20 January 2021
Author: Daniel Lally
Reputation management is key to defending the brand you’ve worked so hard to build. The most visible aspect of reputation management is how customers see you respond to negative reviews and comments. Responding to negative online reviews is one of the more nuanced and, at times, nerve-racking challenges of a successful social media program. Your brand, whether you’re selling confections or construction equipment, ultimately serves customers. Customers are people. And sometimes people are disappointed, unreasonable or just want to get some attention for being the squeaky wheel. It comes with the territory. In fact, online reputation management was one of the greatest obstacles to traditional companies adopting branded social media as much as a dozen years ago. One high-profile CEO with an expression of horror asked me, “You mean anybody can say anything they want, even if it makes us look bad?!” As reassuringly as I could, I told her, “Yes. They can. And they will.” Fast forward a few years and having a social media presence is not an option anymore. Even if you don’t own a smartphone or have an Instagram account, your customers do. And platforms like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor are incentivizing them to share their opinions. If you’re not engaged in reputation management, somebody will do it for you. Accepting the inevitability of negative online reviews is a great first step in preparing to respond to Google reviews, Yelp comments or Facebook and Twitter posts that may be less than admiring of your product, service or brand. Over the past few years, some brands even have become quite popular for their skill at online reputation management, with some even clapping back at online detractors. Local bars and restaurants have taken to displaying some of their more outrageous reviews ironically as a way to demonstrate their bona fides. Even well-known national brands have gotten into the act. Wendy’s Twitter account, for example, has developed an enthusiastic following for their funny and sometimes brutal roasts in response to unfair attacks. This works for these brands because it’s both in keeping with their brand character AND they have the talent and resources—especially time—to commit to responding. In general, unless you have a very specific clientele that is attracted to wit and snark, it’s not usually a good idea for your reputation management effort to include aggressive banter with dissatisfied customers. Some are trolls, yes, and while it’s tempting, it’s never a great idea to feed them. The most successful brands in the social space respond to negative online reviews and comments with sincere empathy. They demonstrate a genuine concern for consumers while making it clear to their customers and others who may be following along that a single bad experience is not typical and not acceptable. How do smart brands approach online reputation management? The most important best practice is to respond to all negative reviews. Responding will, all by itself, earn you credit in the community. Imagine you’re out there in the real world and somebody is making a complaint to the manager at some business you patronize. You may have no idea whether the customer is right in the case or not. You may even be inclined to feel that the complaints are valid. But as an experienced consumer, you also know that even in the best run organizations, there can be mistakes and disappointments. Demonstrating your openness to listening to your customers and responding to their comments—positive or negative—builds trust in your brand. Take the detailed discussion offline. More than anything, people who post negative online reviews usually just want to be heard. They were looking forward to a pleasant experience and something went wrong. They’re disappointed. Hear them out, but not in the public space of an online back-and-forth if it’s at all possible. Invite them to send a direct message with details and their contact information. Or, offer them a dedicated email address or phone number to open up a personal exchange. Most important, respond quickly. Online and social media interactions are conversations and your brand needs to be present to hold up your end of the dialogue. That means devoting enough resources so that your reputation management team can monitor and quickly respond to questions or comments, positive and negative. It’s OK to say you’re sorry, even if it’s not your fault. Assume best intentions on the part of negative reviewers. At least until demonstrated otherwise. Maybe they were just expecting something else. Maybe they have your place confused with another business. Showing sympathy for the misunderstanding shows a commitment to service and can only enhance your brand reputation. For a customizable toolkit for responding to negative online reviews, subscribe to our email list!
