Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Why Online Reviews Are Flawed (and What to Do About It)

11-20 Online Peer Reviews smallPeople have always placed a lot of credibility in the reviews of others. On Amazon, eBay, Yelp or TripAdvisor, when they read what other consumers have said about products and services purchased, they place a higher value on this than any direct advertising from the company. This should not be a surprise since consumers see it as unbiased. But is it and how accurate are these reviews in judging the real performance of the product? 

Here is what is wrong with peer reviews:

  1. Consistency among star ratings. No one really knows what constitutes a five-star rating and what is a one star. Everyone’s scale is different so it is nearly impossible to tell. Some customers are generous scorers and others are painful critics. What one person sees as single star could be a four star to another.
  2. More lovers and haters post reviews. There are three types of customers that post most reviews. People that really like the product, people that really hate it and anyone being paid to do it. Realize that reviews by their very nature are going to skew toward the passionate positive or negative and may not reflect the opinion of the majority of customers who may fall somewhere in the middle.
  3. Gaming the system. Many companies try to pump up their ratings by offering incentives to people that post positive reviews about their business. While there may not be anything inherently wrong about this, it does skew the results in the company’s favor and is not a representative view of what the majority of the customers think. This happens because if a consumer is asked by the company for a review and is given an incentive to complete it, they are likely to be more positive in their comments.
  4. Fake reviews. These can either be very positive which are posted by friends or very negative which may be posted by competitors. Either way, they are inaccurate since they are not from customers. Amazon is now being very aggressive suing fake reviewers.   

How to add credibility to your company’s online review ratings:

  1. Encourage everyone to post a review. Follow up with customers with an email and a link. Do not offer any type of reward or incentive. Thank positive reviewers and be empathetic to the negative ones. Get details about their actual purchase when necessary. This will help make sure that they are actual customers and if there are actionable steps the company needs to take to improve. This type of user generated content will also reach the search engines for better organic placement.
  2. Delete only fake reviews. Do not delete bad reviews. Instead, respond with understanding and a solution. Companies that respond to negative reviews by wanting to fix the problem are viewed more favorably than companies that do not display bad reviews.
  3. Give a suggested ratings scale. Suggest to customers what a one-star review should be and what a five star one could be to get more consistency. For example explain: “Rate your experience as a one star if we did not meet your expectations. Tell us exactly what went wrong and how we can remedy the situation. Rate your experience as a five star if we far exceeded the expectations you had for the product and where we excelled.”
  4. Do not repeat reviews in multiple places. Some software will also automatically place the review on the company’s website, Facebook, and Twitter. This duplicated content will be viewed negatively by search engine algorithms. In addition, if a prospect reads the same review in multiple places, they will become suspicious and may think it is fake.
  5. Place reviews on multiple pages of the company’s website. This again will add to search engine rankings. It also is a constant reminder to prospects of how good the product or service is. Many of them may not get to the page where all the reviews are listed.

What story does your reviews say about your company?

The 4 Ps of Marketing (and How to Incorporate Them in Your Marketing Plan)

When many business owners think of marketing, the things that often come to mind are techniques like writing advertising copy or crafting messages for social media. While those tactics do eventually become part of the plan, they are not the sole components of marketing your services. The first step to successfully developing your businesses’ marketing plan is defining the four Ps and understanding how they inform the strategy in its entirety. Let’s take a look at the four Ps and how to include them in your marketing plan.

What are the Four Ps?

The ultimate goal of all marketing is to generate sales. As such, the four Ps of marketing are tools to help you effectively turn a profit, (which I believe should be the 5 p’s actually). Understanding what you need to maximize both profits and sales is key to developing an effective marketing plan. The four Ps — Product, Placement, Promotion and Price — help you do that.


The foundation of any business is the item or service you are selling. Hence the first P is product. Take time to describe in detail the product or service you offer. If it’s a physical item, write down the different options, packaging, features, and sizes.

Once you’ve described the product itself, delve into how that product meets the needs of the client, the features and benefits, and your competitive edge. Explain how it will be manufactured or performed. Then take it a step further and identify what deeper problem it’s helping the client solve. For example, the product may be a technology service that helps the client better track inventory. But it’s also helping the client attain sales goals and make more money each month.


