How to Build Authority and Grow Your Business
As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to attract new customers and grow your business. You probably spend money on marketing and advertising, but if you’re not also working to build authority, then you’re missing out on the one thing that can make the difference between success and failure.
Why Authority Matters
What is authority and why does it matter? When you make a decision about where to spend money, you take many things into consideration. You may look at things such as the quality of the product or service you are buying, the cost of buying it, and the ease with which you can make the purchase. Those are all important, but there is one other thing that can make a huge difference in purchasing decisions, and that’s authority.
A person who is considered to be an authority is someone people trust. Do you remember those old commercials for EF Hutton? They said, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” The intent of those commercials was to demonstrate that EF Hutton was an authority when it came to investing money – someone with broad knowledge who can be trusted to give reliable information and advice.
If you are a viewed as an authority in your industry, potential customers are more likely to reward you with their business than they would otherwise be. The things you say and do carry weight when you are an authority – and there are things you can do to build authority both online and offline.
Building Online Authority
Building authority online is not difficult, but it does require a time commitment from you. Here are some of the most effective things you can do to become an authority.
- Build an active and engaged social media following. If you let your regular customers know where you are active on social media and use paid advertising strategically, you can build an audience of people who are genuinely interested in what you share. It’s not enough simply to build a large audience. It is far better to have a small audience of people who are deeply engaged with you and your product – and likely to share your content with others – than it is to have a large audience that mostly ignores what you say.
- Share a combination of original content on social media and relevant content curated from other sources. The best sources are those that are from influencers and authorities in your industry, and you should always add a bit of your own commentary when you share. The message you send when you do this is that you are an authority who is qualified to comment on content from other authorities. Make sure that you always read content thoroughly before sharing it.
- Answer questions from your followers. As an authority, you must monitor your social media comments and be prepared to jump in and help people when it is needed. The more responsive you are, the more likely it is that people will view you as a resource. Not only is responding to questions a good way to boost customer service and build good will, it also gives you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.
- Start a blog and write about topics that are relevant to your niche. Blogging might seem somewhat old school at this point, but having a blog on your website serves a couple of important purposes. First, it ensures that you always have fresh content on your site, something that can help improve your rank on Google and bring you additional traffic. Second, it gives you a regular opportunity to share valuable information with your readers and show them why you are an authority, someone whom they can trust.
- Cultivate relationships with authorities and key influencers within your industry on social media and by reading their blogs. Just as you can build authority by sharing relevant information from other people, you can also build authority by speaking to other authorities. It increases the chances that they will reciprocate and share your content, and even a simple but helpful comment on an authority blog in your industry can bring traffic to your website and social media pages. Just make sure that you always link back to your website so that people know where to find you.
All of the above strategies can help you to demonstrate your knowledge and build online authority.
Building Offline Authority
While online activities get a lot of attention, any local business owner who relies on the community to stay afloat needs to build offline authority, too. Here are some simple things you can do:
- Participate in community events such as street fairs and celebrations. To be perceived as an authority, you must have name recognition. Even if you don’t sell a product that lends itself to being offered at such events, you can still find a way to be a part of it. For example, you might set up a booth where you can answer questions about your services and hand out something (mugs or pens, for example) with your company name on it.
- Look for conferences and other events within your industry and participate as a speaker. Not only does speaking in front of an audience give you automatic authority, but attending events is a very good way to meet other influencers within your industry and build relationships that can help you both online and offline.
- Consider hosting a charity event, especially if you can find a way to link it to your industry. For example, if you own a restaurant you might consider organizing an event that works to end childhood hunger or feed people who are homeless.
- Write an article for an industry publication. Many industries have a number of specialty periodicals that cater to professionals. Writing an article, or even sitting down for an interview with such a publication, can do a great deal to build your public profile and turn you into an authority figure.
- Teach a class at a local community college or adult education center. Teachers are authority figures, and teaching a class can be rewarding in and of itself.
- Enter competitions or obtain industry certifications and use them as trust symbols both in your store and online. When you get recognition within your own industry, it acts as a seal of approval that tells others that your work and products are to be trusted. For example, if a local magazine does a “Best of” issue every year, do whatever you can to get readers’ votes. You can frame the award and put it on display, thus showing everyone who walks into your business that you are viewed as an authority by the people who know you best – your customers.
