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chris kinney
Tuesday, 19 June 2018 / Published in online business, seo marketing
top b2b lead generation strategies
When’s the last time you sat down and really analyzed how you’re garnering customer service leads, and how well those strategies are working? If you’re like most sales and marketing departments, you’re probably much more focused on figuring out who those new customers are and converting them then analyzing what you’re doing.
Even so, you may have the same priorities as many sales people when it comes to lead generation.
You want the quality to be better, but you also want the volume to increase. And you do want to be able to analyze what works, but you want to do so in a way that’s efficient and effective. Effectiveness does come when you’re selective about what you focus on for lead generation. For example, most marketers believe that events offer a worth-it payoff. What else is good for leads, and good for you? This graphic explains it.

Lead generation is a persistent challenge even among high-growth B2B businesses. Salespeople who have direct, individual contact with buyers can communicate their company’s value proposition in a tailored way. However, marketers who are trying to generate leads don’t have the same intimacy and urgency on their side.

While there are numerous B2B lead-generation ideas you can use, there are several that should form the backbone of any successful program. The following lead-generation techniques are well-tested strategies that can be employed, whether you are building your program from scratch or refining your current lead-generation process.

Lead generation is a persistent challenge even among high-growth B2B businesses. Salespeople who have direct, individual contact with buyers can communicate their company’s value proposition in a tailored way. However, marketers who are trying to generate leads don’t have the same intimacy and urgency on their side.
While there are numerous B2B lead-generation ideas you can use, there are several that should form the backbone of any successful program. The following lead-generation techniques are well-tested strategies that can be employed, whether you are building your program from scratch or refining your current lead-generation process.

6 Top B2B Lead-Generation Strategies

chris kinney
Monday, 11 June 2018 / Published in online business
WordPress Monetization Strategies

People build WordPress sites for a variety of reasons.

Some do it purely for the joy of blogging, while others are in it for the potential profits that a WordPress website can bring.

If you’re part of the latter, then congratulations — you’re in for a challenge!

The truth is, getting a WordPress website up and running is a far easier task. You can rely on themes to get a working site up and running, widgets to integrate third-party services, and truckloads of free online learning resources to improve your WordPress game.

Monetization, however, requires you to reach out of your comfort zone. You need to work on your marketing skills, do extensive research, and acquire the resiliency needed to push through uncertainties and learn from mistakes.

You can also maximize your success by cutting the guesswork and focusing on strategies that are proven to get results. And that, my friend, is what this post is all about.

Without further ado, here are four of the best monetization techniques that every WordPress user must know:

1. Offer a Membership

You don’t need years of WordPress experience to know that content is the building block of a profitable website.

It’s the first thing your visitors will look for if they’re still undecided on whether or not they should trust your brand.

At this point, let’s assume that you already have a wealth of high-quality content on your WordPress site’s blog section. After all, none of the monetization strategies in existence will produce substantial results if you don’t have this basic commodity.

Once you have established your authority as an information provider, you should be in a position to offer a private members area where paid users can access exclusive, premium content.

This tactic makes perfect sense for certain niches, like weight loss, bodybuilding, and marketing. The usual setup is a monthly subscription that includes unlimited access to all premium resources.

Here is an example from the Blog Marketing Academy — a marketing website that also sells cloud-based tools on the side.

blog marketing

To set up the membership section on your WordPress site, the first thing you’ll need is a plugin like Ultimate Member, which is available for free from the official plugin repository.

Once installed and activated, the plugin allows you manage your members, design opt-in forms, as well as add extensions straight from the WordPress dashboard.

membership section on your WordPress site

Below are a handful of tips that will help make your membership site a success:

 

  • Use visual content to maximize the value of your content in the eyes of your subscribers. Infographics, for example, is a great way to present boring statistics in a more engaging way.

 

  • Personalize your writing style to establish familiarity and increase the entertainment factor of your premium content. Don’t be afraid to use colloquial language to increase the sense of authenticity.

 

  • Invest in videos with your face front and center to further boost your brand’s trustworthiness. This leads us to the next monetization strategy that WordPress users can capitalize.

2. Sell an Online Course

If you are particularly passionate about your niche and would like to level up your role as an information provider, then selling an online course through your WordPress website could be the monetization strategy for you.

