Monday, March 11, 2019

How to Improve Your Business Reputation for Free


As a small business owner, your reputation is everything. It will make or break your business. Warren Buffet understood the value of a good business reputation when he said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”

But protecting your reputation in the days of social media is hard. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, an unhappy customer will tell between nine to 15 people about the incident. This number gets amplified when they choose to do it in a social stream. Sometimes it’s not even anything your business did wrong. 

How about this TripAdvisor review? 



Can someone please get on that?

Sure, we may snicker about some of those bad reviews but when they happen to your business, they’re not funny. So what do you do if your reputation is in need of a little help?

Don’t worry. We have a list of things that can help those minor blips in the road. However, please note these won’t solve major PR problems but they are a start.

Ready?


12 Ways to Improve Your Business Reputation for Free

Whether you are a new business looking to build your reputation, a seasoned business needing to do some reputation management, or if you simply want some ideas to get your business name out there, here is a list of ways you can positively build your business reputation:

Volunteer 

Volunteering is the easiest way to build your reputation, and there are so many different volunteer opportunities within your community. You can volunteer on a committee, volunteer with local charities, or volunteer in a leadership role. Speaking of, if you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity involving business...

Get Involved With Your Local Chamber Of Commerce 

According to the Shapiro Study, customers who know that a small business is a member of the chamber of commerce, say they are 49% more likely to think favorably about it and 80% more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.

Value Your Employees 

Let’s face it, if your employees are unhappy, they won’t actively promote your business because they don’t feel like a valued part of it. In fact, truly unhappy employees could be spreading more negativity than you realize if they complain to friends and family about you and your business. Find ways to show your employees how much you value what they do.

Coach The Local Baseball Team

Or really any team. If you have a lot of kids (and most kids playing sports have parents or guardians with purchasing power) in your community, a great way to be more involved and promote your reputation at the same time is to give back to children. You can also organize adult league games to get others participating and having fun in your community.

Attend School “Career Days” 

When kids hear how cool it is to be an entrepreneur, they will go home and tell their parents and friends all about your business.

Be Responsive 

Responding to emails, social media posts (good or bad), customer concerns, and questions might be time consuming, but it’s free. It will also increase your customer retention rate. Even if they aren’t happy with the product, they will appreciate that you wanted to make it right.

Attend Community Events

You don’t always need to have a booth or be selling your products to attend events. Simply attending the event shows that you are supporting people and causes in your community.

Address Bad Reviews

Know that not every customer is going to be 100% satisfied. Address bad reviews in a courteous and helpful way, without being defensive. Having said that, I’m not sure how you get less sand on a beach short of ordering up a hurricane (see review at the top of this article). In that case, you may just want to thank them for their suggestion and tell them that many people use baby powder to keep sand stickage on the body to a minimum. Add value. Be helpful. 

Ask for Feedback
Ask your fellow business owners and friends to critique your Facebook page, website, and/or storefront. Be open to the feedback they provide, and make any necessary changes that fall in line with your ideal audience.

Don’t Share Anything Controversial on Facebook (or the Internet)
Even if you have strong opinions on a subject, it is much better to keep those to yourself to avoid possibly offending a group of your customers. Your business Facebook page needn’t be all business all the time, off-topic entertainment often gets the most shares and interactions. However, no matter how funny, posts about politics, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicities, and other sensitive subjects are best left off social media. If you’re wondering if it’s appropriate, always err on the side of caution. 

Partner with the Local Newspaper to Write a Human Interest Piece on Your Business
Don’t be afraid to ask to be interviewed in the local paper. Creating a good relationship with the local newspaper is a great way to build your reputation and they’re always looking for angles. Just make sure your pitch is not an advertorial. They want human interest and your next sale doesn’t qualify. 

Even if the local paper isn’t interested in your story, your customers are. So make sure you share it.

Keep Your Word
Really, this isn’t just a business lesson, it’s a life lesson. Do what you say you are going to do, and people will notice. Go back on your word, and people will notice that, too. No one wants to work with someone they can’t rely on.

Remember, a positive reputation is your business’ backbone, and these suggestions won’t cost you anything but your time!




Christina R. Greenteaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager Blog.  

Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.





Wednesday, January 30, 2019

4 Alternative Types of Content for Your Business If You Hate to Write

Content is essential to your business becoming (or remaining) an industry leader. It’s fast becoming a differentiator as more and more customers do their research online and make purchasing decisions long before they speak with one of your salespeople. If you hate to write, but don’t want to pay someone else to do it for you, you don’t have to give up on content. You shouldn’t. There are other forms of content production that are as effective in helping you become a resource for your customers as the written word is. If you’re not a great writer, chances are these other forms of media will also be a lot more compelling and engaging for your audience. 

Video

There are a lot of options in this category from webcam or cellphone production to slick agency creations. What you use depends on what you sell and who you’re selling it to. But even a high-end luxury brand can create a campy, low-budget production hit if it resonates with the target audience.
Generally, you’ll want to keep all videos under 3 minutes unless it’s very meaty subject matter. Ideas for videos include telling your story, client testimonials, product explanations, and things people who are in the market for your product or service need to know.
Don’t forget to check out the live-streaming video options with Periscope, Meerkat, and Blab. Businesses can also do interesting things on the six-second looping Vine.  

Podcasts

The old joke, “You have a face for radio”, is no longer applicable with the increase in interest in podcasts. Thousands of mainstream marketers have embraced this successful medium because people are listening to podcasts with the same zeal families gathered around the radio to hear the latest installments of their serial programs back in the 1940s. Just ask NPR.
Podcasts can be anywhere from a few minutes to thirty minutes long. A computer, headset, decent mic, and some editing software is really all you need to get started. You can create a tips series or cover topics of interest to your audience. If you run a gym, a podcast on good nutrition might be a nice fit.

Interview Series

While this is a type of video or podcast it deserved its own mention. Lining up subject matter experts each week or month is a lot of work but a video series of this caliber provides an exponential return on your time investment. It becomes a valuable resource for your audience and establishes you as an industry expert because you are surrounded by top minds. Also because you are selecting the guest line-up, you can choose experts who can help you further your message. Now you’re not the only one telling customers what to consider when buying, others (very smart others) are endorsing your beliefs. 

Images

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Picture posts get more click-throughs and shares than posts with just words.  There are a lot of free design sites (Canva, Visme, Pixlr, to name a few) that can help you create posts that get attention. Marry your images with a strong message or inspirational quote and watch your engagement take off.
No matter what media you choose to work in, it’s best to repurpose your content whenever possible. Use your videos to create transcripts for those who enjoy reading. Use soundbites to create social media posts, memes, or image quotes. Give your audience what they want in a form they can enjoy. When you do, you’ll find it saves you time and reaches a much broader audience. A broader reach translates to more sales.



Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager’s Blog
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.


Monday, January 28, 2019

4 Tips to Make Your Business More Likeable


People buy from people they know, like, and trust. While you might be in the right place at the right time when someone is up against it, and they may buy from you once without knowing, liking, or trusting you, for them to return, you’ll need more than luck.

Know and trust generally come along when you establish yourself as a likable business with a human behind it. It’s difficult for people to like you if they don’t trust you, unless you’re a villain and then being untrustworthy is your business. For most of us, that is not the case. You can’t like someone you don’t remember, so let’s get to work on establishing the like part of the sales equation. 

Share Your Reason

Think of how filmmakers or storytellers get us to like the main character. One of the ways is that they place him on a quest, or up against a challenge, that we want him to succeed in. Often it’s one we identify with. Share your reason for doing what you do. There’s probably someone in your audience or potential audience who can identify with your convictions and story. Passion is contagious.  

Find Commonalities

In order to find commonalities, you need to share things about yourself outside of your business and how it came to be. Share your likes, be positive. Share what you love about your community or your love for bacon. Be genuine and people who see your social media posts or read your content, will begin to identify with what you’re sharing. They’ll jump in and say “me too” and you’re one step closer to getting them to like you. 

Ask Questions

If they’re in your store or business ask them their opinion on something and really listen to their answer. On social media ask what they think or what their preferences are. Involve them in your rebranding by crowdsourcing some of your marketing decisions. People like being involved and if you really listen to, and then act on, their advice, they’ll remember it and like you more because they see you as someone who values what they think. That’s all a lot of us are looking for.  

Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs

As a business you are in a position to help, whether it’s helping someone look better, feel better, be entertained, or whatever it is you do for your customers. But you are also in a position to solve problems or answer questions. Use your content and social media to help customers with problems they face in their lives. If you run a boutique, you can create posts about unique gifts for the women in your life. If you are a CPA create helpful checklists of things people should track throughout the year for effortless taxes. Be helpful. Anticipate what your customers need and then give it to them. If they know they can count on you, they will return again and again. 
In today’s competitive market place it’s hard for your product alone to set you apart. Often it’s the things behind your product that will help you make a name for yourself. It’s the service, personality, and assistance you provide. These are the things that make people like you and they are also what keeps people coming back. 

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager’s Blog
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Monday, July 23, 2018

4 Examples of Difficult Business Transparency

Marketers everywhere insist that successful businesses should become more transparent with their audience. After all, people want to do business with those they know, like, and trust. And what better way to accomplish that than by showing your potential customers or clients who you are? 

But transparency encompasses more than just your brand. There are times in your company history when you might have to become transparent with something uncomfortable or something you want to change. But just how far do you go?

What Is Transparency?

Transparency, when done well, is a cultural shift to become more open with customers, clients, and employees. Think of the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The golden ticket allowed one child and a guest to go on a tour of the mysterious factory. What wondrous things they discovered (and a little mayhem, but that’s a topic for another post). When transparency is done well, you can create that same interest in your company.

In 2017, Entrepreneur ran an article entitled “How Transparency Became a Top Priority for Business, and Why You Should Care.” In it, contributor Larry Alton shared an important statistic:

According to a recent study by Label Insight, up to 94 percent of consumers surveyed indicated that they were more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency, while 73 percent said they were willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency.”

Those are impressive reasons to become more transparent.

Adopting a culture of transparency means you make it clear what your business mission, goals, and culture are. It may also include your business history, failings, operations, and performance. However, it does not need to include your “secret sauce.”

When Transparency Is Hard

Transparency is not all about drinking from a chocolate river as mentioned in the movie example above. Just like in that movie, there can be times when transparency is uncomfortable but necessary. Think of how Wonka told the parents they’d be meeting their child at the juicer or the taffy stretching machine. Difficult conversations for the rest of us.

It’s easy to think of the happy things you can to share with your audience to help them get to know you better. Maybe you got a new puppy over the weekend or your child graduated from school. These personal shares make it easier for people to feel connected to you and your business. These are the easy wins. Transparency in social media posts should keep in mind your ideal audience and always provide one of the following themes:

     Educational
     Inspirational
     Entertaining

If the post doesn’t accomplish any of these, even in a liberal way, rethink that post.

But what about the times when you have something difficult to share? It’s important to be transparent at those difficult times too.

Disappointing Past Performance

This may seem like a no-no but there are times when a business gets a bad reputation and must turn it around. To ignore the mistake/blunder would be dishonest. Take what Wells Fargo does in this commercial to earn trust back as an example. Notice, they don’t specifically mention what they did to lose trust. No reason to dwell. Instead, they dive into how they will regain it.

 

Improving or Upgrading Services

Some companies have an issue with lack of quality or they want to offer additional services. They can do this by improving their offerings and showing (transparently) how they are doing it. It’s also wise to adopt a slogan that reflects that change in direction and shows that they are dedicated to making the changes a big part of their business. Winn Dixie adopted the slogan “Getting better all the time” and was specific about listening to its customers as you can see in this video:



Transparent Salaries

Buffer and Whole Foods decided to become transparent with their employees by making salaries public. The idea helps keep salaries relatively equal (per position) and those who are paid more in a specific position have done something to warrant the higher level of pay and thus become role models for other employees. At Buffer, even the co-founder and CEO’s salary is public knowledge.


Transparency and Reviews

There’s no arguing that reviews affect purchasing decisions. Because of this, writing reviews became a popular black market service for some. Many businesses, from writers with books on e-marketplaces to restaurants and hotels, were taking advantage of fake reviews (paid for by the person being reviewed). Some businesses, like Amazon, have cracked down on this shady practice and now label reviews as verified purchases. This form of transparency can benefit your company if you have products and reviews. 