As you can see, it may take a bit of effort on your part to build authority. However, the rewards you reap as a result may far outstrip the work that it took to get to a position of authority. When you are truly seen as an authority, people will flock to your business because they know they can rely on you – and that’s what you want.
Increase Retention and Repeat Sales with an Online Loyalty Program
If you want to grow your business, you know that the secret is a combination of two things: first, retaining your existing customers; and second, attracting new customers. Sometimes business owners put too much emphasis on the latter – but the real key to making your business a success is to find ways to build loyalty in your current customers.
The fact is that it costs at least seven times as much to attract a new customers as it does to retain an existing one. That means that customer retention has to be a priority. Perhaps you are already sending retention emails to customers, but a loyalty program that offers customers real rewards for repeat business is one of the best ways to build a solid customer base and turn the people who buy from you into brand ambassadors.
Benefits of Creating a Loyalty Program
Why are loyalty programs so effective when it comes to retaining customers? Let’s look at some of the reasons.
- Loyalty programs incentivize full-price purchases. Some online retailers make the mistake of offering repeated discounts to new customers. The problem with doing that is that it creates an expectation that customers will never have to buy anything at full price – something that can be a real problem for any company, but especially for one that sells luxury products. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a sale or offer a discount, but it’s far better for your bottom line if customers have to earn those discounts with purchases. For example, you might give them a 15% discount off a single item once they reach a certain threshold of points.
- A well-designed loyalty program can serve as a way of centralizing all of your customer retention efforts. As customers sign up for your program, you can add them to your email list and send them retention emails. One good way to do that is to set up autoresponders to go out on a regular basis, and then to add a special series to notify customers when they reach a certain number of loyalty points. Many online retailers do this successfully. One example is Sephora, which sells makeup and other beauty products. Their Beauty Insider program is set up to notify customers when they have enough points to get a free deluxe sample as well as to send them reminders about free birthday gifts.
- If you want to turn your customers into brand ambassadors, a loyalty program can be a very effective way of doing that. Let’s face it – you might ask your customers to share information about your online store on social media, but the chances are that very few of them actually do it. They are far more likely to do it if they have a real incentive to take that action. For example, you might offer them bonus points if they share information about your loyalty program on Facebook or Twitter. That way they are earning something valuable by taking the action you want them to take.
- If you make a referral program part of your loyalty program, you can get your existing customers to do some of the work of attracting new customers to your business. One example of an online retailer who uses this strategy effectively is discount retailer Zulily. When existing customers refer a new customer who makes a purchase, they get a 10% off discount code that they can use on an entire order – something truly valuable for people who buy from Zulily on a regular basis.
- One of the things that makes loyalty programs so appealing to customers is the sense that they are getting insider information or opportunities not available to the general public. You can increase that feeling and work it to your advantage by offering members of your loyalty program access to products before the general public sees them, or by setting up special online events for them. A lot of successful loyalty programs do this and it can be extremely effective.
Clearly, having a loyalty program is a cost-effective way of increasing customer loyalty and turning customers into ambassadors for your brand.
Tools to Manage Your Loyalty Program
The key to managing your customer retention efforts, including your loyalty program, is to find the right online tools to use to make it work. There are a lot of options available, but let’s look at the three best loyalty management tools.
- Preferred Patron is one of the best-reviewed loyalty programs available. They offer a variety of options that make their services affordable for small, medium, and large businesses. Their regular software can be installed on any desktop or laptop computer. For business owners who want a portable option, they offer a tablet-based system that comes with a free Windows tablet so you can greet customers and manage their rewards without being at your desk. They also offer a free mobile app that you can offer to customers who enroll in your program.
- The Loyalty Box is another well-reviewed option that provides customizable loyalty program software for as little as $50 per month. Their software can be used on computers, mobile devices, and even at point-of-sale cash registers to make it easy to integrate your loyalty program across all platforms. They also offer the ability to accept payments in multiple currencies, which is useful if you have online customers who live abroad.
- Five Stars is a program that has some nice features, including a free Customer Touchscreen so you can sign customers up for your program without a hassle. The software works on computers and mobile devices. It also offers options to send emails and text messages to people in the program. The software makes it easy to track customer purchases and buying behavior so you can learn which incentives work and which may need to be refined.
The key to running a successful loyalty program is to know your customers and choose the incentives that will most appeal to them. When you offer incentives that have real cash value, people will want to join your loyalty program – and tell others about it, too.
