Trending: Consumer Review Sites Leverage Content, Social, Search Marketing

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click. Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic). Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click.

Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic).

Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

Recent articles in Forbes hailed that “content is the new SEO …” and that “content is king.”

My view has always been that with relevant, useful, valuable and actionable original content, you can’t go wrong. It will always work with the search engines, despite constant algorithm updates.

This is the core philosophy of my “SONAR Content Distribution Model,” but also has become more commercial- and consumer-driven with the use of product review websites.

A recent study shows 47 percent of consumers indicate the Internet is their favorite place to shop, and U.S. e-tails are anticipated to hit around $370 billion by 2017.

With all this Web surfing and shopping, it’s no wonder consumers are becoming more savvy.

An emerging trend in digital marketing is consumer review sites. These sites are populated with pages and pages of unique, relevant content that’s beneficial to the consumer. It’s unbiased. And has the main focus of harnessing the power of its content with the search engines, as well as social marketing outlets.

The website’s pages are crafted with targeted keywords based on the products or services being reviewed—many well-known brands—and honest feedback. Then it’s good ‘ole inbound marketing tactics, such as online press releases, article marketing, content syndication, search marketing and social marketing that drive consumers to the product review website.

The pioneer of this ingenious online marketing tactic was Cnet.com, which was founded in 1994. They have been reviewing electronic and tech products for years.

Other well-known consumer review sites that have popped up recently include Epinions.com and ConsumerSearch.com, which reviews products. CitySearch.com and Yelp.com review hotels, restaurants, entertainment and more. And of course, AngiesList.com, which is a membership site that reviews local service providers.

But recently, there have been some new players in niche and specialty industries that are creating a buzz. One such new kid on the block is BuyerReview.com.

BuyerReview.com focuses on the health and beauty sectors. This includes cosmetics and cosmeceuticals, such as skincare products, vitamins and supplements—a most robust marketplace, to say the least …

… The U.S. cosmeceutical industry alone represents $6.5 billion with a growth forecast of 5.8 percent annually through 2015. And nutritional supplements generated $32 billion in 2012 and are projected to hit $60 billion by 2021.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of BuyerReview.com’s editors, Peter Stockwell.

I asked him how he would describe the site, what makes it unique and to describe the overall business model.

According to Stockwell, “Buyerreview.com is more targeted than many of the behemoth product review sites on the Web today. Sometimes when you’re too big and review too many things, consumers get lost on your website. Our team of editors reviews specific products in the vertical of health and beauty. We give honest reviews, as well as health and beauty advice.”

Stockwell continues, “Content is the cornerstone of the website. It helps the consumers. And it works with the search engines. With social marketing, it increases our reach and visibility. It’s really a blueprint for online marketing success.”

Stockwell adds, “There are several things that make us stand out: One is our BuyerReview Seal of Approval, which means our experts have reviewed a product personally and found it acceptable. Two, our editors (which, in addition to reviews) provide expert advice on health and beauty, which is an added bonus to consumers. Three, our Top 10 lists, which takes the best of the best we review and rolls it up into an easy-to-read product grid. Four, we offer consumers the option of getting product reviews delivered directly to them wherever they are, via email. And lastly, we offer free, weekly giveaways of the products we review. We like to think of our website as a one-stop shop for consumer health and beauty product interest.”

Stockwell concludes, “Once you have traffic coming to your site based on superior content, the opportunities are endless. Similar product or service review websites have went the advertising model and sell banner ads on their site for revenue potential. Others charge monthly membership fees. There’s many ways to monetize the traffic.”

Bottom line: There’s a way smart online marketers have turned leveraging quality content into a win-win situation that benefits its target audience, as well as generating revenue.

And the vast space on the Web is wide-open for more to jump on the bandwagon and carve out their own slice.

Marketers in most any industry can take something away from this online strategy and see how the fundamental principle can be incorporated it into their online marketing mix … because content will always be king, and consumers will always be curious.

No More Menial Jobs and 2 Other Steps to Customer Experience Transformation

As a marketing consultant, I read great articles about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) every day on the job. Most of them focus on the sales and marketing aspects of CRM … what strategies to employ, tools to use, messages to send out and so on. But let’s not forget that world-class CRM programs also include awesome customer service, essentially creating a Total Customer Experience that fosters long-term, profitable relationships with customers.

As a marketing consultant, I read great articles about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) every day on the job. Most of them focus on the sales and marketing aspects of CRM … what strategies to employ, tools to use, messages to send out and so on. But let’s not forget that world-class CRM programs also include awesome customer service, essentially creating a Total Customer Experience that fosters long-term, profitable relationships with customers.

