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In an Online World, Reputation Management is Key

 

A company’s brand and its reputation are two of its most valuable — and vulnerable — assets. And while protecting and managing both brand and reputation are vital to a company’s health, brand and reputation are not one and the same.

Reputation is a concept that focuses on the customer, for sure. But it also focuses on the credibility and respect that a company has among other stakeholders, such as employees, investors and journalists as well as customers, according to an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

In today’s Internet world with online reviews, customers’ views carry more weight than ever. In a twist on the old adage, it takes years to build a reputation and mere seconds (and the click of a mouse) to destroy one.

Managing your Reputation
Many business owners are unaware of the significant impact that online reviews can have on their businesses.

In 2012, after dining at the Boston restaurant Pigalle, an unsatisfied customer expressed her feelings on the restaurant’s Facebook page, commenting on its “horrible pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.” Describing the entire meal as “awful,” she said she wished she had given the $200 she spent on the meal to the “homeless person outside.”

While the customer’s review of the renowned restaurant was quite harsh, Pigalle’s head chef and owner, Mike Orfaly, left a response so appalling, many believed Pigalle’s Facebook page was hacked. In a series of comments, Orfaly suggested the customer was “uneducated,” “unintelligent,” and “unpolished,” and even made insulting comments about the customer’s weight.

Pigalle closed the following year.

That true story demonstrates the power of online reviews.

The Numbers Are In
The reason online reviews and exchanges have such powerful impact is because more people are turning to the Internet as a reference. Statistics show that 97 percent of consumers searched for local businesses online, and — according to Google — two out of three consumers said that positive (or negative) reviews played a major part in deciding whether to purchase a product or service.

Forty-two percent of potential clients Google the individual or business they are considering doing business with, and nearly half change their mind after reading about the individual and businesses online.

If you are not paying attention to your reviews, it’s time to start.

Review your Reviews
It’s critical for companies to respond to both positive and negative reviews in a timely manner, and not just because encouraging engagement increases your chances of appearing at the top of a Google search.

A simple, “Thank You!” can go a long way to acknowledge positive reviews. When customer leaves a negative review, listen, apologize and take the conversation offline. Responding to both types of messages demonstrates that you are listening and that you really do care and appreciate their patronage. Think of positive and negative reviews as free market research.

Happy Customers Equal More Business
Responding to online reviews is a great strategy for lead conversion, gaining returning customers and building brand awareness. Simply put, managing your online reputation is more critical than ever and will ignite your business and build serious growth.

 

Mastering Email Marketing: How to Stand Out, Get Read and Incite Action

 

In 2017, people all over the world sent 269 billion emails every day. That number is expected to rise to 333 billion before we reach the year 2022. With so much information flooding our inboxes, how can a business make sure that its email marketing gets noticed and acted upon? The tips below can help increase open rates and provide a path to conversions.

Relevancy is Everything
Successful email marketing begins with creating a great message. The content must be relevant to your audience and should have a real benefit. No one has time to waste and no one will spend more that 1-3 seconds to determine whether to read or delete an email. Recipients are more likely to open an email if they view a company as a trusted source or partner – relevancy earns trust. An effective email campaign requires a strategy, knowing the targeted audience and determining the take-away or action desired.

Sometimes it’s Subjective
A good subject line can stop someone in their tracks. Catchy and short, the subject line should entice the reader to quickly open the email, read it and ultimately click through to links within the email to get the recipient to take further action. A good subject line offers a benefit or creates curiosity or a desired outcome: “Reduce Your Energy Costs by 50%,” “Learn How to Save 50% on Energy Costs,” “Company-A Saves $100,000 in Energy Costs.” If the email is promoting a sale, motivate the reader to open the email by mentioning the sale or promotion in the subject line. Keep it under 60 to 70 characters. Shorter subject lines tend to get more opens, while subject lines with fewer than 49 characters generate more clickthroughs.

