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Go online and it won’t take you long before you can read customer or client reviews on everything from a Thai restaurant to a Tax Accountant. It takes an extremely positive experience for someone to take action and write a positive review, but when something negative happens? Many are quick to post a nasty comment written in the heat of the moment. Here are some simple steps to cultivating all the good that exists out there! SET THE STAGE Gaining word of mouth referrals starts from the very beginning. Relationship building is an investment for every business and it is certainly worth the time and effort. Yes, attend networking events but also remember that you and your employees are representing your business all the time. Be sure to have genuine interactions and learn about others, this isn’t all about you after all! Why not see how you can help them first, I guarantee you will benefit in the long run. Whether these connections become a customer or not, gaining their respect and trust can still bring in the business.

TELL PEOPLE Don’t be shy to tell people your business is a success because of referrals and word of mouth. If someone doesn’t have a need for your services or product, but they believe in your business, this gives them the perfect opportunity to support you. It’s quite satisfying to connect someone who needs something, with someone who has it. Think of it as matchmaking!

LET THEM TALK Give your customers the opportunity to praise your services. Invest in a solid social media following by offering valuable information and discounts online. Encourage customers to ask questions and answer them online so people know you care about each individual. Tell clients how much you appreciate testimonials, as I mentioned before, sometimes people need a gentle nudge when they have something good to say.

THANK YOU It certainly doesn’t hurt to have an incentive program set up. Offering cash or discounted services for successful referrals is a great way to motivate your happy clients. Put a system in place so each person receives the same gift a long with the most important thing, a sincere thank you.

ABOVE ALL ELSE If you don’t have a solid product or provide an exceptional service, you will not generate long lasting referral clients or customers. Believe in your business, invest in your employees through training and education so they believe in what they are selling and people will notice. Admit when you are wrong because it will happen, but overcome that obstacle with your customer and they will remember the good not the bad. Whether you like it or not, your customer base can be your biggest mode of marketing-- hopefully that’s a good thing! By investing in the people who have positive experiences with your business or organization, you are utilizing a valuable (and affordable) resource, resulting in more business and best of all, happy customers.


Facebook VS Google: Which To Advertise On?

For those of us that have considered taking a risk and venturing out on our own to start our dream business, one key step we’ve needed to seriously consider is how are we going to advertise to our target audience?  Of course there are big money marketing solutions, but for most of us on a penny-pinching budget, we need something effective, yet cost efficient.  My intent for this blog will be to focus on two forms of battling advertising methods, and which of these may be the best for your new start-up business:  Facebook vs. Google.

What I am going to try to determine is whether it’s better to put your company’s future in the hands of one of the largest search engines out there, Google; or if it’s better to facebook_vs_google_robots.topstrategize with the future of one of the largest growing social media websites, Facebook.

  • Reaching the Audience: Yes, it is true that Facebook has one billion active monthly members, but surprisingly enough, the winner here is Google.  Google search engine provides results for more than one billion queries from around the world, every day, and its ads are displayed next to relevant results.  Plus, “Google ads can be displayed on thousands of partner sites, which reach upward of 92% of all internet users in the U.S.”, states author Allison Howen in Website Magazine May 2013.
  • Target Options: Google can target audiences in multiple ways: using keywords, location, time of day, and general audience interest categories.  It has the ability to display to people who have particular interests in subject matter.  Facebook has a larger ability to target audiences due to user data collected over time.  Facebook can target by location, age, gender, marital status, and interests.

For example, a home design store can target options to reach families that have recently moved, or live in a particular location, or have an interest in décor or personalizing their homes.  So, the winner for this category goes to Facebook, although Google is in a close second with the launch of its Enhanced Campaigns capabilities.

