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6 Ways to Leverage Customer Testimonials

Word of mouth remains a powerful force for attracting new customers. Recent studies show that 72 percent of consumers trust a business more if it has positive testimonials and reviews. Customer testimonials can reinforce your value, validate your expertise, and build trust. However, they can’t do those things unless you find ways to use your customers’ glowing remarks to your advantage.

In this post, we’ll share ideas for encouraging customers to share their positive experiences. We’ll also offer suggestions for how to leverage customer testimonials to attract more business.

Tips for Encouraging Testimonials from Your Customers

While many people are quick to leave negative feedback for businesses, they may need some nudging to take the time and effort to write about their positive experiences. A few ways to get more testimonials include:

  • Ask them for feedback at the point of sale by having survey or comment cards available.
  • Send an email survey after customers visit your location or make a purchase.
  • Tell them which social media platforms you’re on, and invite them to share their thoughts in a post and tag your page or account.
  • Post a sign with the review websites you participate in (for example, Yelp, Google My Business, Citysearch, TripAdvisor, etc.). Just be careful with how you word your signage. Some review sites—Yelp, for example—prohibit asking customers to leave reviews. Yelp does, however, allow the use of some of its brand assets so that businesses can let customers know they can be found there. Also, never pay or offer other incentives to customers for writing positive reviews.

6 Suggestions for Leveraging Customer Testimonials

Before using all or parts of customer testimonials for your marketing purposes, get permission from the people who wrote them. This applies to the online reviews that customers post publicly, as well. You might consider creating a testimonial release form to protect your business legally and ensure customers know how you will use their testimonials and where they may appear.

Here are some tips when using testimonials to highlight what’s terrific about your business:

  1. Feature the most compelling part(s) of testimonials—especially those that are long-winded. If you pull out various snippets from different places in a testimonial and piece them together, get approval from the customer before using your amended version.
  2. Fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. As long as you’re not changing the meaning of their testimonials, customers will likely welcome proofreading edits. Again, share any changes that you’ve made to get approval before publishing testimonials.
  3. Publish testimonials on the pages of your website that they are relevant to. For example, say someone raved about a bike shop’s repair services in their testimonial. By prominently placing that testimonial on its Repair Services page, the bike shop will give site visitors interested in repair services confirmation of its competence.
  4. Include one or two compelling quotes from customer testimonials in your email signature. Every time you send an email to prospects, they will get a glimpse of how happy your customers are with your business.
  5. Share them on social media. Weaving testimonials into your social media content will serve to humanize your brand and reinforce your value to customers. Consider strengthening the human connection to your brand by asking customers if they will provide or allow you to take a photo to accompany their testimonial.
  6. Record them on video. Consider asking a few customers if they’d be willing to share their testimonials in a video message. These could take the form of amateur snippets recorded with a smartphone and used in social media posts. Or, they could be professionally captured by a videographer and woven into an impactful story that you can feature on your website’s home page, on YouTube, or in TV spots.

The Most Important Testimonial Tip Of All

Your business must earn positive testimonials. Customers will only give them if you deliver excellence, so make sure you provide the best customer experience possible. If you need guidance on what your business can do to achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, connect with SCORE.  Visit the SCORE website to get a mentor or sign up for workshops.

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Marketing Trends and Tips for 2020

2020 is fast approaching! That means it’s time to tune into marketing strategies and tactics that can boost your business in the coming year. Of course, there’s a wealth of information online, but only limited time to research it all.

To help you stay on top of the latest best practices and trends, we’ve curated a list of helpful marketing articles below.

Marketing Wisdom to Help Your Small Business Succeed in the New Year

Marketing (all-encompassing)

Marketing Trends for 2020: Here’s What Will Happen That Nobody is Talking About –  Neil Patel, co-founder of NP Digital, recently published this insightful article. In the article, he describes what he sees coming down the pike in 2020.

4 Key Digital Marketing Trends – Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media and blog contributor at SCORE.org, touches on four evolving areas of digital marketing. You may want to consider implementing them to improve your chances of getting noticed online.

Blogging

What Can You Blog About When All the Good Ideas Are Already Taken? – If you have a business blog, you know the struggle of consistently creating content. In this article, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse shares six tips to help you never run out of fresh ideas.