Intimidated? Don’t be, just think of an online course as another form of premium content you offer your paid subscribers — only more elaborate, structured, and focused on teaching your audience something relevant.

There are also dozens of plugins you can use to prepare your online courses on WordPress. Simply search for “online course” on the plugin library and select the one that you think fits your brand.

selling online courses

Remember that online courses must be loaded with actionable tips and examples to augment the learning experience of your subscribers. You should also throw in a couple of downloadable content, like eBooks, cheat sheets, or toolkits that are packed with useful resources.

To help you find topics to cover in your online course, below are a few content research tips you can consider:

 

  • Look for questions on Q&A sites like Quora to find content gaps in your niche that you can fill.

 

  • Use a content research tool like BuzzSumo or Google Trends to look for popular content ideas you can expound.

 

  • Perform keyword research with Ubersuggest to narrow down broad search terms into long-tail keyword suggestions.

Whatever you do, don’t provide something that your subscribers can already obtain for free somewhere else. If it’s a question on Quora that’s already answered, skip it unless you’re positive you can expound it.

Lastly, consider leveraging a Content Delivery Network or CDN to improve your website’s performance, especially for members who are from other countries.

A CDN works by utilizing a network of proxy servers, which share the load of delivering cached website data to nearby users. This effectively reduces latency, which is the delay in data transfer that’s commonly experienced due to the considerable distance between a user and a web host’s server.

3. Display Advertising

The next monetization strategy can be applied to just about any WordPress that gets a steady stream of traffic.

By displaying ads on your website, you can continuously earn passive income without having to spend time or money on premium content or actual products.

There are two types of campaign models that can help you earn with your WordPress website: cost per click (CPC) and cost per mille (CPM).

CPC advertising works by compensating website owners for every click that an advertiser receives. CPM advertising, on the other hand, compensates website owners for every 1,000 views that the ad gets.

Clearly, CPC rewards well-structured websites that present ads that are relevant in their niche, whereas CPM is more ideal for those that get a huge stream of monthly traffic.

To start showing ads on your WordPress website, you need to look for advertising networks like PopAds, AdSense, and AdMob.

4. Affiliate Marketing

Finally, a list of website monetization strategies isn’t complete without affiliate marketing.

Put simply, it’s the practice of selling another company’s products in exchange for commissions on every sale. An affiliate link will then used to track where the visitor originated upon completing the sale on the vendor’s checkout page.

The main advantage of affiliate marketing is that you get to pick the products you’ll promote on your website. This is incredibly advantageous if you already have a solid grasp on the demographics of your audience.

To look for affiliate products you can advertise, here are some of the biggest active affiliate networks and the types of products they support:

 

A reliable strategy when selling affiliate products is to write product reviews, which will also give you an excuse to promote multiple products on one page.

WebHostingSecretRevealed.net or WHSR provides some of the best examples of this on their website:

best web hosting services

Conclusion

WordPress monetization may not be easy, but so is everything else in the online marketing landscape.

With the low-cost strategies above, it’s only a matter of time before you can sit back, relax, and watch the cash roll in. But until then, remember to be resilient and patient — don’t cut corners and treat every strategy with the care and dedication it deserves. Good luck!

TurnkeyHub
Saturday, 09 June 2018 / Published in Moz Amazing

Posted by rjonesx.

Building links is an incredibly common request of agencies and consultants, and some ways to go about it are far more advisable than others. Whether you’re likely to be asked for this work or you’re looking to hire someone for it, it’s a good idea to have a few rules of thumb. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones breaks things down.

Risk Averse Links

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, folks, welcome to another great Whiteboard Friday. I am Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist here at Moz. I get to do a lot of great research, but I’ll tell you, my first love in SEO is link building. The 10 years I spent before joining Moz, I worked at an agency and we did a lot of it, and I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more exciting than getting that great link.

Now, today I’m going to focus a little bit more on the agency and consultant side. But one takeaway before we get started, for anybody out there who’s using agencies or who’s looking to use a consultant for link building, is kind of flip this whole presentation on its head. When I’m giving advice to agencies, you should use that as rules of thumb for judging whether or not you want to use an agency in the future. So let me jump right in and we’ll get going.

