But who checks with the BBB before they make a purchase? Now, all we have to do is “google it” and find out what a company’s reputation is.
Much of the market capitalization of most of the top traded New York Stock Exchange-listed companies is based upon goodwill. Billions of dollars are traded based upon companies’ relationship of trust with investors. They buy a dream or future promise of value based upon goodwill. A company’s reputation tells people how often they keep the promises they make. The potential for a company to keep it’s promises affects it’s goodwill and its overall value in the marketplace.
Well, we don’t have billions of dollars in assets, patents, and inventory. Instead, we have our creativity, innovation, and consumer oriented values. What this means is that goodwill or reputation affects our value in the marketplace even more than our big business competitors or counterparts. Reputation is our number one asset to build our brand.
A company can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new website, blog, online advertising, search engine marketing and contests. All of these things can buy traffic, clicks, and potentially sales. Unlike traffic though, a reputation cannot be bought. It must be earned. A reputation in the social media and social networking sphere is built upon consistently producing great content, having meaningful conversations, and making great contributions to your network.
There are 6 major areas of focus for us to effectively manage, monitor, and build their reputations:
Association – The opinions, feedback and business acumen of our friends and associates directly affect our reputation. Joining a Facebook Group, sharing someone’s Tweet with your followers, or linking to a blog can imply an endorsement by you and your brand.
Brand Monitoring – People will make incorrect statements about brands online. They will also complain about products or services before going to the vendor. Part of reputation management is paying attention to what is being said online, especially within your own network, to find this negativity or misinformation and then directly or indirectly addressing it proactively and in a timely manner.
Customer Experience – Our attention to detail plays a tremendous role in building our reputation. This includes any and all points of contact and interaction with the customer involving the delivery of products and services. Everything from Twitter replies, website navigation, invoicing, and email auto responders must be produced and executed in a way that creates an ideal customer experience at each touch point.
Feedback – Provide easy ways to give product and service feedback. Make it easy for customers to express their challenges, and make sure the feel heard and respected. By doing this we reduce the chance of negative feedback being posted and shared in places we cannot influence or moderate.
Promises – The more promises we make and keep, the better our reputation gets. Unmet marketing promises or even unmanaged customer expectations can really hurt our brand. When we continually make and keep promises, it builds trust with our customers and creates a strong, community wide reputation. Make an inventory of promises and expectations, and systematically make sure you delver on them.
Honesty – Remember, we no longer have the luxury of anonymity in promoting our brand. Social Media Marketing is about using all of the tools available to tell your fascinating brand story in a way that drives trust, consent, and profits. With that said – always tell the truth. With social media networks and platforms, the millions of people that inhabit them quickly detect lies or half-truths. Misinformation or false pretenses can be profitable in the short term, but over the long term not telling the truth will destroy your trust, credibility, and ultimately your fragile reputation.
In years gone by, individuals and companies could live a life of duplicity. Big companies could operate unethically and without regard for others and still manage to buy themselves a squeaky clean image. Companies could buy inventory, shout loud enough about their brand, and convince consumers of almost anything. There were only a handful of TV channels and a limited number of journalists to chase down stories.
Today there are an unlimited number of media outlets. Everyone is his or her own media company. We all have smartphones, and those phones have internet access, video, a camera, and audio recording devices. Whether we like it or not, we are all on stage all of the time; anyone can snap a picture, record a video, or post a Tweet online about our brand. From the mundane to the bizarre, daily events are recorded and uploaded to the web by the hundreds of individuals you walk by, see, and interact with daily.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS ABOUT BEING SOCIAL
A small business with a website should always be working on being likeable, therefore referable and credible. If people like you enough, they will find a reason to buy from you. Customer Service can be defined in many ways, but boiled down to it’s purest form, it’s about making the customer feel totally wanted and appreciated.
Remember that most social media interactions are text based and not quite the same as real-time communication. This means it takes longer to gain rapport and trust. It is important that we move toward commercial interactions at a pace comfortable with our customers.
