Why You Must Act Now to Become the #1Rated Provider in Your Area

Why You Must Act Now to Become the #1-rated Provider in Your Area - Duct Tape Maketing

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It’s no secret that getting positive ratings and reviews about your business on third-party websites is an important part of marketing these days. Study after study has confirmed that a majority of consumers trust online reviews of local businesses and use those reviews when making buying decisions.  However, despite all the press about the importance of reviews, many local businesses still haven’t gotten the message and are not doing anything to encourage their customers to leave a review for them—and that’s great news for you.

You see, the fact that many businesses are not giving this aspect of marketing the attention it deserves means that it may not be too late for you to become the #1-rated provider of your products or services in your local area.  If you act quickly to claim this title, it could have a profound and lasting impact on your business.

The Psychology of Being #1

Before I get into how you can go about becoming the top-rated provider in your area, allow me to explain why doing so is well worth your time.  You’re probably familiar with the psychological concept of social proof, which says that people tend to reference the behavior of others when making decisions.  What you may not be aware of is how powerful this phenomenon is.

In many studies covering a wide variety of industries, the best predictor of the popularity of something was how popular it was already.  That has been proven to be true for everything from the number of downloads a song will get to which answer people will choose on a multiple choice test.

It has also been proven that a small increase in popularity early on will lead to a much larger increase in popularity down the road.  There is no denying that people simply trust the judgement of the crowd.

What this phenomenon means for your business is that if none of your local competitors has any online ratings or reviews—which is still the case in many industries in many local markets—by simply getting a small handful of great reviews on one or two key sites, you can not only become the top-rated provider in your area, but you will likely ensure that you will always be the top-rated provider in your area.

You see, once you get a few great reviews on third-party websites, at least some people will choose to do business with you simply because of that fact.  This will, in turn, make it more likely that you will get more good reviews on more third-party websites…which will make it more likely that people will choose you simply because of your good reviews…and so on.

The good news for you is that if you take action on this quickly, by the time your competitors realize what you’re doing you’ll probably be so far ahead that they’ll never catch up.  The bad news is that if your competitors take action first, you will have your work cut out for you if you ever want to unseat them as the top-rated company in your area.

Deciding what category you will be top-rated in

Now that you understand the importance of acting quickly to become the top-rated provider in your area, let’s talk about how exactly to go about doing that.

The first step is to decide what product or service you are going to be the top-rated provider of.  At first this might seem obvious, but it’s actually important to put a little thought into this for a few reasons.

First, you should do a little bit of keyword research to find out what products or services your potential customers are searching for, and what keywords they are using to describe those products.  This is important because you’ll want your business’s listings on third-party review sites to show up in search results for popular search terms, which means you’ll need to use those terms in the description of your business that you put on those sites.

For example, a handyman might determine that many people in his area are looking for plumbers online, but not many people are searching using the term “handyman”.  He would want to make sure to include terms related to plumbing on his business listings so that when he collects reviews he can brand himself as the top-rated plumber in the area.  Being the top-rated provider of a service nobody is searching for defeats the purpose of creating social proof, and won’t do you any good.

Another reason that you should put some thought into what category you will target for top-rated status is that one of your competitors may have beaten you to the punch in one category, but be lagging behind in another.

For example, a cleaning company that offers residential and commercial cleaning might have a competitor who only offers residential cleaning and has 20 five-star reviews on Google.  It might make more sense for that company to try and get reviews from their commercial cleaning customers and brand themselves as the top-rated commercial cleaning company in the area, instead of trying to catch up with their competitor in the residential cleaning category.

Of course, you can certainly become the top-rated company in your area in multiple categories, but you should first target categories that will get you the best results the fastest, and then move on to more specific categories.

How to get reviews

Once you’ve determined what category you want to become top-rated in and have set up listings for your business on third-party review sites using keywords related to that category, it’s time to start getting some reviews on those sites.

There’s really only one way to do this, and that means asking for them…and asking a lot.  As more and more companies catch on to how important reviews are, your customers will begin to get bombarded with requests for reviews.  Here’s a few tips about how to make it more likely that they will respond to your requests:

  • Have a specific point in your customer service cycle where you ask for a review in order to make it less likely that you’ll forget to do it.
  • Train yourself and your employees to always ask for a review whenever they get a compliment from a customer. Be specific about where you want the customer to leave a review, and give them the information they need to do it (such as a direct link to the site where you want the review sent in an email).
  • Especially target customers you have a long history and close relationship with. They’ll not only be more likely to leave you a review, but their review will probably be more descriptive.
  • In addition to your customers, ask strategic partners to leave you a review. This is 100% legitimate as long as they make it clear in the review that they are speaking not as a customer but from someone who has knowledge of your business from the perspective of a strategic partner.
  • Consider using an automated reputation marketing tool to help you collect reviews (Us and GetFiveStars.com are two examples of these).

