Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Customer Service is the New Marketing (it’s even better than the old kind).

Customer service is the new marketing.  And it's even more powerful than the old kind.  Here’s what I mean: Once upon a time, you could guarantee success for your product or service if you just slathered on the mass-marketing real thick. You could hire a real-life version of Don Draper or Peggy Olson and have them add that that coating of marketing magic to the product or service you wanted to sell.

It didn’t matter so much if your washing machines weren’t reliable; what mattered was that the marketers working for you had dazzled the buying public with a brilliant mascot like the lonely Maytag repairman, making sure that your appliances seemed reliable.

It didn’t matter if your product was Coke and had a lot more to do with cavities than with world peace, suddenly in these genius’s hands, buying a coke was magically made to relate to creating “perfect harmony” worldwide.

With such marketing genius at your disposal, and a purchasing public that still believed that there was truth behind these kinds of mass marketing messages (“if it wasn’t true, they wouldn’t let them say that, right?”) your product would sell.  Your work would be done. Your business would be on its road to success.

Over time, the business landscape became more challenging. It came up against consumer cynicism, and it came up against enhanced word of mouth made possible through cheaper and faster communication methods (including such now-forgotten factors as the reduced cost of air travel and even the move from expensive to essentially-free long distance calls).

And, of course, the biggest chinks in the armor of marketing-driven products and services have come via the Internet, especially the websites and social media outlets powered by user-generated commentary.

Businesses are agitated about this changed landscape, and rightly so. This new, transparent marketplace is a scary place in which to do business. But it’s where all of us have to do business today. The balance of power has changed, with that power now weighted toward the customer in a big way.

Don Draper’s obsolete world of the “4-P’s” (product, place, price and promotion) has now been replaced by the dominance of human interactions, customer-on-customer and employee-on-customer, the “big H” as I call it, for human beings.  Today, all customers care about is how their fellow humans, online and off, have been treated by the humans who work for your company. This is the reality of our new, customer-driven world.  

And we all need to adapt: When customers no longer care what some actor on TV–the Maytag repairman, for example–says about your product, because they can look to their Facebook friends to find out the truth, you’d better make sure those Facebook friends are, in fact, inspired to say something nice about you–about how you responded to their service inquiries and product concerns. Inspired, that is, by how you treat them as customers.

There’s no better way to grow your brand, customer by customer by customer, than by getting this right.

7 Content Marketing Rules to Break

Content marketing is the way to stay in front of small business prospects to showcase expertise. There is a lot of advice on how to do this that is just plain wrong.

For example, here are seven content marketing rules to break:

Rule 1: Send a monthly newsletter to tell customers and prospects about multiple topics they may be interested in. How to break the rule: Send one subject emails to highlight one relevant piece of advice. In this way, the customer will read it quickly and the company will get the brand reinforcement they want. It now takes 21 brand reminders for a prospect to remember the brand.

Rule 2: Don't mix education messages with selling ones. Content marketers advise the company to split out theses two types of messages. How to break the rule: Always be up selling. Condition the audience to always be expecting offers from the company while they are being educated. This will result in more sales annually.

Stocksy_txp47ea4fcagK5000_Small_192861Rule 3: Always be part of the online social media conversation in the company's area of expertise. How to break the rule: Only participate when the company has something useful to say and can contribute value to the conversation. While this should be consistent, a company does not need to be part of every conversation on every platform and website. This will result in being productive, not just busy.

Rule 4: Pre-program posts in advance so they systematically appear throughout the day.  How to break the rule: This can be dangerous because a company could have pre-programmed posts about getting rust off a car and the news of the day is that one of the big car companies filed for bankruptcy! Be part of what is relevant.

Rule 5: Don't measure the outcome because this type of marketing takes a long time. How to break the rule: All marketing needs to be measured for results. If there are no results, do not invest in it. Think of what success looks like before starting a content marketing strategy.

Rule 6: Leave the review process to customers to post. How to break the rule: Some customer sets will naturally post comments on social media sites. Other customers need to be solicited by the company to encourage reviews and references. Don't be afraid to just ask.

