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How to Repair and Improve Local Business Reputation via Google Star Ratings and Reviews

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Protect the Hours of Operation on Your GBP from Unwanted Google Edits

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Six in ten consumers require a minimum 4+ star rating in order to consider patronizing a local business and over ⅓ say it’s the star rating that is the key differentiator between local brands. If you’re marketing a company that is just starting out or an established business that has hit a reputational rough patch and your overall ratings fall below this magic threshold, revenue is being lost.

But hope is not lost!

In today’s column, you will find a set of sensible, actionable steps you can take to raise your Google Business Profile star ratings, improve your reviews, and begin developing the good online reputation you need in order to realize the full profit potential of the local businesses you market.

Defining local business reputation

In this context, a local business has both an offline reputation that resides in the word-of-mouth sentiments expressed by members of the community it serves and an online reputation that is most visible within the rating and review systems of platforms like Google Business Profile, Yelp, Nextdoor, TripAdvisor, etc. This article focuses specifically on Google, but its advice can be applied to most platforms that host local business reviews.

For detailed, original data on the many dynamic aspects of online reviews, read Moz’s formal review survey report but for today’s topic, it’s important to know that just 13% of consumers insist on a perfect 5-star rating to consider doing business with a company and that a dominant 51% will consider a brand with a 4-star overall rating. Thus, both 4 and 5-star ratings are considered a great or good reputation by the majority of consumers.

Yet, hope can be found in the fact that about ⅓ of consumers may still give you a try if your organization’s overall reputation is only 3 stars. This could give you the grace period you need to keep the lights on while you strategically improve your operations to start winning more trust and business in your community. We’ll grade a 3-star reputation as “needs improvement”. The work involved will be harder if the reputation has dropped to 2-or-less stars, as only 2% of the public is likely to consider patronizing you. This rating would be considered poor, but you can improve it with a serious commitment.

Task 1: Look your business up on Google and note down its overall rating and number of reviews.

How do Google ratings and reviews work?

A 1-star Google review and a 5 -star Google review creating an average rating of 3.0 stars.

Before you begin the necessary tasks for improving your reputation, it’s important to understand how Google’s system works. Local business ratings and reviews are part and parcel of Google Business Profiles as well as Local Finders and Google Maps. Reviews are text-based sentiments left by consumers, as shown above. Ratings are the 1-5 star symbology Google uses so that people can gauge a company’s reputation at a glance. The overall rating a business receives is based on Google’s average of all the individual ratings customers have left. As our example demonstrates, if a business has just two reviews, and one has a 1-star rating and the other has a 5-star rating, this averages out to an overall rating of 3.0 stars. Google users have the option to leave both a rating and text, or just a rating.

Because of Google’s averages, local business owners with less than a 4-star total rating frequently ask how many higher-star ratings they will need to earn before they see their overall rating improve. The answer depends on the total number of ratings the company has already earned, but by my calculation, if a business with ten reviews has earned an overall 3.0 star rating and wants to see that bump up to a much better 4.0 star average, they will need to earn ten new 5-star reviews to move the needle. Similarly, if the business begins with one hundred reviews and a 3.0 star rating, they will need to earn one hundred new 5-star reviews to move up to a 4.0 star average.

Over the years, different surveys have measured how conversions increase when star ratings improve, with a very good recent report finding that when a business succeeds in increasing its overall rating by one whole star (such as moving up from 3.0 to 4.0 stars), it can expect a 44% increase in Google Business Profile conversions. That’s a big number!

Improving the rating is work that must be paced over time to avoid having too many new reviews come in at once, triggering Google to filter them out. Note, too, that it can take up to two weeks for incoming reviews to update the overall average. Local businesses suffering from a poor online reputation, then, can look at the averages and estimate how many new high-star reviews they will need to earn to begin seeing the benefits to their conversions, transactions, revenue, and overall good name.

Identifying causes of reputational damage

There are at least 9 common contributors to the erosion of star ratings and reputation.

