Boost Your Business With Online Reviews

Online reviews are a boon to some and a bane to others, but either way, they’re here to stay. Studies show that an increasing majority of customers (upward of 60%) turn to online reviews when they are researching new products, services, or restaurants.

Why does it matter?

Online reviews help customers make choices by offering a kind of credibility through a concept called “social proof.” Social proof is just a fancy way of saying that humans look to others to inform and validate their decisions. Online reviews are perceived by potential customers as unbiased information from others who have experienced your product. 

Major online review sites like Amazon, Angie’s List, Consumer Reports, and Yelp, or industry-specific sites like Capterra, Influenster, and TripAdvisor can be places where potential customers search for the feedback prior customers have shared.

As a small to medium-sized business, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of one more thing to track and manage, but don’t turn away. Online reviews are here to stay, and in this case ignorance isn’t bliss. It can be difficult to keep up with the various online megaphones people use, but the fact that so many turn to these tools when making decisions means they have a real impact on a business’s reputation, and owners must take them seriously.

Tips for making reviews work for you:

No one wants to see negative reviews, but they can be used to your advantage if you respond in a timely, constructive, and helpful way. Reach out with an apology, relevant information, and an offer to follow up with the customer offline. This strategy can even build greater trust with potential customers, as it shows you are paying attention and willing to work with folks.

When asking customers to write reviews, emphasize quality. Give them opportunities to weigh in with more than stars to rate their experience. Ask them to share a bit about how you helped solve a problem, or why their experience was excellent. Human brains are designed to learn through stories. We naturally remember stories much better than facts or statistics. In this way, real positive anecdotes written by customers are more meaningful and relevant than stars in a review.

The more reviews, the better. When potential customers see that many others have used your services, it adds greater social proof. If you’re starting from zero, set some milestones for yourself along the way as you build numbers of reviews. Research seems to show that you can track a measurable increase in business once you hit 50, provided they are mostly positive.

Here are a few ways to encourage people to leave reviews:

  1. Invite them to do so, either in person at the end of a transaction, as post to social media, or in an email follow up

  2. Make it easy! If you have an e-commerce site, include a review at the conclusion of a sale, or send a note with a link 7 – 10 days after your customer receives your product

  3. Incentivize reviews by providing coupon codes, drawings, or giveaways

  4. Be sure you are “mobile friendly”—most people are doing research and reviews on their phone these days

  5. When people email you thanks, anecdotes, or useful feedback, ask their permission to use the testimonial on your website, either anonymously or with their name associated

 If you’re already tracking online reviews, have you noticed an impact on your business?

If you’re preparing to begin using online reviews as part of your overall marketing strategy, what is the first step you will take? We’d love to hear!

 Resources used in this article:

7 Things You Must Understand When Leveraging Social Proof in Your Marketing

Six Ways to Make Online Reviews Work for Your Business

25 Customer Review Sites for Collecting Business & Product Reviews

How to Make Customer Reviews Work for You 

10 Ways to Encourage Customer Reviews Online

Celebrate Earth Day, Green Your Business

There are so many reasons to go green! Increasingly, people are recognizing we have a shared responsibility to lighten our collective environmental impact—for our children, and future generations of all living things. More and more business and nonprofit leaders see the potential their sectors have for pushing our culture and economy toward sustainability, and are stepping up to do the good work.

In addition to being the right thing to do, did you know that taking steps to become more environmentally conscious can also be good for business? Studies show customers want greener choices, they view green businesses as innovative and progressive, and are willing to pay a premium for responsibly and sustainably produced goods and services. This is especially true of Millennials, who represent an increasing share of the adult population.

Here is a list of ideas, both small and large, for making your business more environmentally friendly:

  • Create a company or organizational Environmental Policy Statement. There are many good templates available.
  • Assess your organization’s Carbon Footprint.
  • Energy conservation: turn off and unplug at the end of the day. Even sleeping machines can draw energy through the evenings and weekends.
  • Convert to natural & biodegradable cleaning products and equipment. Besides, who wants to work among toxic chemicals anyway?
  • Get rid of your single use coffee pods. Sure, it’s a convenient way to brew coffee—but remember, K-pods are non-recyclable, and plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Every plastic coffee pod you use will be around FOREVER.
  • Start a workplace recycling program. Here is a link to what’s recyclable in Jefferson County.
  • Get a water cooler and a set of reusable glasses.
  • Begin an office walk/bike/bus challenge. Consider providing employees with transit passes as a non-traditional benefit.
  • Give your staff the ability to flex-work from home. This cuts down on CO2 emissions from car travel.
  • Consider going paperless (or nearly).
  • Cloud-based computing. Move your server to the cloud, and implement a file storage system that reduces the need to print hard copies. Google Docs, Office 365, Dropbox, and other cloud-based systems can help.
  • Considering upgrading your office equipment? With your next upgrade, purchase energy saving office equipment. And be sure to recycle your old e-waste.
  • Practice Green Procurement—take care to source locally and sustainably, when possible.
  • Include an environmental impact analysis when adding new products, programs, or services.

