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    8 Key Questions All Small Business Owners Should Be Able to Answer Today

    Last updated 9 days ago

    Don't get eaten by the Sharks!

    If you had to prepare and go on Shark Tank, would you get the funding? If you are a watcher of the ABC show, you know it isn't easy, and Mr. Wonderful certainly would rip you a new you-know-what if you're not crystal clear on the specifics of your business.

    What specifics? Well you certainly better know your revenue numbers, where your customers come from and customer acquisition costs to name a few, or you could kiss any potential investment goodbye.

    So what if you're not pitching an investor or seeking private equity funding, but simply want to grow, thrive, add a new location, hire more staff, buy that new service truck, treat your spouse to a cruise, put your child through college? 

    Get familiar with data

    If you want to beat your local competitors and achieve the things you dream about, you have to start thinking strategically, and when it comes to boosting customer acquisition, you have to get familiar with your business data and Life Cycle Marketing.

    What does Life Cycle Marketing even mean?

    It's essentially your ability to turn consumers into customers across all stages of the buying funnel and keep tighter control of the process. We've simplified the consumer buying journey into 3 simple stages:

     

    (click to enlarge image)

    >>Be sure to download How Consumers Buy Today: Harnessing the Buying Journey to Get More Customers<<

    It's 2014...good technology is not just for the big guys anymore

    The first thing you have to realize, is that for the most part, practically all new consumers are going to filter through the web (unless you're a tourist shop or bakery relying on walk-by traffic...I'm talking Home Services, Doctors, Schools, Attorneys, Accountants, Auto Repair Shops, Health Clubs, Spas, Salons...). Even any offline advertising or word-of-mouth referrals will trickle through online (consumers need your contact information, look up reviews, read testimonials, search for good content, watch informative videos, elicit feedback from their social networks, etc.). You'll need to get used to leveraging modern digital tools and compliant with the web's best practices.

    >>Also read 5 Common Website Mistakes That Can Kill Your SEO (and Tips to Update It!)<<

    The second thing you have to realize is that there are leaks in every business' marketing funnel. To maximize the best return, you need to address and fix these leaks along each stage. The easiest place to start is to incorporate a smarter website, functional technology and marketing automation.

    So let's get down to it. If you're a small- or medium-sized business that operates in a local marketplace and want more customers, clients, patients, students, residents or members, you need to be able to answer all of these questions. I can guarantee the top local business in your industry certainly can!

    1. How easy do you make it for people to discover you when consumers Search, Surf and Socialize online (desktop & mobile)?  
    2. How many of your website visitors turn into a customer?(By the way, the average small business in the U.S. only gets 6 customers for every 1,000 website visits, Source: Marketing Sherpa)
    3. Which advertising source provides the strongest ROI and how do you measure that? 
    4. How long does it take your business to respond to initial inquiries?
    5. Are you 100% confident your employees are saying the right things on the phone to potential customers?
    6. How many leads are slipping through the cracks? 
    7. How do you stay in front of those “missed opportunities?” 
    8. What is your current cost per lead, and what are you doing to drive down that cost each month?

    Then, once you have them as a customer, retaining them begins a whole new process. That will be a future topic.

    If you come up short answering any of these questions, we should figure out a plan to start working together immediately!

    I am an online-to-offline customer acquisition specialist working with the best local SMBs seeking growth. My company, ReachLocal (NASDAQ: RLOC), offers solutions for over 24,000 SMBs across the globe, typically with $1M - $10M in annual revenue, 5+ employees and who seek high-growth opportunities in their local market.

    We provide each business with zero comprises by utilizing local and accessible talent, proprietary technology, key partnerships and the scale and data of a global enterprise.

    To arrange a time to learn how we can help you, call (941) 735-3600. Be sure to also utilize the tools available at www.DontLeakLeads.com

    5 Signs You Might Suffer From Phone Failure

    Last updated 25 days ago

    One of the most important touch points in the customer buying journey is the phone call. After searching for your products or services on Google (or Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and visiting your company’s website, a prospect’s next likely step is to call you. In the case of a personal referral, a phone call from a prospect can be the very first touch point with your business.
     
    Prospect expectations are very high at the phone call stage because they’re calling to see if you have the products or services they need. If you can answer the phone quickly (or reply immediately to a call you couldn’t answer) and provide the information prospects seek to determine if you’re the right company for them to do business with, you have an excellent chance of winning new business.
     
