situations. This not only lets team members know a bit about what we stand for it also helps us all make the right decisions when the heat of the moment may creep in and attempt to dictate how we act.

This is how culture is built, communicated and lived through decision-making that happens in real time.

We use this document in training and keep it front and center at all times. It’s our plan to discuss individual attributes during review meetings and I’m happy to share it here publicly.

If you find this document interesting you might also enjoy similar ones from Buffer, Zappos and check out the companies rated by Glassdoor to have the best cultures. After wrestling with this idea for a while a couple things became very clear:

  • A culture statement starts by reflecting who you really are – there’s no point in coming up with stuff that simply sounds good
  • A culture statement should include some aspirational elements – it’s okay to include “this is something we strive for but don’t always achieve “- that’s how we grow
  • A culture statement will evolve as you grow – add new things, take things away, consolidate and learn
  • A culture statement, like so many things in business, will flow only as it’s lived from the top – if the boss doesn’t live it, it won’t mean much
  • A culture statement must be taught, led and enforced – make time to discuss various elements of the culture statement as you teach and review actions inside the business
  • A culture statement is a team game. not an edict – everyone in the organization needs to come to their own terms with what the values mean to them and how they can best live them

How to Add Serious Value to Your Online Community

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

According to research carried out by social media experts, Socialnomics, 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations, whereas only 14% trust advertisements. Perhaps that’s why online communities are so good at generating business referrals?

Developing an online community is all about engagement. As a small business owner, you want people to participate in your forum discussions, leave comments on your blog posts and recommend your products and services to other people. But how exactly do you go about achieving this?

The answer lies in the value that you add to your members. Here’s how you can inspire your online community and create a small army of brand catalysts.

Encourage Press Release Sharing

According to press release experts, PR Web, 80 million of us read our news online every day and amongst those 80 million people are your community. If you’re not already in the B2B marketplace, get other businesses in your industry involved in your community by encouraging them to share their press releases on your site. Not only will this improve your brand authority but it’ll also add huge value to your existing community members as they’ll be able to keep up to date with the latest movements in the marketplace without having to look elsewhere.

Create a Classifieds Board

In the same way that Gumtree enables people to post classified ads in their local area, enabling people to promote their services within your industry is a great way to add value to your community. A classifieds board will encourage people to visit your website regularly to see what promotions and offers are available. Consider allowing other businesses to post job vacancies on your site too as this can help improve your authority in the marketplace and establish your brand as a market leader. This in turn, will add value to your community as your members will associate themselves as being part of a successful network.

Initiate Collaborations

‘Hi Linda, have you met John?’ Much like a business version of Match.com, your website can become a hub for people in your industry to find collaborators with whom to create new projects. Actively promote new members who join your community and encourage existing members to introduce themselves. By creating business opportunities within your community, you’ll add significant value and encourage people to increase their presence on your website.

Develop a Forum Thread Specifically for Beginners

We all had to start our business careers somewhere, right? Why not make your online forum the place that those new to the market go to for advice on getting started in your industry? Developing a thread specifically for newcomers will help expand your community and recruit new members. It’ll also give more experienced users the opportunity to share their wisdom with others. Your thread may even lead to successful mentorships for your members.

Review Related Products and Services

The chances are that your industry isn’t limited to the types of products and services that your business offers. One way to add value to your community is to review related services that your website visitors will find useful. This can help establish your business as a trusted brand and will expand your community out with your own particular niche. Writing reviews will encourage people from all corners of the marketplace to visit your site for impartial information about the latest products in your industry.

Adding value to your online community will help you retain existing community members, attract new users and position your business in such a way that you’ll benefit from having an army of loyal fans spreading the word about your brand.

 

Jamie ThomsonJamie Thomson is a freelance copywriter at Brand New Copy where he writes about small business and content marketing on his copywriting blog. He’s also the founder of The Tutor Website, an online hub for small business owners in the private tutoring industry.

 

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.

How Networking Can Increase Your Sales and Help Your SEO

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

pushing social network structure

photo credit: Thinkstock

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know”? Although your skills and dedication play a large part in starting your business, your chances of success rise when you know the right people.

Networking is one of the most valuable business tactics in growing your business, because it gives you the opportunity to learn from others and to tell them about your business in return. Consequently, networking can expand the reach of your business, boost your website’s search rankings, and increase your customer referrals. Here’s how:

Collaboration with industry experts increases your brand exposure

Networking gives you the chance to not only discuss your business with professionals but to also offer them something of value, whether that is your help, your service, or your knowledge.

When you meet others whom you think might be a great resource for your business, offer to partner with them on a project that is mutually beneficial to both of you. Although the type of partnership you create will largely depend on your business and your goals, there are so many collaboration opportunities available in real life and in the digital world.

Offering to speak at one of their events or collaborate with them on a white paper gives you the opportunity to showcase your industry expertise while tapping into and connecting with their existing network. Cross-business collaboration is thus a great way to gain greater publicity for your business without coming across as overtly promotional.

Trustworthy referrals influence consumers’ purchasing decision

In an age when reviews are readily accessible on the Internet and the market is inundated by similar products and services, businesses rely on positive referrals to gain new customers. In fact, statistics show that 65 percent of new customers come from referrals, primarily because people gather other people’s opinion before determining whether they should purchase a product.

Therefore, in order to boost your brand trust and increase your referrals, you must establish excellent business partnerships. For example, ask a business connection if they’d be interested in setting up a barter program with you, in which you’ll do work for them and refer new clients to their business and vice versa. Although you’ll be doing some work for free, the high-quality leads that you’ll receive from the partnership will override any monetary loss you may have.

In addition, maintain positive relationships with your loyal customers by offering them referral incentives. Offer a reward or a discount if they refer your business to a friend. A compelling reward and a clear and easy call-to-action will encourage customers to recommend your business to their contacts, increasing your network, brand reach, and leads.

Digital networking encourages brand trust

Building a network between your business, your customers, and experts in your field not only builds up your brand’s credibility but also boosts your SEO efforts. The best way to do this is to create connections with important bloggers and to network with your customers on social media.

In the last year, consumer confidence in social media as a trustworthy source of information increased +75 percent. Therefore, instead of advertising, which don’t work anyway, network on social media. When you connect with consumers on a personal level, you not only gather valuable insight on your their needs and wants but you also earn their trust. In addition, many experts say that there is a correlation between social media and SEO in link opportunity and search volume increase, which is an additional perk of using social media.

You also don’t have to network with just business owners. Sometimes, establishing a connection with thought leaders and influencers in your industry who are willing to write about your product or service and link back to your site is useful in increasing your brand exposure and building up your backlink profile. Especially since SEO and PR are becoming more integrated, it is important to get featured on authoritative sites in order to boost your site ranking.

Networking is a powerful strategy earning you high-quality leads, more customers, and brand trust. Therefore, view every moment as a potential networking opportunity and watch your business grow.

20140319144747_samSamantha Pena is a Content Strategist for Hudson Horizons, a digital agency that offers Web design, development, and marketing for small to mid-sized businesses. In addition to her weekly posts on Hudson, she also writes for various notable digital marketing sites on social media marketing and SEO. You can read her latest posts on Google+.