BuzzSumo shared the following 8 Facebook Engagement Data core findings recently in their article How To Improve Facebook Engagement: Insights From 1bn Posts.
The findings come from an analysis they conducted in January, of 1 billion posts from 30 million brand pages on Facebook. Here’s what they found (emphasis added):
- The post formats that get the most engagement are questions and images.
- Short form text posts of less than 50 characters get the most interaction. It seems Facebook is not a place for reading but finding and engaging.
- Videos that are directly embedded get over six times the engagement of embedded YouTube videos.
- Surprisingly posts without hashtags get more interaction than posts with hashtags.
- Posts published between 10 PM and Midnight of your audience’s local time get the most engagement. It seems publishing when there are less posts being published, and vying for attention, increases engagement. Thus you should zig when others zag.
- Posts published on Sunday get more engagement on average. Again this seems due to less competition from other posts.
- Posts that link to longer form articles over over 1,000 words get the most engagement.
- Posting images via Instagram appear to provide a 23% increase in engagement.
Read the full article from BuzzSumo at How To Improve Facebook Engagement: Insights From 1bn Posts.
BuzzSumo shared their Facebook Engagement Data findings with Neil Patel of Quick Sprout and he did an in-depth look at the data. The results are available in his article How to Win on Facebook: 8 Lessons Learned From Analyzing 1 Billion Posts.
Neil concluded his analysis saying, “There’s one key thing that you need to remember to apply these findings effectively.” He then shared the following:
- Understand that these findings are correlations. They look at the average effect of different variables.
- What this means is that the findings are best practices.
- If your audience behaves significantly different than the average audience, your optimal Facebook posts may look different.
- These findings are great starting points, but they may or may not be right for you. Start by implementing them, but then test other options as well to confirm if they are the best or not.
Read the full article from Neil Patel of Quick Sprout at How to Win on Facebook: 8 Lessons Learned From Analyzing 1 Billion Posts.
“It’s not what you do once in a while but what you do on a daily basis that makes a difference.”
– Anthony Robbins
This quote applies to building our business too, and in particular, the important role delivering strong customer service plays. It’s important, critical actually, to deliver excellent customer service in a timely manner, with a helpful attitude and in a way that tells customer they are important to us. We need to do this 100% of the time!
Moods, frustrations with others and difficult situations shouldn’t determine how we and our staff will react and respond to our customers. These things have to be put aside so that the experience we deliver to our customers is consistent and positive, day in and day out. So they know, no matter what, they can count on us.
“Buyers make most decisions by relying on their two-second first impressions based on stored memories, images and feelings.”
-Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Most of us know intuitively, that first impressions are important. We don’t like to think that we judge a book by its cover or a person by what they are wearing or how they appear, but the reality is that we often do. It’s second nature.
[Judge: to form a judgment or opinion of, to make a careful guess about]
Does Your Outward Appearance Matter?
For micro and small businesses (and larger businesses too), what potential customers think about you and how they judge you, is often determined by their first impression.
A first impression based on your outward appearance. Things that are evident right away, before they dig deeper:
- Your store front location (tidy, clean, organized, messy, modern, dated, caring staff, uncaring staff, etc.)
- Your website (professional looking as appropriate for your type, loads quickly, well laid out and easy to navigate, helpful content that is up-to-date, mobile optimized and easy to view and navigate on mobile devices, etc.)
- Your social networks (complete profile, high quality profile photo and cover image, up-to-date information, active with regularly shared content that is helpful and interesting)
Does Your Outward Appearance Reflect Who You Are?
Taking care of your outward appearance doesn’t mean you (or your business) need to spend a fortune on developing your look and appearance or to be or look like something you are not.
It does mean making sure your image (brand, store front locations, online presence, customer experience) reflects who you are and the products and services you are selling, in a professional way that fits with your type of business and resonates with those you hope to reach.
This allows prospective consumers to ‘size you up’ quickly (which they will do anyway) and helps ensure their first and ongoing impression is accurate and one that will:
- Cause them to remember you in a positive light.
- Draw them back to you, cause them to think of you, when they want or need what you have to offer.
- Keep them coming back to you (repeat customers) after they have experienced the products and services you offer.
First Impressions & Branding
There are a number of things that factor into creating a good first impression with potential customers. Branding is one of them.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) uses this definition, sourced from SEMPO andWikipedia, to describe ‘Brand and Branding’:
“A brand is a customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas; often, it refers to a symbol such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme. Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the accumulation of experiences with the specific product or service, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary.” (Added definition) “A brand often includes an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols, sound which may be developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality.” (emphasis added)
Branding helps create a visual way of identifying your business in the marketplace, a public persona that people can easily recognize and identify with your business (think Nike swish, MAC apple, McDonald golden arches.)
As with the big name brands that we recognize, brand name recognition takes time to build. That said, the images (logo, colours, fonts) and slogans or taglines we associate with particular brands are not the key to their success.