Guest Blogging: A Step-by-Step Guide – Guest blogging on reputable industry websites can expand awareness of your business to more of your target audience. This article by Ann Gynn, editor of the Content Marketing Institute Blog, walks you through the process.

Content Marketing

8 Content Trends for 2020 – This article shares the Convince & Convert Consulting team’s insight about what businesses should make their top priorities in the New Year.

5 Big Content Trends for 2020 – Search Engine Journal also offers valuable food for thought about what businesses need to consider when creating content in 2020.

Email Marketing

9 Email Marketing Best Practices for 2020 – Social Media Today provides a helpful list of what to do to make your email marketing efforts pay off.

Three Email Trends Retailers Should Keep in Mind for 2020 – eMarketer highlights three top-of-mind trends that will shape email marketing best practices in the year to come.

Influencer Marketing

Why the Future of Influencer Marketing Will Be Organic Influencers – Influencer marketing is evolving. In this article, Social Media Today explains more about the power shift from traditional influencers to organic influencers.

What Will Influencer Marketing Look Like in 2020? – HubSpot’s Kristen Baker shares interesting stats about influencer marketing. Also, she offers tips for working with different types of influencers.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

11 Deadly SEO Mistakes to Avoid in 2020 – Often, avoiding worst practices is the ideal way to make sure you are doing the right things. This Search Engine Watch article tells you what NOT to do to improve your visibility in Google searches.

The Definitive Guide to SEO in 2020 – Backlinko has developed a comprehensive guide packed with SEO trends and tips for improving your search rankings.

Social Media

6 Key Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020 – What will make your social media presence stand out in 2020? In this post, Lucy Rendler-Kaplan discusses the trends shaping what businesses will need to do in the New Year.

Social Media Trends for 2020 and Beyond – This Influencer Marketing Hub article shares eight social trends you should expect and prepare for.

Next Steps for a Merry and Bright Future for Your Business

Digging into the resources we’ve shared above is a great first step toward making 2020 your most successful year yet. Next, take action with the help of SCORE! Check out our upcoming workshops to learn more. Or, visit our site to request a SCORE mentor. Our mentors have the knowledge and experience to guide you in all aspects of starting and running your small business.

4 Tools to Help You Write Better Content

 

Writing content isn’t every entrepreneur’s strong point, but bootstrapping startups don’t always have the funds to hire professional writers or marketing firms to craft content for them.

Fortunately, some online tools are available to help even the most unaccomplished writers among us improve our writing and make a great impression.

4 Writing Apps to Help You Create Better Content

Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator

When you’ve hit a wall and can’t think of what to write about, Hubspot’s blog topic generator can help you break through writer’s block. It prompts you to add up to five different nouns of your choice, and then it will generate seven blog topic ideas related to those nouns. While some of them might not be a perfect fit at face value, you can modify them to your liking, or they might help you develop new ideas.

Hemingway Editor

The Hemingway app helps ensure your writing isn’t too complicated and over the heads of most readers. It assesses your content and tells you at which grade level it is readable. Anything above a grade-9 reading level is flagged as less than ideal. Hemingway also alerts you to overuse of adverbs, use of passive voice, and complex phrases and sentences.

Power Thesaurus

If you love the assistance of online thesauruses but get annoyed by the advertisements on their websites, meet Power Thesaurus. For the most part, the app is ad-free (except for some non-intrusive advertisements by premium sponsors). It has a simple, uncluttered interface that suggests synonyms for whatever word you type in its search box. Fast and effective, Power Thesaurus helps you power through finding just the right word more quickly than when using other thesaurus websites.

Grammarly

Grammarly is quickly becoming a tool of choice (for writers and non-writers alike) for fine-tuning writing. Its free version detects critical grammar and spelling errors. Grammarly Premium has enhanced capabilities including offering vocabulary suggestions (if you appear to have used words out of context), flagging complex sentence structure, and evaluating content according to its intended purpose, audience, style, and emotional impact.

Bonus Benefits

Not only can these tools help you fix weaknesses in your content, but also they can help you improve your writing skills over time. As you use them, you have an opportunity to learn to think out of the box, increase your knowledge of grammar rules, and broaden your vocabulary.

Of course, apps can’t do it all! Another resource available to help you assess the content you create for your business is a SCORE mentor. SCORE volunteers have experience and expertise in all aspects of entrepreneurship, including marketing, and they are here to offer honest feedback to help your business succeed.

