In a world where information travels with the agility of a fast food order and your individual on-line presence thrives long after your death, controlling your image on the Internet, to the extent of what is possible, is imperative, particularly for career success. As a small business owner, because you are the face of your brand, the same is also true. Below are some tips on how to maximize your control of the image of your business:
Do good business: Sure, it sounds obvious, but it's where it all begins. Treat every customer with the same level of care and attention, and teach your employees to do the same. (Questions? Consider the Golden Rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Keep your employees motivated (it takes very little reward and recognition - both financially and time-wise -- to keep morale and loyalty high) so they will go the extra mile for you and your business. Going above and beyond makes the experience for your customers more personalized and memorable. Happy employees = happy customers. Things are going to go wrong. It's part of life. But it's how you and your staff handle the snafus that people will remember. Do not underestimate who or what one dissatisfied customer might be connected to that could come back to bite you.
Encourage social media interaction from satisfied customers in a subtle, yet professional and visible way: You want testimonials -- quotable sound bytes for your website or video blogs featuring glowing customers, but you shouldn't beg, you shouldn't offer incentives, and you should never, ever pay anyone to do this. Put your social media information somewhere in your place of business that will be visible to your customers. Social media fans will get the hint.
Once enough great testimonials have been volunteered, ask your enthusiastic customers if you can use their testimonials on your website with just their first name and last initial. You can then, and only if it feels like a good match, ask if they'd be willing to do their testimonial in video form, and if they are, use that material to promote your business. You can also ask if they'd be willing, again, once they've already volunteered the testimonial in written form, to have their testimonial appear with their picture on Instagram. Honesty is most the longer route, but the best and only guaranteed results route.
Make sure customers know how to find you on Google+ and Yelp: As a small local business, positive reviews on Yelp and Google+ from other Yelp and Google+ account users help you to rank higher when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). And nothing is better than having your business show up in top rankings in a search for local businesses with keywords that pertain to your line of work. Again, don't be greedy, don't beg. It takes time; all you can do is make your presence on Yelp and Google+ be known.
When you have enough good reviews, consider featuring a link to the review feed on your homepage in a highly prominent spot, just like CartridgeInk does. When a potential new customer sees a 4.8/5 ranking out of over 1,000 reviews, the trust factor instantly rises. When it comes to websites, it takes just 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion about your website and decide whether to stay or go. Much of this is determined by the visual design. For websites in languages that read left to right, it has been proven there is great marketing strength in F-patterned web designs, which are heavily left-balanced. All this is to say -- feature those Yelp, Google+ and testimonials on the left side of your website's homepage.