ROI

5 Tips to Increasing Your Business’s Online Reputation

feedback-1977986_960_720With almost all business being conducted online it’s no wonder that businesses, not just individuals, are concerned about what the ‘online world’ is saying about them. From sites where employees can review their managers to social reviews speaking about brand experience, businesses today need to consider adding reputation management to their online marketing mix.

Reputation management, or online reputation management (ORM) as it’s also referred to, controls how others see you when they look for you online. It allows you to take control of the online conversation. A multi-pronged process, reputation management analyzes, establishes, protects, restores and monitors your brand’s image online. Negative items online can seriously impact your company’s reputation. Reputation management can bury the negative material found on the Internet, defeating it with more positive material to improve your credibility and customers’ trust in you.

The importance of reputation management

Reputation management should be a top priority for any business. You’ve worked hard to build your business but one negative review can negatively impact your company’s reputation and bottom line. We all know that your buyers turn to the Internet when looking for a business and/or to read reviews about your business. And they believe what they read, take a look at these stats:

  • When looking for a local business, 97% of people read online reviews (BIA Kelsey)
  • 92% of users will use a local business if it has a 4 star rating (BrightLocal)
  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Forbes)
  • 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more(BrightLocal)
  • Two out of three people see the Internet as the most reliable source of information about a person or a business (Edelman Insights)

Now that you know the stats on how important it is to your business, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you about how to increase your business’s online reputation:

  1. How do you identify and monitor the issues? You’ll need the talent and resources to identify and monitor your company’s reputation on an ongoing basis, as this is not a one-time deal to defeat any negative material and create and promote positive content that will give your company a great online image. At CreativeWorks Marketing we provide Reputation Management Services and can help identify and monitor your online reputation.
  2. What is your company’s online reputation? The first thing we need to do is to determine how others see you when they look for you online. Is your brand and image being perceived in the way that you had envisioned? We scour, search and monitor websites, social media platforms and review sites on an ongoing basis.
  3. We get your story out there. The best way to promote a positive image or to counteract a negative comment is to get your story out there. Positive, accurate content is needed on an ongoing basis to create and/or improve your online presence – blogs, videos, podcasts, ebooks… You control the story.
  4. Promote your company on social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook… You need to be where ever your customers live. And social media sites will help your search engine results rankings which can positively impact your online reputation.
  5. Search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is very important to reputation management. It can be used to help potential customers find you and to emphasize positive information about your company. SEO is an excellent tactic when trying to bury a negative comment. The negative comment is pushed down and supplanted by positive content, minimizing or eliminating its effect.

Don’t take a chance with your company’s reputation! CreativeWorks Marketing can identify and monitor your online reputation, deal with any negative material found on the Internet and promote a positive image that will inspire customers to do business with you. We know how important your business is to you and we will make every effort see that your reputation is stellar and that you control your digital footprint. Contact us today.

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Can’t Buy Me Followers

In December, Instagram announced Selena Gomez as the most followed celebrity on the platform with 103 million followers. As a small business owner, I could only imagine having a following that large on my business’s social platforms, and what it could mean for my brand awareness. Social media, as we have been led to believe, is a numbers game.

Recently, I was alerted to the fact that websites promising fake social media followers exist. I can see the appeal. Who doesn’t want to have more followers? Having more followers generally means you have a popular account, and in turn, a popular product or service. However, using a website to generate or purchase fake followers is a faux pas in the marketing world, and here’s why:

First and foremost using a third party source to gain followers is against the code of conduct of most social media websites, whether you pay for the service or not. For example, Twitter outlines in their rules and regulations that any accounts found to have used a third party source with the intention of gaining fake followers will be shut down. One particular problem associated with these websites that promise followers is that they have access to your account and therefore can easily compromise it at any time. These websites have the ability to spam your account and your followers, which just happens to be another practice that will get you suspended from a social media channel.

Rules against these websites have been around since these fake follower generators have been, and they’re becoming especially necessary today. With all the fake news going around, social media platforms are cracking down on the amount of fake content shared on their channels, and one way to do that is by eliminating accounts that appear to have purchased followers or spread spam-related content.

