5 Online Mistakes That Will KILL Your Business in 2016
Online marketing is no longer optional for most businesses. A majority of shoppers seek out information and reviews online before making a purchase. They expect the businesses they frequent to maintain an online presence, and will probably seek out alternatives if they don’t find what they expect.
With the end of the year fast approaching, let’s take a look at the five online marketing mistakes you must avoid in 2016 if you want your business to thrive.
#1: Not being mobile-friendly
As of 2014, more internet users access their favorite websites using mobile devices than using computers. That means you can’t afford to ignore mobile marketing as a way of getting the word out about your business. Mobile users also spend more time online than people who use computers.
The best way to make your website accessible to mobile users is to go with a mobile-adaptive option. What that means is that your site will automatically adapt so that any user, on any device, gets an easy-to-use version of your site that’s uniquely suited to their phone or tablet. It used to be common for websites to have a separate mobile site, generally indicated by the letter “M” before the site name.
Of course, having a mobile-adaptive site isn’t the only way to cater to mobile users. You may also want to consider collecting mobile numbers to use in marketing. “Text messages are inexpensive to send and tend to have a far higher open rate (close to 99%) than traditional emails.” They can be a great way to engage local customers and get them to visit your business.
#2: Not claiming your “My business” page
Google My Business has replaced Google Local, and if you haven’t logged in to claim your page, you’re making a big mistake. You can claim your page by logging in to your Google+ account, or by creating one for your business if you don’t have one.
Once you claim your page, you should add a profile picture, a brief description of your business, and a link to your website. It’s also a good idea to include basic information such as a menu, prices, or your hours of operation. Check your address and phone number for accuracy, and use important keywords to reap the SEO benefits.
Not only will claiming your page help local customers find you online, it will also give your local search ranking on Google a boost.
Note: you should also make sure to claim your page on online review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List.
#3: Not responding to negative reviews
The subject of online review sites brings us to the third mistake on our list. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google My Business, and others, offer an easy way for consumers to leave reviews of local businesses. Recent studies reveal that a huge percentage of consumers – upwards of 80% — read online reviews prior to making a purchase.
Everyone loves to get positive reviews, but it’s how you respond to the negative ones that can set your business apart. Every negative review you receive is an opportunity to show customers that you care about them.
To handle negative reviews well, start by claiming your page. Once you have done that, you need to monitor your pages and respond quickly to all reviews, good and bad. If you decide to delegate the responsibility of responding to reviews, make sure you choose someone who can respond to a negative reviews without sounding defensive or angry.
Remember that other customers will be able to see your response. This is free marketing designed as customer service, so make the most of it. Be courteous, grateful for the feedback, and make sure to address whatever issues are raised in a timely and respectful manner.
#4: Not engaging customers or promoting your business on social media
If responding to negative reviews is important, it is equally vital to maintain an active social media presence and engage with your customers there. Despite the overwhelming popularity of social media, a surprising number of companies aren’t using it to their best advantage.
You don’t need to be on every social media site, but picking the right ones is essential. Facebook is still the largest social media site and a great place for businesses who market directly to consumers. For business-to-business marketing, LinkedIn is the gold standard. Businesses who sell aspirational products that lend themselves well to photography would be remiss if they ignored the benefits of setting up a Pinterest account.
It’s a good idea to monitor some of your competitors on social media and see what they are posting. Try sharing a mix of original content and curated content. One easy way to find content is to follow relevant publications and pages and share their posts.
#5: Not using paid advertising
There are plenty of ways to market your business online for free, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore paid advertising. Online advertising tends to be relatively inexpensive and offers some easy options that allow you to budget an ad that won’t break the bank.
One option to consider is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on search engines like Google and Bing. Both options require you to bid on a selected keyword. On Google AdWords, you can use the Keyword Finder to identify potential keywords. Your ads appear only if you outbid your competitors – the bid is based on a combination of the keyword’s popularity and your website’s authority. Chosen ads appear either at the top of a list of search results or on the right margin of the page.
Social media advertising is another excellent and affordable choice. Facebook offers options to attract new visitors to your Facebook page or website. In addition, you can boost an individual post so it displays to your followers and their friends, or to target demographics you select.
Facebook allows you to set a daily budget as low as one dollar, and emails you regular updates that make it easy to track your results. You can also use customer psychographics – things like interests, hobbies, political affiliations, and more – to target your ads. Other social media sites such as Twitter and Pinterest offer similar options.