Timing is Everything
Knowing what time of day — as well as what day — to send an email is just as important as crafting it. The time frame of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. may seem like a good time to unleash your email masterpiece, but often it’s not. The send time depends on your audience. Some professionals are up earlier and reviewing email by 5 a.m. and out on job sites by 9 a.m. Others might be best targeted between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Google Analytics can provide the best insight into the most precise times that clients and potential leads are engaging with your company website.

Frequency Matters
If the science of marketing is being in the right place at the right time with the right message when the need arises, then it is important for a campaign to achieve a meaningful level of frequency. A strategy for achieving the right frequency to elicit the desired action and campaign results should be determined from the get-go. Knowing the audience will also be a factor — what is their tolerance of frequency? Frequency can also be changed throughout the campaign, for instance, it may make sense to be more aggressive in the initial weeks or months and then more laid back as the campaign matures.

If your organization is using email marketing, it is important to have a winning strategy. What works for one company often doesn’t work for another.

 

10 Statistics that Prove the Power of Local Search Optimization

 

In the era of mobile, consumers are more empowered than ever before. In fact, online consumers spend close to 350 hours a year researching local products and services on their smartphones, according to Google. Now more than ever before, “research-obsessed” consumers are making informed decisions about the services they use and the products they buy.

In May, GREENCREST invited local business owners to its office for Google Partners Connect, an event co-hosted with Google to share research, strategies and tips to help business owners put their local business at the top of Google search results and distinguish themselves from the 29 million local businesses in the United States fighting for customer’s attention.

At GREENCREST’s May event, our guests learned a lot about what it takes to get found online. Google presented some statistics that prove that a strong mobile presence has become a prerequisite for doing business.

Better Business Listings

  • Business owners who actively update and monitor their companies’ Google My Business listings are 70 percent more likely to attract customers than businesses that don’t.
  • Completed listings are 50 percent more likely to lead to a purchase than unfinished listings.
  • Businesses with completed listings are 2.7 times more likely to be considered “reputable” by consumers conducting research about local products and services.

The Empowered Customer

  • Three out of four online consumers use a search engine to find a business.
  • Seven out of 10 consumers who found a business online make a purchase.
  • Two out of three smartphone users are more likely to make a purchase from a business with a mobile site or app that is customized to their actual location.

The Power of Online Reviews

  • Two out of three consumers have said that positive reviews played a part in deciding whether or not to purchase a product or service.
  • In the last two years, mobile searches including the word “best” has increased 80 percent.

Ever-Evolving Consumer Search Trends

  • In the last few years, mobile searches for “where to buy” a product or service has increased 85 percent.
  • Searches for businesses that are “open now” have increased 3 times in the last few years.

Consumers conduct billions of searches a month for local products and services. Looking for a way to stand out? Connect with GREENCREST, a Google Partner Agency, for help getting found online!

 

4 tips for creating compelling video on a budget

 

If you’re sitting on the fence, wondering if your business should invest in video as part of its marketing strategy, consider this statistic: According to Cisco, by 2019 — just eight months away — more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic will be video content. The effectiveness of video marketing has dominated headlines in the marketing/media/brand stratosphere as of late, but many businesses have been hesitant to take the plunge. Odds are, the fear of cost or inspiring content is to blame for businesses’ reluctance.

Develop a budget

Believe it or not, you don’t need to hire your own video production crew or buy expensive equipment to make a big impact on a small budget. With proper planning and strategy, a company can generate success without breaking the bank. Consider renting equipment or using free video editing software, such as iMovie. Remember, every dollar properly invested in your video marketing strategy is money very wisely spend. Decide what you can afford and move forward with that budget.

Focus on a topic and timeline

Which of your business’s products or services will you promote with video? What’s trending in-market currently? Where might you be first and ahead of the curve? You must ensure you:

  • Determine what parts of the year align best with certain products or services.
  • Create an outline based on product release dates and forecasted business trends.
  • Practice discipline, especially initially, and carefully limit how many areas of your business you’ll market with video. It’s exciting — but overcomplicating before you start will be an assured hindrance.

