Why Do Customers Write Reviews?

Who are these people who write reviews on websites like Yelp, Amazon and Angie’s List? And why do they have so much power over your success?

Contrary to some opinions I’ve heard, online reviewers usually aren’t just disgruntled customers or dishonest competitors in disguise. They view themselves as part of a community that plays an important role in helping consumers make wise choices.

Remember that these online review websites are companies, and they have a business interest in encouraging reviewers. The more reputable and helpful their community is, the more successful the company will be.

For instance, Yelp recruits active reviewers to engage in its ‘Elite’ program, offering special free events and perks to this group. You can see from my Yelp profile that I participated in this community for awhile:

Why do customers write reviews?

On a smaller scale, some companies offer sweepstakes giveaways or discounts to customers who write reviews. And we can never neglect the allure some feel of developing a following, being considered a community leader or creating a reputation as an expert (even if it’s just expertise in local restaurants).

Because online review companies develop authentic communities, your customers trust the reviews they read, and they make purchase decisions based on reviewers’ opinions. So be nice to the reviewers and encourage your loyal customers to make their voices heard.

The Pinterest Marketing Checklist

With 14.9 million users as of July 2012, Pinterest is certainly a growing social network. But should it be part of your marketing plan? If you answer “yes” to the questions in my Pinterest Marketing Checklist, a Pinterest marketing campaign should probably be in your future.

  • Are a significant portion of your customers or influencers women?
  • Is your brand related to fashion, art, crafting, event-planning, cooking, travel or something similar?
  • Can your brand tell a story with pictures? Do pictures of your products, services or location impress?
If you answered “no” to these questions, you can dismiss Pinterest from your mind and stop reading this article. I like to make life easier for my readers. Those answering in the affirmative should read on.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest LogoPinterest is all about organizing and sharing pictures of things you like. These pictures are collected in groupings, called “pin-boards.” Users see pictures that friends and brands “pin,” and they “repin” the content if they like it. Pinterest users want to display their style and personality, along with using Pinterest to help them plan events and store ideas.

The overwhelming majority of active Pinterest users are female. There’s some controversy in the media about the truth of this statement, but anyone who has ever visited Pinterest sees the obvious truth of it.

Brands must be careful about marketing on Pinterest– promoting oneself too obviously will ensure your “pins” are ignored. Engage users with stories and environments that subtly include products and services.

Pinterest Marketing Success Story

Fashion brand Anthropologie has made a concerted effort with their Pinterest marketing the last few months. Visitors to the Anthropologie website can pin any product, sharing it with their friends. Importantly, the brand encourages customers to spread the word on Pinterest for them, creating a more authentic, populist campaign (and relinquishing control over what products actually become popular).

Pinterest Marketing on Anthropologie

Anthropologie took the Pinterest marketing offline, as well. Pages in their catalogues cheekily display collections of pins, with copy, “From oodles of brooches to the pull of Pinterest.”

Pinterest Marketing from Anthropologie

If you’ve decided to give Pinterest marketing a try, use this Anthropologie example as a start, or contact me for more ideas – amanda@zooinajungle.com. For readers who will be in Alaska on October 4, 2012, learn more about social media marketing during my presentation at the Getting Down to Business Sales & Customer Service Conference. Click here to learn more.

Foursquare for Small Business Marketing

Foursquare is a social site that reports having 15 million members worldwide. The number is pretty impressive, but is Foursquare an effective small business marketing tool? As with any marketing tactic, the answer depends on the kind of business you have. Here are some details to help you decide.

The Foursquare blog describes their purpose is to help members, “Keep up with friends, discover what’s nearby, and save money at places you love.” But what does that mean? In practice, Foursquare members use their mobile phones to “check-in” to the places they go and can leave comments or tips about the place. All this information is shared with their network of friends. The member who has checked-in the most at one place becomes the “mayor” of that place.

With all this conversation going on, there’s plenty of marketing opportunity for small businesses with physical locations, like restaurants, retail shops or veterinarians. The first step to use Foursquare in your marketing efforts is to search for your business and claim it. Foursquare describes businesses as “venues.”