Branding Isn’t Only A Look, It Is An Experience
The AMA definition above states, “Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the accumulation of experiences with the specific product or service, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary.”
In other words, the Nike swish didn’t create brand success for Nike. The MAC apple icon didn’t create brand success for Apple. The golden arches weren’t the key to McDonald’s success. Customer experience was the key contributor in the success of each of these brands.
And, customer experience isn’t only ‘service with a smile.’ Great customer service is much more than a smile.
Customer experience refers to, well, customer experience! Everything the customer experiences. The first impression and the long-term one that results from dealing with the business owners and staff and using our products and services.
For brands like Nike, Apple and McDonald’s, if they hadn’t delivered on the product and service side to begin with, even big advertising budgets would only have yielded short-term success.
[Image: to reflect the likeness of, to resemble]
Advertising Can Be A Waste Of Money If We Don’t Get This Right
Businesses can spend a lot of money on the visual pieces of branding (logo, fonts, colours, taglines) and advertising to bring in customers.
But, if the first impression and ongoing experience our customers have with us is wanting, we may be wasting precious time and money.
When visitors walk through the door of your store or office, or visit your website, what do they experience? Does that experience fit with who your brand is and its promises?
Phenomenal Branding Won’t Make Up For A Bad First Impression
If potential customers call or visit your store or office and are treated poorly, having great branding won’t help overcome a bad first impression.
The same is true for their online experience. If your website is dated, loads slowly, isn’t up-to-date and looks slapped together, the first impression it creates with visitors could be costing you business.
Especially when you consider that your “website represents the most pivotal touchpoint” to engage customers, according to a survey conducted by 7.
Phenomenal Branding Won’t Make Up For Poor Products And Services
If you plan to be in business long-term, delivering on your brand promises – customer experience – is hugely important.
Presenting a good first impression with professional looking branding and a store front and online presence that potential customers like, won’t work for you long term unless you deliver on your promises: products and services in a way that result in a positive customer experience.
[Brand: to mark with disgrace or infamy]
How Do Potential Customers See And Experience Your Business?
Branding is all about how people see you and experience you. First impressions and lasting impressions that build your business through attracting new customers and keeping existing ones coming back, and telling others about you.
How do potential customers see and experience your business?
Customer Experience Will Help Anchor Your Business In Your Local Marketplace
A good reputation is hard to beat. A bad reputation is hard to overcome. Branding can help anchor and build your business in your local marketplace. It helps fuel word-of-mouth advertising.
Branding Is Not Only Skin Deep
Branding isn’t only skin deep. It’s not just the look of your brand or the outward appearance. Branding is who you are as customers experience you, in-person and online. It is determined by how you deal with customers face-to-face, over-the-phone and in online interactions. It is all your marketing pieces including print, social and web.
Ultimately, your brand reputation is determined by everything you do and how you do everything. All of these combine together to create a persona that is your brand in the eyes of your customers..
(Updated January 2016)
For the vast majority of businesses the answer is yes! Your website is important as the hub of your online presence for your business.
But just having a website won’t cut it anymore. Years ago, having any kind of a website meant you were cutting edge. Not so today.
Today, almost all businesses have (or should have) a website and, similar to a retail store front, what visitors see when they arrive at your business website will determine whether they delve deeper into your site or leave right away!
The Yellow Pages! Seriously?!!
It wasn’t that long ago that the first place consumers searched when they were looking for a product or service was a printed phone book or the yellow pages. Today, the print phone book and yellow pages are pretty much passé. They are (pretty much) going, going, gone the way of the dinosaur!
The average consumer used to “let their fingers do the walking” through the print phone book or the print yellow pages. They then spent time phoning or visiting a number of businesses/retailers to uncover information about the products/services they wanted to know more about.
Today, their fingers still do the walking … except they do it on a computer keyboard.
Now, consumers tend to visit your business website, and that of your competitors, first … assuming there is a business website for them to visit. If you sell your products/services online they may make the purchase then and there. If not, they may call you or send you a message through your website contact form or subscribe to your newsletter, etc.
That’s IF your website provides what they’re looking for:
- A good first impression (so they don’t immediately click off your site and go somewhere else).
- Easy and clear navigation (so they can find what they are looking for with as little thought as possible – intuitive).
- The information they want/need (so they see your website as a valuable and professional looking resource with the helpful information they are seeking).
Many businesses are so focused on getting onto the first page of Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search results, they forget that what visitors find when they arrive on a business website is a critical piece of whether they take the next step – calling, emailing, subscribing, placing an order – or not.
Getting Onto the First Page of Google Search Results
While every small business, or business of any size for that matter, wants to appear first in Google search results, this is an unrealistic goal for most businesses. Let’s face it, as with anything, there is only so much room at the top. That doesn’t mean that finding ways for at least some of your content to rank on the first page of Google isn’t a good plan. It is. But, it requires time, thought and action to make it happen. It isn’t an easy feat.