  • Potential to Convert: With Google, ads are displayed primarily based on the intent of the consumer.  This means that the consumer is usually searching for a particular product and has an immediate interest.  As a result, they make the purchase when they find the results they are seeking.  Facebook ads are based on the user’s defined interests and previous behavioral interactions.  As this is somewhat more limiting, the winner in this category belongs to Google.
  • Campaign Impact: According to May’s issue of, Facebook ads tend to produce customers with longer average lifetime values.  Why is this?  Well, Facebook ads often lead brands to receive an increase in “likes,” which allows brands to continue marketing to these customers.  Fans then interact with the brand’s content and become more comfortable and likely to continue purchasing.  Likewise, they continue to network the brand by spreading the word to friends and family members.

Is there really a great conclusion to this debate?  Probably not! The best form of advertising seems to solely depend on the goals of the start-up.  If you are looking for an immediate outreach, then Google is the place to target a larger audience.  If you are looking for a smaller target audience that will grow over time, as the market is continuous, then Facebook could be the best solution.  If you want to be absolutely sure, and if the pocket book allows, try both forms and see where you notice the most activity.  Track, track, and track again!

Which social media site has worked best for you and your business?

Shopping Habits and Social Media

It is a well known fact that to remain competitive, stores must utilize social media sites for marketing and promotions for consumers to purchase new, as well as aged, products. Do you find that you are making online purchases through your favorite social media sites? To clarify, what I am asking is when you view an ad on Facebook that displays a coupon for Bath & Body Works, Starbucks, or another favorite store; do you immediately click on that ad to get the coupon? Or do you find yourself driving to the closest store to venture around and see if anything new captures your attention? Is it just as convenient to go to the store’s website for a direct purchase?

For me, I’d say that I do a combination of all. If I see an amazing deal, I wouldn’t hesitate to click on it and shop right from the link, but I also have no issues with a retail mid-afternoon getaway!

A new global study from PwC, the global consultancy, reports that last year, only 12% of consumers bought anything through social media and only 18% of those consumers active in social media made a purchase as a result of information they got via their social-media connections,” states

What I find interesting about this is that we all use our favorite social media sites to follow or hear about up and coming brands. I know there have been multiple times that I have seen a new trend on Pinterest, or read through a friend’s tweet, that I immediately found myself further investigating to determine where I could directly purchase the merchandise. I’m sure I am not alone in this…or am I?

PwC claims there are three different types of shoppers that purchase from social media sites:

• Brand Lovers: These are die-hard shoppers. These shoppers frequent stores and make online purchases on a weekly basis. These people are not afraid to make direct purchases from social media sites and they do so often.

• Deal Hunters: Half of the population surveyed falls into this category. If they find an appealing offer, they click through to the store and make that special purchase. Personally, I think I can be found in this category. Who doesn’t like a good deal?

• Social Addicts: This group makes up the smallest percentage of shoppers, according to PwC. They use social media to talk about their experiences with brands. They learn from these sites which brands their friends love and will recommend. They submit questions to customer service channels and submit product feedback to the companies. Although a small percentage of social media site shoppers, they have a large influence on the online world with their frequent posts and comments.

It really just comes down to where do you personally trust to shop? Sometimes it’s just extremely convenient to buy merchandise when you’re already physically in a store and can compare prices, or better yet, compare to other stores’ merchandise pricing in general.

Yet sometimes, it’s just the most opportune to click “buy now,” right at that very moment when you see the merchandise pop up on the computer screen. I think it’s these unique personal preferences that in turn, ultimately, set the next shopping trends that we end up later reading about. If there is one thing that I am sure about, it’s that social media sites certainly influences what we buy, it’s just where we buy that is still up for debate.

Will Your Small Business Be More Successful With the Use of Social Media?

In my opinion this is an obvious yes, but you’d be very surprised with how many people are still afraid to cross over to the social media era. “Businesses that use the Web are growing 15% faster than those that do not. That’s the reality now,” said Susan Sobbott, President of American Express OPEN, in closing her lunchtime panel discussion at The New York Times Small Business Summit.”

In a recent article that I had read, three businesses gave their opinions on how social media can make all of the difference for a small business.  The following is my perspective on their stories.