  • Too few reviews giving too much power to a small number of voices

  • Neglect of review responses

  • Neglect of local business listings resulting in false information online

  • Bad/rude customer service

  • Bad products

  • Poor work on a job

  • Spam from competitors, past employees, and personal adversaries

  • Spam from the business owner and their staff or marketers

  • Scandals

For all but the last of these bullet points, achievable fixes are right within reach. For the last bullet point, though, the degree of the scandal may take the business outside the scope of this article. When a local business scandal is severe, the owner may end up having to cope with litigation and damage too permanent to continue operations. For the other eight very common scenarios, however, all the steps for determined remediation are yours to take.

Task 2: Determine the key contributors to your low rating and document them. Read through the whole body of your reviews and make a note of each complaint, categorizing them based on the 9 types of problems listed above.

How to improve your local business reputation, step-by-step

Blue infographic explaining 9 common reputation problems and how to solve them, detailed in text below.

In your first and second tasks, you noted down your overall rating and number of reviews, and you categorized the complaints you’ve received into some of the nine different categories. Now, you’re ready to start addressing any of the categories that fit your scenario.

Too few reviews giving too much power to a small number of voices

This is often the first and most obvious cause of a poor overall star rating. When a business has too few reviews, the weight given to each review is extraordinary. As we saw earlier, if your company has just one 1-star review and one 5-star review, your overall reputation is just 3.0 stars.

28% of consumers lose trust in a business when it has too few reviews compared to its competitors, and 70% will read between 5-20 reviews before deciding your company is worth a try. One of the best and most sensible efforts you can make, then, is to launch a review acquisition strategy that ensures you have a steady stream of incoming sentiment and that no single customer has too large a share of voice in your reputation narrative.

Neglect of review responses

40% of your customers expect you to write an owner response when they leave you a positive review. When the review is negative, 64% of your customers expect you to respond. The truth is, these expectations are low, and local businesses should be responding to every single review as it comes in. Just as you would never ignore a customer visiting your physical premises, don’t neglect anyone who is speaking to you online.

11% of people expect your response within 2 hours of their writing a review. 21% expect to hear back within 24 hours, and an additional 28% expect to hear back within 48 hours. From this day forward, make it a priority to use the owner response functionality either as soon as you realize you’ve received a new review or at a given time each day. If you are having trouble keeping on top of this, Moz Local will alert you to incoming reviews across multiple platforms. This is a good plan for going forward.

However, if your review corpus currently consists of months’ or years’ worth of reviews that have received no response, take the time now to go back through the last six months of your reviews and respond to them. While delayed responses are unlikely to re-engage the customers who left the reviews, you can at least begin signaling to the general public that you are implementing a new plan of active responsiveness.

If further coaching in how to respond well to both positive and negative reviews would help, read Chapter 4 of the Essential Local SEO Strategy Guide, but in the meantime, here are quick facts to help you write excellent responses to negative reviews:

  • Do everything you can to solve a problem cited in a negative review, or 54% of consumers will avoid your business.

  • If you accuse a consumer of lying, 33% of customers will avoid your business, and if you argue with the reviewer, 46% will avoid your business. Keep your responses positive and professional, even if you think the customer is wrong.

  • Be sure your response to a negative review includes an apology, or 47% will avoid your business.

  • Know that 38% of consumers write reviews specifically to tell your business how it needs to improve – by fixing stated problems you are taking direct action to improve customer service and reputation.

Neglect of local business listings resulting in false information online

52% of local business review writers say they have written negative reviews as a result of encountering false or inaccurate information about local businesses online, including on local business listings. When business names, addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, and other essential data are incorrect, it inconveniences, disappoints, and frustrates the public.

Fortunately, actively managing local business listings is one of the easiest steps you can take to safeguard and improve your reputation so that you are receiving zero negative reviews and poor ratings due to avoidable, basic errors. You have two options for this work:

1) Do a manual audit of Google’s organic search engine results for your business name and services, discover all the local business listing and review platforms on which you have a profile, audit those profiles for errors, claim and update them, and track them in a spreadsheet for regular updating whenever your business information changes. It’s a considerable workload.

2) Subscribe to a service like Moz Local which is designed to let you manage all of your listings on key platforms very quickly and effectively from a single dashboard, protecting accuracy and reducing negative customer experiences.

