The new “dinner party”

In the 1970s, my parents’ friends gathered each weekend to catch up about life, their kids, and what plumber they were using. 

Today, that same “dinner party” occurs on Google reviews, Facebook, and other online review sites. And while the people aren’t friends in real life, the collective wisdom gives people enough confidence to call the plumber that’s getting lots of thumbs up.

It’s super-important that someone in your business is in charge of managing the online review process.

First things first:

Most importantly, spend time making sure your business is consistently creating happy customers.

If customers aren’t consistently happy, spend your time fixing your business. Full stop. 

Good service = the best marketing because it will generate repeat and word-of-mouth business. And you also won’t have to find new customers to constantly replace your unhappy ones.

Once you’ve got happy customers, put someone in charge of online reviews:

I use 5 Star Business because it makes it easier for my customers to leave a review. Since the software on 5 Star Business “senses” what platform a customer is already signed into, there’s less chance of a customer abandoning the process because they forgot their Facebook password.

Any way you do it, reach out to all of your customers and ask them if they’ll do you a favor and post an online review.

Once you get a review, respond to it

If you go here you can see my exact responses to Google reviews, but here’s my response “structure:”

  1. Express “joy and appreciation” for good reviews, “This review made my day!”
  2. Express “concern and appreciation” for the feedback on bad reviews, “This is so helpful for me so I will address with my whole company at the next Team Meeting…”
  3. Point out something specific about their experience with your company: “I saw photos of the mahogany deck that Jay stained, it looks fabulous.”
  4. Mention the person at the company that made them happy – this shows that I’m not an absentee owner.

Why generate online reviews?

  • Your competition is already generating reviews, and it’ll be hard to “catch up” to a competitor with tons in a few years.
  • At some point, someone is going to leave a bad review online. This is normal and expected. Having lots of good online reviews and great responses to reviews helps to “water down” the occasional bad review. 

Be patient!

I aim to generate just two online reviews a month.  Please re-read that sentence and set your expectations low. This is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Understand, it’s much better to consistently get reviews than to get them in fits and starts.

Don’t:

Gather at the holidays and get your relatives to post tons of reviews in one week. Not only are fake reviews against the rules, putting tons of reviews up at one time is a signal that they’re fake. 

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

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Popular posts:

SEO for Rookies

Can invoicing your customers be a marketing opportunity? I think so!

How does your small business serve your life?

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“I’m not getting social media leads.”

This is the first post in my series, “Is my small business normal?”

As you may know, I own a house painting company in the Boston area, and I post to 4 social media accounts each day.


A friend of mine saw me post so often on Social Media for my painting company that she assumed I was getting tons of direct, measurable painting leads from the posts. She said she was even thinking of hiring a marketing associate whose sole responsibility would be to post on Social Media for her business.


I assured her this would not be a good use of her finite marketing dollars.


You see, I get almost NO direct business from social media posts. For me, posting on social is 99% for “awareness” and not as a natural lead source.


This is worth repeating – in my case, posting 4x a day on Social Media does not bring in any measurable amount of painting business. I consider Social Media as a way for prospects to become aware of my painting company’s brand, in case they need a painter in the future.


This way, if someone gets my direct mail, sees a Google Pay-Per-Click ad, or sees one of my lawn signs, they might think to themselves, “That logo is familiar to me,” in a way that your neighbor’s face might be familiar.


If the internet is a highway, then my Facebook and LinkedIn posts are billboards.


Like driving down a regular highway, there is customer awareness a brand can capture by having an outdoor billboard. And while you probably wouldn’t pull your car over to buy an iPhone or life insurance from the billboard right then and there, the advertiser is hoping the billboard makes enough of an impression on you that you remember their brand when it is time to buy.


Since I’ve already maximized my marketing budget in other lead-generating ways like direct mail, pay-per-click, and SEO, using social media to give another brand impression of my company works for me as part of a larger strategy. Remember, it takes a person seven times to see your message before they take action – Social Media, for me, is just one of those times.


A tenet of my blog is to explain what’s “normal” so you’re not comparing yourself to some unrealistic metric.


So, if you’re posting on Social and not getting any quantifiable leads, you’re not doing anything wrong.


I publish small business ideas weekly. To receive future posts by email, subscribe here.

Popular posts:

SEO for Rookies

Can invoicing your customers be a marketing opportunity? I think so!

How does your small business serve your life?

Invoicing with love.