Rule 7:  One size fits all. One piece of content can be shared in its same firm across multiple sites and platforms.  How to break the rule: Customize the content to fit the site. Emphasize quick advice or wit on Twitter. Use pictures or video on Facebook. Highlight the post 's educational nature on LinkedIn. Show it in a series of pictures on Pinterest.

What content marketing rules do you break?

Work Your Biz Wednesday: Turning Negative Reviews

Manage the online reputation of your small business with these tips from Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady.

4 Ways To Be Happier (and More Successful) Every Day

Are you happy every day? Most days? Not very often? Happiness is a tricky topic, especially for small business owners. Many entrepreneurs feel that happiness comes only after a business has reached a benchmark, but as Elaine Suess, leadership and talent management coach for Beyondbeing Coaching & Consulting in Cincinnati, explains, success before happiness is a misconception.

“Science has proven that it is the other way around,” she says. “Happiness comes first and it helps our brains work more productively to then be successful.”

Need help boosting your feelings of happiness? Take note of the following recommendations.

Meditate at your desk

Meditation has been proven to increase feelings of happiness. Try doing it for two to 10 minutes at your desk by taking deep breaths and focusing on clearing your mind. “Anything that creates more of an open space in your mind makes room for innovation, kindness and curiosity,” says Suess, adding that it is best to sit up straight with your feet on the ground and just letting go of whatever enters your mind, “without judgment.”

Practice being a “hero”

Suess says it is important to prepare yourself for positive thoughts. One way to do this is by assuming a “hero pose” before going into a big meeting or a stressful work situation. “The hero pose is the same gesture people make when they cross a finish line and lift up their arms,” she says. “Strategically making use of that one pose helps increase testosterone and decrease cortisol, the chemical related to stress.”

In addition, try taking an exercise break in the middle of your day. If you don’t have a gym at your office, consider walking around your building or parking lot. The movement will help you produce feelings of happiness.

Be grateful

Spend time every day thinking about what you are grateful for. Consider writing down three specific things that you are grateful for and continuing that practice. Your focus on being grateful will train your brain to look at the positive aspects of your life, says Suess.

Positively review your day

On your way home from work, instead of rehashing mess-ups or aggravating situations, try to focus on the positive things that happened in your day. “Think about what went well,” she suggests. “We all have a tendency to focus on our problems and wanting to fix those problems, but if we train ourselves to amplify what is going right in our lives, it will make us more effective, more positive and increase happiness.” 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Perfecting the “Dreaded” Employee Review

Stocksy_txp17ae6739N13000_Small_143559Few small business owners relish reviewing employees, but regular reviews are crucial to making your staff the best it can be. Follow these steps for effective reviews:

Be consistent. Use the same review form for each employee in the same capacity—such as all your hourly employees, all your customer service employees, etc. Check out the forms at DocStoc or Microsoft Office templates.

Be prepared. Reviews should be based on specifics, not on your general feeling as to how the person has done in the last three weeks. Document the employee’s performance during the year, both positive and negative, so you can refer to specific examples during the review.

Get input from the employee. Have the employee complete a self-evaluation before the review and give yourself time to read it thoroughly. This will tell you if the employee’s opinion of his or her performance is accurate or way off base.

Provide a balance of positive and negative feedback. Even the best employees need some ideas for how to stretch or improve, or they will become bored. Conversely, even the worst performers need some positive strokes in order not to be completely demoralized. Find something positive and constructive to say so that the review isn’t all lopsided.

Look back and ahead. In addition to reviewing the person’s performance since the last review, look ahead to what the outcomes will be if the person takes (or doesn’t) the steps you’ll recommend during the review. Will he or she be in line for a promotion, or at risk of termination?

Get feedback. It’s easy for the employer to do all the talking, especially in a review that is strongly negative or positive. But be sure you give the employee time to speak so he or she can clarify any issues that may arise. If you ask employees to share ideas for how they can improve, they are more likely to be invested in the outcome.

