The Speculations Over the Integrity of Online Reviews

Online reviews are a hot topic for businesses of all sizes. Many people rely on online reviews to make purchasing decisions, so it's important to have a good reputation online. But what happens when fake reviews start popping up? How can you maintain the integrity of your online reputation? And what does the future hold for online reviews? As a small business owner, it's important to be aware of the potential impact that fake reviews can have on your business, as well as how to handle them if they do crop up. Keep reading to find out. 

A recent study by BrightLocal found that 88% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and that is no surprise—reviews offer an unvarnished view into what it’s like to do business with a company. But as more and more businesses turn to online reviews to build trust with potential customers, it’s important to remember that not all reviews are created equal. 

What Are Fake Reviews?

Fake reviews are, quite simply, reviews that have been doctored in order to either make a business look better or make it look worse. In some cases, these fake reviews are written by bots, which are automated programs that can generate large numbers of fake reviews in a short period of time. In other cases, they may be written by real people who have been paid to leave a positive or negative review. Regardless of who writes them or how they are created, fake reviews can have a serious impact on businesses, both big and small. 

What Are Paid Reviews? 

A paid review is when a company or an individual pays someone to write a positive review about their product or service. This can be done for products like books, movies, food, and more. It can even be done for services like hotels, restaurants, and more. Paid reviews are sometimes seen as unethical because the reviewer is not being completely honest about their opinion. However, there are also some benefits to paid reviews. For example, paid reviews can help to increase the sales of a product or service. They can also help to improve the reputation of a company or an individual. Generally, paid reviews will be from people with no prior experience with the product, and they will use phrases like "I was compensated for my time" or "This is a sponsored post." 

What Are Influencer Reviews? 

In today's social media-driven world, when an influencer with a large following gives their opinion on a product or service, it can have a major influence on whether or not people decide to purchase it. Also known as "sponsored posts," these are basically reviews that are written by influencers who have been given a product or service for free in exchange for their review. While some influencers are open about the fact that they've been given a freebie, others are not so forthcoming. This can lead to confusion among consumers, who may not be sure if the influencer is giving an honest review or if they're just trying to sell something. Even worse, influencer reviews can often be biased, as influencers may feel pressured to give a positive review in order to keep receiving free products.  

The Impact of Fake Reviews  

When it comes to small businesses, fake reviews can be particularly damaging. This is because small businesses often don't have the same resources as larger businesses when it comes to marketing and promotion. As such, good online reviews can be essential for attracting new customers and keeping existing customers happy. However, if even a few fake negative reviews crop up, it could cause potential customers to think twice about using your products or services. In addition, fake positive reviews can also damage your business's credibility; if people think that you've been paying for good reviews, they may be less likely to trust the things that people say about you online.  

How Reviews Play a Role in SEO 

In today's digital age, reviews not only help potential customers learn about your business, but they can also have a significant impact on your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts. Search engines use reviews as a ranking factor, so the more positive reviews you have, the higher you'll rank in search results. Positive reviews are a signal to Google that your business is reputable and trustworthy. In order to maximize the impact of reviews on SEO, you should focus on quality over quantity. Make sure to include reviews from a variety of sources, and take the time to respond to negative reviews in a positive and professional manner.  

How to Handle Fake Reviews  

Good reviews can attract new customers and help you to stand out from the competition. But what do you do when you receive a fake review? If you suspect that a review of your business is fake, there are a few steps that you can take to get it removed.

Handling fake reviews can be tricky but remember to stay calm and always act with professionalism. By taking these steps, you can turn a negative situation into a positive one. 

In conclusion, as a small business owner, you know that reviews are beneficial for your business growth. Good reviews can attract new customers and help you to stand out from the competition. You also have to be aware of the potential impact of fake reviews and how to professionally handle them. Of course, reviews aren't the only thing that matters when it comes to SEO, but they can definitely give your ranking a boost. Reviews can help to build social proof and increase trustworthiness, both of which are important ranking factors. 

Tips For Fourth Quarter Marketing Success

As summer winds down and the fourth quarter of the year approaches, it's time to focus on your marketing goals.

