Business

Reputation Check: Negative Reviews Are Costing You Business!

I’m in the process of moving from Washington state to Missouri in the next month. Moving is stressful regardless, but trying to coordinate a move to a city 1,800 miles away has been quite the challenge. Fortunately, I’ve had help knowing which neighborhoods to consider and I already know the area fairly well. What I don’t know is the leasing companies.

Coming from the automotive industry where dealerships are eager to constantly reach out to prospective buyers, the leasing industry is a bit different as I’ve come to learn. I essentially had a week in town to lock down a place to live, so I wanted to make the most of my trip by viewing several potential houses in case my favorite fell through.

In this process, I reached out to several leasing companies to secure appointments. For several, I submitted a web lead a week in advance so they’d have my contact information and followed up with a phone call. As the clock ticked, I switched directly to calling the companies. Many did not contact me back, some opted to text only and some preferred email. One didn’t get back to me for over a week, finally texting me when I had already returned.

As I was scrambling to set appointments, I ended up researching several of these leasing companies. Ironically, the company I had the most trouble with – the one that did not return my calls and emails for over a week had the highest reviews. The company I ended up going with had some of the lowest review scores.

I will admit I hesitated in deciding to move forward with the company I chose due to the review scores. But I’d had the most positive experience from the get-go with this company. I even had been dealing directly with the owner. He was professional, punctual, friendly and helpful. I really couldn’t understand why his company would have gotten such low reviews. So I decided to see what people had to say.

Now working in automotive, I’ve seen my share of negative reviews. I also know that when you’re making a large investment such as a vehicle or a home, there are many factors that can impact your ideal outcome. Maybe you have a low credit score or things in your history that will prevent you from affording what you would prefer. I also know there are always two sides to a story and again, my background at a dealership gave me excellent insight as to what the customer is claiming versus what actually went on. Yes, there are times when a business completely screws up – it happens. But a lot of the time, it has nothing to do with the business and everything with the customer.

In reading the reviews, I confirmed what I suspected – the majority of reviewers were disgruntled over something that didn’t really have anything to do with the company. Several even admitted to not having leased from the company, and while I think it’s important for consumers to provide feedback on why they didn’t choose a particular business, these review sites are weighing their feedback as a non-customer equally to actual customers. Other reviewers were complaining about details that were clearly laid out in the rental application.

After reading several reviews, I began to notice some patterns and realizing perhaps many of these reviewers were being unreasonable. Yes, there were some legitimate complaints, but when I considered my great experience with the company, either the complaints had been attended to, perhaps a change in staff had occurred, or maybe someone was just having a bad day.

In the end, even after seeing a low review score, I decided to go with this company based upon my experience and several interactions with the owner and his staff, because all had been positive and met my expectations. Once I’m settled into my home and have a little more experience with this company, I will leave a review detailing my experience. I’ll also let them know they may want to take a look at their online reputation so they don’t lose potential clients.

On the flip side, what businesses need to consider is how many consumers will see a low review score and not even bother contacting the business in the first place. A restaurant, salon or hotel with low review scores likely won’t even be contacted by consumers. They will move right along to the next business without even thinking about it, because why should they bother?

So what’s a business to do about negative reviews?

Claim and Monitor Your Review Sites
This seems a bit like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses have not claimed their business on review sites. Additionally, it’s easy for listings to be added, so make sure you’re Googling your business monthly to find new listings or use a reputation monitoring service. Setting up Google Alerts for your business is another great way to get immediate notifications of anything being said about your business online.

Read & Respond to Reviews
Not everyone who leaves a review is disgruntled; oftentimes the feedback left can be valuable to improving your customer service and processes. If you see a pattern, perhaps several complaints about a particular employee or wait time, this is definitely something to investigate.

I’m a huge proponent of responding to all reviews as well. Not only is this a way to thank your reviewers for taking the time to provide feedback, it can potentially encourage your reviewers to be more honest. If a business doesn’t monitor their review sites, reviewers feel more comfortable bashing the business because there appear to be no repercussions or accountability. However, when businesses respond to reviews, the reviewer knows their feedback is being read, so they may be a bit more honest, especially if the business is offering to right the situation.

Not sure how to respond to reviews? Check out my article here!

Encourage More Positive Reviews
The best way to counter negative reviews is with more positive, legitimate reviews. Make sure you have a process in place to encourage your customers to leave reviews, whether it’s follow-up emails, calls, signs around your business – whatever works best for your industry. Do not pay for reviews or have your employees post reviews as if they were customers – these are obvious to those reading your reviews and violate most review site policies. But if you’re regularly asking customers for reviews, especially happy customers, you’ll see an improvement of your review site score.