Insider’s Guide to Ranking Videos on YouTube
Video marketing is one of the best ways to build your brand online and attract new customers. Not only is YouTube one of the world’ most-trafficked websites, it is also the second-largest search engine behind Google. The fact that YouTube is now owned by Google makes it an invaluable tool to market your business online. The key to using YouTube is to get your videos to rank high both on Google’s list of search results and within YouTube.
Basic SEO for YouTube
When you upload a video to YouTube, you have many opportunities to optimize it for search. Let’s go through the basics first, and then later I’ll share some real ninja moves with you – things you can do to ensure that your video jumps to the top of the rankings for your chosen keywords.
- Begin by doing basic keyword research using Google Adwords or another online tool such as SEMRush. As a local business owner, the best keywords to use are those that incorporate your location. For example, a landscaping company in Quincy, Massachusetts might decide to use “Quincy MA landscaper” as their primary keyword. If your business is located in a large metropolitan area such as San Diego, it may be difficult to rank for the general location. However, you can use a specific neighborhood instead, such as “Point Loma landscaper”. Researching keywords will let you know how much competition you are facing so you can choose wisely.
- Use your keywords to name your YouTube channel. The name of your channel is going to help people find you and you want it to be descriptive of the content you are offering. You may want to combine the name of your company with your location to create the name of your channel.
- Write a detailed “About” section for your video and make sure that it is clear what people can expect to find. It is best if the entire channel covers a single topic, because sometimes you can get your channel to rank for your keywords too.
- Use keywords in the name of your video. For example, if you did a video about landscaping during a drought, you might want to call your video, “How to protect your lawn during a drought.” That’s a specific title that will help you rank for a keyword and also help people find your content.
- Write a thorough description for your video, and make sure to include your company name, address, telephone number, and a link to your website. The description should be at least 200 words long and include all of your top keywords. If you choose to, you may also include a call to action in the description of your video.
- YouTube also gives you the opportunity to use tags on your video, and they represent another opportunity to use your target keywords. Using the landscaping video as an example, you might use keywords like Point Loma landscaping, lawn maintenance, drought landscaping, lawn care, and so on.
- Post links to your video on your website and social media accounts, and use your keywords there, too. Wherever possible, embed your video since embedding does more for your SEO than simply linking to the video.
- Consider the length of your video. There are two schools of thought regarding video length. Some experts suggest that a short video (two minutes or shorter) is more likely to be watched all the way through than a long one. However, a long video that holds viewers’ attention can be extremely effective, especially if you are offering valuable and useful content.
All of the above items are necessary if you want your video to rank on YouTube and Google. You can probably do very well if you do these things – but if you really want to take your SEO to the next level, keep reading.
Ninja SEO for YouTube
Now let’s talk about some of the things you can do that are above and beyond rudimentary SEO. These are the tricks that real marketing ninjas use to get their videos to leapfrog over the competition and jump to the top.
- Get tag ideas from the competition. Before you post your video, search some of your keywords on YouTube and pick the highest ranking videos to do tag research. To see the tags, you will have to take a look at the code on the page. Simply right click anywhere on the page, click “View page source” and then do a search for the meta tags. If you see that the most popular videos are all using the same tags, you should use them for your video too. This is a great way to get ideas for tags and to ensure that your video can compete with the authorities in your industry.
- Create playlists within your channel. As you make videos that relate to one another, group them together into playlists. The benefit of doing this is that other videos on your playlist will show up on YouTube’s sidebar of selected videos as the chosen video is playing. Since video views make a difference in your rank on YouTube, it’s a good idea to do whatever you can to get people to watch multiple videos once they are on your channel.
- Create a written transcript of your video and put it on your page. You can get YouTube to do a transcript for you, but their transcripts are notoriously inaccurate – poorly spelled and often difficult to comprehend. If you do decide to have them do a transcript for you, make sure you do a complete spell check and edit to correct any errors.
- If you decide to post a long video, consider including a table of contents to help viewers navigate in case they want to search for a particular topic. Not only does having a table of contents improve the viewer experience, but it also gives you another opportunity to use your keywords.
- Do a live event using Google Hangouts. Live videos are increasingly popular thanks to sites like Livestream and Facebook’s live video options. If you don’t want to use Google Hangouts you can use a website like Wirecast to stream video from your computer.
- Add a clickable call to action to your video. YouTube allows users to put a link to a website or just include text with your phone number or email address. You should have a call to action in the description of your video, but you want to make it as easy as possible for people to contact you. Including the call to action in your video makes it simple for them to do so.
