This article first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse on December 11, 2015. The original article can be found here.
Referrals are the lifeblood of any business. You do business with people you trust. You will also do business with companies who have earned the trust of your family, friends and colleagues. Your best source of marketing is your satisfied customers and their "word of mouth" recommendations and referrals they provide. So what has changed?
Consumers have adopted a new trend when the are searching for products or services they need. They still seek the advice and recommendations from people they trust. They all love to have choice in their lives and will most likely seek two or three options from their network. The next step is the one that many businesses need to understand. Consumers will take the three referrals and conduct additional research online. If your online prominence and level of authority is less than your other two competitors, who do you think will be contacted? Definitely not you. The added danger for businesses is they will not be aware of the lost customers because they never received a phone call or visit from the customer in the first place. All they see are less calls and contact from new customers.
Consumers have a new powerful tool at their disposal. They have the internet. They can quickly research their choice of vendors. What the see online as a result of their research will greatly influence who they select to contact. If your company looks inferior to your competition, you will most likely not be contacted. Word of mouth as it was ten years ago is different today. The internet is the new "word of mouth".
What do consumers look for during their online research?
Consumers are now very sophisticated and have a wealth of information they can access. Here are seven influencing factors you need to address as a business:
While your company may provide an excellent service and product, how you look on the internet compared to your competition is vital. Consumers are researching you online more often than you are aware. A lack luster image and presence will not do you any favours and not generate any contact from a potential new customer.
There are three things you need to do.
This article was originally published on the LinkedIn Pulse section by M. J. Plebon and the original can be viewed here .
Even though we are well into 2016, it is never too late to think about your online strategy for 2016.
Another year comes to a close and you along with many companies wonder what online marketing opportunities will present themselves in 2016. While many factors such as Google algorithm changes and social media modifications remain beyond your control, there is one trend that your company can capitalize on for 2016 to enhance the reach and engagement of your social media and online marketing efforts. This opportunity involves engaging the under utilized resource of your employees.
For many companies, social media and online marketing have reached a level of importance to warrant a dedicated team to create and manage the distribution of content for your company. Despite this initiative, growing your audience can still be a slow and painful process. Why not engage your own employees to share your content with their following? This strategy makes sense since search engines such as Google and Bing are placing greater importance and authority on content that is liked, +1'd, pinned, tweeted, shared and commented. If your organization has several employees or a couple of hundred, engaging them to share your content on their own social media accounts will be the catalyst which can give your online presence and authority the breakthrough you always wanted. According to Hootsuite, involving your employees adds credibility to every post they share.
Here are three types of organizations and how they can utilize their team.
Medium to Large Companies: If you fall into this category, your organization has a wonderful resource available to you. Imagine having 10, 50 or 100's of your employees liking and sharing updates from your online marketing team. Not only will your marketing reach skyrocket from where it is today, the social signals will move your content, social media properties and eventually your website to the top of the rankings. Search engines place a great level of importance on social signals. The challenge for most large organizations is how to encourage engagement from their own employees.
Back in October, Hootsuite has launched an app that makes it easy for your employees to share your content on their social media platforms. Hootsuite Amplify gives your employees the power to extend your social reach in three easy steps. First, onboard your employees with an intuitive mobile app that is branded with your company's logo. Next have your content developers and online marketing team send updated content through the Hootsuite dashboard to the app with one single click. Your employees are then notified and with a simple procedure can share the content on their personal social media platforms. (BTW, I am not an affiliate for Hootsuite however I suggest you check out this tool to help you to engage your employees.) Remember, the simpler you make the process, the more "buy-in" you will enjoy from your employees.
Franchises: Franchise organizations have a tremendous opportunity to increase their brand reach and dominate the local search engine landscape. If you are a franchisor, your challenge with any franchisee will be getting your team on the same page. Your franchisees will be a mix of those who have a high degree of social media skills to the opposite spectrum of those who rarely use the internet at all.
Get your marketing team to take the lead and create social media pages for each local franchisee. You will most likely want to control your brand image however you still want participation from each of your franchises to add the local flavor. When you have set up the social media pages, a useful tool to check out is IFTTT (If-This-Then-That) which allows you to create recipes to automate much of the updating activities your team will encounter. When using IFTTT, you can create a recipe that will update each franchisee's social media page with the corporate update your team just posted. This keeps the brand front and center and the page active. This helps those franchisees who are not internet savvy. For members of your team who are anxious to add their own local flavor, work out the content and posting guidelines and then let then participate with local updates to help grow their following in their community.
