Social Media Content Curation Using Feedly

You’re a business owner and you have a business to run. However, creating content for Social Media is important, if you have the right sales infrastructure in place! It’s sometimes a distraction to focus solely on content creation when other

You’re a business owner and you have a business to run. However, creating content for Social Media is important, if you have the right sales infrastructure in place! It’s sometimes a distraction to focus solely on content creation when other

Responding to Google Reviews — The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

While the first phase of Google review traffic success is getting them, taking your Google review strategy to the next level is most certainly responding to Google reviews. Setting and managing buyers’ expectations is tough when you control little abou…

While the first phase of Google review traffic success is getting them, taking your Google review strategy to the next level is most certainly responding to Google reviews. Setting and managing buyers’ expectations is tough when you control little about

Getting (Mostly Good) Google Reviews

Google commands nearly 80% of Web and 90% of mobile search traffic on the planet. With global search leaders such as Yahoo, Bing (Microsoft), and Baidu (in China) still commanding between 5 and 15 percent each, they are forces not

Getting Mostly Good Google Reviews - Web and BeyondGoogle commands nearly 80% of Web and 90% of mobile search traffic on the planet. With global search leaders such as Yahoo, Bing (Microsoft), and Baidu (in China) still commanding between 5 and 15 percent each, they are forces not to be ignored, but we know the clear winner of this battle in the war for consumers’ attention. People google things. And, they’re googling your business’ products or services to see Google reviews.

So Google has decided that these local reviews of your products or services are important to the decision-making process for consumers. And, if the search juggernaut thinks this is important, it’s best to take advantage of the opportunity that Google’s review platform provides (which is built within Google Maps and is managed with the Google My Business dashboard).

Often, local businesses don’t understand how to gain traction with Google reviews. Or, they don’t understand Google’s review policy. So, here I’d like to outline how to take your business to the next level with getting (mostly good) Google reviews.

Note: If you have a bad product, service, location, staff or customer service, this methodology won’t help you, unless you decide to fix these management/operations issues. I can’t also help you remove Google reviews. If the problem is deeper than that and not working, I’d head over to the Google My Business community to learn how to handle spam, fraudulent, and other wrongful review issues.

Get Your Google My Business Listing Completed Fully | Getting Google Reviews

To start, get your business listing claimed and verified. Not everyone can have a business listing on Google My Business; I don’t make the rules, but you do need to follow them. You will need a Google account (or G Suite account), so create one or sign in using yours to Google My Business, then follow the “get your business listing claimed and verified” support article. While you can do this on a mobile device, I recommend doing so from your desktop Web browser so you have all functionality available to you.

Set Your Review Capture System Up | Getting Google Reviews

Now that you have your business listing claimed and verified, you can watching the Google reviews pour in, right? Uhm, no. Sorry. There’s still quite a bit of work ahead. But, that’s an important milestone on your way to getting (mostly good) Google reviews! To really start getting the reviews flowing, follow my three-step process for soliciting and capturing customers’ reviews on Google.

Step One

Get your Google Review link. I don’t know them, but (for creating such a great tool and being Canadian, I can’t help but think they’re good and nice people) the folks over at White Spark agency have provided the free Google Review Link Generator.

Step Two

Create a special customer service email address that is handled by someone dedicated to handling negative feedback, preferably you or someone high enough to make substantive, timely decisions and actions to turn unsatisfied customers into raving brand advocates.

A happy customer who buys and leaves your business and says nothing about you to anyone is of no really value in the world of reviews. An unhappy customer that you’ve helped fix their issue is one that will tell many more people about his or her experience and has a great value to you for review purposes! Seize opportunities of unhappy customers turned happy ones, and the meat of how to do this is in Step Three.

Step Three

Send your customers either upon purchase, delivery or at their highest satisfaction peak in your relationship, a review request. Turn this into a system that is executed precisely and consistently throughout your business operations.

This review request communication will read something like this:

Hi, [Customer’s Name],

We appreciate your business! As part of our process to continually make good on our [product/service] and our customer service promises, we would really appreciate your feedback. This also helps new customers evaluate our [product/service/business] and helps us grow our business to continue living up to our standards. Could you take a few minutes to review us?

Yes, I love our [product/service]!              No, I had a bad experience.