Search engines are getting better all the time at delivering relevant search results to searchers, and as a result it takes much more than having a keyword rich stuffed website and paying a monthly fee to an “SEO Expert” to get content from your website to show up on the first page of search results!
Why You Need A Website (Even When You’re Not #1 In the Search Results)
Whether you show up at the top of search results or not for certain keywords, your website is hugely important for your business!
A recently released Neilsen’s study, “When Engaging Canadian Consumers Online, Marketers Must Use The Right Tools” highlights the importance of a branded website:
- For automotive and financial purchases, 23% of new consumers and 16% of repeat consumers visited branded company websites first to aid in their research and to make a purchase. Search engines were the 2nd most common online method with 17% of new consumers and 11% of repeat consumers.
- For consumer packaged goods, an equal percentage of new consumers visited a search engine (9%) and a branded company website (9%) first when going online to research consumer packaged goods. For repeat consumers, 8% visited a branded company website first and 6% used a search engine first.
Product blogs and product review websites come in third as the online research tool new consumers and repeat consumers use for both automotive and financial purchases and for consumer packaged goods.
More Reasons Why Your Website Is Important
Here are a few other reasons why your website is important for your business:
- When someone mentions your name – in passing or as a direct referral – to someone they know, a search of your business name should result in your business appearing at or near the top of the search results.
- When you provide your business card, a promotional flyer or some other marketing piece to others, your website becomes an important way for them to be able to check your business out. They only need to look at your website address to know how to find out more about you. This applies whether you are introduced to someone by a friend, you’re handing out your business cards/promo materials at a local event or you’re sending out a mass mailout or eNewsletter, etc.
- When a potential customer drives by your business location or sees your name on a product, an online search of your name should result in your business coming up at the top, or very near the top, of the search results.
- When your website address is displayed on a car banner, product, product packaging, etc. it makes it easier for consumers to find out more about you and your business.
Driving Traffic to Your Website – Be Creative
Some time ago my husband and I were out for dinner when a young couple came in with an 8-month old baby. They had brought their own booster seat for the child and began to secure it to the table. The booster seat was collapsible and on the back of it was prominently (and tastefully) displayed the name and logo of the company who made the seat.
As is often the case where young children are involved, we struck up a conversation with them. I remarked on the unique booster seat and the mother proceeded to tell me how they had seen another couple use the booster seat in a restaurant and decided they wanted to have one for their child.
They remembered the name and branding they had seen on the back of the chair. It didn’t require a search for collapsible booster seats, a simple search for the name of the company yielded the desired results.They then proceeded to find out more about the product and then to purchase the collapsible booster seat.
Make It Easy For People To Find Out More About You
There are many ways people may hear about your business, but how easy is it for them to then learn more about your business?
A website in and of itself has no value, unless it presents a good first impression when people arrive at your site, and then goes beyond that to deliver at least some of the content that consumers hope to find. Within seconds of arriving on your website visitors will decide whether to dig deeper or leave. Within seconds they will get an impression of who you are – or who you are not.
Why People Visit Your Website
The average consumer visits your business website to do one or more of the following:
- Get your phone number, find the location of your business or contact you through your contact form or email
- Find answers to general or specific questions they may have
- Learn more about specific products/services
- Investigate and/or compare products/services and prices
- Check out what others have to say about you and/or your products/services, by reading online reviews and testimonials
- Purchase products/services online
- Get a sense about your business and what you might be like to deal with
Visiting your website allows consumers to find out about you while in the privacy and comfort of their own home or office, or even while shopping in your store, before they take a next step or buy your product.
Does Your Website Have Curb Appeal?
Visiting a website for the first time is somewhat like driving by a house that is listed for sale.
The external appearance or ‘curb appeal’, before digging deeper, helps visitors decide whether to take a closer look, or not. If the house doesn’t have ‘curb appeal’ visitors may never go further than driving by the house. One look is all that is needed to decide they don’t want to see more. The inside of the house may be quite attractive and well laid out. But, if our first impression of the house – the curb appeal – isn’t favourable, we may never go beyond driving by it on the street.
This is true of a website too. Within seconds of arriving on your website, visitors will decide whether to hang around and go deeper (click a link, visit another page), or leave.
If the first impression of your website is a good one, visitors may look further (click a link) to get the information they are looking for.
If the first impression is not a good one, if your website is not well laid out, if the visual images are poor quality, if the site is cluttered and difficult to navigate, if visitors can’t easily find the information they are looking for, chances are they will be gone in seconds.
Fixing Your Website Doesn’t Need To Cost A Small Fortune!
A new business website, or improvements to an existing website, shouldn’t cost a fortune for the vast majority of businesses today.