By keeping your marketing goals in mind, you'll be able to create a marketing plan that is both effective and fun. After all, there's no point in marketing if you're not reaching your target audience. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Drive traffic to your website? Sell more products? Here are a few tips to help you plan for the end of the year:

One thing we observed during the pandemic is consumers' heavy reliance on digital and social media. Is your 2022-23 marketing plan taking advantage of these platforms?

Digital Marketing

It's important to focus on digital marketing strategies that will help promote your business; these are not strategies that live independently. Social media is a great way to connect with potential and current customers. Using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can help increase brand awareness and drive your website or blog traffic.

Email marketing is another effective digital marketing strategy. Sending out newsletters or promotional offers to your email list can help keep your business top of mind. If you haven't already started building an email list, now is the time to start!

SEO (search engine optimization) is also important to focus on during the fourth quarter. Making sure your website is optimized for search engines can help you attract new visitors and customers.

These digital marketing strategies enable you to reach a wider audience and effectively promote your business.

Social Media

Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram can help increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website or blog, and leave a quick, lasting impression of your business and/or product.

Posting engaging content on a regular basis is key to success on social media. Try to mix up the content you post to keep things interesting. You can share blog posts, images, infographics, videos, and more. Value-added content is the name of the game, which is dictated by what the consumer finds value in, not necessarily what you think they do. Be sure to use hashtags and tagging to reach a wider audience.

Social media ads are also a great way to promote your business during the fourth quarter. Facebook/Instagram ads allow you to target a specific audience with your ads. You can choose the demographics, interests, and even locations of the people you want to see your ads. Twitter and Instagram also offer advertising options that can be effective in promoting your business.

You can expand your customer base and boost sales by trying these social media strategies.

Bottom Line

The fourth quarter of the year is an important time to focus on your marketing goals. Reviewing your goals, adjusting your plans and budgets, and collaborating with a small business marketing team can help you create a successful fourth-quarter marketing plan. Focusing on digital marketing strategies like social media and email marketing can help you reach a wider audience and promote your business effectively.

Well, that’s it for our digital and social media marketing tips and strategies to ensure that the final chapter of your 2022 is a success. We hope you found this post helpful and informative in planning your own marketing campaigns. Contact us today to learn more about our services!

Marketing During Turbulent Economic Times

Since the pandemic started the economy has been on a wild roller coaster ride, and while we all might be ready to get off, the next dip is still coming. While economists want to speculate on when it will happen, it’s very likely a recession is around the corner. It can be extremely difficult for small businesses to market themselves and find and maintain clients during turbulent economic times. Marketers struggle to find ways to draw new customers in amidst increasing competition and labor shortages, but there are some unique marketing tactics you can use during economic turbulence. These tactics can potentially put your business on the fast track! Here are some marketing tips for small to midsized businesses during an economic recession.

1. Research Your Competition
When an economic recession is looming, it's not uncommon for business owners to go for a low-cost approach and hope that their customers will still find value in their product or service and appreciate their work. The problem with this is that the competition will also be low-cost and price is one of those no-win last-resort situations. If you're not researching your competition - and your target audience - you run the risk of being undersold by other companies in your market, and it can have a detrimental effect on your business in the long term. Doing your research will help you learn what your target audience wants and how to best provide it to them and focus on value, not price.

2. Focus on Your Customer
In a time of economic turbulence, it's important that you develop a good marketing strategy because many businesses start offering their services or products at bargain prices. In such conditions, traditional broad-reach advertising mediums may not be as effective as they used to be in times of economic prosperity. In addition, while the pandemic may have driven more customers to your business than you feel you can handle, working on customer relationships and retention needs to remain top-of-mind in hard economic times. Focus on your customer and deliver your marketing message directly to that person. Put together advertisements with relevant products/services and contact information and deliver them in places your target audience goes. Distributing information directly to a customer is much more effective than spray and pray advertising because you can get in touch with the people interested in what you're selling. Now more than ever there are very targeted, very cost-effective digital and guerilla marketing tactics that can work for your business.