Remove Reviews That Violate Review Site Policies
I am very against the idea of removing legitimate reviews. However, there may be times when a reviewer goes above and beyond to try to destroy your business. Perhaps they are a disgruntled customer, legit or not, or even a competitor. I would recommend first reaching out to them to try to resolve the conflict in a professional manner, however if that does not work and their review violates the review site’s policies, you can get the review removed in most cases. This is typically a rare occurrence, but one to keep in mind.

Additionally, your business may receive reviews that are for a different company. This can happen to businesses with similar names or chains. If that happens, you may also have those reviews removed. Keep in mind, removing reviews is likely rarely to ever happen and should not be considered a solution to negative reviews.

If you are not monitoring your review sites, you are doing your business a huge disservice and potentially losing a lot of business to your competitor. By taking just a few minutes each week to check and respond to your reviews, in addition to encouraging customers to leave reviews, you can see your review scores increase as well as your business.

How to Share Reviews on Social Media So People Actually Read Them

As a business with a web presence, one of the best things you can do is get positive reviews. This is because 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business. Once you get positive reviews, your social strategy should include occasionally sharing these reviews to let your fans and followers know how happy your customers are.

But there’s an effective and ineffective way to do this, and unfortunately, I’ve been seeing much more of the latter than the former. It can be very beneficial to toot your own horn, but you’ve got to put a little effort into it so it sounds less like bragging and more like a personal recommendation.

For example, if you follow any dealerships on Facebook, chances are you’ll occasionally see the following post: “We just received a 5 out of 5 customer rating on DealerRater.” If you Google that exact phrase, there’s over 11,000 results. So if you’re doing this, you’re not alone; but you’re not helping yourself either.

2015-12-07_23-49-11

 

When I see that post, I immediately ignore it because I guarantee you whatever comes up next in my Facebook feed is more interesting than that. And who cares? Good for them, right? I’m expected to click a link to read a review when I could be looking at something much more exciting. So there’s the key – share your positive reviews, but make sure your reviews are interesting and attention-getting.

Here’s how:

  • Include a quote from the review highlighting the best part: “They spent a great deal of time, not only finding the vehicle that best suited my needs, but thoroughly explaining my financial and warranty options!” Whether or not the viewer clicks on the link to read more, you’ve shown them the best part of the review, which is the point of sharing reviews.
  • Thank the reviewer in your post: “Thanks for the great review, Joe!” This not only makes you look good because of the review, it also makes you appear courteous and appreciative. You’re also crediting someone else for the review which is essential because 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. By sharing a review and crediting the reviewer, you just turned your marketing message into a trusted, personal recommendation.
  • Customize the post: “We hope you enjoy your new Escape!” This makes your post look less cookie-cutter and more sincere, like you’ve built a relationship with this customer.
  • Include a photo: photos are the most engaging content on Facebook with an 87% interaction rate! But don’t just include the default review site logo, make it something interesting and engaging:
    • Customer photo – if you were fortunate enough to get a photo of the customer with their new vehicle and have permission to post it, share that photo with the review! This serves as “proof” that the review is legit and is highly engaging, especially if other fans know the customer.
      • Note: in my personal reviews of multiple dealer Facebook posts in which dealers shared customer photos, 60-80% of the most engaging posts over a 30-day period were customer photos.
    • Vehicle photo – another option is to share an engaging, stock photo of the vehicle the customer purchased.
    • Thank you – what better way to show your appreciation than to publicly thank the customer? I recommend using a free and easy graphic design site such as Canva to create your own graphics and customize them with your logo. This way you’re creating your own graphics and not using someone’s copyrighted images.

Takeaways:

  • Sharing reviews is an excellent way to turn your marketing message into a trusted, personal recommendation
  • Quote the highlights of a review in your post to “force” fans to see what’s being said about your business, even if they don’t click through to read the entire review
  • Customize and credit reviews whenever possible
  • Always include relevant photos when sharing reviews, either a customer photo or a “thank you” image

The Power of Women in Business: Female Portrayals in Advertising

There’s been a growing focus on female body image on social media and advertising. Campaigns such as #BodyPositive, #LikeAGirl and #Strengthie are just a few of the current advertising campaigns encouraging women to be proud of themselves and focus on their strengths, rather than their imperfections. The good news is, these “fem-vertisements” appear to be highly effective in promoting positive imagery of women and generating sales, according to Ad Week.

