The reviews aren’t good

July 19, 2017

reviewsIn the “good old days” when a neighbor or work colleague told you how much they enjoyed a nearby B&B, movie or restaurant, it mattered.  Word of mouth has always been one of marketing’s most potent weapons.  Today – we have word of mouth marketing on steroids with online reviews.

Interestingly, in a wide range of surveys examining the effectiveness of online reviews, the data is pretty telling. Depending on the research, somewhere between 84-90% of us trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Nearly 9 out of every 10 consumers has used online reviews to influence a purchase and about 40% of us use them on a regular basis as part of our buying process. Most people read between 6-10 reviews and they usually read the most recent reviews first.

Why do we give perfect strangers the same credibility score as our neighbors and friends?

  • We believe in the aggregate. One bad review suggests a fluke or someone had a grudge but when there’s a pattern, we’re willing to believe the crowd.
  • We assume that the reviewers are people like us who have no axe to grind but just want to be helpful.
  • We give more credibility to the “average Joe” than we do to marketing or corporate speak. In other words – I want to hear what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself.

Given both the number of consumers who rely on online reviews and the level of trust they put in them – it’s not something businesses can ignore.   And this isn’t just about restaurants or hotels anymore. Whether you’re a dentist, restaurant, ad agency, professor or an insurance agent – between Angie’s List and all of the specialty lists out there – everyone is being rated.

Interestingly – businesses seem to be adopting the head in the sand approach to bad reviews.  Even though almost every rating site will allow the proprietor to respond, very few do.

That is a huge missed opportunity. Every business owner, CMO etc. should be tracking where their business is being rated and monitoring those ratings.  While the ideal is that you’d respond to all the reviews (odds are there are not that many), you should at the very least react to the negative ones.

Here are some best practices for responding to negative reviews.

  • Apologize. Use the words “I am sorry” to acknowledge that they had a bad experience, even if you don’t believe it was your fault.
  • Refer to them by name if you can.
  • Identify yourself by name and title so they know who is responding to them.
  • If there really was a problem – don’t sugar coat it. Admit that you blew it and what you’re doing to make sure the next guest does not experience the same thing.
  • After your initial response, if they reply – take it offline. While you want everyone reading the reviews to see that you care, you don’t need to play out the entire conversation online.
  • If you feel like you can win them back – offer to compensate them in some way. And no, this will not encourage a bunch of people to leave bad reviews just to get a coupon or free meal from you.
  • Talk like a human, not a corporate committee. Use conversational language so they know there’s a human being behind your comments.

No matter what you do – ignoring negative reviews is not an option.  They are too influential to your prospects and when they go unanswered, they’re taken as gospel and can chase away potential business. So settle in and try to make some lemonade out of those lemons.

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Referrals don’t happen by accident

April 26, 2016

Referrals: do you really want them?Referrals don’t happen by accident. When I talk to some small business owners they proudly tell me that most of their new customers come to them via referrals. And I congratulate them – there’s no better marketing than having a customer rave about your work.

But relying on your customers to decide that they’re going to actively recruit new clients for you is probably not a brilliant marketing plan.

Think of a product or service that you really like and use regularly. Okay – now, how many people did you talk to today about that product or service? How about yesterday?

For our example, let’s pretend this product/service that you love is your barber. It’s not that you don’t love him. But you have other things going on in your world. So unless someone mentions they’re looking for a new barber or compliments your hair, odds are, you aren’t going to mention your barber. Even though you are a raving fan.

Your clients are the same way. They may love what you do but most days, they’re not thinking about you or telling other people about you. So does that mean growing your business by referrals is a bad thing? No – it just means you can’t leave it to fate or your customer’s undying love. You have to give referrals a helping hand.

Want to figure out how to boost referrals, try one (or more) of these ideas:

Throw an exclusive party: Create an event that your best customers would love to attend. Not like – but love. I’m talking take a day off work to go if they had to kind of love. Send them an invitation and explain that it’s an exclusive event – that only your best customers are being invited. But, as a special thank you for their business – they can invite one guest. The only caveat is the guest cannot be a current customer.

Promise them that they’ll be no sales pitch or selling. You just want to meet more people like them and you want them to be able to share this cool event with someone. Now, you’ve got a buzz worthy event which will generate its own word of mouth marketing and your best customers are walking prospects right to your door.

Love them: At MMG, many years ago we created our own holiday called Who Loves Ya Baby Day. (A hat tip to Telly Savalas in his Kojak days). On that day, which happens to be Valentine’s Day – we shower our clients with love. We let them know how much we value them and their trust in us. We create a special card to thank them and literally to say that we love them. Because we do.

In your own way – you need to let your customers know that they’re more than a buck in the cash register to you. Create something that overtly expresses your affection for them in a way that they can’t help but talk about.

Be shareable smart: Everyone wants to be helpful and be perceived as being on top of their game. Become a reliable resource of useful insights and information for your customers. Send them tools (e-newsletter, infographics, tip sheets, etc.) that they can and will pass along to their peers because of their value. Then, without even meaning to, they’re referring people to you with each share.