Thank you,

[Name]

[Business Name]

Now, the “Yes, I love your [product/service]!” is hyperlinked to your Google Review link that you generated in Step One. And, your “No, I had a bad experience.” link is to your special customer service email address. Mostly good reviews go to Google, while bad feedback primarily gets sent to someone who can deal with it.

Your responsibility is now to handle the negative feedback with “white glove” treatment. That’s a topic we cover in our next blog post. But, it is imperative to solicit these Google reviews well and consistently. Train your staff (and yourself ) to identify appropriate times and places for asking for Google reviews from your clients, including but not limited to:

  • by email,
  • printed on receipts,
  • by phone,
  • In-person, or
  • on your website after purchase.

Once you’ve managed to get this three-step process in place and tweaked it so that you can see it working consistently in your business, you will start to reap the rewards of mostly good Google reviews while having a pipeline of new reviews coming in regular. And, in doing so, hopefully that will start to bring meaningful, profitable traffic to your Google My business listing and to your business.

Facebook Dislike Button Debate Rears Its Ugly Head Again

The Facebook Dislike button has been debated for years, requested by many users, and confused Small Business owners on what they should do about it all. As any changes are tested, here is how you should approach your marketing. Let’s

Facebook Dislike Button Debate Rears Its Ugly Head Again - Web and BeyondThe Facebook Dislike button has been debated for years, requested by many users, and confused Small Business owners on what they should do about it all. As any changes are tested, here is how you should approach your marketing.

Let’s start with the facts:

So, what’s a business owner to do about marketing in light of these changes? As I noted in my last article, Is Facebook Really Implementing a Dislike Button?, back in September 2015, about the Facebook Dislike button:

One thing I am sure about and that I’ve counseled all my Small Business clients about is, do not use the feature as a business. This is for a couple of reasons:

1. you don’t know yet how people will come to like or dislike (pun intended) the new feature;

2. unless you really are in a business where showing empathy and invading someone’s personal life makes sense, it’s likely inappropriate for your business (and just plain creepy) to be offering condolences about, say, a family’s loved one passing away; and,

3. if you (again) really are in a business where you have that kind of relationship with your customers or clients, you should be writing a comment to show genuine concern or sending a personalized, private message to your customers or clients. If you’ve lost a loved one or something powerful has negatively impacted your life, how dismissed would you feel to get a click-of-a-button response from your favorite business? I thought so.

A community’s culture changes slowly and any release of a major feature can become an animal of its own kind. There’s no sense in getting caught up in a feature that the media will likely report on only the salacious, shocking and negative. Of course, if there’s a legitimate argument for using these tools (see nos. 2 and 3 above, or if reporting spam/abuse), go for it.

My general recommendation is to do nothing with any Dislike features. Ignore the hype and focus on creating positive, useful content with a coordinated sales strategy.

Branding Your Email Address Is as Important as Your Business Domain

I’m likely preaching to the choir if you’ve ever heard me talk about email marketing. But, it’s worth stating again and again for every Small Business owner to hear this message loud and clear: if you have a Gmail, Yahoo,

Branding Your Email Address Is as Important as Your Business Domain - Web and BeyondI’m likely preaching to the choir if you’ve ever heard me talk about email marketing. But, it’s worth stating again and again for every Small Business owner to hear this message loud and clear: if you have a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, or any other free email address that’s not [email protected], you are missing out on an amazing marketing opportunity. And, you’re likely hurting your professional reputation. I’d like to unpack how branding your email address is as important as your business website’s domain, and ways in which you can take advantage of a branded email address by getting and using it.

Professional Reputation and Legitimacy

Think about the ubiquity of email in business today. And you’re telling people implicitly to visit AOL or Yahoo instead of your company’s website by not having a brand-enabled email address. As well, some people look down on your business or don’t see you as stable by using a free email service.

As an example, I get at least one email a week from a purported Small Business owner asking me if we can help them with their website and whether we “take credit cards.” It’s the strange way the senders write their email messages that make it a dead giveaway that it’s a scam, but their email addresses are always from generic email services. Identifying this kind of scam spam is important for everyone receiving email today. I see email from those I don’t know and I immediately don’t give them as much credibility because they so similar to those that aren’t legitimate. We all only have so much time in the day to manage our email and if you decrease your legitimacy factors to not only spam filters, but to the humans trying to identify you as a real business, having a professional email address is vital.