- Getting your video to rank on YouTube isn’t difficult, but it does require some meticulous attention to details – and a few ninja secrets. If you follow these steps, you can be sure that your video will jump to the top and get you a great return on your investment.
The Future of Video: How to Use Facebook Live to Engage and Entertain Customers
Video marketing is a powerful way to connect with customers. A well-made video can be entertaining, informative and very engaging. It can allow you to provide valuable information to your customers. Video is one of the most shareable forms of online content, too, which makes it ideal for many businesses who know they can count on their customers to be brand ambassadors and share the video on social media.
Like everything else online, the world of video marketing is evolving. While you can still upload videos to your YouTube channel and share them online, there’s also a new kid in town – live video. One of the most accessible options, which allows companies to fully integrate video marketing into their Facebook marketing, is Facebook Live.
What Is Facebook Live?
Facebook Live is a video streaming option that Facebook began rolling out in select markets in 2015. First available to businesses and people with verified accounts, as of early 2016 it is available to anybody who has the Facebook iOS app.
While there are other live streaming options available, such as Meerkat and Periscope, Facebook Live does have some things that make it unique:
- Unlike Periscope videos, the video is saved and will be available to you and your customers as long as you leave it on your page.
- It’s very easy to use – all you need to do is click the video icon at the top of your page and start recording.
- As you record, you can see a count of how many people are watching as well as comments from viewers, making it truly interactive.
- After you are done streaming, you can share the video on your website, blog, or even on other social media accounts.
Perhaps the most important benefit of Facebook Live is that it is free. Because it lends itself to “talking head” videos, you don’t need to spend much on production.
Creative Ideas for Using Facebook Live
As you might imagine, there are dozens of ways that you can use Facebook Live to engage your customers. Here are some that you may want to consider.
- Unveil a new product. Do you create your own products? Are you getting a much-anticipated product in your store? A great way to build buzz and show what you have to offer is to launch a live video and show people instead of telling them. For example, if you have a boxed product, you might choose to do an unboxing video. An apparel store might reveal a new item of clothing and then have a model come out to show viewers what it looks like on a real person.
- Do a product demonstration. This is an especially good option if your product has multiple potential uses. For example, the owner of a craft supply store might decide to do a demo showing five different ways to use a particular product. It’s a good way to sell products by showing people their versatility.
- Are you offering an in-store class or event? Consider streaming it live so that people who are unable to attend in person can see it online. You can even create an event page on Facebook and invite people to sign up to attend. Facebook will send reminders about the event to increase the chances that people will remember to watch when the time comes.
- If you are speaking at a conference or event, ask the event’s organizers if you can film your speech. If they agree, all you need to do is mount your phone nearby or ask someone to use your phone to film you. As long as your speech is less than 90 minutes, you can stream it on Facebook.
- Have a Q & A session with your customers. One thing that consumers crave is personal attention from the businesses they patronize. Why not use live video to encourage questions and comments? This can be especially helpful if you offer a service because it gives you an opportunity to provide valuable information that might help a customer who’s on the fence make the decision to buy.
- Take a customer poll. Are you wondering what people think of your products, or what kind of content readers want to see on your blog? Instead of guessing, ask them. Go live on Facebook and ask direct questions of your viewers. They can post their responses in the comments, giving you the opportunity to have a real give-and-take with them – and ideas for future blog posts and videos.
- Are you an artisan? Do you make your own products? If you do, Facebook Live is the perfect medium to give customers a behind-the-scenes look at what you do and how you do it. Even if your process is too long or involved to demonstrate in a single video, you can show different stages of production or talk about your creative process. When people understand what goes into making a product, they may have a greater interest in buying it than they did before.
- If you have posted a particularly provocative or controversial blog post, use Facebook Live to read it out loud and get people to talk to you about it. You can encourage people to leave comments on the video and respond on air as you see fit.
- Do an interview with someone interesting in your industry. For example, if you own a book store and you have an author in your store, why not ask if you can film a short interview and stream it on Facebook? You can also have someone interview you if you prefer.
As you can see, Facebook Live is incredibly versatile. It’s a way of making customers feel that they are personally connected with you even when you are miles away. It can help build brand loyalty and increase sales. Best of all, it’s a free form of marketing and one that – in the end – requires very little of your time and offers the potential to help your business to grow.
