How to Leverage Customer Reviews to Grow Your Small Business

You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of customer reviews to support and expand your business. The vast majority of consumers read reviews before making a purchase and use social media to help them decide. Customers who take the time to write reviews want to see them posted and discussed. Moreover, prospective customers want to read reviews. Therefore, for better or worse, customer reviews are necessary if you want to sell your products or services.

It’s your challenge, and opportunity, to leverage customer reviews to the benefit of your business. Check out these tips on getting the most from customer reviews:

  • Make search results work for you.

    By increasing your online visibility, you can increase website traffic and exposure to customer reviews. You can use these reviews for SEO and search rank purposes, as well as showcase your excellent offerings.

  • Share positive reviews in your marketing efforts.

    Most consumers will have a better perception of your offerings when they are exposed to positive reviews. For example, if a customer gives you a great review on Yelp, feature it on Facebook and Twitter. There is no harm in bragging, especially when sourced from a happy customer.

  • Take negative reviews seriously.

    Don’t be defensive when you receive an unflattering review. Instead, respond to it by offering your assurance to address the issue. Then, do just that – use the review to improve your products and services. Reviews can reveal all sorts of problems, whether at your store or on your website. If multiple reviews identify the same problem, your top priority should be to fix it.

  • Good reviews can improve your profit margin.

    When you receive consistently good reviews, you’ll likely see an increased demand for your offerings. That should allow you to raise prices and beef up your profits.

  • Answer questions.

    If you have a small business, you probably have a manageable number of customers who have questions. In other words, you should take the time to answer all the questions you receive on your website and social media.

  • Use reviews to gather intelligence.

    You have competitors, right? It’s worth your time to monitor their reviews on sites they don’t control. It’s a great way to learn about their strengths and weaknesses. Use that information to adjust your own business to accentuate why you’re better than the competition.

  • Invite bloggers to review your offerings and then link to those reviews.

    When a popular, authoritative website links to yours, you gain some valuable link juice that gooses your SEO. Therefore, consider contacting well-known bloggers and influencers and ask them to review your business. See if you can suggest the link’s anchor text to extract maximum SEO value. You can encourage bloggers to review your business via an affiliate program in which you actively promote the products of affiliates.
    The affiliate program’s financial incentives can encourage bloggers to review your offerings.

  • Make your website review-friendly.

    That means asking visitors to leave reviews and making it easy for them to do so. Make reviews easy to find, whether on your website or on mobile devices. Don’t ignore valid bad reviews, as these make your business more trustworthy. Of course, always respond to the negative reviews in a positive, non-defensive way.

  • Seek reviews and comments through email campaigns.

    You should be building your customer email list all the time. Use that list to ask for a review whenever a customer makes a purchase.

As you can see, there are many actions you can take to get more value from customer reviews. It may take some extra work, but when leveraged properly, that additional work should pay for itself many times over and help you grow your business.

How to Increase Your Visitor-to-Lead Conversion Rate

Website traffic is an important metric that reflects the relevance, popularity, and engagement levels of your small business. More people on your site means that you’ve optimized your site very well with ample content and keyword implementation, technical specs, and other nuances that elevate your site’s ranking. It gives you a competitive edge, and it lets you connect with more people in your audience. Their presence is another representation of your standing, but it’s far from the only metric that you should keep an eye on when you’re growing your business.

Transforming that initial spark of curiosity into actual sign-ups and purchases is a whole other issue for small companies, seeking to improve their conversion rate and their customer loyalty. To turn your website visitors into genuine, qualified leads, buyers, and subscribers, you need a targeted strategy for your business. Here are a few steps to consider that can help you boost your CRO and make use of all that traffic on your site!

Implement site-wide CTAs

Website visitors want a sleek, simple, no-fuss experience every time they find themselves perusing your pages. However, some incentive is always a good idea, especially when you know how to effectively scatter call-to-action buttons that inspire them to subscribe or make a purchase. Your CTAs need to be simple, brief, but also clear so that your visitors will know what they should do next.

Your blog posts, your product descriptions, videos, images, all of your content on your site is an opportunity to place an effective CTA that will generate better leads. Use your FAQ page to link back to relevant pages, and post CTAs to entice people to decide with ease. Sometimes, a powerful CTA will do you more good than an entire blog post about the perks of your specific product range.

 

Use social proof to your advantage

Every small business owner knows that building credibility takes time and dedication, not to mention numerous strategies for effective marketing, branding, and communication with your audience. But leveraging your existing credibility is possible when you use tech to show your website visitors that they can trust you like so many others already do. This phenomenon is called social proof, and there are tools that serve to showcase social proof to your website visitors that also help convert more people into leads and buyers.

Small businesses can benefit from integrating a conversion rate optimization tool into their website so as to present social proof to each visitor in a simple, but effective way. The tool will generate notifications every time someone makes a purchase and let your browsing visitors know – this will, in turn, help them take the leap and buy from your business thanks to those brief social cues that others have done the same.