What I’m going to talk about today is risk-averse link building. So the vast majority of agencies out there really want to provide good links for their customers, but they just don’t know how. Let’s admit it. The majority of SEO agencies and consultants don’t do their own link building, or if they do, it’s either guest posting or maybe known placements in popular magazines or online websites where you can get links. There’s like a list that will go around of how much it costs to get an article on, well, Forbes doesn’t even count anymore because they’ve no-followed their links, but that’s about it. It’s nothing special.

So today I want to talk through how you can actually build really good links for your customers and what really the framework is that you need to be looking into to make sure you’re risk averse so that your customers can come out of this picture with a stronger link profile and without actually adopting much risk.

1. Never build a link you can’t remove!

So we’re going to touch on a couple of maxims or truisms. The first one is never build a link you can’t remove. I didn’t come upon this one until after Penguin, but it just occurred to me it is such a nightmare to get rid of links. Even with disavow, often it feels better that you can just get the link pulled from the web. Now, with negative SEO as being potentially an issue, admittedly Google is trying to devalue links as opposed to penalize, but still the rule holds strong. Never build a link that you can’t remove.

But how do you do that? I mean you don’t have necessarily control over it. Well, first off, there’s a difference between earnings links and building links. So if you get a link out there that you didn’t do anything for, you just got it because you wrote great content, don’t worry about it. But if you’re actually going to actively link build, you need to follow this rule, and there are actually some interesting ways that we can go about it.

Canonical “burn” pages

The first one is the methodology that I call canonical burn pages. I’m sure that sounds a little dark. But it actually is essentially just an insurance policy on your links. The idea is don’t put all of your content value and link value into the same bucket. It works like this. Let’s say this article or this Whiteboard Friday goes up at the URL risk-averse-links and Moz decided to do some outreach-based link building. Well, then I might make another version, risk-averse-linkbuilding, and then in my out linking actually request that people link to that version of the page. That page will be identical, and it will have a canonical tag so that all of the link value should pass back to the original.

Now, I’m not asking you to build a thousand doorway pages or anything of that sort, but here’s the reason for the separation. Let’s say you reach out to one of these webmasters and they’re like, “This is great,” and they throw it up on a blog post, and what they don’t tell you is, “Oh yeah, I’ve got 100 other blogs in my link farm, and I’m just going to syndicate this out.” Now you’ve got a ton of link spam pointing to the page. Well, you don’t want that pointing to your site. The chances this guy is going to go remove his link from those hundreds if not thousands of pages are very low. Well, the worst case scenario here is that you’ve lost this page, the link page, and you drop it and you create a new one of these burn pages and keep going.

Or what if the opposite happens? When you actually start ranking because of this great content that you’ve produced and you’ve done great link building and somebody gets upset and decides to spam the page that’s ranking with a ton of links, we saw this all the time in the legal sector, which was shocking to me. You would think you would never spam a lawyer, but apparently lawyers aren’t afraid of another lawyer.

But regardless, what we could do in those situations is simply get rid of the original page and leave the canonical page that has all the links. So what you’ve done is sort of divided your eggs into different baskets without actually losing the ranking potential. So we call these canonical burn pages. If you have questions about this, I can talk more about it in the comments.

Know thy link provider

The other thing that’s just stupidly obvious is you should know thy link provider. If you are getting your links from a website that says pay $ 50 for so and so package and you’ll get x-links from these sources on Tier 2, you’re never going to be able to remove those links once you get them unless you’re using something like a canonical burn page. But in those cases where you’re trying to get good links, actually build a relationship where the person understands that you might need to remove this link in the future. It’s going to mean you lose some links, but in the long run, it’s going to protect you and your customers.

That’s where the selling point becomes really strong. Imagine you’re on a client call, sales call and someone comes to you and they say they want link building. They’ve been burned before. They know what it’s like to get a penalty. They know what it’s like to have somebody tell them, “I just don’t know how to do it.”

Well, what if you can tell them, hey, we can link build for you and we are so confident in the quality of our offering that we can promise you, guarantee that we can remove the links we build for you within 7 days, 14 days, whatever number it ends up taking your team to actually do? That kind of insurance policy that you just put on top of your product is priceless to a customer who’s worried about the potential harm that links might bring.

