How to Turn Your Negative Customer Reviews into Opportunities

No small business owner wants to receive a negative review. The truth is, if you’re in business, it’s impossible to please 100 percent of the buying public, no matter how hard you try. The most damage occurs when negative reviews are not balanced by positive responses. According to Trustpilot, shoppers are 67 percent more likely to buy after reading negative reviews as compared to the average shopper, but this only works if you have a strategy to deal with the problem. In other words, properly handled negative reviews represent an opportunity to increase sales.

Here are some tips to turn your negative reviews to your advantage:

Respond:

A complaint needs a response. Answering a negative review can actually build consumer confidence, because it indicates your willingness to make things right. However, not all responses are equally effective – they must be timely, personalized and solve the problem. Your quick, polite response tells shoppers you are keenly interested about your reputation and are therefore likely to take complaints seriously. Your reactions will be situational, but the generous use of refunds, exchanges and credits should be a core policy. In the case of service-oriented businesses, offering to do the job over again for free will likely make a positive impression on shoppers.

Use tools:

Complaints can pop up anywhere. To stay informed, utilize social media management tools that send you alerts whenever your product or service is mentioned online. Awareness is the first step toward remediation, and app such as SparksFly consolidate social media feeds using artificial intelligence, allowing you to scan for mentions of your brand(s). You can then post an online response, even as you follow up privately with the customer. Your goal is to leave no negative comment unanswered.

Project a consistent personality:

Readers are sensitive to the tenor of your response. It should be factual, cheerful, honest and sincere. Never put the blame entirely on customers, even if it’s their fault. There is a polite way to inform customers about any misinformation they spread without putting them on the defensive. For example, you might point to product instructions to correct inaccuracies, but also apologize for instructions that confused the consumer and promise to clarify them. Never get into a negative dialog, even when you know you’re right, because it will turn off shoppers.

Publish positive reviews:

We shouldn’t have to say this, but never make up positive reviews – it could be construed as deceptive advertising. If you are doing a good job, you’ll receive plenty of positive comments. Use social media outlets to publicize these, and don’t be afraid to post paid search engine ads highlighting them. Forums are a natural destination to post positive comments, as long as you are transparent about their source and context. Invite your customers to post reviews on your website and on social media channels.

Place your company page on major online review sites:

You can post pictures of your products, store, employees who provide services, and so forth. Add directions, hours of operation and current promotions to help foster consumer interest.

Keep your chin up:

Occasionally, you’ll encounter a sourpuss who is impossible to please. Have faith that shoppers will suss out irrational reviews, especially if your responses are reasonable. Many small-business owners are perfectionists, but quickly learn that some situations are beyond their control. When you get a negative review, take all the right steps and then move on. Have faith in your abilities and your brand’s value, while remaining open to making improvements whenever necessary.

Tips to Capture Customer Reviews After Each Sale

Today’s customers don’t like to spend their money without researching their purchases first. While some people prefer to ask their family members and friends, a majority trust reviews from other consumers when making their purchasing decisions. In fact, 9 out of 10 people will read reviews to help them decide to visit a business or not!

What does this mean for business owners? That if you don’t have positive online reviews for your overall company (think Yelp) or for individual products or services (think Amazon product reviews), you are losing out on potential sales! Read on to find out to how capture customer reviews after each sale.

Make it Easy for Them

Most people are always on the go – at work or balancing personal responsibilities, so leaving a review is likely last on their minds. However, a lot of them may be more inclined to take a minute to do so if the process is made extremely easy for them.

Visiting a website, searching for a product and then reviewing it is a lengthy process; however, having a link to be able to leave a review right at your fingertips can make all the difference.


Implementing a customer relationship management system (CRM) can allow you to store your customers’ shopping history and their contact information, emailing them a link to review the individual purchase they made.

Stress the Importance of Their Feedback

People feel good about doing things that matter and can potentially help others. Business owners can utilize this to their benefit by stressing the importance of their customers’ feedback to the business and other clients.

Email a client after they have completed a purchase stating that your company is always looking for ways to improve your products and services, and you can’t do it without input from your customers. Additionally, use the same strategy to encourage shoppers to leave reviews to let others know about their experiences.

