Google+ is Not Dead: Google Makes Changes for the Better

July 30th, 2015 By Jasmine Reynolds

Google+ Is Not Dead

Google Makes Two Announcements

Google made a couple of announcements these past few days that you should know about. One is about moving Google+ in a new, better direction which will make your social media efforts more effective on the platform. Another concerns what customers see when they research your business (and it’s a good one).

Google+ Is Here to Stay

Google will detach Google+ from some of their products over the next few months. This means you will no longer need a Google+ account to become a user on sites like Youtube. Media outlets and blogs have announced this as the “death of Google+” but it doesn’t look that way. This will allow us to use more Google products without a public Google+ profile. It will, in effect, make Google+ “more focused, more useful, [and] more engaging”.

Google already centralizes their services under one Google account. Needing a public Google+ profile to comment on Youtube videos was cumbersome. From its implementation, it felt like a desperate grab for users. The change was to dissuade people from leaving abusive comments. With a real name and photo attached, it enforced accountability. I can tell you, from personal experience, it didn’t work.

Future of Google+

Google+ was in a confusing state. Was it a social media platform or a public front for your Google account? Instead of “killing Facebook“, it killed its own potential. Now that it stands as an independent platform again, it has another chance. This is a clear move that Google has a plan for the service.

Facebook Killer QuoteOriginal image: Jason Howie on Flikr

I hope they optimize Google+ into a new kind of social networking platform for mobile use. We don’t need a “Facebook killer”. We need a new way to interact with each other, consume media, and shop online. If Google+ can impact any one of those needs, it will succeed and achieve sustainability.

So don’t worry about those reviews you worked hard to collect through the platform. Google does not plan to kill Google+ no matter what the pundits say. Continue to use Google+ to connect to customers and gather feedback. If things go well, the network will increase and so will your reach on the platform.

Google Can Now Help You Avoid Long Lines

Case in point, Google used their own Google+ profile to announce a new feature. Customers can now see your business’s busiest times of the day when they search for you. It’s currently available only for mobile browsers like Safari and Chrome–not the Google app.

coffee2Feature demonstration from Google’s official Google+ page

Now you know the best time to stop at your local grocery store or pizza parlor to avoid the crowds.  AJ Ghergich proposes spying on competitors and running promotions during their slow periods. Other than cool espionage missions, this is useful information for businesses. Granted, you might already have more detailed tracking information of foot traffic. It’s still important to know what customers incorporate in their research.

Google and the Buyer’s Process

It’s important to know small updates like these to Google’s interface. 72% of customers begin their research of a business on Google so it’s important to know what they’ll see. So what else do customers do when researching a business? Next week, I will talk more about the buyer’s process. We’ll look at the “journey” a customer goes through in choosing a business for their services.

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5 Steps to Create High Performing Postcards

July 28th, 2015 By Brinda Lee

Transform Your Postcards (1)

Postcard Best Practices

You’ve decided to take the plunge and send out a Direct Mail campaign to your clients. That’s great! We know that Direct Mail increases customer engagement and brand recognition. But how do you optimize your postcards? Follow these steps, and you’ll be on the right track:

1. First Impression: Postcard Dimensions

Your customer will notice the size of your postcard before anything else, so use this to your advantage! Most business letters run about 4” by 9”, so choosing something a little larger makes your postcard pop. Avoid dimensions that would make it difficult to pick up out of, or put in, a standard mailbox.

At Customer Lobby we use 6” by 9”. This means that customers can easily pick up all their mail in one hand, as the length is the same, but those extra 2” give the postcard added visibility. It literally stands out from the crowd.

2. Survivability and Feel: Postcard Weight

The next sensory experience your customer will have with your postcard will be touch. Your postcard should feel nice, and this means the right weight and finish.

Weight, measured in points (pt), indicates the thickness of your postcard. As this great article by Sabine Lenz mentions, postcards should be at least 9pt to make it through the mailing process without damage. Remember, it has to survive our post office process and get to our customer’s door still looking great. The post office recommends 9pt but notes that thicker is better.

Not only does weight help survivability, it also feels better in the hand. The feel matters. You’re a serious business owner who values your customers. Communicate that with weight. Customer Lobby uses 12pt postcards for all our customer’s mail campaigns, and I would encourage you to do the same. With a higher chance of survival and a better feel, why not?

Our postcard after going through the U.S. Post Office. Shot by iPhone, no editing. It looks good!