3. Get Connected
As a small business owner, you've probably scaled back or completely eliminated a lot of activities that linked you to other businesses and local community groups due to the pandemic. Now that we are moving more into the new normal business owners can't fail to make use of this valuable opportunity. Use your connections to market your business. Suppose you get involved in a local community group, for example, by helping with fundraising. In that case, you'll reach a wider audience because other people will see the good work you're doing and want to support it. You should take advantage of any networking events that are taking place now so that you can expand your business contacts for the future. To be successful, you must be creative with how you market your products or services. If your audience isn't aware that your business exists, it doesn't matter how good it is because they won't buy from you. However, if your customers know you exist and know what you offer, they will be looking for opportunities to buy from you, and getting referrals from other businesses who know what you do is a great revenue driver.

4. Lean on consistent branding
During tough economic times, it's important to brand your business consistently. When you display a consistent image of who you are and what your business does, people will remember your business, and this will encourage them to buy from you. When creating your brand identity, think about what kind of personality or character traits you want the company or product to emanate. Make sure this is clear and consistent across all forms of media.

5. Empower and encourage your audience
In these turbulent times, try to reach people looking for value; they will appreciate it when you tell them exactly what they're getting in exchange for their money. Focus on what you do best, and don't try to sell products or services that don't fit in with your business’ mission or your target audience. Instead, make sure that everything you do is based on what's best for the customer, and provide great customer service!

6. Work with digital/social media
Now more than ever it's a good idea to take advantage of social media because most people are now using these sites to promote their businesses. These sites have allowed people to communicate directly with each other, and together they can use these sites for marketing their businesses. If you're not using social media, you might be missing out on a valuable marketing strategy that could be used in times of economic turbulence. There are many targeted social platforms that cater to particular demographics, so you don't have to focus on all social media, just the mediums that get you in front of the people you'd like to target.

7. Get affordable tools for customer data
It's important that you understand what your customers want and how to provide them with it using the latest technology available at an affordable price. Social media allows you to access information about your customers because they freely offer it online, and it allows you to sort out the data for your customers and reach out to them directly.  Social media allows you to create customized user profiles by monitoring what people are saying about your company online. You can use polls, surveys, quizzes, and game apps to gain insightful views of what your audience wants from you. The more you know about your customers, the more you can give them what they want.

8. Use Your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
If you use KPIs, they can be useful when figuring out your potential and how you're performing. KPIs will show you growth in the market and where your potential is. KPIs can also be used to assess things like how fast sales are growing in your company and if there's anything wrong that needs to be fixed or changed about how you do business. If you're not using KPIs, start tracking them. Although it can be a lot of work, it's worth it because it will tell you where your strengths are and where you should be spending more time.

9. Differentiate and target your audience
In a time of economic turbulence, you need to think about how you will target your customers. You should do this by figuring out the exact demographic you want to attract. This will involve knowing who your potential customers are in detail before setting up your plan of action for selling to them. If you're not using demographic data, you're missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools available.

10. Add new products and services to your business
In a time of economic recession, it's good to diversify your business through investment in new products and services so that people will start to view your business as a “one-stop-shop”. Both B2B and B2C businesses should consider this because you never know when something will happen. In a time of economic turbulence, it's important that you make provisions for your business to be able to survive if something bad happens.

Just because it's a time of economic turbulence doesn't mean you have to struggle to keep your business afloat. If you do things differently and come up with unique marketing tactics, your business will be able to take advantage of these conditions and thrive!

Buying A Business? Don’t Make These Marketing Mistakes

Buying a business in the current economic climate is a challenging process. If you are not careful or patient enough, you will likely make mistakes. Going out on your own and running your own business after a career in the corporate world is enticing. You have to do due diligence, plan, negotiate, and make vital transitions. Here are some mistakes you should try to avoid when buying a business.

Not understanding the prior business engagements

If you rush through the buying process, you might sign contracts or agreements that you do not fully understand. You should use an LLC to buy the business so that you don't get your personal assets entangled. Business ownership requires you to find out what the business owns, borrows, owes, or leases. You also need to find out what debtors the business has, and which customers have yet to honor their payments. It's essential to find out which debtors are likely to end up in claims court for non-payment.