07 May 2020
Author: Steve Bleh
In every category, there’s a baseline level of competence that customers expect. But long-term brand success depends on the consumer preferring not just your product, but the experience of doing business with you. If the food is perfect, but the atmosphere is unattractive, diners won’t come back. If your service is efficient but your technicians are sloppy, nobody wants them back in their home. If your product is a great value but the cashier is rude, shoppers will take their business somewhere else. Exceeding those expectations is what fosters long-term customer loyalty. And that’s harder than ever in a socially distanced world. It’s not like front-line employees aren’t already going above and beyond the call. But even a slight added value in the customer experience can make a difference. You may have noticed this in action already. Some restaurants not traditionally in the carryout business have been forced to earn their chops in a hurry and it’s clear who gets it. It’s impossible to replicate a fine dining experience in a drive-thru window, no matter how well prepared and packaged the food is. But by making the experience of picking up the order more pleasant, or adding a small surprise to the unpacking at home, brands are giving their customers another reason to come back. And, ideally, even a positive story to share. In-home service providers naturally are taking extra precautions to protect their providers and the families they serve. Some of these changes are obvious, but not all. By making the extra time and effort apparent—sharing a checklist or sending a pre-call email, for example—brands can gain the lasting trust of homeowners that builds repeat business and referrals. One of the greatest business casualties of COVID-19 social distancing may be the one asset that’s hardest to replace. Even for businesses who continue to operate during stay-at-home orders, the customer experience has been changed dramatically. This is a tremendous opportunity for brands to invest in experience, while brands that miss the opportunity could be nudged toward commoditization. Or worse. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
06 January 2020
There’s no denying that we live in a review culture now. Social media started it, and online retailers made it the norm. Often overlooked, this element of word-of-mouth marketing has become one of the most powerful drivers of sales, particularly in the “decision” phase of the buyer’s journey.
14 November 2019
Author: Gail Back
Independent and family-owned companies tend to grow up with an ingrained do-it-yourself ethic. It’s part of the attraction: Working in a place where decisions can be made quickly and most tasks can be handled in-house. But that’s not always the best option when it comes to decisions that require specific expertise or where your managers make purchase decisions less frequently. It’s not unlike the annual ritual of selecting health insurance for your team: There are dozens of options, each with different features and benefits, and only limited visibility to what others are paying for similar results. More often than not, you’re better off working with a professional. That’s also true when it comes to advertising media buying. The contracts are complicated. And while you may only make your advertising decisions a few times each year, usually you’re negotiating with professionals who handle the same kind of deal every single day. Often, professional media planning not only saves your company more money than it costs—it also simplifies your life. Your media planner will present you with a couple of options that meet your marketing objectives for timing, reach and frequency. A comprehensive plan will also combine print, broadcast, streaming and digital elements to make the greatest impact for your advertising investment. If you’re not sure about the offers and options you’re fielding from different advertising outlets, take a look at what your agency’s media department can do for you. We can simplify the decision-making process and can also be a business owner’s best friend when it comes to watching the budget.
14 August 2019
The best marketing strategy in the world can only have temporary results if it doesn’t account for the entire customer experience. Sure, our first job is to get people in the door, on the lot or to the website, but that’s just the beginning of the journey. I was lucky to learn this at my first and only job before I started my professional career. I was working at a high-end butcher shop in downtown Cincinnati where the clientele had expectations for their rack of lamb just as high as my current clients do for their multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. How does a teenager become a butcher at such a place and what did I learn from my time working there? For the first question, ask my dad. For the second, I think it’s safe to say that I learned as much working as a butcher as I did in college. Scary, right? The most important lesson I learned there is that the experience is just as important as the product. This is easy to overlook while organizations focus on product and process, but it can be the most important part of your business plan. Marketing’s job isn’t over when the customer comes through the door. In some ways it’s just beginning. Think about it. One of the first lessons at the butcher shop was wrapping orders. At the time I didn’t understand why my father made such a big deal about it. Finally, he explained that the package that goes out the door is a big part of the experience. The way it feels in our guest’s hands, the way it looks that afternoon in the refrigerator. The appearance, the aroma, the reveal when he first unwraps his roast or chops to start cooking. All those moments are an opportunity to reinforce his decision to choose us. The challenge is to own as many of those moments as possible. Why is that customer in the market in the first place? It’s a butcher shop, so the simple answer is for food. But probably not because they’re hungry. Usually, our customers were preparing a meal to be shared with others, and likely somebody they wanted to impress. That changes the equation. It means they need more than just quality product. They want and expect our expertise beyond which cut is particularly good that day. We’d make suggestions for preparation and serving, selecting side dishes and other ideas for making their meal a success. We understood that we were playing a role in that special meal and it could very well be one of the most important occasions in our customer’s week … or career or relationship. And the customer experience isn’t complete until the dishes are cleared from the table.