Furthermore, when you create a branded email account and their accompanied aliases, you can setup DMARC records for your email accounts (as well as DKIM and SPF), which is an email-validation system so that when mail exchange servers receive, they know it’s coming from you (or third-party services you’ve approved to send on your behalf, like your email marketing software). This increases chances you get into the inbox of your intended recipient in the first place.

Proper Email Boundaries

Turn off your email when you are away from the office, whether for just a few days or on a multi-week vacation. That’s simply a free bit of life-work balance for you as an entrepreneur.  However, setting good email boundaries and expectations is a form of customer service (which is, in my opinion, a part of the marketing department in small businesses). When you use your personal email account for business email, now you have conflated those two roles in your life. This makes it difficult when you wake the screen on your phone in the morning on vacation and you see an “important” email message from a client. Instead of that client getting a professional automated response noting that you’re away and when you’ll respond (logically), you react (emotionally). Responding to email messages when you’re in work mode is always going to be better than reacting when you’re trying to rest and rejuvenate.

I personally don’t check my personal email accounts that often, but when I’m on vacation I turn off my work email accounts and switch my personal email accounts to notify me as messages come in. I’m usually traveling and wanting higher engagement with my friends and family at those times, and having a separated business email account structure gives me the comfort in knowing those email messages coming in are the right context for me at any given time.

As well, using a branded email, I can add the appropriate persons in my company to contact in my absence via my autoresponder “away” message, or I can forward specific client emails to staff, should they be able to help in my stead.

Marketing Your Website

Your website is where sales happen. And, it takes time, energy and resources getting visitors to your business website. So, why would you squander the marketing opportunity to expose your website domain name to people with whom you share your email address? When someone meets you and receives your email address, this is the chance to get them to become curious in checking out your website. But, you most often than not won’t ask them directly to visit your website. By, giving them a branded email to stay in touch, say, at a networking event, you have planted some curiosity for them to check out your website when they see [email protected]

For different marketing campaigns you can set up forwarding email addresses (which are not real email accounts, but merely fronts for forwarding inbound email along to another email address of your choice). So, when leads and potential clients email you from a business card, flyer, postcard or brochure, you can identify from where they learned about you and/or your business.

As well, your email is more memorable when it’s [email protected] When you give someone a generic email address, like [email protected] or [email protected], it’s harder to remember why they were going to email you or what your name or your business name is.

A good rule of thumb: whenever you have an appropriate chance to share your website domain name, do so.

Present Yourself (as Bigger or Smaller) Depending on your Business Situation

With branded email, you can create accounts such as [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected] These represent departmental emails that go to the correct person for handling inbound messages. In a Small Business, all these hats may be centralized to a few people, if not one person–you. But, your clients don’t need to know that!

Also, as I do, I have separate public and private email addresses. I use my public email address for all public-facing marketing materials, such as when I present to audiences at workshops and seminars. However, I have a private email address that’s only used between my staff and me so that those messages can be segmented and focused on our client needs, and not distract me from all the other email I get every day. This public-facing email is also a shared account with my assistant so email I don’t need to deal with can be processed and organized while I’m in meetings, presenting seminars, or teaching workshops. The remaining, non-time sensitive email messages from the public email address will then we be waiting for me when I get to it.

Branded Email Is Low-Cost and High-Value

I think a big concern for most business owners, established and startup alike, is that branded email is going to cost a fortune. And, the reality is, that most branded email today is very cost effective.

By hosting with a proper email hosting service provider, you get technical support. Email is important for your business and free email services don’t have any guarantees about their uptime. But, your email hosting provider will be able to give you 99.9% uptime guarantees.

As you might imagine as the Google Small Business Advisor for Productivity, I’m a huge fan of G Suite, Google’s business productivity suite. It includes almost every type of software a business owner needs today to get started and grow their business over time; what’s not available in G Suite proper is possible through an integration partner in the G Suite Marketplace. But, to our topic at hand, every G Suite license comes with branded email powered by Gmail. This is substantially and substantively different than consumer-grade Gmail as G Suite email is your business data, owned by you, private, no advertising, and secure. Yet, it has all the features you have come to love about Gmail; it does have the ability to turn off features you don’t like. As well, for those who are in a Microsoft-preferred ecosystem, you can get business email through Office 365 Business Premium or Exchange.

Also, W3 Consulting’s Web Services provides 100 free email forwarding aliases for departmental email addresses (as I indicated above, such as [email protected], [email protected], etc.) with the purchase of any domain registration or Managed WordPress hosting purchase. These will forward to one or several email addresses in your company that cover the appropriate roles. If you’re using G Suite, you can create these within the Admin Console as Groups.