Our postcard after going through the U.S. Post Office. Shot by iPhone, no editing. It looks good!

3. Memory Retention: Relevant Imagery

Everyone knows that the image matters. But do you know how much? Remember, people will remember information 55% more if the text includes an image. To make this work, your image needs to make sense with the information presented.

This also includes the finish you choose for your postcard. Generally you have four finishing options, listed from least shine to most shine:

  • Dull
  • Matte
  • Silk
  • Gloss

While I am sure there are places for each of these finishes, for business postcards I would suggest either silk or gloss. We use silk because not only does it have a nice shine, but it feels great (see point above about the importance of touch). Additionally, the front of our postcard has a UV finish that protects the image and gives it an added shine boost. However, gloss is totally acceptable and will also give a lovely finish.

Remember: use clear imagery and bold text to grab the customer’s attention right off the bat. You want your customer to turn the card over and read your offer. Make your postcard captivating.

4. Clear Information: Postcard Text

Now you have your customer’s attention. What are you going to do with it? Make sure they can easily digest whatever information you present. Use bullet points.

  • Bullet points are easy to read
  • They give the eyes a place to rest
  • And they look great!

Make sure to include whitespace. Don’t overwhelm your customer. Include necessities and stay relevant. Bonus: make it personalized! Make sure your content is perfect for each customer.

The back of our postcard after mailing. Plenty of whitespace, but great use of content and a clear call-to-action.

The back of our postcard after mailing. Plenty of whitespace, great use of content and a clear call-to-action.

5. The Next Step: Call-to-Action

Your customer has now traveled the postcard journey you have set out for them. What’s next? Give them a clear step on how they should follow up. This could be an offer, a discount, or simply a reminder to call you soon.

Whatever next step you go with, it should make sense with the rest of the postcard and for that specific customer. It should also be the most prominent point on your page. This is what you want your customers to do. Make it compelling. If they don’t understand your call-to-action, you are doing it wrong! With a great call-to-action, they will be able to easily follow up with you to take the next step.

Take Home Points

Engage your customer’s senses with a great postcard, and you will succeed. A great feel, with relevant imagery, compelling text, and a clear call-to-action will make your postcard stand out from the rest.

If you are a Customer Lobby customer, rest easy. Not only do we follow these postcard best practices, but by syncing with your accounting system we make sure to target your specific customers exactly when they need it, with a personalized offer they need.

Learn how we can help you with your repeat marketing here.

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3 Negative Reviews That Are Easy to Deal With

July 23rd, 2015 By Jasmine Reynolds

Negative-Feedback

It’s understandable to balk at a negative review and think you have a problem on your hands. We’ve written a lot on how to properly turn these bits of tough feedback into a marketing asset for your business. But how do you respond to a negative review that contains inaccuracies about the work referenced? Or to a one-word review that just says “SCAM”?

Prospective Customers and Negative Reviews

The key to understanding how these negative reviews actually impact your business requires an understanding of how people are actually reading them. Remember that most people do not read reviews from beginning to end. Instead, they will scan the review and look immediately at your response. So that 500-word essay about how poorly you cleaned someone’s carpet will not likely have the impact you think it will–if you know how to respond to it.

Below are some of the three most common negative reviews and how to properly deal with each one.

1. The “So Angry I Can’t Even Write Coherently” Review

nonsensical-negative-reviews

Drunk with rage, these reviews are often difficult to understand. Anyone who did not know the context of the situation wouldn’t even understand what in the world the reviewer is talking about. Yet, these are the negative reviews business owners seem to worry about the most. They’re afraid that the less than flattering comments, no matter their bizarre arrangement, will damage their online reputation.

Your Response:

Keep it short and simple. You don’t even need to address what they’re talking about. Why? Because even if these responses were for the review authors, which they aren’t, these particular review authors do not typically return to see if you’ve responded and will not likely take any offer to rectify the situation. Like a vengeful ghost put to rest, they can move on. And now, so can you.

2. The “Aspiring Paperback Thriller Writer” Review

long-negative-reviews

Often found on Yelp, these negative reviews are tales full of twists and turns and B-rate drama regarding just how awful their experience was. From the surly mechanic to the dead plant in the office, nothing was right. Naturally, you will want to respond with your own counter essay explaining why each detail was the way it was. Do not give in to that impulse.

Your Response:

Address the larger issue in no more than two sentences. Focus on assuring the reader, someone who is considering doing business with you, that this Real Housewives-level of drama will not happen to them. This response makes you appear level-headed and rational. Don’t match their literary prowess with your own.