05 August 2019
Ask most business owners who their customer is and they’ll likely point to demographic characteristics or the different types of media they consume to support their answer. While these data points always are important, they’re just that—data points—without a more intimate understanding of what drives your customer to make a purchase decision, and more important, when she or he is likely to make it. It’s true … we live in a brave new data-driven world that is stunningly (frighteningly?) easy for both ecommerce companies and mass retailers to collect granular details about shopper habits. Data that they can then use to generate insights on their customers’ habits and behavioral attributes. How do you compete with that technology if you’re in one of those businesses where you can’t obtain a deep customer profiles? Or simply don’t have access to that level of in-depth detail? We encounter this data disconnect particularly with consumer or in-home services brands. Accurate information is even harder to come by in categories where the sales cycle is longer or more considered, or when purchases are driven by a specific, perhaps acute, need. This is key—because if you don’t truly know who this customer is, if you’re not targeting the type of customer appropriate for your brand, you risk losing them to a competitor who is. So are these companies destined to be left behind in the data revolution? Not if they use data for what it does best, and trust themselves to continue doing what they’ve already proved they do best. While it’s not easy to create the perfect data model of your customers, there are still ways to better understand them. The right answers start with asking the right questions: • What problem is your customer trying to solve? • What other solutions have they considered (or will they consider)? • What information do they need before choosing? • Where do they get that information? • Do they do their own research, or do they rely on referrals from family, friends or social networks? • Do they simply follow the brand they perceive to be the market leader? • Which customers are selecting your competitors over you, and why are some leaving you altogether? By answering these questions, marketers in less data-rich categories can build a better understanding of their specific customers. Even better, that puts them in a position to target the right customer with the right message—at the right time.
07 June 2019
If you’re an auto dealer (or any local or small business, for that matter), and you missed this blog the first time around, we think it’s worth a revisit—or at the very least, a rededication to upping your ante on giving back. Because doing good is never a bad thing. For a car dealership, name recognition and trust are huge commodities—and the lack thereof can be a big hurdle to business success. It’s important to invest in traditional advertising and social media, although the former can be expensive, while the latter is time consuming. But there’s another way to make people familiar with your brand and garner trust and good will: by performing a community service. It may sound cynical to engage in charitable giving or volunteerism with the goal of increasing your business—but here’s why it’s not: When you dedicate your dealership to a cause—whether by sponsoring a school sports team, letting your employees volunteer while they’re on the clock, supplying cars for a nonprofit that needs reliable transportation, or any of an infinite number of possible goodwill efforts, you are first and foremost making the world a better place. (As long as you don’t try to pull something like this.) Whatever your motivations, doing good is doing good. And the fact that you get to leverage your business’s spending power or platform to amplify all that do-gooding: extra-super-bonus credit. And don’t underestimate the morale boost your staff is likely to feel as a result of being part of something bigger than themselves. Just be sure that their involvement is truly voluntary, and that you’re not pulling them away from urgent work in order to participate. A few tips on choosing a charity: Steer clear of anything overtly political, since you could alienate rather than attract potential customers that way. Seek a charity that complements your brand message. For example, one of our clients, a female-owned dealership, donates cars to help transport women to and from breast cancer treatments. Another dealership group that sells family-friendly cars sponsors an event that benefits our local children’s hospital. Go ahead and invest in a cause that’s close to your heart—and feel great about the trust and name recognition you’re banking for your dealership.