Invoices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ina Garten (aka “Barefoot Contessa” on Food Network) cooks with love.

I have cooked her recipes dozens of times, making sure to follow them perfectly, and mine never taste nearly as good as when my mother makes them.  

My mother cooks with love too.

But the love I don’t bring to cooking, I do bring to other things.

I love untangling a problem. I love SEO and Google Analytics.

Heck, I’d even say I love preparing invoices. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I “send customer invoices with love.”

I love when I see people take pride in life’s little tasks.

 After I email a customer their invoice, I also send them one by snail-mail.

I make sure a (pretty) postage sits nice and straight in the corner of the envelope.

In fact, since the post office will deliver an envelope with a crooked stamp, the only reason I put a postage stamp on straight is, well, pride.

When I “invoice with love” I write a handwritten note thanking each customer, and include a postage-paid envelope, so customers don’t have to find a stamp.

I also enclose a little treat:  a magnet that’s personalized with important phone numbers from the customer’s town.

Including the personalized magnet also provides some weight to the envelope.  Customers open my invoice more quickly because they’re curious about why it’s so heavy.  I guess it’s not a stretch to say that “invoicing with love” actually improves my cash flow.

A treat inside an invoice!  I’ve never got one, have you?

If you have no idea how your invoices look to your customers because someone else prepares them, then take a peek this week.  

How do your invoices make you feel about your company?  These tiny customer touch points add up to what the big-wigs call “branding.”  

They say, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

What tiny thing do you do with love?

 ***

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Popular posts:

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Mrs. Tyler

I love to talk shop so much that I can’t help but peek behind the scenes when I travel.  

 

Every summer when my kids were young, we went to Tyler Place – a magical spot that feels more “camp” than “resort.”  

 

But make no mistake, there is nothing campy about the food at Tyler Place. This vacation consistently draws persnickety palettes back year after year for its gourmet, farm-to-table menu.   

 

And there’s a 3-year wait for a reservation at Tyler Place because a family has to “drop out” before a new family can take their place. And, well, families rarely drop out. They come back year after year and even return with their grandkids.

 

By the time I got the call that we’d been “accepted,” it felt more like being admitted to Harvard than just handing over a credit card to pay for a week-long vacation. 

 

The Tylers are certainly doing something right!

 

What’s also distinctive about Tyler Place is that the Tylers themselves mingle, run activities, and eat with the guests. 

 

Everywhere guests look, there’s a Tyler.

 

“What percentage of the hash browns do you think should be crunchy?” One of the Tylers asked me one morning in the line for breakfast. 

 

I had never thought about the ideal ratio of crunchy-to-mushy hashbrowns, but he sure had.   

 

And it turned Mr. Tyler was there in line with me to inspect the breakfast potatoes, which he felt should be “65%-brown-and-crisp to 35% white and mushy.” 

 

As a business owner, I understood that having the Tylers roaming amongst paying guests was a way to quality-control the operation.   And I appreciated that they cared enough to stay engaged.

 

It certainly would’ve be easier for them to hire out the day to day management of the resort and “stay out of the weeds.”  But I’m not sure they’d have a 3-year waiting list if they didn’t obsess about the crunchy-to-mushy ratio of the hashbrowns.

 

In my business, I’m Mrs. Tyler.

I have all kinds of standards that need enforcing – all of which are as fastidious as Mr. Tyler’s hash brown ratios – but I can only do this if I’m connected, engaged, and there.

 

Mrs. Tyler wants her presence known. She’s watching, overhearing, and connected.

 

The mice don’t play when Mrs. Tyler’s around!

 

 

Dozens of colorful bikes on bike racks at Tyler Place

Bikes are the only way to get around at Tyler Place!

SEO for Rookies – Day #4 – “But I have no photos!”

Large corporations with huge budgets have the exact same problem as you do – a lack of original photos for their websites.  

Luckily there’s are effortless ways to find photos for your website if you know a few tricks.

If you’re writing needs a photo for embellishment or to make what you’re writing stronger, simply ask your SEO agency to use stock photos for you.  

Most agencies have a subscription to Canva or Shutterstock. Shutterstock offers weirdly specific images and you can often find a photo that looks like you have a professional photographer on staff.

And if you do your writing without an SEO agency’s help, you can get free stock photos via the free version of the app Canva. Booyah!

How precise will the photo be if it’s a stock photo?  