Clarify next steps.

  • If the employee got a good review, perhaps he or she is getting a promotion and/or a raise. Let the person know the new title, new wage or salary and when both will take effect.
  • If the person got a poor review, you’ll need to specify what remedial actions have to be taken by what date, and what will happen if the person does or does not achieve these milestones.

Codify the discussion. After the review, complete the form, making sure it’s accurate and that you fill in any details that arose during the review. Have the employee sign and date the review form, and add it to the personnel file.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Encourage Online Reviews

Have you ever been in the mood for a certain type of food and hopped on Yelp to look for a new restaurant to try? Then you know that online ratings and reviews from customers are key to driving new customers to your business and growing your sales. The more reviews you have, the more trustworthy your business will appear to be. But too many small business owners aren’t doing all they can to get customers to post online reviews. As a result, they have few or no reviews and get passed over in favor of businesses with more feedback.

How can you encourage customers to leave reviews? Encourage is the key word here, because actively soliciting or requesting reviews is frowned on by review sites, and providing incentives such as discounts or freebies in exchange for reviews can get you in trouble. Try these steps instead:

  1. Give them a sign. Posting signage in your store, restaurant or office is a simple and subtle way to remind customers that your business is on review sites and that you’d love a review. For example, Yelp has downloadable “Find us on Yelp” banners you can print out as signage for your store window or point-of-sale counter.
  2. Provide postsale reminders. Your store receipts or restaurant checks could say: “Like us? Review us on [list the review sites where you have a presence].” An ecommerce company can send follow-up emails after the sale to make sure the customer was satisfied and include a reminder that your business is on review sites.
  3. Spread the word. Put icons for the review sites where you have a presence in your print marketing materials, on your website (you can use the downloadable Yelp banners there), in your email signature and anywhere else you can think of.
  4. Make it easy. Everyone’s more inclined to write a review if it’s not a big hassle, so if your site says, “Like us? Review us on Yelp,” make sure there’s a clickable link so they can do so in a minute.

Whatever you do about online reviews, there’s one big “don’t:” Don’t fake them or have friends and family write them because you’re worried you don’t have enough. Use the tips above to grow your online review status organically. 


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

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Best Practices for Reviewing Employees

employee_reviewIf you’re like most small business owners, you dread the annual process of employee reviews. But really, you should welcome this time to talk to employees about what they’re doing right (and wrong). Done correctly, employee reviews can be a valuable tool that not only help your workers do their jobs better, but also help them feel more motivated and connected to your company.

Here are some best practices for performing employee reviews:

Set a schedule. Traditionally, reviews are done once a year, but these days, many businesses are doing reviews as often as quarterly. Frequent reviews make a lot of sense for two reasons: Business is changing more rapidly, meaning an employee’s role and duties may change more often than once a year; and Millennial employees, who make up a growing share of the work force, typically require frequent feedback to be most effective.

Create standards for employee performance. Develop a review form you will use during the process. (You can find sample review forms by searching online and adjust them to your needs.) Make sure your standards are measurable—for instance, a customer service employee might be ranked on how many calls or contacts they handle, what percentage of issues are resolved on the first contact, and how the employee is rated by customer feedback.

Get input. Anyone who directly supervises the employee should have input into the review process. You can also consider doing “360-degree” reviews. This means getting feedback from everyone who interacts with the employee, including not only supervisors but also co-workers, vendors and customers.

Get feedback from the employee. Before their reviews, have your employees complete part of their review forms allowing them to rate their own performances and share any goals for the coming review period (such as learning a new skill). This will give you an idea of how realistic they are about their own performances.

During the review, be specific about any problems that need to be resolved. If there is a major issue, develop a plan for how the employee can improve and put it in writing. Have the person sign the document and make sure he or she clearly understands the steps for improving, the time frame and what the result will be if he or she doesn’t meet the new goals (whether another warning, suspension or termination). If you are promoting employees, or if they’re getting bonuses or raises, let them know the details and when the changes take effect. Have them sign the review form and keep it in their records.  


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