In a World Where Printers Can Print Themselves…

October 16th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

The future is now. We have suitcase-sized machines that can replicate themselves and stock small communities with tools. The same technology is allowing artists to create unconventional pieces like this jewelry collection, and giving doctors detailed 3D models to reference during daring procedures — vital brain surgery included. 3D printing technology is here in a major way, and its rise seems to have come out of nowhere just like its creations.

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The world’s first 3D-printed car out for a spin in Chicago, IL.

The point is, it’s hard to predict the next big thing. But, that doesn’t mean you have to be left in the dust.

Remember These Two Pointers:

  1. Determine what’s going to make your life easier, and what’s going to be more hassle than help. Some things are better the “old-fashioned” way, like speaking with a live expert about building your competitive Web property instead of being forced through automated mazes. Other advances, however, offer your business benefits. For example, the linkable telephone numbers we wrote about that can connect customer to business with a click, and automating the process of getting valuable customer reviews.
  2. Be adaptable. The idea of printers printing themselves is an odd one, and it’s taking time to grasp. Then again, wouldn’t we have said the same about handheld computers? Technology changes — so do your customers’ attitudes — so having an open mind about what’s coming next will keep you from being detrimentally blindsided. Instead of picking up the pieces after (which will put you even further behind) recognize what’s out there and take just a little time to analyze what you could be doing differently. Maybe that free app or software upgrade is worth installing.

Note: Call us today and ask about setting up our free invoicing software integration. Get more reviews with a lot less effort.

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HP “setting you free” with a measly 9 pounds of machine.

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How to Reduce Customer Churn

October 9th, 2014 By Ted Paff

I went to a conference a couple of weeks ago at which Sharon Rowlands, the new CEO of ReachLocal, mentioned that the average churn in the digital marketing industry is 50-90%.

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Why Customer Churn Matters

Every great business throughout history has had a profitable product or service and very good customer retention.   You simply cannot build a long-term successful business and suffer massive churn. The cost to get and keep customers is a substantial expense for every growing business. The increased profitability that comes from retaining customers at a higher rate enables businesses to reinvest in more marketing to grow faster.

Our company is a low-priced subscription-based service that relies on keeping customers for a long time to keep our business model working.  Said another way, one of our largest expenses is the cost to find and set-up a new customer so we need to retain customers for a long time or we will be out of business.  Happily, our customer losses are a small fraction of the industry average.

“I don’t lose customers”

Every business loses customers.  If you run a subscription-based business its easy to measure those losses.  However, if you run a local service business  (home services, auto, professional services, etc.), measuring losses is much harder because its not obvious if you lost a customer or if they just haven’t been back yet.

Measuring customer losses starts with a customer database.  Most likely, this database is in your financial system today (e.g. Quickbooks, etc.).  Regardless of where it is captured, the first step to building a business is to analyze  the name of customer and the date they spent money with you.  Dumping this data into a spreadsheet enables you to answer the question: what percentage of my customers do I not get back again.

Pro Tip:  If you have a Customer Lobby account, we will be releasing a new feature in about 60 days for all of our users to help analyze this data for you.  Simply enable our Direct Connect feature and we will do the work for you.

Why you Lose & Keep

Once you know who you lose, its time to figure out why.  There are many reasons why you keep a customer but only 3 main reasons why customers don’t come back:

  1. Don’t need your product/service ever again;
  2. Make or buy or do it themselves; or
  3. Buy product/service from another business.

Answering the “why” question is all about listening to the customers who are happy (why did we keep you) and the customers you lose (why did we lose you).  Customer reviews are a great way to do this plus they become one of your top-performing marketing assets as a business.

Before you can begin analyzing the results of listening to your customers, you need to ask yourself what value you deliver to your customers.  Make an exhaustive list.  Next line up your customers perceptions of your business that you got from listening to them next to your perceptions of what value you deliver.  Typically, there are gaps where you believe you are delivering value to your customer that they don’t perceive.

What to Do

First, pick your spots.  Use the exercise outlined above to help you better understand your actual market (item #1 above), as well as your competitive position in  your local market (items #2 and #3).

Once you have identified the gaps using the method above, the least costly and most immediately impactful thing you can do is to educate.   Educate your staff who can educate your customers in order to close the gap between value delivered and value perceived.