In addition to ensuring that your business information is accurate on formal listing platforms, it’s a good idea to see if other online mentions of your business (known as unstructured citations) contain inaccuracies. For example, if a local blogger wrote about your business two years ago and referenced your street address, and you have since moved, it’s important to search for such references and contact the publishers to request an update of their content whenever your business experiences a significant change.

Bad/rude customer service

65% of review writers have written negative reviews due to bad or rude customer service, making this scenario the dominant cause of negative online sentiment and low ratings. Unfortunately, if your worst reviews fall into this category, it may require structural rather than simple fixes. Every business scenario is different, but here are eight key questions to ask to help you determine the root causes of customers feeling poorly treated at a place of business:

  1. Has every member of my public-facing staff received adequate training in company products, services and policies?

  2. Are ongoing training sessions part of our program so that skills can be developed and improved?

  3. Has every member of my staff received training in complaint identification and resolution so that problems are resolved at the time of service, rather than ending up online?

  4. Is every member of my staff trusted and empowered to use their own initiative and creativity to relieve customer pain, and do they know the correct hierarchy of escalation for problems beyond their direct control?

  5. Does every member of my staff earn a living wage, enabling them to bring resources of inner stability and happiness to the workplace?

  6. Does every member of leadership role model company values to be emulated by employees?

  7. Is a formal DEI council or policy in place to ensure that all staff and customers receive equal consideration, treatment, and service?

  8. Has a policy of customer rights been created by the business, and is it adequately distributed to both the staff and the public?

If any of the answers you gave to the above questions is a “no”, then you have identified a possible cause of negative reviewers feeling that they have been treated poorly or rudely. By addressing the underlying causes of staff failing to convey professionalism, respect and happiness to customers, you will be fixing serious structural problems in your organization. When solutions are implemented, new higher ratings and better reviews should begin to outweigh negative ones over time. For a more in-depth look at the complete customer service ecosystem, return to chapter four of the Essential Local SEO Strategy Guide.

Bad products

Planned obsolescence (manufacturing products that are intended to break) is making headlines and being outlawed in different places around the world, and it’s clear that paying good money for bad products is a sting keenly felt by consumers. 63% of reviewers say its a cause of them writing negative reviews, and for consumers aged 18-29, it is the #1 cause of such sentiment. In America, youngest people are also poorest, and it makes perfect sense that they would be the most distressed by spending hard-earned money on shoddy merchandise.

Supply chain breakages over the past few years have doubtless exacerbated this scenario, with local businesses often having to stock whatever they can access rather than what they know to be top quality. Sustainability, too, plays a key part in this conversation, as the public is reevaluating the climate impacts and pollution that result from a throwaway culture.

If some of your negative reviews fall into the “bad products” category, it could help to know that the latest marketing thought leadership envisions business owners as guardians and stewards who are responsible for offering the highest quality, most sustainable products to their communities. For local businesses, this could mean replacing remotely-sourced goods with more local inventory when better resources are available nearby. It could mean adding new steps to quality control processes. This is not an easy fix, particularly due to the effects of the pandemic on manufacturing, but it’s a problem that takes on extra relevance if you discover that your worst ratings stem from an inventory of poor-quality products that are undermining your reputation.

Poor work on a job

Even if weeks or months have gone by since a customer wrote a review complaining of something like a botched home improvement, an unsuccessful repair, or an unmet deadline, your best course for reputation restoration will be to directly contact the unhappy client and see if there is anything you can do to make them feel better. You may have to redo the work. You may have to refund their money. Or, a simple, heartfelt apology and request for a second chance to “get it right” may be enough to transform the relationship.

While you cannot offer any type of incentive to prompt a formerly-unhappy customer to update their negative rating and review, what you should look out for is the point at which your follow-up has resulted in customer satisfaction to the degree that they might amend their online sentiment if asked. You’ll enjoy two victories if you succeed. First, the original customer will think well of you again and hopefully continue to do business with you. Second, when a negative review is updated to reflect a subsequent better experience, it is no longer a barrier to further leads from the general public.

These two statistics should give you tremendous confidence for the uphill work ahead: 67% of negative reviewers had an improved opinion of a brand when the owner responded well, and 62% of negative reviewers would give a local brand a second chance after an owner response solves their problem.

