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. 

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.

Virtual Fundraising Events

Virtual fundraising has become an acceptable strategy for organizations over the past several years, even before the coronavirus pandemic emerged. The transition involves the use of several resources and tools that help in holding fundraisers virtually. Organizations obtain their donations via live summits, which boost their campaigns for the purposes of giving and receiving on both ends. The process also maximizes the use of valuable time for organizations and significantly increases its revenue through simple steps that they can take.

Tips to make fundraising successful

1) Consider the length of the fundraising campaign

When holding an online fundraiser, you should consider keeping the fundraiser live for a longer time span. The live online fundraisers should be flexible enough to adjust the timelines a bit. The best strategy is to make the length short enough to encourage urgency and maintain attention, but also long enough so that it can accommodate various time zones and schedules.

2) Encourage your attendees to invite more people

Remember to encourage your supporters who attended your past in-person fundraisers to take part in the new virtual form, as well as asking them to consider inviting additional people. It's an excellent way to spark friendly competitions through the use of the right incentives and ensure your fundraisers reach more people.

3) Your planned fundraisers should target a specific audience

Your virtual fundraisers should be targeted to specific people you consider to be the audience that will most appreciate your specific non-profit organization's work. Think about whether this audience includes millennials, older people, those with a higher income, or their specific location.

4) Sell top tickets for extra donations

Holding virtual fundraisers doesn't mean that you are limited to only asking for a one-time donation. Budgets may be tight for your supporters, but you can come up with something creative as a way of asking for extra donations from the attendees who are able to do it.

How to get the word out

1) Create an event page to grab attention

Many people learn about fundraisers through fundraiser pages. You can use some simple online tools to make your page stand out and entice more people through eye-catching graphics, engaging clips, and professional pictures of the main workshop leaders, speakers, or performers. It will help if you include all details of the information that are essential such as:

  1. Agenda
  2. Sign-up links
  3. Information about sponsors
  4. Event dates and times
  5. Secure payment options
  6. Speaker bios

2) Use email marketing

Social media marketing has currently taken over the world, and email marketing can be one of the most effective strategy used by businesses. You can send emails to announce the start of the new fundraiser and emails to announce its wrap-up, as well as any exciting updates along the way. Try including a special discount through a given code while the fundraiser is going on.

3) Inform people to invite their friends

Word of mouth is a powerful way to inform large groups of people about what's happening. Ask the previous attendees to help you share the information and encourage other people to register for the online fundraiser.

4) Use Social Media platforms to leverage information

Millions of people are using social media platforms, and it is one of the best ways to inform people about your fundraiser. You can use social media to track RSVP’s, post about updates and events, create hashtags, and share pictures and videos.

Mistakes to avoid

1) Lack of Planning for Live Sessions

You want your summit to engage everyone, so you need to keep peoples’ attention, not be zoned out or bored. Strive to keep the sessions long enough to provide necessary information, but brief enough to keep attendees interested and connect to more people.

2) Unwanted Pitches

Unexpected pitches put people off when they are there for a certain cause. You will risk harming your organization’s reputation and could threaten future fundraising efforts. People attending are expecting the meeting to bring them value, and engaging a sales pitch is not a good idea. You can do that during a different summit that doesn't involve your current objective of raising funds for a cause.

3) Lack of Organizing and Planning Beforehand

Avoid leaving anything until the last minute because you might come across several issues with going virtual, and you don’t want to run out of time to sort them out. The performance and quality of the online summit will be affected by your amount of planning as well. You need to organize everything beforehand, beginning anywhere from two to three months before the actual date you want to go live with the fundraiser.

4) Choosing a non-suitable Platform

Technology has grown so much that there are now a range of platforms and services that you can use to hold an online live summit. Ensuring that you choose the right one will make things much easier for you. Look at the pros and cons of each platform and use the one that best suits your needs. You need to ensure that you are using a platform to provide you with all the support you need to finish the summit.

5) Choosing unwanted Sponsors

You might need sponsors depending on the size of the fundraiser that you would like to hold. You can easily find sponsors, but make sure they are the right sponsors for your particular cause. Be tactical in this area because you need the right people on board to ensure a smooth result on everything.

Types of events that work best for virtual fundraisers

1) Talent show

Hold a talent show with different virtual performances; record an introductory video and compile a variety of talents. Create a platform on which the public can choose a winner in several categories, such as most humorous, best overall performer, or the most talented teen.

2) Gaming tournament

You can set up online games that are popular and require a small fee for entrance. Organize and stage ultimate tournaments for a championship. A small prize can be given to the gamers who participate.

3) Online gala

Dressing up is always enticing to supporters, and it would be great to hold an online gala that will allow the attendees to show their elegant wear through video conferencing.

4) Online auction

Fundraiser summits can be done successfully through auctions, whether silent or live. Anyone from anywhere in the world can have access to the fundraisers; hence your reach can be broadened. That means there will be more attendees for your organization. You can set up a catalog and procure items that your followers would like to bid on.

5) Cooking class

A cooking class can be a great way to improve people's skills in that area, have fun, and learn something new. If you are able, a good tip would be to invite a professional or locally-known chef to teach the attendees several steps to make a home-cooked meal.

6) Art class

Art is a skill that an individual can pick up as a hobby or a new craft when they are at home. An online art class to raise funds would be an excellent idea. You can develop options for your attendees to learn how to draw, paint, or sculpt. At the end of the class, you could even sell the finished artworks by auction to raise even more money for the cause.

2020 Business Survival Guide

Common Issues That Small Businesses Are Experiencing During This Outbreak:

How Can You Support Local Businesses During Coronavirus Pandemic?

How To Use Social Media For Your Business During This Unsettling Time?

Local, State And Federal Government Programs To Help Business Owners In This Time Of Crisis

US Small Business administration (SBA) Guidance & Loan Resources
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans
State Chamber of Commerce