Don't forget to establish the Google My Business accounts for each franchise location. This will take some time for the larger established franchises to build the Google My Business accounts however it will be well worth the effort. Once these online properties are established, you can direct customers to leave reviews and rate the local franchise out of 5 stars. Getting your local franchise locations in the Google "Snack Pack" of the local search will provide prime exposure on the first pages of Google.
Manufacturers: Manufacturers who have assigned dealerships or distributors of their product have an existing infrastructure to expand the reach of their brand to a local level. If you are a manufacturer, you can have your marketing team create social media pages for each of your approved agents, distributors and licensees. You can control the look, feel and branding of each page however you will want to add the local contact information for location. The manufacturer can use these social media properties to educate the end users with "How to" information, tips and tricks. The local dealers can add their own content to create a local feel to the social media page. As with Franchises, the manufacturer can employ the power of IFTTT recipes to streamline the content updating process across their network.
Small Businesses: Small local businesses may not have the luxury of a large work force. Yet small businesses can utilize their limited employee base, family members and friends to help spread their brand locally.
2016 will be another year of changes for your online marketing efforts. As always, there are many factors that will be out of your control however identifying what you can control and influence will go a long way to elevate you above your competition and gain more exposure and authority for your company.
I trust everyone has had a joyous Christmas and a safe holiday season. Happy New Year to everyone and all the best in 2016.
one thing that has changed over the past few years when it comes to word of
The change is a shift in the power of the
consumer. In the past, when a friend recommended a business or
professional to me, I trusted his word but I had no way of conveniently
conducting my own research as a consumer. While my friend is happy with the
company he referred, it does not guarantee I will be as happy. I may be looking for something special or
unique. How could I ensure that the referral given to me would
be one that would satisfy my specific needs? The internet now allows me to further investigate.
As a consumer, I now can conduct my own research whenever and wherever I want by simply adding the professional's name or business name into Google on my computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone. From my search results, I can usually find the website, blog posts, other directory listings, reviews, testimonials and volumes of other information on that individual or business. In reality, I have all the information at my finger tips to make an informed decision.
Now many professionals are investing in their websites, SEO, Pay-per-Click advertising (PPC), banner ads, pop-up ads, re-targeted ads and other forms of online promotion. Here lies the challenge. As consumers, we have become experts at filtering out the advertising noise on radio, newspapers, TV and now the internet.When ads appear on our screens, we delete it as soon as possible .
For Pay-per-Click ads, consumers automatically discount the top and right side of the Google search results knowing that this is advertising. Pop-up ads can annoy and most often irritate the consumer to a point that they will avoid that brand. What we want as consumers is information to make a wise decision. Some professionals are leading the way and providing good content that will help me make a good decision. There are some professionals that are still stuck in the mindset of a decade ago.
For those professionals, it is no longer enough to invest in advertising and a nice flashy website. Professionals need to elevate their professional stature as an expert in their field or at least more of an expert than their competition. To accomplish this, then need to educate their potential clients. In this age of information, a professional's expertise can be easily published online and also re-purposed into different formats so the potential clients can consume this information in the format they find most appropriate.
To accomplish this, it requires careful thought on an effective online marketing strategy and then execution of that strategy. A properly thought out campaign will create new content and information, optimize the content to be easily found online and link or mesh this new content with the online properties such as the professional's website, social media and Web 2.0 properties. The strategy a professional adopts will depend on their client's needs and habits, the types of services and products provided and what their competition is doing.
If you are a professional and want to see how you look to your potential clients, search for your name or for the name of your practice in Google. Look at the results that show on the first page. Is the information accurate, informative and current? Is there regular activity on your social media properties? Are there positive reviews and testimonials about you and your products and services?
Next conduct the same exercise with your competitor. What shows up for them? If you were to compare your results with theirs, who would you select to do business with? Your potential clients may or may not be searching online for products or services you provide. At least not yet. I guarantee they will use the internet to research you and your company when you have been referred and they are thinking about doing business with you.
As a professional, how do you come across online? Are you an expert in your field or just another professional?