    Not sure how you’re doing at the phone call stage? Check out these five signs of you might be suffering from phone failure and what you can do to improve your call handling and get more business.
     
    1. You play hide and seek with your phone number.
     
    Phone failure can start even before a prospect or customer calls your business. Excellent phone service begins with the phone number itself and how easy it is for your prospect to find.
     
    The ideal place for your company phone number is at the top of every page on your website. But if you’ve buried the phone number somewhere on your website, you’re making it too difficult for prospects to call you to begin with. So don’t send prospects on a hunting expedition! Make sure your phone number is visible and easy to find on every page of your website.
     
    2. Your phone number is no longer current.
     
    When your customers call, do they hear, “The number you have reached is no longer in service” or do they reach a voicemail that is not assigned to your front desk? Even worse, do they reach a different company altogether? 
     
    These scenarios can occur when a company moves or if there are multiple company locations. So it’s important to audit all of your company phone numbers to see who’s answering the other line. You might be surprised to hear who answers.
     
    3. No one answers the phone when it rings.
     
    According to Consumer Reports, 71% of its survey respondents said they felt “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a human on the phone when they called a business. And 67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration after not being able to talk with a live person.
     
    Does your phone just ring…and ring…and ring…? If so, try to determine why. Then, you can take steps to catch these all-important calls. For example, are you too busy to answer the phone and it’s time to hire a receptionist? Or, would a third-party phone service be helpful in taking after-hours phone messages for you? At the very least, ensure you have an easy-to-navigate voice messaging service in place so your prospects know they’ve reached the right company and that you will follow up with them.
     
    Then, don’t leave them hanging; assign someone to call back those prospects as soon as possible to answer their questions.
     
    4. You’re not monitoring how employees speak with prospects over the phone.
     
    73% of consumers give up on a business because of rude or incompetent staff. However, if you’re not sure how well your employees speak with prospects over the phone, you could be losing prospects. One solution is to invest in call-recording software that helps you monitor calls between employees and prospects.
     
    Call monitoring will help you assess employee performance in terms of professionalism and knowledge of your products and services. With this information, you can then determine if employee coaching or additional product training is necessary. You will also have a deeper insight into your prospects’ needs and concerns so you can devise and carry out successful strategies to win their business.
     
    5. You’re not collecting prospect email and phone number information.
     
    It’s important that you ask every prospect for their email address and phone number and store it in a centralized system or database. When you’ve collected this information, you have the data you need to follow up with the prospect if you’re not able to speak with them at the time of their initial phone call to your business.
     
    Plus, collecting email addresses gives you the opportunity to follow up with them after they’ve bought from you when you have a special, event, or new product or service that may be beneficial to them.
     
    Need a cure for phone failure?
     
    ReachEdge™, our powerful marketing system, includes call recording technology to
    help you convert more calls into customers/clients/patients/students! Call to set up a brief demo: (941) 735-3600 or visit HERE to learn more.

    17 Expensive Marketing Mistakes that Cost You Customers

    Last updated 1 month ago

    Investing in online marketing is critical for businesses that want to grow their customer base — and ultimately their business. But, simply spending on online marketing doesn’t guarantee you results. You have to make sure that both your marketing is effective, and that you’re not making some of these (unfortunately common) expensive mistakes that can cost you customers.
     
    Are you making any of these expensive online marketing mistakes?
     
    1. Not tracking your online marketing.
     
    Tracking enables you to know which of your marketing tactics are working — and which ones aren’t. Continuing to invest your marketing budget into tactics that don’t work means you probably aren’t reaching the right consumers in the first place. It’s important to track these tactics so you can reach consumers who are actually in your target so you can convert more of them into customers.
     
    2. Driving website visitors to fill out a Web form no one checks.
     
    Do you know where all your website contact forms are going? And if so, how frequently are you checking them? If you’re not sure, or not regularly reviewing leads you get from your website, you are probably investing in an important website feature you’re not taking advantage of — and missing out on converting a lot of potential customers.
     
    3. Paying for a website that’s not optimized.
     
    Simply having a website doesn’t mean it’s helping drive customers to your business. Investing in a website that’s not optimized for search engines and conversions could be costing you twofold. First, it’s likely you’re not even being found when your target consumers are searching for your products or services. And second, those that do find your website can’t contact you if your site doesn’t have easy to find contact information like your phone number or
    email address.
     