2. You can’t trade anything for a link (except user value)!

Now this leads me to number two. This is the simplest way to describe following Google’s guidelines, which is you can’t trade anything for a link except user value. Now, I’m going to admit something here. A lot of folks who are watching this who know me know this, but my old company years and years and years ago did a lot of link buying. At the time, I justified it because I frankly thought that was the only way to do it. We had a fantastic link builder who worked for us, and he wanted to move up in the company. We just didn’t have the space for him. We said to him, “Look, it’s probably better for you to just go on your own.”

Within a year of leaving, he had made over a million dollars selling a site that he ranked only using white hat link building tactics because he was a master of outreach. From that day on, just everything changed. You don’t have to cheat to get good links. It’s just true. You have to work, but you don’t have to cheat. So just do it already. There are tons of ways to justify outreach to a website to say it’s worth getting a link.

So, for example, you could

  • Build some tools and reach out to websites that might want to link to those tools.
  • You can offer data or images.
  • Accessibility. Find great content out there that’s inaccessible or isn’t useful for individuals who might need screen readers. Just recreate the content and follow the guidelines for accessibility and reach out to everybody who links to that site. Now you’ve got a reason to say, “Look, it’s a great web page, but unfortunately a certain percentage of the population can’t use it. Why don’t you offer, as well as the existing link, one to your accessible version?”
  • Broken link replacement.
  • Skyscraper content, which is where you just create fantastic content. Brian Dean over at Backlinko has a fantastic guide to that.

There are just so many ways to get good links.

Let me put it just a different way. You should be embarrassed if you cannot create content that is worth outreach. In fact, that word “embarrassment,” if you are embarrassed to email someone about your content, then it means you haven’t created good enough content. As an SEO, that’s your responsibility. So just sit down and spend some more time thinking about this. You can do it. I’ve seen it happen thousands of times, and you can end up building much better links than you ever would otherwise.

3. Tool up!

The last thing I would say is tool up. Look, better metrics and better workflows come from tools. There are lots of different ways to do this.

First off, you need a good backlink tool. While, frankly, Moz wasn’t doing a good job for many years, but our new Link Explorer is 29 trillion links strong and it’s fantastic. There’s also Fresh Web Explorer for doing mentions. So you can find websites that talk about you but don’t link. You’re also going to want some tools that might do more specific link prospecting, like LinkProspector.com or Ontolo or BrokenLinkBuilding.com, and then some outreach tools like Pitchbox and BuzzStream.

But once you figure out those stacks, your link building stack, you’re going to be able to produce links reliably for customers. I’m going to tell you, there is nothing that will improve your street cred and your brand reputation than link building. Link building is street cred in our industry. There is nothing more powerful than saying, “Yeah, we built a couple thousand links last year for our customers,” and you don’t have to say, “Oh, we bought,” or, “We outsourced.” It’s just, “We just do link building, and we’re good at it.”

So I guess my takeaway from all of this is that it’s really not as terrible as you think it is. At the end of the day, if you can master this process of link building, your agency will be going from a dime a dozen, where there are 100 in an averaged-sized city in the United States, to being a leading provider in the country just by simply mastering link building. If you follow the first two rules and properly tool up, you’re well on your way.

So I hope to talk more to you in the comments below. If you have any questions, I can refer you to some other guides out there, including some former Whiteboard Fridays that will give you some great link building tips. Hope to talk to you soon.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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TurnkeyHub
Wednesday, 30 May 2018 / Published in Moz Amazing

Posted by MiriamEllis

A screenshot of a negative 1-star review citing poor customer service

No marketing agency staffer feels good when they see a retail client getting reviews like this on the web.

But we can find out why they’re happening, and if we’re going above-and-beyond in our work, we just might be able to catalyze turning things around if we’re committed to being honest with clients and have an actionable strategy for their in-store improvements.

In this post, I’ll highlight some advice from an internal letter at Tesla that I feel is highly applicable to the retail sector. I’d also like to help your agency combat the retail blues headlining the news these days with big brands downsizing, liquidating and closing up shop — I’m going to share a printable infographic with some statistics with you that are almost guaranteed to generate the client positivity so essential to making real change. And, for some further inspiration, I’d like to offer a couple of anecdotes involving an Igloo cooler, a monk, reindeer moss, and reviews.