3. The “Man of Few Words” Review

short-negative-reviews

These are probably the most infuriating because…what are you supposed to do with this? How do you use our response strategy to deal with a negative review with no information?

Your Response:

You don’t. Don’t even respond to it. This review is a good thing. Why? Because negative reviews make your reviews page look real. People are reading reviews looking for the bad ones, ones filled with typos, to assure that these reviews are, in fact, from real people. You are bound to get online reviews that give very little information on what it is that actually made them upset and that’s fine. Let these reviews be validation of the many positive reviews you collect and display.

Negative Reviews Aren’t A Problem

Not all negative reviews warrant worry or response. But remember, negative reviews are marketing collateral when managed properly. So give smart and engaging responses and you can convert more of those readers into actual customers of yours. Follow the Customer Lobby blog to stay informed of the best review management practices.

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Marketing: the queen of mixed messages

July 21st, 2015 By Brinda Lee

Direct Mail vs Email

Email. Direct Mail. Physical Ads. Facebook Ads. Pay per click…. You get the idea. Making marketing decisions in today’s world is overwhelming. The choices seem endless. And while trial and error has a place in any small business (just look at these accidental discoveries), when it comes to marketing, having solid scientific footing makes things a lot easier. That’s why great research about consumer behavior is so exciting. It gives a bit of clarity to an otherwise baffling field.

This is how we all feel sometimes.

This is how we all feel sometimes.

A recent neurological study at Temple University looked at customer behavior and how it relates to marketing. The study compared digital marketing to physical marketing, and it focused on 3 main areas: engagement, memory, and purchase intent (or willingness to buy). Direct mail postcards represented physical media, and email was used for digital media.

Here is a table summarizing which media did best in each category:

OIG table

Results

Physical media more frequently achieved the desired marketing outcome than digital media. Specifically, physical media increased both the desire for the product or service and the emotional reaction to the ad. As you can imagine, these are two key areas to focus on in marketing. Who doesn’t want their customers to have an emotional response to their brand? I know I do.

Does this mean we should all abandon any email and digital marketing efforts going forward? Absolutely not. What it does suggest is that direct mail shouldn’t be neglected. Instead, use physical media to increase emotional engagement and desire. This promotes brand awareness. Then, you can continue with email marketing to focus your customer’s attention on your newly recognizable brand. A one, two knockout.

Takeaway

Want to stand out? Combine direct mail’s emotionality with email’s attention-grabbing capabilities to give your marketing efforts a powerful edge over your competition.

 

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Mindful Reputation Management

July 16th, 2015 By Jasmine Reynolds

Going In Circles

“If we hope to go anywhere or develop ourselves in any way, we can only step from where we are standing. If we don’t really know where we are standing… We may only go in circles…”

― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

Mindfulness is the practice of observing one’s thoughts as they flow and learning how to be in the moment. A benefit is better self-awareness so your actions are more meaningful towards your goals. So to know where you’re going, we need to know where we are and we can use this practice in marketing.

With reputation management and SEO, one can get too focused on increasing visibility without thinking about what content is amplified. It is not just your website and Yelp page that gets boosted in your SEO efforts. There are many local directories that will display syndicated reviews about your business that you were not aware of. Blogs, news stories, Facebook pages–anything mentioning your business can show up and it’s good to know what’s out there.

No matter your SEO strategy, if you are not actively managing your online reputation, you’re not doing much good. If you don’t know where your business is standing, you may only go in circles (with a bad marketing strategy).

Present Content

Start first by managing the content you already have online. You may find your business mentioned in forums, Facebook groups, Twitter conversations, or blogs. If you don’t see a lot of customer complaints, don’t take that as a good thing right off the bat. This can be a sign of a lack of customer engagement. If there is negative feedback, this is a great opportunity to respond to them with a comment that shows prospective customers just how important feedback is to you.

Future Content

It’s a bad idea to start a blog or Facebook page and never update it. Or only update with coupon deals or advertisements. People will quickly mark your content as spammy, and you’ll find low engagement on posts. You will only see the value of social media if you make it valuable for your customers. You don’t have to go viral, in fact, it’s better if you don’t worry about that at all. Just focus on what your customers are interested in, and what they respond to. Reputation management is about engagement not just visibility.

In summary, managing your reputation starts by knowing what you already have. Whether repairing a reputation or finding ways to fill the void, know where you stand so you don’t find yourself going in circles.

