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How Consumers Use Reviews Online

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When you’re searching online to find the perfect restaurant to try out on Friday night, the last place you’ll choose is one with zero online presence. In the information age that is exactly what people are looking for: information. They want to see photos, other customer’s opinions, and maybe even a virtual tour if you have a physical storefront. These days, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, with 94% saying they’ll use a business if it has at least a four-star rating.

On average, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a five to nine percent increase in revenue, with just one negative review costing you 30 customers. Reviews are the best way to hold a business accountable. Consumers look for reliability, expertise and professionalism, and if you cannot practice these they’ll let you know.

So, if negative reviews are so dangerous, why collect reviews at all? Well, a couple negative reviews are better than no reviews at all, so long as you’ve got some positive ones going on as well. When negative reviews occur, respond quickly, admit to any errors, reiterate your company’s mission and if possible and warranted, provide compensation.

When a consumer looks at or leaves reviews online, they’re looking to:

Find the best business for their needs

Build trust

Express themselves

Help other consumers

Here are some more numbers to help you understand the benefits of reviews:

92% of consumers read online reviews

68% say positive reviews make them trust a business more

Only14% of consumers will use a business with a one- or two-star rating, whereas 94% would use one with a five-star rating

80% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations

Online reviews are probably the most important tool for a modern business. You can gain them with skill by requesting them from loyal customers and publicly thanking positive reviewers while apologizing to those who had a bad experience.

A business with active reviews on websites like Google, Yelp and Foursquare will get a boost in SEO making their online presence skyrocket and produce tangible results in the form of an 18% uplift in sales.

Now more than ever, consumers want to see that business’ are run by real people, not robots. By interacting through reviews, you are showing that you care enough about your customers to take a moment out of your day to leave a personalized response to their opinion, and being able to do that is massively beneficial to any business. The last thing the 2017 consumer wants is to deal with a business that is unreachable.

Reviews impact search ranking, too. In 2014 Google updated its search engine to take into consideration the reviews from popular sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. So, if you’re actively getting your customers to leave reviews for your business, you’ll get more business, guaranteed. This sets off a chain reaction to in turn produce more reviews and more new customers.

Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and interact with customers. It’s the only way your business is going to grow and survive. Give the gift of communication, and your consumers will most definitely give back!

How Online Reviews Impact Your Local SEO

More and more businesses are realizing the importance of online reviews when it comes to promoting their product or service, but did you know reviews also affect your Search Engine Optimization? SEO is just as crucial to the promotion of a business in 2017 because it means a boost in your ranking. For example, if someone is searching for a hair salon there are many options. But if you have the best SEO, they’ll find you first.

When you’re trying to beef up your SEO online reviews are critical to this process. Search engines love fresh user generated content, and customers love social proof. In fact, 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.

Search engines like Google or Bing are in the business of creating fast and accurate search results, and the input from real people in the form of reviews is a great way to do this. In a recent study by Moz it was determined that reviews make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank results.

Factors that can play into your business’ SEO include a variety of signals such as linking, keywords and categories, with reviews coming in before social media in terms of boosting your business!

Google favors high-rated sites, and in a world where customers spend 31% more on a business with good reviews, you’ll want to get a review gathering strategy in place if you don’t already have one!

A good way to do this is request that happy customers leave a review. If you’re selling online, include your request in a thank you email. At a physical store, create a flyer you can drop in a customer’s bag along with their merchandise. You can even create a landing page on your website linking to review sites for the ultimate ease of access.

Review sites that will get the results you’re looking for include:

Google My Business/

Yelp

Foursquare

Citysearch

YP.com

Try the Review Handout Generator by Whitespark and Phil Rozek if you need an easy way to create handouts for your store, then wait for the reviews to start flowing!

Asking for reviews can be a bit of a scary process, considering you can land on a customer who’s not happy with their interaction. But don’t worry—even negative reviews keep your business active from a search engine’s point of view, and as long as you respond to all negative reviews in a calm and professional manner, you’ll be just fine.

Finally, on your quest for reviews, don’t be tempted into paying for fake reviews. This is considered fraud and you could be in big financial trouble for doing it. Not to mention, it’s just better to have legitimate reviews for your business. Even if they’re criticizing you, you can learn something from unhappy customers.

No matter the size or type of business you run, online reviews are imperative to keeping it running successfully. So, go and gather reviews and see just how good the results are!