Let’s do a search on Canva.com and see what comes up:

Infographic showing the search page of Canva with the search of "baby in a monkey hat" and two babies that meet that search criteria.
Infographic showing the seach of "woman painting yellow wall" and 4 photos that meet that search criteria.

You’re able to search Shutterstock without a membership. Once you find an image you like, note the photo’s number.

Shutterstock photo of paint can spilling paint into a paint tray with a watermark of "Shutterstock" over the photo

“Good enough” photos are just fine!

Most of us have a professional camera built into our smartphones.

And since most readers want authentic photos from a small or local business, readers are very forgiving if the pictures you have are less than perfect. 

If you need a photo of a person, consider using “Portrait Mode” to blur the background. 

Portrait Mode is so exceptional that some runway models are now taking their own headshots using this setting and skipping professional photographers altogether.

If your business is part of a franchise or other business co-op:

My painting company is part of the CertaPro Franchise, so I simply screenshot their website images and upload them to my own site. You cannot do this if you don’t ask permission, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

People read photo captions:

Make sure you’re adding captions to your photos because often, people won’t read any of the words, except for the captions. 

Don’t forget to add “Alt Text:”

This sounds like you’d need to know coding to add this, but Alt-Text is simply a description of the photo for someone who has trouble seeing.

Graphic image showing a screenshot of an Alt Text page with a rollercoaster image.

It’s “not that bad” to publish a post without a photo!

If you can’t find a photo you like, simply publish the article without a photo. You’ll still get Google credit, and you can always go back in and add an image later on.

Most importantly: Understand that posting without a photo is infinitely better than not posting on your website at all!

If photos are holding you back from publishing to your small business website, don’t let this stop you. Publish posts with less-than-ideal photos or with none at all.

This is the fourth post in my series “Simplifying SEO for Small Businesses.”

Previous posts in this series are here.

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SEO for Rookies Day #3 – “I can’t / won’t / hate to write.”

This post is the 3rd post in my series on “Simplifying SEO for Small Businesses.


SEO writing isn’t the same kind of writing you learned in high school.

In fact, you don’t even have to write in complete sentences, bullet points are just fine!

And nothing about the writing you give to your SEO agency needs to be elegant or grand.  

Your SEO agency simply needs a bulleted list of stuff you know that someone outside your industry might not know.  

For example, I love to do laundry, so here’s a bulleted list I could give my SEO agency for a blog post that they could write for me:

  • Use only 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent in the washer. Anything more will leave soap on your clothes. I use any liquid detergent that’s on sale.
  • Use 3 tablespoons of cheap white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. This will soften your clothes and get any extra soap out of them.
  • Use warm water, even for colors.
  • Use a short cycle (like 30 minutes), so your clothes aren’t mangled in the washer.

Notice how the above bullets about laundry:

1. Reflect the point of view of someone who LOVES laundry.

2. Introduce unique terms that a true laundry lover would know. For example, I bet you’ve never heard of Sodium Percarbonate!

3. Gives your SEO agency a lot of great information to use that may not already be available on the World Wide Web.

Laundry supplies including white towels, clothes pins etc.

The SEO writer at your agency can now take this “insider-laundry-content” and write a nice 300-400 word post for me.  

See?

“But, I REALLY can’t write/hate to write/won’t write.”

If you know you’re simply not going the write stuff for your website, here are a few options:

  • Have your salespeople who are close to your customers and know their questions, write some bullet points. Answer questions that customers most often ask them with nuanced insider information that’s not widely available on the web already.
  • Ask your staff – someone you employ has to likes writing. Make them in charge of “collecting bullet points” for you.
  • Hire your kids – they’ve heard you talk incessantly at the dinner table about the pitfalls and upsides of your business – put their knowledge to good use. Just be sure that they talk with your staff and really dive into the subtleties of the subject matter.

Remember, Google is easier to please than your high school English teacher.

Google rewards the following types of things with higher search placement:

  • “Industry insider” information that only someone grinding in the day-to-day of your business would know.
  • Bullet points and even incomplete sentences that are skimmable to reader. (See what I did there? That’s an incomplete sentence!)
  1. A different point of view that’s not widely available already on the internet.

Here’s a template that’ll help you easily write SEO content.


My next post in this series: Simplifying SEO for small businesses, will focus on the problem that plagues businesses large and small:

“But I have no photos of my own for my website!”

You just read Day #3 in my series: “Simplifying SEO for small businesses.”

Day #1 is here.

Day #2 is here.

Day #4 is here.

To get all the posts in this series as they’re released, subscribe here.

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