Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A very simple (and free) way to increase trust and sales - be there.

Every once in a while one makes a small change, or does something a little differently that makes a huge difference in their bottom line.  Well, we just did one of those things: we added live chat.  Yup, that’s it.  Seems so simple, it’s everywhere right?  Well, in the short time we’ve been using it our sales have gone up considerably.  You, or your operator, is notified when someone is on your website, what page they're on now, etc.  Although there’s a “live chat” icon in the corner, you can also send an “invitation” to the browser to chat with you - you know when you’re on a website and a bubble pops up that reads “How can I help you?”.  Well, that’s someone spying on you and then finally thinking the time is right to say “hi”.  It’s more or less the equivalent of a store clerk allowing you to browse for a bit and then asking if they can help…   
We tried a couple live chat programs, and found them very difficult to implement and/or use, but ended up using mylivechat.com and it took, literally, 5 minutes to implement and is super easy to use.  Oh, and it’s free (if you have just 1 operator).  

It’s important that someone’s there to actually answer questions.  I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated when I’m on  a website during ‘normal business hours’ and the live chat icon reads “leave a message” (not to mention there’s no ‘please’).  Even if I don’t want to chat, the fact that no ones there to chat with me at 2PM on a Tuesday is sketchy….  Don’t be sketchy.

Peter Monaco
Proving your trustworthiness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

‘Guilty by Association’ Why you DO NOT want to hire a ‘Reputation Management Company’

I was recently asked the ubiquitous question “what do you do?” and I answered that I work for a “testimonial and review verification company”.  I prepared for the usual “what’s that?” but instead he said “I just hired one of those companies because we were getting so many negative reviews online.”   He was referring to a ‘Reputation Management Company’(RMC) and for some reason people think that Testimonial Shield has something to do with that industry.  We don’t.  I explained that that’s not at all what we do, quite the opposite actually...  And, he was surprised at how adamantly I stated “get rid if them.  You do not want people to find out that you hired a RMC.”  He looked at me surprised, so I continued “...right now, somehow, they’re being viewed as a ‘good thing’, but they are not, and when people realize what it is they do you will be found guilty by association, and your reputation will be much worse off...  Hiring a reputation management company is tantamount to an admission of guilt.  The fair and reasonable assumption is that you have something to hide.  Why else would you hire them?”  RMCs are not doing internet users any favors, and right now I don’t think most people are aware of that yet, but once they’re ‘outed’, they’ll be seen in the same light as spammers, SEO guys, or any other pariah of the internet.  It is - in the vast majority of cases - without  question ‘black hat’ marketing.  

Lets look at how they do what they do - how they ‘manage’ your reputation.  According to Cliff Stein, CEO of reputationchanger.com,  in a press release published on Reuters “their service is to keep them [negative reviews] out of the public's eye.”  He also refers to reputation  management as “review suppression”.  So, their main purpose is to hide negative reviews about a product, service, company, or individual.  It has nothing to do with preventing or filtering fake reviews,  proving the truth, or clearing your good name, but rather burying the existing reviews by filling the web up with ‘positive content’.  Mr. Stein continues “[we] push those negative reviews -- whether fake or otherwise -- off the first page of a Google or Bing search page, and effectively replace them with positive, brand-enhancing content."  Where this positive content comes from I have no idea...   

And, that’s the gist of it: Reputation Management Companies own 100’s or even 1,000’s of websites, and they fill them - as well as other sites and blogs that that do not own - with positive, searchable content about you...  They flood the web with all this positive content thereby pushing all of the, dare I say ‘real’ reviews/content about you and/or your company to the abyss that is anything Google not on page 1.  It’s essentially the same way SEO/M (search engine optimization/manipulation) works.  Google doesn't like any companies that put content online for no purpose, or worse yet, the purpose of skewing the ‘real’ results of a search.  It makes their job more difficult and they do have black-lists of these sites and companies as they discover them, and if this happens, your entire brand online can disappear overnight and likely be blacklisted forever.  

While reputation management companies can be useful in providing a monitoring system, you can just as easily do that for yourself for free using ‘google alerts’.  

So, what should one do when he finds a negative review?  Respond to it.  The internet is a transparent world, and in most cases one can always reply to the comments of another online.  Do that.  Use a matter-of-fact tone, don’t be angry or flip, simply tell your side of the story.  Offer to right the wrong...  Most people will understand, and a few negative reviews are normal.  No ones perfect, and again, most people understand that as well.  And the bottom line is this: if you are a person running a competent and ethical business you should have nothing to worry about.  It’s when you start to manipulate the web that you will begin to get into trouble.

Peter Monaco is the marketing director at Testimonial Shield, LLC., a third party review verification service.  TestimonialShield.com authenticate’s the reviews and testimonials proving to your customers that your reviews are indeed true.

Quote source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/26/idUSnMKW69224a+1c0+MKW20121226

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Service offering FAKE REVIEWS & TESTIMONIALS is on the rise. Big time.

So, all those review sites you use to help make decisions about what to buy, what restaurants to go to, what hotels in which to stay.  How reliable are they?

Not very it seems.  It's called "opinion spam" and it's exploding.

Just do a search on the recent phenom website fiverr.com using the search term “testimonial” or “review” and there are almost 5,000 results of people offering to “write great testimonial for your product or service”. From a NY Times article about the same topic “...On another forum, Digital Point, a poster wrote, “I will pay for positive feedback on TripAdvisor.” A Craigslist post proposed this: “If you have an active Yelp account and would like to make very easy money please respond.”(1)(2) 

There are tens-of-thousands of ads out there all over the internet of people requesting you to write bogus reviews for their business and people offering to do the same.