The second P stands for placement, which covers how the product or service will be delivered. At this point, describe the distribution channels and physical facilities needed in order to move the product from manufacturing and storage to the consumer. For example, is the product placed in a warehouse, garage, fulfillment house, or office space?


The third P — promotion– is where many of the tactical and fun ideas for marketing your product come into play. At this stage, outline what advertising channels you will use to let people know about the product. For example, will you use the Internet, flyers, magazines or newspaper ads, direct mail, broadcasting, or social media? Write out all your public relations strategies and ideas. Then review your personal and business networks to determine who can help you implement the marketing strategies.


The fourth P is price, and it is here where you determine what the market will pay for the product or service. Pricing strategy is all about pricing your product or service for your different target markets. Determine the list price, discounts, wholesale allowances, markdowns, payment periods, and credit terms.

The good news is that much of the information you need to develop a marketing plan is free or low cost. Before you sit down to write your four Ps and marketing plan, spend time online listening to your potential customers and your competition. Go to the library and subscribe to industry publications. Join trade organizations, contact the local Chamber of Commerce, and talk to potential customers. Doing these things will help you articulate your four Ps and write a marketing plan that really targets your target markets with the right messages, and through the most effective channels.  

3 Keys to Writing a Powerful Mission Statement

5-20 writing a mission statement smallEstablishing your identity as a small business is a challenge. At first, you may be tempted to chase every dollar you think you can get in the attempt to bring in revenue, but the fact is that if you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no one. It is important to hone and identify your core audience as part of your business plan. In doing so, you have laid the foundation for writing your mission statement.

While there are many examples of mission statements that are so grandiose, they are almost a joke, a good mission statement clearly communicates a business's services, the type of projects in which the firm specializes, and unique values offered. For example, as the SmallBizLady, my mission is to end small business failure. It sounds simple, but it is easy to get off track. In order to write a potent mission statement, here are three considerations to get you off to the right start.

1. Give Yourself Sufficient Time to Write.

Mission statements are deceptively simple. They usually consist of a one to three sentences that provide an overview of the business and its goals. However, a good mission statement will also provide a view into the essence of what sets your small business apart from others.

Identifying and communicating your core principle may be challenging. You’ll need to write several versions and give yourself time to edit them into one cohesive statement. It is best if you allow yourself several writing sessions over a few days in order to convey it in a direct and meaningful way.

2. Communicate What Makes Your Small Business Unique.

Many a mission statement has been written on the bones of another more established company's hard work. You may be tempted to take the easy way out and "borrow" a phrase or even direct quotes from a firm you admire. It’s fine to get inspiration from other companies’ mission statements, but yours should be unique to your brand.

3. Use This as an Opportunity to Further Refine Your Business's Core Values.

Not all of us enjoy writing or even think that we can write well. However, this mindset will sap of you of your strength and undermine your confidence. At its core, writing is a powerful form of communication, and strong communication is a central tenet of doing business. It’s all about what you want to be known for.

The exercise of writing your mission statement strengthens your ability to communicate in a compelling manner. It is vital to push yourself to do this significant work in a thoughtful and conscientious way. You might even, through the act of writing, uncover core values you hadn’t elaborated on before.

Your mission statement is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. It provides clarity and focus on the essence of your business. When you put substantial effort into the creation of this document, you create a steady foundation that helps you move forward with more vigor and determination.

7 Ways to be More Memorable

6-14 Be more memorable smallEveryone wants to be remembered. When someone says your name, it’s a magic that can solidify any business relationship. Here is how to be successful at it:

1. Repeat their name.

When you are introduced to someone, repeat their name back to them. This will prevent you from forgetting their name as soon as they say it. For example, when the other person says “Hi, I’m Mary”, repeat “It’s nice to meet you, Mary”. Follow this up by using their name again in the first 30 seconds of the conversation.

This not only helps you remember their name, but it also makes a favorable impression. In general, people love the sound of their name and in the case of an initial meeting, using it shows that you are intentional about learning about them.

2. Tell a story about your name.

Stories stick with people more than facts, so instead of simply stating your name, give them a little background on it to make it more interesting, and therefore more memorable.