To that extent, it’ not difficult to find accounts with fake followers. “Ghost Accounts” are easy to spot because they have strange names, follow a lot of people with minimal followers themselves and only post spam-related content.

As a consumer, I follow a number of brands on their social media channels. Say I go on to check out my favourite retailer’s page and I look into their followers. If I find a bunch of empty spam accounts, I’ll know they’d have likely purchased or subscribed to fake followers, and my trust in this brand will have almost diminished. While every brand aspires to have a lot of followers or likes on social media, deceiving your audience into thinking you have more than you really do positions you as untrustworthy.

In a previous blog I discussed the importance of Google Analytics. If a large majority of your followers are coming from third party sources or unlawful social media practices, the metrics will be thrown off. As a marketer, I adjust marketing plans based on the data I see from analytics, so if the numbers aren’t accurate, it’s difficult to come up with effective marketing strategies. In order to see a return on investment with social media, you need to be able to get your message across to the right people and create authentic content that will engage them. It’s hard to get engagement when your audience is 90% spam bots.

One thing I suggest to my clients when they want to generate more engagement and followers in a short amount of time is to boost content. Most social media platforms offer businesses an option to reach wider, more targeted audiences at a cost. Boosting is an authentic way to encourage people to check out your brand.

I have been working in this industry long enough to have seen the tricks that can be used to try and engage audiences and attract followers, but as a professional marketer and business owner I always want to provide my clients with honest marketing services that follow best practices. As much as we all like to see high numbers of followers on our social sites, if the followers were generated by a spambot site, then what value do they really have to your business? In marketing as in business, honesty is always the best policy.

 

 

 

 

 

Analyze This! Why Your Google Analytics Matter

If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about my clients, it’s that they expect results. Many of my clients place a lot of value on measurement, and I am often asked, “How were our leads this quarter compared to last? Are we seeing value from the amount we put into new content on our site?” I find it interesting that a lot of business owners and marketers are unclear of the value they can receive from their Google Analytics reports.

At CreativeWorks Marketing, we dedicate the last week of each month to compiling and analyzing Google Analytics data. Google Analytics is a free tool in which you are able to monitor the traffic to your website in terms of audience demographics, behaviour, referrals and more. Like any good tool, you get out of it what you put into it. A simple Google Analytics report is only valuable when analyzed to help you understand what it means to your business.

The analyzed data is central to your business as it allows you to understand what is and isn’t working on your site so you can implement strategic, not just tactical, initiatives. While many web companies offer Google Analytics reports as part of their services, few of them supply much other than the raw data itself. Being able to read and fully understand what is being told through the data is imperative to your marketing success.

I have worked with multiple clients over the years that receive monthly analytics reports from their “web person” and disregard the information due to a lack of understanding. By ignoring the information provided in each analytics report, you might be missing key information about your business. Variances in online behaviour are important to determine problems and identify trends.

Google Analytics go above and beyond recording how many people have visited your site, it can also help to identify “unusual” behaviour. For example, when one of our clients was the victim of a website scam, we were able to identify new visitors to the site that came from suspicious sources. Finding out this information and alerting our client was imperative to the security of our client’s site, and without Google Analytics we wouldn’t have been able to act as fast as we did.

Analytics are a key part of the marketing process, and website analytics are only one form of such data. If your business is on digital platforms, you need to make sure you have clear analytics reports that also include relevant data on your social media efforts, and ideally include summaries and recommendations for adjustments and changes for improvements.

If you are investing your time and money into a robust website, it’s important that you have an understanding of how your audience is using it. Ask your marketing agency to provide a detailed analysis of your digital assets and explain what changes, if any need to be made. The goal of truly understanding website behaviour is using analytics to its fullest potential.

Knowing Your Customers: A Market Research Case Study

 Several organizations I have worked with over the years claim to know their clients inside and out, but is that really the case?