Reward Them

What can get people to leave a review when they are busy or simply don’t want to? A reward! There are many different ways to incentivize your customers, such as:

  • Discounts
  • Coupons
  • Invitations to exclusive shopping events
  • Gift certificates

Use Caution

A word of caution is that while trying to capture client reviews can grow your business, you need to be cautious when doing so. Some companies penalize business owners for soliciting reviews. Yelp goes so far as to prevent business owners from paying for “good” reviews by alerting Yelp users with a banner on the company’s Yelp profile if this activity is suspected.

Google and TripAdvisor prohibit review incentivization; TripAdvisor will flag an account with a red badge if its owner is suspected of paying people for reviews.

The bottom line is that you are free to ask and reward people for reviews on your own website, but should take caution when doing so on other websites.

For monetary help in setting up a review system or to offer incentives to clients, turn to IOU Financial! We offer small business loans of up to $300,000 in under 48 hours.

How to Tell if You Need a Website Redesign

Your website is the very first thing your visitors see, and it largely determines if your customers will stay on the site and make a purchase, or decide to leave. Keeping your website relevant and implementing the latest technological advances to make sure it’s innovative is an important investment in your online presence. There are clear signs that can help you tell if you need a website redesign, such as:

High Bounce Rate

The goal of any site is to retain the visitors’ attention, have them browse around and ultimately make a purchase. A bounce rate determines how many people click on a certain page of your site and leave right away to another site. Installing website analytics can provide you with this information; if you find that your bounce rate is high, you should consider making changes to your site. In fact, one source found that 94% of online users base their shopping and trust patterns based on the site’s design.

Site Not Optimized for Various Browsers and Devices

Unless you are a website designer, you are likely not aware that there is no standard one-size-fits-all website design. Your website may look different when it’s accessed from a computer, a tablet or a phone. Additionally, the screen size and browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Apple’s Safari, can affect how your visitors see your site.

Verifying that your website has cross-browser compatibility can be time consuming if you go through them one by one, as there are currently over 300; however, there are tools that can provide this information for you. Browser testing tools, such as Ghostlab and BrowserStack, can bring to your attention the issues you need to address.

Not Ranking High on Search Engines

Although a small portion of your visitors may come to your website directly, a large majority would only find it based on search engine results. To verify how your customers find you, check the referral sources which bring traffic to your site.

You should be getting significant traffic from search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. If not, you need to incorporate more Search Engine Optimization (SEO) into your content. This includes high-ranking keywords into the content, optimized images,videos and links to pages within your site.

Website Not Easily Navigable

A website that is easy to navigate is imperative for low bounce rates and efficient usability. Some websites have so much content, graphics and links that it leaves visitors confused about where they should click or how to move between pages.

Your site should be simple, not crowded and include top and sidebar navigation menus that won’t require guesswork to get the person to where they need to be.

 

Redesigning your website can be a costly expense; plus, this is not a one time solution, but a process, as sites need to be maintained and improved on a regular basis. To help you afford this cost, IOU Financial can provide a business loan is at little as 48 hours. Contact us to learn more today!

Creative Ways to Attract Local Customers to Your Small Business

Nothing is more disheartening to owners than an empty store, a phone that doesn’t ring, or a website with few visitors. You know you could make sales if only more customers would visit. Well, don’t sulk, get creative. Here are a few ways to draw in more customers:

Signage:

A sandwich chalkboard in front of your store can be a great attention getter. It’s ephemeral nature (you redo it every day) makes it timely, and when you use it to advertise one-day specials, you can expect to attract more customers. Restaurants use this technique all the time, but your retail store can easily adopt it. If the weather is bad, stick a banner in your window instead.

Flash sale:

An intra-day sale can generate excitement if it’s generous – for example, a two-for-one sale or 40 percent off from, say, 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Pick a time when the weather forecast is good. Publicize the flash sale on social media, through emails, text messages, etc. And as mentioned above, list it on you sandwich chalkboard.

Free food:

Nothing packs them in like free food and refreshments. If your store happens to sell snacks, you can use your own inventory for the promotion. Or you can do a cross-promotion with your neighborhood bakery or coffee house. It doesn’t have to be fancy, because the great masses just can’t turn down free food. Hot coffee on a cold day, lemonade on a hot one, Danish on any day – customers and potential customers will enjoy your generosity and might be more willing to buy something from you.

