In today’s business environment, online reviews play a critical role. People rely on reviews to help them choose among products and brands and to feel confident in their purchasing decisions. In fact, 63% of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase from a website that has user reviews. For most buyers, an online review can be as important as a personal recommendation from a friend. For a business, managing online reviews and appropriately handling the negative ones is vital to gaining new customers and growing sales.
Online reviews can make or break a company. Statistics show that for more than 88% of online shoppers, online reviews are a part of their purchase decision process. Forty percent (40%) of consumers will form an opinion of a brand or product by reading just one to three reviews. Online reviews have become an important part of building trust with consumers, with 68% saying that positive reviews cause them to have more trust in a business. In addition, online reviews are an important way to drive traffic to your website. Forty-eight percent (48%) of consumers say they will visit a company’s website after reading online reviews.
Of course, no one wants negative reviews—and companies need to have a plan for dealing with them—but paradoxically, a few negative reviews can actually boost the credibility of your online reviews. 95% of consumers say they suspect that reviews are being censored or faked if they don’t see any negative reviews, and 68% say they trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative reviews.
That’s in no way to suggest that bad reviews are a good thing. For 67% of shoppers, reading as few as one to three bad reviews is enough to prevent them from making a purchase, and 86% of consumers hesitate to purchase from a brand with negative reviews.
The good news: 95% of unhappy customers will return to a business that acts quickly to resolve complaints.
Best Practices for Handling Negative Reviews
By properly managing online reviews, a company can mitigate the effects of negative reviews.
While it’s important to respond to negative reviews, it’s just as important, if not more so, to respond to positive reviews. If someone gives you a compliment in person, you always say “Thank you.” A positive online review is no different. Here’s why:
Another idea is to mention special offers, such as a loyalty card or other promotion. Just be careful that such offers aren’t subject to time limits since you can’t be sure exactly when a consumer may be reading the review.
Online reviews are a fact of life in the 21st-century business environment. Properly handling both negative and positive reviews is critical to the success of your business. This is important both in keeping current customers happy and providing prospective customers with confidence in doing business with you.
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3 Crucial Keys to Creating the Best Coupon Design
Direct mail response rates rebounded sharply in 2016. According to the DMA, the rates were the highest since 2003. House list response rates were 5.3% and prospect list rates responses were 2.9%. With numbers like those, competition for both print and digital coupon redemptions will only increase in 2017.That means it’s more crucial than ever that you design a coupon that will reach out and grab the attention of your target audience.
Yes, 81% of consumers use coupons regularly according to NCH. Sure, you have your loyal clientele that will always support you regardless of your offer and will use your coupon. But we’re betting your primary reason for using coupons is to entice new prospects to give your business a try. So it’s time to roll up your sleeves and make sure the coupons you create are as effective as possible.
Valpak developed The Best Practices to Creating Coupons that Get Results: A Coupon Lookbook to help you with your coupon creative from start to finish. Here are the highlights of how to create an effective coupon, but to benefit the most from all the best practices and successful coupon examples, be sure to download the FREE Coupon Lookbook.
To increase response and redemption of your coupons, you’ll want to consider three things: the headline, the design, and the offer.
Key 1: The Coupon Headline
What makes your coupon stand out? It starts with the headline. It’s the first thing potential customers see, making it the most important piece to get right. It’s typical for consumers to just take a quick glance at the headline, so you need to make sure the consumer wants to read the rest. There are a few things you want to remember when creating your headline:
Key 2: The Coupon Image
The best coupon design includes an image that will reinforce your headline and offer. It’s almost always good to use photography when advertising by mail as it taps into consumer emotions. That said, it’s important that your images are positive, happy, and identifies with the consumer, creating a connection. A positive image will not only associate happiness with your brand, but it makes your ad that much more appealing and it’s more likely that the consumer will take action. Remember, a single, large image is better than multiple small images. The best coupon designs will build desire and persuade consumers to take immediate action.
Key 3: The Coupon Offer
Now that you’ve got their attention with the headline and the image, keep them engaged with a clear, concise and valuable offer. Your specific offer is going to depend on your audience and your industry, but the goal is always going to be the same: To increase the value of your brand for consumers. You may want to try multiple offers to speak to a wider audience or to test effectiveness. Be very specific on your expiration date to inspire customers to act fast. Also ensure that your disclaimer of limitations is clear, so you don’t set yourself up for potential problems. Avoid a “bait and switch” approach. It may bring consumers in, but it will rarely convert them into customers.
