Four ways to use “the best type of free content” to drive up sales

Ahh summertime.  Traveling. Outdoor concerts and events. Golf. More time to relax… As I was exploring my options for the Fourth of July, I became keenly aware of just how different today’s consumer searches are as they explore their choices for traveling, dining out, and well, for just about anything they plan to spend time and money on.

We all know people turn to the web—even more now that smartphones allow us to search on the go. This has been good news for small business owners allowing you more opportunities to sell your products, services and events and to extend your reach further even around the world if you choose.

But…this also has given a stronger voice to the consumer.  It used to be that if a customer had a complaint, he or she had to write a letter or make a phone call. And the customer might tell their friend or neighbor about their experience, but usually not more than a couple of handfuls of people would hear about it.

Fast forward and now we are able to review things immediately online for the world to see. Next to nearly everything you search online, you’ll find “customer reviews.” Want to book a hotel for your upcoming vacation? You’ll see what others had to say about the hotel, and chances are good you’ll consider what they have to say before you reserve a room. Thinking about seeing a movie? will show you not only what film critics say, but what the audience says as well. Everything from buying books on Amazon, to outdoor equipment from retailer REI, to restaurants and electronics have customer reviews.

This increased customer power can be good or bad.  When they aren’t happy with the service and/or the product they can let the world know. On the flip side, if they are happy, they can also let the world know. Not only can they leave a review, but they can tweet about it, share their story about their experience with their Facebook friends , blog about it and more. Even more important is the fact that consumers trust their fellow consumer more than they trust professional critics.

According to market research firm Weber Shandwick’s survey, 77 percent of consumers pay more attention to consumer reviews than to professional critic reviews. In fact, only 23 percent trust professional critic reviews more. What that means to you is that you have to work harder at making sure that what you sell earns trust and that you demonstrate this in your marketing.

How do you do this? Well, for starters, you can include “what your customer thinks” in your marketing.

1) Include consumer reviews on your landing pages and websites. Don’t hide your reviews.  Include them on every landing page and on your website. In order for this to be considered a “real” review and not fabricated, be sure to use both the first and last name and if possible the city and state where they live. If you can get a picture from your customer to include, this makes your review even more believable and stronger. (Never include a “stock image” with a real person.)

2) Get your customers on video. Ask your customers to send you a video where they are talking about how much they love your product or service, or ask if you can video them. Include these videos of customers telling their experience with your products and services in their own words on your landing pages and websites.

3) Match your consumer reviews to your message on your dedicated landing page. When your headline and content match your PPC ad and your page is dedicated to one specific purpose, you convert more prospects to customers. Take it even further by matching testimonials, customer reviews and stories from past customers to support each specific marketing message. Doing so heightens the impact of each and every customer review.

4) Offer free information and resources first. If you are currently going for an immediate sale with your landing pages, try capturing leads instead. This shift in strategy has the power to really explode your online fortunes.  In some cases you may still want to go for an immediate sale, but generally it’s more productive and profitable to capture someone’s contact information so you have more opportunities to market to them and, in turn, share customer stories and reviews.  Plus, it’s easier to get people to agree to give you their contact information then it is to get them to let go of their money.

What’s more, people put more trust in brands that offer free information. According to the 2012 US research by and Latitude Research, 83 percent of Americans trust brands that offer resources throughout the entire purchase cycle. Offering a free report, template, webinar, coupon, consultation, etc. in exchange for their contact information allows you to capture a much higher number of qualified and interested prospects and continue selling to them.

After you’ve captured leads, use emails which include stories from happy customers and links to videos of customers talking about your product or service that support the benefits you wish to reinforce.

A good reputation and happy customers will buy more sales, especially if you make the effort to demonstrate it in your landing pages and on your website. So start looking for how you can collect more customer reviews and incorporate them into your online marketing as soon as possible.

To your online success,

John Pfeiffer

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