Remember, small steps can lead to big impacts over time. If you’re starting from scratch, choose one or two things that seem doable and implement them this year. Sustainable business practices will mean healthier, happier lives for all people today and in the future—and they might just lead to a healthier bottom line.

Dashboards Can Be Springboards!

“Measure everything of significance. Anything that is measured and watched, improves.” - Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy
 
Most businesses and nonprofits today are swimming in data, and generating more all the time. It’s stored in customer databases, inventory software, QuickBooks, marketing programs, social media platforms, and even Google Analytics. Many entrepreneurs and leaders know intuitively that this can be a powerful tool for smart decision-making, but feel overwhelmed by the prospect of mining and making sense of it all. This is where dashboards come in.
 
A Digital Dashboard is an information management tool. Dashboards create visualizations of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by pulling them into charts and graphs that are displayed side-by-side and updated in real time. This allows you to see trends, patterns and opportunities as they emerge.
 
Organizations of all kinds can use dashboards to help track meaningful metrics, for example: nonprofit fundraising or grant administration, marketing strategies, accounts payable and receivable, sales, lead generation, web traffic, project management, etc. Businesses and nonprofits working in healthcare, finance, insurance, small manufacturing, retail sales, customer service, education, conservation, and more. See some examples of different industry dashboards here.
 
With all of this information clearly visualized, accessible, and at your fingertips, your stress will go down and your productivity will increase!
 
Need help honing in on your KPIs? Would a few tweaks to your existing systems help you gather data that can be translated into a dashboard for smart decision making? Give Clarity a call or drop us a line. Together we can design a system that works for you, keeping you fit and moving forward.
 
Sources for this article:
Wikipedia 
The Best Business Dashboard Apps for Small Businesses
 
Best practices when designing dashboards:
Data Dashboards for Small Business
 
For Nonprofits:
Models & Components of a Great Nonprofit Dashboard
 
A few examples of companies providing dashboards for small business:
Klipfolio
Dasheroo 
Tableau 
iDashboard 

Independence & Interdependence: Best Apps for Integration & Efficiency

With the celebration of Independence Day, the team at Clarity has been thinking about the paradox and tension between independence and interdependence, as it relates to our families, communities, nonprofits, and businesses. 

There are so many great apps out there to help you track your time, money, projects, inventory, and customer/donor relationships. What are people using and loving these days? We decided to pull together a sampling that can serve as a good place to start your inquiry.

Finances

Write checks, create and send invoices, file your bills, all in an easy to use interface configured for your business, and accessible from any computer, tablet, or mobile device that has an internet connection. Interested, but overwhelmed by the prospect of switching from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online? Meet Liz!

FreshBooks: An accounting software alternative to QuickBooks if you have a simple, service-oriented business. It's not as robust or customizable, but may feel less intimidating to those who prefer a simple, intuitive tool for managing business or organizational books. Track finances, send invoices, track time, and capture expenses.

Digital Timesheets

TSheets: Eliminate paper time sheets and schedules! TSheets is a flexible, easy-to-use time tracker and scheduler filled with innovative tools to help you maximize your most valuable resource: time. It integrates seamlessly with Intuit's QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage, Gusto & Square.

Project Management

Asana: Track projects, goals, workflows, and team collaboration; integrates with communications Apps like Slack, and document storage Apps like Dropbox and Box. The interface is flexible with customizable fields, and gives you a good visual dashboard.  

Basecamp: Well known and easy to use, Basecamp is streamlined and intuitive. It organizes your projects, internal communications, and client work in one place so you have a central source of truth. Pay per project, rather than per user. 

Other Apps for Productivity

Slack: Team Communications for the 21st Century. Organize team conversations in channels, chat one-one-one with team members, share documents, spreadsheets, photos, and more, and filter and find information quickly with powerful search of the indexed archive.

Wunderlist: Organize and share your to-do, work, grocery, movies and household lists. No matter what you’re planning, how big or small the task may be, Wunderlist makes it super easy to get stuff done.

With the right combination of integration tools, you can improve your business processes, streamline communications, boost efficiency, and save both time and money...giving you more independence through smart interdependence!