Many of them often tell me they know how their clients perceive them because they explicitly ask for their opinion. However, I would argue that much like we rarely tell the waiter/waitress that we don’t like our meals, our clients are unlikely to tell us the truth unless there is a real issue. However, if third-party sources ask the same question to your clients, your clients are more likely to tell the truth. This fact alone is why unbiased market research is a crucial step in any marketing strategy.

In this blog, I’d like to share with you a case study that perfectly illustrates the importance of market research and how it helped them better define who they are to their customers.

Overview

Our client, a mid-sized educational toy distributor in Toronto, wanted to conduct research to identify their customers, the views they have of their brand, and the values they tie to the brand and its products. Specifically, they wanted to determine if there was a difference in buying behaviours between the company’s two key markets, establish any product leakage, and validate their brand recognition in the marketplace.

 Conducting the Research

Based on the client’s goals for this research project, we determined both qualitative and quantitative research was needed in order to receive the answers we were looking for.

First, we started by conducting preliminary qualitative research. Qualitative Research is the process of talking to someone through open-ended questions about a particular subject to gain insights into their thoughts and opinions. This can be done through a conversation, phone call, or focus group.

To complete this research, we conducted eight discussion guide-driven phone calls with a targeted cross-section of buyers within our client’s target audience.

With the results of the pre-field research, we crafted a highly customized survey that allowed for each audience to only see questions specifically directed at them. We further segmented the questionnaire by programming it based on the role of the individual by type of organization and then by responsibility. This type of research, called Quantitative Research, allows us to track data with closed-ended questions and more numerical information.

Findings

After analyzing the gathered information, we were able to provide our client with an in-depth analysis of their customers. The key findings indicated that their customers with the most purchasing power in their target audience reported the least amount of brand exposure. It also clearly identified that their brand was very well known in one of their key target markets and less known in the other, and lastly, their catalogue is highly utilized and highly regarded. 

Next Steps

Once the deeper analysis was complete and revealed more about their customers’ buying behaviours, preferences for price vs. product quality, and delivery times, our client was able to develop a marketing strategy for 2017 that was truly in line with their customers’ needs and wants.

Market research is a crucial step in your marketing strategy. It provides you with insights you would not be able to get by just asking your customers yourself. Market research helps you get to know your customers better, and what is more valuable than that?

Rethinking Your Brand: When Your Audience Doesn’t Like Your Brand

Last week, Canadians were glued to televisions across the country as they watched The Toronto Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians in what became their final playoff game of the season. As exciting as that was for us Canadians, a separate story was emerging, focused on something other than the sport itself, specifically the name “Cleveland Indians”.

This team’s name has been involved in controversy for many years, but this year in particular it all came to a head. The term “Indian” is a derogatory term that just isn’t used anymore, as it is very insulting to our First Nations people. The Canadian public was so offended by the team’s brand that even an activist filed a request to ban the team from using their name and logo in the remaining games on the grounds of racial discrimination.

I draw your attention to this issue because as a marketer, it highlights the importance of a brand. The Cleveland Indians’ brand is obviously alienating people, and as public opinion influences buying decisions, this in turn affects the baseball team’s bottom line.

While this is an extreme case, the concept of rebranding to adjust to social values isn’t unheard of. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC in 1991 as health concerns around fried foods as well as rumours of genetically modified chicken were growing. By taking the words chicken and fried out of the brand name, it allowed them to distance themselves from these unpopular public opinions, diversify their product offerings and thereby strengthen their relationship with existing customers ad appeal to a new ones.

If your audience is weighing in on your brand, and it’s creating a negative buzz about your brand as it is with the Cleveland Indians, then it’s time to revaluate your brand strategy. The first step in doing this is conducting market research.

While your brand might not be offensive or politically incorrect, make sure it reflects the values your customers expect to see from your product or service. For example, if you’ve always been known as the leader of a certain product, check to see if your competitors have met your match, or if your loyal customers value the fact that you are a leader.

Hire a marketing agency familiar with your brand, or work with a research firm to conduct market research on your customers and find out more about what they value, why they choose you, and what your brand means to them. Getting feedback directly from your audience will allow you to not only identify who your audience is, but also the types of messaging and values that have meaning to them.