Being likable plays a big role in being credible. The challenge for many small businesses is that they have only one speed or tonality based upon their offline business formulas. Why this is a challenge, is that credibility is contextual, meaning we all unique credibility models. What some people would consider bold and innovative, others would consider loud and obnoxious. To identify what a market sees as credible requires a lot of in-depth interaction, feedback, and observation.
BECOME A LEADER IN YOUR BUSINESS NICHE
Become a Leader or expert in your business whether it’s a product or service. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best. You may be a tiny start-up with no sales. It doesn’t matter. As long as you know more than your customers – you’re a leader.
As a leader, make the journey look fun and share your joy. People will want to follow the path.]]>
There’s lots of search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, Lycos, Dogpile, WebCrawler, Excite, AltaVista, etc. When the Search Engine Business speaks, there’s lots of talk about “Content”. Content this, content that, keywords, conversion rates, PPC, traffic, blah, blah.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are essential for any small business but… is Content really the be all and end all of generating online traffic?
The first answer is: yes, it is. You’re not going to get anywhere with Google or Bing without having content on your website. Then you have the two big variables that impact good SEO – “relevant” and “quality” content.
So the second answer begins with some questions.
Especially with the advent and dominance of Social Media – is there a point at which Content starts working against you and your business goals?
Does Quality Content necessarily attract Quality Traffic? What are the SEO “experts” definition of “quality content” in an online world now dominated by social media?
Below is a site that I worked with when launching a Facebook promotion campaign with the company called, “Scuba Dive It”.
You can see the notes I made on the site, some of which are about the “social” nature – or lack thereof – of this website. That will be covered in my next blog entry.
Since this article is all about SEO content, take a look at the “Services”. Here’s what it says – “Kids Scuba Diving Lessons (ages 8 to 9 years old): PADI BubbleMaker, Scuba Lessons, PADI Seal Team Scuba Lessons. Junior Scuba Diving Lessons (ages 10 to 14 years old): PADI Discover Scuba Diving , Scuba Lessons, PADI Junior Open Water Scuba Diver Course, PADI Junior Adventures Scuba Diver Course, PADI Junior Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver Course, PADI Junior Rescue Diver Course, PADI Junior Master Scuba Diver. Adult scuba Diving Lessons (ages 15 and older): PADI Discover Scuba Diving , Scuba Lessons, PADI Open Water Scuba Diver Course, PADI Adventures Scuba Diver Course, PADI Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver Course, PADI Rescue Diver Course, PADI Master Scuba Diver, PADI Divemaster.”
WTF? Isn’t there an easier, shorter way to tell me what your services are?
According to the SEO “experts” – no there isn’t. Because they are interested in one thing: the “crawlibility” (is that a word?) of the website’s content. What they are after are search engine crawlers, spiders and robots. But – search engine crawlers, spiders and robots aren’t people, and people are who you want to visit your website.
And that is why Content is a double edge sword. Not enough and the search engines ignore you. Too much and you can overwhelm your visitors with information they really don’t need.
Aren’t most websites like that? They’re either an information website (where you can find out about their product or service) or a CMS website where you can buy stuff online.
In 2011, your website has to engage the user. If people land on your site and don’t see value immediately, they’re going to go somewhere else. If it’s not interactive, current and engaging – you’re going to be stuck with the looky-loos and a handful of people who take you seriously.
Ask yourself these questions I have listed to see if your website is Social:
Making sure that your site is fully socialized is a key ingredient in making sure that traffic that arrives at your website stays and engages with you instead of quickly bouncing off.]]>
You may be one of the enlightened few, however, who see the abundance of business development opportunities in the virtual social interaction frontier, especially when there’s less competition there compared to other marketplaces. If so, then you’re likely looking for ways to better manage your social media marketing activities. Like any marketing campaign, it can be a disappointing vacuum if it’s not done right. So here are 10 tips for small business owners that will help them get the most value out of social media:
1. Meet potential customers where they are most comfortable – Before spending a lot of time on a variety of social media channels, develop a profile (if you haven’t already) of your customers’ social media comfort levels and most frequently used sites or online tools.
Start by looking at the age group, gender, career, and other demographics, as well as the social media activity, of your best customers. If you don’t already, ask customers for their email addresses, Facebook profile names, Twitter addresses, LinkedIn profiles, etc. so that you can include them in the fun. Consider sending out a quick email survey to your mailing list to ask readers about their social media activities.