2016 promises to bring new marketing challenges for all businesses, but if you avoid the five mistakes listed here you’ll be ahead of the pack.
Facebook’s New Ad Tool: Lead Ads for Local Businesses
Advertising on social media has become fairly commonplace. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest offer multiple advertising options that allow business owners to boost their pages, drive traffic to their websites, and feature specified posts to increase their social media following. Social media advertising is easy and affordable.
Facebook’s latest tool offers a way for local businesses to generate leads. It’s called Lead Ads for Local Businesses, and it’s changing the way small businesses use social media to advertise.
What is Lead Ads for Local Businesses?
Traditional Facebook ads offer users the chance to click and be redirected to a business’s Facebook page or website. Lead Ads is a little different, because it allows customers to click the ad and then request additional information from the business in question. For example, they might request:
- A price estimate or quote
- A product demo
- A free menu item
- A newsletter
- General information
You might think of Lead Ads as being a bit like a portable landing page. You can use these ads to collect prequalified leads and get them into your sales funnel.
The Benefits of Using Lead Ads
Internet statistics for 2015 show that more users access the internet using mobile devices than computers. However, reading information about a company on a mobile device can be challenging, even if they’re on the mobile version of Facebook.
Lead Ads offers users an easy way to request additional information about your company wherever they are. The ads are mobile-friendly and easy to use. When a user clicks a Lead Ad, they will see a form with pre-filled information from their Facebook profile. That means they don’t have to struggle to fill in the form using their phone because Facebook does it for them. By streamlining the process, Facebook has eliminated one of the biggest roadblocks to gathering leads online. It also reduces the likelihood of you getting inaccurate information due to the customer making a mistake. It’s quick and easy to use.
The ease of completing the contact form is a plus for users, but Lead Ads offers benefits for business owners, too:
- You can customize the form so it gathers only the information that is relevant to you. For example, you might want to gather just a name and email address, or include additional information such as a mobile number.
- You run a smaller risk of bouncing (or losing) customers due to a complicated lead form. As a rule, customer sign-ups decrease when additional fields are added to opt-in forms. Usually that means you can gather only an email address, but Facebook’s automatic forms make it easy to ask for additional information without worrying that users will refuse to complete the form.
- You have access to the same psychographics and targeting tools you can use for all Facebook advertising. That means you can target ads based on age, gender, marital status, and geographical location, as well as using things like hobbies and interests.
- Lead Ads offer a quick way for you to grow your email list, but that’s not their only use. You can also use them to gather applications, registrations, or pre-orders. Their flexibility means you can use them in a variety of ways.
- You can create Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences to hone in on the people who are most likely to be in the market for your product or service.
- In addition to targeting specific demographics, you can use the information you gather to remarket to existing customers as well as reaching out to prospects.
Lead Ads offers many of the same advantages of regular Facebook advertising. You can set a daily budget and monitor your ad’s performance using Facebook Insights.
Ways to use Facebook Lead Ads
While the most obvious way to use Facebook Lead Ads may be to grow your email list, there are many other things you can do with this exciting new advertising option. For example, you could:
- Get people to sign up for your newsletter or for information about your product or service.
- Send out deals and coupons for your local or online business.
- Announce new promotions and sales.
- Gather interest forms or applications for things like financial services, education, or other professional services.
The versatility of Facebook Lead Ads means that you can adapt the form and targeting to almost any purpose you can imagine. The information you gather can then be used to nurture leads with follow-up emails and social media posts, retarget existing customers, or even to gather valuable demographic information about potential customers.
How to use Facebook Lead Ads
The basic requirements for using Facebook Lead Ads for your business are the same as using any kind of Facebook advertising. You must have an active Facebook page for your business, and you can set up the ad from your home page. Be prepared with information about whom you will target with the ad and how much you want to spend. You should also think about what information you need to get from potential customers so you can request it when you customize your information form.
All in all, Facebook Lead Ads provide a quick and easy way for you to gather customer leads and use the information you collect to grow your business. These ads benefit consumers and businesses equally by making the process of gathering leads easier from both ends. Consumers have the convenience of one-click sign-ups, and businesses can gather accurate information that they can then use in a number of ways.