Publish customer reviews

Building trust is the key prerequisite for earning more leads, let alone more purchases and long-term loyalty. In addition to social proof and showing that others have successfully purchased from you, user-generated content is one of the most effective ways to showcase previous customers’ trust and inspire more people to feel comfortable trusting your brand. Wondering where to begin? Start with publishing up-to-date and relevant customer reviews on your site.

Yes, those on Google are also important for your SEO purposes, but make sure that your website visitors are greeted with a few words of encouragement from your previous customers, too. In addition to having a dedicated page for customer reviews, you can publish them right next to products they purchased for further trust-building, and play them on a reel on your homepage, too. Star ratings work well when combined with written reviews and testimonials, but you can also add video reviews from customers as well as influencers.

Rely on regular analytics

To nurture better leads, you need to understand where your tactics might be going wrong in the beginning. In addition to regular A/B testing of your landing pages, you should also keep tracking engagement rates and conversions across your website, too. With that kind of data at your disposal, you can spot the kind of CTAs, product descriptions, landing pages, and other content that have the most effect on your website visitors to actually engage with your brand.

This is the only way to notice if a certain page keeps “losing” visitors and sending them off your site because of too many distractions, a popup that’s annoying them, or a misleading invite to make a purchase. Measure and record the results of each of your campaigns, and keep an eye on the performance of every single part of your site. That will help you gain the necessary data to tweak the entire website for better lead conversion.

Conversion rate optimization is highly dependent on data and customer behavior, but also your own creativity and persistence when it comes to refining your approach over time. Customers change and their preferences change with them, so keeping up with their needs is a key piece of the puzzle. Plus, continuously monitoring industry trends is necessary for your small business to stay competitive since there will always be more eager businesses joining the playing field. Turn more website visitors into quality leads and buyers, and you’ll also improve your customer loyalty and your brand reputation over time.

Guest Post: About the Author

Sophia Smith is a lifestyle and social media blogger, and graphic and UX designer. She is an aesthete and photography lover by heart who absolutely loves everything that includes visual communication. Sophia is also very passionate about yoga and mindful living. Lately, she writes about digital marketing topics, from content to social. She has contributed to a number of publications including Women Love Tech, Leader Maker, Legal Reader, Businessing Mag, Ruby Connection, Cause Artist, and many others. You can find out more about her writing by following her on Twitter. 

Where Should You Spend Your Marketing Budget in 2020?

In general, small businesses allocate 7% to 12% of their gross revenues to marketing. This compares with the Small Business Administration’s suggestion of spending 7% to 8% on marketing. Of that amount, the total budgeted to digital marketing is expected to rise to 45% in 2020 compared to 42% in 2019. The biggest share of digital marketing expenditures will go to video marketing, and social media ads will account for 25% of the average digital marketing budget. Let’s dig a little deeper to see how you should spend your marketing dollars.

Calculating Your Marketing Budget

It’s not too hard, just follow these steps:

  1. Identify your gross revenue: This is revenue before any expenses, deductions, or allowances. If you are a new business or the market has changed, you can use estimated revenues.
  2. Determine your ideal marketing budget: If your company is younger than five years old, your budget should be in the 12% to 20% range. You need to spend a high amount to help establish name recognition. Older companies should budget between 6% and 12% unless you are establishing a new brand name.

For example, assume your business is a startup and you expect to gross $100,000 in the first year. With a budget between 12% and 20%, your marketing expenditures should range from $12,000 and $20,000.

On the other hand, let’s say your company is 10 years old and grosses $1 million annually. With a budget of 6% to 12%, you should expect to spend between $60,000 and $120,000 this year on marketing.

Allocating Your Budgeted Funds

To know how to allocate your 2020 marketing budget across online and offline channels, you should review what worked in 2019. To start, identify the 5 to 10 most successful 2019 marketing strategies in terms of leads and sales. Break down the information to categorize your previous-year marketing spending, including:

  • Branding
  • Email
  • Events
  • Public relations
  • Print ads
  • SEO
  • Social media
  • Training
  • Website

The quality of your marketing data will help determine how much value you can extract from this exercise. To the extent possible, you want to spend money on the strategies with the highest marketing return on investment (ROI).

Understand 2020 Digital Marketing Trends

As you ponder your marketing expenditures, consider these trends:

  1. More than 90% of customers claim to rely on influencers to help them decide on purchases. In other words, it makes sense to allocate money for influencer fees.
  2. You really can’t afford to ignore video because it gets results. You can create streaming or live video for a modest cost. Check your community resources for companies that can handle video for you.
  3. Sophistication is on the rise. Look for increased use of artificial intelligence, video search, and 5G networks.
  4. You can better convert website visitors to leads by making your site more interactive. Think about adding live chat, quizzes, games, and even virtual reality.
  5. Do you understand micro-moments? These are instances where folks reflexively utilize their device(s) to do, watch, discover, buy, or learn something. In a micro-moment, people are ready to decide and/or spend money. For you, this means helping visitors act on their micro-moment. You do this by providing value, including timely articles, links to valuable resources, tools, help desks, etc., on websites and apps.
  6. Be aware that smartphones may eclipse websites this year in terms of video-based advertising.
  7. Concentrate your marketing on social media sites most relevant to your potential customers, be it Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
  8. Never forget that content is king. That means you should allocate sufficient budget to pay for high-quality, authoritative, and timely articles employing SEO features to drive an organic presence in search results.