canstockphoto16542598

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / xavigm

 

Here’s some statistics on the negative impacts on women from advertising via SheKnows:

  • Just 60 seconds of viewing ads with underweight models can negatively impact perceptions of attractiveness for women
  • 41% of 18-24 year old women retouch photos of themselves before sharing to social media sites
  • 93% of women believe it is harmful to portray females as sex symbols in advertising
  • 33% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance (an increase from 26% in 2012)

It’s been noted for years that women control the majority of spending decisions in households. In fact, according to American Progress, women control 80% of consumer spending in the U.S. (up to 85% according to Ad Week).  So if we’ve seen that female-positive advertising has shown to be incredibly effective and that women dominate consumer spending, why isn’t more advertising female-positive?

A large part of the problem could be that while women control spending, men dominate the advertising. According to American Progress, 97% of creative directors in advertising are male. Of the 250 top-grossing domestic films of 2013, 16% of the cinematographers, directors, editors, executive producers, producers and writers were female. Additionally, during the 2012-2013 primetime season, just 28%  of off-screen talent on broadcast TV shows were female. The most obvious result of involving women is that representation of women on-screen is better and there’s a higher percentage of women with speaking roles.

So how can we continue on this effective “fem-vertising” journey?

  • Continue to empower women to fight stereotyping and be successful
  • Incorporate positive imagery of women in advertising and social media
  • Women need to build each other up and support each other
  • Empowering women doesn’t mean putting men down – incorporate men in campaigns to support the women in their lives

Here’s some statistics on the positive impacts on women from fem-vertising via SheKnows:

  • 52% of women have purchased a product because they liked how the ad for the product portrayed women
  • Nike saw a 15% increase in quarterly revenue through efforts to cater to women
  • Dove’s Real Beauty campaign helped increase sales from $2.5 billion to $4 billion
  • In just 4 months in 2014, sales for Getty Images’ Lean In collection grew by 54%

According to Ad Week, fem-vertising is positive toward women, but it doesn’t alienate men either. Female-positive advertising encourages men to empower and take care of the women in their lives as well. So in the end, everyone benefits.

If people can relate to the advertising of a product, they will have a more positive impression of the product. Consider who your market is and who’s creating the advertising for your product. Is it accurate and positive toward your market? If not, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

How Just 1 Negative First Impression Can Leave a Lasting Impression

canstockphoto21359421

What kind of first impression is your team making?

More than 10 years ago, I worked at the front desk of a storage and distribution warehouse. It was a very small satellite of a Canadian company with about 10 employees. One day, I received a call from a large postage meter company. Since part of my job was to thoroughly filter incoming calls and only put through a very limited number to my manager, I had to prevent him from having to take any unnecessary calls.

I allowed the salesperson to make his initial spiel, but being a small company and mailing very little, we didn’t have a need for such a service and I informed of that. He continued to try to sell me on the idea, and I continued to let him know we only mailed maybe a dozen items a month. I’m not a pushy person and probably much more polite than I should be, especially since that was one of my first desk jobs. The salesperson was not pleased with my answer, so he hung up on me.

Yes, the salesperson hung up on me.

To this day, every time I hear that company name – and it’s a big company – I think of that incident and the horrible first impression I have of that company. And even though he was just one person there (who hopefully didn’t work there much longer after that incident), he was a representative of the company providing a very negative lasting impression. So lasting that I saw a competitor’s product at work yesterday and told that story to my coworker, and this is more than 10 years later!

Maybe some don’t think this is a big deal, but what if down the road, I decided to give them a second chance? And what if I had an issue with my account or their product which is bound to happen? Would they be willing to help me or would they hang up on me?

Conversely, had the salesperson been understanding and helpful, perhaps providing his contact information for me to have on hand if perhaps some day our needs changed, I would have remembered that. And if I had needed their services, I would remember that and probably would be much more forgiving if any account or product issues arose. I would also be much more likely to pass that information on to those I knew as a recommendation.

That wasn’t the only time I have been hung up on, but another experience goes to show how a negative situation can be turned around. I took a sales job at my next company selling uniforms to law enforcement. I received a call one day from a police chief and although I was being as helpful as possible (and polite), he hung up on me. That’s fine, I get people have bad days, especially in the law enforcement field. But what turned the situation around was that he called me back moments later and apologized. Yes, he was having a bad day, and no, I hadn’t done or said anything wrong.

While it’s important to provide everyone with excellent customer service, it is imperative to provide a good first impression because as my example shows, bad first impressions can last for decades. And negative experiences spread like wildfire, especially with social media and review sites. Too many negative reviews about a business can quickly kill future business or even put a company out of business.