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Picture Superiority Effect: Let’s look at Direct Mail

July 14th, 2015 By Brinda Lee

Direct Mail

If your customers are anything like me, or you, their email inbox overflows with offers, reminders, or discounts from a variety of businesses. I open some of them and get great deals, give feedback, or remember to return to trusted companies to do more business. But, honestly, just as often I trash the emails without ever opening them. This is a problem for your marketing campaign.

A customer who sees and associates an image with your brand is 65% more likely to retain the information than someone who only saw text.Image retention


“Based on research into the Picture Superiority Effect, when we read text alone, we are likely to remember only 10 percent of the information 3 days later. If that information is presented to us as text combined with a relevant image, we are likely to remember 65 percent of the information 3 days later.” – John Medina, Brain Rules, 2008


Remember, an email subject line has no image. You’ve probably spent time, and money, crafting your messages to your customers. You want them to remember you. If they don’t open the email, they won’t see the images, the offers, or form a connection with your brand.

What can we do, as service businesses, to get our customers to listen? Or see? Direct Mail. A recent Gallup survey found that 4 in 10 Americans look forward to checking their physical mail. Of course, different forms of mail evoke different reactions. It’s important that the mail is personal, beautiful, and engaging.

What does this mean? Use mail. Your customer will immediately see images and text to associate with your brand. They will remember you. And when it’s time to call a business again, your name will pop into their mind first.

At the end of the day, it’s comforting to come home to the mail.

Stay tuned for more information on Direct Mail, and how it can help you delight customers and increase repeat business.

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3 Steps To Cleaning Up Multiple Directory Listings

July 9th, 2015 By Jasmine Reynolds

wrong_direction_blog

If you’ve ever Google’d your business and found multiple directory listings with your business name but an old address or phone number, you got a problem. Both search engines and customers are confused about where or who you are. It’s an identity crisis your business doesn’t need as you try to capture more leads over the internet.

So you think “Well I’ll just change my information through my Google My Business account and that will solve it”. It’s completely rational to think you can fix by going to Google and updating the information there. However, that’s not how Google works.

This is how Google works:

local_search_ecosystem_us

Note: Don’t panic.

It is within your and Google’s best interest to have accurate NAP information for your business. It validates the legitimacy of the both of you when customers can find accurate information on local businesses they’re researching. You also don’t want your cluster of 30 reviews to get separated and syndicated in different directions, which hurts your review equity.

The above graphic may look a little overwhelming, but there are only a few things you need to do to get your listings together.

1. Don’t Make New Listings

If you already have multiple listings on one directory, it will not help you to make another on top of those. Even if one of those listings has the correct information, it doesn’t mean you’re golden. You never know when one will rank higher than the other. You also don’t want to confuse Google and hurt your SEO performance when the algorithm doesn’t know which listing to display.

2. Get to the Source

The good news is that you don’t have to update each individual directory to effect change across all of them. The three major directory networks to check with are Localeze, Infogroup, and Acxiom. Two others worth mentioning are CityGrid and Yellowbot. If there are already listings on any of these directories, again, do not make a new one. Make a free account with the service in question and update the information there.

3. Keep a Record

It’s a good idea to make a spreadsheet of this project for both inaccurate listings that need updating and for the log in information for any accounts you create. The next time you make a change to your NAP, the process will be much more straightforward. Use tools like this one on Moz Local to find your local listings and see where you need to update listings or where you might have to create them.

***

The most important thing to remember in this entire process is to have patience. The time it takes for changes to filter through the local search ecosystem is not instantaneous. It may take up to 2-3 months for permanent changes to show up everywhere.

This might seem like a long process but taking the time to fix your listings will make a large, positive impact on your business.

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The First Step to Understanding Your Customers: Listen Up!

July 7th, 2015 By Brinda Lee

Understand your customer

 

Let’s face it. It’s hard to know your customers.

You’ve done a great job. Their car purrs like a kitten. The new tile in the bathroom sparkles in just the right way. The temperature control of their new HVAC system functions like a dream. But still, they might not come back to you. Next time there might be a better deal, a closer mechanic, or a new cleaning product on the market. It’s frustrating.

Every business wants to maximize the lifetime value of their customers. After all, it’s much less expensive to retain a customer than it is to find a new one (around 4-10x more expensive!). And it feels good knowing your standout service gets loyal customers coming back again and again. But how can you ensure that customers will keep coming back to you, or that you really — I mean REALLY — know what they want?

