A New Year’s Business Check-up

As 2013 comes to a close, we want to wish you and yours all the very best for the upcoming 2014. It’s been a great year here at AutoWeb Technologies and we’re just so fortunate to be able to do what we do here everyday. Thank you again for all you do for us as customers and friends.

At this time each year most people and companies find themselves taking inventory of where they’ve been and where they’d like to go in the coming new year. The great thing about life is that it’s never to late to make personal and professional changes that we’ve been thinking about. Whether it be a living a healthier lifestyle, earning more income, or learning a new skill, the time is never better than the present.

The same can be said for your business. What kind of year did you have? Are you satisfied with your revenue? Did you hit your goals?

For us, personally, we’re focusing on continuing to grow our sales team and project management staff in 2014. In mid-2013 we ceased offering “custom” web applications, free email, and entry level SEO plans and instead decided to put all of our focus into our core services such as:

  • Custom WordPress web sites
  • Magento E-Commerce web sites
  • Premium SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Services
  • PPC (Pay Per Click) Campaign Management

We did this so that we could deliver the highest quality of predictable, repeatable services each and every time to our customers and not lose focus on trying to service everyone. The result was high customer satisfaction, good profitability, and a business that we could all be proud to be a part of.

What are your goals for this upcoming year? Would you like more sales?

Here is a useful checklist you can use to make sure that you’re on track to meet your business goals in 2014:

Sales and Marketing

  • When a lead comes into your business, do you know where it came from?
  • Once a lead arrives, is it tracked and serviced in a way that is prompt and repeatable?
  • Are you measuring return on investment from your lead flow? In other words, do you know what is working and what isn’t in regards to your marketing dollars being spent?
  • Are you building a database of all leads that come into your business and marketing to these leads each and every month to help establish familiarity and trust? Remember, not all in-bound leads will buy from you initially. Groom your leads over time and they may become customers or referrals at some point.

Web Site & Web Marketing

  • Does your web site have an updated, professional appearance that is easy to manage, easy to navigate, and easy for a visitor to take action?
  • Are you updating your web site regularly with new content and/or blog posts?
  • Where do you rank in the search engines with your core group of keywords?
  • Are you being proactive with your SEO and/or PPC to ensure that Google finds your site relevant and boosts your rankings?

Deliverables

  • Is your product or service experience the same each and every time?
  • Do you have established policies and procedures for your employees to work with that are easy to follow and allow them to be successful?
  • Are you delivering on your promises and “WOWING” your customers?
  • Are customers giving you good testimonials and referrals?
  • Does your company have an easy way for customers to communicate product and service support issues, problems, feedback, etc.?
  • What can you do to improve your overall customer service experience?
  • Would you buy from you?

Product and Service Development

  • Are you spending time each week or month keeping up to date on the latest developments in your industry?
  • Do you keep a watchful eye on your competitors to see what they’re doing and how you can learn or improve from them? What are they doing that you shouldn’t do?
  • What do your customers really need and want? Are you developing the products and services that really matter to them?

Taking action on one or more of these items is a big step. It takes time, but remember that there is no time like NOW. Your business, your employees, and most importantly…your customers will thank you for it!

Have a very safe and Happy New Year!!

-The AutoWeb Technologies Team

Social Media Grows Stronger Than Ever.

From Fast Company’s list of Ten Surprising Social Media Statistics that will Make You Rethink Your Social Strategy:

  • The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55–64 year age bracket – impressive numbers against the prevailing idea that social media is “just for teenagers.”
  • YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18-24 than any cable network – If you’ve been putting off adding video to your strategy, now’s the time to give it a go.
  • Every second, two new members join LinkedIn – Make sure you share consistently to your LinkedIn company page and profile by, for example, scheduling your posts.
  • 25% of smartphone owners ages 18-44 say they can’t recall the last time their smartphone wasn’t next to them – there are probably very few times when they’re not connected to the web in some way and using social media.

Regarding that last point, social media marketing, local SEO and email marketing will help you get the attention of those mobile device junkies!

Click here to read the complete list of Surprising Social Media Statistics.

The Video Advertising Advantage

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, online video ads have a greater impact than TV ads and they are better at finding the hardest-to-reach audiences.

Two key findings:

  • Younger TV viewers, the coveted 18-34 demo, continue to grow their time spent with online video.
  • Online video ads score higher impact than TV ads on Nielsen measured metrics. Metrics are general recall, brand recall, message recall and ad likeability.

Click here to read the full report.

Advertisers can use the dynamic Google Adwords PPC platform to place video ads on YouTube and the Google Display Network. AdWords for video is a video-specific campaign management tool within AdWords. With TrueView cost-per-view ads, you only pay when a viewer actively selects your video, or chooses to continue watching a video when it first loads.

Video content for TrueView ads is hosted on YouTube. Google recently added a new video ad performance measure, Earned Actions, that reports how many people liked your video, stayed on your YouTube channel to watch more videos, subscribed to your channel, added your video to a playlist, or shared your video after watching the ad.

You mean some of those reviews are fake?!

Obviously, some online reviews are fake.

According to a 2012 report from Gartner Research, “between two and six percent of online reviews are fake or deceptive.” Jenny Sussin, a Gartner analyst and co-author of the report, found that, “In the hospitality industry, you are more likely to see bookings go up when you have better ratings. For restaurants, a half-star increase in the review average can cause 7:00 pm bookings to go up 30 to 49 percent.”

Based on that research, why wouldn’t every business post some fake reviews? Perhaps because it’s unethical and…illegal! The FTC’s guidelines for online reviews say that it’s illegal to write fake reviews for your business or to pay someone else to write reviews for you, unless you can prove that the review was an endorsement.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman enforced those guidelines in Operation Clean Turf:

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that 19 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. Operation Clean Turf, a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices. (Source: 9/23/13 press release)

Operation Clean Turf targeted the “reputation enhancement” companies that wrote the fake reviews, and the companies that purchased them.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Fake reviews are bad business! Always under-promise and over-deliver with your customers. Be humble, give them great value, and ask politely for a review/testimonial. It’s easy.