Why Should Online Reputation Matter to a Small Business?

Small businesses (especially those with local brick and mortar locations) seem to underestimate the importance of having a positive online reputation.  Without national or international customers, you may ask – “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that 82% of searches done online are followed up with an in-store visit!

It is very clear that local consumers are utilizing the internet to research businesses close to them.  The real question is, “What is the internet telling them about you?”

Any business that is not taking this seriously risks losing business…to your neighbors that position themselves online well (even if their product isn’t better than yours)! 

Just How Important Is It to Create a Positive Web Presence?

When looking for great service or a great price, local consumers turn to their phones and tablets.  With just a few clicks, they are able to peruse Google, Bing, social media, other review websites and forums for businesses that have exactly what they are looking for.  

Your company may have an amazing product at an unbeatable price with the world’s best customer service, but if your online presence does not reflect this and you have negative social signals, you will have a very hard time convincing new customers to trust you…and pay for your product.

Many people are using word of mouth on social media, online reviews and company content to make informed buying decisions.  In fact, more than 90% of people trust online reviews as much or more than a recommendation from a friend or colleague!

Two important questions to ask yourself when it comes to your online presence are:

  • When your ideal client searches for your product (or service) near your location, do you show in the search results or the maps results?  
  • If so, does he or she see a professional online face to the world with glowing reviews?  

If you answered “No” to either of the previous questions, the chances are that you just lost a great customer.

What are the Benefits of Online Reputation Management?

You need to have a positive web presence for the survival of your business.  It can help:

  • Establish your credibility with positive testimonials
  • Give you an edge over your competition
  • Build trust with current and future clients

Position your company as the first and best choice for your ideal clients.  When they are researching, you need to be the obvious decision.

A well-positioned online reputation is also your best sales person, working for you 24/7/365, especially to those people in your community searching for your specific offering.

Finally, having good reputation management can help you rank higher organically in search engine results, which will expose your business to more customers.  Good reviews that mention where you are, what you do and your company name will help tell Google a bit more about your offerings.

How Can a Small Business Build a Positive Online Reputation?

Your website, print advertisements and social media posts are not the only things that make up your web presence.  It is a much wider net than most realize.  Your online reputation does include those things, but it also is made up of reviews from various review sites, comments on your website or blog, “complaint forum” threads, “Top 10” lists that your company may have made, photos tagged with you or your business and much more.  Anywhere that you (or your business) is mentioned, tagged, linked to online – that is all part of your online presence.

Managing all of this seems like it could be akin to “herding cats”, but there are a few impactful steps that you can concentrate on to start.  This will help ensure the future success of your company.

Step 1 – Monitor Your Online Reputation

The first step to taking control of your online reputation is to monitor it daily.  You can handle this yourself or you can outsource this activity, but it is very important that someone is watching.

You need to make sure that you know exactly what your ideal client is looking at online about you.  If you find any negative information, be sure to remedy that quickly.  With so many products and services available to today’s consumer, there is no reason for him or her to trust you (or buy from you) if there is negative information readily available about your business.

Step 2 – Acquire Positive Reviews and Mitigate Negative Reviews

Online reviews are one of the major factors when it comes to your online reputation.  Remember, 90%+ of people trust online reviews as much as or more than a friend or colleague.  This is why there are more important than any content that you could create.

How many times have you seen a company with multiple one-star reviews and decide to buy from them anyway?  I would bet on a very small amount.

Be sure to create an automated system for monitoring, soliciting and responding to reviews that you receive.

If you happen to receive a negative review, it is imperative that you respond to it quickly and with a level head.  Remember, your response is for your future clients and not the person that left the bad review.  Be sure to apologize that they had a negative experience and offer to talk about their issue offline.  This way, people can learn something positive about your company (that you care about your customers) from a negative review.

Step 3 – Get on Social Media

Where do your clients hang out online?  Are they on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? LinkedIn?