Mobile push:

Double down on your mobile market apps (you use these, don’t you?) to push messages to consumers in the neighborhood who might want to drop into your store while out and about. The message can include a promo code for a special discount or free gift.

Entertain the kids:

A great way to gain the loyalty of local parents is to offer free, supervised entertainment to young kids so that mom or dad can do a little quality shopping. The area can have games, books, a play table, even a balloon-blowing clown. If you run a country store, how about setting up a small petting zoo – you might even be able to charge entry. Make sure you use trustworthy, preferably bonded, employees to mind the kids, and keep your liability insurance up to date. Offer special discounts to parents who bring in their children, that should really heat up sales.

Loyalty:

Many stores have adopted loyalty programs – have you? There are many off-the-shelf programs you can adopt, and the cost is usually low relative to the bump in sales. On a slow day, your flash sale might be triple points for a few hours.

Contests:

We all love to win. Thrill your customers by having daily raffles and contests. For instance, if you are a florist, elicit poems for specific purposes, such as get well or anniversaries. The best poem gets a discount coupon for future use. You can tie this into your email lists (after all, you have to notify winners), which is marketing gold that pays off many times the costs of the contests.

Revamp your website:

If your website has gone a little stale, it’s time to refresh it. There are many techniques to increase website traffic, including fresh and frequent blogging. If you don’t have time to write new content yourself, hire a good freelance writer and flood the zone with interesting stories.

We’ve listed a few good ideas, but there are plenty more out there – use your imagination and, with any luck, you’ll be swarming with new customers before you know it. If you need additional working capital to put these ideas in action, reach out to one of our Loan Officers to see if a business loan is right for your company.

Biggest Trends in Marketing for the Summer

When it comes to marketing, if you’re wondering how to make the most of the summer season, check out the following trends:

Chatbots:

Technology is neutral. Whether it’s used for good or evil is up to the user. Chatbots were notorious for planting fake news stories that sought to affect last year’s election. However, chatbots can be used for more benign purposes, such as spreading your marketing message via Facebook Pages and other venues. Bots allow for your brand to converse with prospects without the need for a human. The tech is still fairly new, but the potential is huge.

Live streaming video:

YouTube is no longer the only game in town. Instagram, Periscope and Facebook Live are all challenging YouTube as purveyors of live video content. Your brand can create and share live content at any time and from any location. It’s especially useful when you want to interact with a live audience. Check this link for best practices.

Evaporating content:

Snapchat and Instagram are the biggest names in expiring social content, but Facebook Stories is a new product that allows videos and photos to evaporate after 24 hours. This is an excellent mechanism for building excitement with fresh content.

Social traffic:

The holy grail of social traffic is getting it for free – organic traffic. This is becoming increasingly unrealistic, as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook algorithms become pickier about which content gets the most exposure. To play in this game, you certainly need terrific content, but you also might have to cough up some money (pay to play).

Augmented reality:

AR is hot. Snapchat has attracted competition from Facebook Live with new AR components, such as masks and lenses. AR changes your phone’s camera into a sensory input device as new apps proliferate. The marketing implications are limited only by your imagination.

Mergers:

It’s a good idea to stay on top of the latest social media mergers, because they may affect platforms you currently use for marketing. Recent mergers have seen Facebook gobbling up Oculus Rift, Instagram and WhatsApp, Twitter acquiring Periscope and Microsoft grabbing LinkedIn for $27 billion.

Personalization:

The trend is toward highly personalized and targeted content. For example, Facebook is developing sophisticated ad target options that address a marketer’s particular needs.

Big data:

Though big data has been with us for some time, its continually becoming more powerful and comprehensive. Demographic data helps marketers identify and understand the types of customers they attract. Psychographic data gives further insights into the motivations of actual and potential customers – an area of research pushed by Facebook. Attitudinal data describes how folks feel about your products, and behavioral data (or sociographics) is used to analyze online behavior across the web. This infographic neatly summarizes big data’s current state of play.

Social influencers:

Marketing campaigns tied to social content creators are achieving almost universal acceptance. One study found that 84 percent of marketers are planning one or more influencer campaigns in the next year. This is often a cost-effective way to extend your brand’s reach.

Clearly, the worlds of marketing and technology are intertwined in a growing number of ways. We encourage you to spend some time learning about these and other innovative developments – you can bet your competitors are. Need additional funding for marketing purposes? IOU Financial offers loans up to $300,000. Contact us today for more information.