A concept image of a magnifying glass with a wooden handle on a textured white surface showing the word authentic but magnifying the word fake resembling counterfeitting

Receiving Fake Reviews From Competitors

In this day and age, dishonest companies have been able to stoop to new lows by attempting to damage their competitor’s reputation online with fake reviews.

While it may not be immediately obvious that a competitor is attacking you, a quick check through their other reviews should give you a clue. They are likely attacking other similar businesses in the area. If negative reviews are posted on other competitor’s pages within a tight timeframe, you’ve got the start of a case.

Fake and negative reviews are tricky to deal with. Always do your research before dealing with them, or you may be responding inappropriately to someone who is simply expressing their displeasure. Remember—there is such thing as a legitimate negative review. Take these as constructive criticism, and respond politely.

Tact at All Times

When responding to a fake negative review from your competitor, practice tact at all times. Whether this negative review is legitimate or not, treat it with the same respect. Follow these steps to compose a polite and professional response:

Breathe

Literally. Breathing exercises will calm you down, so take a few deep breaths.

Don’t take it personally.

A difficult one, but part of being a professional.

Address the issue.

Start your response off by repeating their complaint. For example: I understand that you (insert situation here).

State your core values.

Inform the reviewer of your business’ core values and why they don’t match with what happened.

Make a game plan.

Tell the reviewer what you plan to do to remedy the situation. If this is a competitor leaving a fake review, you likely will not actually do this because the situation did not occur. But, existing and potential customers will appreciate seeing what you would do if it really had happened.

Say thank you.

Thank the negative reviewer for their constructive criticism and invite them back to experience your business again in a better light sometime in the future.

Even if you expect this review to be removed, there will be wait time. Writing a proper response is of value to your future clients. Don’t lose business and allow your competitor to accomplish what they came to your review page for in the first place.

Keep on Keeping on

Being a business owner will always come with its ups and downs. This is what professionalism is all about! Practice being a professional adult at all times, flag inappropriate reviews and represent yourself well.

Should Google not agree with your report, you can always escalate the situation, encourage friends and family to flag the reviews as well, and tweet @GoogleSmallBiz to hurry the process along.

Like with school yard bullying, a reaction is always what a troll wants, so give them a minimal one. In the end, you make your own reputation in the business world and can overcome anything by keeping a cool head.

Instagram for the Small Business Owner

Instagram is a platform with over 600 million monthly active users. It’s the fourth most downloaded app, and 60% of people on Instagram discover new products through it. If you’re not already using it, you should be.

Some find the visual presentation of Instagram to be daunting. But all you need to interact with millions of potential customers is a cell phone and a little creativity.

Taking a Great Photo

These are a few tips that can help you out with your Instagram photography every time.

Composition

When making an impression, composition is one of the most important things to consider. A photo that a customer’s eyes can follow easily is always going to be more popular. Use the rule of thirds in this process by taking photos with the grid on your phone. The grid will help you to perfectly center your shot or align a subject on the grid to produce an off-centered shot that still works visually.

Lighting

Overly bright and overly dark photos just tend to be less inviting. If you don’t have a good system for lighting your shots, take advantage of natural light.

Palette

When a customer looks at your Instagram, they don’t just look at one photo, they view it as a whole. If your account has a unified look to it, users will be more likely to follow.

Filters

Filters are not cruise control for cool, but they can help. There are many to choose from and you can add a little, or a lot. Don’t filter excessively, or you will appear unprofessional and your products wont’ be represented accurately!

Videos

A newer feature to Instagram, videos and stories (videos and still images that are sent out to your followers and disappear after 24 hours) are excellent tools, though some still choose not to use them. However, with an app like Instagram it’s important to remain at the forefront of anything new they’ve implemented. If it’s available – use it!

Play around with videos. You’ll have fun and your followers will love it. Stories are especially great for announcements that don’t need to permanently remain on your account.

Hashtags

Hashtags are the lifeblood of Instagram. If you want someone to find your post, you need to tag it. That wall of text under a photo may look like overkill, but it’s been proven that those who use the maximum amount of hashtags (30) get triple the likes.

It’s important to note that you should not make up your own hashtags.  Pick ones that are used a lot so that your photo can show up as “trending” in the category. If you’re using long made-up hashtags, no one is searching for them and no one will find you.