How to Make the Most of Online Reviews
Online reviews are here to stay. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google My Business offer consumers an easy way to share information about their experiences with local and online businesses. While sites like these were once fairly small, their use has become commonplace. In fact, about 88% of all consumers say they check online reviews before patronizing a business. Not only that, they tend to assign a high degree of credibility to what they read, trusting online reviews from strangers more than they would personal reviews from family and friends. What that means is that no business owner can afford to ignore online reviews. The way you react and respond to reviews can have a huge impact on the growth and success of your business.
Why you must respond to negative reviews
Do you take negative reviews personally? Sometimes business owners think that they’re taking the high ground when they ignore negative reviews, but doing so can be very costly. You might not be able to quantify the effects of ignoring those reviews. Let’s face it, no customer is going to call you and announce that he’s decided to give his business to your competitor – he’ll never show up, and you’ll never know. However, you must assume that a single unanswered negative review has the potential to drive 30 customers away from your door. Few businesses can afford to lose customers like that.
In case you think that I’m exaggerating, you should also know that studies show that “four out of five customers have changed a purchasing decision based on a negative review.” That doesn’t mean every customer will flee as a result of a negative review, but it does mean you can’t take the chance of assuming they won’t.
How to respond to negative reviews
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to respond to negative reviews and turn each one into a marketing opportunity.
- Claim your pages on online review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google My Business, and any other relevant sites. Approximately 49% of businesses have not claimed their pages. That means they can’t respond, and they may also have pages that list inaccurate information. When you claim your page, make sure to check your name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation, menu, and any other relevant information.
- Read all reviews and respond. Even if you have some old reviews on your page, it’s still a good idea to respond to them. You should apologize for the delay if a review has been there for a while. If an issue mentioned in a negative review has already been addressed, make sure to mention it.
- Be polite. No matter how harsh the review, you won’t do yourself any favors if you sound defensive or angry when you respond. In fact, you can worsen the impact of a negative review if you fail to see it as the opportunity it is. Remember the old adage “The customer is always right” and respond as if you truly believe it. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you feel that a customer’s complaint is valid or not – you must act as if it is and respond accordingly.
- Remedy the situation. If a customer had a bad experience with your product, offer to exchange or repair it. Restaurant owners should consider offering a discount or a free appetizer or dessert, and service providers may consider a discount or free do-over. Whatever you offer, make sure to follow through on it. You may not want to make these offers publicly. Instead, ask the reviewer to message you privately so you can take care of the problem offline.
- Delegate responsibly. If you choose to delegate the responsibility of responding to reviews online to an employee, make sure that you are both on the same page about what qualifies as an appropriate response. If you routinely offer a complimentary appetizer at your restaurant to customers who have had an unsatisfactory experience, you don’t want your delegate to offer an entire meal instead. Set out clear guidelines that include the timeliness of responses, the tone to be used, and what you are willing to do to remedy a bad experience.
- Respond quickly. You don’t want a negative review to sit out in plain sight with no response. That means monitoring your pages every day and responding to negative reviews within 24 hours – more quickly if possible.
- Don’t ignore positive reviews. Just because negative reviews require a response doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to skip responding to the positive ones. Even a simple “Thank you” can go a long way toward making customers feel valued.
The benefits of responding
Responding to negative online reviews can have a big positive impact on your business. Word of mouth is hugely important. In fact, 74% of all consumers report that word of mouth is a key indicator of whether they will make a purchase from a business.
When it comes to your overall ratings on Yelp and other sites, they can have a direct impact on your bottom line. Businesses who increased their ratings by one star on Yelp experienced, on average, revenue growth of between eight and nine percent. That’s a significant increase.
The other thing about positive experiences on review sites is that they inspire sharing. 58% of all consumers say they share their positive experiences with companies and brands on social media. That can translate to significant free advertising for you.
If you can turn a negative review around and reclaim a customer, they may tell their contacts about it. Considering that the average Facebook user has 338 contacts, it makes sense to consider what people are saying about you on social media when you decide how to respond to online reviews.
The bottom line is that word of mouth matters. The average internet user places a lot of importance on online reviews and comments, and you can’t afford to ignore them. When you respond in the right way, you have the opportunity to grow your business and increase revenue – and why wouldn’t you want to do that?
The Customer Experience Today – Better Think Mobile!