If you don’t have a lot of information with which to work, research typical social media behavior for these groups (Internet marketing consultant Roy Morejon provides many helpful statistics.)
Gathering deeper knowledge about your prospects’ online behavior can focus your efforts to get the maximum effect, and it helps you judge how much time you should dedicate to social media marketing.
2. Spend time social networking – Social networking sites are like ponds – if there isn’t any movement, the water becomes stagnant. The key is for small business owners is to keep the waters moving, either by kicking their own feet or by installing a fountain to do it for them.
The more you participate by tweeting messages, updating your Facebook status, “liking” posts and websites that are relevant, posting on pages that share information potential customers are likely to read, retweeting relevant links or articles, and following people who are followed by your typical prospect, the more responses will flow. Try scheduling regular “check in online” times with meal times (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
Be sure to enlist at least one of your coworkers, colleagues or employees to partner with you on social networking tasks. This will lighten the load while providing cross-training.
Keeping a shared log of your social networking activities will prevent retracing your steps, forgetting to follow up on important discussions, missing out on specific opportunities, and duplicating efforts by other team members. It will also help you assess your progress and measure results.
3. Encourage audience participation – One of the best things about social media is the sense of connection and interaction that comes with it. Whenever possible, try to include a call to action in your updates:
• Ask questions in the form of surveys or polls
• State a problem and ask for suggestions
• Raise discussion topics
• Offer simple low-cost contests
• Start a petition (a convenient way to do this is through Change.org)
• Issue a challenge
• Emphasize the importance of acting fast with phrases like “Seats are going fast – reserve yours now!” or “Call, email or post on our page before 11/30 to get your free gift”.
4. Be approachable – As a small business owner, you have the unique advantage of building long-standing, more in-depth relationships with your customers.
Sharing news about your business (new products, event photos, interesting facts, employee profiles, insightful statistics) is a good place to start, but it’s important to have a friendly face. Don’t hesitate to share motivational quotes, what book you’ve been reading lately, funny photos of the folks at work, even pictures of your pet or family outings. By the time your new customers contact you to inquire about services, they’ll feel like they already know you.
This trust is priceless, so always put your best foot forward (and keep a separate profile for business and family).
5. Protect your brand – Anyone who participates in any online social interaction is open to receiving negative comments or reviews at some point or another – especially businesses.
It’s important to regularly monitor what is said about your company in order to be able to address issues that arise. Convenient ways to do this include searching on the name of your company to see what comes up, and checking in frequently (and thoroughly) on popular social networking sites.
If someone posts something negative about you or your company, do what you can to resolve the issue, and apologize (even if you have to grit your teeth). Depending on how it goes, consider offering a refund or free gift, and ask the customer to revise their review or post an update showing how you made efforts to fix the problem. Let your followers see how you resolve issues in a timely and respectful manner.
6. Keep it simple – Twitter has the right idea by limiting the length of a tweet – it forces us to get the point across in as few words as possible. Your posts on any social media site should address only one message at a time, and should be short, sweet, and to the point.
Whenever possible, include a photo, clip art, a video clip, or a link to add interactivity and supporting information. A great resource for inexpensive stock photos is iStockphoto.com.
Overwhelmed by your choices and short on time? Choose one channel (such as Facebook) to dedicate the majority of your time. The kinds of product or service offerings you provide may determine the best channel in which to spend the most time.
Facebook offers a lot more options for B-to-C interaction, LinkedIn is great for B-to-B, and Twitter is a fast and simple way to broadcast to both. It’s probably a good idea to establish at least a modest presence on Google+, according to an Entrepreneur magazine interview with social media expert Chris Brogan.
7. Be buzzworthy – This is probably the most challenging aspect of social media marketing – generating interest and keeping it. The ultimate goal is to go viral, which is when a message is spread by virtual word of mouth to a larger and larger audience (ideally an audience of likely prospects).
The trick is to be interesting to the people you want to attract without being off-putting. Depending on your audience, low-cost contests, supporting a cause with one click, extra-special limited time offers, event announcements and motivational videos are all great ways to go viral without the risk of offending readers.