So make sure if you talk to customers, you are always as helpful and polite as possible and instill this in your team members who talk to customers, because just one negative impression can leave a lasting impression and lose a potential customer, possibly forever. If a negative situation does arise, be sure to quickly respond to try to mend the situation. People can be very understanding and forgiving if you’re sincere. In fact, reaching out to a customer and repairing a negative situation can change their impression and make them a customer for life.

Building positive relationships in and outside of your company will make it a much more pleasant place,  and will also grow your business.

Tell me about your good, bad or redeeming first impressions of a company in the comments – I’d love to hear your experiences!

How to Develop Positive Working Relationships with Difficult Coworkers

canstockphoto20199741

At some point in your career, chances are that you’ll end up working with at least one person who is a complete nightmare. Below I detail nine steps you can take to evaluate the situation and work to turn it into a positive one. You spend a lot of time with coworkers; you may as well make the best of it!

1. Don’t take it personally. Even if your coworker’s wrath seems to be directed at you, chances are there are others feeling it too. If you haven’t done anything to warrant the treatment you’re receiving, consider that maybe the person treating you badly is dealing with some difficult personal problems and may not be intending to treat you badly.

2. Keep it professional. Your coworkers don’t need to be your friends, so keep any personal talk to a minimum and instead, focus on work and upcoming projects with them. Regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, you still have customers to take care of and a job to do, and that’s the top priority.

3. Be a rock star. Your company still has things that need to be done and goals to achieve, so don’t drop the ball just because you’re unhappy. Instead, challenge yourself to perform at your highest level. This will benefit you in multiple ways: no one will be able to legitimately complain about your performance and if you do decide to move on to another job, you’ve built a great reputation and track record to show your performance to another company.

4. Learn their expectations and rules. You may not agree with how a coworker or boss does things, but if you can at least understand their expectations and rules, it makes it much easier for you to stay in their good side and have a more positive work environment. For example, your boss might require you to arrive 5 minutes early every day but show up late every day themselves; it may not be fair, but if you know this expectation, you can follow it. Rebelling will be ineffective, but you can have the satisfaction that they’re making themselves look bad and you even better.

5.Talk to them about it. It won’t be a comfortable conversation, to say the least, but sometimes you need to just hash it out with someone to repair a relationship. Even if things have gotten extremely awkward, it’s okay to say “hey, I don’t know how we got here, but I don’t like it and would like to start fresh if that’s okay with you.” Then make every effort to stick to that fresh start and leave the past behind. If they’ve been struggling personally, they may not even have any idea they’re treating you poorly and this makes them aware and gives them the chance to repair relationships with others they may be unintentionally mistreating.

6. Talk to HR. If talking to them personally didn’t work, or if the situation has gotten so bad you can’t comfortably speak to the person about the issue, try discussing it with human resources. While they may not be able to fix the problem alone, they can at least act as a mediator during your conversation and help you resolve your issues. Be prepared with examples of any mistreatment, especially if it could be considered workplace bullying in case HR needs to start an investigation. Also be prepared with a couple solutions in case HR asks how you’d like to resolve it.

7. Talk to others. Are other people having problems with this person? This isn’t a time to team others up against this person, but instead see if anyone else is having difficulties with anyone at the company or if they notice any patterns of how you’re being treated. Having allies can help support you and be there while you work through the problem. If no one else is having problems with the person, take that into consideration as well.

8. Take a look in the mirror. Are you the problem? Try to look at your situation from the outside; does the person you’re having issues with have a legitimate right to be upset with you? Did you do something to them that might make them upset with you, such as get a promotion, take one of their customers or put them out some way? When we’re so involved in something, it’s hard to see it for what it is, but think of logical reasons why this person could be upset with you, beyond that they could just be a mean person. Sometimes we’re the problem, not others.

9. Move on. Sometimes there’s just no resolving the problem. Perhaps your problem is with one of the owners or their family members employed at the company or others aren’t able to see the problems you’re having with the person. Or maybe for whatever reason, someone(s) at your company wants you to leave, whether you’ve done something to deserve it or not. Companies are complex and when different people with different backgrounds are forced to spend most of their waking time together, there’s bound to be some problems from time to time. If you’ve tried everything and are still having issues, sometimes the best bet is to just move on.