How IOU Financial Can Help

Frequently, a mismatch develops between revenue collection and marketing expenditures. In other words, you may need to borrow money to exercise a timely marketing strategy. IOU Financial can provide quick, hassle-free funding so that you can realize your marketing objectives on your timetable. Contact us today for more information.

How to Negotiate Rent on Commercial Spaces

When it comes to finding a lease there will be several things on your mind; location, size, affordability, and condition to name a few. But, when it comes to renting out commercial spaces the affordability factor becomes a much more important thing to consider. The fact of the matter is that you need to understand not only how much the rent is, but all of the other costs involved in running a commercial space as well. It can quickly mount up.

This is why, when it comes to a commercial lease, negotiation is a key factor and something you should consider doing. As, if successful, you can easily assure a much safer financial setting for yourself.

So, with that in mind, here are the key ways to ensure you get a good rate when negotiating rent for your commercial space:

What is a Commercial Rental Lease?

A commercial lease is a formal, legally binding, rental agreement between your business and a landlord. The commercial lease is something that allows you to use a space for business activity in return for money.

What is the Difference from a Private Lease?

When it comes to setting up a lease, there is a difference between a private tenant lease and one taken out by a company. The underlying foundation of both is fairly simple: the exchange of money for the use of a property for a set period of time. But, there tends to be much more flexibility and less government-enforced protections for a commercial tenancy. A business tenant is expected to take on much more responsibility and have a higher understanding, especially in comparison to first-time renters, for example.

For this reason, a commercial tenancy is more likely to be negotiable in terms of renting prices and terms. As it is more of a business arrangement than a regular residential lease is set out to be.

Things to Look Out For

Some of the biggest factors when it comes to commercial leases that are important to be aware of are the factors that can affect rent… or may mean financial payouts at a later date. This includes factors such as:

  • Rent Reviews – these can quickly raise the price of your rent and perhaps make the lease completely unaffordable. If you have a rent freeze clause for several years, it is important to know when the review is expected, as you can then determine your financial standing before the increase.
  • Underletting – sometimes a commercial lease doesn’t always work out. Not all businesses last beyond their first two years or so. It’s important to understand if you have options in case this happens. A good choice would be to underlet the space to a different company. But, beware–you are still liable even when you underlet!
  • Breaking the Lease – in some instances, ending a commercial lease early may be necessary. To protect your business you should always try to ensure there is a break clause that will allow you to break the lease early. This can save you financially, as otherwise you would be held liable for rent until the very end of the lease.

It is important to understand these terms and know the financial implications.

Tips for Negotiating your Commercial Rent

Once you understand the basics of a commercial lease, it is then a simple case of actually negotiating it. This can be quite a long process and you are not always guaranteed success. But, if you do manage to secure a reduced rate it can be incredibly beneficial to your long-term business finances.

  • Understand the costs and try to research the area. If the rent seems a little steep in comparison to the competition, then mention it – you may get a discounted rate to match the market!
  • Get a professional opinion. At the end of the day, you won’t find the best rate unless you involve a professional expert to advise on the issue.
  • Do not agree to pay legal fees for both parties, as the landlord should be able to cover their own costs.
  • Understand the extent of the reparation clause in your agreement and what this means for you from a monetary standpoint. Don’t immediately agree to fix everything at the end of your tenancy, as this could mean much more than you expect!
  • There may be some different ways that a landlord may wish to entice you to rent with them. So, ensure you ask about any potential inducements (it may not be money, but it could be a sweet deal).

When it comes to a commercial lease, assume everything is up for negotiation if you have certain needs or want something slightly different. As a tenant, the negotiation process is almost always in your favor so it’s a good position to be in. But, if you feel unsure or unable to negotiate, you can always get someone on your side to help/do it for you.

In these cases, you will end up paying for their expertise. So remember to weigh out their costs vs. the savings you are achieving to determine if it is worthwhile or not.

Final Thoughts

Overall, when you are starting or moving a business into its first official commercial space, it’s important to be aware of your position and how best to take advantage of it. Especially when negotiating your lease, as it could mean a great deal of savings/benefits for your small business.

Guest Post: About the Author

Natalie Wilson is a freelance writer for a number of different business publications. With a range of knowledge in the business and insurance sector, she is an avid researcher and writer in the commercial property valuation field. Natalie is now a freelance writer looking to specialize in the topic. You can connect with her on Twitter.