Spam from competitors, past employees, and personal adversaries

Of all of the major review platforms, it has been proposed that Google has the biggest problem with review spam, with an estimated 10.7% of its review content being fraudulent. Every review platform has its own guidelines, and many countries have rulings regarding what constitutes review fraud, but a general definition of it would include these factors:

  • Reviews written in exchange for money, gifts, discounts, or other incentives.

  • Reviews that stem from competitors, owners of the business being reviewed, staff, and former staff, or other non-customers of the business

  • Reviews that are left on behalf of anyone instead of directly by the customer

  • Reviews that are manipulated (gated) so that only positive sentiment is displayed

  • Review removal requests in exchange for money, discounts, or other incentives

In the United States, review fraud is illegal. It is considered an unfair competitive practice that impacts consumers and businesses under section 5(a) of the US Federal Trade Commission Act. Unfortunately, Moz’s recent survey found that 40% of consumers have been offered money, discounts, or gifts in exchange for writing reviews. This could include brands and agencies paying members of the public to both positively review them and negatively review their competitors. An additional 11% admit to leaving negative reviews of their former employers. All of these practices are prohibited.

It’s important to know that Google will only consider removal of spam reviews if they demonstrably violate their stated guidelines, and Google typically won’t remove textless ratings. If you strongly believe that the erosion of your overall Google star rating is due, in part, to the presence of review fraud, you have three possible avenues toward resolution:

  1. Log into your Google account and look up your business by name. Using the New Merchant Experience interface that should appear in the organic results, click on the “read reviews” tab. Find the fake review, and click the three dots to the right of it to report the review. Wait at least three days and then check to see if the review is gone. If not, you can try to report the problem via this live chat form. For more information on reporting review fraud, read this Google help doc.

  2. If review fraud is stemming from a personal adversary or other known bad actor, you may need to seek legal advice regarding how to proceed toward resolution.

  3. If Google fails to protect you from a large-scale review spam attack, a PR campaign may be your only hope of resolution. While Google will sometimes ignore individual reports of review spam, they have often acted once the scenario becomes a publicized scandal picked up by mainstream media. There have even been instances in which Google has shut off reviews during negative review attacks.

Spam from the business owner and their staff or marketers

50% of consumers lose trust if it looks like an owner or their employees are reviewing their own business. 44% are suspicious when an overall review profile consists of all-five-star reviews without any complaints. 39% are mistrustful when the profiles of those leaving reviews look suspect and 20% are wary when a local brand has too many reviews compared to its competitor.

A poor reputation doesn’t always equal a low star rating. It can, instead, stem from customers quietly walking away because they rightly suspect that the review profile is filled with fraud instigated by the business, itself. If the business you are marketing falls into this category, the above statistics paired with the illegality of these actions are all the persuasion that should be necessary to take immediate action to remove any reviews that violate platform guidelines and government regulations. Any review left by the business or its staff should be deleted. If fraudulent reviews stem from having hired a marketing firm that implemented this practice, your brand may need to seek legal advice in order to prompt the organization to delete this content. Only when you have removed as many spam reviews as possible will you be able to start building the legitimate reputation that supports customer satisfaction and brand longevity.

Task 3: Begin implementing the fixes for each category into which your negative reviews fall, prioritize acquiring new reviews, and then give it time for the expected rating improvements to materialize. If all goes well, you should start tracking a lift in engagements and revenue as the result of your higher overall rating.

Summing up

A low-star overall rating doesn’t feel good, and stands as a major obstacle to you running and marketing the local business of your dreams. However, because you can categorize the roots of negative consumer sentiment, you will typically have considerable powers of improvement on your side. It may take weeks, months, or even a year to implement better practices, services, and acquisition campaigns that culminate in a sterling rating, but such work has become primary to basic local business operations over the past twenty years.

For local businesses currently struggling with a reputation of 3-or-less stars, the main challenge will be to make improvements quickly and then actively acquire new sentiment at a steady rate so that future customers stop being turned away by the sight of a poor rating. It’s good to know that very few customers are looking for 5-star perfection and that, in fact, lots of people find flawlessness suspicious.

