Reasons Why You SHOULD Have a Business Website for Your Firm

Recommended Public Relations and Marketing Activities

If you have a small business, it’s just as likely that you will have a business website as will not. Clutch.com conducted a study that tells us that almost half of the businesses responding — 46% of small business owners (at the time surveyed) do not have a website.

Business owners planning websites

Reasons frequently cited for not having a website range from cost, irrelevance to one’s business to lack of time or resources to develop one. In business as in our personal lives, it is easy to make up excuses. By not having a business website, you are missing out on new business opportunities. Our article is not to point out all the reasons you don’t have one, you can do that yourself.

Let’s focus on the reasons you must have a business website, no matter the size of your business.

  1. Develops credibility. If a potential customer searches for your business and finds only a Facebook page or a listing in a directory, they will discredit your firm’s validity. Ask yourself, what’s the first thing you do when you want to learn more about a specific business? You Google it.
  2. Establishes a digital presence. Think of your website as your beachhead in the war against digital anonymity. With one of every two searches happening on a personal digital device like a phone or tablet you need to be found in the interwebs. On your own turf. With your own website. With increasing numbers cutting the cord on cable and satellite TV, and reading magazines and other publications on tablets, your digital presence, prospective clients are online searching. You have got to be there where they seek you. That is with your website and then in other channels such as social media.
  3. Allows you to own your own publishing channel. Many business owners think that a Facebook page or a LinkedIn company page will do. Or that a Google Business profile substitutes for a company owned website. While you may publish content to the web on each of these channels, you don’t own the channel. Each may have restrictions or algorithms which prevent your content reaching a large audience. With a website, you can continuously add content that helps customers by answering questions and solving problems for which they seek answers.
  4. Allows you to manage your professional reputation. If you find your business in a tricky situation, being able to use your website as the first source of information related to your crisis is critical. While the news media may print your quotes or media release about the situation, frequently, they don’t have the room or space to quote all you may have to say or may relate what you say differently than you communicated it. Your website is a place where your words may be published your way.
  5. Provides a place for reviews and customer interaction. Allows your customers to share their positive experiences with your business. When developing a website, it’s not difficult to provide customers a way to review your products. Previous customer reviews are some of the most read aspects of a site. They provide probably customers valuable insight into how others experience your products and services. And if you’re concerned about negative reviews, realize that the occasional negative review is common and the majority of readers will expect to see excellent, good, poor, and bad reviews. If they don’t they won’t think your reviews are real. And most review systems provide you a way to screen reviews and respond to them, demonstrating your caring and interest.
  6. Provides a mechanism for applications, forms, or other materials customers or sales staff may need. If you have a warranty process, your website can provide the place where people may input requests for service, or replacement. Your sales staff will also appreciate the fact that a well-designed web form can help them gather preliminary, qualifying information required to help provide sales or service. There are many ways to gather and use data and meet customer requests via your website.

When people Google your business, do they find only a screen of directory listings for your business, or do they find your website? Wouldn’t you prefer that they find your website listing first and then all the other listings underpinning your own presence? Your pride of ownership is at stake, so, for heaven’s sake, get your own website, make sure it’s indexed into search engines and then use it to establish yourself on the web.

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Should you Clap Back at Trolls on your Business Social Media Like Celebs Do?

clap back should be saved for concerts

Do celebrities have a better position from which to counter insults?

If you’re a celebrity, you have a presence that invites invective…earned or unearned. You also have a position of credibility and likability that sways the public to your support when you speak back against people making mean comments.

According to the Jonathan Landrum in a story for the Associated Press,  “From Rick Ross to Rihanna to the Kardashians, celebrities are going out of their way to “clap back” at regular folk who have the audacity to come for them on social media.”

These days, clap back doesn’t mean a standing ovation

The term, clap back, from a popular song, means to speak derogatorily against those who do so to you. The AP says, “Clapping back is a way for someone to instantly gain the upper hand against an adversary who disrespected them, their family members or close friends.”

As a business owner, it might be very tempting to make negative comments.

Suppose for example an obese diner found your triple chocolate cheesecake to be spoiled and made a derogatory comment about your restaurant. Are you justified in saying in response to this person that they should never have been eating that cheesecake? Or, if you are a clothing store and someone complains that their trousers split because the seam was defective, should you complain that they chose the wrong size?

Just because you think you’re right, should you hurl insults?

You can easily see how responding with equally damaging comments can come back on you, harming your business reputation far beyond what will happen to a celebrity when they make similar comments. Celebrities have an audience that loves them, adores them and supports them.

Small businesses frequently have fans, however they don’t have the tidal wave of people who will support them. When restaurant owners in the Arizona took umbrage at the advice given them by restaurant turnaround program Kitchen Nightmares, they quickly became a laughing stock on social media. The restaurant finally went out of business, but not before the owners complained at length and loudly on their Facebook page and on Twitter about all the people coming to laugh at them and gawp at their shenanigans in person.