8. Learn from and collaborate with your community – Check out flesh-and-blood networking parties, presentations, and classes about social networking. Local news calendars, city-focused websites, social networking sites, and event-planning sites like Meetup.com are great sources for these kinds of groups.
There are also online groups that have ongoing conversations about getting the most out of Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Look for fellow small business owners who can be role models, trade services for social marketing assistance or training, or work together to help you promote each other.
9. Outsource – If social networking really isn’t your thing, but you recognize the importance of it, consider offering a low-pay or no-pay internship to a college student pursuing a degree in business, communications, or marketing. It’s as simple as contacting local community colleges and universities and obtaining their forms for posting a position.
You may also find an affordable social media strategy consultant who is willing to be flexible in hours and where to focus his or her efforts, which can help with keeping costs down.
10. Don’t get discouraged -
Keep generating movement! The ebb and flow of human behavior is as random online (or more) as it is in “real life.” There will be slumps and surges – and all of them will provide you with new information to put to good use.
A large percentage of online social behavior is invisible from the front end, so be sure to measure your success objectively by including usage statistics like Google Analytics.
Frequently celebrate minor successes with other stakeholders in your small business to earn their support and participation.
Deluxe’s survey reflects a snapshot of today’s social media savvy small business owners and where they stand regarding job passions and key challenges. Deluxe’s survey of small business owners uncovers the following results:
– 75% were motivated to start their own business in order to pursue a personal passion and work for themselves; only 10% started a business after being laid off from a job.
– They want to work for themselves, not someone else. 63% would not take another job if offered one.
– If given more free time, 40% of small business owners would spend it on their current business or try to start another new business venture, vs. leisure activities.
– Women entrepreneurs represented almost 40% of those who responded to the survey; more than 60% of respondents are currently raising a family.
– Many entrepreneurs have a day/night jobs — 35% started their businesses while still working at their previous day jobs.
– Social media use is high among this sample, with 83% of respondents planning to utilize social channels for business over the next year; 40% plan to focus their efforts on Facebook and 25% on LinkedIn.
– 57% report using social media to increase their reach/frequency of contact with potential customers. 15% cite a direct impact on sales.
– 49% of small business owners claim that effectively reaching customers with limited resources is their biggest challenge. This is more than twice other key challenges cited: managing the costs of doing business (19%) and securing credit (12%). Their biggest frustration about marketing: They don’t know if what they are doing is effective.
The results of the survey also hint that this group may be more optimistic than the broader small business population, but struggles still exist for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Because of the challenges small business owners face with marketing, Deluxe created Project REV, a 12-month marketing lab to help nine entrepreneurs across the country find effective marketing tools and make time to market their businesses. Today, these small business owners and entrepreneurs are sharing their business results and Project REV experiences at an Insight and Innovation summit hosted by Deluxe.
This summer Deluxe will start recruiting for its next installment of Project REV. Interested small business owners can sign up at http://projectrev.com/about/ to find out more details on how to win a year’s worth of marketing mentorship and thousands of dollars in Deluxe marketing products and services.
For a more in-depth look at the survey results, please contact Dean Rodgers at email@example.com
*The survey was conducted through Market IQ, a proprietary research and surveying platform available on PartnerUp, the first and one of the largest social networks for small businesses. More than 500 respondents participated in the survey which was available to registered members of PartnerUp during May 2011.
About Deluxe Corporation
Deluxe Corporation is a growth engine for small businesses and financial institutions. Through its industry-leading businesses and brands, Deluxe helps small businesses and financial institutions attract and retain customers. The company employs a multi-channel strategy to provide a suite of lifecycle-driven solutions to its customers. In addition to its personalized printed products, Deluxe offers a growing suite of small business services, including logo design, payroll, web design and hosting, business networking and other web-based services to help small businesses grow. In the financial services industry, Deluxe sells check programs and fraud prevention, customer loyalty and retention programs to help banks build lasting relationships and grow core deposits. Deluxe also sells personalized checks, accessories and other services directly to consumers. For more information about Deluxe, visit www.deluxe.com .]]>