Regramming

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and on Instagram you can do that by regramming. By downloading the app “Repost”, when you find a photo you love, you can post it to your account. The original poster will be credited and they’ll probably throw a like and follow your way.

Influencers and Ads

Up until this point, everything we’ve mentioned is free. But if you want to take your Instagram to the next level, you can do so by contacting influencers and purchasing ads.

An influencer is a user who has thousands or millions of followers. Depending on your budget, you can find someone to work with who is mildly popular, or extremely popular. When they share your products, their followers will check out your business!

You can create ads on Instagram by turning your page into a business page, and promoting posts. Or, you can use your Facebook account to launch custom ads that will show up to your chosen demographic.

In Closing

Instagram is a great platform to show off your products and give customers a closer look into how your business functions. For as small or as large a budget as you would like to put into it, it’s guaranteed to give back. So get ‘gramming today—we promise you’ll love it!

Business Owners’ Bad Review Responses A Case Study

Reviews are a fact of life when it comes to running a business.

They can be your best friend, or your worst enemy—depending on how you deal with them.

While it is tempting to write a scathing and entertaining response to people who leave negative reviews, as a professional, it is your duty to hold your tongue and not let your emotions do the thinking.

Below, are some examples of negative review responses, and how they could have been handled better.

1.

Where to start?

Firstly, admitting that you are inebriated when discussing a business issue is never OK. One shouldn’t be drunk in the first place when you’re on the clock (and yes, if you’re responding to reviews in your own time, that counts), but publicly admitting it is highly unprofessional. Next, making personal critiques (grammar) and suggesting a customer see a psychologist is not constructive. Especially when your own grammar and sanity could be up for review.

A more appropriate response to this review would be to apologize for their bad experience, and address the price issues. If your restaurant does have fluctuating prices, that should be noted in store and online so customers are prepared. There can certainly be reasons for this practice but it should be transparent so customers aren’t surprised.

2.

This one isn’t quite as extreme as the last, and could very well be true. However, this response is tinged with sarcasm and, if true, reveals unnecessary personal information. An apology in this case would have been better—state that you were unavailable for serious personal reasons, list that it was no excuse to not communicate with customers and let them know it won’t happen again. Offer them a discount or other incentive on a future booking should they be in town again.

If for some reason the situation is an emergency that keeps you away from your work, and you don’t have someone who can help you out with your business in this way, maybe think about hiring an assistant.

3.

As a business owner, your responses should not look like it was written by a ten year old

…and this one is a great example of what that means. Sure, this review was not the classiest, but the appropriate response would be to take the higher ground. As always, apologize! If you were having a bad day, admit that you were and say it was wrong of you to take it out on customers. Depending on what the prices are, they could be explained/defended in some way. Maybe point out that your aim is not to be cheap but to provide quality food.

What review responses come down to is the old adage “The customer is always right”. They may really not be, but your job as a business owner is to represent yourself and your company in the best way possible, no matter what others are provoking you to do. Responses can always be formulated to be reasonable even when defending oneself, but if you don’t have the time to compose something that is well thought out, apologies are the best policy.

Happy review reading, everyone!

How to Respond to Instagram Comments

instaMost small businesses see social media channels like Facebook and Twitter as valuable marketing platforms, but have a hard time throwing Instagram in with the mix. One reason is that it can be difficult for those who don’t sell products to find ways to create a presence. The fact of the matter is that you don’t necessarily need to be selling products to use Instagram. There is a boat load of things that can be captured and shared, such as photos of your staff, ongoing fundraising events, and projects. If your business isn’t already using Instagram, it’s worth considering – it’s a great way to display your business, show your human side, and enhance your image! If you are already using it, then this blog is for you. Having an account is one thing, how you interact with commenters is another. It never hurts to read up on appropriate ways of responding, so let’s dive in.

Compliments

Have you ever been told that you need to learn to take a compliment? A lot of people have trouble accepting compliments out of fear of coming across as vain, but there is no reason to deny sincere words of praise. The key thing here is to not overthink your response. You may be tempted to gain an advantage over their compliment by returning a compliment. Fight this knee jerk reaction and simply say thank you. If there is room to elaborate, go for it, but there’s no problem in keeping it short and sweet.

Q & A’s

Including a question with your photo is a great way to gain feedback and get a conversation going. If you are halfway through a project, for example, take a snap of the work in progress and encourage others to share their thoughts by posing a question. If you do choose to go the question route, be ready to respond. Not acknowledging someone’s response is not only rude, but a missed opportunity to interact with like-minded folk.