The genuine pain of retail gone wrong: The elusive cooler, “Corporate,” and the man who could hardly stand

“Hi there,” I greeted the staffer at the customer service counter of the big department store. “Where would I find a small cooler?”

“We don’t have any,” he mumbled.

“You don’t have any coolers? Like, an Igloo cooler to take on a picnic to keep things cold?”

“Maybe over there,” he waved his hand in unconcern.

And I stood there for a minute, expecting him to actually figure this out for me, maybe even guide me to the appropriate aisle, or ask a manager to assist my transaction, if necessary. But in his silence, I walked away.

“Hi there,” I tried with more specificity at the locally owned general store the next day. “Where would I find something like a small Igloo cooler to keep things cold on a picnic?”

“I don’t know,” the staffer replied.

“Oh…” I said, uncomfortably.

“It could be upstairs somewhere,” he hazarded, and left me to quest for the second floor, which appeared to be a possibly-non-code-compliant catch-all attic for random merchandise, where I applied to a second dimly illuminated employee who told me I should probably go downstairs and escalate my question to someone else.

And apparently escalation was necessary, for on the third try, a very tall man was able to lift his gaze to some coolers on a top shelf… within clear view of the checkout counter where the whole thing began.

Why do we all have experiences like this?

“Corporate tells us what to carry” is the almost defensive-sounding refrain I have now received from three employees at two different Whole Foods Markets when asking if they could special order items for me since the Amazon buyout.

Because, you know, before they were Amazon-Whole Foods, staffers would gladly offer to procure anything they didn’t have in stock. Now, if they stop carrying that Scandinavian vitamin D-3 made from the moss eaten by reindeer and I’ve got to have it because I don’t want the kind made by irradiating sheep wool, I’d have to special order an entire case of it to get my hands on a bottle. Because, you know, “Corporate.”

Why does the distance between corporate and customer make me feel like the store I’m standing in, and all of its employees, are powerless? Why am I, the customer, left feeling powerless?

So maybe my search for a cooler, my worries about access to reindeer moss, and the laughable customer service I’ve experienced don’t signal “genuine pain.” But this does:

Screenshot of a one-star review: "The pharmacy shows absolutely no concern for the sick, aged and disabled from what I see and experienced. There's 2 lines for drops and pick up, which is fine, but keep in mind those using the pharmacy are sick either acute or chronic. No one wants to be there. The lines are often long with the phone ringing off the hook, so very understaffed. There are no chairs near the line to sit even if someone is in so much pain they can hardly stand, waiting area not nearby. If you have to drop and pick you have to wait in 2 separate lines. They won't inform the other window even though they are just feet away from each other. I saw one poor man wait 4 people deep, leg bandaged, leaning on a cart to be able to stand, but he was in the wrong line and was told to go to the other line. They could have easily taken the script, asked him to wait in the waiting area, walk the script 5 feet, and call him when it was his turn, but this fella who could barely stand had to wait in another line, 4 people deep. I was in the correct line, pick up. I am a disabled senior with cancer and chronic pain. However, I had a new Rx insurance card, beginning of the year. I was told that to wait in the other line, too! I was in the correct line, but the staff was so poorly trained she couldn't enter a few new numbers. This stuff happens repeatedly there. I've written and called the home office who sound so concerned but nothing changes. I tried to talk to manager, who naturally was "unavailable" but his underling made it clear their process was more important than the customers. All they have to do to fix the problem is provide nearby sitting or ask the customer to wait in the waiting area where there are chairs and take care of the problem behind the counter, but they would rather treat the sick, injured and old like garbage than make a small change that would make a big difference to their customers. Although they are very close I am looking for a pharmacy who actually cares to transfer my scripts, because I feel they are so uncaring and disinterested although it's their job to help the sick."

This is genuine pain. When customer service is failing to the point that badly treated patrons are being further distressed by the sight of fellow shoppers meeting the same fate, the cause is likely built into company structure. And your marketing agency is looking at a bonafide reputation crisis that could presage things like lawsuits, impactful reputation damage, and even closure for your valuable clients.

