Archives for November 2009

To Discount or Not To Discount

The burning question in every business owner’s mind this time of year is should I discount and if so when and how much. Under normal economic conditions a good argument can be made for both sides of this discussion. But in tough times like we we face now it’s harder to argue for the side of holding that line. It nearly acknowledges that you are out of touch with consumers.

Because in an extraordinary time like this we are actually resetting prices. Yes, we will be able to raise them again some day, but in my opinion right now we have to pay close attention to what the market can bear. Just look at how WalMart is dominating the early holiday shopping ads with their heartfelt plea to offer low prices.

Face it, if you sell low priced units you are selling less of them or discounting and taking less profit. But most of our clients sell big ticket units and a large majority of you sell leisure and/or vacation oriented units. The plain truth is that consumers who could marginally afford what you offered in the past are “off the list” now. Many who could afford you are now marginal. Yet, still a small percentage are actually doing ok and are able to seize good opportunities to buy cars, homes and leisure time at will when the perceived value is “too good to pass up.” With all of this in mind, you need to spend some time being creative.

What can you offer that is different from the crowd. Right now, it seems like it takes something equal to at least 30% off of your full price. This is not a time to just pay the concept of “discount” momentary lip service and move on. Obviously, the more margin you had to start with the chance you have to still make a reasonable profit. But you also need to look at what a creative discount promotion can do in the long run; create new customers you might never have had.

If you “steal” a long time customer from the competitor down the street through a creative deal that gets people excited and then end up delivering a better product than they got at the other place you sow the seeds for a growing customer base of the future. While out of the scope of our day to day work we do for our clients, we have been marketers since the dawn of time and would be happy to be your sounding board on creative ideas and help you steer through these turbulent times successfully.

How To Use Google Alerts to Monitor Your Business

Google Alerts www.google.com/alerts is an essential tool for business owners that want to monitor their brand, business name, and ultimately their reputation online. With a few quick entries you will be notified via email every time Google discovers the topic of your Alert.

Here is the syntax that I recommend you set up for your Alerts.

Your exact business name in parenthesis – “business name here”

Your domain is mentioned – yourdomain.com

Your website gets indexed – site:yourdomain.com

When links point back to your site – link:yourdomain.com -site:yourdomain.com

This is not a great solution for larger business that receive a large volume of traffic on their brand. But for the normal small business, or individual it is a good advance warning system.

Netrafic clients – If you need help setting this up please feel free to contact us.

Is Your Website Standing On One Leg?

Link-a-Billy Dave Talks Sales

If your site has been dropping in the search engines for a search term that you have traditionally performed well for, read on…

There is no way to sugar-coat the message in this article; It is almost impossible for your website to be competitive anymore if you are not engaged in a link building campaign, and adding fresh content to your website.

There are hundreds of factors that the search engines use to determine the indexing position for a given search term. Some factors are minor, but two are major – Links and Content.

Links – Your sites link profile can be as much as 50% of the equation in ranking your website. For competitive search terms, you will not arrive on the front page if you do not have links that support your website for that search term. The top SEO practitioners recently created an SEO success map, there was 100% agreement that Linking is one of the top contributing factors to ranking success. There was also complete agreement that poor linking practices can kill a website. For more on link building please read What Are Links and In Link We Trust.

Netrafic Offers a Complete Link Building Strategy – Contact Us

Content – Your sites content profile can be as much as 50% of the equation in ranking your website. The search engines will no longer consider a few pages of content on a subject to be authoritative for highly competitive search terms. In addition, content freshness is being given additional weight today. If makes sense that a top website on a given subject should have a wealth of topical content and new information would be added on a regular basis. Content is primarily text. Graphics, Media, and Flash are also minor considerations, but there is no replacement for text. An important note – text built anywhere other than on your websites primary domain does not count. Its not worthless, but it does not count toward building your site as far as the search engines are concerned.

Netrafic Offers Content Building Strategies – Contact Us

The above assumes that your website design is already search engine friendly, and some other key elements are in place. It is a generalization given the complexity and competitive nature of the search results race. Here is what you need to take away from this article – even if you are perfect in one area (links or content) it is still possible to fail. You need the complete package. You can not count of your past success in the search engines to continue if you don’t get in the game.

How to Respond to Negative Online Business Reviews

Even if your organization is focusing on quality customer service, sooner or latter you are going to receive a “less than favorable” review on the web. What you do next is critical to your bottom line!

Online reviews aren’t really about “customer service.” They’re a part of the sales process. Consider this: A review’s purpose is to give potential new customers an idea of what to expect if they decide to do business with your company. Third-party party information and experiences can be very influential in the buyers decision making process. That’s exactly what a review is — third-party information. The likelihood that the negative reviewer will ever return to your business to spend money is low, so the purpose of any response is to mitigate the negative impact that review may have on potential new customers.

The first step is knowledge. You need to know when negative reviews are put up about your company. Don’t wait passively to discover the comment months or even years down the road. In the meantime, countless customers may be turned off and turned away by that review. Response time is key! You can easily monitor your brand name and website domain in real time using Google Alerts. Properly setup, Google will notify you in real time, any time your site or business name is used online. Read our article on Setting Up Google Alerts.

Now you need to determine if you can respond. Some sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp have a “Business Owner Response” gateway. Other sites like Google Maps do not provide a method to directly respond. The crew over at SEO Igloo has developed a list of site interaction options which you can find out about in their Respond to Reviews article.

Next you need to decide if intervention is necessary. Some reviews are too general or abstract to get involved in the response process. Non-specific comments should be ignored (in my opinion) for the most part. There may be a some nuggets of information that you can use as a business owner to improve your customers experience, for example if the same complaint keeps surfacing, but responding to generalizations is counterproductive.

If you find a specific complaint that is a good candidate for a response, remember to check your ego at the door. This is part of the sales process, so you need to think of that review as if it were any other sales objection or concern. Nothing has ever been sold by telling the potential prospect that they were “wrong or stupid,” even if that’s the truth. Instead you need to demonstrate that you care, and turn the review is a non-issue. Maybe even sprinkle some “sales pitch” into the response if you have a creative writer!

The “caring resolution” approach utilizes a time honored method to answering sales objections called the “Feel, Felt, Found” method. The twist is that I have added “Fixed” to the formula. Here is what the response structure looks like in practice:

FeelWe understand how you feel about this; product, service, treatment, quality, or price.

FeltIf any other customers have felt this way, please contact us directly and immediately.

FoundWe looked into your complaint and here is what we found out about our business.

FixedThanks for bringing this to our attention, this is how we Fixed it so that it never happens again.

Of course you will need to camouflage the words so your sales tactic is not obvious to the consumer. This approach has a strong psychological impact on potential clients as it completely dilutes the complaint. In addition, I have seen this method turn the original complainer into an advocate, getting them to update the review with a more positive slant. Always strive for a win-win solution.

On a final note, make sure to read the rules and terms of service for each particular review site. They all have unique engagement rules, and violating them could cause your response to not appear on the site. If you need help getting started, please contact us.