Protecting your Brand with Employee Emails

When you hire new employees, you want them to use your company’s email address when corresponding with clients. This not only positions them professionally and legitimately as acting on behalf of your company, but it also gives some protections for you and your employee.

When an employee leaves, you don’t lose control over that email account. You can change the email alias (which is the yourname in [email protected]) and direct it to your email or another employee’s email account when an employee resigns or the business terminates an employee. This continuity with your client communications is very important in marketing and other operations management areas of the business.

How to Create a Branded Email Account for your Business

It’s increasingly easier to get your branded email account set up for your business today.

If you didn’t know, you can have branded email without having a business website yet. I recommend that you have your business’ branded email account set up as soon as possible when you are starting out. You can plan and launch your website thereafter, but it’s never too early to get your audience aware of your business website’s domain.

So, here are the basic steps to getting your branded email account for your business.

  1. Register a business domain name, which you want to use for your business and email.
  2. Decide on your business email hosting provider, whether that’s G Suite or another email hosting provider.
  3. Set your domain’s MX (mail exchange) records in your Domain Manager to direct to your email hosting provider.
  4. Now, choose an email program that you want to handle your email management on desktop and mobile. From your email hosting provider, get the email setup information so you can establish control over the branded email within your software on both desktop and mobile.
  5. Create a professional email signature for your email account, and you’re ready to go!

Do you have any questions about branding your email address? How about creating a branded email address? Feel free to contact us, or comment below, and we’ll be happy to answer questions or direct you to a resource that can help!

Me and My Arrow: Recruiting in the Digital Age Part 3

Here’s a truth for you: You can’t talk about a 21st-Century recruiting strategy without talking about social media. And you can’t talk about social media recruiting without talking about employer branding. So, let’s talk about it. Social media is an ef…

Here’s a truth for you: You can’t talk about a 21st-Century recruiting strategy without talking about social media. And you can’t talk about social media recruiting without talking about employer branding. So, let’s talk about it. Social media is an effective recruitment tool not just because it can reach vast audiences, but because it highlights the values, goals, achievements and ...

Don’t overlook the construction details.

Customers notice the details. They can tell if a contractor has cut corners. The transition detail in B above was installed instead of the one shown in A below. As architects we can observe the construction and point out discrepancies, but it is the client that must insist that a contractor exactly follow the details shown on the construction drawings. It is to their advantage to do so.
This bargain-basement installation detail interferes with the nice contrast between the carpet and tile.

What makes a store look expensive? Way back in 2013 I wrote a post on this site asking if a higher price could be placed on merchandise because the store design looks expensive? The post was about the impact that a curved ceiling might be expected to have on what is generally considered inexpensive merchandise. I concluded that answering the question about pricing was related to how well the design feature performed, which in the particular case in questions was quite well. I bring this up again here because I want to consider the topic in a more subtle, yet possibly more important context, that being what makes a store design look expensive?

Customers notice everything. Answering this questions means that a retailer needs to pay attention to what people notice, which is everything, whether consciously or not. The importance of “creating a shopping experience” has been a fact of retail life for quite a while now. Back in 2013 one of the retail marketers summed it up nicely when she said, “..retailers should use stores to create a brand experience that customers couldn’t possibly get online.” She went on to cite the “old adage” that “retail is detail,” saying, “stores can engage all five senses;” the online world cannot. Few would argue that the perception of quality involves more that just an online image; that tactile contact with a product is critical, including how it is displayed; that successful retailers aspire to demonstrate quality in every possible aspect of their store, because quality sells, often for more.

The refined transition detail in image A above sends a message of quality, It is what we typically specify in this situation. This contractor exactly followed the details on the construction drawings with positive results.
A refined transition strip is barely there, putting the attention on the contrasting finish materials.

The importance of quality. Clearly, since sales are seen as directly effected, most retailers are acutely aware of the quality of products they bring to the market, including a range of related price points. This is their main business and most get it right. Merchandise displays, because they are driven by practicality, are also less prone to failures in quality. Matching their actual store environment, on the other hand, is where things can begin to fall apart. Finishes, In particular, are vulnerable. Think:

  • sagging carpet,
  • old leaks exposed and never repainted,
  • light fixtures with burned out lamps,
  • cheap, broken or mismatched ceiling tiles & floor tiles,
  • stained and dirty hvac supply and return air diffusers,
  • dirty windows.