01 March 2019
Customers are more likely to survive a plane crash, complete Navy SEAL training, or summit Mount Everest than they are to click on a banner ad. Statistically, 85% of people won’t click on an ad, and about half of the clicks that do happen are “fat finger” accidental clicks. On top of that, 56% of digital ads are never seen by a human. It’s easy, therefore, to conclude that web ads are ineffective—but the truth is that you may have been measuring the wrong thing all along. The Web Advertising Environment Web advertising takes a variety of forms. The basic form is the banner ad, which comes in a suite of typical sizes and can be found on every website, where businesses use them as a way to monetize their web traffic. These are the most easily identifiable as ads. Other types of digital advertising include native ads, paid content designed to look like the media in which it’s inserted; ads built to be shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram; retargeting ads, which use data about users’ web behavior to serve them repeated ads that follow them across websites; and search ads, which appear in the results of Google and other search engine queries. An oft-repeated statistic in the marketing industry claims that the average internet user is served more than 1,700 banner ads per month—but that number is from 2007. The ubiquity of mobile devices means that the rate is almost certainly much higher now. Clients are accustomed to judging the success of web campaigns by the click-through rate (CTR), the number of clicks divided by the total number of impressions. But depending on the type of campaign and its goals, CTR doesn’t tell the whole story. What you measure should vary depending on what your goals are. Here’s how you can plan for and evaluate a successful web campaign. Setting Expectations and Goals Before you decide what type of web ads you want to make and how you should measure their effectiveness, you need to set clear, measurable targets. Those goals will then dictate what key performance indicators—KPIs—you should document. KPIs are, more than anything, a form of communication. They allow all stakeholders to check their efforts against an agreed-upon metric of success that builds toward a desired outcome. Examples of common KPIs could be conversion rates, bounce rates, or unique visits. When CTR Matters There’s one scenario in which the CTR is very important: when there’s a call to action on a banner ad. In that case, the goal is to inspire someone to take action (click). If you’re confident about targeting the right audience through your ad buy but you’re seeing a low CTR, then it’s time to tweak the creative in order to inspire more clicks. CTR directly influences an ad’s quality score or relevance score on Facebook and Google AdWords. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what customers are searching for, and use those terms in your advertising—but be sure to back them up with relevant content on your site. Boosting Visibility/Reach If your goal is simply increasing brand awareness, impressions and reach should be part of your equation. Impressions are the number of times your ad is displayed. It’s a good starting point for understanding the big picture, but it doesn’t tell you a lot all by itself because it doesn’t mean anyone actually saw the ad, only that it appeared on a web page or app. Reach is the number of unique individuals who were served your ad. Because ads are generally shown to the same people multiple times, the reach will always be a lower number than the impressions. On social media, your reach increases exponentially with each share. That’s why “going viral” is such a dream-come-true for marketers. The problem with using reach and impressions as your main KPIs is that there’s no way to directly track the impact your web ads have on conversion. So while you should keep track of reach and impressions, consider one of the following KPIs as a more educational metric: Completing Conversions A conversion is basically whatever goal you’re leading a customer to the website to complete. It can mean a sale, or filling out a lead form, or signing up for a newsletter. This is the most direct KPI, and it happens near the end of the customer engagement process—as opposed to the click-through, which happens at the very start of the engagement process. Native advertising and retargeting ads help to focus the audience for web ads and make them more targeted. Users who receive retargeted ads are 70% more likely to convert. Viewers engage native ads 53% more than banner ads. “Bounce rate” is kind of like the opposite of a conversion. Your goal should be a high conversion rate and a low bounce rate. A bounce is a single-page session on your website, meaning someone clicked on your ad but left your website without looking at any other pages. Typically, this means that your ad is promising something that the website doesn’t deliver. You can test your ad to determine where the problem is by changing one element at a time—the ad copy, targeted key words, offer or landing page—and then watching what your bounce rate does. Google explains “bounce rate” as “single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.” Increasing Engagement Engagement is whenever your audience interacts with your brand. On social media it can mean likes, retweets, mentions, favorites, shares, clicks and comments. Brands that incorporate quizzes, games, calculators, assessment tools or contests have the most success increasing engagement rates. Creating a successful web ad campaign takes time on the front end: establishing your goals, choosing the KPIs that will get you to those goals, and then crafting web advertising that gets you those KPIs—but time put into planning is never wasted. With our track record of winning web strategy, consider letting St. Gregory take the reins on your next campaign.
11 June 2018