Tell your story
Plan your videos. Once you’ve chosen which products or service offerings for which you’ll be creating video content, the next step will be script writing. What will each video cover? What brand attributes will be highlighted? Do my videos tie together or need a

sequential order? How long will they be? Write it all down and stick to it.

Reap the rewards
Consider this: Four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read a post about it. It’s true! Nearly 52 percent of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI. In order to capitalize on the effectiveness of video marketing, getting strategic advice is highly recommended. An agency can quickly and easily guide you through which of your products or services will provide the best ROI. They’ll also be equipped to help you write scripts, stay organized, be efficient and pull together low-cost production to keep you within budget.

Interested in learning how video marketing can turn prospects into customers? Contact GREENCREST and talk with an expert today.

 

Digital marketing trends: what to watch in 2018

To stay ahead of competitors, it’s increasingly important to stay in tune with emerging marketing trends. As a Google Partner Agency, we make it our business to stay on top of digital marketing trends and consult with organizations to maximize their online performance. Here are a few of the trends we think you need to have on your 2018 marketing radar.

 

Google My Business is a Big Deal — And Getting Bigger
As the digital landscape matures, Google My Business is becoming a more vital tool for communicating with current and potential customers. Google recently reported that more than 50 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses have bad information and/or errors in their Google My Business listings. By taking control and managing their listings, businesses can:

  • Maintain accurate information about your business online
  • Interact with and attract customers and manage reviews; Google reports that 90 percent of online users trust reviews
  • Increase search results and search effectiveness

Mobile-Friendly to Mobile-First to Mobile-Mandatory
Marketing to the mobile platform is seeing unprecedented growth. A decade ago it was a “good idea” to incorporate mobile advertising into your strategy. Now it’s mandatory. By 2019, mobile advertising is expected to represent 72 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending and global mobile expenditures are projected to reach $247.4 billion by 2020, according to MarketingLand.

In addition to mobile advertising, it’s becoming increasingly important to consider optimizing your website for mobile devices. Google recently announced a change in its index to prioritize mobile sites. They’ll use the mobile version of your site to rank it. So, if you have a site optimized for mobile, you’ll rank well on both desktop and mobile search. If not, both rankings will do poorly.

 

Social Media is Pay to Play
It used to be that creativity and persistence could grow a respectable social media following. Now the recipe calls for one more ingredient — dollars. Offering incredible granularity, social media platforms get paid to reach your ideal customers. Why?

  • According to Forbes, the percentage of a company’s followers who see social media updates that aren’t “boosted” with ad money (organic reach) on Facebook has been dwindling, dipping as low as two percent
  • More than 90 percent of marketers who employ a social media-based influencer marketing strategy believe it is successful, according to Entrepreneur magazine

AdWords = More Effective than Ever
People are clicking ads more than ever before. So naturally, marketers are buying more targeted pay-per-click (PPC) placements than ever before. Google reports that AdWords expenditures grew 23 percent year-over-year in Q4 of 2017 and that people who visit a website via a PPC ad are an astounding 50 percent more likely to make a purchase than visitors clicking an organic search result.

Whatever products or services your business sells or provides and wherever your customers live, work or play these digital trends can help make your 2018 more profitable and a better platform on which to build for 2019 and beyond. Active digital marketing is rapidly becoming an integral component of any marketing plan — continually shifting further from optional and closer to cost of entry.

 

Marketing Automation: The What’s, The How’s, and The Why’s

It goes without saying that technology has made ultrapersonal, individually tailored content possible. Gathering this type of individualized, personalized information better enables businesses to nurture leads and convert them into customers.

Imagine receiving an email or social media message from a salesperson who works at a company where you’re considering doing business. Unlike an email blast or public social media post that has likely been sent to hundreds — if not thousands — of people, the message you’ve just received is relevant to the information you’re seeking and focused on your needs.

Almost 70 percent of businesses say converting leads is their No.1 priority. According to HubSpot, businesses that have integrated automation software into their marketing strategy generate two times the number of leads than those using blast email software.

The ultimate mission of marketing automation is two-fold:

  • Drive more and better leads and convert them to sales.
  • Encourage repeat business and turn existing customers into loyal, raving advocates.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation refers to software platforms, technologies and tactics that nurture prospects with ultra-personalized, tailored content that turns them into customers — and turns customers into happy customers. Marketing automation software, specifically, automates aspects of a business’ marketing process — repetitive tasks, for example, such as emails and social media posts.

Eighty-nine percent of businesses say that email is their primary channel of lead generation, according to HubSpot. With marketing automation, email flow takes on an entirely new meaning. “After the click” behavior tracking — a principal capability of marketing automation software — allows businesses to discover a lead’s interests based on webpage clicks. Understanding a customer’s interests allows businesses to communicate with prospects one-on-one based on those interests.

How does a business succeed?

Integrating a new component into your marketing strategy can be nerve-wracking. Mind these helpful tips to ensure your marketing automation is successful:

  • Clearly define a strategy. Know the direction you want your marketing automation to take from the get-go.
  • Gain an in-depth knowledge of your audience to help turn prospects into leads into customers.
  • Ensure the content you are pushing out is smart and informative at every stage of the conversion process.

Why does it matter?

For any business, understanding the wants and needs of their audience is the straightest path to success — this has rung true long before technology made ultrapersonal content possible. Marketing automation takes it a step further, though, by allowing marketers to nurture leads throughout the entire buying process — from the first click and beyond.

Consider this: Most people are 60 to 70 percent of the way through the buying journey before even speaking with a salesperson. Imagine having the opportunity to intercept a prospect immediately after their initial interaction with your business’ content. Then, it’s easier to customize content on their behalf. Marketing automation makes this a reality, leaving you the time to focus on other things.

When properly executed and managed, a marketing automation strategy will help you turn prospects into customers.

 

Marketing on a Small Budget: 10 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

When you’re marketing on a small budget, you need to find ways to get creative. Not everyone has the pleasure of managing a million-dollar marketing budget, but marketing on a small budget can be just as effective — if not more — when done correctly.

As a business owner, how do you determine which marketing activities will bring in the highest number of leads for the lowest cost? You can get the biggest bang for your marketing buck by following a few tips:

Know your audience

The key to spending your marketing budget effectively is knowing your target. The more specific your audience is, the more likely you are to reach someone genuinely interested in your product or service.

Enhance your social media presence

Social media is one of the most cost-effective methods of marketing. To attract your customers, make sure your posts are fun and engaging. Consider boosting your posts to reach a targeted set of people.

Publish great content

Create a company blog. Positioning your business as a thought leader in the industry is a free and effective way to increase the number of prospects visiting your website.

Make your website SEO friendly

One of the single most important components of any organization’s online marketing presence is a solid SEO strategy. An SEO-friendly website will help ensure you appear in search results and drive traffic to your website.

Rank in Google with Google AdWords

The best way to guarantee you’ll appear in search results is with Google AdWords. With a Google AdWords campaign, you can control your advertising costs and easily measure the success of a campaign.

Don’t forget about traditional marketing

Traditional marketing methods are still as effective as digital. Consider sending an eye-catching postcard or carefully written personal letter to your prospects. Include a call-to-action to entice people to connect.

Build relationships with email marketing

With email marketing, you can engage prospects and maintain relationships with your existing customers. Develop a monthly newsletter and include success stories from existing customers.

Develop a referral program

Word of mouth is always the best and most cost-effective way to promote your business. Encourage customers to share their experience with friends and family and reward them for their loyalty. Don’t be afraid to ask for online reviews.

Make your employees brand ambassadors

Your employees are your No. 1 asset. A well-defined company culture that’s inclusive and empowering increases employee satisfaction, creating brand ambassadors who are thoroughly engaged, connected and committed to your company.

Analyze and adjust

Not every marketing tactic works for every company. Analyzing your marketing efforts and adjusting your tactics ensures you’re spending your budget effectively.