Claim your venue on Foursquare

It can be complicated to claim your venue, especially if the phone number is missing or the address is incorrect. Here’s a brief tutorial on how to claim your venue on Foursquare:

1. Search and find your venue

2. Click “Do you manage this venue? Claim here”

3. Follow Foursquare’s instructions. If the venue’s phone number is correct, this can be pretty easy:

But if Foursquare can’t confirm your phone number, as in this business’s case, they’ll have to mail a postcard to the address with instructions for claiming the venue:

As you can see, they also allow you to submit an address change, in case the listing is incorrect. If Foursquare must send your business a postcard, claiming your venue can take some weeks, so be patient.

Marketing opportunities with Foursquare

Once you’ve claimed your venue, the main marketing opportunity with Foursquare is to designate Specials. Right now, creating these Specials is free for the business. Here’s a graphic from the site that shows the kinds of specials a business might run, based on a spectrum of goals from Customer Acquisition to Customer Retention:

If your business is already receiving many check-ins, these Specials can help you reach your business goals. For instance, if one of your goals is to encourage first-time customers to come back a second time, you might run a Check-In Special.

To track the success of their Specials, businesses use the Merchant Dashboard. Foursquare seems to provide pretty good analytics and reporting. They also have some great Case Studies that delve into these marketing issues further. These show success stories of businesses (small and large) profiting from Foursquare.

Along with Specials, a business will also want to keep an eye on their check-in trends and customer comments. Responding to customer comments and recognizing check-in regulars is good customer service.

Based on this overview, you should be able to determine if Foursquare is right for your marketing efforts and take the first steps towards implementing a Foursquare marketing strategy. Have more questions about Foursquare and your business? Email me at amanda@zooinajungle.com or call 513.833.4203.

Fake Word-of-Mouth Marketing Could Cost You

Word-of-mouth marketing, the kind of marketing where your customers spread the word for you, is an exceptionally effective marketing strategy in our world of connections and sharing. Customers trust word-of-mouth because it comes from their disinterested friends, family or online community.

When a business first opens or releases a new product, they might be tempted to “get the ball rolling” by asking employees or relatives to post favorable reviews, but this dishonesty might cost them. Online word-of-mouth marketing only works because customers trust the recommendations, reviews and ratings. It’s dangerous to risk losing that trust.

For instance, potential customers might spot the fakes and publicly denounce the reviews. Even worse, the FTC might come knocking on your door. From an FTC news release:

“A public relations agency hired by video game developers will settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having employees pose as ordinary consumers posting game reviews at the online iTunes store, and not disclosing that the reviews came from paid employees working on behalf of the developers.”

Clearly, this PR agency will have a difficult time reclaiming its reputation. As with every aspect of life, honesty is the best policy. Inspire real customers with great experiences, and you won’t need to run the risk of fake word-of-mouth.

Should I be on Twitter?

If you answer “Yes” to the following two questions, you should probably include a Twitter presence in your marketing plan:

  • Are you interesting?
  • Are your customers on Twitter?

That is my basic litmus test to answer if a business or person should be on Twitter. More specifically, personalities, speakers, authors, thought leaders, news organizations, technology companies and similar groups should make room in the marketing budget for Twitter.

Who shouldn’t be on Twitter?

To effectively market with Twitter requires quite a time commitment– you have to develop a community of followers by engaging in conversation and keeping them interested. If your customers don’t use Twitter, don’t bother including it in your marketing activities. It’s OK to just say “No!” to any marketing activity that won’t help you reach your business goals.

What should I say?

Marketing on Twitter is less about what you say and more about how you participate. People use Twitter for news, stories, conversations, and to learn what others are thinking right this moment about important (and not-so-important) issues in their lives. No one uses Twitter to receive deals or special offers from businesses. Be friendly and join conversations. Consider Twitter the cocktail party of marketing more than a megaphone.

What about that Twitter vocab?

Here’s some Twitter vocabulary to get you started.

  • Tweep – a Twitter user
  • Tweet – What tweeps post
  • # – This little guy is called a hashtag, and it allows tweeps to add categories to their tweets. For instance, #marketing would be a tweet about marketing. Usually, event organizers specify a hashtag to use when attendees are tweeting from the event, so people the world over can follow the happenings.
  • RT – Retweet. Give credit where credit is due. If you repost someone’s tweet, credit them with RT @username.