Where to get reviews

The answer to where to get your customers to leave reviews for your business depends to a certain extent on your industry, your competitors, and where you are located, but for most businesses, the following guidelines are a good starting point.

  • Start by getting six 5-star reviews on your Google My Business page. This will make the average star rating show up on the page instead of just the number of reviews.  It will also make your Google listing more likely to show up as one of the three businesses displayed in the maps section of the local search results.  This will help kick-start your “top-rated” claim.
  • Next, get 5-10 reviews on your business Facebook page. This page often turns up just after or even before your website in search results when people search for your business by name.
  • After Google and Facebook, do some local searches for the keywords you are targeting and also some branded searches for your business, and see what directories if any turn up in search results. Get some reviews on these directories next and get 5-10 reviews on each.
  • Last but not least, get some reviews on high-traffic industry-specific review sites such as Homeadvisor.com, Zillow.com, Healthgrades.com, or Cars.com.

Once you’ve done all of the above, then pick one or two sites to get the majority of your reviews on going forward.  It will be easier to brand yourself as the “top-rated” provider if you can point to a large number of reviews on one site vs having to average ratings and reviews across many sites (although this is still a valid strategy).

What to do if you’ve already been beaten

In some competitive industries or large metropolitan areas, if you are just now starting to gather ratings and reviews, you may be too late to the party to become the top-rated provider.  In that case, with a little bit of creativity you can still use social proof to help you get new customers:

  • Narrow your geographic focus: If someone else has nailed down the top-rated status for your industry in the closest major city, try targeting your suburb or even your neighborhood (if your business is located in a neighborhood that has a widely used name but is not formally recognized as a municipality).
  • Target a narrower category: If there is a service you provide that your highly-rated competitor doesn’t, get some reviews reflecting that and brand yourself as the #1-rated provider of that service.
  • Get reviews from a specific category of customer: Instead of branding yourself as the #1 rated provider of your service overall, you could brand yourself as the #1 choice of a specific type of customer after collecting reviews from that type of customer. For example, a cake bakery could get reviews from owners of bridal salons in the area and brand themselves as the “top-rated bakery for wedding cakes among local bridal salons”.

By following the tips listed above, within relatively short order you should be able to claim the title of “#1-rated” in at least one category.  Don’t wait too long to take action, though—for all you know, your closest local competitor could be reading this same blog post and planning their own top-rated marketing campaign!

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network and the owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, the #1-rated marketing agency in Christiansburg, VA.  He’s also co-author of the award-winning book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation and the host of the top-rated video podcast The Small Business Marketing Minute Show. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

Ten Steps to Starting a Podcast

Ten Steps to Starting a Podcast - Duct Tape Marketing

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As the content marketing arms race continues to heat up, it’s becoming harder and harder to get noticed.  Sometimes it seems that unless you are a published author, speaker, and prolific blogger, you won’t get much traffic or recognition as an authority in your niche.  This is especially true in competitive niches like small business marketing, where having a blog is now practically considered a minimum expectation.  For people struggling to keep up with the competition, there is some good news, however—at this time, podcasting is still a relatively easy way to differentiate yourself from the competition, stand out in a crowded market, and gain access to hard-to-reach influencers in your industry.

Notice I say “at this time”.  While podcasting might not ever become as prolific as blogging is as a form of content marketing, I do think there will come a time when the number of people who have their own podcast will become so great that it just won’t be very exciting anymore.  That time hasn’t arrived yet—in fact, about 50% of Americans still don’t even know what a podcast is, and even among content marketers there are still relatively few podcasters.

Perhaps this is because people believe that podcasting is technically difficult and requires more time and energy than blogging.  Ironically, the truth is exactly the opposite—writing a keyword-rich blog post optimized for internet search actually requires more technical skill (in terms of knowledge of SEO best practices) and more time than producing a good podcast episode.  In fact, it’s taken me about four times as long to write the first three paragraphs of this blog post as it does to record one episode of my podcast.

For those of you who have been considering starting a podcast, now is the time to do it.  Follow this ten-step process to get your show up and running.

Step one: pick a topic

Picking a topic for a podcast should be fairly easy for people who have an existing business or a blog, since your podcast can simply be on the same topic as your blog.  However, you should probably check iTunes before finalizing your topic to see how many podcasts there are covering the same subject.