Assuming that you don't need to market the business

This is a common problem for many new business owners who assume that the current flow/traffic of business will continue. The issue is that an existing customer identifies with the previous owner; hence you need a smooth transition or a handover. A new business owner may feel overwhelmed by the idea of marketing their new business; some even avoid marketing the business entirely. However, businesses survive through constant reminders and chasing business prospects and this is critical for growth. The goal would be to advertise when the business is at peak season so that you will have prospects during the low sales period.

Not getting complete access to all website, Google Business, and social media accounts

Modern businesses rely on online marketing to increase traffic and create awareness. A Google My Business (GMB) profile is important since a considerable Google audience will access your profile. The more visible you are, the better for your business. GMB allows you to appear on maps, hence, any local searches will direct customers to your business. GMB also allows customers to leave reviews of your business. Customers' reviews are essential for search rankings and help potential customers make a decision. A company’s website acts as the landing page for GMB, and social media traffic is directed to the website page. Social media pages help a small business reduce advertising costs and reach more customers. It is also a great way of getting reviews and funneling new customers to your webpage or the physical store.

Terminating relationships with previous marketing partners or vendors

The supply chain can become very complicated, and vendor relationships are critical. If you terminate your vendor relationships, you will have to set up new ones, which means you will incur initial additional costs. Setting up new deals is expensive; hence you will be using your money for new deals instead of utilizing it in marketing efforts and customer service. Vendor relationships are long-term efforts that help you save on costs, minimize delays, and receive good quality supplies.

Losing efficiency in your business

If you terminate current business relationships, you lose communication and efficiency. Relationships thrive through communication. As vendors get to know your business, they will be able to offer better services. Order issues and conflict will reduce as you progress in your business and the supplier will learn how to solve problems more efficiently.

Lose built-up trust

As the relationship between you and the vendor develops, you develop trust in each other. You will be able to build your operations to reduce costs and improve efficiency. You can simplify buying and budgeting processes by having the vendor meet your supply demands instead of relying on many suppliers. Moreover, when you build trust, you can also get feedback from your vendors and marketing partners, which will help you streamline your supply chain and marketing activities. All of this will help you improve your customer service.

Losing some valuable insight into the business

If you lose insight into the business, you have lost a very valuable asset in the decision-making process. Insight is a blend of life/work experiences and collected data. It helps you provide improved customer experiences and understand what the customer wants. Moreover, insight will boost revenues by influencing response rates when people buy and encourage reorders. Sometimes this experience will help you outsmart your competition rather than outspending them. With insight, you can also maximize your return on investment (ROI), as you will be able to cut business costs and optimize your business. If you lose insight, you also lose information on how customers respond to your marketing messages and whether customers buy. Additionally, you won't know whether customers leave for a competitor, where new customers are coming from, or what your reach in the market is. Insights are achieved from marketing analytics tools; hence, it's essential to gain them through website analytics, AdWords data, and social media data. A good marketing company can help you do this.

Bottom Line

Buying a new business requires finesse and patience. You need to understand the business model and operations. Moreover, you need to continue relationships with business partners, as they will help you run the business efficiently.

Small Business Marketing As We Move Into The Post Pandemic Stage

Small Business Marketing Post Pandemic

The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world and disrupted the global economy. Entering this unexplored territory has been overwhelming and challenging for companies of all sizes. This uncertainty has left many entrepreneurs in a state of distress on how to manage the crisis.

During this unprecedented time, entrepreneurs should direct their efforts to lucratively promote their businesses and build rapport. Not all businesses can generate revenue, but that doesn't mean small businesses can no longer offer value to their consumer base and remain relevant via digital marketing.

Let's walk through some advertising strategies that will help you remain resilient and relevant after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marketing Tips

The following tips will help you to survive and thrive after the pandemic:

1. Focus on your current customers
If you find it challenging to attract new customers, try focusing your attention more on those who have stuck with you despite the economic crisis. Besides creating products and campaigns to target their needs, reassure them that you are there for them and your business is still running. For example, you can send email updates, post frequently on social media, and log onto your consumer database to assure them everything is okay.

