Archive for October, 2013

How to Respond to a Negative Online Review

Imagine this scenario: You own a small ice cream shop in the middle of a downtown district. You’ve been in business for about a year and things are going well, until one day you notice a negative online review of your store. Immediately your heart sinks, your palms start to sweat and your heartbeat soars. You are livid and want to respond in the most negative way possible.

“This is a normal way to feel,” says Jason McDonald, director of JM Internet Group, a social media and SEO consulting company in Fremont, Calif. “You put your heart and soul into your business; when someone says something negative about your business, it can feel as bad as someone telling you that you have an ugly baby. It is very personal.”

Before reaching for your keyboard, take note of McDonald’s tips on how to respond to a negative online review.

Take the emotion out of it

It doesn’t pay to show a public display of anger when you receive negative press online, because, as McDonald points out, your comments are on display for the world to see.

“Remember that you aren’t only talking to the person who gave you the bad review, you are talking to the dozens of other people who are reading your response,” he says. “You always want to take the high ground.”

Can’t calm down? Take some time. You don’t need to respond right away. Talk to a friend about how you are feeling, go for a walk or engage in another work task to take your mind off of the review. Go back and respond when you feel calm and collected.

Create a proactive review plan

Now that you’ve responded to the negative review, it’s time to try to prevent future bad reviews from happening at all. McDonald recommends small business owners establish a proactive review strategy that includes following up with happy customers a few days (or hours) after their purchase.

“Ask every one of your happy customers to write a positive review of your business online,” he suggests. “Some of them will and those comments will help bolster your status online with potential customers.” 

negative review

Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Sell to Corporate America

If you're running a small business, it's important to secure long-term contracts. Learn how to do business in corporate America in this week's video from Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady.

SMB Marketing: In House vs. Outsourcing

As a small business owner, do you run your own marketing and social media efforts or do you outsource them to a third party company? Constant Contact has taken the time to analyze small business owners' marketing goals against the time restraints and cost concerns that they face. We break it down for you in our latest infographic:

Social Media Infographic

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Steps to Get Your Customer Service in Shape for the Holidays

Black Friday is only a little more than a month away (in fact, this year there will be two Black Fridays as Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah fall on the same day—a rarity that won’t happen for another 70,000 years). With competition for shoppers’ dollars stiffer than ever, is your small business prepared to offer the kind of customer service needed to stand out in the crowd? Here are some steps you should take now to get your business’s customer service in shape for the holidays.

  1. Staff up. I posted last week about hiring tips for the holidays; if you haven’t already got your team in place, get going!
  2. Educate. “Showrooming”—customers coming into your store to touch and try merchandise, then using smartphones to look for lower prices online—is a game-changer for retailers (and not in a good way). Combat the practice by making sure your retail associates are educated about the products you sell so they can answer all your customers’ questions and basically be more helpful than the Internet.
  3. Equip. Make sure your team has the tools they need for smooth selling this holiday season. That means a well-stocked inventory, up-to-date point-of-sale systems and mobile technology like iPads and smartphones. Mobile tools can shorten wait times if you use software like Square so customers can pay from anywhere in the store (instead of waiting on line). They can also help fight showrooming by allowing clerks to look up product information or check inventory levels. 
  4. Test. If you sell online, make sure your customer service team is ready for the holiday overload. Start by testing your website to ensure it can handle heavy traffic and that browsing, shopping and checking out are clear and intuitive. Provide a variety of ways that users can contact your customer service team, from email and phone to live chat. Speed things along by making sure your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), shipping, returns and other information is current and clear. If customers can answer their own questions, they won’t need your customer service team.
  5. Motivate. Customer service can be a grueling task during the holiday rush, so plan how you will reward and motivate your team. Setting attainable goals, holding regular meetings to bring up problems or concerns, and encouraging employees with rewards and prizes are great ways to keep your customer service reps powering through the toughest times.



3 Creative Ways to Promote Your Business Around the Holidays

The holiday season is swinging into high gear with Halloween, Thanksgiving and December celebrations right around the corner. This can be an excellent time to empty out aging inventory, introduce new customers to your brand and pad your bottom line as you move into 2014.

Here, Evan Lamont, owner of TLG Marketing, an Internet marketing agency based in Long Beach, Calif., offers a few business promotion tips for this time of year.

Mobilize a mascot

Get creative with your online messaging by creating a mascot for your business, suggests Lamont. Establish Twitter and Facebook accounts for your mascot and send out promotions under those accounts. Your customers will love it.

“We worked with a local chiropractic firm and created a new personality for them, a skeleton,” says Lamont. “Many owners don’t want to be the direct face of their business. The skeleton is an example of how a business can answer client questions and promote the business in a fun way.”

Own a bakery? Establish a cupcake with a personal name as your mascot and Tweet as that persona. Own a pet shop? Establish a dog bone with a personal name and send out Facebook posts as that mascot.

“You want to keep two different social media presences,” says Lamont. “One that is generic for your business where you offer pertinent advice and industry news and one that is your mascot’s account where you offer creative deals, special offers and communicate with your community in a less threatening way. Mascots can be great for beefing up a brand.”

Connect with the local media

Regional newspapers and television stations are always looking for feel-good stories around the holidays. Tap into that need by creating an event that will help the public and then distributing a press release about it, Lamont recommends. Just make sure to notify the press well in advance of the event date (at least 2 weeks prior). 