As 2014 wound down, marketing experts predicted that 2015 would be the year that mobile searches outnumbered desktop computer searches on Google. Those predictions proved to be accurate. What that means for local business owners in 2016 is that, like it or not, mobile marketing has to be a priority. It’s no longer reasonable to deny the importance of reaching out to mobile customers.
With so many options available to consumers, it is absolutely essential to make it easy for them to connect with you. Having a mobile-friendly site used to be optional, but now it’s a requirement. The easier you make it for your customers to interact with your business, the more likely they are to buy your product.
This type of outreach is especially vital for local businesses. Google’s recent “Mobile Path to Purchase” study showed that approximately 93% of mobile customers who researched a company using their mobile devices went on to make a purchase. Keeping that in mind, here are the top four ways you can target mobile customers in 2016.
#1: Use text messaging to reach customers on the go
Text messages, or SMS messages, are a surprisingly underutilized form of marketing. They’re inexpensive to send, and text messages are more likely to be opened than traditional marketing emails. In fact, the open rate for text messages is about 99% — not a statistic you can afford to ignore.
Text messages can be used to send out information about sales and promotions. Mobile users love to feel that they’re getting something exclusive, so mobile-only coupons can be an effective way to get people into your store. You can even time their release so that they reach customers right before they leave work – a great option for restaurants offering happy hour promotions. You can also use text messages to remind customers of upcoming appointments.
It’s important to remember that customers must opt in to receive SMS messages. However, many people prefer to receive text messages rather than getting emails, so it’s a good idea to consider collecting mobile numbers.
One service that offers affordable text messaging services is SumoText.
#2: Optimize marketing emails for mobile inboxes
As a rule, people spend more time accessing the internet on mobile devices than they do on desktop computers. Your marketing emails need to embrace that trend and make it easy for customers to read them on any device. For example, you should:
- Limit subject lines to 35 characters or less
- Use a responsive design
- Implement a single-column layout for easy reading
- Use alt attributes for images
- Make your call to action button large and easy to access on mobile devices
It may also help to keep your emails relatively short and as uncluttered as possible. An email built around a single column of text, a strong image, and a clear call to action will be friendly for both mobile users and computer users.
#3: Ramp up your local SEO
There’s no point in being mobile-friendly if you’re not going to do everything you can to make it simple for your customers to find you. That means you need to optimize your mobile site for local search so when customers seek you out using a mobile device, they can find you. Google laid out its guidelines for mobile-friendly sites in 2015. Here are some things you can do to make sure your customers can locate you:
- Standardize your business listings on social media pages, online review sites, and online directories. Your NAP (name, address, and phone) listings must be identical on every site if you want your search ranking to be high. Using “Avenue” on one site and “Ave” on another will dilute your listings’ power
- Make sure to use local keywords on your website. For example, a long-tail keyword like “Suburban Chicago plumbing service” is going to help your local ranking while “plumbing service” will not.
- Optimize your listing on Google Maps so that smart phones can calculate where you are in relation to a mobile user’s location.
You want your mobile users to be able to find you when they are out and about – and that means doing everything you can to make your business visible and accessible.
#4: Use Local Awareness Facebook Ads
One of the great things about social media advertising is that it lets you target customers based on detailed demographic information, including their geographical location. One thing to consider when it comes to mobile marketing is using Facebook to target ads to nearby mobile users in your area.
A targeted Local Awareness Facebook ad will reach customers when they access Facebook on their mobile devices. For example, someone out running errands on a Saturday might see an ad for your store and decide to stop in while they’re in the area. The benefit of this type of advertising is that it is inexpensive – Facebook lets you set a daily budget as low as one dollar – and highly targeted. You only get charged for people who engage with your ad, and you can be sure that your ad is only seen by the customers you decide to target.
If you are not already collecting mobile numbers from the people on your list, now is the perfect time to start. You might consider sending out an email (in mobile-friendly format, of course) that gives customers a chance to opt-in for text messages. It’s a good idea to start with a coupon or special offer – think of it as a mobile lead magnet. Once people have opted in, you can use the information you collect to send out information about new products, sales, in-store promotions, and more.
Mobile marketing used to be the wave of the future, but the future is here right now. Every local business should be targeting mobile customers, and the four simple techniques outlined in this article will help you start doing that right away. 2016 will be the year of mobile marketing, and you don’t want to be left behind.