Your brand must be aligned with your organization’s mission, vision and values, so conducting research with your customers to help with your audiences will allow you to create a brand identity that will benefit both parties.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. It represents your organization’s values and sets you apart from your competition. It is who you are. Rebranding your company to align better to the values of your customers is a big first step to improving the connection and relationship you have with your audience. And ultimately, don’t we all want loyal customers who value what we do?

You Have an App, Now What?

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 8.45.09 AM.pngMobile apps have increased in popularity over the last few years, to the point where it seems like everything and everyone has an app. The growth in this industry has been so extensive that we are now ordering and paying for our morning coffees from our phones, paying for parking and even tracking our nutritional information with apps.

With the widespread knowledge and availability of the app industry, developing the app isn’t the challenge anymore; it’s attracting users and getting them to engage with it regularly.

In my experience, attracting and engaging users to sign up and continually use your app is the main challenge facing many businesses using this digital marketing tool. I’ve outlined below a few ways you might consider to help you increase and retain users for your app:

  1. Attracting the Audience

Incentives in the form of a referral program, for example, are great ways to spread awareness of your app. When a current user refers a friend, both of them get a reward, which may be anything from a gift card to app credits. For apps, referral programs really work. In the digital age, referral programs for your app could cause a ripple effect and before you know it, one referral has turned into hundreds if not thousands of new users. Invest the time to understand your target audience and create the “right” incentive program because they have to value what you’re offering.

  1. Building Partnerships

You may not have considered this, but partnerships with other apps (particularly those that have users that would not necessarily be interested in using your app), seems to be building strong alliances and benefits for users. For example, the MyFitness Pal app has partnered with Pedometer and other distance calculating apps, making it easy for people to integrate their physical and nutritional data and great for the app owners who have been able to extend their user base.

Finding relevant partners that would work for your app is key to making this a success. It is important to again invest the time to think about what apps would give you the perfect symbiotic relationship that would benefit you, them and your users.

  1. Leveraging Social Media Sharing

Your current users are your best brand ambassadors, so treat them as such. Happy customers share their happiness with their friends, so think about implementing a sharing program on the app. Is there an easy way for users to share their experience on the app to their social channels? For example, if a user is using an app to record their morning jog, can they issue a distance challenge to their friends via Facebook? Allowing this capability on your app will expose the app to your current user’s network, multiplying the exposure of your brand. In a culture of sharing, users are happy and proud to share what they’ve done, so think about what aspects of your app can be easily shared to networks like Facebook and Twitter, as the reach here is endless.

Whether your app is aimed at B2C or B2B, these suggestions are sure to provide you with valuable direction for increasing user acquisition.

Automated Marketing: It’s All About Targeting Your Customers

blogNot a day goes by that I don’t read an article about automated marketing,       re-targeting, or how large multinationals are re-tooling their marketing departments to make way for this new era in marketing. It appears that a new marketing game is afoot and we in the marketing field are all facing a shift in what will surely be the new norm.

At its core, automated marketing uses software to more effectively market your brand on multiple online channels like social media and websites and automate repetitive tasks. Whether through the use of cookies, profiling tools, database or sales platform integration, these automated systems provide the holy grail for marketers: specific details on your customers needs and wants, so you can specifically target them with advertising that addresses these needs. This type of marketing provides the customer with something you know they want.

Sounds amazing and it is, but it will require businesses to work more collaboratively with their sales and marketing teams, which is no easy feat! The more these two teams can be seamlessly integrated, the better able you are to develop strategies that receive increased ROI.

I know I consistently speak about the importance of strategy, but in automated marketing it becomes even more important because you are researching and mapping out your customers’ behaviours so you can target them with the appropriate type of advertising. Without a strategy of this type, your automated marketing will fail.

This is one of the greatest changes our field has seen in years, a chance for sales and marketing to really work together and focus our attention on what really matters—our customer.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll share a few insights on getting started in automated marketing.

Has your company created an automated marketing strategy? What are some of your challenges?   I look forward to an active discussion!