Many Kinds of Marketing

Marketers are a creative bunch, and we like to create new things. But sometimes the pursuit of the “new” can go overboard. I started thinking about all the different kinds of “marketing” I’ve experienced, and the list began to get a bit ridiculous. Below are the kinds of marketing I thought of in the last few minutes. Have you heard of them all? Are there any others I forgot?

  • Affiliate Marketing
  • B2B Marketing
  • B2C Marketing
  • Buzz Marketing
  • Cross-Marketing
  • Door-to-Door Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Grassroots Marketing
  • Guerilla Marketing
  • Internal Marketing
  • Long-Tail Marketing
  • Loyalty Marketing
  • Niche Marketing
  • Permission Marketing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Traditional Marketing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Web Marketing
  • Word-of-mouth Marketing

The problem is that marketing doesn’t really work when it’s so highly segmented. Customers don’t care about the differences between a business’s loyalty marketing efforts and social media marketing strategy. And a customer doesn’t know when they’re being targeted by the web marketing team or the traditional marketing team.

To the customer, it’s all just marketing… even the activities that the marketing team aren’t responsible for, like billing.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you call your marketing, as long as it all works together to help you customer have a great experience.

Marketing is easy when you’re awesome

A couple weeks ago, I published a post imploring businesses to be good. Being good is important for your business, though it might not make your marketing any easier. But what if your business is not just good, it’s awesome? Being awesome opens the door to great marketing opportunities that makes your marketing strategy easy.

Here are three ways marketing is easy when you’re awesome:

1. PR and social media are easy

For many businesses, developing a compelling PR and social media strategy is hard– what do we say? who will care? who will spread the message? But for businesses that are awesome, PR is easy.

Grady Veterinary Hospital in Cincinnati, OH accepts animals in need from the SPCA. Right now, they are caring for a kitten that had been set on fire and loosed on a city street. Each day, they provide updates on the little guy’s progress. Because they do awesome things, their public relations and social media strategy is easy: Tell stories about the wonderful animals we help.

2. Word of mouth marketing is easy

It’s pretty obvious that if your business is awesome, your customers will want to talk about you. That’s the essence of word of mouth marketing. Give your customers something to talk about– a charitable initiative, an innovative application of your product or service that goes above and beyond what they could have imagined.

The BonBonerie is an extremely successful confectioner here in Cincinnati. Customer demand is so strong that they have an entire cafe dedicated to wedding cake tastings. Their business has been built mostly on word-of-mouth marketing because their business is amazing. The beautiful cakes, delicious flavors and careful service give customers plenty to rave about. Crafting this business wasn’t easy, but the word of mouth marketing is creating itself.

3. Employee satisfaction is easy

Happy employees make happy customers. When an employee believes in what she does, she wants to help each customer as much as she can. And, no surprise, employees find it easiest to believe in awesome employers.

When I worked at Apple, my fellow employees were 100% dedicated to the company’s way of doing business. Apple has a great employee training program and customer service methodology, and the employees already believe wholeheartedly in the products they sell. Because employees believe the company is awesome, they are able to provide customers with awesome experiences.

Marketing is easy when you’re awesome. “But my business isn’t awesome,” you might reply. So what are you going to do about it?

Be Good, Businesses

The plumber ruined my plaster ceiling.

A year later, the roofer broke my deck.

Does this look right to you?

Does this look "right" to you?

They both told me, “I want to make this right.” Then, they did everything in their power to avoid paying. (With limited success. I’m pretty tenacious.)

In the age of word-of-mouth marketing, with Angie’s List, Yelp and girlfriends getting together for coffee, how could any business person be so short-sighted to think shirking a responsibility today would result in profit tomorrow?

Honesty and virtue are key ingredients to long-term success. It sounds old-fashioned, because there’s nothing new about being a good business with good people.