Do a little research and find out where they are most likely to be active.  Then, concentrate on those social networks and build your profile to be attractive to your ideal client.  Be sure to completely fill in the profile and include photos and videos to keep it engaging.

By keeping your social media simple, it will help you avoid overwhelm and really concentrate on activities that will give you the best ROI.  Create a schedule for posting regularly and use a tool that helps you automate the process.  This allows you to use social media for your business, but cut the time that it takes in half.

Leveraging Your Online Reputation

You’ve worked hard on your business over the years to build up your name!  Don’t jeopardize that fact by neglecting to build and monitor a positive online presence.

Overwhelmed or unsure where to start?  Contact IFTS to learn more about our online reputation management program and steps you can take to better position your business.

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7 Facts You Need To Know About SEO

When it comes to SEO, there are many factors that determine the way your website is indexed and ranked by the search engines. That in mind, it’s obvious that by focusing on the right SEO techniques, you can maximize your marketing efforts and grow your business into a success.

But other than improving your visibility on the search engines, what else does SEO offer? 

Here are 7 facts you should know about SEO and why it’s so important for businesses when trying to take their brand to the next level.

1. Most traffic on websites comes from organic search

Organic search is currently the main source of traffic for websites. While you can direct targeted traffic to your website through paid ads or a social media marketing campaign, being visible on the search engines is always going to work in your favor. With organic search engine optimization (as opposed to pay-per-click ads) people will more easily find your website on search engines while they are looking for a product or service you provide. Making it more likely that they will convert from visitor to customer. No one searches for a product or service that they don’t want, so they’re already in the mood to buy. You just have to stand out among the competition. Additionally, when you rank on the front page of a search engine, you are showing potential consumers the legitimacy of your products or services because of your high ranking.

2. SEO is the best long term strategy to market your business

Results don’t happen overnight – organic search engine optimization takes time, patience, and consistency. While PPC or retargeting campaigns are great ways to reach your audience and sell more of your products, keep in mind that your ads will stop showing up the very moment you stop paying for them. With search engine optimization, that doesn’t happen. If your website is well optimized using the best SEO practices, it should continue to show up on search engines for months or even years to come. 

3. Good SEO is NOT expensive

Contrary to what many think, SEO is relatively cheap, considering the payoff. If you were reluctant to spend money to optimize your website for search, think of SEO as an investment. The sooner you invest in good SEO implementation, the sooner you’ll gain more visibility on Google and grow your brand for the long haul. 

4. SEO best practices are constantly changing

Did you know that ‘pausing’ an SEO campaign for too long can have a negative effect? While it’s true that SEO is a long term strategy to rank your business, what’s also true is that the search world is always changing. Google alone is known to make often algorithm changes. This means that, if you fall behind, getting back on track may be quite the challenge. 

5. SEO and User Experience are related

Few people realize that today, user experience is a big part of ranking well on search engines. Google already knows what a positive user experience looks like on a website and how to spot a negative one. The better your website is structured, the more likely it will gain more visibility. 

Google and other search engines take hundreds of factors into account when determining which pages rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). With that being said, today, elements of user experience have been rolled into SEO best practices. How easy is your site to navigate? Do you have quality content that makes visitors want to stay and engage? Is your site secure, fast and mobile-friendly?

Think of the partnership of SEO and user experience this way: SEO targets search engines and user experience targets your website’s visitors. Both share a common goal of giving users the best experience.

Some common website elements that impact both SEO and user experience are:

-headings

-easy navigation and site structure

-site speed

-mobile experience

6. Great rankings influence conversions

Customers today do a lot of research before buying something – whether it’s a product or a service. This is a big advantage! Not only does good SEO help you rank well in Google, but it allows you to send a positive message about your offer. Using this SEO best practice to outrank your competition will definitely have a positive effect on your conversions.

7. If you’re not on Page 1, you’re losing business

Obviously, if you’re not #1, someone else is! And that means you’re losing business… If you need assistance in improving your SEO, contact us at IFTS and we will help get you on the road to page number 1!

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How To Get More Clients Using Facebook

If there’s one social media platform that all small businesses owners should be on, it’s Facebook. With over 2.6 billion monthly users, this social network has come to dominate the online space. According to a study done by Pew Research Center, 74% of Facebook users visit the site every day, which is more than any other social network. Finding success with Facebook marketing isn’t hard, but it does take some time and know-how to truly engage your customers and drive more leads and sales. 

Running your own business can be very stressful on it’s own, but finding ways to get new clients and keep them coming in can be one of the greatest challenges. In this post, we will be sharing a few strategies that will help you get more clients through Facebook.

1. Create a Facebook account for your small business

It’s free to create a Facebook page for your business. Start by selecting the type of business you own, then you’ll be prompted to fill out some information such as your business’s name and description. You can then add a cover image and profile photo, and a call to action! Once you’re finished, be sure to hit “publish to make it public. After you publish your page, you’ll then have access to Facebook’s business features, including messaging and analytics.

2. What should I post on my small business Facebook page?

Now that you have your page set up, what should you post about? Don’t be afraid to diversify your strategy by sharing both written and visual content including:

  • Tips and advice
  • Blog posts you have created
  • Blog posts from other relevant websites
  • Posts from other facebook pages
  • Create surveys and ask questions to engage in conversation
  • Share interesting photos or videos that your audience would benefit from
  • Show people more about what you do behind the scenes or things you and your team get involved in such as community events and office celebrations

3. When should I post on my Facebook page?

Just like the content that you choose, timing your posts also depends on your audience. You can post as many times a day as you want, but make sure to be consistent with posting at least one thing every day. The best way to figure out what the best time to post for your business is to test different times with similar content. Consistency with testing is going to accurately measure results so be sure to use the same or very similar content when it comes to testing so that your results are not skewed. If you want more information on specific times to post that may work for you, check out our best time to post on social media blog. Here, we go into more detail on experimenting with your social channels to find the perfect time to engage with your audience and how to get started on the right foot!

4. What if I don’t have much time to post on Facebook?

Does posting on Facebook one to three times a day sound overwhelming? Sure it does, especially if Facebook is not the only social platform you are active on! This is where a social media management tool comes in handy to take care of posting for you. With a tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to name a few, you can schedule all of your posts in advance, saving you time to spend on other areas of your business. Check out our previous post where we go into detail about the top 3 social media management tools to help manage all of your pages and profiles in one place!

5. Use Facebook Ads!!

Facebook offers paid placement ads on their website and mobile apps where your content, special offers, website and posts can get in front of customers with a few clicks. What’s even better is your ads will be targeted to a very specific demographic. Now you may be wondering how much it costs to run facebook ads. The answer to this question depends on your budget and your goals but you can allocate as little or as much as you want per day. Before putting your entire marketing budget behind Facebook ads, test with a small budget and scale up from there as you test what works best for your business.

6. Actively participate in Facebook groups

Join facebook groups where you feel that your ideal client might be present. For example, if you are a graphic designer, you might want to join groups that include bloggers or small business owners as these are people who could benefit from your services. Now, you don’t want to come off as spammy or self promoting right off the bat, so what you can do is just be outrageously helpful when people ask questions in the group. Group members will take note of your expertise and hopefully check out your profile that should be linked to your business’s Facebook page. This technique does require some time and effort, but is one of the best ways to get leads from Facebook.

These strategies will help you to increase your engagement on facebook and generate leads that will hopefully turn into loyal customers!

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How To Define Your Target Audience

Marketing isn’t just the practice of placing ads, rather it’s a method of attracting new business. You have to know exactly who you want to target with your marketing – your target audience will not simply be “everyone”. Your task in defining your target group is to identify and understand your particular niche so you can dominate it. 

The better you understand your target market, the easier you’ll be able to target them with relevant content that will stand out. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through a few steps that will help you to understand who is already interacting with your business (and competitors) and use that information to develop a clear target group.

What is a target market?

