Capturing the attention of the masses is no simple feat. Instead of investing in traditional advertising and real world marketing initiatives, many small businesses turn to the web to generate sales. Online marketing and promotional efforts often prove less expensive than traditional advertising campaigns, but it’s not easy to create a viral hit. If you’re eager to get people talking about your product and brand, try using the following five tips to get started.
Give Something Away
Giveaways and promotional contents have long been a staple of the marketing world, for one simple reason: they work. Consumers like free stuff! Introducing a new house special or creating a limited edition beverage to celebrate the season? Talk about it on your social accounts and ask people to enter the contest.
Maximize the impact of your giveaway by thinking outside the box. Many brands ask consumers to retweet or share a contest announcement on Facebook to earn an additional entry. If you’re giving away something of significant value, ask users to submit their own content and solicit votes from the online crowd. In an effort to earn more votes, users will likely share your content aggressively.
Partner with Other Small Businesses
Small businesses are often plagued with limited marketing budgets, which makes it challenging to reach a large audience online. If you haven’t already done so, partner with another small business in your area to create a promotional offer or a special event. For example, why not offer a meal for two in your restaurant and partner with a boutique hotel to create a “romantic couple’s retreat?” If you’re a brewery or winery, make your products available through a local restaurant as part of a limited time “pairing menu.” The possibilities are endless.
Not only does partnering with other businesses make your events and promotions more interesting, but if both businesses promote the event online, you’ll reach a far wider audience.
Engage with Loyal Customers
Word-of-mouth advertising is worth its weight in gold. Consumers don’t like to listen to a brand endlessly extolling the virtues of its products, but they love recommendations from friends. When customers talk positively about you online, reward them! Direct message them and give them a promotional coupon, send them a t-shirt in the mail, offer them a free meal next time they stop by. Engaging in a positive way will encourage your customers to talk, talk, talk about your brand.
Pitch Prominent Bloggers
Building an online audience takes time, which is why it’s often useful to work with established blogs and websites who can share your brand with their existing fanbase. Work to identify some influencers in your industry and contact them with a great article idea. If you find a well-respected reviewer, consider sending them a case of your product for an unbiased review. There are plenty of ways to explore building a mutually-beneficial relationship with these movers and shakers.
Support Charitable Causes
Do you know why so many businesses support charities? It’s not simply because they’re benevolent—it’s also good for business. Whenever possible, sponsor local groups and events. When the marketing materials are published online, your logo will be distributed to the masses, in turn generating interest in your brand.
Establishing trust and credibility is no simple feat, but testimonials hold significant power over the modern consumer. Unlike marketing materials and advertising campaigns, testimonials reveal the opinions and experiences of real buyers. Numerous business sectors have recognized the undeniable sway of effective testimonials, including the hospitality industry and online retailers. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a multinational brand to maximize your selling potential online.
Rules of Useful Testimonials
For testimonials to have the desired effect on buyers, it’s important for businesses to respect the following simple rules:
● Honest Opinions: Testimonials shouldn’t be edited or filtered to avoid negative feedback. Consumers want to see the raw truth.
● Proof: Testimonials should be accompanied by a name and photo when possible. Even a simple username is better than a vague, “Satisfied Customer.”
● Real People: It goes without saying, but testimonials shouldn’t be fabricated. Not only is this unethical, but it’s also illegal in some instances.
Some of the world’s most powerful online marketplaces have truly mastered the art of testimonials, with notable examples including Amazon.com and the Priceline Group. For any product on these sites, you’ll see good reviews, bad reviews, and everything in-between.
How to Solicit Testimonials
The undeniable potential of a well-written testimonial makes them incredibly useful, but it can be hard to get customers to leave reviews and testimonials. Some businesses offer incentives to customers for sharing their opinions, with giveaways and promotional discounts. If you have a large email list or an active following on social media, this method may be your best bet.
If you’re an independent business owner with a relatively small customer base, consider direct contact with your clients. Reach out via phone or email and explain what you’re looking for. You may be surprised how many customers agree to participate. Depending on the product or service you sell, it may be useful to help guide your buyers with a questionnaire or survey.
Using Testimonials on Your Site
Once you’ve obtained testimonials, you should display them prominently throughout the pages of your website. Social proof is often one of the first things consumers look for when they visit an e-commerce or small business site, so don’t bury them on a “reviews” page. Instead, place small blurbs above the fold on your website. (Above the fold means visitors won’t need to scroll to see your testimonials) If you have a large number of testimonials, you can always link to a full reviews page under the blurbs.
Word-of-mouth advertising has long been a powerful tool for small businesses, and testimonials and reviews serve as a natural extension of this. By building testimonials into your site, you’ll help convince buyers to interact with your business. If possible, start gathering consumer opinions from the day you open your doors. This will help you build a large cache of reviews you can use to bolster the success of your business.
Many marketers think of word-of-mouth advertising as the holy grail, and for one simple reason: it’s incredibly effective. In our digitally connected modern world, the humble online review is often seen as the equivalent of word-to-mouth advertising. Many buyers use these reviews to find local businesses to patronize and learn more about which to avoid. Don’t leave the impact of your customer reviews up to chance—instead, use a few simple steps to maximize the positive benefits of online reviews for your business.
Get Proactive: Respond to Every Review
If a customer approaches you in your business with a compliment, you’ll thank them warmly for their business. With a complaint, you’ll work to resolve the problem in an amicable way. Apply these same simple techniques to your reviewers online and you’ll be in good shape.
Most review sites allow business owners to respond to their client feedback. When someone shares positive feedback, thank them and explain that you can’t wait to see them again soon. Negative and unpleasant reviewers should also get a response. Be thoughtful and kind in your comments and when possible, invite the client to stop in again for a better experience. Most importantly, don’t let frustration or anger get the better of you.
Responding to reviews shows other customers that you’re engaged and committed to providing great customer service. It can even result in an unhappy customer rethinking his opinion. Either way, you’ve demonstrated your business’ approach to providing great customer service, which will leave a positive impression for others.
Build a Complete Profile
Of course, the reviews themselves are the main dish of sites like Yelp, but business owners also have a role to play beyond simple responses. Use review sites to highlight the key selling points of your business. Complete your business profile in the greatest detail possible, and upload a full gallery of images. Remember, when catering to a customer who doesn’t know your company or your product, you want to help fill in as many gaps as possible.
Encourage More Reviews
Many review sites have clauses that explicitly forbid soliciting reviews from your customers, but don’t let that stop you from publicizing your business’ presence on these sites. Consider adding a small review logo to your website footer and business cards, which will remind customers to share their feedback. You might also want to think about advertising with a review site. Many of these destinations allow businesses to offer special deals to clients who learn about them through a review.
Engaging with customers in a way that reflects positively on your business is nothing new. As the old adage goes, the customer is king. By treating a review site as a public forum for maintaining positive relationships with existing clients and resolving disputes, you can harness the power of these destinations for your business. Ultimately, building a review response strategy alongside your social media campaigns and traditional advertising initiatives can help supercharge your company’s marketing prowess and earn you more business.