    4. Not targeting your advertising to the right people.
     
    Online advertising has powerful targeting capabilities — but targeting your ads to the wrong people — such as those outside of your geographic area, target age range, or income level — or worse, not targeting your ads at all — is both wasted effort and expense.
     
    5. Paying for search ads that don’t use the right keywords.
     
    Search advertising is pay-per-performance, so you might be paying for clicks on keywords that aren’t reallyworking to drive leads from your website. Not all keywords are created equal, so make sure the ones you are bidding on and using in your text ads help your ads show up when people search for your products and services, so they’re more likely to click your ad and convert.
     
    6. Not bidding on your business name in search ads.
     
    Regardless of whether you “own” your business name in organic search, it’s important to bid on your business name in paid search ads as well. Chances are, your competitors are bidding on your name, and their paid ads might trump your organic ranking on the search engine results page, which could cost you customers.
     
    7. Using misleading advertising, promotions, or pricing.
     
    Consumers are savvy, and one sure way to turn them off is by using misleading pricing, promotions, or advertising. Sure, you might get more clicks on a “too-good-to-be-true” offer, but misleading advertising might cost you customers — and your reputation, too.
     
     
    8. Not marketing locally.
     
    As a local business, it’s important to make sure your online marketing targets local consumers. Not only is this more cost-effective, but it also cuts down on you filtering though leads that aren’t from your target area.
     
    9. Not following up with prospects who call you.
     
    After all the effort to drive qualified prospects to contact your business through your marketing and business website, this is one of the most costly marketing mistakes. It’s critical to have a system in place that helps (and reminds) you to follow up with people who contact your business. Whether they leave a message or just aren’t ready to buy, not following up with these leads can have a serious impact on your business.
     
    10. Not tracking your marketing through to actual conversions.
     
    Simply tracking clicks, visits, and number of followers doesn’t tell you much about how effective your online marketing actually is at getting you customers. If you’re not tracking your marketing all the way through to conversions like calls, or emails, you may be investing in marketing that isn’t really working.
     
    11. Not monitoring and managing your reputation.
     
    Is your online reputation costing you customers? If you haven’t checked to see if your online reputation is positive or negative, you could be losing many potential customers due to bad reviews, comments, or other content that’s critical of your business. Do a quick search for your business name to see what shows up — then take steps to improve your reputation.
     
    12. Not claiming and optimizing your Google+ Local page.
     
    Claiming your local listings is an important task for any local business. Google+ Local is even more critical, because your listing there is tied directly to your Google Maps listing, which is one of the top ways that consumers search for local businesses on the go via their mobile devices. If your Google+ Local page is bare-bones or contains incorrect information or negative content about you, chances are it will turn prospects away from contacting you.
     
    13. Not checking your phone number on marketing and directories.
     
    Is your phone number correct on all of your marketing as well as the directories your business is listed in? An outdated — or just plain incorrect — phone number is virtually guaranteed to cost you customers. So make sure to audit (and call to double check!) your phone number everywhere it appears — whether on a billboard, print ad, or online source.
     
    14. Poor phone call handling.
     
    Is answering the phone effectively a part of your marketing strategy? It should be. Since a majority of local businesses make sales or set appointments via the phone, poor call handling techniques — including rudeness, not providing the right or enough information, or not answering at all — is a huge source of churn for many prospects —who may then find a competitor who has better phone skills.
     
    15. Not shopping your competitors.
     
    How are your competitors marketing their businesses online? What offers and specials do they run? What do their websites look like? How are their online reviews? Not shopping your competitors means you may be out of the loop on what appeals to your target consumers.
     
    16. Not using negative feedback to improve your business.
     
    Nobody wants to see negative things about their business online. But when you do, do you actually take action on the feedback to improve your business? If not, chances are that other customers are experiencing similar issues, meaning once-loyal customers could be turning elsewhere.
     
    17. Waiting too long to contact a lead.
     
    How quickly do you call back a potential customer when they contact you? If your answer is weeks, days, or even hours, it could be costing you. Research shows that the more quickly you contact a lead, the more likely you are to close a deal. And common sense says that the first business to contact a consumer is more likely to
    win their business. 
     