Negativity

There’s a lot of advice available online about ways to respond to negative comments. We too at LinkNow Media have brushed upon appropriate ways of responding. Keep in mind that these are merely guidelines. You needn’t abandon your brand voice because you feel inclined to follow a certain formula, especially when dealing with internet trolls – because unfortunately they exist. If you’ve been active on social media for some time, you’ll be able to spot them. Don’t be afraid to get a little cheeky, but be tactful. Emojis are a great way to keep matters light. Of course, if someone is sincerely upset or has a genuine issue with your post, it’s important to respond directly and appropriately. Hear them out, and offer an apology if necessary.

Final Thoughts

Responding to comments on Instagram isn’t very different from the ways you respond to people on other social media platforms. In fact, it might be easier. Since there is a picture at the center of the conversation, comments and responses are likely to be shorter here – a picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

5 Customer Appreciation Tips For 2017

penWhile a simple gesture, saying thank you is a sign of respect, appreciation, and gratitude. As a business owner, you can’t afford to overlook the importance of these two little words. Thanking customers is a huge factor in customer retention, as well as your online presence. Below are 5 creative ways to express gratitude. Not only will the following techniques make your customers feel appreciated, they also ensure your marketing efforts don’t go to waste.

Discounts

Who doesn’t like saving money? Offering loyal customers discounts via email is a great way to show that you are thinking of them. Make sure the content of the email is well-structured, playful, and fun. This is a chance to display a creative edge over your competition!

Freebies

Many businesses are beginning to see the value of saying thank you in the form of a freebie. Take advantage of holidays and clients’ birthdays (if you have that information), by offering a free service or product. This will make your customers feel valuable and appreciated.

Trials

When people are on the fence, a free trial can diminish any worries they may have about your company, products, or services. By doing so, you’re saying that you appreciate their interest. Thanking someone for even expressing interest may seem odd, but it says a lot about how far you will go for your customers.

Showcase

Brining attention to your customers on your website or social media pages will make them feel special. Let others know how much you appreciate their loyalty by being as specific as possible. This is a great way to reach a wider audience, as your customers will likely share your words of praise, if they haven’t already been tagged.

Refer

As a small business owner, you have the amazing opportunity to work with people in a wide range of industries. A great way to show them that you appreciate their business is by sending business their way. What goes around comes around.

Closing

It can be tricky for new businesses to find a creative, genuine way to express gratitude, but don’t let that discourage you from venturing outside of the box. Giving thanks will become more intimate and refined as you build stronger relationships with your customers. Understanding your audience is the key to making the most of the after-transaction phase.

Who to Thank During the Holidays

cinnamon

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s high time to express gratitude to the people who help strengthen your brand and build your business. Rather than send a generic season’s greetings email to every person in your database, you should consider sending a thoughtful, personalized message. While it would be nice to send unique content to each your clients, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. The best way to personalize your messages and still have time for holiday shopping and festivities is to divide your customers into groups and create different content for each. Of course, we’re looking at this from a marketing perspective.

Potential Clients

Potential customers are people who have shown interest in your product or service, but will need an extra nudge to follow through on the purchase. Here’s where bottom of the funnel type of content comes in handy. To convert these potential customers, you will need to diminish any concerns they have about getting on board. Put yourself in their shoes. Do they need more information about your company? About how they will benefit? Is money the problem? Address these concerns in the form of a thank you. Thank them for showing interest by offering a free test-trial or a discount, in the spirit of Christmas.

Existing Clients

Existing clients don’t need more information about your company history, services, or pricing. They’re already sold. You likely already have an established relationship, and now is the time to strengthen this relationship. A good way to do this is by boosting what they already have, or cross-selling. Cross-selling is the practice of selling a different, but related product or service to an existing customer. If you are a company that sells different tiers of packages, give them the gift that keeps on giving by offering a discount on upgrading.

Collaborates

No company is without business partners and suppliers. Whatever yours provide you with, display your gratitude by sending a gift. You can do this via email with a digital gift card or via mail. Keep in mind that the businesses that you work with have employees too. Express your thanks with a company-wide lunch on you. This is a surefire way to show that you appreciate everyone and all they do to help your business grow and succeed.