A target market is a specific, defined segment of consumers that a company plans to serve with its products or services. These are the people who are most likely to purchase your products or services and have common characteristics such as demographics and behaviors. Identifying your target market is an essential step in the development of products, services, and the marketing efforts used to promote them.

Market segmentation is the process of dividing a market of potential customers into groups, or segments, based on these different characteristics. The segments created are composed of consumers who will respond similarly to marketing strategies and who share traits such as similar interests, needs, or locations.

There are 4 types of market segmentation:

  1. Geographic segmentation –  involves grouping potential customers by country, state, region, city or even neighborhood.
  2. Demographic segmentation – divides a market through variables such as age, gender, education level, family size, occupation, income, and more.
  3. Psychographic segmentation– focuses on the intrinsic traits your target customer possesses. Psychographic traits can range from values, personalities, interests, attitudes, lifestyles, and opinions.
  4. Behavioral segmentation– focuses on specific reactions and the way customers go through their decision making and buying processes. Attitudes towards your brand, the way they use it, and their knowledge base are all examples of behavioral segmentation.

Marketers can use segmentation to prioritize their target audiences. If segmentation shows that some consumers would be more likely to buy a product than others, marketers can better allocate their attention and resources. The purpose of segmentation is that you are able to introduce a more tailored message that will be received successfully. 

What is a target audience?

A “target audience” is more narrow than a “target market”. It refers specifically to the group of consumers targeted by marketing messaging. A target audience is a group of people that has significant potential to respond positively to a brand message. Your target audience may or may not be the end users of your product, but they are the people you plan to direct your marketing to. 

To communicate effectively with your target audience, you need to understand who they are and what their true needs and desires are. 

How to define your target audience

  1. Know the value of your product/service

When identifying your target audience, it is important to determine the features of your product or service. What needs does your product or service fulfill for a potential customer? How does your product or service differ from others in your industry? Is your product more affordable? Is it more effective? These are some things that need to be taken into account before figuring out who will be on the receiving end of your marketing efforts. Think about those who may be interested and who might benefit from your product or service. These are the people that will make up your target audience.

  1. Get to know your existing audience

When trying to figure out who wants to buy from you, a great first step is to identify who is already using your products or services.

How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work? What social networks do they use? Do they scroll through their feeds on a mobile device or the computer? These are all questions that you need to be able to answer about your current customers, and once you understand their characteristics, you can go after more people who fit the same mold.

One way to start is by gathering whatever information you have about your existing customers. Some data points that you may want to consider are:

  • Age: This is one area that doesn’t need to be too specific. Whether your average customer is 23 or 27, it won’t really make that much of a difference. Rather knowing which decade of life your customers are in, or their generation can be much more useful.
  • Stage of life: are your customers college students? Parents of young children or teens? Retirees?
  • Interests: what do your customers like to do? What other businesses do they interact with?
  • Location and time zone: Where in the world do your existing customers live? If you’re based in the PST time zone and have followers in the EST and GMT time zones you might find posting at 8 a.m. PST works best because it hits the workday in both other regions. Understanding where your customers are located geographically is so important when deciding what time you should post to ensure best visibility. 
  • Spending patterns: How much money do your current customers have to spend? How do they approach purchases in your price category?
  1. Check in on Your Competition

Now that you have a better idea of who is already interacting with your business, it’s time to dig a little deeper and see who’s engaging with your competitors. 

Looking into who is interacting with your competition can answer some key questions: are you and your competitors both going after the same market segments? Who are they currently targeting? Are they reaching segments you hadn’t thought to consider? 

You won’t be able to get detailed research about the people interacting with your competitors, but you’ll be able to get a general sense of approach they’re taking and whether that is allowing them to create engagement online.

Define your target market and revise as needed. You shouldn’t think of your target market as set in stone. As you learn more about your customers, how you define your target market will most likely change. So, work to understand who your business serves, and why they should care. 

As your business grows, your target audience may change, and finding this specific group of people should be a continual effort.

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