Only after education programs to close that gap are in place should a business look at the next step which is to evaluate changing your product or service in response to competition.  More often than not, the direction that most makes sense in responding to competition is to specialize – get better at serving a smaller group.

 

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Clicking Through

October 6th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

According to recent research, as much as 71.33% of all Google searches culminate in a click on the first page of results. Said another way: Someone looked something up in Google, then clicked a link on the first page without looking any further. Apparently, Google did its job and they were compelled to click-through.

Even more important isn’t when they click, but where they click. It turns out, that 71.33% only includes Google organic search results. So, rather than clicking ads or Local listings, the overwhelming majority of people click the first 5 Google organic search results.

There are three main types of search results on the Google results page: 1. Ads, 2. Organic Search Results, 3. Local Listings

 

Google Search Results

SERPCTR

The big takeaway for small businesses is that their web properties in Google organic search results yield the greatest click-through rate. On average, a business’s own website and third-party web properties, such as reviews pages, are generating the vast majority of search traffic from organic search results.

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Is This Business Using Reverse Psychology? Nope, It’s Reversing Yelp Policy

September 26th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

Last week, news broke about a restaurant actively asking customers for negative Yelp reviews. Botto Bistro, an Italian restaurant located in Richmond, California, has gone so far as to offer significantly discounted meals to customers who give them 1-star feedback on the popular reviews site.

And it’s working. Big time. Botto Bistro’s Yelp page is now filled with (hilarious) faux-negative reviews full of complaints against the establishment like its too-friendly service and too-fresh focaccia. Many of the reviews go even further, telling tall tales about outrageous expectations no restaurant could fulfill (“Walked in today only to find that they don’t carry the iPhone 6 Plus. WTF”).

So, is Botto Bistro using the power of reverse psychology to get more positive buzz? Maybe to some extent, but the real inspiration for this idea, according to the owners and head chefs themselves, came from their frustrations with what they viewed as unfair publishing policies on Yelp.

After allegedly receiving advertisement calls from Yelp that reached spam status, co-owner David Cerretini caved in and paid Yelp for its ad services for a few months. He says when he stopped paying, his reviews page noticeably shifted from mostly positive to more negative, while the best reviews simply “disappeared”.

Proactively getting more positive reviews in more places, including a site as widely used as Yelp, is imperative for building a competitive Web property. But, it’s equally essential to understand that review publishing policies vary from site to site, and to be sure you’re not getting dinged by reviews that can’t be verified as coming from your real customers.

If you’re dealing with a real negative review, not one like poor Botto’s, let us help with our multiple Management Tools. Also, find out how we get more legitimate reviews onto your Google+, Yelp, and Angie’s List pages with our Smart Invites feature.

 

 

 

 

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How to Fix a Bad Review

September 18th, 2014 By Ted Paff

First, let’s cover some basics:

BUT…, if you are in business long enough to matter, you are going to get some bad reviews.

Fix a Bad Review

Fixing a bad review is generally very simple.  Here is some basic advice that works.  But before you begin, stop.

If your business just got a bad review, you are likely to be unhappy and feel attacked.  That is not a good mind-state to begin this process.  Give your self some time to get this right

As hard as it might be, you must find (or fake) a real sense of understanding about the issue that the reviewer wrote about (i.e. compassion) and you need to be sorry enough about what happened to find a way to make sure it doesn’t happen again (i.e. contrition).

Compassion

This must-read article will hopefully inspire you before you begin.

P.S.  We have and will continue to offer free help to anyone that wants help in crafting a response to a negative review – just call us.

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California Passes Yelp Bill: What this means.

September 11th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

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California governor Jerry Brown signed the so called Yelp Bill yesterday, which effectively puts an end to non-disparagement clauses; i.e., clauses that prohibit customers from writing negative reviews.

It turns out, some businesses have resorted to special verbiage in consumer contracts — often the kind of fine-print terms of service that no one reads — prohibiting negative reviews. These clauses were used by some businesses to basically intimidate customers from writing reviews, which is how I imagine Joseph Stalin would do reputation management.