Employees

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year, but it can be stressful  for employees who are scrambling to complete work tasks before break, while juggling Christmas shopping, cooking, and planning. Show your employees you appreciate all the work they do by organizing a holiday office party with food, beverages, and fun presents. It’s a great way to destress, rejuvenate the holiday spirit, and display gratitude.

Closing

Many businesses are seeing the benefit of creating separate messages for different clients and business partners. It allows for deeper relationships, without sacrificing precious time, which, let’s face it, can be scarce around the holidays. It’s not too late to send off some holiday emails, but you’ll want to be creative. Businesses everywhere are taking advantage of the season by offering special deals and promotions, so you’ll need to find a way to stand out. Think outside the box when it comes to subject lines, and keep the body of the email concise!

 

Behold: The Power of the Handwritten Thank You Note

pen

We dedicate a lot of time talking about new and innovative ways to say thank you to customers. This week we’re ditching the new and turning to an old-school form of saying thanks. That’s right, we’re looking at old-fashioned pen and paper. Many people will tell you that the handwritten note is a thing of the past, and we couldn’t agree more. But that’s what makes writing by hand such a powerful way to say thanks.

Handwritten notes are at the top of the list with other ways of demonstrating customer appreciation, such as giving a freebie or showcasing a loyal customer on a social channel. In many cases, the pen is mightier than the keyboard, so to speak. Here’s why:

Increased Intimacy

In today’s turbo-charged world, it can be difficult to find a free block to get anything done. Even setting aside 5 minutes to give a simple thanks can prove difficult. This is where turning to the screen can save you a whole lot of time and energy. If this is how you currently communicate with your clients, it might be hard to imagine doing anything otherwise. However, you’d be surprised by how little time it takes to write a thank you note. Since writing by hand is a heartwarming gesture in and of itself, keeping it short and sweet is totally OK.

Improved Personalization

There is no doubting that the digital world makes communication a whole lot more convenient, but be careful – convenience can quickly move into generic territory. After all, who’s to say that the email is written by the person who is actually giving thanks? A handwritten note is as intimate as you can get, without going overboard. A handwritten note also offers the opportunity to be creative. Even if you’re not an artist, you can add a touch of quirkiness with a small doodle.

Closing

Saying thank you is huge part of maintaining a loyal client base, so taking the time to write by hand may be worth it depending on your audience. It will be evident to your customers that you took time from your busy day to say thanks, and this will make them feel special.

What is your company doing to ensure your customers feel appreciated? Let us know in the comments section below!

Show Your Customers They Are Appreciated, In A Creative Way

thanksAs a business owner, you should always be looking for opportunities to enhance your brand, even when it comes to the small stuff. Something as simple as saying thank you can show just how innovative and creative you can be. Expressing gratitude in an outside-the-box kind of way not only makes your customers feel special, it also helps your brand gain momentum. We’re not saying that saying thanks should be a self-serving act, but it’s important to keep in mind that small deeds are part of a bigger picture. Here are three creative ways to say thanks:

Use A Freebie

Easier said than done – this is true in many cases, but not when it comes to saying thank you. If you can’t find the words to tell a customer how much you appreciate their business, why not give a gift? Actions speak louder than words, after all. Your clients will love a personalized gift bag, and you’ll benefit from giving, too. Have you ever wondered why you get mints with the dinner bill? Studies have shown that by leaving customers with mints, waiters are more likely to get a better a tip. In the long run, you’ll reap the rewards.

Showcase A Customer

Displaying appreciation makes your loyal clients feel valued, and thanking your customers on your social media platforms is a great way to do that. Don’t be shy to give a shout on Facebook or Twitter to customers who have supported your business along the way, and don’t forget the little guys. Acknowledging your smaller customers shows a deep level of appreciation, and it will come to them as a pleasant surprise. Showing your gratitude publicly goes a long way.

Hold an Event

Hosting a free event at your business location is a great way to give thanks to familiar faces as well as bring in new customers. When it comes to event themes, keep your target audience in mind. If you run a clothing boutique for example, a book signing from someone in the fashion industry is an awesome way to bring in a crowd. You can then take advantage of the number of people in your store by offering discounts on selected items. Something like this can be applied to nearly any industry.

Closing

Don’t worry about how long or how grand your thank you is. They key thing here is sincerity. If your thank you comes from the bottom of your heart, it will come across as authentic any way you slice it.

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