From: Comcast, To: Mr. %$!#@ Customer

January 29th, 2015 By Kelsey Brown

What happened in the office did not stay in the office in this latest case of Comcast customer “service”.

The news and photographic evidence broke yesterday about a Comcast customer named Ricardo Brown in Spokane, Washington who received his bill and a salutation I can’t write here without the comic book censorship above. (Classic hint: Hold your tongue and say “apple”.)

Getting a bill is never fun, and this one added insult to injury in a blunder not too far off the heels of the company’s last bad PR event. Rather than add more negativity to this unfortunate story, we can visit customer service lessons that stem from it like last time.

1) Don’t bulldoze your customers.

Ricardo’s wife, Lisa, says she had tried to cancel the cable part of her service and was met with refusal and a transfer to a “retention specialist”, who then pushed her toward an even tighter contract. When she saw the…um…alteration the company made on her husband’s name she said, ”I was never rude. It could have been that person was upset because I didn’t take the offer.”

Customer Lobby has found that the majority of revenue for local service businesses comes from repeat customers, not brand new ones. When keeping customers happy is your lifeblood, it’s not a good idea to alienate them with poor communication and give them stories like Lisa’s to share online.

2) Take the high road, because you’re a pro.

Clearly, someone at Comcast let a personal grudge translate into professional damage. What was probably a very quick edit has now landed that employee’s employer on the “bad business practices” list again.

The occasional negative customer experience is inevitable for ANY business, just like losing customers occasionally can’t be 100% avoided. But your online reputation and your revenue don’t have to suffer from these problems, and there are measurable solutions. Just like responding well to a negative review is a great solution for your reputation (remember, we’ll help you write the perfect response), responding professionally to your customers’ concerns has a lot more measurable staying power than burning the bridge.

 

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High-Conversion Content in Just 15 Seconds? It’s Not Impossible. Join Us!

January 22nd, 2015 By Kelsey Brown

We loved the turnout at last week’s presentation, ”Asking Customers for Reviews: Why, When, and How,” and invite you to join us next week for our third broadcast:

“How To Make Your Business Remarkable in 15 Seconds”

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Free Broadcast
Thursday, January 29th
11:00am-11:15am PST
Hosted by Kelsey Brown, Marketing Manager

Fact: Most online traffic bounces off a page after 15 seconds.

Proof: Plenty of research.

Additional Proof: Think of the last time you really read online (no skimming!).

 

How do you project high-conversion messages about your business when you only have your audience for 15 seconds?

You can’t make a first impression twice, so join us for just 15 minutes of your day to find out about:

  • Hitting all the right notes with your Web audience.
  • Answering “Who am I and what can I provide?” for your visitors.
  • Real local businesses who are using design to draw customers.
  • Exceptions to the 15 seconds rule and why they’re special.

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Google MapMaker: How It Can Help Your Business

January 15th, 2015 By Kelsey Smith

We already know that it’s important to keep business information consistent across the Internet. In fact, inconsistent information can not only confuse your prospective customers, but it can also negatively affect your ranking in search engine results. In addition to the directories your business is listed on, you should also make sure that customers are able to find you and up-to-date information on Google Maps.

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NAP, It’s Important

First things first, it’s important to verify that your business’s information is correct wherever it is listed.  The most important thing to check is your company name, address and phone number (also known as NAP for those who like acronyms or sleep-related terms). This information is like your company’s fingerprint, it’s a unique identifier that helps Google and other search engines recognize your business and it helps potential customers find you.

Inconsistencies in your information are problematic for several reasons. A major one is that having conflicting information is bad for search engine optimization (SEO). Conflicting information can also hinder review syndication.

 

What is MapMaker and How Can It Help Local Businesses

Google’s MapMaker allows people to become cartographers and use their local knowledge to update Google maps by adding and editing locations around the world. It provides access to correct errors you may find, add missing points of interest and add details to existing content

To confirm user contributions are accurate, each edit will be reviewed. After the additions are approved, the edits will appear in Google Maps within minutes—dramatically speeding up the time it takes for online maps to reflect the often-changing physical world.

These user updates help determine whether your business is listed correctly in Google, and how visible your business is in Google+ Local search results.