For example, explain the origin of your name. This is especially effective if it is unusual and people have a hard time pronouncing or spelling it. Another option is to explain how you got your name. The name John isn't very memorable, but telling a story about your grandfather who was a pilot in WWII makes it a lot more interesting.

3. Use your name in conversation.

If you don’t have any good stories to tell, try fitting your name into conversation as much as possible.

You can do this by addressing yourself by name ("so I said to myself, Barry, if you…") or using your name in dialogue ("so my friend says to me, 'Barry…'"). With this, the person will benefit from hearing your name multiple times throughout the conversation instead of just once at the beginning. It takes practice to avoid sounding awkward or conceited, but it can be mastered.

4. Use the right body language.

Memorable people are fully engaged in conversations, both verbally and non-verbally. To be engaged non-verbally, make sure you have positive body language. This consists of an open torso with uncrossed arms, feet facing forward, head and chest up, and shoulders pulled back.

At the beginning and end of the conversation, offer to shake hands (in the U.S.) During the conversation, keep an eye on the other person’s body language to mirror it. If they are animated and using their hands while they speak, don’t stand there like a statue. Make eye contact and smile frequently.

5. Answer common questions uncommonly.

When first meeting someone, you will inevitably be asked: “How are you?” and “What do you do?”

Instead of responding to these questions in a typical fashion, come up with answers that will make you memorable. For example, instead of responding to “how are you?” with a short and vague “I’m doing well, how are you?”, use it as an opportunity to tell a story about your day, week, or life in general. Use stories with self-deprecating humor instead of bragging.

6. Ask better questions.

You will most likely be asked the same “how are you?” and “what do you do?” questions, but that doesn't mean you should ask them. Assuming the person isn't making an effort to answer these questions uncommonly as suggested, they will go on autopilot and answer them in very traditional ways.

Spark brain activity by engaging the person with interesting questions. Ask “what has been the highlight of your day today?”, and “What’s your story?” It will force them to think and make you stand out from the rest.

7. Follow up.

Don’t just collect business cards, put them to use! Send an email recapping your conversation. Your email address should feature a picture of you, so they will easily be able to connect a name to a face. The photo should be your profile picture on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

What are you going to do to be more memorable?

Mondays with Mike: Take A Lesson From The Marketing Masters

4-20 Marketing Experts smallThere’s something to be said for trusting the experts, and also for taking the time to do a little research.  Rather than believing you have to come up with all the answers on your own, sit back and learn from the real masters of marketing.  Who are the folk you should pay attention to?  Read on.

  1. Walt Disney.  Not only was Walt Disney the master of sales and advertising, but he was also one of the first true marketing masters.  One of the most important things I’ve learned from studying up on Disney is his belief that the people who design something should also use it.  Only when a designer fully understands the needs and desires of customers, can he or she build an experience perfectly.  Disney had all of his ride designers for his amusement parks ride every ride, over and over, until each detail was just right.  Even details as small as the fireflies on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride were carefully managed.
  2. Mary Kay Ash.  If we can learn anything from the pink-hued world of the woman who built an amazing cosmetics empire, it’s the power of multi-level marketing.  Women all over the country earned their pink Cadillacs simply by selling to their friends and family, building a network and recruiting other sellers.
  3. Steve Jobs.  Jobs didn’t just want to produce machines that did new things.  He understood the huge impact of intuitive design and super stylish packaging.  Rather than selling a smartphone that took a PhD to operate, instead, Apple launched a phone that didn’t even require an instruction manual.  Packaging products with stickers that identify users to other users is also a masterful tactic in image marketing.
  4. Tim Ferriss.  Ferriss is nothing if not a big ideas guy.  He teaches us that a claim needn’t necessarily be one hundred percent true in order to be a powerful selling tool.  While we don’t literally believe we can work just four hours a week, or become a chef in four hours, we’re still lured in by the idea that we can be substantially more efficient or more educated in a short period of time.  Ferriss operates on the principle that we all want to improve, and none of us has boatloads of free time to do it in.  Wild claims can work.
  5. David Ogilvy.  Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or a veteran, the most important lesson you can learn from Ogilvy still holds true.  Split testing pays dividends.  Make sure you’re making the very best decisions by testing variations and alternatives.  Try two versions of the same email offer and track the results, or run two versions of a new ad, each in a different zip code.  The point is we may think a move is successful, but unless we test it, we don’t know for sure.
  6. Michael Phelps.  Though we don’t necessarily think of the Olympic golden boy as an entrepreneur, he can certainly teach us a thing or two about brand building.  Phelps shows us the benefit at working all out, with single-minded dedication to becoming the very best at just one thing.  Phelps is focus personified.
  7. Seth Godin.  Godin gave us the purple cow – his term for a remarkable product, one that stands out from the crowd.  What Godin teaches is the benefit of making your brand distinct from everyone else.  Be your own, unique thing, and do it better than anyone else.