By taking on trolls on your own social media, you risk your own reputation if your responses aren’t well thought out, documented and intelligently conveyed. When there is real damage, such as food poisoning or lost value in a product purchased through defective quality, address the actual complaints, remedy the situation and correct defects. Typical examples of such measures are paying for dry-cleaning when a server dumps a plate of food on a diner’s lap, or replacing a defective product with a good one. Hotels frequently respond to Yelpers with apologies and invitations to contact them for make-goods. Always taking the conversation off-line is a good measure, allowing you to make personal contact, humanizing both you and the complainants. It’s all too easy to hide behind screen names and fake identities. It’s entirely another reality to speak to someone and hear that the party in the hotel room next to your guests kept a baby awake (and thus his parents) all night, making them unable to take care of business the next day.

Be bigger, take the high road

When your trolls take up a personal vendetta against you, you can ignore them, taking the high road. Some people do try to go against their critics, occasionally winning support. Just as frequently, they destroy their own reputations. Not only that, they get into a tennis match — starting up volleys of insults that demean, belittle and ultimately take them down to the troll’s level. This is not what you would want to accomplish with your business: destroying your reputation and presence.

So, rather than mouth off at your detractors, find the positive in what they may be trying to tell you, and use intelligence and remediate the defects in your business then share your improvement efforts. When possible, use humor to laugh at yourself and go about your business.

Not every complaint requires a redress though. Sometimes people complain just because they cannot have things their way, and for what may be very good reasons, you may not be able to give them what they want. In the case of a restaurant, you may not be able to prepare the barbecued chicken without barbecue sauce, because to do so, would destroy the integrity of the dish. A complaint that your chef refused to do so, doesn’t require remediation, just an explanation that while you might have liked to provide that dish to the diner’s specifications, doing so is not possible. You might mention that it was suggested that they try the baked chicken which comes without sauce, for example.

Unreasonable demands addressed

When you have continuous or unreasonable demands from the same customer you might question the customer’s value to your business. Do you spend more time defending against their insults? Do you find that you find their presence in your storefront causes staff turmoil? If the answers are yes, then you might ban the customer from doing business with you. While a harsh measure, it will in the long term save your business many headaches. Banning a customer is not a thing to do lightly, but an action to be undertaken with consideration.

In the end, our advice will always be to carefully consider the source of the complaint, the substance of the complaint, the damage caused, the injury or perceived injury suffered, the cost of rectifying the damage, and the rightness of your actions and ultimately, the Golden Rule.

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Marketing Tactics For Small Business Owners

 

Owned Earned and Paid

Market like a 21st century business

Marketing tactics brands use to reach consumers have changed from the 20th C. Brands now have Owned, Earned and Paid media to use to share messages and engage their prospective customers. Your small business would be wise to structure your marketing tactics to include each of these in your strategic plan.

Critical to your success is the use a variety of marketing media and tactics. Be sure your marketing:

  • Tells a unique story, not just tries to sell, sell, sell.
  • Uses video. Video is the most consumed content in 2015 and will trend higher in 2016. Google is calling 2016 the year of the video.
  • Has product reviews by users. Reviews and testimonials continue as strong components. If your website sells products, include the ability for your customers to review your products.
  • Online sales continue to rise, so if you sell products and have only bricks and mortar, consider adding an online sales component of the most popular items in your store.

How do these key marketing tactics work for you?

  1. Storytelling and your brand. If you’ve not begun to use the stories native to your brand in your marketing, this finding indicates the power of storytelling with people Need help finding your story? In my recent article on mining your backstory for About.com, I’ve shared five tips on how to use storytelling in the development of your brand. If your brand is tired, or you find people fail to remember the essential benefits of your brand, it’s time to refresh it. Social media which is both an owned and earned medium, is the perfect place for sharing storified elements with your prospective customers.
  2. A video is worth a 1,000 words. We all agree that pictures help us see. So if still images help illustrate, how much more powerful is video? Clearly respondents said it’s important. Do you have videos on either YouTube or Vimeo? If not, why not? Video can be a demo, a how to, a screencast tutorial, or a purpose shot video. It can be created from stills and set to music with voice over. Video has a long shelf life and is both earned and owned, depending on the distribution channel and the virality.
  3. User product reviews. Far from being something to be frightened of, product reviews by users are an authentic, transparent way to allow your potential customers to learn more from the user’s point of view. The days of one-way marketing speak are done. Social media is the perfect channel to allow user reviews to be shared. In fact, This holiday season, 34% of holiday shoppers will read reviews using their mobile devices during shopping and more mobile devices are used to access social media every day. In Facebook, you can promote posts on your Facebook page that are testimonials, gaining increased traction. Recent data demonstrate that brands using both paid and non paid posts within Facebook are gaining increased engagement.
  4. In-store experiences. Face it, you don’t shop Costco only for the bargains. I won’t go on Saturday because of the crowds who choke the aisles as they cluster around the food demonstrators. If you’re a consumer packaged brand, you must use in-store demos to give buyers a chance to taste your product. But non CPG brands can also provide in-store demos. Sometimes we call them special events or open houses. If you’re a retail fashion store, casual modeling is a great way to demonstrate how you envision your customers wearing the fashions you sell. From cosmetics to cucumbers in the Farmer’s Market, there are ways to allow customers to taste, touch, and feel the items you have for sale. If you are an online only brand, think local partners to demonstrate in a town. Use alliances to get your products out front.