The average small business website requires good quality images, well written content, helpful information, appropriate calls-to-action, a nice layout, good navigation, responsive/mobile-friendly design, a contact form, social sharing options and maybe a few other ‘bells-and-whistles’ that aren’t complicated. Things like an events calendar, a blog, an online store, a photo-gallery, etc.
Certainly there are some businesses that will require a level of functionality that is much more expensive than the average website, but for most this is not the case.
However, the cost to your business of not having a website that represents your business well, and that is more than just a pretty face, is likely far greater. It can impact your reputation and your income and undermine your branding.
In an online world where consumer decisions are heavily influenced by what they see online, having a website that represents your business well has never been more important.
Updated December 13, 2015
LinkedIn is an important social network for professionals, business owners and job seekers alike. It can help:
- introduce us to new people
- reconnect us with people we may have lost touch with
- bring new business opportunities our way
LinkedIn can play a valuable role in helping to build our online reputation, brand awareness, influence and network of connections.
But in order for this to happen, we need to make sure our profile is complete. Setting up an account on LinkedIn and not completing it may hurt your reputation more than it will help it!
Here are 5 areas to pay attention to as soon as you create your LinkedIn personal profile:
1. Create ‘Your public profile URL’
When you sign up for LinkedIn your assigned public profile URL will look something like this: linkedin.com/pub/johndoe/40/263/205 (Try putting THAT on a business card!)
Adding your assigned LinkedIn profile URL to your business card, email signature, your social networking sites and any marketing material is difficult, without your own custom public profile URL or LinkedIn web address. The one provided by LinkedIn is too long and complicated, making it virtually impossible to remember or share with others, other than through a hyperlink.
Fortunately, LinkedIn allows you to customize your public profile URL to one that works better for you. Let’s face it linkedin.com/in/JohnDoe will look a lot better on your business card and other promotional material than linkedin.com/pub/johndoe/40/263/205.
There are a couple of ways to create your distinct public profile URL for LinkedIn. Here’s one way:
- Hover over the word ‘Profile’ in the navigation bar. When the drop down menu appears click on ‘Edit profile.’
- When your profile opens, find the LinkedIn assigned URL below your profile picture. To the right of the URL, find and click on the pencil icon.
- A new page will open with a right side panel that has the title ‘Your public profile URL’ at the top of the panel.
- Look for your LinkedIn assigned URL, just a few lines down from the title. Click the pencil icon to change your LinkedIn public profile URL.
- Enter your name as you would like it to appear in your custom LinkedIn public profile URL. Click ‘save.’
You’ll also find these steps plus a short video walk-through of the steps by clicking here.
NOTE: If your first name choice isn’t available you’ll need to consider other options like a middle initial, a middle name, etc. Where at all possible, keep it consistent across the various networks. In other words, twitter.com/SueCockburn, pinterest.com/SueCockburn, linkedin.com/in/SueCockburn NOT twitter.com/SCockburn, pinterest.com/Cockburn, linkedin.com/inSueCockburn.
Using the same username on all your networks creates a consistency in your personal (or business) branding and makes it easier for people to find you on other social networks, as they’ll often guess that your username is the same on one as on another. (It makes sense!)
Where your usernames use your business name, it’s best to use your personal name for your personal LinkedIn profile. Use the business name for a LinkedIn business page (if needed).
2. Professional Photo
A picture is an important part of establishing your online presence. It very often provides the first impression people will have, especially for those who have never met you face-to-face.
If you do not have a photo on your LinkedIn profile, or if it is poor quality, people may not look any further, to find out the more important stuff about you. Like whether they’d like to do business with you! Your photo will add or detract from your perceived credibility.
- Head or head and shoulders shot.
- Use a simple or plain background.
- Wear clothing appropriate for your field of work.
- Solid colors work better than patterns for clothing.
- Have a pleasant expression on your face. Professional and friendly.
- Smile with your teeth. Smiling without showing your teeth apparently makes you appear less likeable. In my recently updated profile photos below, I’m actually smiling in both pictures. In the one without my teeth showing it is hard to tell I’m smiling. For this reason I went with the ‘smile with the teeth’ photo.
Buffer has written an article on the importance of your profile picture, ‘The Research & Science Behind Finding Your Best Profile Picture.’
3. Customize the Professional Headline that shows below your name
Your job title is the default for Your Professional Headline. Instead, change it to something that showcases your expertise clearly and specifically. You have 120 characters to let people know what you really do. Don’t miss this opportunity!!
If you are an Architect and only list this title along with a bunch of letters after your name, will I know what your specialty is? Do you design houses, commercial buildings, or multi-family complexes?
Think about the audience you want to attract, use keywords that your customers are using to search for your type of business and write a headline that speaks to this group.
Adding a bit more detail to your professional headline can separate you from the pack and make it easier for those searching for your services to find you.