Why Your Accountant (CPA) or Capital Adviser Should Work with an Online Lender to Help your Business Access Capital

As a small business owner, you may have witnessed how much harder it has become for you to access capital in the form of small non-collateral loans. After your bank says no, you may be looking for help to identify a competitive and disciplined online business lender that you can get funding from.

The banks have completely exited the “lending small” space as regulation has made it unprofitable and has forced them to seek higher loan amounts they can underwrite for a profit.  The government response to the credit crisis, essentially Dodd-Frank, has tightened reserve requirements on banks and added new layers of regulation over U.S. financial firms.

For all the good that Dodd-Frank did to protect consumers, it also facilitated the demise of thousands of small banks. In 1984, the U.S. had 14,400 banks, but that number shrank to 5,083 by 2016. Most of the lost banks were small, and many had to merge with bigger competitors. The result is that it is harder for your small business to get modest loans of up to $300,000, because many banks nowadays focus on larger and more profitable business loans above $500,000 – high overhead costs tied to regulatory costs, limited human resources, make small loans unprofitable for most banks.

Despite, or rather because of, the retrenchment in conventional business lending since 2008, online business lenders have been trying to fill the void. And many CPAs and tax advisers should be able to help, and even be excited to save you time in looking for a small non-collateral loan that works for your small business.

 Think of it from their point of view:

  • The loan application and documentation burden imposed by conventional banks requires a fair amount of work. Financial statements, projections, multiple year tax returns, and the myriad other forms that banks require to underwrite a business loan can consume a lot of a CPA’s time and energy.
  • By contrast, your CPA or capital adviser can help you apply for an online loan quickly and with minimum effort. All that is really needed is a minimum of 3 months’ worth of your business bank statements (easily downloaded from most banks), most recent tax returns, a copy of your driver’s license and a voided check. None of the audited financials, or fancy business plans so precious to banks are needed by IOU Financial. If you mention to your accountant a need for short term working capital, all s/he has to screen for is monthly bank deposits of at least $10,000, an average daily bank account balance of $3,000, 10 or more deposits per month, and 80% ownership in the business with at least one year in operation.
  • Banks have high loan-rejection rates, due to constraints placed on them by regulations, unprofitable nature of smaller loans, timid loan committees and over-reliance on credit scores. Online business loans, like those offered by IOU Financial, sidestep these problems because they welcome smaller loans and value cash flows as much as credit scores. In other words, online lenders don’t waste your CPA’s or their clients’ time… your time.
  • Speaking of time, online lenders can approve a loan request in a few hours and fund the borrower within 24 hours. A CPA or capital adviser who is helping a business owner respond to rapidly shifting cash flows knows that waiting weeks for a bank to decide a loan is completely unresponsive to the business’ needs.
  • Bank loans don’t tend to be flexible, but your CPA knows that a small business relies on flexible funding to survive and prosper. IOU Financial allows a borrower to re-borrow once 40 percent of the original loan is repaid.
  • CPAs are paid, among other reasons, to keep a sharp eye on expenses. They are therefore gratified to learn that IOU Financial loans costs much less than merchant cash advances.
  • CPAs help owners manage cash flow so that the business never gets caught short. The fixed, daily or weekly, automatic repayments of IOU Financial loans means that cash outflow is spread equally over the month instead of accumulating into a large monthly payback that can weaken the business’ cash reserves. Budgeting is easier and impact upon inventory purchasing is minimal.
  • Your CPA can work with IOU Financial to ensure the request loan does not put unnecessary strain on the business cash-flow. Sometimes, borrowing less is a good idea as it gives time to the business owner to work through debt repayment and get used to the loan; your CPA and IOU Financial can work together to find the right loan for your business.

Unless owners have special skills and plenty of time on their hands to deal with fastidious bank loan procedures, a business’ accounting and tax prep are best left to professionals like CPAs. Don’t make them bill you for the extra hours it takes to get a bank loan. Save money through a business loan of up to $300,000 from IOU Financial.

Ask your CPA or Capital Adviser to give us a call and will be happy to answer questions and make sure our capital can help your business grow. Call Christophe Choquart at  678 809 6685 to discuss how an IOU Financial loan may be right for your business.