If you want to adopt a culture of transparency at your business, know it’s not an occasional thing. Transparency must flavor your approach to problem-solving even when it’s difficult. You need for customers to know and trust you and you can’t do that by showing yourself as the perpetual perfect hero.



Christina R. Greenteaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager Blog.  

She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.


Friday, July 20, 2018

8 Easy Steps to Attracting Your Ideal Customer and Improving Sales

One of the most common mistakes businesses make is wanting to be all things to all customers. Just as in life and friendships, you will never be everyone’s “cup of tea.” 

That’s okay. It’s more than okay. 

Understanding this and attracting your ideal customer is the one way to build loyalty among your clients and provide them with the services and products they need. In personalizing your sales approach you will gain more, not less. Here’s how you can go about doing that:



1.    Decide who your ideal customer is. There is a group (or maybe several groups) that you can help better than any other business. Who are they? Identify them, flesh out details about their demographics including:

     How old are they?
     How much money do they make? Do they have disposable income or are they living check to check?
     What do they do for a living?
     How do they spend their free time?
     What services or products are they loyal to?

2.    Figure out what they need. What is their most pressing issue? How does your business help them solve this?

3.    Analyze what they want? Now that you know what they’re struggling with figure out what they want; what they wish they had even if it’s not in the budget right now. Focus on how you can help them get there. Several banks have used this approach selling the question of what dream can they help you achieve today.

4.    Design marketing campaigns based around the second and third step in this list. Target individual demographics separately. Don’t try to use an all-encompassing solution for the different groups who buy from you. For instance, market to Millennials differently than you do retirees. They have different concerns. Designing your marketing strategy around these groups involves more than just your message. It also affects where and how you’re delivering it. For Millennials, you might turn to Instagram or YouTube. For the older generation, it might be Facebook and direct mail. You need to assess where your clients are so you can implement a strategy to reach them.

5.    Create content that appeals to each group. Yes, your marketing message is content but this step takes it a bit further. Create ebooks or infographics with information that will help your ideal customer. Do video or host events. Understand the group you want to reach and then create content and experiences to reach them best. Ever notice a lot of end-of-life providers host free lunch and learns? That’s because they’re a popular way to reach that demographic.

6.    Create a clear and “doable” call to action (CTA). At the end (and even midway, as appropriate) of all of your helpful content, you’ll want a clear and actionable CTA. The call to action must be the next step in what they’re looking for. For instance, if you’re selling something with a long sales cycle, you don’t want to add a buy-now button to your About Page on your website. About Pages are something most people visit when they want to learn more about you, not at a late stage in the sales cycle. On the other hand, a call to action to learn more about you on an infographic that walks people through the financing process of your product or service is not a good fit either because by that point most people are ready to consider signing with you. They likely already know about you.

7.    Find a way to delight them. Remember when you were figuring out what your ideal customer wanted and needed? Now you want to use that information to make an impression. By this point, you’ve already attracted them with your targeted marketing. They’re already looking into what you have to offer. They’ve scanned your valuable, personalized materials and content. Now, use what you know about them to make an impression. This could be through a targeted email marketing drip campaign or promotional materials that are tied to their wants and needs. But at this stage, you want to kick up your marketing and do something no one else is doing. Maybe that’s a handwritten note or a pop-up event. Use what you know about your ideal customer to surprise and delight them.

8.    Always follow-up. Most salespeople know to follow up but incessant calls from your sales team can get old. You need a way to stay in touch with your ideal customer as they consider doing business with you. You also want to stay in contact with those who have purchased and may purchase again. You can do this through a newsletter or other means of occasional contact. Get their email address. Being connected on social media is not enough. They could opt out of those platforms at any time but for someone to give up email that would be nearly impossible. Getting someone’s email is like getting their home address. It could change but not as often.

Get to work at attracting your ideal customer. They’ll remain more loyal to you and you’ll be more able to solve their problems and suit their needs. You’ll have fewer customer service issues because they are a good fit for your business. Stop trying to appeal to everyone and speak to those you are best suited to help.  






Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager Blog. 
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.