When you encounter customer service disasters, it begs questions like:

  1. Could no one in my situation access a list of current store inventory, or, barring that, seek out merchandise with me instead of risking the loss of a sale?
  2. Could no one offer to let “corporate” know that I’m dissatisfied with a “customer service policy” that would require me to spend $ 225 to buy a whole case of vitamins? Why am I being treated like a warehouse instead of a person?
  3. Could no one at the pharmacy see a man with a leg wound about to fall over, grab a folding chair for him, and keep him safe, instead of risking a lawsuit?

I think a “no” answer to all three questions proceeds from definite causes. And I think Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, had such causes in mind when he recently penned a letter to his own employees.

“It must be okay for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.”

“Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command.’ Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.

A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.

In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a ‘company rule’ is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.”
– Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla

Let’s parlay this uncommon advice into retail. If it’s everyone’s job to access a free flow of information, use common sense, make the right thing happen, and change rules that don’t make sense, then:

  1. Inventory is known by all store staff, and my cooler can be promptly located by any employee, rather than workers appearing helpless.
  2. Employees have the power to push back and insist that, because customers still expect to be able to special order merchandise, a specific store location will maintain this service rather than disappoint consumers.
  3. Pharmacists can recognize that patrons are often quite ill and can immediately place some chairs near the pharmacy counter, rather than close their eyes to suffering.

“But wait,” retailers may say. “How can I trust that an employee’s idea of ‘common sense’ is reliable?”

Let’s ask a monk for the answer.

“He took the time…”

I recently had the pleasure of listening to a talk given by a monk who was defining what it meant to be a good leader. He hearkened back to his young days, and to the man who was then the leader of his community.

“He was a busy man, but he took the time to get to know each of us one-on-one, and to be sure that we knew him. He set an example for me, and I watched him,” the monk explained.

Most monasteries function within a set of established rules, many of which are centuries old. You can think of these guidelines as a sort of policy. In certain communities, it’s perfectly acceptable that some of the members live apart as hermits most of the year, only breaking their meditative existence by checking in with the larger group on important holidays to share what they’ve been working on solo. In others, every hour has its appointed task, from prayer, to farming, to feeding people, to engaging in social activism.

The point is that everyone within a given community knows the basic guidelines, because at some point, they’ve been well-communicated. Beyond that, it is up to the individual to see whether they can happily live out their personal expression within the policy.

It’s a lot like retail can be, when done right. And it hinges on the question:

“Has culture been well-enough communicated to every employee so that he or she can act like the CEO of the company would in wide variety of circumstances?”

Or to put it another way, would Amazon owner Jeff Bezos be powerless to get me my vitamins?

The most accessible modern benchmark of good customer service — the online review — is what tells the public whether the CEO has “set the example.” Reviews tell whether time has been taken to acquaint every staffer with the business that employs them, preparing them to fit their own personal expression within the company’s vision of serving the public.

An employee who is able to recognize that an injured patron needs a seat while awaiting his prescription should be empowered to act immediately, knowing that the larger company supports treating people well. If poor training, burdensome chains of command, or failure to share brand culture are obstacles to common-sense personal initiative, the problem must be traced back to the CEO and corrected, starting from there.

And, of course, should a random staffer’s personal expression genuinely include an insurmountable disregard for other people, they can always be told it’s time to leave the monastery…

For marketing agencies, opportunity knocks

So your agency is auditing a valuable incoming client, and their negative reviews citing dirty premises, broken fixtures, food poisoning, slowness, rudeness, cluelessness, and lack of apparent concern make you say to yourself,

“Well, I was hoping we could clean up the bad data on the local business listings for this enterprise, but unless they clean up their customer service at 150 of their worst-rated locations, how much ROI are we really going to be able to deliver? What’s going on at these places?”

Let’s make no bones about this: Your honesty at this critical juncture could mean the difference between survival and closure for the brand.

You need to bring it home to the most senior level person you can reach in the organization that no amount of honest marketing can cover up poor customer service in the era of online reviews. If the brand has fallen to the level of the pharmacy I’ve cited, structural change is an absolute necessity. You can ask the tough questions, ask for an explanation of the bad reviews.

“But I’m just a digital marketer,” you may think. “I’m not in charge of whatever happens offline.”

Think again.

Headlines in retail land are horrid right now:

If you were a retail brand C-suite and were swallowing these predictions of doom with your daily breakfast, wouldn’t you be looking for inspiration from anyone with genuine insight? And if a marketing agency should make it their business to confront the truth while also being the bearer of some better news, wouldn’t you be ready to listen?