4. Write a Background Summary that is interesting, informative, concise and typo-free
File Formats & Sizes That Can Be Uploaded to LinkedIn Summary
Your LinkedIn Background Summary introduces people to who you are and your current role, once they’ve seen your photo and your professional headline. It’s a place where you can go into a bit more detail about who you are, what you do and why you do it.
Provide enough information that people will get a sense of who you are but not so much that they will only read it part way through. You can also upload presentations, documents and images to show in your summary.
Use keywords as these are the words people are using to search for you, but don’t go overboard. Remember, you’re writing for people not search engines.
There are many more ways to enhance your LinkedIn profile. These are a few of the areas that tend to ‘fall through the cracks’ when people are building their LinkedIn profile. Ultimately, it’s important that your profile is as complete as possible.
5. Become familiar with ‘Privacy & Settings’
To find your ‘Privacy & Settings’ area, follow these steps:
- Hover over your profile photo, in the top right corner of the menu bar, until a drop down menu appears.
- Find and click on the ‘Privacy & Settings’ link.
- Click on the individual links you’d like to review or make changes to (see an image showing the options at the end of this article).
A few settings to pay attention to:
The ‘Privacy & Settings’ area of LinkedIn (under ‘Helpful Links’) is where you invite others to give you a recommendation, as well as where you manage recommendations you receive and give.
We can say anything we like about ourselves, but when other people speak highly of us and are willing to put their recommendations in their own words this, obviously, has much more impact.
LinkedIn recommendations added to your profile must come from the person making the recommendation. They can’t be added by you in any other way and this adds even more weight to them.
Choose whether or not to share your profile edits
The default for this is ‘on’ and “by selecting this option, your activity updates will be shared in your activity feed.” This means that every time you make a change to any aspect of your profile, your LinkedIn world will be alerted.
I have this turned off as when I make changes I may tweak several areas at one time and I don’t necessarily want my network notified of these minor ‘housekeeping’ type changes.
As well, LinkedIn provides a button on the Edit Profile page that allows you to turn the notification for a change on and off. So, if you make a change you want everyone to know about, you can simply change this button to ‘yes.’
There are many other areas that can be modified, so it is worthwhile checking out this area fully when you set up your account.
Image of LinkedIn Profile Settings Page
Keep in mind, the more complete your profile, the more opportunity for it to present a good impression of you and your brand – for those who don’t know you and those who do.
Article updated from earlier version on December 11, 2015
A while back I wrote the article, “To Become More Effective, Say “No” To Multitasking.”
The article was inspired by a book I’d written a few years back, “The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done,” by author, speaker and business coach, Dave Crenshaw. I refer to him and some of his research in my article.
Dave is a master at helping people conquer chaos, and has appeared in Time magazine, USA Today, The Washington Post and the BBC News. His book “The Myth of Multitasking” has been published in six languages and is a time management best seller.
Online training provider Lynda.com partnered with Dave to create a variety of powerful online courses, including Time Management Fundamentals and Insights from a Business Coach.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dave Crenshaw and the podcast below is the result. Click the link to hear the interview. The audio file is 18 minutes in length and includes Dave talking about:
- The Focused Business Model
- Why Multitasking/Switch-Tasking Isn’t Productive
- Budgeting Your Time
- The Bank of Time
- 5 Steps To Prioritizing Your Time
The MP3 recording of my interview with Dave is available below. In the interview free access to Dave’s courses and a Lynda.com 10-day trial are mentioned. These were available at the time of the interview and different free offerings may be available, in place of these, from time to time. Check out FreeTimeGift.com for Dave’s most current free gift offering.
In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Case for Corporate Disobedience,” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg states:
Simply put, sometimes the right thing to do is to stop asking for permission and start bending or even breaking select internal rules, working quietly to help the company succeed in spite of its own control systems. (emphasis added)
He goes on, later in the article, to ask this excellent question:
How many of your CURRENT success stories have come about because somebody bent the rules?
RULE: a principle, regulation, governing action, procedure, arrangement, etc.
Delivering Great Customer Service
Without people on the team (at all levels) who know when and how to bend or break the rules, for the good of the company, we are unlikely to deliver great customer service to our customers. And this loss is just the tip of the iceberg! It will impact much more than customer service!!
The rule breakers, in these scenarios, are often people who have an entrepreneurial bent. They may not want to run their own business, but they treat your business like it is their own. And that is a good thing!
It means they’re (usually) passionate about customer service, about delivering great products and/or services, and about giving you important and often critical feedback as to what they see the company doing wrong and how things can be improved.
These passionate and committed people can often be challenging to work with, because they don’t accept the status quo. They want the business they work for to be highly successful and they invest a lot of their own blood, sweat and tears, so to speak, in making it happen. They take it personally. It’s not just a job. Their personal integrity is wrapped up in the job they do for you.
Passionate, Values Driven, Fearless, Hardworking
They are usually not clock-watchers nor are they necessarily workaholics. But what they often are is passionate, values driven, fearless and hardworking.