There’s so much entrepreneurial literature out there, you could spend your entire career simply reading, rather than working.  Since none of us has that luxury, it’s essential that we extract the heart of the very best advice out there.  Following the examples of the very best – the marketing masters – sets you up for success.

Losing Your Customer to the Dark Side of the Internet

More PrivateThe Internet is no longer a very private place for people to find resources or to shop. It has become a crowded market with millions of advertisements, pop-up websites, and sponsored blog posts. Companies try to track and analyze every click of the mouse. Businesses work hard to stay present on the customer’s screen. They use cookies and other bits of technical code that remember visitors in order to retarget them even when they have left the company’s site. (Source)

As a result, customers are increasingly voicing privacy concerns about the recording of all this information which in some cases has led to identity and personal data theft. Millions of people a day now have taken refuge in a very private place that exists until now in a shadowy corner of the Internet: Tor (The Onion Router). It was originally set up by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory ten years ago to let U.S. agents communicate secretly around the world. (Source) More recently, it has become a popular way for thieves, drug traffickers and terrorists groups to communicate anonymously.

Tor’s hidden services feature allow users to communicate information and publish websites without revealing their location. It is now used by large corporations to keep their competitive analysis and board level decisions private. General consumers have started to use Tor to protect themselves on a public Wi-Fi connection (Source).  Some also use it to combat discrimination when e-commerce sites show a price based on geography or number of visits. 

Consumers want to use Tor to hide their online identify and location, but still interact with all commerce websites. To access the Tor network, users simply need to download its browser, which is free and open sourced for all desktop and mobile platforms. However, most social media and retail sites have blocked Tor users because it prevents them from utilizing cookies and disables Java scripts to track them. For example, using the Tor private search engine, Start Page, most sites do not load or come up very slowly because the Ixquick proxy servicer is used for privacy. However, Amazon does employ Google AdWords on this search page in hopes of getting customers to go directly to their site without a proxy.

With Tor traffic expected to reach almost ten million a day, corporations are now looking at it as an new way to reach prospective consumers (Source). Many are unblocking the Tor browser’s access to their site. Facebook began offering Tor users a method to connect anonymously (Source). (www.facebookcorewwwi.onion ) It seems that Twitter is also starting to let Tor browsers use the social media site without verification (Source). Reddit has donated over $82,000 to help fund Tor (Source). Given growing privacy concerns, the Tor browser may be the future for all consumer web surfing because it allows users to decide if they want to disclose their location and other personal information to be tracked. Some of this can be turned off with other browsers, but most users are not sophisticated enough to be able to do this correctly.

As privacy issues escalate, many online retailers will be forced away from traditional marketing tactics fed by cookie technology or risk losing customers when they go into stealth mode. This trend will reinforce good online marketing techniques:

  1. Ask prospects and customers to opt in to be contacted by your company again. Dont abuse the privilege.
  2. When contacting them, add value, just dont sell them your products. Publish content that they value, not just an online product or services catalog.
  3. Build a trustful relationship over a long period of time so they think of your company when they are ready to buy.
  4. Build social media connections and community with your customers that they want to participate in regularly.

What will your business do when your customer goes into stealth mode on the Internet?

Developing Your Marketing Plan

Stock3-25 creating a mktg plan smallMarketing is one of the most critical components of your business’ success. You may have a fantastic product or service, but if customers are not aware it exists, there’s no point in continuing the line of work. In order to make sure your product is exposed to your target customers, you need to develop a robust marketing plan. Once you’ve spent time identifying the four Ps, start adding some elements and details to your strategy. Let’s look at the areas you should focus on when developing your marketing plan.