What is the truth? That poor reviews are symptoms smart doctors can use for diagnosis of structural problems.
What is the better news? The retail scenario is not nearly as dire as it may seem.

Why let hierarchy and traditional roles hold your agency back? Tesla wouldn’t. Why not roll up your sleeves and step into in-store? Organize and then translate the narrative negative reviews are telling about structural problems for the brand which have resulted in dangerously bad customer service. And then, be prepared to counter corporate inertia born of fear with some eye-opening statistics.

Print and share some good retail tidings

Local SEO infographic

Print your own copy of this infographic to share with clients.

At Moz, we’re working with enterprises to get their basic location data into shape so that they are ready to win their share of the predicted $ 1.4 trillion in mobile-influenced local sales by 2021, and your agency can use these same numbers to combat indecision and apathy for your retail clients. Look at that second statistic again: 90% of purchases are still happening in physical stores. At Moz, we ask our customers if their data is ready for this. Your agency can ask its clients if their reputations are ready for this, if their employees have what they need to earn the brand’s piece of that 90% action. Great online data + great in-store service = table stakes for retail success.

While I won’t play down the unease that major brand retail closures is understandably causing, I hope I’ve given you the tools to fight the “retail disaster” narrative. 85% more mobile users are searching for things like “Where do I buy that reindeer moss vitamin D3?” than they were just 3 years ago. So long as retail staff is ready to deliver, I see no “apocalypse” here.

Investing time

So, your agency has put in the time to identify a reputation problem severe enough that it appears to be founded in structural deficiencies or policies. Perhaps you’ve used some ORM software to do review sentiment analysis to discover which of your client’s locations are hurting worst, or perhaps you’ve done an initial audit manually. You’ve communicated the bad news to the most senior-level person you can reach at the company, and you’ve also shared the statistics that make change seem very worthwhile, begging for a new commitment to in-store excellence. What happens next?

While there are going to be nuances specific to every brand, my bet is that the steps will look like this for most businesses:

  1. C-suites need to invest time in creating a policy which a) abundantly communicates company culture, b) expresses trust in employee initiative, and c) dispenses with needless “chain of command” steps, while d) ensuring that every public facing staffer receives full and ongoing training. A recent study says 62% of new retail hires receive less than 10 hours of training. I’d call even these worrisome numbers optimistic. I worked at 5 retail jobs in my early youth. I’d estimate that I received no more than 1 hour of training at any of them.
  2. Because a chain of command can’t realistically be completely dispensed with in a large organization, store managers must then be allowed the time to communicate the culture, encourage employees to use common sense, define what “common sense” does and doesn’t look like to the company, and, finally, offer essential training.
  3. Employees at every level must be given the time to observe how happy or unhappy customers appear to be at their location, and they must be taught that their observations are of inestimable value to the brand. If an employee suggests a solution to a common consumer complaint, this should be recognized and rewarded.
  4. Finally, customers must be given the time to air their grievances at the time of service, in-person, with accessible, responsive staff. The word “corporate” need never come into most of these conversations unless a major claim is involved. Given that it may cost as much as 7x more to replace an unhappy customer than to keep an existing one happy, employees should be empowered to do business graciously and resolve complaints, in most cases, without escalation.

Benjamin Franklin may or may not have said that “time is money.” While the adage rings true in business, reviews have taught me the flip side — that a lack of time equals less money. Every negative review that cites helpless employees and poor service sounds to my marketing ears like a pocketful of silver dollars rolling down a drain.

The monk says good leaders make the time to communicate culture one-on-one.

Tesla says rules should change if they’re ridiculous.

Chairs should be offered to sick people… where common sense is applied.

Reviews can read like this:

Screenshot of a positive 5-star review: "Had personal attention of three Tesla employees at the same time. They let me sit in both the model cars they had for quite time time and let me freely fiddle and figure out all the gizmos of the car. Super friendly and answered all my questions. The sales staff did not pressure me to buy or anything, but only casually mentioned the price and test drive opportunities, which is the perfect touch for a car company like Tesla. "

And digital marketers have never known a time quite like this to have the ear of retail, maybe stepping beyond traditional boundaries into the fray of the real world. Maybe making a fundamental difference.

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