To see if your Google Maps information is accurate, perform a search of your business’s address and look at the map results to see where your business shows up. Is the pin dropped in the right location? Is the content and NAP that appear accurate? In addition to being able to edit this information, you can also add extra details, like hours of operation, if your business is located in a shopping center or if there’s a parking lot available.

It’s a good idea to perform Google searches of your business anyway, to make sure your online reputation is fair and accurate (if you don’t like what you see, here’s how we can help).

There is also an Edit/Report button in MapMaker, where you can request a listing be changed by providing an explanation as to why certain information is incorrect and any valuable information supporting your claims, though be advised Google can reject your appeal.

Updating your business location with accurate detail on Google MapMaker will help your customers to find you, and will give you an edge during map location searches. MapMaker also feeds data to Google My Business.

Note: Google has several YouTube Videos and a FAQ to help users navigate and make edits with MapMaker.

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3 Internet Marketing Takeaways from BrightLocal’s Latest SMB Survey

January 9th, 2015 By Kelsey Brown

BrightLocal just released results from its survey, “SMB Internet Marketing Survey 2014″. Like this study on the increasing importance of online customer reviews, BrightLocal’s recent research (in which 736 SMBs participated) provides plenty of remarkable stats. This time, on the ways small to medium-sized businesses use online marketing, and how they prioritize their strategies when trying to engage customers.

The survey is worth checking out in full, but I’ll review my top takeaways for SMBs, by SMBs:

 

1) 75% Consider Internet Marketing “Effective” or “Very Effective” at Boosting Business

When surveyed, a whopping 75% of the 736 small businesses included said that promoting themselves to online prospects is a sure way to attract new customers (32% in the “very effective” group and 43% in the “effective” group).

This is up from 68% in 2013, and correlates with the trend we’re seeing over and over: The online evolution of “word of mouth” referrals.

 

2) Google+ and Google My Business Confuse Some SMBs

20% of the businesses surveyed said they understand these platforms are significant, but find them difficult to comprehend. 17% said they find it annoying trying to keep up with Google’s numerous tweaks.

We first covered Google’s new small business product here, and got granular with a series of instructional videos Google released here. With many SMBs finding it impossible to use Google+ and Google My Business smoothly, it makes even more sense to release a “how-to” series like this.

Huge note: Platforms that are confusing to business owners are often just as confusing to their customers. Additionally, Google+ and others like Yelp and Angie’s List require account sign-ins for customers who want to write reviews.

Streamlining the online review process on the business owners’ end AND their happy customers’ end is what we do.

 

3) 70% of SMBs Spend Less than $500/Month on Online Marketing

My first reaction to this? “As it should be!” SMBs should focus on quality Internet marketing – like turning their best customers into their best promoters – instead of falling in the “higher cost, higher value” trap. It’s interesting to note that this is the same group who said Internet marketing is effective or very effective at generating new business for them.

Note: Getting online content that performs across several sites, drives traffic, pulls in new customers, and keeps current customers coming back doesn’t cost nearly this much. In fact, it doesn’t cost anything in a full trial.

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Reviews + Solutions = Resolutions, and We’re Launching a Series to Celebrate

January 5th, 2015 By Kelsey Brown

Make 2015 your year with more customers and a better online reputation for your business. We’re kicking off a webinar series to help get you there.

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Each week, we’ll cover topics that will help you master capturing new customers online. Join us!

Upcoming webinars, starting this Thursday, January 8 at 11:00am-11:30am PST. Click the link to register.

  1. How to Turn Bad Reviews into Great Content (Thursday, January 8th)
  2. Asking Customers for Reviews: Why, When, and How (Thursday, January 15th)
  3. How to Make Your Business Remarkable in 15 Seconds (Thursday, January 29th)

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Content Trends: Video Marketing in 2015 and What It Means for Local Businesses

December 18th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

A picture is worth a thousand words, so how much are moving pictures worth?

Recent articles like this one from MarketingProfs claim videos will be worth quite a bit as engaging marketing content in the coming year. They argue that the Web video format will trump traditional media like static photos or (*gasp*) written word.

We’ve addressed today’s average online attention span before (and pointed out review content is a very clear exception). I’d argue it continues to dwindle down as online visitors feel increasingly ho-hum about the immense amount of information being pushed their way.

I think the articles have a point: Videos are pearls in a growing sea of content. So, as we move into a new year with new marketing content popping up in front of visitors all the time, videos will likely matter more.

