Like many small business owners, I started my career with a less than encouraging start. Unexpected pitfalls and incredible obstacles blocked my path to success. When I started my home service business 1800anytyme, I was 23 years old with a … Continue reading
Can Too Much Marketing Be Bad for Business?Share
If you own a local business and you’re aching to close more sales but puzzled as to which marketing strategy will do the trick, you might be looking in the wrong place. In fact, you might be killing your business by marketing too much and by focusing too little on the thing which you probably do better than anything else. (More on what that is in a second.)
Have you noticed that almost every article or book on business growth talks about marketing and sales? So why aren’t there more businesses growing by applying the tips in these books? Less than one percent of the small businesses in this country ever grow past a few hundred thousand dollars a year in revenue.
Do you think it’s possible that what the majority of people are teaching about business growth is wrong? You bet it is. And if you want to know why this is, maybe it’s time to stop listening to the business growth experts and start listening to the people who write your paycheck. I’m talking about your customers.
You’re Not the Boss of Me!
Do consumers like marketers and marketing messages? Do they jump up out of bed ready to check their email, excited about how many marketing messages they might have in their inbox? Have you ever been on the phone with a friend or family member and had them say: “Oh, I’ve got to go, that’s a telemarketer on the other line!”? Maybe in some crazy alternate universe, but in the real world, consumers hate marketing. They even regard perfectly innocent, and sometimes very expensive and well-designed, marketing messages as spam. How DARE they!
Yet, have you noticed how much consumer debt we have in the United States? Have you noticed how many toys your friends, family members and neighbors have? People LOVE to spend money. They love to shop and to buy things. So why do they hate marketing so much?
Because they want to make their buying decisions on their own terms, and today they can. They don’t have to wait and see what’s advertised on TV or hear what’s on the radio or read about it in a magazine ad. Heck, most of today’s consumers don’t even watch commercials anymore. They have TIVO, Netflix and Hulu.
If people are tuning out marketing messages, how are they making their buying decisions? They’re making them based on good old word-of-mouth and peer reviews. Depending on who you ask, somewhere between seven to nine out of ten consumers are reading reviews before they make buying decisions.
This means that TV commercial you spent thousands of dollars on isn’t the final word your customers will hear on your product or service. So what will they hear? If you want to find out, just do a quick Google search of your company or product name and add the word “reviews” after it. What comes up? That’s exactly what your customers are seeing when they decide how to spend their money.
Now, do the same search, only this time use your competitor’s name. Do this with your primary three competitors and ask yourself who is doing a better job at connecting with the modern consumer. Which of you will gain more market share as our world becomes more social media oriented? If this experiment gets you anxious to change your marketing strategy, here’s the good news…
Tone Down the Marketing & Do What You Do Best
If you’re awesome at customer service, you’re in a great place to grow your profits and your business. You just have to refocus your energy from marketing to being remarkable. Isn’t the customer service experience the most important thing for YOU as a consumer?
Yet, when we start marketing, it’s like we forget what’s important to us as consumers. We slip into another world where fancy graphics, expensive web designers and slick copywriting are considered “good marketing.”
Take off the marketer goggles and take an honest look at your marketing from the perspective of a consumer. If you suspect that you’re leaning too much on marketing and not enough on service, you’re probably right – and it’s probably time for a change.
And if you are going to spend more money on marketing and would like to get a better return on your investment, here’s a hint for you: People care a lot more about what your customers are saying than what your copywriters are saying.
In future articles I’ll talk more about how to use reviews in your marketing. Until then, Stop Marketing and Be Remarkable!
Social Media Marketing No-No’s – Fake Reviews and Review ImpersonationShare
Have you noticed that spammers ruin just about everything for the rest of us marketers?
First, they ruined direct mail with junk mail. Then, they ruined direct marketing through persistent telemarketing. Then, they ruined email marketing with email spam. Now, they’re starting to ruin mobile marketing.
Thank God there’s still one form of marketing that’s becoming untouchable to the spammers, and it’s also the fastest growing marketing strategy in the world right now. I’m referring, of course, to social media marketing.
Facebook & Google+ Are Taking a Stand Against Spammers
Social media is the digital version of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s fast replacing traditional SEO and things are being set in motion to make it even more spam proof than it already is.
According to some recent data from Facebook, approximately 83 million fake Facebook accounts are hanging out in cyberspace. Okay, so I realize some people have created Facebook accounts for their dogs, but many of those fake accounts are also being created by unscrupulous reputation management companies and social media marketing companies.
I think it’s swell that marketers are discovering how important online reviews, testimonials, recommendations and referrals from Facebook and Google+ are becoming. It’s too bad there are so many of them trying to take shortcuts by setting up bogus accounts and writing fake reviews, or posting reviews “on behalf of a happy customer.”
They might be getting away with this for the time being, but a time is approaching quickly where it could cost some of them their business.
Facebook is in the process of weeding out these fake accounts. I suspect they’re doing this to compete with a recent move by Google which started requiring everyone who writes a review on Google places to have a Google + account.
Can you see a pattern here?