Even if your marketing budget is small, it can still be powerful. Get the most out of your budget by taking the time to create the perfect marketing mix for your company. Like they say — sometimes less is more!

Does your business need help developing a marketing strategy that won’t break the bank? Contact the marketing experts at GREENCREST today to get started!

 

Four Social Media Trends to Master in 2018

As technology continues to change, the ways in which we communicate and engage with customers on social media do, too. Take a look at four social media trends that GREENCREST predicts will take center stage in 2018.

Video

Social video and video advertising will continue to explode in 2018. In 2017, it significantly outperformed all other forms of content on every test, and as Generation Z continues to make itself known on social media, video should remain a primary focus of most companies’ marketing strategies. According to data collected by AdWeek, 50 percent of Gen Z-ers “can’t live without YouTube.” In 2017, nearly half of all businesses implemented video advertising, according to Hootsuite, which expects that number to grow by 29 percent in 2018.

“Brand Fatigue” and How to Avoid it

As the number of businesses on social media continues to increase, original, creative content is becoming harder and harder to come by, resulting in “brand fatigue,” or a phenomenon in which consumers become less likely to engage with sponsored or branded content. In 2018, businesses can expect to feel pressure to create better, more engaging content in order to establish themselves as independently verifiable sources. Focus on communication with individuals in your own community. Connect with them directly through messenger platforms, for example. Your customers value local and personal experiences. Engaging with them on a personal level will help grow your business into an industry leader as their trust in you grows.

Live Streaming

Originally thought to be applicable to only video gaming, live streaming is quickly creeping into social media. In the last 1 ½ years, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat all introduced live-streaming capabilities for their mobile apps. Companies have incorporated the technology to live stream events, Q&A’s, reviews, interviews, webinars, and more. Live streaming is so popular among brands because through it they can genuinely connect with their audience, and Internet users agree. According to Statista, people of all ages viewed live streams in 2017, and — in 2018 — live streaming will continue to grow in popularity and user base.

Influencer Marketing

In 2017, 75 percent of brands incorporated influencer marketing into their marketing strategies, according to AdWeek. Hallmark, for example, created the hashtag #Keepsakeit to encourage family-friendly Instagram users to promote Hallmark’s keepsake ornaments during the holidays. Earlier this month, social media influencer Hannah Bronfman signed on as a brand ambassador for a new Proctor & Gamble feminine hygiene product. In 2018, the investment in influencer marketing will grow. As internet users continue to search for “authentic” content, and the use of AdBlock grows, influencer marketing will continue to grow as an extremely effective way for marketers to reach their audiences on social media.

The experts at GREENCREST know a thing or two about how to create an engaging, successful social media strategy. Contact us today to get a head start on mastering these 2018 trends.

 

Key Trends to Watch for in 2018

While it can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of changing technology, business owners should pay attention to the certain technological trends that are quickly taking root and promise to change the way businesses operate.

If you pay attention to the buzzwords, you’ll be hearing a lot more in the coming year about automation, Artificial Intelligence and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools.

Automation

The biggest growth in technology will likely come in the areas of automation, whether that automation comes in the form of bots, self-service check-out stations, robots or autonomous vehicles.

If you’ve eaten out lately, you might find that you can place your order and pay for it without ever talking to a waiter. Many fast-food outlets are investing in automated kiosks allowing customers to place an order, pay for it and then pick it up at the counter when their number is called. Big-box retailers are experimenting with scanners that shoppers can carry with them throughout the store. The scanner tallies up the purchases as the shoppers go through the store, and then the customer just has to visit a kiosk to pay for the purchases at the end.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is helping boost efficiency in some industries. Augmedix, for example, has invested in Google Glasses for its doctors to wear during a patient’s employment. During the appointment, via live streaming through the Google Glasses, the doctor is interacting with a human transcriber who is taking notes and updating the patient’s chart in real time. This advancement, according to Augmedix, has freed up the doctors to spend more time with the patients and less time updating the electronic health care charts.