CL video

It is important to note that the articles are mostly geared toward B2B marketers, not small local businesses. However, I’m a big fan of gleaning business-boosting lessons from all points on the market spectrum. As a small business owner, you could certainly still learn from what we saw on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Just the same, you can try adding videos of your own to your business’s website to gauge visitor engagement and conversion value.

As I covered in the “How to Capture Your Online Audience” series (you can read parts 1, 2, and 3 here), small business owners don’t need to move mountains to create moving content. This is true with videos, too. Like having plenty of recommendations from real customers, posting a video starring a friendly professional from your company is great for making your prospects feel more connected to you than your competitor, before they even pick up the phone in their buying process.

If you do want to get a little fancier, without sacrificing ease, you can use apps like Hyperlapse. I’d recommend something like shooting a tour of your latest project and condensing it into a stimulating, short and sweet video to show off your business’s expertise.

All of this being said…

If producing videos to reach prospects still seems like more trouble than it’s worth, you can always rely on customer reviews as extremely valuable content with the power to drive up your customer conversion and retention rates.

You can update your website, your social media listings, and your business directory listings in one swoop with verified reviews to dominate search results and give your prospects a clear choice in the often murky waters of Web content.

Let us help. We have an expert ready to demonstrate in 10 minutes how reviews can impact your business. We also offer an all-included trial of our features so you can see for yourself.

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Facebook Reviews: How and Why to Take Advantage of This New Platform

December 11th, 2014 By Kelsey Smith

For a little over a year now, Facebook has quietly ventured into the online reviews world by allowing its 1.3 billion (and growing) active users to not only “like” a local business page, but to also give them a star rating on a scale of one to five. Businesses can use this new feature to get more reviews across the Web and as a tool for building their presence online.

Benefits of Getting Reviews on Facebook

Facebook reviews have some unique benefits for both businesses and users. For one, the site already has a massive user base, meaning it’s likely customers are already account holders. (Fun Fact: Active users spend, on average, 40 minutes a day on the site). And since so many are already familiar with using the social media site, it isn’t a big stretch to ask them for a star rating, especially since checking in and liking pages has become part of today’s social norm.

Once someone rates a business on Facebook, the social nature of the site will cause the review to appear in the News Feeds of others and can help other users discover a new business, leading to greater brand awareness for the company.

What to Do If You Get a Negative Review

Like any other review platform, however, there’s always the possibility of getting a negative review.

While negative reviews are inevitable, it’s important to manage them as quickly as possible. The ability for page administrators to comment on Facebook reviews is the application’s newest function.

We’ve written extensively about how to respond to negative reviews in the past, and those guidelines can also apply to Facebook reviews. A short and empathetic comment on a negative review owning the issue and describing how it has been resolved will not only appeal to the reviewer, but will earn you the  trust of prospective customers.

How to Enable Facebook Reviews

To enable Facebook reviews, which are currently only available to businesses with physical addresses, you’ll first have to make sure your business is categorized as a local business. To do this, click About under your business name and then select Page Info. One you’re listed as a local business, click to edit your address. You’ll see a box that, if checked, will display a map, check-ins, and star ratings on your business’s Facebook profile.

When reviewing a business on Facebook, users are only required to give the business a star rating. Writing any details about the experience is optional and the user can choose who sees it, thought the default setting is public. The average star rating is then displayed on the business’s Facebook page below the company’s name, though it’s worth noting only public ratings are factored into the overall rating.

Note: Facebook has a very comprehensive FAQ page regarding reviews.

How Customer Lobby Can Help

Facebook reviews can be a valuable asset to marketing your business and will help you reach a larger base of prospective customers.

To help you get reviews on this growing platform, we are unveiling a Smart Invitation for Facebook that will be available Friday, Dec. 12.

Like our Smart Invites for Google+, Yelp, and Angie’s List, the one for Facebook will help direct your customers to your business’s Facebook page by providing a direct link in every Email Invitation you send or when a customer clicks the Customer Lobby button on your website. This helps you get more reviews in more places.

Note: To enable Smart Invites, log into your Customer Lobby account and select Reviews, followed by Settings, then Invitation Settings. Or, you can call or email us to get them set up.