3 SEO Tips to Help Your Small Business Stand Out Online

 

As more and more consumers look online before buying products and services, basic search engine optimization is essential for your business. If you don’t prioritize your company’s visibility in online searches, you could end up at a competitive disadvantage.

According to a consumer survey by BrightLocal, “97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017.”

SEO is a complex and multifaceted discipline, but by following just a few best practices, you can help boost your business’s chances of getting found in searches on Google.

1. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, make it so.

Fifty-seven percent of all online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. Google has estimated that 9 out of 10 people will leave a website if it isn’t easy to use from their mobile device. So, even if your company has better products and services than your competitors, you could miss out on business opportunities if you don’t have a mobile-ready website.

Mobile-friendliness also affects your website’s ranking in Google searches. Beginning in April 2015, Google began giving mobile-ready websites an edge over sites without mobile support on the search engine results pages.

Adding to the importance of having a mobile-ready site is the rollout of Google’s mobile-first indexing, which began in March 2018. In Google’s own words, “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”

Although mobile-first indexing has not rolled out to all websites yet, Google is encouraging webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly to perform better in mobile search results.

You can check to see if Google considers your site mobile-ready by using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test. If your site has room for improvement, talk with an experienced web development resource to discuss your options.

2. Establish a business profile (or claim your business listing) on online directories and review sites.

Well-known sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Citysearch, and TripAdvisor, often rank higher than business websites in search results. If you’re listed on them, prospective customers will have an easier time finding you. Also, the links to your website from these sites (“backlinks”) can help improve your website’s ranking in search results.

The benefits of better visibility and backlinks also apply to listings on local directory sites like those provided by your chamber of commerce, tourism bureau, and other organizations.

If you operate your business from a physical location, you’ll also want to make sure you appear on Google My Business. Doing so will help your business show up higher in local search results, including on Google Maps.

Important Note: Wherever you list your business online, make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) information is consistent. If you’ve moved or changed your name or phone number, you’ll want to update that information on every website that lists your company. Most SEO experts agree that search engines look for uniformity to validate that a business is legitimate. Inconsistency can result in your business information showing up incorrectly—or Google might choose to omit your business from the search engine results page altogether.

3. Have a keyword strategy that goes narrow rather than broad.

Keywords remain critical for helping Google determine what your website pages are about. However, they need context and must appear naturally in content that satisfies what your audience wants to know.

Rather than use keywords that consist of only one or two general words, focus on long-tail keywords that more closely resemble—in your customers’ words— the exact types of products and services your customers are looking for and the area where they hope to find them.

So, say you have a dog training business in Portland, Maine. Rather than using the general keywords of “dog training” or “dog trainers” (which have a tremendous amount of competition in search results), consider using wording that’s reflective of what your customers will be looking for online. For example,

  • Dog trainers in Portland Maine
  • Aggressive dog training Maine
  • Therapy dog training Portland Maine

While these don’t have the same amount of monthly search traffic coming to them as “dog training” and “dog trainers,” they have far fewer businesses competing for them and will better your chances of ranking higher in search results. Also, they will help ensure that the people who do find your website are potential customers for the services you provide.

Brainstorm on your own to determine some relevant keywords, and do some keyword research by using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, SEMRush’s Keyword Research tool, or Moz Keyword Explorer.

Bonus Tip: As you’re deciding which long-tail keywords to use, also consider the increase in voice-activated searches. Think about how people talk, not just how they type!

Where Can You Find More Information About SEO Best Practices?

If you want to learn more about ways you can improve awareness of your business online, consider following SEO and digital marketing blogs like Yoast, Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal. Also, contact SCORE to talk with a mentor who can direct you to reputable SEO specialists in your area, and who can advise you on all aspects of your business’s marketing endeavors.

3 Reasons Why You Need a Business Logo

 

 

If you think logos are only important for big brands, think again. Logos provide big branding benefits for small businesses. How will a logo help your business?

  • It will provide a way for prospects and customers to more easily recognize your brand. A logo can help make your brand more memorable by giving people imagery to associate with your company. So when people are looking for products and services like those you offer, they’ll be more likely to have your company in mind.
  • It will facilitate consistency across your branding efforts. When you use a logo on your marketing and sales materials, whether printed or online, all pieces of collateral will present a unified front. That makes your brand appear more polished, professional, and consistent in how it presents itself.
  • It can boost your credibility. A logo in and of itself doesn’t make your business any better at what it does. However, it can bring more legitimacy to your company in the eyes of potential customers and clients. A logo can help show you’re a credible, bona fide business.