There are also dozens of video testimonial websites offering similar services but in video.  They market themselves using phrases such as “actors”, “script writers”, etc.  One website boasts “Our actors are always well briefed about your product or service. All of our testimonials feature fluent English with uniqueness”  On another video testimonial websites FAQ reads the following question and answer:  “Where are your actors from?   Our actors are based in the US and have English as their first language. They are not professional actors, which makes the videos natural and believable.”

There are too many to list, and many of them have launched in the past 6 months.  None of them voice any concern for real or verified testimonials, quite the opposite actually...  So buyer beware, if the testimonials are not third party verified by a reputable testimonial verification company, it's safe to assume that they're fake.  And if a company is using fake reviews, that most likely means that they can't get good reviews from real customers...

So, how do you prove that your testimonials and reviews are the real deal?  Have them submitted via an independent testimonial verification service such as Testimonial Shield.  In business since 2006 Testimonial Shield can do everything from help you gather testimonials from your customers (written and/or video), display them on your website via their testimonial widget accompanied by their trust seal that lets your site visitors know that the reviews they're reading are real.  They can even send your verified reviews to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google+, and more.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Our original Press Release for our Testimonial Verification Service

Solana Beach, CA December 12, 2006. For immediate release.

Testimonial Shield works to provide peace of mind and build trust by verifying the authenticity of customer testimonials published on websites.  The presence of Testimonial Shield’s  web seal  helps consumers and businesses identify trustworthy online organizations.

Company founder, Peter Monaco, was always a bit skeptical about those sparkling customer testimonials found on almost every website selling something.  They so often seem too good to be true, and after some research, and the FTC’s own findings which have led to a new set of laws surrounding customer testimonials, it appears that the vast majority of the testimonials used to sway would be buyers are in fact fictitious.

“From my experience with my own previous businesses, I would occasionally get an email from potential clients accusing me of having fake testimonials - I knew they were true, but really, looking at it from their angle, how would they?“ says Monaco.

We all know to look for the safety icons accompanied by an image of a strong padlock regarding encrypted financial transactions: Verisign®,  TrustE®, Authorize.net®,etc.  These indicate that others won’t be able to steal or share our personal or financial information, but how do we know about the ethics of a company?  The quality of the products or services they’re selling?  Their customer support or ability to deliver in a timely and as described manner?  Any company can use a secure shopping cart and do the right things to keep data encrypted, but what about the experiences of other customers?  That’s where the real indication of a company’s quality is revealed – non-paid customer testimonials.  But testimonials are only effective if people believe them.

Many people base a decision to buy a product or service based on past customers reviews; that’s easy to do when it’s a local business referred to by a friend, but the web is such a huge global place.  There’s just no way to know.

Testimonial Shield’s preliminary survey indicates that a vast majority of web users do not believe most of the testimonials they read on small business websites, and that testimonials do, in many cases, make or break a sale.

It’s also a means of rewarding honest companies.  “It gives honest companies the edge they deserve over those that are just making up testimonials.  If your products are ‘about the same’ and your price is ‘about the same’ I can almost guarantee you that certified 3rd party authenticated customer testimonials will win you the sale every time over the other guy.”

For more information on using Testimonial Shield visit the company website at http://www.TestimonialShield.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Case Study reveeals 16% Increase in Conversion Rate

We conducted a 9 month case study of 24 websites (from 'mom & pops' to publicly held fortune 5000 companies) and found an average increase in conversion of 16% once the testimonials displayed were verified by TestimonialShield.com.

We've made it very easy and extremely inexpensive to be able to capture and display testimonials from your customers via our widget.  We'll even send your testimonials to facebook, twitter, pinterest and more... 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maybe you're heard about the new site to get work done for just $5: fiverr.com?  It's a website where anyone in the world can offer to do any work for just $5.

I'm not promoting fiverr, just the opposite actually.  I went to their website to check it our after reading an article in a business magazine that outlined the sites concept and remarked about it's rapid growth...  And to my surprise, what I found was that a large percentage of the services offered were to write reviews or testimonials for your business.  The problem?  The people offering to write or record testimonials and reviews for your business are not customers.  They're in Italy, India, Sri lanka, Great Britain, etc.  So in many cases they cannot have even tried your product or service...  Anyways, always use authentic testimonials and have them third party verified by TestimonialShield.com and you can't go wrong.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

People often ask: Does the FTC actually enforce the laws about fake testimonials? The answer is "Yes."

FTC in conjunction with Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers Charges Promissory Note Pitchman With Deceiving Consumers.

Infomercial Falsely Claims It’s Easy to “Find ‘Em,” “List ‘Em,” and “Make Money”

Agency Also Settles Charges Against Consumer Who Gave Allegedly Misleading Testimonial

The Federal Trade Commission has charged Russell Dalbey, the CEO and founder of the company behind the “wealth-building” program “Winning in the Cash Flow Business,” with defrauding consumers, in some cases out of thousands of dollars, with phony claims that they could make large amounts of money quickly and easily by finding, brokering, and earning commissions on seller-financed promissory notes.

Click here to read the full complaint at the FTC website.

Click here too take a survey about customer testimonials - do you think they're fake or real? Would you trust websites that have testimonials third party verified?