Which, of course, means what you send them has to be truly valuable, not self-serving. No one is going to pass along your sales flier or promotional materials. The added advantage of this tactic is not only do you get the referral but your content also reinforces the message that you really know your stuff.

Referrals are an incredibly valuable way to grow your business. But even your biggest fans need a little nudge.

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Playbook for word of mouth

July 6, 2015

fizzTed Wright’s new book Fizz (affiliate link) is a fantastic playbook for word of mouth that’s fun to read and easy to connect with your business and how you could take the examples and modify them to work for you.

Wright works hard to demystify this area of organic marketing that seems to create so much confusion and missteps. you’ll appreciate the examples of both what works and what happens when things go really wrong.

No matter what size is your business, you’ll be able to implement the ideas on the book as it explores strategies, techniques, and approaches of building a company and a brand worth talking about.

 

One of the reasons why this playbook for word of mouth isn’t just another fluff book is that Wright has actually had a hand in a lot of the examples and he offers up data like sales results, so you can see that it’s not just about creating buzz but it’s ultimately about creating sales.

This book is entertaining to read but at the end of the day, as Wright says at the opening of his playbook — it will actually help you “sell more stuff to more people more often for more money.”

Hard to argue with that. Get your copy from Amazon here. (affiliate link)

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Is there a recipe for creating trust?

September 19, 2014

creating trustWe talk about the idea of creating trust every week with our clients. At my agency, MMG, we call this equation basic marketing math: Know + Like + Trust = Sales. Translated – you will never make a sale if the prospect doesn’t know you exist, doesn’t like both what you sell and who you are and ultimately, doesn’t trust you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling toothpaste (hardly a considered purchase) or expensive professional services (think lawyer or accountant) – the requirements is the same.

This equation has never been more true than today. Consumers are jaded by the barrage of marketing messages they get hit with every day. They’re feeling as though someone is always selling at them (not to or with – at) and they’re wary of anything that smacks of marketing spin.

If you’re not creating trust — they are not going to be reaching for their wallet any time soon.

This is one of the reasons why word of mouth is so powerful. When someone you already trust, be it a family member, co-worker, or casual acquaintance, endorses a product or service, you know they don’t have anything to gain by it. Which makes their recommendation even more reliable. It is something you can trust.

So how does a business create that sense of trust between themselves and their prospects? Here are some tactics you should consider.

Delight your current customers: I know it seems obvious but really, when was the last time a business went out of their way to delight you? If someone is caught off-guard by remarkable service or a product that is so superior that they can’t believe it – they’re going to talk about it. You can’t beat the power of that word of mouth. But to get it, you have to earn it.

Let the customer tell you when they’re ready to buy: The minute we feel we’re being sold at – we shut down. Even if we want to buy something. I was in a local jewelry store recently. I had a healthy budget (several hundred dollars) that I was ready to spend. I walked in and really wanted to just look around on my own for a bit. But this vulture of a salesman would not leave me alone. He kept following me around the store, asking me questions to which I responded with terse, one-word answers.

Then, he finally walked away but only because he was chasing after a more talkative customer. In time I had a question and there was a different salesperson standing there. I asked her a question and she answered it. He must have given her some signal behind my back because she got this very flustered look on her face and then just walked away…and he swooped back in.

I left shortly – empty-handed. And I will check in the window before I ever enter that store again. If he’s there, I won’t be. (If you’re wondering if this was your store – email me!)

I spent my money 45 minutes later. Someplace else.

Make me a promise and then keep it: Give me a guarantee. Offer me a hassle free installation process. Stand behind your work and do it overtly. Don’t say – “well of course we’d fix it if we did it wrong” or whatever. Put it in writing. Call my attention to it. Help me get over my worry that I might be making a bad decision. And when something goes wrong – not only should you honor your original promise but you should go above and beyond it. (See delight your customers above)

You know this as well as I do. You can’t create trust. But you can sure earn it and when you do, you’ll hear the register ring.

 

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Your best customers are pure gold

July 19, 2014

best customersYou’ve heard it before — the top 20% of your customers, your very best customers, account for 80% of your profitability and referrals.  We intellectually know that and yet our behavior sure doesn’t show it.

We spend all kinds of dollars, time, energy and worry chasing after new customers and after someone starts to buy, the typical business sort of forgets all about them.  Much like people’s dating patterns — there’s a lot of wooing that goes on before the wedding but after the “I do’s” get said, the florist goes broke.

Our poor best customers get the same treatment from us and that needs to stop.  We need to shift a portion of our marketing focus away from prospects and invest even more in our best customers — the ones who have already proven that they’ll sing our praises, buy more and more and bring their friends along for the ride.

Fortunately, my friend Stan Phelps has written a book to help us all do just that.  This book, What’s Your Golden Goldfish, is the third book in a trilogy of marketing books that are all built around over 2,200 crowdsourced examples of real life marketing smarts.