Breaking the rules for the sake of breaking the rules is not what I’m talking about here. People like that are a hindrance to your business. But, those who understand the rules yet aren’t afraid to periodically bend or break the rules when they believe it makes sense for the business and the customer, even if they make the occasional mistake, should be rewarded not punished.
It takes guts to go against the grain and to decide the right thing to do might not be written in the rulebook. It’s not for everyone, but every company can benefit by having individuals like these on the team. They know the rules and they also know when to cross the line, and they have their head and heart in the right place when doing so.
Staff and management who are completely tied to the rules and who see them as written in stone; see them as unbendable and unbreakable, no matter what the situation; or, who fear breaking them for any reason; often do more damage than good to your business.
Knowing when it makes sense to break the rules takes wisdom. As this saying attributed to Picaso says . . .
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Updated November 2015
“Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.”
– Zig Ziglar
Early in my career I discovered the truth in Zig Ziglar’s quote, that handling customer complaints was actually a huge opportunity and not something to fear.
Handling customer complaints, for most of us, is a scary prospect. And yet by listening attentively and respectfully to the customer, and by doing our best to resolve the situation, the result can actually be a stronger relationship with the customer.
I didn’t understand this early on in my banking career, before I began my own business, and thus felt panicky when a customer complained. Largely because I didn’t recognize the impact effectively handling a complaint had on customer loyalty.
It took me many years to finally see that most of the complaints I handled resulted in a stronger relationship with the customer. Why? Because my behaviour showed the customer that I, and the organization they were dealing with, cared about them and their problem. Our actions – mine and the organization’s – demonstrated that we wanted to resolve the complaint to their satisfaction. This built trust and loyalty with the customer.
Handling Customer Complaints In A Way That Strengthens Relationships
In the short-term, handling complaints in a way that strengthened (usually) the relationship with the client meant:
- On occasion, we had to own a problem that wasn’t really our fault – without saying so to the customer. (While the customer may not always be right, the customer is pretty much always right.)
- The complaint may have cost us something to remedy – but far less than bad word-of-mouth advertising might have if we hadn’t resolved it promptly, satisfactorily and respectfully.
In the long-term, handling complaints in a way that strengthened (usually) the relationship with the client meant:
- Our customers felt like we cared (and we did). We listened carefully, acknowledged the problem and remedied the situation as best we could.
- Our customers stayed with us and often became loyal brand advocates – they didn’t expect us to be perfect, they did expect us to own up to problems and fix them.
It’s Not Rocket Science!
Handling customer complaints is not rocket science. It’s really a matter of putting ourselves in our customers’ position. How would we want our complaint handled? How would we want to be listened to, spoken to and dealt with?
Giving Service That Goes Above And Beyond The Average Is Key
If we’re looking to build a profitable business with a loyal base of customers, giving service that goes above and beyond the average is key. And, it often results in clients becoming brand ambassadors who fan the flames of great word-of-mouth advertising as a bonus.
When a customer complains it is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with them. They are looking for resolution to their problem. In the process we have the opportunity to handle their complaint in a way that strengthens both our relationship and our brand’s relationship with the customer.
How Customers Feel Impacts How They Respond/React
When customers feel:
- heard and understood (we’ve listened as they tell us about their problem/experience)
- important and respected (our body language, our words and the tone of our voice says we care)
… they are also more likely to be calm and rational about the problem as opposed to emotional and reactionary.
In my experience, most customers don’t like to complain or create a fuss when they experience a problem with a product or service. They just want the issue resolved. For most customers, actually confronting the person/business about the problem is uncomfortable for them.
How Complaints Are Handled Impacts Word-of-Mouth Advertising
Handling complaints in a positive way is often pleasantly surprising to customers – a surprise they often share with their friends. Of course the reverse is true too. Except that when you handle a complaint poorly your customer is likely to tell even more people – and this kind of word-of-mouth advertising most of us can do without.
This article has been updated from an earlier article.
Building an online presence for your business is hard work. And because of the time and financial commitment needed to do so, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for people to find you and connect with you online.
The following are six easy ways to make it easier for people to find where you are online and connect with you there. Not much time is needed to get these set up, and once once you’re set up you’re pretty much done.
1. Create a custom web address for each of your social networks
Having a custom website address (for instance, twitter.com/SueCockburn or ca.linkedin.com/in/SueCockburn) for each of your social networks makes it easier for you to remember your web address, and share with others how to connect with you on your various social networks.
Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and usually, but not always, Facebook have you create a custom URL when you sign up for your account. For LinkedIn and Google+ this is not automatic. However, LinkedIn does allow you to immediately create your own custom URL. The process is simple and the steps are outlined in the short 2-minute video and article how to ‘Create Your Your Custom LinkedIn Web Address In 5 Easy Steps.’