The social media giants are cracking down on fake reviews and “review impersonation,” which is something you should be aware of if you’re using this strategy or if you’ve hired a reputation management or SEO company who’s doing it on your behalf. According to Google, this practice is sufficient cause for getting your company banned from their listings and thereby losing access to 60% of the online search market. Making the mistake of taking the low road could be extremely costly for a local service business.
Google, Facebook, and the many online review sites are making it harder and harder to use fake reviews and review impersonation to reach your audience. And it’s only a matter of time before the governing bodies get on the bandwagon and start passing laws that make it nearly impossible to spam social media sites.
Bottom line, consumers hate interruptive marketing. They’ve always hated it and they always will. But they love to buy things. So where do you think they’re going to make their purchase decisions? They’re going to review sites and social media sites. In today’s world of social media, direct marketing messages are merely an annoyance. The opinions of friends, family and peers are fast becoming all that matters.
Do Your Customers’ Online Reviews, Testimonials, and Referrals Count In SEO?Share
People keep saying that SEO is dead. Yet, tons of marketers are still doing it, or paying SEO experts money – sometimes very good money – to have it done for them. That either means we’ve got a bunch of “Chicken Littles” out there or it means SEO has more lives than Jason Voorhees from those Friday the 13th Movies.
But a recent article in Forbes magazine entitled “The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content” seems to suggest that there is something more to this “SEO is Dead” claim than just a bunch of hype. According to Forbes, social media, PR and “real content” like online reviews and referrals are quickly replacing SEO, to the point where SEO will soon become obsolete.
Okay, so what do they mean by “real content” anyway? And why would social media and PR be more important than SEO? What if you already have 50 pages of content on your website and you’re still tanking in the rankings? It’s probably because the term “SEO” is long overdue for a change in definition.
The Real Meaning of SEO
I’m sure you’re aware of this already, but humor me if you will.
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” Take all the fancy terminology out of that and search engine optimization is nothing more than optimizing your website so that it ranks well in the search engines for the keywords which are relevant to your business. Most of us agree on that, but then people start talking about back links, keyword density, site structure, meta tags and meta descriptions.
That’s where things go in two separate directions. In one direction, you have the mathematical approach to SEO. It assumes that if you apply the right formula, you’ll get high rankings. Many of these people still claim that back links are the SEO “trump card” and that they will continue to be as the search engines become more refined in their means of evaluating websites.
Wrong! Oh, so wrong.
Back links were originally the “trump card” in SEO because back links were once the most dependable means of determining how socially valuable a website was. That’s why there are thousands of optimizers sitting behind their automated software programs blasting out thousands of back links per day in an attempt to earn a high ranking.
A back link used to demonstrate that someone, somewhere created the link because they believed that the site they were linking to was valuable and relevant. Okay, I’ll buy that – and it’s probably still true.
But let’s be honest, back linking is also being abused to no end in the SEO world. It’s been abused so much that it’s no longer the most dependable means of determining the value of a website. Now, someone can “like” or share your page or review your business from their social media account – an account that leads back to a real human being.
If you were Google, or Yahoo, or MSN, and you wanted to determine which sites were the most socially relevant, which would you give more value to? Back links, or links such as business reviews, testimonials and recommendations that were created from a real social media account with hundreds or thousands of connections to real people looking for real information?
And would you give more value to a website which had the meta tags in all the right places, a perfect site structure and 50 pages of keyword-rich content if the site was getting no engagement from human visitors, or to a site which had hundreds of repeat visits, pages of user-generated content (reviews, referrals, testimonials, comments etc)?
I think the answer is clear. SEO is not dying. SEO is simply moving over to social media.
How Long Oh Marketers, How Long?
The evolution of SEO into a social phenomenon is not a new one. People have been ranting about it for years, saying that it’s coming soon and that people need to be prepared and to focus on building a strong social presence above building back links and pages of cheap, but keyword-rich, content.
Yet, with every Google update it becomes obvious that there are still people trying to win by applying the old rules of SEO. I attribute some of this to laziness, but it’s really creating an uphill battle in the long run. If you want to stay on top, SEO can’t be treated like a mathematical process, it has to become a social process.
I’m no expert on paleontology, but I’ve got a pretty good idea I know why the dinosaurs went extinct. It was because they were unequipped to adapt to a change in their environment upon which their survival was dependent. I’ve heard they also had some very small brains – like the size of golf balls. Maybe that’s why they weren’t smart enough to see their own demise coming and respond appropriately.
The online environment is changing, and we humans were blessed with minds that can improvise, adapt and overcome. The question you should be asking yourself isn’t whether SEO is dying, but whether your business will live or die as SEO continues to evolve into a social process.
How Much Does Not Providing Remarkable Customer Service Cost? Sometimes Millions!Share
Digg.com pretty much started Social Bookmarking, but they didn’t finish strong last week by selling to Betaworks for only $500 thousand dollars.
I know, a half-million is a good chunk of green, but wouldn’t you rather have $200 million? That’s what Google offered when they proposed to buy Digg.com a few years ago. But Digg’s owners declined; most likely assuming they had bigger opportunities on the horizon.