 

Know Your Customer’s Voice

With Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, each customer has a wide social influence. More and more customers are using this referral power to promote their customer experiences, both positive and negative. We’ve all heard the horror stories. By tuning in and paying attention to what these customer are saying, you can strengthen your understanding of your business, and learn what your customers desire most.

 

Learn From Your Mistakes

Reviews are a great starting place to understanding what makes your business great. Or not so great. Don’t be afraid to use your customer’s voice to recognize where you need to change. Negative experiences, when quickly fixed, can make a customer even more loyal to a business. Use the bad experience to your advantage. Gain a loyal customer, and turn that review into a marketing asset. Tell everyone how you made it right. Keep doing it right in the future!

 

Understand Your Strengths

Paying attention to your negative reviews, and correcting bad company habits in response, is only part of the picture. Read your positive reviews too! Do your customers love that you wash their car after servicing it? Are they thrilled that you wore booties when fixing their bathroom sink? Did they swoon when they saw your popcorn machine in the waiting room?

These small gestures that get people excited can help you know your customer and guide your business in the future. Don’t overlook your great feedback. Listen up and use it to your advantage.

Understand your customer’s voice, and you will begin to understand your customer.

 

P.S. Customer Lobby has a standing offer to help you write a response to a negative review – no matter where you receive that review, and even if you are not our customer. Take us up on this offer, we would love to help!

ROI-report-image-for-blog

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Make the Most of this Independence Day Weekend

July 2nd, 2015 By Jasmine Reynolds

4th-July-Party-Ideas

The fourth of July is a time for barbecue, patriotism, and fireworks. This also a time for last minute jobs over the weekend from panicked customers for those working through the holiday. Whether you’re out on the field or lucky enough to get the day off, here are some quick reads to help you make the most of this Independence Day weekend.

Nothing to Fear in Asking for Reviews – CustomerLobby Blog

Some of you are probably already in the middle of last minute home repairs for customers who need a smoothly running house in time for their 4th of July party on Saturday. Those of you running an auto repair shop will probably have customers towed in from the highway who were on their way to see extended family for the holiday. These are the customers you want feedback from the most and we’ve written extensively on the best ways to follow up with customers to do just that.

Weather Affects Reviews – CustomerLobby Blog

In some areas, the temperature can get up to three digits this weekend so keep in mind that some customers will be unhappy no matter what you do (unless you fix their AC of course). However, don’t fret the negative reviews that may roll in. As explained above, asking reviews from all your customers will generate more 4 and 5-star reviews so make sure you ask for feedback from those customers you saved from the sweltering heat without an AC.

11 Tips And Tricks That’ll Guarantee An Amazing Fourth Of July Cookout – Huffington Post

Before you go shopping for your Saturday cookout, considering some of these tips and recipes for having an amazing cookout this Independence Day. I can’t say I’d recommend putting macaroni and cheese on a hot dog but I’ve heard great things about grilled watermelon.

Tiny Hamster’s Fourth Of July BBQ – YouTube

Even members of the animal kingdom are celebrating the Independence of the USA with their own tiny barbecue. If you’re busy at work this weekend, feel free to celebrate vicariously through these adorable hamsters for a few minutes.

And with that, remember to stay safe and hydrated this 4th of July weekend!

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SEO is a Science

June 25th, 2015 By Jasmine Reynolds

Periodic Table of SEOSEO is a bit of a beast. Everyone has their own methods and strategies and gems to give out to anyone looking. If you’re like me, you like your information in one place, in visually appealing info-graphics that can print out nicely. Thankfully, the folks at Search Engine Land with Column Five Media have provided that very handy graphic and made a girl’s dream come true. Each “element” is a key ranking factor to consider in ensuring your efforts are on track.

It notes both On-The-Page and Off-The-Page SEO factors that help and hurt your performance with a question fixed to each allowing you to match your efforts against the table. Positive elements include crawl (Ac, “Can search engines easily ‘crawl’ pages on site?”) and negative factors include purchased links (Vp, “Have you purchased links in hopes of better rankings?”).

You can see a bigger PDF version of the table as well as a printable copy in the link above.

We’ve also written about how to improve your own SEO performance. Here are some of the more recent ones:

Impact of Reviews on a Non-branded Search

Local Business NAP Management

New survey: reviews and local SEO

Easy Website Tweaks To Capture More Leads

 

 

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