Different networks refer to your custom web address in different ways, for instance: username or public profile.
2. Title case your website and social network web addresses
Title casing – capitalizing the first letter of each word – helps make your website address or custom social network web address, stand out when people see it, making it easier to read and recognize at a glance.
The longer your website address is, or the distinct portion of your social network web address, the more important title casing is.
Consider how difficult it is to read facebook.com/suessimplestitches or twitter.com/bobsautoshop as opposed to facebook.com/SuesSimpleStitches or twitter.com/BobsAutoShop.
Title casing makes your website address and the unique portion of your social network web address(es) readable at a glance. Visitors don’t need to ‘focus’ on the lettering to be able to read what it says, the words are recognizable with a quick look rather than having to consciously focus on the letters to figure out what they are saying.
When creating custom web address for your social networks, title case it (e.g. twitter.com/SueCockburn instead of twitter.com/suecockburn) when possible.
Not all social networks will allow you to create your custom web address using title casing, but most will. For instance, LinkedIn only allows you to use lower case letters, whereas Facebook and Twitter allow you title case or capitalize some or all of the letters of your custom social network web address, when you create the address.
3. Add your website and social networks as clickable links to your email signature
This lets those you are communicating with easily check out your website or one of your social network, now or in the future. It also serves as a subtle reminder of where they can connect with you online.
4. Add social media icon(s) to your website, that link to your social network(s)
This one is pretty basic stuff but I’m surprised how often these icons and links are missing from websites, or the icons are there but they don’t lead anywhere.
Here are a few things in particular to watch for:
- Set social media links to open your social networks in a NEW browser window. It’s always best to have links to external websites, including to your social networks, open in a new browser window. This way visitors can check out your social network and, once they’re done, your website remains open and they can continue to browse, should they so desire.
- Have social links to your social networks easy to find/readily available on your website. At the top of a sidebar or at the top of the page, in or near the header area. You could include them in your site footer too, as well as close to the top of the page.
- Make sure social media icons are large enough, and/or have enough space between them, so that they are easy to click on smaller/mobile devices.
5. Add your website and your social media accounts as clickable links to your social network profiles
Include your website address and links to your other social networks to each of your social media accounts and online listings, where at all possible. This lets visitors know the other social networks you are active on, so they can connect with there if they so choose.
6. Include your title-cased website address and custom social web addresses on everything
Include your website address and links to your major social networks on your print and online material. Not only marketing stuff, but everything! Business cards, invoices, letterhead, in-store and mail out fliers, brochures, newspaper ads, and anything else you can think of. They should also be added to any eNewsletters you send out – as clickable links.
In our socially networked world, it makes sense to make it as easy as possible for people to find you online.
(This article was updated November 9, 2015 from an earlier version.)
Social media has the potential to help build brand name recognition and amplify word-of-mouth advertising for your business. Both important pieces that can help sales, especially in a local environment.
However, reaching your target audience requires more than setting up your business profile on a few choice social networks.
Not A Quick Or Magical Fix
Having a social media presence won’t magically or quickly:
- Build awareness of your brand or business.
- Drive traffic to your website.
- Generate sales for your business.
Like other types of marketing, to see results, social media requires time, planning, patience, persistence and, more and more, an investment of cash.
Not Living Up To Your Promises Will Hurt Your Business
It also means your products and services need to live up to your brand promises. If they don’t, social media is likely to hurt your business rather than help it … and this is true whether you are active on social media or not.
People share online about their experiences with products and services, whether the businesses representing those products and services are online or not.
A Cost-Effective Marketing Tool
That said, social media is a cost-effective marketing tool for most businesses, small and large alike.
Over time and well executed, social media can help grow brand-name recognition, your reputation and customer loyalty. When your brand is more widely known, with a good reputation, you are more likely to be in the running for new business than those businesses who are not known in your service area.
7 Important Areas When Managing Your Social Networks
If you are new to social media, or you are not seeing the success you would like, here are 7 important areas to pay attention to when managing your social networks:
1. Know your target audience.
- Understand who the target audience is that you want to reach.
- Learn what social networks they are most active on.
2. Choose wisely the social networks you will be active on.
- Don’t try to do it all – unless you have the resources to do so.
- Learn about the social networks you choose to be active on and how they work.
- Choose the right social networks for your business and your available resources.
3. Set up complete social network profiles.
- Create a branded website address for each social network. Ideally, one that is consistent across all of your business networks (e.g. twitter.com/JoesPlumbing, facebook.com/JoesPlumbing).
- Use high quality images for your profile picture, cover image, etc.
- Use your branding elements (fonts, colours, images, tag lines) where at all possible. These allow your business profile to clearly stand out and be recognizable as belonging to your business.
- Complete any about areas and descriptions.
- Include your website address, contact information and the addresses of your other social networks.
4. Share content that appeals to your target audience.
- Share content that your target audience will find helpful, interesting, valuable and/or humorous.