  • Example 1 – Birchbox:  Birchbox is a health and beauty company.  To market their product, they would send out a little pink box full of health and beauty samples.  To add to their publicity, they allowed their viewing audience to post videos of themselves opening these gift items.  Yes, simple! Posting videos to websites is a form of social media, and guess what this ultimately did for Birchbox?  It spread the word to friends and family members instantly.  Birchbox didn’t lead the conversations about their brand, but the customers did, leading to more visualization of the company, and more sales!
  • Example 2 – Orabrush:  Orabrush, a tongue cleaner product, originally had very little success.  A product with limited marketing material, sitting on retail shelves, waiting for the notice to be discontinued.  That was until a marketing student suggested making a YouTube video.  Once the YouTube video was published, sales spiked with the product that was once close to elimination.  This helped Orabrush in the smaller retail world, which gave incentive for them to advance into the big leagues.  They again turned to social media and invested in a Facebook ad, which ultimately drove them into the Walmart stores, as well as other larger retail stores.  Again, with a little research, they found that personality driven videos on YouTube created the most attention.  With little investment, Orabrush made a killing in sales and is still going strong.
  • Example 3 – Warby Parker: Warby Parker is an online eyeglass company that started from the concept that the founder despised outlandish designer eyewear prices.  “Warby Parker has a virtual try-on tool and sends customers five pairs to try out for five days, a policy that co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal said builds trust and inspires people to buy.”  What did this lead to?  Word of mouth sales!  Sales spiked almost 50% when this marketing strategy led to an increase in friends and family spreading the word about the great eyewear program.  No more running to stores, all you needed to do was pick which glasses you wanted and return the rest.  Warby Parker also accredited their success to outstanding customer service and was very adamant about the importance of investing in quality staff for retaining customers.

These are obviously just a few of the success stories that are out on the internet.  If a business puts forth some creativity, a solid social media campaign, and a commitment to invest time in their efforts, and odds are that company is going to see an increase in overall profit and success.

Do you feel a lull in sales?  Would it help your business to post an ad on Facebook or a video on YouTube?  Do you have personality and flair that will appeal to an audience?  Then what are you waiting for?  Take advantage of social media and turn that small business into a social media success story!

Branding for Small Businesses

As a business owner one of your top priorities is how your company is perceived to your prospective clients.  Careful crafting of your brand matters, no matter how big or small your business is.   You could have the most innovative service or product, but you need to make potential clients aware of it before you can turn it into a success.  Unfortunately marketing your business isn’t as easy as just placing your logo and a sales message on a postcard or flyer and mailing it to prospective clients.  Marketing is about branding your business so potential clients have an idea of what your business is about, what it may be like to work with you, and how you are different from your competitors.

Simple Works How is your business different from your competitors?  What makes your services or products unique and original?  What aspect of your business is the most attractive to the client?  These are just a few of the questions that should be addressed by your brand.  It should be conveyed in a smooth, easily understood, uncluttered way that is tailored to you audience.  Simple and direct.

Give Your Words a Voice Often times communicating with your prospective clients is done through a series of direct mail pieces, emails, newsletters, or your very own website.  Creating a unified “voice” that can deliver your message in addition to producing an overall image for your company will set you apart from competitors and take your communications from passive to active.  Aligning your message and brand across all channels such as print, website, blog, and social networking will further strengthen your voice.

Consistency is Key Sometimes a small tweak in your overall image is necessary to get a buzz going.  Changing a font here, a color there, or a new image to represent your brand could all help in highlighting your business in new, exciting, and different ways to the same audience, or help in attracting a completely new one.  Once you have identified which tweak or series of tweaks generates the biggest response stick with it and modify all your communications and client accessed websites to reflect that voice, message, and image.  Committing to the change once it is made is the most crucial step.  You may not get the desired results immediately, but scrapping all the work you’ve put in will only be a waste of your time and money, as well as confuse potential clients.

Building your brand can be a labor of love.  If you put in the work and let your individuality pour into your business and let it shine through your communication pieces this will truly set you apart from your competitors.  Your current and potential clients will see your products and services as genuine and attainable.  Branding is all about perceptions, so build the perception you want them to have!