Modern consumer services businesses need an online foundation before beginning marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate, a digital presence so your prospective customers can easily find you, business listings to expand your digital presence, and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. All of these pieces focus on helping your customers refer others to your business, directly and indirectly.
The website of most small consumer services businesses should have a three-level hierarchy. This simple hierarchy helps you organize your website so your audience can easily navigate it. On the first level (homepage), you must convey your solutions in a clear and concise way. By showcasing your services as solutions to your audience’s problems, you’re drawing them in, making it about them and their needs rather than about your business.
On the second level, which are usually the top-level items in your menu, display the impact of your services. This is the ideal place to showcase your case studies, use cases, testimonials, and customer reviews, which helps convey the real-world solutions you provide with your services.
On the third level, which can be accessed from the second level, it’s time to convey how your business works. This includes processes and the technical approach used to perform your services. Just be sure to use your messaging guidelines so you don’t get too technical.
In order to limit your webpages to three levels, you must drill down your website content. This also helps your audience, as they are likely busy and want quick information to determine whether your services will meet their needs. Having your website follow this simple hierarchy helps your audience navigate not only your website, but it also helps them navigate through the customer journey with your business, which often begins when they visit your website. In this manner, as they click through each level, they are diving deeper into the customer journey.
Building a Digital Presence
In addition to having a solid website that your audience can use as a resource, it’s important to lead to that website from a variety of platforms. Social media and business listings are important (see Social Media in Lead Nurturing) to build your digital presence because your business largely serves customers outside of your immediate local area (or you’re a remote team).
Without a local community connection, you need to join and create online communities; however, having a digital presence is more than creating a profile or listing on every possible site available to your business and your industry. Instead, it’s important to use only the most relevant and essential social media and directory sites to showcase your business. These listings must be established and maintained over time, which will help create and maintain a positive reputation online.
Be careful not to spread too wide on this, since the role of the digital presence is primarily to convey a positive reputation, convey core messaging, and convey that the business is active. Having too many social media pages and business listings makes it hard to manage over time, which can negatively impact your reputation if prospects presume an inactive or outdated page means an inactive business.
One of the best ways to help your audience find your business and your website are through business listings. Popular business listings for most industries include Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. There are also industry-specific and location-specific business directories, most of which allow you to create a business listing for free. Having your business information listed on multiple business directories helps your audience find you when the listing matches the intent of the business directory.
Tip: For many business directories, you can showcase a service area instead of an address on your business listing.
To create your business listings, you first need to collect basic information about your business, including business name, business type, website URL, contact email and phone number, logo, and a basic description for your business. Then, you must distribute these across business directories that are appropriate for your business and industry. To do so, you can either use third-party businesses that offer citation building as a service or you can manually create them.
Which route you choose will depend on how many directories you believe would benefit your business (and what directories your competitors are already on) as well as how much time you have to dedicate to this process. Most SaaS companies that offer citation building are available on a monthly subscription basis, so choose one based on what other services you need. Or seek out a marketing agency, such as SharedTEAMS, to perform this task for you.
ONLINE REPUTATION STRATEGY
Customer stories, through online reviews, testimonials, and case studies, can help establish trust and an emotional connection with your prospective customers. This customer-generated content can change the opinions of prospective customers because customers trust other customers the most. This is why consumer services businesses need to not only request testimonials and reviews, but they also need to manage their online reputation.
While anyone can review your business on most business listings or social media pages, most people only do so if they were really wowed by your services or were really upset with your services. Negative reviews happen to everyone, which is why it’s so important to develop a strategy to monitor and improve your online reputation. This strategy will involve two things:
- A way to ask your customers to review your business
- A plan on how to respond to negative and positive reviews appropriately
When asking your customers to review your business, you can do so in person, in an email, via text messages, or in other ways. There are also platforms that automate this process for you, sending emails and texts on your behalf.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
ORM generally starts with your Business Listings. You will send customers to your Business Listings (Google My Business, Yelp, and industry-specific listings) so they can leave your business a review. Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take the conversation off of that platform by encouraging them to email or call you (or you can email or call them first). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews on Business Listings, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. Monitoring your online reputation gives you a sense of your overall reputation, online and offline, which can help you know how your services are benefitting your customers as well as opportunities for improvement.
There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create alerts for your business name and service names, if applicable, to monitor your brand mentions on any platform.
When reviewing your brand’s online reputation, it’s beneficial to view your brand sentiment. This narrows down to positive, negative, or neutral. The sentiment is the overall view of your brand from all online mentions. The goal is to have a positive sentiment, which doesn’t mean all reviews, posts, and comments are positive, but instead that most are. This positive view or sentiment shows that your customers and industry have a positive view of your business, which is critical to success.
If your sentiment is negative, then you need to resolve that with ORM, so start monitoring and responding to negative reviews, posts, and comments. If your sentiment is neutral, then your audience doesn’t really have an opinion about your business, which means not enough people know about it yet.
Your sentiment is heavily influenced by your social media program, so start there to improve it by sharing quality content that your audience cares about.
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