Pull, not push, show don’t tell, intrigue not scream

These days a wise business owner understands that there are many paths to the consumer, but the best path is the one that the consumer creates to get to you.  Consumers respond to authentic stories and brands that others like and talk about. And consumers are more frugal than ever so they want to understand through first hand experience what they will get when they purchase your product. Integrate these tactics into your marketing plan for greater success.

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Public Relations Advice: Contrition and Confession–Recovering from a Disaster

confessional

Public relations crisis management means planning for disaster as well as recovery

When your enterprise or organization falls short, you can recover. However, recovery depends on an accurate appraisal of your faults and weaknesses.

When Penn State suffered a horrible crisis, they learned from the Freeh report which addressed all the problems that led to the child abuse at Penn State. The scathing report spared no one. How did the organization recover?

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View video from NBC News.

In Christianity, we are urged to confess our sins. Almost every church and belief system has a process or ritual to allow it’s believers to redeem themselves, whether transgressions were committed willingly or through negligence.

1 John 1:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

How can an organization do as the Apostle John directs? It’s almost as simple as John writes.

For most of the world, if we confess or bring to light how and where we went astray or had policies and systems that were not solid, we can recover as long as we clearly chart a path in the light of day. The organization’s leaders must signal their true desire to mend their ways, and undertake new practices to prevent similar situations in the future. Kenneth Frazier the Penn State trustee speaking in the video above states,

“…with  a mixture of humility and steadfastness, we pledge to work closely and cooperatively with the adminsitration in diligently facilitating open communication across all departments and levels of the university that will be for the benefit of the children that are on our campus and it will also be for the benefit of every part of the university.”

It is this kind of public admission of directional change that leads to trust in the recovery efforts.

Steps to recovering after a public relations crisis:

  1. Quickly acknowledge the crisis and sincerely express sympathy for all involved, harmed or hurt during the crisis.
  2. Cooperate with law enforcement. (Yes, you must listen to your lawyers, and you also must be responsible citizens. And you can do both.)
  3. Address the causes of the crisis and how the organization is working to correct the issues that led to the situation.
  4. Have subject matter experts prepared to speak topically to specific items and discuss what happened and how it can be changed.
  5. Keep the public informed about what the organization is doing to recover and assist victims.
  6. Form a panel of individuals to analyze the situation and formulate changes to prevent future similar crises from occurring.
  7. If the crisis is deep rooted, make sure the panel is comprised of outside experts who have no stated or hidden loyalties to the organization, but are instead experts in the specific issues.
  8. Publish the findings in the pure light of day.
  9. Follow the steps outlined in the findings to change processes, procedures, and planning to prevent future crises of this type.
  10. Provide ongoing updates to the public reporting on the steps taken.

Recovery is possible

Human beings are forgiving, for the most part. If your organization is truthful, mends ways, seeks to prevent future crises and demonstrates the leaders’ conviction to prevent similar situations, leaders can restore the organization to strength. It won’t be easy, it won’t be swift, but it can be done.

 

Photo credit: flickr creative commons user emilio labrador

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Ten spot-on ways to develop articles for your business blog

blogging ideas when you're stuck

If you are writing a blog for your business, you need to stay focused on the goals you set when you decided to begin. Frequent reasons for blogging include: demonstrating your firm’s experience and capabilities and enhancing search engine results by providing consumers or buyers with the right information at the right time.

When you’ve been blogging a while, you may find you’re stagnant or fresh out of ideas. These ten ideas will help you write interesting blog posts even when your creative muse has gone on vacation.

  1. Look to the news of the day; are there any major news items that impact some aspect of your business’ core competencies? If so, write about how and why. Google News has a robust search feature which allows you to hone in on your most significant keywords.
  2. Look to your interactions with your clients. Did you have any “teachable moments” or interactions in the past few days that you feel are common and which, when shared, can provide learning opportunities? If yes, write about those moments; be sure to keep the names of those you mention and identifying comments discrete. You don’t want to embarrass your clients or yourself.
  3. Write about some of the “basics” of your business. It is always good to refresh yourself on core competencies and share fresh insights as to why these basics are so important.
  4. Write about management issues affecting your business. Each business has issues that are common to them all and often generalize to others in the industry.
  5. Look to trends in your industry and analyze how one of them may affect clients in your industry.
  6. If your blog is client facing, write about new developments that are sure to produce results for them. Tell why.
  7. Invite another industry / sector expert to be a guest blogger. They can write about their insights into key issues in your industry.
  8. Share a client success story (with permission of course.) Tell why they succeeded and if you were a part of that success, help readers see how and why the client succeeded.
  9. Share a major learning experience; an Ah-ha moment. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be bullet proof…just healed. So say how and why you got insight that helped you redirect.
  10. Share information about your colleagues or employees or even new staff member news, awards and competencies. I would even suggest having one of your employees write a guest post. Invite them to share some of their personality and talents they bring to working with you.

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