Create The Best Coupons Today
Spend some time reviewing your previous direct mail advertising and coupon designs. Are there ways you can improve them in the future using these 3 tips for the best coupon design? If you focus on getting these 3 crucial aspects right, you’re bound to have a higher success rate. Are you interested in learning more about designing your coupons and direct mail ads? Would you like to see some successful examples and learn coupon best practices? Download our FREE Coupon Lookbook and use it as a guide for creating your future direct mail advertising. You can also reach out to your Valpak sales representative for help.
Everyone has that special small business that they turn to time and time again for quality services and products they trust. Maybe your small business is one of them—and now is your chance to get some well-deserved recognition.
Win the 2017 Shop Small Contest
Valpak and American Express are inviting consumers to tell us all about the small businesses they can’t live without, what brought them together, and why they choose to Shop Small®. Oh, and there’s something in it for both of you!
If one of your customers submits a nomination for your business, you could win a $5,000 American Express Gift Card and a free 12-month Valpak marketing campaign. Even if you don’t win the top prize, you could still be one of three winners to receive a $1,000 American Express Gift Card and a free 3-month Valpak marketing campaign. Plus, your customer could win an American Express Gift Card for up to $5,000, too!
Spread the Word
Dates to Remember
The nomination period begins January 30, 2017, and ends April 15, 2017. Winners will be publicly announced on May 1, 2017.
How the Shop Small Contest works:
It’s a Win-Win-Win
Valpak will announce and promote the 2017 Shop Small® Contest on the Valpak Blue Envelope® mailed to over 35 million people through their website, social media, press releases, print, and blogs.
The kicker? Winners will be announced on a national level, which means you could gain the exposure you only ever dreamed of before.
Go ahead. Take a chance. There has to be a winner and it may as well be you.
Contact your local Valpak representative to discuss participating in this campaign.
If you are not yet an American Express merchant, you could find a rate that’s right for your business. Learn more at OptBlue.com.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Void where prohibited. Promotion is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. who are eighteen (18) years of age or older, or the age of majority in their state of residence, whichever is older at the time of entry and eligible small business nominees. Promotion begins January 20, 2017, and ends April 15, 2017. ARV of all prizes awarded in the promotion is $44,200. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received and skill of the entrants. See official rules for additional small business eligibility requirements, entry instructions, judging criteria and other important details. Sponsored by Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, Inc., 805 Executive Center Drive W., St Petersburg, FL 33702.
When developing a marketing and advertising plan for a small business, it can be difficult to know where to allocate your money to get the best results, or even how much should be planned for your small business marketing budget. It’s an investment of both time and money that could exponentially grow your customer database if done effectively. As with any investment, there’s a measure of risk. So how do you know if you’re making the best possible use of your advertising spend and marketing budget? Today’s post explains how to plan a small business marketing budget in eight basic steps.
1. Identify Needs
The first thing that you should always do is define your goals and identify your priorities. The point of developing a budget is to help you spend wisely and stay on track with your marketing dollars.
Remember that your marketing budget needs to fit within your overall budget, and it should never be so high that it impinges on your business’ ability to function. After all, you don’t want to blow the budget on SEO and social media marketing if you need to spend it on materials for an event.
Identify both short term and long term business and marketing goals. Prioritizing them might mean allocating more or less over time, and both are important for improving brand awareness and revenue.
If you already have marketing campaigns in the pipeline, be specific when budgeting for the goals of those campaigns. For instance, if a particular campaign goal is to generate leads, it will have different spending requirements than a campaign advertising a limited-time special offer.
Be sure you have a marketing plan in place that accounts for the entire buyer’s journey. Now is the time to think about what goes on behind the scenes of a successful marketing campaign. Market and competitor research will cost money, as will hiring a contractor to set up or evaluate different channels (e.g., website, social media). Skip them in the planning process and you might spend more than you should on them in the long run.
2. Identify Your Targeted, Ideal Audience
Knowing your audience is critical to your budget, and it goes hand in hand with identifying your priorities. It will help you identify how many people you’re trying to reach, and it will also help you better identify the frequency necessary to generate the desired impact and inspire action. Segmentation is also important because it will help you identify which types of campaigns will be most effective for which groups.