How to Leverage Customer Reviews to Get New Business
Customer reviews have a major impact on how you attract new customers. Word of mouth marketing has seen a shift towards online channels, placing a bigger value on online customer reviews and discussions involving your business. Every business should be aware of their web presence. Learn how you can leverage online customer reviews in order to bring in more business.
How Customer Reviews Get Posted
There are many different online venues for customers to use to leave reviews of businesses. These sites include websites dedicated to reviews or business listings, such as Yelp, Google Places, Angie’s List, and the Yellow Pages. Other sites are designed as forums, allowing customers to review any product or service.
Identify which methods are most likely to be used by your customers, when leaving reviews of your product or services. For example, if you operate a restaurant or bar, your customers would be more likely to leave a review on Yelp or Google, but if you offer a service, such as a home renovation contractor, your clients are more apt to use Angie’s List or the Yellow Pages.
How to Use Online Reviews to Attract Customers
Online reviews help explain the benefits or disadvantages to purchasing a product or using a service. Part of the joy in online shopping is having instant access to reviews from other customers. The majority of consumers will look over at least a couple of reviews before making a purchase, even if these reviews are provided by the website they are shopping from.
Depending on the website platform you use, there may be a plug-in or add-on that allows you to display customer reviews from popular review sites, such as Yelp and Google Places, instead of manually entering direct quotes sourced to the original review. If customers can view reviews of the products you are selling, without having to leave your website, you will increase your chances of making a sale.
Share your positive reviews on Facebook and Twitter and thank reviewers publically. If you visit Yelp, Google Places, and most other review sites, you will find a share button, allowing you to instantly tweet or post your latest review.
Make sure that you create a profile for your business on any major review website that allows businesses to include contact information. They will often ask for the URL to your homepage, and possibly allow additional URLs. This helps generate high-quality backlinks to your website, increasing your search engine optimization and search rankings.
How to Get More Customers to Write Reviews
Before you can have tons of positive reviews, you need customers to write these reviews. There are several methods for enticing a customer to leave a review of your products or services.
You can offer a special offer or the chance to win a digital coupon. This gives the customer incentive to leave a review, without giving them a hard sell and pushing them into leaving a false review.
Another option for acquiring reviews, for your own feedback, is to ask for reviews of your products or services, as a customer places an order. Include a section in the checkout area asking if the consumer would like to complete a short review of the product. If you create your own review or feedback form, make it as simple as possible, with a minimal amount of fields to fill in.
You could also follow up sales with a targeted email list. If you allow targeted customers to opt-in to an emailing list, to receive promotional offers and newsletters, devote a section of your targeted email campaign to offering insight into new products while asking for reviews of the last product or service that they purchased from your website.
However you go about getting reviews, you should never pay for reviews. Not only is this frowned upon, in many industries and regions it is fraudulent. Instead, you can offer promotions or coupons, request reviews during check out, and target past customers through targeted email lists.
How to Integrate Customer Reviews into Your Social Strategy
Having a solid social strategy is a must in the modern business world. The majority of internet users spend most of their time browsing their favorite social media platform. People share news, reviews, and information with their friends and family all the time. It is another form of word of mouth marketing.
In addition to sharing your reviews on social media platforms, as previously mentioned, there are other ways to integrate customer reviews into your social strategy. Facebook includes a review section for business, where customers can leave comments. Ask for honest feedback from your clients. Always remember to display the good and the bad. This shows that you trust consumers to make the best decision for their own needs, when shopping for a product or service they need.
With most social media platforms, you can set a notification to receive an email any time the name of your profile is mentioned in a post or tweet. Check these notifications, once per day, and reshare or retweet the positive mentions and reviews.
Make the Most out of Customer Reviews
Start taking advantage of customer reviews in order to get new business. Show customers that you care about their thoughts on your products or services. Display reviews on your website, including the pages where you offer product or service information. Make it easy for customers to find reviews on your website, so that they do not have to search elsewhere.
Integrate customer reviews into your social media strategy. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on review websites, Facebook, and Twitter. Pay attention to bad reviews and make changes to your products or services if necessary. Never respond negatively to a bad review, but feel free showcase positive reviews on your site or social media.
Online reviews are determining factor in search engine rankings and they are new form of word of mouth marketing. Stick with these tips, and continue learning how to make the most out of your customer reviews.