    It’s important to make sure that your marketing investment really works — and that you’re not losing valuable contacts and leads due to poor marketing or business practices.
     
     
    Want a faster, more custom understanding on what to do to improve your business' online presence, marketing and customer acquisition system? Call me to set up an initial consulation: (941) 735-3600.

    Can Consumers Find You on the Mobile Web?

    Last updated 1 month ago

    Does Your Business' Mobile Web Presence Measure Up? 

    It was a little over three years ago when Apple announced the iPad, dubbed a “Magical & Revolutionary Device” but that had many consumers questioning its usage and longevity. However, the iPad is now in its fourth generation, it has spawned a “mini” version, and the market now includes tablets from other manufactures running Android and even Microsoft operating systems, so it seems tablets are here to stay. In fact, research from Pew Internet indicates that of American adults, 26% own an e-reader and 31% own a tablet. Tablets have become so widely used that some zoos are now using iPads to stimulate and entertain orangutans.


    So what does the widespread popularity of tablets and other mobile devices mean for your small business’ online marketing? Now that  many U.S. consumers are purchasing mobile devices like tablets and smartphones and 84% more Web traffic is coming from those mobile devices compared to a year ago, it only makes sense for you to consider how your Web presence translates to the mobile space. To help you out, here are a few simple steps you can take to see how your business measures up on tablets and smartphones, and some tips for making sure you can optimize your business for the mobile Web.  

    Step 1)  Grab a smartphone or tablet. Chances are you have one within reach. If not, you can use an online tool to show you how consumers may be experiencing your Web presence on mobile devices.

    Step 2)  Open a mobile browser or search engine app and search for your business type. Don’t search explicitly for your business name, but instead imagine how a consumer would search for products and services like yours. When you run the search, note how and where your business shows up in the mobile search results. You can also try searching for your business type in a mobile map app, such as Google Maps or Apple Maps.

    Step 3)  Search for your business by name in a mobile search engine. This gives you a better understanding of how your business name ranks on the mobile SERP, and it also helps you identify how consumers see your business when they search via mobile devices. Additional ranking results you should note include your business blog, social media profiles, and local listings. Plus, pay attention to any ratings, reviews, and mentions of your business that all impact your online reputation.

    Step 4)  Visit your website from a mobile browser. There’s no better way to understand where you should start optimizing your website for mobile than to actually see how your current website looks on a smartphone or tablet. Browse around your site to see how your visitors might interact with it and pay attention to things that would annoy you if you were a consumer. For example, do you have a mobile-friendly site that displays properly in a mobile browser? Is your phone number available in text on your site so that a mobile browser can detect the phone number and allow the user to click to call directly?

    If your website, social pages, and directory listings rank highly in mobile search engine results, you have a glowing online reputation, and your website looks and functions exactly how you want it to, then great! You are above the curve. If not – don’t worry; you aren’t alone – here are some tips you should consider to optimize your Web presence for mobile devices. 

    Claim and Optimize Your Business on Local Listings

    If you conducted mobile searches via Google, you may have noticed that the first results on the mobile SERP are map listings. By claiming and optimizing your Google+ Local page, you can help increase your chances of showing up when local consumers search for your products and services while on the go via mobile search engines and mobile map apps.

    Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly and Responsive

    Two of the most common reasons small businesses don’t have mobile websites are time and money. However, there are a few things you can do to make your website more mobile-friendly that don’t involve a giant team and a small fortune.

    Don’t hide your contact information.
    When you visited your website on a mobile device, how easily and quickly did you find your contact information, such as your phone number and email address? If it took a little while, or you did not find it at all, consider moving this critical contact information to a prominent area of your website, like the top right of your page.

    Ditch heavy graphics that slow down your website.
    How long did it take for your site to load on your mobile device? Using many heavy design elements, like large images and Flash animation, can often increase the load time of your site on desktop browsers, so you can expect a long load time on a mobile device.

    Design for clear and quick fingertip navigation.
    You should lay out the content on your website so that anyone, young or old, can navigate to specific information. Also, keep in mind that mobile visitors use a fingertip to navigate through your website. Make your content easy to find by simplifying and clarifying the menus and options on your website. Avoid creating menus with lots of links that are difficult to click on mobile devices, and make sure the content on your Web pages is concise and easy to read.