For many companies, however, the customer service element in CRM is often an afterthought. Banished to a windowless office in the bowels of the company, customer service teams are quite literally out of sight, out of mind. Much of the time, this function is even outsourced entirely. But I have a sneaking suspicion things are going to change big time in coming years, and here’s why.

It’s no secret that companies are now dealing with super-informed, savvy and influential end-users who leverage Social Media and the vast research resources of Web 2.0 to make their purchase decisions. Let’s call this new end-user ‘Customer 2.0.’ In this new paradigm, the balance of power is shifting away from the sales and marketing teams, as firms are discovering that Customer 2.0s are by and large unresponsive to traditional sales and marketing tactics.

This means that customer service is, quite literally, becoming the first and only line of defense. If customer service is poor, it follows that the overall Customer Experience should be lousy, too. Given these facts, it shouldn’t be too controversial to suggest that in the business world of tomorrow, excellent customer service will not only the hallmark of a successful firm, but a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) by which success is measured.

Providing top-notch customer service necessitates transforming the way a firm does business and engages with its clients—aligning it to a model where customer service plays a central role in the firm’s operations. Welcome to the world of Customer Experience Transformation.

For customer service, I define Customer Experience Transformation in three broad swathes:

1. PersonnelIt’s time to view customer service as a profit center, not a cost center.

Say goodbye to the days in which customer service is viewed as a cost center, staffed with bottom-of-the barrel employees who can easily be replaced. To the contrary, customer-focused firms hire smart, savvy and highly motivated customer service representatives, knowing full well that these valuable employees are the firm’s principal ambassadors to the outside world.

I recently read an excellent article in Ad Age titled “Are You Ready for a World Without Menial Jobs?” The crux of the article is that instead of cutting costs, the world’s most successful retailers are actually investing heavily and spending for more than their rivals when it comes to recruiting, training and retaining customer service staff. Turns out, this steep up-front investment ends up paying off in spades down the road, in the form of higher sales and increased profitability.

2. SystemsWorld-class service needs world-class infrastructure supporting it.

Truth be told, customer support is only as good as the systems a firm has in place to support its operations. In the world of Customer 2.0, a Web presence acts as a primary point of engagement with customers. In that vein, it’s crucial to provide customers a Web presence that is not only clean, clutter-free and easy-to-navigate, but also—especially when it comes to providing personal or account info—personalized and secure. Furthermore, a website must be also optimized for ALL major Web browsers and operating systems, including—and especially—mobile.

In the age of Social Media, no firm that’s serious about providing customer service can avoid having a social media strategy. Without getting into a nuanced approach required for firm-wide Social Media engagement, as regards customer service, Social Media can and should be used to listen to, engage with and monitor a company’s customer base. There are some great SCRM (SocialCRM) and Social Media monitoring tools out there. Supported by savvy staff, they can be used to ensure customers are being engaged with quickly and effectively.

Internally facing, there are myriad important questions to ask, as well. Where are customer data stored, and how often is this database updated? How often are these data being synced with information from outlying systems, including IVRs, marketing tools, etc? What CRM solution is being used, and are best-practices being followed? If not, good luck tracking KPIs.

3. DNAChange the way you act, and you’ll change the way you’re perceived.

In many ways, corporate DNA is the most important element in Customer Experience Transformation. Corporate DNA is synonymous with corporate culture, which permeates the way in which an organization engages with its customers. For many companies—especially those in legacy industries—becoming customer-focused requires a major pivot.

To illustrate this point, let’s focus on the healthcare industry. Because in the US, health insurance is almost always procured by the employer, the primary point of engagement with end-users is usually when they call up to see why claims haven’t been paid. Now if you’ve never had healthcare in the US, you know this is most definitely not a pleasant experience. No wonder people don’t care for healthcare companies, in general.

Now, of course, denying and approving claims is far from the only thing that healthcare companies do. But, as a customer, you’d never know it. What this implies is an industry ripe for transformation.

If a healthcare company wants to be regarded as a healthcare company—as opposed to a health insurance company—then why not start by acting like one? Better yet, act like a health partner, providing customers with practical healthy lifestyle tips and ideas that will improve their health and, presumably, lead to fewer claims down the road.

Better yet, find out more about customers and send out highly personalized healthcare information they can use in their daily lives. Or, taking it a step farther, how about using that information to create fun contests and social media engagements customers can participate in, ‘gamifying’ the user experience.

In this model, although the business model has not changed, the overall customer experience has been transformed, resulting in a more positive brand perception, higher lifetime value and, of course, increased profitability.

Is your organization creating an awesome customer experience? If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in your comments.

Thanks,

—Rio