When he recently spoke to a group of Columbus business owners at a First Merchants Bank event, Gene Marks — a public speaker and frequent contributor to The Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine — talked about the importance of bots in reaching customers. Have you ever had your pharmacy call you to alert you that it was time to reorder a prescription? That bot is merely a software program that is using messaging to carry out a task that will ultimately lead the customer to a human who can help them. The bot is connected to the business’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, another technology that Marks says business owners should fully embrace.

CRM

A good CRM can do three things for a business:

  • It will ensure that no prospects fall through the cracks.
  • It will make you look smart, because it can provide lots of detailed, unique information about your customers.
  • It will increase the value of your business. In the Big Data world in which we live, the information in your CRM — names, detailed information, phone numbers email addresses — is worth money and can raise the price that someone is willing to pay for your business.

What’s important for businesses owners to remember as you embrace all of this technology is that there is no substitute for the human touch in customer relations. Automation, AI and CRMs can take care of many tasks. But when it’s time to have a conversation with a customer — whether it’s a retailer taking care of a 70-year-old customer who doesn’t know how to use the self-check-out counter or a manufacturing plant trying to sell a $500,000 part to another business — that is a conversation best left to humans and not robots.

 

Why Businesses Should Make Video a Marketing Priority in 2018

Wherever we go these days, it seems we are bombarded with video: on our computers, tablets, phones, not to mention what we see on TV. Just open any of your social media accounts, and you’re likely to see video as you scroll through your feed. More and more websites also now have embedded videos on landing pages, which can increase conversion rates.

According to the American Marketing Association, video content will be the driving factor behind 85 percent of all search traffic in the U.S. by 2019. In addressing marketing priorities for 2018, companies should make video a top priority — whether it’s for a website, Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. Video content will be imperative in 2018, even for companies that are focused on marketing to businesses.

Relating to Millennials

One reason for this great change is that there are a growing number of millennials populating the workforce. According to the latest figures from the Pew Research Center, there were an estimated 79.8 million millennials living in the U.S. in 2016, compared to 74.1 million baby boomers — more than half the population! And, according to Catalyst, one-third of all working-age people in the U.S. in 2015 were millennials, a percentage that’s expected to grow to 75 percent by 2025.

And what do we know about millennials? They are comfortable with video. They grew up playing video games, livestreaming movies and creating their own videos on their smart phones. And, more important, they like to share videos. To engage with them in the workplace — to get their attention if you’re trying to sell them a product or a service for their business — video is a must.

The Power of Videos

Sprint took to video to promote its Workplace-as-a-Service from Sprint Business. Sprint’s brilliant video from 2015 outlines the hassles of opening a new office — finding the best phone system and integrating that with the network, Wi-Fi, email, phone conferencing and other collaboration tools. The video sells the idea that Sprint can handle that all for you, freeing you to spend time on what matters most to your business — hiring employees for the new office, furnishing the office, courting business prospects in the new city. The video ends with the simple message, “You’ve got better things to do, and we kind of don’t.”

Sprint’s video sells the idea that they understand their business customers’ pain points, and they know how to solve them.

Millennials in leadership positions within companies recognize the power of such videos to communicate a message and to build relationships with customers. According to Google, 50 percent of all internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store.

Still not sure? Consider these statistics gathered by HubSpot Research:

  • 59 percent of the decision-makers in companies (which will increasingly be millennials) prefer watching a video over reading a blog post.
  • 54 percent of consumers want to see videos from brands they support.
  • 43 percent of respondents said that branded video content was the most memorable to them and they wanted to see more video content from marketers.
  • 55 percent of people consume video content thoroughly.

In developing video, companies must remember that a good video still must tell a story, be professional and have a relevant, engaging message for the audience before closing with a meaningful call to action.

In addition, the key to using video content to propel your brand will be understanding how best to use the video you’ve just created to your advantage on your website and in each social media channel. After all, the entire purpose of the video — as with any marketing message — is to engage your customers and your prospects.