    Cultivate a Positive Online Reputation

    Over 57% of tablet owners use the mobile Web to do research before making a purchase decision. So it’s important to make sure that they find positive information about your small business when they search online. As Google owns the majority of mobile searches, positive Google+ Local reviews are more important now more than ever. So in order to build the best online reputation, ask happy customers to leave you positive reviews, and have a plan to monitor your Web presence.

    Is Your Website Ready for Mobile?  See how ReachEdge™ gives you a mobile website and makes other upgrades that fix the most common website problems. 

    5 Signs You're Losing Customers to Your Competitors

    Last updated 2 months ago

    “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton

    As a business owner, you know that attracting prospects and turning them into customers is the lifeblood of any company. But have you ever thought about why someone would choose a competitor over you? If you’ve ever lost a prospect to a competitor (it happens to the best of them), there are several likely culprits. Check out five reasons you’re losing business to your competitors and what you can do to win back the hearts of your prospects.

    1. Poor Search Rankings

    Do you know which search terms your prospects use to find local businesses like yours on popular search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo? Are you landing on the first page of these search engines after a prospect types in a search term? If you don’t know which search terms to use for your industry in order to be found online, or if your competitors rank higher on a search engine page than you, you’re probably losing business to your competition.

    That’s because most consumers don’t look at search results past a search engine’s first page. And, according to BIA Kelsey and ConStat, 97% of consumers use online media to shop locally. The best strategy to high search engine rankings uses both organic search engine optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click campaigns. So make sure you have an online strategy in place so you can be found in search engine results before prospects find your competitors.

    2. Poor Online Reputation

    Do you know what people are saying about you and your business online? Do you know how your reputation compares to your competitors? Managing your online reputation is critical in today’s connected world. That’s because prospects will often check online review sites and your social media pages as part of their research during the buying process.

    In fact, 90% of respondents in a 2013 survey said online reviews influenced their buying decisions. No matter how good your products or services are, if past customers have left negative online reviews or posted negative comments on your social media pages, you’re most likely losing business to your competitors.

    The good news is that there are proactive strategies you can use to address poor online reviews and negative comments on social media. And, you can work to build a positive reputation online to help provide a more balanced view of your company. There are also services that can save you time by monitoring your online reputation for you. 

    3. Website Quality/Features

    Your website is your calling card to the world. It’s often the first place prospects visit to learn more about you and your business. But if your website has poor design, lacks crucial information like an easy-to-find phone number, or is difficult to navigate, your prospects will simply leave your site to check out competitor websites.

    There are many features you can add to your website to help make it more appealing and helpful to your prospects – features that can help convert a prospect into a customer. The time and money you invest to ensure your website is the best it can be will pay off by attracting and keeping your visitors on your site, which in turn can lead to new business.

    4. Slow Response Times

    When prospects contact multiple companies via an online contact form or leave messages after business hours, you want to be the first business to follow up. That’s because up to half of all sales goes to the company who contacts the prospect back first. Your prospect is a warm lead because they have already reached out to you either online or over the phone.

    So don’t waste this opportunity to win new business simply due to a slow response time. By being the first one to follow up with your prospects, you’re demonstrating that you’re proactive and professional. It’s your opportunity to establish rapport, answer their questions, and perhaps even set an appointment or schedule a visit.

    5. Customer Service

    A brand loyalty survey by ClickFox noted that 56% of respondents said their “first purchase or first customer service interaction with a brand” is the deciding factor in determining long-term brand loyalty. Quality customer service is essential at both the prospect stage as well as the customer stage.

    Think about yourself as the customer of other businesses and the interactions you’ve had. How were you treated? If you called a company, did the person speaking sound professional and courteous? If you visited a business, were you greeted warmly and given the attention you needed? If you contacted a company by email, did you receive a prompt and articulate response?

    These are just a few examples where excellent customer service comes into play in the earliest stages of the sales cycle. If you’re providing poor customer service to your prospects, they’re more likely to take their business to your competitors.

    So take the time to do an honest assessment of how prospects are being treated once they contact you. If you can win a prospect’s heart early on, you have a better chance of converting them into a customer later on.

    Be Sure to Check Out: 5 Website Ideas to Outperform Your Competitors

    >See five ReachEdge™ website makeovers that helped our clients stand out online.




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