Validate the Market

How do you know you have a great product that will be of value to your customer? Answering this question is part of the validation process. You want to validate the market or make sure there’s a need for it. Here are a few questions to answer in order to help you do this.

  • How large is the market locally, nationally, and globally
  • How often do people buy your type of product?
  • How many customers are “in market” at any given time?
  • Will your customers buy daily, weekly, monthly, annually, or every five to ten years?

The answers to these questions will: 1) tell you if you have a sustainable product, and 2) help inform your marketing plan and tactics. After you’ve validated the market, start delving deeper into your target market or customer.

Define Your Target Market

In order for your product or service to sell, you need to answer the question: who is your target market? And the answer is never, “anyone.” The best way to be successful is to develop a customer profile with as much detail as possible. Answer the following questions:

  • How much income do your customers make?
  • Where are they located?
  • Are they male or female, or both?
  • How old are they?
  • What is their level of education?
  • What jobs do they hold?
  • Can you see the face of your customer? What do they physically look like?

Remember, the better you know your customer, the better your chances of making the sale. Once you’ve identified who the customer is, it’s time to articulate what makes them buy.

Create Customer Value

So many marketers and business owners are great at explaining what their product is and why it’s great. But very little know how to explain the product in a way that illustrates value to the customer. This is extremely powerful because if you can help the customer achieve a goal, the product sale will follow.

To do this, start by identifying what qualities your customers value most and least about your service. You must build your marketing strategy on customers’ perceptions of your product’s value to them. This approach is called WIIFM, or What’s In It For Me? It’s critical to keep your marketing plan customer-focused. By doing so, you are on the path to setting yourself apart from the competition.

Identify Your Competitors and How to Deal With Them

In today’s economy, it’s rare to find a product or service that has no competition. Your competition is targeting the same people you are, and as such, your message can easily get lost in advertising clutter and spam.

To avoid this, define what makes you special to your customers. Why is your product or service different and better? What is your competitive advantage? What do you offer that the company does not? Why should a customer hire you? Perhaps you offer a longer warranty than your competitor. Or you have proved results that another business does not. If you’re struggling with identifying your competitive advantage, the best thing to do is ask your customers why they bought from you.

Validating the market, identifying the target audience, creating customer value, and identifying your strengths from your competitors are the components that will shape the rest of your marketing plan. Once those steps are completed, it’s time to define the tactics you’ll use and determine your marketing budget.

Keeping Your Email Out of the Junk Folder

3-19 email to inbox smallA hot topic on the subject of email marketing is how to keep your company’s emails out of your prospect’s junk folder. It’s one of the most complicated parts of email marketing which cause a high rate of failure. Here are some steps to get your emails to where they should go: the inbox!

1. Send Emails in Batches

It may be easier to send an email to an entire list, but this is not an effective practice. Spam detectors are looking for companies using mass emails. Sending out smaller batches minimizes the risk of email providers (Google, MSN, and Yahoo!) getting spam complaints bundled together at one time. Batch the lists when sending more than 2,000 emails because this is the maximum that should be sent per hour. Many paid email marketing systems will do this automatically.

2. Clean and Update Email Lists

When email providers see a mailing list with a lot of bad accounts (i.e. ones that don’t exist, has been disabled or has a full inbox), they penalize the sender. This increases the likelihood that company emails will go into to the junk folder. Surprisingly, some estimate that US consumers change their email account every six months. This means a lot of updating, but it is a necessary practice to prevent from being labeled a spam provider.

3. Include a Clear Unsubscribe Link

Providing subscribers an opportunity to unsubscribe from a mailing list is not only a best practice, it is a legal requirement. Providing an unsubscribe link means that readers are less likely to jump straight to marking an email as spam. The top criteria for ending up in junk folders is number of spam complaints, so these must be avoided.

4. Become a Contact

Seize every opportunity to encourage those on an email list to add the company as a contact (sometimes called white listing) because those emails will always go to the inbox. Make sure the email comes from a real person not The best times to encourage this are in the email sign-up confirmation, on the confirmation page, and during customer service transactions. For example, write that “in order to ensure that you continue to receive quality information you requested from us, please add us to your contact list.”