If there are few podcasts about your topic, that makes your job easier.  If there are many podcasts about your topic, then you’ll want to spend some time thinking about how your podcast will be different than all the existing podcasts about the same subject.  If you simply copy what many other people are already doing, it will be harder for you to build an audience.

Step two: pick a format

Once you have a topic, you’ll need to decide on a format for your show.  Will the host of the show interview a guest in each episode who is an expert on the topic?  Or will the host be the expert who provides all the content?  Will you have one host or two hosts?  How long will your episodes be?  How often will you publish new episodes?  Will your show be a video or audio podcast?

It’s important to consider your target audience as you answer these questions.  For example, the target audience for my podcast is busy local business owners who probably don’t have 40 minutes to listen to a long podcast every week.  As a result, most of my podcast episodes are only about 5 minutes long.  However, if your target audience is marathon runners who love listening to podcasts about fitness as they train for their next race, then you’ll probably want to make your episodes a little longer.

Step three: get equipment

Contrary to what you might think, you really don’t need much equipment to produce a quality podcast.  All you need is a quality microphone (I use the Blue Nessie), a Skype account, software to record a Skype call (like Pamela), and some basic software for editing audio files (like Audacity).  You can get all of the above for under $100.  If you’re starting a video podcast, you’ll need some additional equipment (like a webcam), but if you want to keep it simple and stick with an audio podcast, you’ll be just fine with the basics.

Step four: set up hosting

Just like a website, podcasts need a place on a server where the media files will live.  While you can host a podcast on your website (depending on where your site is hosted), I don’t recommend it—if your podcast really takes off and gets a lot of downloads, it could really slow your site down.  Instead, use a dedicated podcast host like Libsyn.  For most podcasters, about $15 a month will give you plenty of storage space for your media files.

Step five: pick a title

When you pick a title for your podcast, there are several different directions you can go.  You could us your name (The “John Smith Show”), use a clever name that uses jargon from your industry in the title (a fishing podcast called “The Reel Story”, for example), or use a descriptive name that tells people exactly what your podcast is about.  Keep in mind that if you can work some keywords into your podcast title, it might help it turn up in searches on iTunes or Google when people search for podcasts about your topic.

Step six: design your podcast cover artwork

The same cliché about judging a book by its cover holds true for podcasts.  Get a professional cover designed for your podcast on Fiverr.com that meets the iTunes specifications.  This will be the first thing people see when your podcast turns up in search results on iTunes, so you want to make a good impression.

Step seven: record an intro and outro

You’ll want every episode of your podcast to have a short introduction that includes the name of the show, who the target audience is, and why people should listen.  You can record this yourself or have it done by a voice-over artist.  You’ll also want an “outro” for each episode with a call-to-action for your listeners—for example, telling them how they can contact you, or where they can go to download some additional content related to the episode.

Save the intro and outro as a template in your audio editing software, so that you can simply drop the audio file for each episode into the template.  This will make the editing process quick and easy.

Step eight: plan the launch

This step is way beyond the scope of this blog post—in fact, several excellent books have been written about the process for launching a podcast.  I recommend Podcast Launch by John Lee Dumas if you want to learn how to launch a podcast the “right” way.  However, if you want to simply submit your podcast to iTunes and aren’t worried about doing a big launch, that’s fine also.

One thing you should be aware of, however, is that iTunes has something called a “new and noteworthy” section where recently launched podcasts are featured.  Only podcasts less than eight weeks old are eligible to appear in this section, which is the first section people see when they open up iTunes.  If you launch your podcast the right way, you can get significant exposure by getting your show featured at the top of the “new and noteworthy” charts in your category.

Step nine: getting reviews and subscribers

After your show is live, you’ll want to get some five-star reviews for it so that people who stumble across it will be more likely to download an episode.  Getting people to review a podcast on iTunes is not easy, because compared to leaving a review for a book on Amazon or reviewing a business on Facebook or Google, the process for reviewing a podcast is somewhat cumbersome.  I suggest asking friends, family, and strategic partners to help you out by leaving your podcast an honest review.

Step ten: marketing your podcast post-launch

The process for marketing a podcast is really little different than marketing a book, blog, product, or anything else, so I won’t go into detail about how to do that here.  The bottom line is that you will have to promote it—it isn’t simply a matter of “if you launch it, the listeners will come”.  You can spend as little or as much time and money marketing your podcast as you want, but obviously the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

While the process for starting a podcast may be slightly more involved than starting a blog, once you have started it, it actually requires less time and energy to maintain than blogging.  Now is the time to get started, before podcasting becomes simply another standard expectation for content marketers.

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a small business marketing consultant and member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  He’s also co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation and the host of the top-rated video podcast The Small Business Marketing Minute Show. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

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