Is it really possible that customers do not notice these things, that they do not reflect on the perceived merchandise quality, that they do not contribute to a customers notion of the brand? Another marketing pundit put is this way, ” a business should always strive and prove to be the best that money can afford because that solid reputation will establish a top brand that’s reliable and worthy of respect.” I couldn’t agree more.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Holiday Marketing Campaigns – Some Advice to Small Business Owners

Every year, a small subset of small business owners that I meet lament that they were not prepared for the “holiday marketing season.” That is, they say they were not prepared with their holiday marketing campaign in time to take full advantage of it. Don’t let this be you! Before you know it, the winter… Read more »

The post Holiday Marketing Campaigns – Some Advice to Small Business Owners appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Every year, a small subset of small business owners that I meet lament that they were not prepared for the “holiday marketing season.” That is, they say they were not prepared with their holiday marketing campaign in time to take full advantage of it. Don’t let this be you! Before you know it, the winter holidays season will be upon you. After all, there are less than 12 weeks until Christmas as of the time of publishing this article.

This period is prime time for every type of business—brick-and-mortar retail, service-based, manufacturing, and online businesses alike—to make a plan to reach out to customers, even if it’s not for the winter holidays season. Now is the time to start preparin

Holiday Shopping in Alexandria

Photo Credit: James Cullum, courtesy Visit Alexandria

g and executing the background plans to be ready with your annual marketing campaigns!

Holiday marketing is a year-round event

The first bit of advice is to understand that holiday marketing campaigns are not just for the winter holidays season. Yes, according to the Retail Marketing Federation, the winter holidays (Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, and to some extent, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) spending rings in at more than half-a-trillion dollars (that’s 10 zeroes before the decimal!). But, that’s not the whole story.

Consumers don’t only spend leading up to and for the winter holidays. They spend year-round at strategic times. It’s important for you as a small business owner to know when those times are that your specific consumers are buying. If you look back at your prior sales and revenue reports in your accounting software, you should be able to see where peaks and valleys are in purchasing. As well, speak with your local businesses and/or retail stores that have similar target audiences (and this doesn’t mean you have to talk to your competitors necessarily) to learn about their experiences for when the highs and lows are in their businesses’ sales and revenues throughout the year.

You might learn that the winter holidays season is actually not the best time for you to spend your hard-earned money and your hard-fought time on acquiring new business. (And, it might be and that’s good to have confirmation.)

What are the holidays that you can market to business on?

In that vein, it’s a good idea to find anchors in the calendar to have a reason to reach out to your current and past customers, and do pull marketing for potential customers. There are several events throughout the year and even more holidays than Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

Once you’ve identified the months, weeks, and days that are important to get in front of your audience, you have the background to create an editorial calendar and marketing plan. You then have the opportunity to execute the plan. And, finally, you should track what works and what doesn’t. This will information you for the future years’ planning. Also, beware of confirmation bias; sometimes Small Business owners see a small subset of success or failure and take that as the whole picture.

What’s the message you’d like to convey to your customers, or the goal of reaching out to them at all?

While decorating your front-facing retail spaces, website, email newsletter, and even your Google My Business listing, are important to your holiday marketing campaigns, these are vehicles to a message you want to send to your potential, current and past clients. What are you trying to say?

If you’re reaching out to clients during Thanksgiving, are you sending a message of appreciation/gratitude? That’s not necessarily “buy from me” and may not be as effective for sales, but for goodwill.

Are you networking among your other clients (especially if you’re B2B, but this works with B2C)? You might host an event–doggie happy hour, lady’s shoe club, or wine and cheese open house.

Are you celebrating a big anniversary of being in business? Use this as an opportunity to feature your best clients, because others who are like that best client will be drawn to connect with your business as well.

Is this a special promotion campaign? Be it a sneak peak of future products, discounts, free shipping/handling for your best customers, or something more creative (a la ugly sweater contest benefiting

a local charity), make sure your customers know what you’re offering.

Understand well what you’re trying to communicate and then work backward on the tactics you’re going to use to effectuate that.

If you landed on this article at the tail-end of the holiday marketing season, there are last-minute holiday marketing tactics. And, start planning for next year now, so you don’t get stuck in this position again! Good luck, and happy holidays!

The post Holiday Marketing Campaigns – Some Advice to Small Business Owners appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.