5. Don’t Use Big Images

Sending an email with only images is a bad idea. Spam filters are on the hunt for image-based files because they often contain words that would normally get caught in the spam filters. Since they can’t read the words on an image, they play it safe and assume it’s spam. Make sure all emails contain real text for the filters to read, so they can know the email is safe and pass it on. Including small images an email marketing copy which can be seen on mobile devices is encouraged; it’s the image-only emails that are a problem.

6. Avoid Certain “Spam” Language

Spam reads like spam. Some of the most common words in junk folder emails are Viagra, free, drugs, porn, and guaranteed winner. Additionally, don’t use ALL CAPS, colored fonts, or multiple exclamation marks. Many email marketing solutions check the “spam score” of an email before it is sent.

7. Don’t Buy a List

Sending a promotional email to someone you’ve never had contact with before is illegal according to many digital laws, so buying an email marketing list is not suggested. Buying a list will also increase the chance that people will report the message as spam.

How has your company been successful getting to the inbox?

Marketing 101: 5 Key Marketing Terms to Know

2-4 Mktg 101 smallWhen you start a business, it is extremely important to have a marketing plan. A marketing plan is essential in helping you develop an understanding of what actions you can take to bring success. When people look at statistics about small businesses and see that only about half of all small businesses make it to their fifth birthday, it can be daunting to jump into such cold waters.

However, if you take the steps to prepare for entrepreneurship, you have given yourself a boost over the hurdles that plague the small business owners who become just another statistic. Your marketing plan establishes how and to whom you promote your product or service. Before your write your marketing plan, let’s review some crucial marketing terms to help you have a clear idea of what this approach entails.

1. Marketing

The term marketing encompasses a large range of behaviors undertaken by businesses to communicate their brand message with their customers. In a nutshell, marketing presents products or services in ways that make them desirable. Your advertising, website, social media profiles, and newsletter are all part of your marketing efforts, and are the efforts you undertake to persuade potential customers to become paying customers. Marketing uses both emotional and rational appeals to attract customers and encompasses a wide variety of actions and components. Creativity in your marketing is vital, and the returns can be enormous.

2. Market Research

The term market research may seem overly dry or academic, but it is extremely important. In short, market research tells you who is your customer and why they could buy form you. It also can tell you how many potential customers exist for your market. You may think that everyone will want what you offer, but your market research will tell how likely that scenario is.

For example, the cost of your product may eliminate much of the potential market, or your product may be too specialized to attract enough customers to support your costs. It is important to not just examine the current market, but look ahead to the long-term as technological or cultural changes might transform the market. Good market research gives you solid ground on which to begin your endeavor.

3. Advertising

Advertising is another broad category of marketing focused on bringing attention to a product or service in order to create a sale or build awareness. Product placement in movies is a form of paid advertising, as are pay-per-click ads online. Branding is a key component of advertising. You can use advertising to build brand awareness via media, such as a placing a Facebook ad. Your market research will tell you where, how, and when you should be advertising.

4. Sales

The culmination of all your efforts is sales — that moment when you have convinced your audience to take action and bring out that plastic to make a purchase. Sales is the goal where your marketing, market research, and advertising all lead. Sales activities include direct marketing, selling (including in person, via the Internet, phone, or networking) and trade shows. Any action that results in an exchange of goods or services for money or an equivalent is a sale. How much you sell and when you sell all factor into your bottom line.

5. Profit

Profit is how you measure your success in purely economic terms. It is the amount of money you’ve made after you deduct all your costs of doing business, such as direct and indirect expenditures. Pricing directly impacts your profit! A completed business plan gives you insight in how your specific profit model works. Remember, if you are prepared from the outset, you have strengthened your chances of success in the future.

Understanding these key terms and applying them in your marketing plan ensures that you have a solid plan for what you are selling, how you will sell it, and to whom you will sell. Marketing is the umbrella under which you will execute your marketing research, plan your advertising, make your sales, and calculate your profit. Social media — and media in general — is the means by which you take your message to you audience, but a tight marketing plan is meant to guide your messaging and help you identify the best channels for it.

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