3. Determine Marketing Channels
In one regard, this is an aspect of identifying your target audience. After all, you don’t want to waste marketing dollars on advertising on a channel that your customers aren’t even using. However, different channels will have different costs, and not all channels will need to be used in the same way for every campaign. For example, your social media spend might go toward regular Facebook ads or promoted posts, which your brand would continue making no matter what campaign was running.
Identifying the channels you plan on using can also help you avoid more surprise costs as well as overreaching your capabilities. You’ll consciously include or exclude channels based on your market research and plan for A/B testing, rather than just randomly advertising on a particular channel and hoping it brings success. Remember that you should investigate all channels—digital, social, traditional—rather than making assumptions and choosing at random.
4. Plan Annually
Advertising success requires a long-term view, so plan your marketing strategy for the coming year, not month. While there will always be unexpected events you’ll need to handle, identifying key holidays, seasons, or other events that impact your business and affect the cost of advertising is important.
For example, competing for TV advertising slots in 2016 was exacerbated by the presidential election. This drove up prices, while events like the debates drew viewers from their normal viewing habits. Sometimes buying in advance can lower your advertising costs, but this isn’t possible if you don’t plan ahead and look at future opportunities by planning annually.
5. Research Opportunities
The combination of our previous two steps—identifying channels and planning for the next year—help form the basis for this step. Go out of your way to explore what’s set to happen over the next year and how it impacts the channels you plan on using to discover new marketing opportunities. Dismiss the fear of missing out by identifying the opportunities you can afford to take advantage of rather than jumping at the chance last minute, which would not only be out of your budget, it would probably be much more expensive than if you’d planned for it.
6. Select Based on Potential ROIEverything should look to ROI and the impact on your bottom line. That means taking a big picture look at your marketing goals. What are the opportunities you want to take advantage of, which channels you want to use to reach which audience segments and what are the costs associated with each? Compare your intentions with past campaigns and the ROI those offered so you can select the options that are most likely to be successful.
Remember that there’s no one size fits all path, nor is there a guarantee of success. You also can’t afford to do everything. The data you’ll collect throughout each step will help you realize which tactics are most likely to be most successful and have a positive impact on your revenue.
7. Set Total Spend
According to a survey of small business owners done by Valpak, more than 50% of the responding SMBs appear to be marketing on the fly when it comes to allocating their marketing and advertising budgets. Over half of the survey respondents site using a “bucket” approach, dipping out funds for marketing buys without specificity. A striking 82% use “flexible” budgets that are adjusted at varying intervals according to either earned revenue, market trends, or, when tracked, media performance.
As a rule of thumb, a business needs to consider spending between 6% and 20% on marketing annually, depending on how long they’ve been in the market. Remember, the marketing dollars you have to spend are limited by other budgetary concerns. Take a look at how much your business has already been spending on marketing compared to past results.
8. Break into Monthly Budget
Align your total advertising spend against your marketing calendar. The amount you budget to spend monthly might fluctuate based on your needs at the time, or the needs of the calendar. Your events, sales, special promotions and the calendar holidays all affect monthly budgets.
These steps are best practices that will help you build your small business marketing budget to set your business up for success. It will help you align your marketing strategy and goals with your bottom line, thus allowing you to execute each campaign with confidence.
Start Building Your Small Business Marketing Budget Today!
• Review your budget-building process. Compare to the steps outlined above and determine if there are steps you’ve ignored or to which you haven’t given the appropriate attention
• Ensure your budget realistically accounts for ROI so that your revenue is improved by your marketing and your budget reflects growth
• Take a close look at the channels you’re using. Is your audience present there? Are you trying to take on more channels than your business can support
• Do you have processes and analytics practices in place to gauge whether your marketing is working? You should be able to adjust your marketing throughout the course of your planned budget if necessary, to avoid wasting money because you weren’t monitoring progress
• Do you have a process in place for handling unexpected costs? For example, will you have the flex room to capitalize on real world events that happen unexpectedly
• Remember that this is simply the starting point for a solid marketing budget. Continue expanding your knowledge base and find more tools to refine the way you spend your budget