The ideal outlook is to utilize negative consumer sentiment as a valuable source of business intelligence which, at its best, tells you exactly what needs to be fixed so that customers are more satisfied. This is what makes review management an ongoing local search marketing task, and even a business with a good or great rating today can never stop working at reputational maintenance via stewardship of reviews.

Eager to learn more about local search and local business reputation? These resources are at your fingertips:

Get formal training via the Moz Academy Local SEO Certification

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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How to Buy Ads on Netflix: Specs & Tactics for Marketers

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How to Buy Ads on Netflix: Specs & Tactics for Marketers

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By Emily Sullivan

Netflix, the streaming giant known for binge-watching and award-winning originals, sent shockwaves through the industry in 2022 by announcing an ad-supported tier. This move was likely fueled by a desire to reach new audiences, combat rising subscription costs, and potentially even fend off competition from other OTT platforms. These ads could lead to strong growth potential with advertisers eager to tap into Netflix’s massive user base. 

If you’re unfamiliar with how Netflix works, it’s important to know that Netflix is an OTT (Over-the-Top) platform, meaning it delivers streaming content directly over the internet, bypassing traditional cable or satellite providers. It’s one of the most popular OTT platforms globally, but in the ad supported video on demand (AVOD) space, Netflix is a relative newcomer. Understanding this new facet of Netflix is crucial for marketers looking to capitalize on this advertising opportunity.

Interested in learning more about Netflix and its advertising offerings? You came to the right place. In this post, we’ll cover the foundational elements of Netflix ads including ad types, specs, advertising best practices, and more. 

Why Did Netflix Start Offering Ads?

In November 2022, Netflix introduced an ad-supported tier. This move marked a significant shift, as Netflix was previously known for its commitment to an ad-free experience. The decision likely stemmed from a desire to tap into new revenue streams. With consumers increasingly cost-conscious, an ad-supported tier provided a way to attract budget-minded viewers while still offering a premium ad-free option, similar to established AVOD providers like Hulu and Peacock.

Initially, the launch was off to a slower start, with few people signing up for the ad supported tier and Netflix failing to meet guarantees, but things are quickly turning around and savvy advertisers are taking notice. Netflix boasts a massive user base, with roughly 270 million paid subscribers – a household name with immense reach. In fact, 40% of new Netflix sign-ups are choosing the ad-supported tier, translating to a total of 40 million users. Netflix’s ad platform presents a unique opportunity for marketers looking to reach a large and engaged audience.

“Our goal isn’t just to offer the same products and tools the industry has come to expect — although we’ve made a lot of progress on that front over the last year. It’s to build something bigger and better than what exists today. We want to shape the future of advertising on Netflix and help marketers tap into the amazing fandom generated by our must-watch shows and movies.”

Amy ReinhardPresident, Advertising at Netflix

How to Start Advertising on Netflix

So, you’re interested in capitalizing on Netflix’s massive audience? Here’s a breakdown of the three main ways to buy ads on their platform:

1. Netflix Ads Manager

This platform, powered by Microsoft, allows you to directly purchase ad space on Netflix. However, be prepared to meet their minimum spending requirements, which can be substantial and offer little room for negotiation.

2. Partnering with an Agency

While the minimum spend might be high for direct buys, streaming agencies like Tinuiti can be a valuable asset. They can not only help you navigate the intricacies of Netflix advertising, but also:

  • Consolidate Streaming Data: The streaming landscape is fragmented, with viewers spread across multiple platforms. Agencies can collect data from these various platforms and turn it into a unified, actionable strategy for your advertising campaign.
  • Expertise and Negotiation: Agencies bring a wealth of experience to the table. They can leverage their knowledge of the advertising landscape and potentially negotiate more favorable terms on your behalf.

3. Ad Tech Partners

Companies like Microsoft offer ad tech solutions that provide technical capabilities to streamline your advertising efforts. These partners typically take a more hands-off approach compared to agencies, focusing on the technical aspects of ad delivery and optimization.

The best option depends on your budget, experience level, and campaign goals. If you’re a large brand with a significant budget and an in-house marketing team, going directly through Netflix Ads Manager might be a good fit. However, for most businesses, partnering with an agency or ad tech provider can offer valuable support and expertise.