The new law follows a trend nation-wide of anti-SLAPP statutes that penalize businesses for using the threat of legal action to stifle reviews. California businesses found to be in violation face civil penalties of up to $2,500, so the legality of intimidating consumers from writing reviews is quickly coming to an end.

And, though their motives may be more self-serving than a love free expression,  Yelp deserves credit for doing their part in this crusade.

But, what’s most interesting to me is the idea that transparency can or should be avoided. It can’t and shouldn’t.

 

 

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Earth to Customer, “Contact Us”: Part III of How to Capture Your Online Audience

September 5th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

Your prospective customers found your business’s attractive website and weren’t deterred by overwhelming information or an underwhelming amount of verified customer reviews. You captured your prospects’ precious attention from the start, then you drew them in more with an “About Us” page that told how you’re a cut above your competition.

Now comes the “Contact Us” close.

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When your soon-to-be customers are riding the wave of a strong sense of motivation and trust after checking out your website, you want to provide a comfortable landing spot. Keep the positive motion going with a “Contact Us” section that, like the rest of your site, is functional and not bogged down by unnecessary clutter.

Tips:

  • Mobile is major, and you’d best not forget it! As this Search Engine Journal infographic highlights, mobile phone dependence is here to stay and grow. The average American spends about 2 hours on their mobile device, so make sure your site works in a mobile format. You or your webperson can also boost convenience with a linkable telephone number, which lets smartphone users call you with a click. Copying and pasting or (*gasp*) writing the number down simply takes too much time for some, and linking is a nifty way to avoid losing their interest.
  • You can tackle a variety of service needs, AND you can be contacted multiple ways. Let your prospects know they have options for contact and can choose what’s most convenient for them. This is an example of an aesthetically-pleasing Contact form that serves those who prefer not to call. As an added bonus, it has a fun picture that encourages prospects just a tad more. The only thing missing is an option for contact outside of the form. Don’t shy away from providing a main email address, a form that expedites the emailing process like in this example, and a phone number. It’s still hard to beat a live conversation between customer and service provider.
  • If your prospects have clicked “Contact Us”, they already like you. That means you don’t have to (or want to) throw more information at them outside of how they can give you a call or shoot you an email for service. Right. Now. Once your prospects have made it this far, extra information goes from helpful or intriguing to plain distracting. They could always click back to other sections of your site for more reading material, of course, but enough confidence in the layout and information of those sections means they won’t have to.

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Innovator’s Dilemma

August 28th, 2014 By Ted Paff

In 1997, Clayton Christensen wrote a book that coined the term “innovator’s dilemma”.

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In his book, he described how industry-leading companies eventually fall behind by putting too much emphasis on customers’ current needs, and failing  to adopt new technology or business models that will meet customers’ future needs.  The “dilemma” is the need to choose between getting better at what you already do vs. creating a new way of doing business for the future.

Customer Lobby’s Dilemma

Today, Customer Lobby is the largest and most successful company in the “review generation, syndication and management” industry focused on service businesses.  Things are going great for us right now.  We are growing, successful and having fun doing it.  No complaints.

However, a couple of years ago, the innovator’s dilemma became very real for us. Yes, customer reviews are becoming more important in buying cycles.  However, we believe that reviews, how they are generated, consumed and managed will change substantially over time.  Our long-term vision of how successful businesses will communicate with their customers (from reviews/feedback to various forms of marketing) requires us to change the services we offer to our customers.  These changes require a very different solution than we currently offer.

The challenge for us (and for other businesses facing an innovator’s dilemma) is that we want to find a way to be great at our core business today and still create what we need to position ourselves for the future.  It feels like doing upgrades to an airplane while its still flying.

Our solution to the innovator’s dilemma is to change what we do.  For nearly 2 years, we have been changing our product from the inside out.  Last week, we released a new version of our product that removed some features and added others.   However, what was visible in our recent release was a small fraction of the changes we have made over the last 18-24 months. Most of the work we have been doing has been to enable us to launch a series of products that will be available over the next 12-18 months.

We believe that we are on a path to create something truly remarkable. Stay tuned for many more announcements from us.