Competition is low due to the pandemic, meaning a few strategic moves can put your business ahead of others and help you reach the right customers.

2. Become active on social media
With restrictions imposed to curtail the spread of coronavirus, most things have shifted online. Thus, it's time to increase your online presence. Most of your target customers have social media accounts, and this number continues to grow as more individuals go online during the pandemic. To market your business and remain relevant even after the pandemic, move your strategies to social and promote your offerings online.

3. Build relationships virtually
If you want to market and grow your business post-pandemic, you have to build and strengthen relationships with your customers online. Maintain open, considerate and honest communication with them. If you don't communicate with your customers regularly, it's time to start- think of email promotion campaigns. When connecting and communicating with your clients, be genuine, empathic, and thoughtful.

Tips for Re-Engaging Customers Post-Pandemic

Some of the ways you can re-engage your clients and win them back after COVID include:

1. Organize an announcement on your social media and website for when you re-open your business
If you closed your business during COVID-19 and are preparing to resume soon or have already re-opened, let your customers know and give them details on how you will protect them and your employees. For customers who will visit your physical stores, indicate if you will be using safeguards like contactless transactions, hand sanitizer stations, and mask policies. For online entrepreneurs, let your clients know you have resumed and detail the measures you have taken to contain the spread of coronavirus.

You can achieve this in several ways, including:

Banners- You can use a small banner to highlight imperative announcements without distracting the consumer experience. Ensure you add the banner to your homepage and make it global across your website to ensure your clients will see it irrespective of the page they open.

Blog posts- Your blog is an ideal space for lengthier announcements that might need their unique pages. Use this space to give comprehensive details about how and when your business will resume operations and what your customers should expect.

Pop-ups- Pop-ups are an ideal and easy way to make announcements across your site. They allow more room for texts and cannot let the announcement go unnoticed.

Social media- Ensure you take the news to social media so that your clients will know you have resumed operations even if they don't go to your website. Besides, you can use social listening tools to see what your customers are asking about your business.

2. Text and email your client list
Another great way you can re-engage your customers after quarantine is by launching an SMS or email campaign to update your customer list. Some of your customers follow you on social media or regularly check your site, but others don't. An SMS or email campaign is a simple way to send business updates to your customers. This increases the chances that they'll receive your message and re-engage with you.

3. Offer exclusive discounts and deals
One of the best ways to win back and engage lost customers is through exclusive discounts and deals. You can advertise or announce these offers on your social media or send promotional emails and SMS. Discounts, freebies, and other saving alternatives might be the incentive clients want to invest in you. You can also offer membership deals for clients that decide to invest in your business during a specific period. This will enable you to make some money during these challenging times.

4. Host a re-opening event
Throughout the COVID pandemic, many brands have hosted online events, including sales events and webinars, to keep consumers engaged, especially those who cannot leave their homes. You can plan an event that will not require any interactions. When the pandemic ends, you will probably have clients who have been in isolation and are yearning for social interaction. You can take that opportunity to host an in-person event to welcome your customers back. Advertise the event on your social media, website, and email, and then do a follow-up after it ends.

Mistakes You Should Avoid When Resuming Operations

As the economy starts to re-open, you need to remember that the pandemic has not ended. Thus, you need to avoid the following mistakes:

1. Not ensuring safety
The safety of your clients and employees should be a top priority when resuming operations.

2. Being inflexible
To succeed during these unprecedented times, you must be flexible. There are many ways to achieve this, like allowing your workers to continue working remotely.

3. Keeping a long-term office lease
Cash flow is fundamental, especially during this uncertain economic period. Re-thinking your office lease is one of the simplest ways to reduce costs.

4. Failing to concentrate on customer service and retention
When profits decrease, it's expected of you to find as many new clients as possible. This technique can work, but you should remember that new customer acquisition is expensive and, in some cases, complicated. Thus, focus on retention. Clients are precious, and retaining them is crucial to the continued success of your small business.

Globally, everybody is trying to get a grip on this new normal and learning to adapt. Thus, show up and let your clients know your business is here to stay and give them support. Your business may be slow but utilizing this time as an opportunity to determine which technique will work best for you will put you ahead of others.