In Conclusion

Facebook reviews can provide a unique opportunity for businesses to interact with their customers, as well as provide another place to get reviews. The application gives local businesses another avenue for self-promotion and makes it even easier for customers to leave feedback, making it a valuable marketing tool.

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Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and What Small Businesses Should Learn from Big Boxes

December 4th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

Ho, ho, h’oh boy. The holidays are here, and big-box retailers like Target and Walmart are pushing their commercial cheer.

We may joke about the holidays creeping up earlier and earlier, but the figures backing this sensation are serious business. This year’s Black Friday turnout statistics were staggering, just like the year before. Add the more recent Cyber Monday craze – which just enjoyed the biggest online shopping turnout in U.S. history – and our marketing ears should perk up.

Though it may look like it on the surface, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not just for the big retailers covering every ad space. There are choice insights that local businesses can glean, too. Here are…

3 Big Takeaways for Small Businesses

Cover social media.

We’ve said before that you definitely should ask for reviews on Facebook, though with a strategic grain of salt. Since that post was written, Facebook has stepped up its reviews game, making social media property even more valuable. On Cyber Monday, for example, Facebook referrals dominated conversion rates.

These are cyber stats in a very large marketplace, but there is a lesson to be learned. The number of prospective consumers (or local customers) browsing Facebook to drive their purchasing decisions is steadily increasing. A small business with an attractive Facebook page, Twitter feed, Google+ profile, etc. has the advantage of more positive exposure to more customers.

Note: One way to give social media profiles a business conversion boost is with rich customer review content that is consistently updated. Connect with us to learn about our automatic social media syndication.

Don’t let your reputation go cold.

As we’ve seen, the start of the holiday shopping season is sliding further away from December every year. In conjunction with that fact is the reality of consumer research stretching into more weeks than before. For many small businesses who sell services, there are clear lines in number of jobs between seasons (putting on a new roof is tough in stormy weather), so it may seem less important to push messaging out to searching prospects during certain times of the year.

However, prospects often have an idea they need a service done long before they pick up the phone to request it. Additionally, SEO needs TLC. It’s an ongoing and dynamic process that requires constant content updates to really take a small business anywhere in the competitive market. Letting social media pages, a homepage, or verified customer comments go cold and stale means not being first on prospects’ minds when the sky clears.

Note: See how one business is staying on top of Google search results with updated customer reviews.

Start talking about value, not price.

These were some of the wildest Black Friday deals this year. Staples offered the laptop I’m using right now for $150 less than I paid for it. DVD players were going for $35 at Walmart. Promotions like these are sure to bring in droves of excited shoppers. However, we all know they’re not sustainable and tend to disappear quickly. Promos are great for capturing attention and business conversion initially, but this tactic isn’t built for healthy long-term customer retention.

Small businesses will benefit by mastering the transition between talking about price and talking about value of their services. For example, publish reviews from current happy customers, capture new customers who like what they read, provide great service again and convert the new customers into loyal, repeat visitors. At evolving stages of the customer relationship, focus shifts from what’s being charged to what is being provided, and how well it’s being provided.

Note: Fortunately, local businesses have the benefit of satisfied customers who want to give back for a great experience. The trick is making sure happy customers can easily write online reviews.

 

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Amazon Will Win

November 26th, 2014 By Ted Paff

Lots of companies want to help local service businesses get leads that turn into customers.  Google, Yelp, Facebook…they are all in the business of selling leads.

toolsBut Amazon, more than any of these companies has a better brand image with consumers and massive direct web traffic.  So when Amazon starts selling local services, pay attention because its going to be big.

Amazon Will Win

Yes, there are lots of competitors in this market: Angies’ List, Thumbtack, Handy and many others all want to compete in this space but Amazon has a natural advantage.  In a marketplace (which is what all of these companies are trying to be), the hardest and most expensive part of building the business is generating traffic.  With the exception of Amazon, all of the other competitors in this space rely on Google which has its own thoughts on being a marketplace.  Amazon, on the other hand, has traffic and a consumer brand image that will be very difficult to beat.

Pricing Looks Cheap … at first

One of the striking things about this announcement is that the pricing is reasonable for new customer capture – 20% for transactions up to $1,000.  Most local services businesses would take that business as fast as Amazon is willing to sell it to them.

Yeah…that is what book sellers thought 10 years ago too.