- Post regularly to each social network. Research what works best for each different social network and share accordingly. Monitor and adjust as appropriate.
- Use visuals that are high quality and text that is well-written.
- Use Social Media Management Tools like Hootsuite or Buffer for scheduling in advance content to share. If your only network is Facebook, you can schedule content in advance. Look for the ‘Publishing Tools’ link at the top of your Facebook Page, to the right of ‘Insights.’
- Monitor and track activity on your social media accounts using analytic/insight features provided by the network itself and/or by using a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer.
5. Respond to those who comment on what you share.
- Respond to comments and inquiries in a timely manner. Each social network is different and consumer expectations are high in this area.
- ‘Like’ (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+) or ‘favourite’ (Twitter) comments, where appropriate.
- Don’t ignore challenging or awkward questions or comments. Handle them with tact and diplomacy and avoid becoming defensive or being seen as rude. Tact and humility will win respect for your brand.
6. Invest time and money to reach your goals.
- Social media may appear to be free but it really isn’t. More and more an investment of cash, in addition to time, is needed to really see results, especially when it comes to Facebook (business) Pages.
- For Facebook, invest cash to get your best content, from your target audience’s perspective, into the newsfeed of your target audience and beyond. If you don’t do this, you may be spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. To reach fans in their own newsfeed, most businesses will need to pay to promote at least some of their content.
- Consider advertising to expand the reach of your business on social media.
7. Make it easy for people to know where to find you online.
- Add your social networks as clickable links to your email signature.
- Have icons and links to your social networks on your website.
- Show links to your key social networks on each of your different social networks.
- Include your website and social network addresses on your print material (including statements, invoices, quotes, newsletters, flyers, business cards.)
The beauty of social media is that you can share content that is helpful to those you hope to reach, while at the same time building brand name recognition for your business and greater trust with your target audience. This allows your target audience to see you as a resource and makes it much more likely they’ll think of you when they’re ready to buy what you are offering.
Updated October 27, 2015.
(All images in this article are sourced from the BC Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction report, ‘Small Business Profile 2015.’)
Small businesses play an important role in our provincial (BC) and the Canadian economy.
BC Small Business Has Highest GDP Ratio Among Provinces!
According to BC’s Small Business Profile 2015 report, issued this month by British Columbia’s Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, BC “small businesses generated approximately 33% of the province’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, well above the Canadian average of 30% and the highest ratio among the provinces.” (emphasis added)
Roughly 98% of all businesses in BC (and Canada) are small businesses. Small businesses are those that employ fewer than 50 employees, according to the report.
80% Of All Businesses In BC Are Micro-Businesses
Small businesses with fewer than 5 employees are considered micro-businesses. Micro-businesses represent 4 out of every 5 businesses in the province!
In fact, 51% or 199,900 small businesses employ only the owner (with no paid help) and the other 28% or 109,400 employ fewer than 5 employees.
Only 10% or 37,100 small businesses employ 10 or more employees! The other 88% or 345,600 small businesses (including micro-businesses) employ fewer than 10 employees.
Small Businesses Employ 54% Of All Employed Individuals!
When it comes to the workforce, small businesses in BC employ 54% (1,010,800) of all employed individuals!
- 21% (395,900) of all employed individuals are self-employed.
- 33% (614,900) of all employed individuals are employed by small business.
The remaining 46% (847,800) of employed individuals are employed by large businesses.
Other Tidbits On Small Business
Here are a few other tidbits from the ‘Small Business Profile 2015‘ report:
On average, self-employed people in BC tend to:
- be older (32% are aged 55 and over; 17% are under the age of 35)
- be men (although 37% are women in BC)
- work longer hours (average 36.9 hours, compared to 34.9 hours for employees; 25% work 50 or more hours per week, compared to 4% of employees)
- retire at an older age (median retirement age 65.8, compared to 63.3 years for employees)
BC Tied for #1 for Small Businesses Per Capita
In 2014, BC tied with Saskatchewan for first place in terms of small businesses per capita, 82.6 per 1000 people. The Canadian average in 2014 was 70.9.
Breakdown of Small Businesses By Industry
79% of small businesses in BC are in service sector industries; 21% in goods sector industries:
- 22% professional and business services (services sector)
- 14% construction and utilities (goods sector)
- 11% wholesale and retail trade (services sector)
- 10% health and social services (services sector)
- 9% finance, insurance and real estate (services sector)
- 9% other services (services sector)
- 5% information, culture and recreation (services sector)
- 5% transportation and storage (services sector)
- 4% accommodation and food (services sector)
- 4% educational services (services sector)
- 4% primary industries (goods sector)
- 3% manufacturing (goods sector)
Clearly small business in BC, plays an important role in our province and has a big impact on our economy!
Click here to download a copy of the Small Business Profile 2015 report, issued by British Columbia’s Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.