Customer Loyalty Programs and Your Local Business
You’ve probably participated in a customer loyalty program. Many famous businesses have them, like Starbucks and Best Buy. In fact, both companies said that implementing their customer loyalty program has increased their bottom line.
These programs have their benefits. You may think, as a small business owner, that they’re too complicated to employ. That’s simply not true. You can make a customer loyalty program work for your small business. It’s not out of your reach. In fact, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to employ one.
Making it work, however, is a different story. It’s not impossible, but it will take a little bit of careful planning, and a lot of hard work.
What Is a Customer Loyalty Program?
A customer loyalty program rewards repeat customers for continuing to buy from your business. It can be as simple as a punch card that allows you a free sandwich for every 5 you buy. Or it can be a program that allows you to accumulate points towards a prize. It doesn’t matter how it’s implemented. The point is that the customer gets something in return for their patronage.
Why Customer Loyalty Programs Are Important
You’ve probably heard that 80% of your business will come from repeat customers. So embrace it!
Customer loyalty programs help you obtain repeat customers. People love rewards. They will shop with you as long as the reward is something that is worth it to them.
Loyalty programs can be used for almost any type of business. Businesses in the food, health and electronics industry benefit from loyalty programs the most. However, that doesn’t mean that if you’re outside of this industry you can’t use a loyalty program. You just may have to be a bit more creative with how it works.
Choosing Rewards for Your Customer Loyalty Program
What type of reward you offer your customers will determine how many people sign up for it. If it doesn’t appeal to them then there’s no reason to sign up. So what should you offer as a reward?
Most businesses go with a free item. It could be a sandwich, a drink, or even a tanning session. You can also offer a percentage off. GNC offers a percentage off to Gold Club members on a certain day of the month. Even though you have to pay to get into the program, it works. If you pay to get into the program you’re going to make sure you get your money’s worth. That means you’re going to spend your money at the business whenever you get a chance. This helps GNC retain customers and keep them coming back.
Another idea is to partner with businesses that compliment yours. You can all use your loyalty programs to gain new customers and reward repeat ones. Let’s say you run a tanning salon, and there’s a gym and a spa in the area. Perhaps you can suggest to the other businesses that you set up a loyalty program together. If you buy 2 sessions from each business, you’ll get one session from a business of your choice for free.
Can you imagine the impact that would have on your business?
Just make sure that your rewards are actually attainable. If people have to make 100 purchases to see their reward, they’re probably not going to bother going through with it. A small amount of purchases are best. Try to stick to something under 10.
If it’s over 10, make sure that the reward is worth it. Perhaps after 15 purchases you get $50 off a $75 purchase. Or you can give them free tickets to a local sporting event. As long as the reward is reasonably attainable, people will work for it.
The Top Customer Loyalty Programs
Here are the top four programs for small to medium sized businesses.
Swipely: www.Swipely.com offers a loyalty program and aggregates data for you. It’s free to use, but you have to use their POS in order to get into the program. The data that they gather tells you things like whether your sales are working, what your most popular items are, and who your top spenders are.
The loyalty program actually gives cash back to customers. That’s a pretty good incentive. For business owners, you can monitor your online reputation, campaign effectiveness, and your financial data. In truth, Swipely gives you a ton of features. The loyalty program is great; users haven’t reported any problems in it. But the fact that they help you manage your business while gaining new customers makes them one of the best loyalty programs.
Belly: www.bellycard.com Belly is easy to use. They are a rewards card program. They set everything up for you. You even get an iPad with the system installed on it when you sign up for their program.
They give you analytics, email marketing options, mobile marketing, and everything else you need in order to run your loyalty program. While you can’t get the kind of analytics you get from Swipely, you will get pretty solid information about your customers spending habits and how it effects your business.
Belly plans start at $99 a month.
Five Stars: www.fivestars.com This is a pretty simple rewards program. Once you sign up for it, they do all the work. Using this program, customers only need to put in their phone number to sign up. No one needs anything special to become a member.
Another plus is that they use automated campaigns. They contact customers that haven’t been to your store in a while an offer them incentives to come back. They also have a birthday rewards program. Five Stars pretty much runs your loyalty program for you.
There’s no pricing information on the website, but you can try out the demo for free.
Loyalty programs can really help your small business thrive. Sometimes it’s difficult to compete, especially if there’s a national chain in the area. But a loyalty program can help encourage people to keep coming back to your store.