This particular book shares over 100 examples of what leading brands like Starbucks, Doubletree, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Virgin Atlantic are doing differently to cater to their best customers and earn even more of their business and loyalty.

The book showcases nine different ways to let your best customers (and employees) know how much you value them. By doing those little extras, you will make your company even stronger.  You will differentiate yourself even more from your competitors, you’ll keep both your best customers and employees longer so they contribute to your success and with every little extra, you will create more word of mouth buzz.

The entire series of books is all built around the idea of lagniappe which is a creole word for “a little something extra.” In this edition — Stan helps his readers explore how organizations large and small can do a little something extra for their most loyal customers and employees.

You’ll love the storytelling but make sure you have a pen and paper handy because this book is going to spark so many ideas that you’ll never remember them all.  And as you implement them — your best customers will reward you with even more buzz, money and referrals.

Sounds like it is going to work out well for everyone, doesn’t it?

If you’re interested in Stan’s entire series, here’s how you can get them from Amazon.  If your an Amazon Unlimited customer, you can read the electronic version for free.  If you want the paperbacks, click on the links below:

 

Note:  If you click on one of the Amazon links, I get a few cents.

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Is your marketing making you a rock star?

May 31, 2013

rockstarMack Collier has hit a home run with his book Think Like A Rock Star* and I really want all of you to get his message.

As consumers get more jaded by traditional advertising and marketing that interrupts rather than connects — this book serves up the answer.

Why not be so good, create so much goodwill and treat your best customers like the super stars they are — all so you can unleash the word of mouth power of those best customers? We know that there’s nothing more influential than word of mouth and that an endorsement from a trusted friend/source absolutely influences buying decisions. So who wouldn’t want more of that for their business?

Author Mack Collier has studied how some of the world’s best entertainers have inspired their fans to help grow their fan base, sell concert tickets and CDs/downloads and in general — create buzz that elevates the star’s status and earning potential.

One of the reasons this is such a smart read is because it puts the marketing emphasis where it belongs — on existing customers (and even more so…. super engaged existing customers) rather than chasing prospects. Mack outlines many ways that rock stars connect with their fans, show their genuine gratitude and appreciation to their fans and inviting those fans to be their biggest advocates and evangelists.

You’ll get all kinds of ideas of how you can make your business a rock star too. Your best customers will be as ready to give you a standing ovation as the examples in the book. One of the features of the book you’ll find incredibly valuable is the Backstage Passes. These informational call out boxes give you very specific ways you can apply the examples to your own business. Like a little recipe card — they’ll guide you step by step.

I highly recommend this book (click to buy on Amazon*)and the concepts in it. Mack models his theories well — read the book and become one of his fans!

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Any brand can become talkable

July 28, 2012

Are you talkable?

On this blog, we often explore the importance of brand and the power of word of mouth. It seems that many business owners/leaders believe that you can just plan on something being spread by word of mouth and voila, it happens. (Sort of like planning for a video to go viral).

The reality is — to become a brand that is worthy of being talked about is hard work.

It’s about being very purposeful in every little detail of your business.

That’s why I love this video series by John Moore from Brand Autopsy.  John’s listed a bunch of attributes (29 to date) of a talkable brand — like believable, measurable, and emotional to mention a few.  And he’s done a video for each “able” that makes your brand talkable.

The videos are part education, part entertainment and part inspiration.  I think you’ll enjoy the short (less than 4 minutes each) offerings.

Check out the series (click here) and then come back and tell me which of the “ables” you think your business has already mastered.

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What are you doing to generate word of mouth

October 6, 2011

 

vine2
Amazon’s Vine program

We all know how awesome word of mouth is.  We know it beats any mode of advertising and that over 90% of consumers say it’s the most compelling factor in their decision to buy.

We all want it.  We want our customers to go skipping down the street, singing odes to us.  We want them to pull out their rolodex and drunk dial their peers to shout our praises.  We want them to tattoo our logo on their rear end. (Hey, it works for Harley)

So we patiently sit and wait for them to do just that.  And we wait.  And we wait.

Perhaps it’s time we actually do something to make it happen.

Amazon created a program they call Vine.  They have formed a small cadre of customers and inved them to be Vine members.  A Vine member gets two free books or any other item (they provide a list…you choose from that list) that Amazon sells every month. In exchange, you agree to review those items.  Good, bad or ugly — once you publish your two reviews for the month, you’ll eligible to get more free stuff the next month.

I’m a Vine member.  Of the 12 or more reviews I have written, almost all of them have been positive.  A couple effusive and a couple were so-so.  So at least 80% of the reviews they’ve gotten from me have been praising the products.  They generated word of mouth because they set out to get it.

If mega-store Amazon has to actively create word of mouth opportunities, what do you suppose the odds are that you’ll suddenly get a bunch of spontaneous praise?

Exactly.  Which is why we need to purposefully and actively generate it.

How could you do that in your business or how are you doing it today?

 

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