Yet, Digg.com went on to sell some of their patents to LinkedIn for $4 million; the Washington Post bought some of the Digg staff for about $12 million; and they topped it off by selling the Digg.com site, the servers, traffic and user base to Betaworks for a half a million.
Hang on. Let me get my calculator out…
$12 million + $4 million + $500 thousand = $16.5 million
$16.5 million – $200 million = (oh, ouch) -$183.5 million.
Okay, I’d take $16.5 million, but did you know that when Digg.com was started in 2004, the founder Kevin Rose raised nearly $50 million from venture capital firms to start the company? I can’t imagine the conversations I’d have with myself over giving up that kind of money, can you?
Thankfully, we have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes Digg made. They’re easy to see once you know the principles that drive the value of an internet company up or down.
Let’s look at a few of them and how Digg missed the mark…
#1: Digg.com Was First, But Not Best
Being the first at something won’t get you very far in the age of social media. Yahoo came before Google, so did MSN, so did Compuserve, AOL, Dogpile and hundreds of other search engines that are either off the map or cowering in the shadow of Google.
To add to this, Facebook is what Myspace could have been, Twitter is what Digg could have been and Youtube is pretty much what every video sharing site could have been.
Today, being first is more of a liability than an asset. Someone can see your idea, backwards engineer it, apply the principles of social marketing better than you do and become so popular so fast that no one will ever care about you or even know you exist.
Harsh I know, but that’s how things work in the age of social media. Digg started out as a very popular social bookmarking site because they were the pioneers. But the moment Twitter came, people flocked to share their content in a community that was more socially palatable.
Here’s why this happens…
#2: Your Customers Must Drive Your Content Creation
Digg made a few key decisions that eventually led to their downfall. First, they had no real value filter when it came to approving content for bookmarking. In fact, the links posted on Digg weren’t even reviewed by a human being. It was all done by a computer program that only checked to make sure the content was unique.
But more important, Digg started treating their advertisers better than they were treating their “customers” – their authors and readers. Seems like a good idea right? The advertisers are paying the bills and so they deserve to have the red carpet rolled out in front of them don’t they?
Well, consider Google’s quality standards and how hard they are on PPC advertisers, people in their AdSense network, and on SEOs. Last I checked Google was doing pretty well.
Yet, Google doesn’t bend over backwards to accommodate advertisers and will even piss off advertisers and marketers with their strict quality scores and SEO updates. Still, advertisers are spending billions to have their ads featured in the Google search results and in the Google AdSense network. Strange? Not when you consider that the value is not in selling advertisements, it’s in providing a remarkable customer experience.
So here’s a question for you:
Are You Digging Your Own Hole With Your Customer Service Practices?
This is the question of questions when it comes to learning from Digg’s near $200 million dollar mistake. You might be happy about the idea of someday selling your business for millions of dollars, but what about at a near 90% loss from what it’s worth today?
This could be the price you pay for trying to be the first, the biggest, the loudest and the flashiest or for focusing more on marketing than on creating a remarkable customer service experience. Marketing will always be important, but these days, being remarkable is King. That’s how you keep your customers talking about you and coming back over and over again.
Just ask Digg… and MySpace, and AOL, and MSN, and the thousands of other companies who have probably put most of their energy into marketing instead of customer service, but whom you’ll never hear about because their customers aren’t talking about them online.
Why You NEED a Google+ Account for Your Local Business
If you’re a marketer who depends on traffic from the Google search engine to generate leads and new customers, you need to read this article before you do anything else with your online reputation building. You’ve probably heard about Google’s … Continue reading
How to Stop Bad Reviews Before They Happen
I was at West Steak and Seafood the recently. I had a great meal; service was very good too, it was a great night. I could go on and on about how delicious my cut of steak was and how … Continue reading
Reviews or Testimonials? What’s the Difference?
Chances are you have some of both for your business – testimonials and online reviews. Both do essentially the same thing; discuss the service you provided in the form of a public, published comment. They provide your potential customers an … Continue reading
Online Reviews Killing Your Business?Share
If you’re still one of the stubborn few whose response to reviews – negative or positive – is simply, “who reads reviews anyway?” – you’re in for a wake up call. The infographic below (by 540|SEO) does a great job illustrating the inevitable truth that reviews matter.
Unfortunately, in many industries the alarming reality is that only the disgruntled customers make the effort to post reviews online. This has the potential to smear your reputation once and for all, and turn the majority of customers who find these rants away from your company – no matter how much effort you put in creating a great customer experience. The key to maintaining a positive online reputation is therefore a proactive approach- or as we like to call it, the “Buzz” approach.
Winning Buzz with ReviewBuzz – WebinarShare
Are you Buzz Worthy? What does it mean for your business to maximize WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing) with the help of online reviews? What’s baseball got to do with online reviews?
We tackled these questions during the “Winning Buzz with ReviewBuzz” Webinar, and included some step-by-step instructions on how to use the built-in features of ReviewBuzz to get the online rep you deserve. Watch, learn, and prosper!
Did you attend the Webinar? Got comments? Take the 1-Minute Webinar Feedback Survey