Ad Types & Specs for Netflix Ads

Now that you understand the different avenues for buying ads on Netflix, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of ad formats and specifications:

Netflix Ad Types

Example of a Netflix Ad Featuring Smartfood and Love is Blind

Currently, Netflix offers two main ad types, pre-roll ads and mid-roll ads. Netflix notes that users can expect to see a few short ads per hour and that they aim to place ads during natural plot breaks for a more seamless experience.   

Let’s take a look at each option… 

  • Pre-roll Ads: These commercials play before a program or movie begins, similar to traditional linear TV advertising.
  • Mid-roll Ads: These ads appear in the middle of a program, typically inserted during natural breaks in the content.

During paused playback, ad breaks are displayed on the progress bar. As an ad break begins, the upper-right corner reveals the number of ads included in that break.

While Netflix advertising is fairly new, the platform has made a few important announcements to look out for in 2024. Netflix plans to introduce a new binge ad format for global advertisers, offering viewers an ad-free fourth episode after watching three consecutive episodes. Additionally, QR code integration in U.S. advertising will launch early in the year. Sponsorship opportunities, including Title, Moment, and Live Sponsorships, are also now available in the U.S. and will expand globally in 2024.

Netflix also offers live opportunities including WWE Raw (launching January 2025), which will air live on Netflix 52 weeks of the year, and the NFL Christmas games which Netflix just secured the rights to. These live events provide advertisers the opportunity to reach ad and ad-free members of Netflix in a live environment with traditional ad formats.

Last but not least, Netflix recently announced they are adding Pause Ads to their suite of custom ad units. This is currently in beta and is expected to be rolled out to the general marketplace in H2 2024.

Netflix Ad Specs

When it comes to advertising specs, it’s important to follow Netflix’s guidelines which include the following… 

  • Supported Lengths: Netflix accepts ads in 10, 15, 20, 30, and 60-second durations.
  • File Format: Ads must be submitted in MP4 or MOV format.
  • Aspect Ratio & Resolution: Maintain a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of either 1920×1080 HD or 1280×720 HD.
  • QR Codes on the Horizon: Netflix is preparing to support QR code integration within commercials, allowing viewers to seamlessly access additional information or promotions.

Hot Tip: Stay tuned for updates, as Netflix is constantly evolving its ad platform.

Why Advertise on Netflix?

Advertising on Netflix offers several unique advantages for advertisers including… 

  • Massive Reach – Netflix boasts a massive subscriber base worldwide (globally, there were around 270 million Netflix subscribers in Q1 2024), providing advertisers with access to a vast and diverse audience. These viewers are often highly engaged, spending significant time on the platform consuming content. In fact, Over 70% of Netflix’s ad-supported members watch for more than 10 hours a month – which is 15 percentage points higher than the nearest competitor according to Nielsen.
  • Targeting – Netflix collects extensive data on user preferences and behavior, enabling precise targeting of advertisements based on demographics, interests, viewing history, and more. This targeted approach increases the relevance and effectiveness of ads, maximizing ROI for advertisers (more on this below).
  • Global Reach and Localization – With a presence in numerous countries around the world, Netflix offers advertisers the opportunity to reach audiences on a global scale. Additionally, the platform’s localization capabilities enable tailored advertising campaigns to resonate with specific regional or cultural audiences.
  • Unskippable Ads – Unlike some streaming advertising platforms, Netflix ads are unskippable, guaranteeing your message reaches viewers.
  • Positive User Experience – Netflix prioritizes a positive user experience, so it’s unlikely viewers will see the same ad twice in a single episode. However, there’s a chance you might encounter the same ad later during your viewing session. It’s also important to note that children’s profiles maintain their ad-free experience.
  • Ad Delivery & Blocking – Since ads are delivered server-side, ad blockers are ineffective on Netflix. Additionally, playback automatically pauses if you minimize the window while an ad is playing, ensuring your message is seen.

