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Kacharagadla Featured Article

5 Ways to Validate a Business Idea, Right Now

Don't let your day job or lack of capital stop you from finding and testing a business idea. Here's how.
Last year, I embarked upon a personal challenge to validate a business idea in 30 days. To make it even more difficult, it was a random idea chosen by my readers. They asked me to do it without using my existing website, traffic and business connections and without spending more than 20 hours per week on the project. On top of that, I limited myself to spending no more than $500 validating this idea. The experiment was a success.In just two weeks, I built an email list of 565 subscribers without having an actual website. Then, I reached out to a handful of those subscribers and pre-sold 12 copies of a book that didn't even exist yet, all in less than 30 days. I wrote about the experiment in real-time with in-depth weekly updates, successes, failures and lessons learned along the way, right here in my validation challenge. Today, I want to share with you the five most effect…

Why Facebook and Google Want to Market Your Reputation Online

Social proof is critical when creating influence and trust.

Can I trust you? If I can trust you, I'll share a little secret with you. I want to buy from you! Of course, if I can't trust your business, I'm going to buy from a company that shows me I can trust them more than you.

This is the subconscious mind of your customers whispering to their conscious brain while visiting your website and deciding who is going to win their hard-earned money today.

It's harder than ever to earn the trust of a would-be customer, and the competition is only becoming more intense. With the entrepreneur being the new rockstar, starting your own business is almost as cool as being the lead singer or guitarist in a band -- almost. As a result, new businesses are opening their doors every day and looking to take your customers away from you.

With such fierce competition, how do you stand out in a competitive marketplace? One key strategy to focus on is to leverage the power of social proof by implementing a reputation marketing system.

According to Robert Cialdini, author of best-selling books Influence and Pre-Suasion, social proof is one of the critical elements to creating influence and trust in minds of others. Examples of social proof includes online reviews and testimonials. Think about it. When you need to make an important buying decision, do you read and evaluate reviews prior to buying? If you're like most people, you do. In this fast-paced world, people use reviews and testimonials to help them quickly make decisions and to prevent them from making costly mistakes.

Facebook beta testing “reputation marketing.”
It may come as little surprise when Facebook contacted one of our clients to invite them to a new "reputation marketing" system. Facebook recently invited this Port Saint Lucie chiropractor to participate in a beta-testing program that allows business owners to include their Facebook reviews as part of their advertising endeavors to win new business.
The most important takeaway from this message is that the ratings only appear with an average rating of 4 stars and higher and only when there are more than 5 Facebook reviews. What's interesting to note is our client did not even have a Facebook ad account at the time and had never advertised on Facebook before. However, Premier Wellness Centers does have more than 100 Facebook reviews, so perhaps that played a role in being chosen for inclusion. Although currently in beta-testing, it would seem likely that the program will become widely available.

"What a minute. But I don't advertise on Facebook?"
Okay, perhaps you're marketing your business using other marketing channels like SEO and PPC. How influential are reviews and testimonials when it comes to Google's perspective?

Google spills its guts about reputation marketing.
Bright Local conducted a study on the impact of reviews on click-thru rates when people are searching on Google. With 6,283 people participating in the study, the results showed that businesses having an overall positive review rating got more clicks and visits to their website. In fact, going from a 3-star rating to a 5-star rating gets a business 25 percent more clicks from Google Local Pack. They also showed that negative reviews resulted in less clicks and visits to their website. Duh, right?

However, having negative reviews meant getting less clicks and visits than if the business had no reviews at all. More importantly, when the participants were asked after the experiment why they picked the result they did, 56 percent of the people said they chose to visit the website of the business because it had positive reviews and star ratings.

Even Google explicitly states in their help center,
"Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business's local ranking."

When Google flat out tells you more reviews and positive ratings will improve your local SEO efforts, you'd better invest in reputation marketing. If your competition is already ahead in their overall review count, you risk being left behind and possibly never catching up.

Are you a local business owner? If so, you should be 100 percent focused on reputation marketing. If you're currently investing in SEO and paid advertising campaigns, and doing so without a reputation marketing system in place, you're wasting money every single day. Shifting your efforts into acquiring reviews will only enhance your search engine visibility and convert more visitors into customers.
"Well, who cares. I don't own a local business. I sell my products online."

Google announces new customer reviews program.
Well there's good news for you too. Google just announced their new program called Google Customer Reviews, which replaces their Google Trusted Stores program. Their new system allows you to collect valuable reviews, for free.

This new system not only helps companies collect customer reviews, but also empowers them to market their reputation online. The Google Customer Reviews are aggregated, along with other sources and data providers, and can be displayed in marketing channels like Product Listing Ads and AdWords text ads. Google states that showing your seller rating in your text ads can increase the CTR of your ads by up to 10 percent.

Google even offers a Google Customer Reviews Badge that you can include on your website, which in theory should help provide social proof that can help boost conversions and win you more customers.
 
Adding testimonials and reviews to your online or ecommerce store matters too. In this article about testimonials and reviews, there is an abundance of references and examples showing how even the simpliest review statements can boost conversion rates by 34 percent.

That’s why all companies must have a solid reputation marketing system in place. You can call them reviews, testimonials or stories, but ultimately your business needs to provide a memorable customer experience that compels your customers to want to positively review your business and share their story.
-Eric Christopher

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