 

What to Consider When Having a Logo Designed

Unless you’re a graphic designer by trade, chances are you personally don’t have the creative chops to design your own logo, so you’ll need to outsource that work. You might seek the help of a marketing firm, independent designer, or an online service like 99designs.  We used 99designs to get a custom logo designed for FocusME,  game changing support for women entrepreneurs. We were very pleased with the results and the cost!

Regardless of whom you hire to design your logo, keep the following things in mind as you collaborate with them:

 

  • Your brand personality: How you want your business to be perceived—traditional, trendy, sophisticated, rugged, creative, high-tech, exciting, calming, etc.?

 

 

  • Adaptability: How will the design translate into different media? You’ll surely be using it in print marketing collateral of various sizes, and online, it will be seen on the screen of mobile devices and on desktop computer monitors. Also consider how it looks not only in color but also in black and white. Regardless of the size or color, you’ll want your logo to appear bold and distinctive.

 

The Lowdown on Landing an Effective Logo

Realize that before you ask someone to design your logo, you must first understand what your brand stands for. Think about your company’s core values and the traits and characteristics that define it. Communicating what you’re looking to convey through your logo is the first step in having one designed that will effectively and accurately represent your company.

If you’re thinking about having a logo created for your business and want help zeroing in on what it needs to project, contact SCORE Maine. With mentors who specialize in marketing and branding, we have volunteers who can provide you with expert guidance and feedback.

 

Five Tips to Improve Local Business Search Results

For businesses serving their local communities, ranking near the top of Google search results provides a key marketing edge. According to Google research into local search behavior, 4 in 5 consumers use search engines via mobile devices and computers to find local information such as store addresses, business hours, product availability, and directions. People choose from the first few search results rather than dig deeper in the search engine results page (SERP), so it is vital to get your business near the top of  the searches.

Here’s a checklist of simple steps to help ensure your company doesn’t get lost in the local search shuffle:

    1. Make sure your business information is accurate and complete—everywhere that it appears online. If you haven’t already, make a list of all the places your company is listed online and verify you’ve provided up-to-date and consistent information across all channels. Google My Business, industry directories, social media channels, Yellowpages.com, etc.—your name, address, phone number, website URL, and other information should be uniform and relevant.
    2. Focus on delivering ease-of-use to your website visitors—and avoid applications like Flash media. Usability of your website can play a role in how long website visitors stay on your site, which in turn plays a role in the online authority Google attributes to your company. Flash media may create some fancy visuals, but it can slow the load time of your pages and detract from the user experience.
    3. Optimize your website for search. Aside from consulting an SEO (search engine optimization) specialist to help you with this, you can take some measures on your own. Pay attention to the page title tags on your site so they provide not only your company name, but also give a brief description of your business (just be sure to stay within 50–60 characters so your title isn’t cut off in the results). Your meta descriptions, the 150–160-character long snippet that displays with your title in search results, should provide searchers with information that captures their attention. And on your website, make sure you include contact info on every page.
    4. Blog consistently, so you’re regularly adding fresh content to your website. A website that updates its content often will stand a far better chance of ranking higher in local search than one that is stagnant. Your blog posts will enable you to provide fresh content targeting local keywords and search terms related to your business. Not only does blogging provide SEO benefits, but it also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and build trust with your audience. And don’t forget to share your blog posts via your social media channels to generate more traffic to your website. Engagement on social media in combination with blogging works well in boosting your local search mojo.
    5. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Google’s research revealed that 88 percent of local searches are done via smartphones. And those local searchers tend to take action quickly when they find what they’re looking for. According to their study, 50 percent of consumers who performed a local search on their smartphone proceeded to visit a store within one day. Those statistics say it all for stressing the importance of having a mobile-friendly website!

When you sell your products and services to a customer base that’s primarily local, these small efforts can make a big difference in your success in securing business through online searches. If you need guidance in getting on the right path with your online and other marketing efforts, remember that our SCORE mentors bring a broad spectrum of expertise and experience to small business owners in all industries. Contact us about our free mentoring services.