The way this game gets played is that Amazon will take 20% but businesses will be competing on price.  The true cost of capturing a job on Amazon will be much more expensive that 20% because, as the marketplace gains volume, businesses will be willing to offer lower and lower prices. They will make most of their profits on repeat business.

Action Plan

  1.  Register with Amazon to sell local services
  2. ** Capture the name, address, phone and email of EVERYONE you do work for**
  3. Market to your repeat customers with higher margin services (PS we are offering this on a fully automated basis starting in a couple of months.  If you want an early invite, give us a call and ask about our repeat customer marketing solution).

 

 

 

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3 Ways to Turn an Old Taboo Into Your New Marketing Treasure

November 7th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

 

Think of a word that rhymes with “complicit” and can have a rather negative connotation.

Okay, here’s a visual hint:

Here’s Johnny on your doorstep, even if you don’t want his vacuum, his political views, his charity request, or whatever else he’s trying todrum roll please — solicit.

For many of us, just the thought of solicitation brings up nightmare scenarios of being woken up early on a Saturday, interrupted during dinner, etc. But when we strip away the negative stereotype and get to the definition of “soliciting” — which is simply “asking someone for something” — we find a huge competitive marketing tactic that you should be taking advantage of right now.

You really can get your customers excited about being asked for something as valuable as reviews. Eliminate the taboo and successfully solicit using these 3 tips:

1. Plant the Seed During Service

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“We value your feedback” has two sides to it, and you should be using both if you really want to build your reputation. You value your customer’s feedback because, of course, you want to make sure your customer is satisfied.

But you also value that customer’s feedback because it means your customer has just turned into a promoter.

We’ve covered BrightLocal’s momentous survey on the power of customer reviews before, and it’s definitely worth revisiting if you want to use major consumer trends to your benefit. Why? Because the industry leader found that 88% of today’s prospective customers “trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations.”

So, the customer who just paid you is now helping you attract more paying customers — all with a few comments on what they experienced. And, to add a simultaneous win-win, your current customer is feeling even more appreciated and respected by your business because you’re openly asking for their important thoughts.

2. Don’t Miss 88% of Your Prospects

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A word-of-mouth recommendation passed on by your customer to their friend or two is wonderful, but it’s a tin can on a string compared to the expansive reach of a recommendation published online. With a proven statistic like 88% backing you up, you can feel confident about pushing customer comments onto the World Wide Web.

Even if the customer who provided feedback online never returns to use your services again because customer churn is inevitable — though treatable with the right analysis – their stellar recommendation is still promoting your business to each new prospect who reads it.

Which brings us around to another impressive stat: While the majority of online content is ignored, customer reviews stand out and actually get read. You did the hard work for your customers, now let your customers’ reviews work for you as your Web property cornerstone and new business conversion tool.

3. Take Control of Your Reputation Destiny

YOU

The long and short of it is, the best defense is a good offense. Forgive me for the idioms, but it’s true! You want customer reviews published online to boost business, you have plenty of happy customers who say they’ll recommend you…and you have zero guarantee they’re actually going to do it.

So what is a business owner to do, especially when you don’t have the time to chase customers’ promises of eventual reviews?

Solicit your reviews. Really, it’s okay. Remember that soliciting reviews boils down to taking a proactive approach to wide-reaching customer feedback about your company. Launching a proactive approach opens the doors to some very unique opportunities, like:

  • Getting in front of the two audiences that make or break the success of your Web property: your already-satisfied, ready-to-review current customers, and your prospective customers.
  • Tailoring the way you collect reviews to accommodate and delight your customers. Your customer doesn’t have Internet access? Use a phone call to collect their review, letting them freely talk about their good experience while all the publication work is covered. Some customers are hard to reach by phone? Send unlimited emails with direct links to where they can submit reviews. Not sure if your customer will remember to do a review weeks later? Get reviews on-site and at the time of service. Your customer prefers print? Hand them a short and sweet review form and have their comments published online later.

Here’s Another Hint…

Customer Lobby members have access to all of these routes for getting more valuable customer reviews, much more easily. If you’re not a member, we still want to hear from you. If you already have a method for soliciting customer reviews and want to find out if it’s optimized, or if you are just starting your online reviews campaign and need to know more about increasing your capture success, get in touch with us. We’re happy to discuss what you are or should be doing to make sure you’re proactive with your reviews and reputation.

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