Dishonesty can lead to short-term gains–remember Enron?–but ultimately ends in business disaster. For the plumber, I wrote a reasonable yet scathing review of his business and chose one of his dozen competitors to be my go-to plumber. As for the roofer, I related my story to friends and neighbors, so they can make informed decisions in the future. I’m just one home-owner, but my influence extends beyond my own purchasing needs.

And the same is true of your customers. Each day, your customers are evaluating your dependability and trustworthiness. They are sharing their opinions with friends and family. Their opinions carry more weight than the most perfectly-designed marketing campaign.

So, be good. Do the right thing.

Your business will profit from it, and so will your conscience.

P.S. Bonus: The effects of unethical business decisions extend further than word-of-mouth. If you have customers who won’t pay anything until the last jot and tittle of the contract are fulfilled, they’ve likely been treated badly in the past. They feel the need to protect themselves. And who can blame them? We’ve all heard the lie at sometime or other, “I want to make this right.”

Marketing Podcast: Word of Mouth Marketing

In this marketing podcast, I talk about word of mouth marketing- the marketing strategy for getting referrals. Word of Mouth Marketing is the most powerful way to get new customers. Why do I think that and what can you do to improve your referrals? Listen to find out!

Listen or download below:

Word of Mouth Marketing

Download the Word of Mouth Marketing MP3 file here. (6.1 MB)

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.

Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful strategy for getting new customers- it’s harnessing the potential for referrals. All good businesses have a treasure trove of customers who love them and could refer them to friends, family or colleagues.

But most businesses take a haphazard approach to referrals. They just hope they happen. In fact, you need to develop strategies for word of mouth marketing. It’s not enough to provide a great product and service, while hoping for the best. Fortunately, word of mouth marketing is not that difficult or costly.

Why is word of mouth marketing important?

People trust their friends and believe their advice about 1000 times more than they believe your advertisements or marketing messagaes. If you are looking for a plumber, who do you trust more for a recommendation, your brother or your phone book? (For the purpose of this article, please assume your brother is reliable.)

Because your potential customers trust referrals, and you have lots of happy customers who can refer you, word of mouth marketing is a profitable proposition. Imagine if half of your customers sent you one referral each year. What would that do for your bottom line?

How do I improve my word of mouth marketing?

Ask your customers for referrals. If they like you, and you ask in a personalized way, your customers will be eager to help you succeed and share helpful advice with their friends, family or colleagues. This seemingly simple step is overlooked by almost every business I’ve been in contact with. It’s easy and effective, so you should start asking your customers for referrals today.

When asking customers for referrals, it is common to reward those customers, but you should reward the referral for buying from you as well. Some customers might feel awkward about recommending something to a friend that they are getting “paid” for – and their friends might be suspicious as well. If everyone involved receives benefit, that concern is lessened.

Besides offering rewards, you can provide your customers with a referral marketing piece that they can use to refer you. For instance, your could give them sample products or supply postcards they can hand out. This approach is effective because it helps them to remember to refer you, gives them something tangible to pass on, and your marketing message will have a better chance to be clearly communicated.

Sometimes, customers don’t have the opportunity to refer you right away, but they might in the future. Think of the plumber example- your brother might not have called a plumber for years. How will he remember which plumber was the best? To get your customers to remember you in crucial referral moments, develop a way to stay top-of-mind with your customers. Offer an informative, interesting or entertaining newsletter; ask them to ‘like’ your frequently-updated Facebook page, or get old-fashioned and mail them something. Madison Tree Care & Landscaping mails me a quarterly newsletter with tree care advice and cute company updates. It’s informative, but more importantly, it helps me remember them. Because I remember them, I refer them. (An added bonus to staying in touch with your customers is that they might just give you more business as well!)

Word of mouth marketing extends beyond the circle of people your customers know. If they write online reviews of your business on a site like Yelp.com, their referrals will live on for years and shape the opinions of people searching online for businesses like yours. So how do get customers to write online reviews? The same way you get them to refer you. Ask them; reward them; give them suggestions.

Small businesses are especially apt to benefit from word of mouth marketing because people feel good about buying from small businesses and referring them, especially if the business is local; knowing about it provides a level of exclusivity, or the owner has a likable personality. You just have to ask!