Never Done

It’s never done.  That has been one of my key take-away lessons from this process so far.  As soon as a product is built, it is becoming obsolete.  When you think you are great at delivering a service to your customers, there is a still a better way.  Even now, in re-imagining how businesses might communicate with their customers, I can see how data and technology will keep revolutionizing how it happens for many years to come.

The insight I am left with after reviewing our multi-year process is that the “innovator’s dilemma” is not a dilemma faced by innovators but a choice to continue to innovate or slowly become less relevant that every business faces.  That’s because, what ever you are doing, you know that there is a way to do it better and, eventually, someone will.

 

 

 

 

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Reading on the Web: The Exception to the Rule

August 21st, 2014 By Kevin Baca

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From neuroscientists to UX designers, the consensus is clear: No one reads on the web. In fact, according to Tony Haile of Chartbeat, a web analytics software, 55% of web traffic “bounces” after 15 seconds. For the 45% of you who are actually still reading, I have a revelation: Reviews are the exception to the rule. More on that below.

But first, it’s worth looking at how we consume written content online. It seems we have become conditioned to skim and scan our way through the web, largely out of necessity. Aside from some poor reading habits, this need to navigate quickly has led savvy designers and copywriters to format information to be more digestible to the skimming brain; e.g., large headings, short snippets, and bullet points.

Something like this:

No One Reads

Research shows people spend very little time reading content on the web.

    1. 55% spend 15 seconds or less on a site
    2. Less than 20% of content is actually read
    3. You get the point?

 

While the above formatting is definitely more likely to relay vital information to the average person navigating the web, the fact is, not all content is equal. It turns out, the way we read has everything to do with what we read. For example, research shows that we slow down and read more deliberately when the content is pleasurable to the reader.

Want to know what else gets read? You guessed it…

Reviews also yield longer read times than other written content on the web. This may seem obvious on its face, but this week I conducted a cursory analysis of traffic data to more than 2,000 reviews pages over the span of June and July and found an average read time of about 56 seconds.

It makes sense. Unlike other forms of online content, people actually seek out reviews. When they find them, they read the content earnestly because they are conducting research with consequences. So while it’s a truism that no one reads online, the caveat is that context matters.

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“About Us” Reads, Solid Leads: Part II of How to Capture Your Online Audience

August 14th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

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Hello and welcome back to “How to Capture Your Online Audience”.

I mentioned in my last post on website content clarity that this topic would be extended into a miniseries because it’s one that can seem either frustratingly opaque or way too obvious. For a more productive outlook on site design, remember that your site visitors don’t just need a nice place (page) to land, they need a next step.

One way to turn your site browsers into real buyers is with an attractive “About Us” section. You are the service provider and the visitors need something done (that and your online reviews are why they’re visiting in the first place), but why should they feel more comfortable with you than the other guy/gal?

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For any size or kind of business, having your customer reviews and your mission statement mesh lends more credibility to your current and past customers’ feedback, and illustrates that you don’t just say, you do.

If you are a local business specifically, a “meet me” invitation like the About Us page also presents you the opportunity to establish a stronger connection with your prospective customers before they even pick up the phone or shoot you an inquiry. Local businesses can use personality and approachability to highlight their statuses as community companies, while larger-scale businesses can add a valuable personal touch.

Tips for an inviting “About Us” page:

  • Write like you’re conversing. This series was inspired by short online attention spans, so avoid writing tomes when you’re trying to entice readers. You don’t need a novel chock-full of details that could (and probably should) be addressed once you’ve actually gotten the customer engaged in dialogue about their project.
  • Give choice details on how you got started, and why you’ve never stopped. If superhero blockbusters are any indication, people like origin stories. While sticking to your short ‘n’ sweet format, tell your prospects why you do what you do, and why they can trust your expertise.
  • Introduce members of your team (with visuals). Even in the age of advanced technology, there’s no substitute for a friendly human face for instantly establishing stronger rapport. Using more than words to introduce yourself to your customers shows confidence, too. Here’s a nice introduction video example, and here’s a great page from one of our very own local businesses. Walking or calling into either business, you’d feel like you’d already met the owners and crew — and that’s powerful.

I’ll be posting the third and final installment next time: the “Contact Us” page. Your prospects came, they saw, and now they want contact. Find out how to make this crucial transition as easy as possible for the people who want to pay you.

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