Best Practices When Advertising on Netflix

When advertising on Netflix, it’s essential to understand the platform’s unique capabilities and audience targeting options to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns. Check out a few best practices you need to consider… 

Explore Audience Targeting Capabilities

Netflix offers several audience targeting capabilities for advertisers on their ad-supported tier. These capabilities focus on three main areas: demographics, viewing habits, and content context. Here’s a breakdown:

Demographics:

  • Age: Advertisers can target users by age groups, like 18-34, 35+, etc.
  • Gender: Ads can be shown to specific genders (male or female).
  • Location: Targeting can be set by country or even state (in the U.S.).

Viewing Habits:

  • Genre: This lets advertisers target users based on the genres they watch, like comedy, drama, action, etc.

Content Context:

  • Top 10: Ads can be placed before or after shows and movies on Netflix’s daily Top 10 list, ensuring high visibility.

Advertisers also have the option to choose where they don’t want their ads to appear. For example, they can avoid showing ads on programs with mature themes or content that may not align with their brand values.

By using a combination of these targeting options, advertisers can reach a more precise audience interested in their product or service. This increases the ad’s relevance to viewers and potentially improves the ad campaign’s effectiveness.

It’s also important to note that Netflix now has the ability to target advertiser first party data. The platform currently has two approved DMPs: Liveramp or Adobe. Advertisers who work with either of these DMPs can upload first party data for targeting or suppression.

It’s important to note that Netflix’s ad targeting is still evolving. While it doesn’t offer some of the more advanced options found on other platforms, they are working on expanding their capabilities.

Test Your Ad Creative

Just like any other marketing campaign, testing your ad creative on Netflix is vital for optimizing performance. Here are some key reasons to test your ads:

  • Discover What Works: Testing allows you to compare different ad variations and identify which elements resonate most with your target audience. This could involve testing variations in messaging, visuals, calls to action, or even ad length.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Testing provides valuable data and insights. You can track metrics like click-through rates, completion rates, and brand recall to see which ad versions generate the best results. Don’t rely on guesswork. Testing helps you move beyond assumptions and identify what truly connects with viewers.
  • Meet Audience Expectations: Netflix viewers anticipate premium content, including ads. Testing ad creative ensures that your commercials meet these expectations by delivering high-quality, engaging content that resonates with the audience.
  • Optimize Performance: Testing allows you to refine your ad creative to achieve optimal performance. By experimenting with different elements such as messaging, visuals, and calls to action, you can identify the most effective combinations that drive engagement and conversion.
  • Enhance Relevance: Testing helps ensure that your ad creative remains relevant to your target audience. By continuously testing and refining your approach, you can adapt to changing consumer preferences and market trends, ensuring that your ads stay impactful and resonant.
  • Maximize ROI: Effective testing enables you to make data-driven decisions that maximize ROI. By identifying and scaling the best-performing ad creative, you can allocate your advertising budget more efficiently and achieve greater results.

Measure and Analyze Your Results

Netflix doesn’t offer 1:1 conversion measurement for ad buyers (yet) – but they do have brand awareness and lift studies they offer advertisers so keep this in mind when measuring and analyzing your results. 

The platform did recently announce that this summer, Netflix will expand its buying capabilities to include The Trade Desk, Google’s Display & Video 360, and Magnite who will join Microsoft as the main programmatic partners for advertisers.

Starting in the second half of 2024, Netflix just announced that the following third party measurement partners (partnering to measure and verify the impact of advertiser campaigns) will also be added: Affinity Solutions, iSpotTV, NCSolutions, Videoamp, DCM and TVision.

They also announced Netflix will launch an in-house advertising technology platform, by the end of 2025. This will give advertisers new ways to buy, new insights to leverage, and new ways to measure impact. 

Is Netflix Advertising Right For Your Brand?

Overall, Netflix advertising offers the unparalleled reach of a massive, highly-engaged audience. This can be a strategic choice for brands seeking broad awareness and brand association with premium content.

If you’re interested in exploring advertising opportunities on Netflix for your brand, consider reaching out to the Tinuiti team. Our expertise can provide guidance and assistance in navigating the complexities of advertising on the platform, maximizing your campaign’s effectiveness and ROI. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to showcase your brand on one of the world’s largest streaming platforms—connect with Tinuiti today to get started.

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