 

Blog Brainstorming Tips

 

Ask nearly any small business owner and you’ll find that most struggle with keeping their company blog up to date. Although it may be tempting to forgo maintaining your blog in the midst of all else you need to do in running your business, research shows blogs boost business. Companies that blog regularly experience 97% more inbound links to their websites, and, according to HubSpot, marketers who have made blogging a priority are 13 times more likely to enjoy a positive return on investment.

 

While writing and publishing posts requires time, half the battle of blogging consistently is finding ideas for what to write about.

 

Here are some quick tips to help you land winning blog topic ideas:

 

Tap into FAQs

What types of questions do you often field from prospects and customers? Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can be a virtual goldmine of potential topics because they’re undeniably centered on services, products, and processes your audience has interest in.

Check out what’s trending on Twitter

Even if you don’t have a Twitter account or actively engage with customers on the social network, you can still use it as a resource for discovering what’s hot in your industry. Search various hashtags related to the products and services you provide to see what others are writing about. Of course, you never want to steal anyone else’s content, but you can get inspiration and ideas for what you might give a fresh perspective on.

Think about how industry-related news affects you and your customers

Whether your industry is undergoing regulatory changes, supplier difficulties, or other developments that affect your company, you have a prime opportunity to share your insight to inform, educate, and sometimes put customers’ minds at ease if they’re worried about how the changes might affect them.

Talk up technological advances

Readers love to know what’s new and cutting edge. As with other industry-related news, improvements in technology that make your products, services, or processes better serve as worthy blog post topics.

Go behind the scenes

Prospects and customers love to get the inside scoop. Consider sharing an insider view about how you create your product or deliver your services.

Get personal

Brands that connect with prospects on a personal level are generally more likely to gain customers when all things otherwise are equal with competitors. To create stronger customer relationships, allow readers an opportunity to get to know the people in your business. Consider sharing about their unique interests or hobbies (with their permission, of course!), their volunteerism efforts, or distinctive aspects of their professional credentials.

 

There’s plenty to draw from as you brainstorm topics for your blog. The key is to become more attuned to recognizing ideas when they present themselves—and taking the initiative to write them down before they escape your memory.

If you struggle with thinking of creative and relevant blog topics, we have SCORE mentors with marketing know-how and a broad range of industry experience who can help. Contact us to schedule a free mentoring appointment today.

 

 

The Perks Of Periscope For Marketing Your Small Business

Periscope, the live video streaming app for iOS and Android,  has been making waves on the social media scene since it was purchased by Twitter in March 2015. Businesses and individuals ranging from Oprah to Spotify to Red Bull to Bernie Sanders use the app to reach millions viewers with live broadcasts of events, products and services. As Periscope’s tagline states, it allows its users to “explore the world through someone else’s eyes.”

 

How Does Periscope Work?

With the Periscope mobile app, you can make live broadcasts of whatever you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it. Live broadcasts can be shared through Twitter, shared with your Periscope followers or shared with their followers much like how a friend shares a post on Facebook. You can also invite select followers to a private broadcast.

Viewers can “heart” and comment on your broadcasts in real-time and you can respond to those comments immediately, creating an interactive experience.

If users miss a live broadcast, they can watch a replay of it for up to 24 hours after it has ended. Although broadcasts are removed after 24 hours, you can save them to your mobile device and post them online as often as you desire.

 

Using Periscope to Boost Business

You may be thinking, “Sounds great, but how could Periscope help my business?”

Here are a few ideas for making the most of Periscope’s marketing potential:

  • Behind the scenes tour—to give viewers a glimpse of where the magic happens and who is making it happen at your business.
  • Announcements—to launch a new product, introduce a new hire, announce new certifications or awards, etc.
  • Product demos—to introduce new products or show how your products are made.
  • Interviews with team members—to introduce new hires or showcase the expertise and skills of employees.
  • Q&A sessions—to tackle FAQs about your company and its products and services or industry issues.
  • Events—capture the action at an open house, customer appreciation day, award presentation, etc.
  • How-to sessions—to give viewers step-by-step instructions to accomplish or use something.
  • Focus groups—to capture honest input and feedback about products and services (either those that you’re considering or that you already offer).

While Periscope is still in its infancy, the key to making it work for your business is no different than for any other online social media platform:

  • Be active.
  • Be engaged.
  • Be consistent.

 

To learn more about Periscope and how to use it, check out these resources: