What Entrepreneurs Need to know About Reputation Marketing

Guest Author: Bruce Williamson, Wild Goose Media

Do you remember back to when you first started your business? You did it because you loved it and people probably said you’re really good at that. You most likely relied on your early customers, friends, and family to help spread the word about how great you really are at what you do. Today, marketing has changed a lot. Everyone is fighting for a customer’s attention, and the customer knows it. They are much more aware and educated than any other time in history, and it’s not getting easier. Reputation marketing is essential for building a successful business.

Let’s be honest, online or offline, there are only so many ways to market (SEO, PPC, Deal Sites, Local Marketing, Direct Mail, etc.) The truth is, while those things all have their place, none of it will be effective if you have bad reviews or no reviews online.

What’s really happened is a complete flip-flop in online marketing strategy due to the fact that your customers have a say in the matter. Before you would spend money on marketing, then maybe if you had the time you’d work on getting some great reviews from customers. That’s completely the opposite of what today’s marketing is about.

Would you rather create a marketing plan for complete strangers who don’t know you, don’t like you, don’t trust you? Or would you rather create a marketing plan for people that know, trust and like you because they’re all presold on you through referrals?

For the first time online marketing can be just as powerful as referral marketing. Three out of four people trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. A recent Nielsen poll showed that 92% trust recommendations from people they know, and 72% of consumer opinions. That’s a staggering fact.

So how do you start building your reputation? Here are 7 simple things you can start doing to build your reputation marketing:

1. Research, set up, and claim local directories

Everyday thousands of customers search local business directories like Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo Local and dozens of other sites. The more you are found on, the more likely you are to be found when someone searches for your products and services.

2. Get more customer reviews.

Consumers will read an average of 10 reviews before making a decision and research shows that customers do not trust a company that has less than 10 five star reviews. Therefore, your company needs a strategy to quickly get more online reviews to show up on your directory listings. One way is to create professionally designed review post cards, business cards, or a written email campaign to collect customer reviews.

3. Diffuse any bad or poor ratings.

Each poor review not only is publically read by your potential customers, but it also brings down your reputation score on local directory sites. Many local directories such as City Search and Insider Pages aggregate reviews from other sites. Therefore both good and bad reviews can spread to other sites very quickly. The way you can diffuse the poor reviews is to get more 5 star reviews to bring your reputation score up and push the bad reviews off the first page of your listing.

4. Set up a private review page.

No matter what strategy a company uses to collect reviews; your company does not have control over the fact that customers may post bad reviews. Your business is only one customer a way from getting a poor reputation online. The solution, develop a private review page to collect reviews from customers. Create a process that gets bad reviews filtered out and sent to your company’s manager. Create a process to post 5 Star reviews online on important local business directory sites.

5. Monitor Your Reputation

This one is a little tougher. There’s plenty of different software that can monitor your social engagement, brand and company name, these technologies, like Google Alerts, cannot monitor your reputation. When people leave reviews on a directory site like Yelp, often they many not mention your name because they’re already on your business listing. Therefore, with dozens of review sites that are out there, there is no way for even the most sophisticated social or branding software to know if bad reviews are being posted and no way to follow up to get the bad reviews eliminated.

The Solution:

A. Create a process that daily monitors, tracks, and reviews your online review sites.

B. Setup protocols to review all your sites and notify a point person in your business to respond to good and bad reviews.

6. Market Your Reputation

Companies that get reviews from their customers cannot post those reviews online because local directories like Yelp, Google, Bing, and dozens of other have proprietary filters and algorithms to delete reviews that are posted from the same computer IP network. Therefore, if you post those reviews from inside your business, Google will delete them and flag your Google account as spam because there’s no way to tell if yours is real or made up.

Google in so many words discourages bribing your customers for leaving good reviews. So make sure you give great service, and then ask for a review. You can create a testimonial form to collect their info and review, and be sure to include asking for permission to post on their behalf. Once you have that, feel free to post them on your social sites and website.

7. Create a 5 star culture.

One of the most important things you need to do with your reputation marketing strategy is create a reputation marketing culture inside your business. So here’s the question. You expect your staff to give first-class service to every single one of your customers, right? Well, what’s your plan to inspire your staff to give first-class service to those customers and get raving reviews? Have a plan in place to train your staff how to execute on your reputation marketing goals.

If you’re not sure what’s being said about your business online you can find out right now at www.FreeOnlineReputationReport.com (A $197 value)

ABOUT GUEST AUTHOR: Bruce Williamson, Reputation Marketing Expert and CEO of Wild Goose Media, based in Telford, PA. Bruce advises businesses and individuals on how to leverage what you already have to build relationships, deliver value, create a 5 star reputation and tell your story online.  He’s also a lover of great coffee, Chipotle, hockey, his wife, 5 sons, and a little princess due any day now. (but not necessarily in that order!) You can reach him at: bruce@wildgoosemedia.com

© Copyright 2016

Boost Your Profits! 7 Key Places Small Business Owners Need to Measure to Boost Profits – (Part 2)

And now for Part 2 of Boost Your Profits! 7 Key Places Small Business Owners Need to Measure to Boost Profits

#1. Measure your closing ratio and average order.

Boost your closing ratio and you will boost your profits. Closing ratio should be measured in relation to the number of people who came in the door to sample your product or service or in relation to the number of estimates you delivered to prospective customers. Both numbers are vital in making your forecast calculations. Remember that performance measured is performance gained.

#2. Measure net profits in each of your product or service offerings.

As a business you’re not just selling only one thing. You might sell one core service, but you offer it is many different ways and at different price points.  But, many small business owners look at their revenues in one lump as the annual total. Instead, what you should do is run separate P & L’s (profit and loss statements) for each of your offerings.

If your company sells 4 main services you should know how they rank in terms of margins, not just in terms of the total sales volume they equaled together.  You want to understand what your total net profits are as a diversified portfolio that represents all your program, product or service offerings. It’s harder to boost profits in broad strokes. Get specific on each service you offer. Remember that performance measured is performance gained.

#3. Measure your cash flow statement weekly.

It is important that you know the financial snapshot of your business on a weekly basis, particularly if cash flow is already uncomfortably tight. That means you need to have a reliable bookkeeper who can stay on top of invoicing, bills and reports. Your bookkeeper also needs to be readily accessible, so you can get your information in a timely manner. Remember that performance measured is performance gained.

#4. Measure your staff productivity.

Ok, if your response to this final step is “I don’t have any staff” then let me be blunt by saying doing everything in your business yourself is the slowest way to boost profits.  If you’re a solopreneur and you don’t want the payroll expenses of hiring your first employee, start by outsourcing to a virtual assistant even 5-10 hours a week.

Whether you choose to hire employees or part time freelancers (contractors) have a system that measures their productivity. This is for you to be able to get a quick snapshot where you can see:

  • how long it takes them to complete certain types of tasks
  • the outcome result they accomplish and
  • the value those results bring to boosting your profits.

You could have someone at $20 an hour who takes 20 hours to complete a task or you could have someone else who is paid $40 an hour who can deliver the project in two hours. By measuring staff productivity you will find that cheaper doesn’t always mean cost-effective.

In closing, if measuring these 7 areas in your business is new to you, it’s not as hard to do as you think. It’s like anything else. The more you do something the easier it becomes. Then, these success habits become as automatic and subconscious as breathing. But, nothing will change if you don’t start taking action.

ACTION STEP:  Set yourself up for success by scheduling a meeting with yourself in your calendar RIGHT NOW for you to work “on your business” instead of just “in your business.” Start by scheduling a 30 min meeting once a week and mark it “review 7 measurements”.

QUESTION: What is the one biggest block that keeps you from measuring in your business? Please share your comments and questions below.

© Copyright 2016

Boost Your Profits! 7 Key Places Small Business Owners Need to Measure to Boost Profits – (Part 1)

Simple Steps to Boost Your Profits!

Is your business growing every year?  Not just in sales revenue, but more importantly is your business ahead right now than you were this time last year in net profits?

Whether your goal is to increase your total net profits by $10,000 or by $10 million, you need to isolate individual values that collectively contribute to that end goal. Remember that performance measured is performance gained.

My own business has grown both revenues and net profits every year for 7 years in a row. There are the seven key places I measure in my business that gives me laser direction for what I need to do to continue to help more entrepreneurs while at the same time, boost profits.

Whether you are a small business owner or a solopreneur you can start measuring these same 7 areas in your own business to help you boost profits:

#1. Measure your time.

How you spend your time makes a significant impact on how much you can boost your profits. Instead of asking at the end of each year, “where did all the profits go?” start a habit of asking at the end of each day, “where did all my time go?” We all know the old adage time is money. Time is the first place I ask clients to measure and evaluate. I often help my clients design what their PDR forms should look like (personal daily report) based on their specific duties and function. On the PDR form, or even on just a notepad, jot what you accomplished and how long it took you to complete each task. Once you accumulate a 2- to 3-week snapshot you can then begin to identify not only your efficiency and productivity, but also your effectiveness.

Your effectiveness is what = the VALUE of your time.  So, what is your time worth?

While efficiency is important, you can be efficient at all the wrong things. You won’t really be aware if you are not measuring and getting an audit of your time.  Remember that performance measured is performance gained.

#2. Measure your marketing results.

Another way to boost profits is to look for ways to stop bleeding profits.  If you are not measuring your marketing results you may not realize how much you’re wasting in profits from marketing that is not getting great results.

First, do you log in every prospective call?

  • how did they hear about your company?
  • what product or service they were interested in?
  • what grabbed their attention and interest in calling you as opposed to calling your competitors?
  • what is their contact info?
  • if they found you online, what keyword phrase did they search?

While this may sound like basic business practice it is one of the most common areas I see being skipped even be many established businesses. You can’t determine what would be a more effective approach to your marketing if you aren’t measuring how your current and past approaches have worked.  Marketing mistakes bleed resources, and the biggest mistake is when it’s done arbitrarily. Remember that performance measured is performance gained.

#3. Measure your conversion efficiency.

If we want to boost profits, naturally, we need to boost sales. While sometimes sales might happen from a one step process, the average sale goes through a 7 step process. You want to the end result — to boost profits. You will boost more profits if you boost conversion in the 7 steps in your sales cycle.

  • Are you measuring how well each step in your process in converting?

Examples:

  • For the catering industry they need to convert inquiry calls to an appointment to sample their food.
  • The health club industry needs to convert the first call into a compelling reason to come visit now.
  • Service industries whose calls are mainly from price collectors can still create a compelling incentive to get the prospective customer to sample their company whether it is in the form of a valuable newsletter or educational video.

The sample stage is an important phase in your sales cycle. You don’t want to simply react to the year end profit number without examining how each phase in your sales process is actually performing. Remember that performance measured is performance gained.

QUESTION: What is the one biggest block that keeps you from measuring in your business? Please share your comments and questions below.

© Copyright 2016

The Power of Heart Centered Entrepreneurs

Many people believe their role as an entrepreneur should primarily be driven by sales and profits. While your business does need to turn a profit to sustain itself as a business focusing solely on sales is a sure recipe for struggle. Successful entrepreneurs aren’t just all about the numbers and what’s in it for them  – they’re servants as well. They’re known as heart centered entrepreneurs.

By approaching your work with a servant heart, you can fuel even greater success. You can create real value with your business because the only way you succeed is through helping others succeed.

Here are 5 ways to tap into the power of being a heart-centered entrepreneur:

#1. Make a difference.  Motives matter. Motives reflect where our heart is. We all know that dogs can sense fear. How much more can people sense motives of pure selfish gain?  While I’m all about the importance of personal goal setting to help you hit your sale targets, when we’re talking to our audience we need to switch from thinking about our goals and think about making a difference to help them achieve their goals.

Do you have a difference-making mission?  Take a look at which mission statement reflects a heart-centered entrepreneur:

  • •   Our mission is to become famous for being the #1 business coach  in the country.   Versus:
  • •  Our mission is to change the lives of 1 million entrepreneurs to help them create businesses that give them greater freedom and fulfillment.

Ask yourself, what is the specific difference you want to make?
Are you running a purpose driven business?

#2. Empathize with your audience.  Your audience is your target market. When you are talking to prospects, whether in person or through a blog post, video or speech, you have to push aside trying to “sell” yourself or your services.  As a heart centered entrepreneur push aside thinking about how much you’re trying to win the sale. Instead:

  • •  Take a few minutes to really connect with the pain your audience struggles with.
  • •  Know what their burning desires are.
  • •  What makes them tick?
  • •  What keeps them up at night?
  • •  What stresses them out?
  • •  What challenges are they dealing with on a day-to-day basis?

#3.  Stop selling. Start serving. Do you see your audience as prospects you need to “sell” to or do you see them as people you want to serve?  As a heart centered entrepreneur is everything you say or do serving you more or does it serve them more? What’s the subconscious inner dialogue that runs through your mind?

  • •  “I want you to buy this, so I can make more money?” or
  • •  “I want to help you stop struggling with _____ so you can enjoy more _____?”

#4. Check your attitude. A true servant heart is someone who is humble. You can only truly serve from a place of humility. Arrogance and pride stifles success.

  • •  Think of someone of influence you admire for their humility.
  • •  Think of a seemingly “successful” person who is also arrogant and prideful.

Write down what it is these two different influential people say or do that projects humility or arrogance.

#5. Be a blessing.
You can be a blessing to people beyond just the business services you provide. As a heart centered entrepreneur you can be a blessing just by a warm smile, a sincere inquiry about how they are doing, active listening when they speak, gestures of thoughtfulness beyond what you normally do anyway as a business service.

Recently, a friend and colleague of mine, named Alan, pointed out an area that I could be a blessing – one that I was actually withholding.  (Ok, I’m still a work in progress!)

He wanted to interview me about my LinkedIn coaching program, so he asked me what led me to decide to create a specific training program around using LinkedIn to attract clients.

I told him my story of how I stumbled upon LinkedIn. I sold my last business to focus on being at home full time with my 3 young children. Luck would have it shortly after I sold my business my husband lost his job. Overnight, we went from both of us working to neither of us working.

That was a period of a lot of stress, worry and anxiety for me. I found myself in an unfamiliar territory, which brought with it the fear of the unknown. In addition to fear and worry, I also had some doubt. I wanted to start another business, but I knew I would have zero marketing budget and with 3 little ones at home I had very little time.

Since I always started with a sizeable start up capital for marketing at my past businesses it made me doubt it was even possible to start a new business with no marketing budget.

After much thought and prayer I decided to find a way, since the alternative (get a job and work for someone else) felt far more suffocating.

During my quest, the one thing I found I could market myself with no money and very little time was on LinkedIn.

What’s interesting to me about the story I just shared is that I’ve never actually shared this part of the story before. I’ve been asked this same question before, but I realized this time I revealed more to the story with Alan because he was my friend first and my colleague second.

(Hmmm, maybe I should treat everyone as friends first …)

Alan then went on to tell me what a tremendous blessing my story was not only to him, but to his audience as well.  The lesson Alan taught me that day was discovering that simply sharing my past pain and challenges and how I got through it was by itself a way I could be a blessing to more people.

Thanks for that lesson Alan!

We all experience trials, setbacks, failures and challenges. So, what’s your story of pain?

QUESTION: How can you turn your adversity into blessing others?
(please share your comments below)

© Copyright 2016

Are You Failing Enough? — 6 Benefits of Failure to Fuel Your Business Growth

We naturally do not think about all the benefits of failure. As entrepreneurs we just don’t like to fail. We prefer to avoid and even fear failure in our businesses. In reality, failure is nothing to be afraid of. These 6 core benefits of failure can serve as a powerful tool in any business arsenal – and when approached with a success mindset, failure can even fuel our business growth.

  1. Failure teaches you how to avoid mistakes.

    Most of the time, failure

    Thankfully, failure shows us what went wrong, and points out our poor decisions. It allows us to identify our mistakes – and if we’re ever faced with a similar opportunity, we’ll know exactly what to do. Most opportunities aren’t once-in-a-lifetime. The benefits of failure is it teaches us how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

  2. happens because of mistakes we made. Whether we were careless with our finances, or let a lucrative opportunity pass us by, it isn’t always possible to make the right call. After all, we’re only human; and dropping the ball occasionally is part of the human condition.
  3. Failure makes you more credible.

    Another surprising benefit of failure is it helps you earn your badge of credibility. Entrepreneurs who never fail just are not relatable. Embracing and sharing your stories of failure makes you more vulnerable, which makes you more relatable, which makes you more credible.

    More importantly, it shows that you’re willing to keep trying, even when the going gets tough. Whether you’re talking to investors, business leaders or other entrepreneurs, it’s these traits that are most highly valued. Failure isn’t a mark against your reputation. It’s a badge of credibility.

  4. Failure cultivates your support system.

    Failure doesn’t need to be a lonely experience. You don’t have to cope through your struggles alone. If it were not for failure you wouldn’t need a support system – another great benefit of failure. By sharing these experiences with friends, peers and business advisors, failure can forge strong, supportive relationships that empower you to succeed at greater levels.

    Talking about failure will help you to accept it and move on, and understand that it’s a crucial part of being an entrepreneur. Each individual account of failure has a story to it. Each story is just another lesson that serves as an important building block to your success.

  5. Failure keeps you humble.

    Business success takes strategy. It also takes heart and leadership. Leaders can’t lead from a place of arrogance. But, it’s a sad fact that success makes many people arrogant. Arrogance leads to under estimating the preparation required to succeed. Of course, showing up unprepared often leads to more failure.

    Humility is a powerful benefit of failure. We all need reminders that success can quickly disappear. By bearing failure with good grace, and feeling humbled by the experience, you don’t take success for granted. You’ll realize how fleeting it can be – and you’ll strive to work harder and smarter for it next time.

  6. Failure helps you focus on the goals that matter most.

    Entrepreneurs all strive for success, but many lose sight of the reasons why. Failure reconnects you to your goals. The emotions you associate with your failure are clear-cut indicators of what you really want from your business. Failures force us to re-evaluate our goals and ask ourselves the question:

    “What are we missing the most in our lives right now?” Perhaps it’s:

    • feeling validated in our talents
    • financial security
    • finding work-life balance
    • freedom of expression
    • friendships with like-minded people
    • fulfilment in making a difference

    Understanding these desires will allow you to refocus. When you rebuild your business, you’ll do it with the “why’s” that drive your goals – and you’ll be more successful at achieving them because of it.

  7. Failure is a valuable stepping-stone to success.

    Each business decision you make has multiple possible outcomes and dozens different paths to take. Every mistake you make allows you to cross-off one of these paths; eliminating a wrong choice taking a step closer towards the right choice.

    One myth that can sure paralyze you during a failure is believing that success is overnight.

    Remember: you can fail a thousand times. You only need to succeed once.

    I’ll leave you with a powerful quote:

    • “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.Failure is delay, not defeat.It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

QUESTION: What was the best lesson you learned from a failure? Please share your tips in the comment box below.

© Copyright 2016