If you own a CPA firm, schedule a seminar on how to save money over the holidays. If you own a bike shop, schedule an event where you teach parents and children about bike safety. Then reach out to media outlets. Chances are good that they will show an interest as long as your event serves the community.

Schedule a ‘give back’ sale

The holiday season is a great time to give back to those less fortunate. Tap into this opportunity by donating a percentage of your sales to a local charity on a specific day and ask everyone (including television cameras) to stop by, offers Lamont. Giving back will only increase public feelings of goodwill toward your business and customers will remember your philanthropic efforts long after the holidays have come and gone.



Mondays with Mike: The Loss Motivator

Are you familiar with the "loss motivator" tactic? Learn how to use this mindset to boost sales with this week's Mondays with Mike video from author Mike Michalowicz.

Do You Walk Your Talk in Business?

More than ever before, people are inundated with all kinds of fancy marketing campaigns, tactics, offers and strategies via online media, print media, television, telemarketing and even billboards in just about any place that you can imagine (I have even seen ads in restroom stalls!). Businesses put lot of time, money and effort into these over the top advertisements and offers, each seemingly trying to capture the increasingly elusive attention of potential customers.

Don’t get me wrong; getting the word out about your business is extremely important, because as I always say, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. And having some kind of flashy gimmick may help your business break through the noisy, overcrowded marketplace. But while your slick new offer or campaign may get someone to walk through your door or purchase from you one time,  if your products or services aren’t up to par and you can’t meet (or exceed) the expectations of that offer for that new customer, they won’t ever purchase from you again. And they definitely won’t tell all of their friends and family to purchase from you either. 

bullhorn-guyEven worse, if you really can’t back up the offers or assertions that you put forth in your marketing campaigns, that unsatisfied customer will tell everyone that will listen about their bad experience. And with internet comments, reviews and tweets so prevalent now, that one bad experience can multiply into a storm of negativity with worldwide ramifications, far beyond the scope of someone just telling a few of their local friends or family members, like what was the case in the past. This can be a huge disaster for any company and is extremely difficult to overcome, not to mention just bad business overall.

And this isn’t just true for marketing. It goes for live events, conventions and conferences, too.  You may think that bringing in a big name host, entertainer or speaker will be enough draw people to your event and make a big splash. But if that individual doesn’t do a good job or doesn’t deliver useful content to the audience, your event will suffer the same negative consequences of not living up to attendees’ expectations. And once those negative comments and reviews get out, it’s nearly impossible to get people to attend your future events or do business with your company, whatever your ultimate goal for the event was.

So, no matter what your offering is, make sure that you put your energy and focus on creating the absolute best product, service or experience that you can. Approach it from the perspective of what your target customers truly want and need. That way, when you craft your marketing campaigns and offers, you can really back up your claims with confidence.  This will keep your customers happy and coming back for more. And these happy, repeat customers are the real key to a successful business.

Did you have a bad experience with a marketing campaign or offer that didn’t deliver what it promised?  Please share it below.

What You Can Learn from the Big Business of College Admissions

college-applicationsThe process of applying to colleges is a lesson in effective marketing. Any parent who has applied to schools can marvel at the lengths that college admissions officers will go through to attract new students. Small businesses can learn a lot from how they market to their future consumers:

  1. Start early. Colleges start to tell students about their schools over a year before they need to apply and two years before they are ready to attend. They want to get on the student’s short list in their junior year in high school. Small business lesson: Attracting customers is all about creating relationships and being there when they are ready to buy. Every customer needs to know about how a business can help them long before they actually need them.
  2. Tell stories. Every school paints a wonderful picture for parents and students of what it will be like to attend their school. Small business lesson: Every business needs to tell prospects how good it will be once they solve their pain. Consumers still love to buy dreams.
  3. Sample the product. Colleges want students to sample their product. They do this is many ways. They set up special days to visit the schools or send representatives to the student’s high school. Most schools show models of dorm rooms because they can’t actually risk showing a real one. Small business lesson: Do not give spontaneous live product demos that don’t have predictable results.
  4. Give references. The colleges talk about their famous alumni and the successful people that have graduated from their school. They take full credit for their success. Small business lesson: All businesses need to attach themselves to well-known brands. If you have notable client references, use them prominently.
  5. Stay in touch. Students receive email, direct mail and phone calls almost every week from colleges. They even wish the prospective students “Happy Birthday”.  Small business lesson: Don’t worry about reaching out too often to prospective customers as long as the company is helping, not selling.
  6. Know where the profit is: The urban schools push living on campus and using their meal plan. This is because these two areas (housing and food) are their most profitable for any college. Small business lesson: Know where the company’s profit is and sell those to prospective customers.
  7. Address the elephant in the room: For colleges, it's the outrageous cost. The biggest objection for attending college is the money, so school address that head on. Small business lessons: Address the objection to buying a product up front and do not wait for the prospect to bring it up.
  8. Everyone and everything reflects the brand. Every interaction a prospect has at the school shapes their total experience. Small bushiness lesson: Understand that each time a customer or prospect comes in contact with a person, email, or website from a company, it adds or subtracts from that brand.

Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Make Big Money

Kick your small business into gear before the end of the year to make some big money – learn how with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.

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