The following is a guest post by Devin Morrissey. Devin writes in his garage and examines car parts in his office. He aspires to be an eternal student, writing wherever the web takes him.
In the past, small- and medium-sized businesses depended largely on word-of-mouth marketing to attract customers and maintain a good reputation. In the age of the internet, this is no longer the case. Although word-of-mouth remains crucial to the success of some businesses, the channels people have to voice their feelings about a business are now much more wide-reaching than ever before. Customer reviews become an important part of buying decisions.
Today, a customer’s bad experience can often be accompanied by a negative Google or Yelp review, resulting in a drop in your business’ overall rating. Although there is a lot of information on the internet that is ignored because people assume it’s just noise, this is not the case for internet reviews.
According to a 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey, 84 percent of people who read reviews trust them as much as they would trust a recommendation from a close friend. Positive reviews are likely to encourage customers to try your businesses, but negative ones will keep them from ever going in.
As a business owner, it’s crucial to attempt to mitigate these reviews in order to prevent them from hurting your business. By encouraging positive reviews from satisfied customers and doing what you can to make up for the negative ones, you can help control your standing with customers. This can be done by listening closely to reviews, responding when you get positive feedback, and looking closely into problems when something goes wrong.
Following these steps can help you keep existing customers and attract new ones as well. However, customer retention is key, as profit loss is greater when losing customers than when simply experiencing a slower customer attraction rate. Therefore, companies that respond thoughtfully and genuinely to customer feedback are likely to be perceived in a more positive light than businesses that ignore it.
In order to attract and retain customers, it helps to understand how they come to make purchases. No matter what they’re looking for, all consumers take similar steps to decide what services or products will be best suited for what they need. This is known as the consumer decision-making process; as a small business owner, it’s important to review and recognize these steps to make an impact with your customers.
The first step in the consumer decision-making process is problem recognition — when the customer realizes that they are in need or want of a new product or service. This realization can be caused by internal stimuli, such as hunger, thirst, or the need to change something about their lifestyle that may require a purchase.
External stimuli, typically advertising or word-of-mouth marketing, also plays a major role. With good advertising towards the correct audience, a customer may feel a strong impulse to make a purchase that they feel will bring something positive into their life. When the consumer recognizes what it is they want, they’ll begin to look for information that will lead them to attain this and make their purchase.
After a consumer decides they want something, they’ll begin to gather information about that product or service to learn more about it and see what the best options are. To learn about the product, customers rely on the information available to them, such as the opinions of friends and family and reviews they can find on the internet. They will also rely on their associations with various brands and products, which is why it’s crucial for a business to have a positive brand image.
During the information stage of the consumer decision-making process, the consumer may browse online stores or go to a brick-and-mortar location to see the products or speak with someone about what they can offer. As a business, it’s important to provide potential customers with the information they want in order to encourage their purchase. For those with online stores, this is where content marketing may be a helpful resource; you have the opportunity to provide potential customers with the information of your choosing about various products and establish yourself as an expert in your niche.
No matter how great your product looks, most customers will continue to investigate their purchase by comparing alternatives to get a broader view of their options. At this stage, the consumers have developed their criteria for their purchase and are weighing their choices to avoid regretting a hasty decision.
The main criteria that people use to weigh their options are pricing, added benefits, customer reviews, whether the product is available (or how long it may take to arrive), and personal style options. When marketing your products, you should be addressing why your materials are the better option. If your products are more expensive than your competitors, talk about your business’ use of high-quality materials or ethical business practices. Consider offering fast shipping so your customers know they’ll receive their product from you first.
This is usually the point when the consumer actually makes their decision and follows through on the purchase. At this point, they have all the facts they need, including the feedback of customers who made the same purchase, to guide them to the finish line.
Although there are many factors that contribute to a customer’s final decision, the business that has made the most compelling argument for their product will be the one that gets the sale. Through this process, it’s important to give these customers all the information they need to make an educated decision; otherwise, you may end up with an unhappy customer that could leave negative feedback and dissuade others from purchasing your products in the future.
After the purchase, your job as a small business owner is far from over. As mentioned above, retaining customers is more important than attracting them. Therefore, you should have a process for following up with your customers to ensure they had a positive experience with your business and product. You can do this with follow-up emails that ask the customer to rate the product or business, by offering discount coupons to encourage the customer to shop with you again, or by using newsletters to apprise the customer of what else you have to offer.
In order to keep customers happy, you’ll want them to know you care about their experience If they leave a negative review, you’ll need to follow up to find out what the negative part of the experience was. Once you know, you can change whatever you need to ensure it doesn’t happen to future customers, and offer the customer a discount or other services to help improve their overall experience with your business.
Social Media KPIs
When performing close listening on the internet, there can often be a lot of information to sort through before you really hear what your customers are saying. As a business, social media key performance indicators (KPIs) are important to measure to see how effectively you’re achieving your key business objectives.
These measurable values can help you evaluate your success rate at trying to reach customers through various social media efforts, which can help you determine which method is working best for you. KPIs can also help you analyze data to determine a customer’s level of satisfaction with your business based on their reviews.
When considering methods for attracting new customers, it’s important to pay attention to which social media channel is producing the greatest engagement and attracting the most visits to your page. This type of information carries a lot of value, as it can show you where to invest more time and money in order to gain more leads from these sources.
Especially when the price to invest in social media engagement can be so high, tracking customer acquisition and conversion rates will help make sure that the money you’re putting money into advertising will have a high return on investment. Although monitoring your engagement and reach on social media can help make your business look good, KPIs give you the real picture of how your customers see you on social media. Using this data, you’ll have a better idea of how to improve your image.
Social media KPIs can also help you gauge your cost per lead, as well as your ROI. Although retaining customers is crucial to managing a successful business, new customers and the revenue you’re making are the basic ingredients of your business. As you evaluate the effectiveness of your social media campaigns, it’s important to look at how many customers you’re drawing in and how much money you’re making throughout this process.
Predictive analytics can help small business owners use data to predict marketing results and make informed decisions for future marketing strategies.
Data Mining of Social Media Interaction
Data mining involves the extraction of information from a large source in order to attain something as valuable as gold for small businesses. By obtaining big data from social media user content in order to find patterns, businesses are able to act on the information and find better ways to advertise and conduct research. This can help businesses determine why customer satisfaction is at the levels it is and find ways to improve it and their image at the same time.
Content Marketing Strategy Analysis & Execution
Small business can use predictive analytics to boost marketing and to improve the effectiveness of their content marketing. However, as useful as this information is, not enough businesses take advantage of its full potential.
Close listening can help businesses recognize the needs of their customers and address the issues that are brought up in negative customer reviews. By listening and being proactive about solving customer issues, businesses can improve their internet reviews and overall public image before it becomes a problem. In the age of the internet, this is crucial to the survival and success of small business everywhere.