You may be spending 40+ hours in close quarters with your coworkers, so it’s important to have positive working relationships with them. When coworkers within a company are struggling, it can be obvious to customers and affect sales, putting further strain on your company. if you’re going to stick around, take steps to make things positive for everyone. If you’re planning on leaving, build yourself up to be successful and positive so there’s nothing but positive things to be said about you once you move on. You never know when you might need to go back across that bridge.

4 Steps to Building a Successful Marketing Campaign

When building a marketing campaign, creating a solid plan can be the path to success. Naturally, the more time you have to plan, the easier it will be to execute your plan, however, in the world of marketing, time is often not a common commodity.

Planning a marketing campaign is similar to planning a road trip; first decide where you’re going, then decide how you will get there, how much you will invest on the trip, and what stops you will make along the way.

A marketing campaign can be any marketing effort to achieve a goal and the marketing plan should change and evolve as the planning goes on so each step logically leads to reaching the intended goal successfully.

1. Initial Questions

Before building a plan, there are several questions that should be answered to aid in planning:

  • What goal(s) are we looking to achieve?
  • Who is our target?
  • What is the budget (and is it realistic)?
  • What is the time frame?
  • What mediums do we want to use? (i.e. email, mail, TV, social media, newspaper, etc;)
  • What is the message?
  • What are the expectations of this campaign?

You should also consider whether you’ve done something similar in the past and review the results to determine what was done, what worked and what could have been done better. You may also want to determine if a specific theme is to be used to mesh with other marketing campaigns or current events.

2. Work Backwards

Whenever planning a campaign, I like to start by examining the end goal. What do we want to accomplish through this campaign? This provides a focus that can be looked toward any time there are questions on direction while planning. It also helps lay a solid foundation for all marketing efforts.

For example, if you have an excess amount of a particular product that you want to sell, the below questions can help you plan a successful marketing campaign:

  • What is the goal? To sell all 10,000 widgets and still make a profit.
  • Who is the target? Widget buyers who have purchased in the past 5 years, but not the past 6 months.
  • What is the budget? While it’s costing us to store these 10,000 widgets that aren’t selling, but taking up room in our warehouse, we want to earn a profit on them. If our cost is $5 each and we normally sell them for $10 each, we could normally expect to receive $50,000 in profit. If we offer them for 25% off at $7.50 each, we will still bring in $25,000 in profit. If we allow half of that to be our marketing campaign budget, that will allow for $12,500 budget and the same in profit, less any expenses incurred.
  • What is the time frame? If we’re expecting a shipment of new and improved widgets in 8 weeks, let’s set the campaign to end in 6 weeks or less to allow 2 weeks of buffer time. This allows 2 weeks in case the new widgets arrive early or if our campaign is not as successful as planned and we need to try another attempt to get rid of the rest of the widgets.
  • What mediums will be used (and will  they realistically work within the set budget)? If this business is a warehouse that sells nationwide, certain mediums such as newspaper and TV won’t effectively reach the target market. Since we’re focusing on previous customers, email and mail will probably be the most effective marketing methods, followed by salesperson follow-up calls.
  • What is the message? It’s vital to choose a solid message to keep all marketing and sales efforts consistent and you want to keep a message that is appealing to your target. “Stock up and save BIG on widgets” is a lot more appealing than “we have too many widgets so we’re hoping you buy them from us so we don’t have to throw them away.” Also be prepared to answer why: “we have more widgets coming in so we need to make room for them!” Keep the message exciting, logical and limited so your target will want to take advantage of your offer.
  • What are our expectations? Of course we want to sell 100% of the widgets and still turn a profit, so maybe we’re willing to go as low as $6 a widget to sell them.
    • What’s more important: actually selling the widgets or making money? If it’s just going to get more difficult to sell the widgets as time goes on, lowering the price can be an option.
    • Another expectation is the quantity each customer will buy. If our target is 1,000 customers and the average sale is 100 widgets, we know we need a 10% sell rate from this campaign. Is that realistic? If not, this would be a time to change the marketing plan to include a larger target.
  • Does the plan need revision? After answering and reviewing all the above questions, you’ll want to determine if the plan still makes sense or if it needs revision. You may also get partway through the campaign and realize what you’re doing isn’t going according to plans and expectations and need to make revisions at that point as well.

3. Communication

One of the most obvious, in my opinion, but also highly overlooked steps in a marketing campaign is communicating the plan to all those involved. Generally, the marketing team builds a campaign for the sales team, however, the sales team is often left out of communication until the very end, as are other maybe less obvious team members such as accounting and reception.

Don’t assume that anyone has been notified about the campaign unless you tell them, and it’s important for you to control the message they receive to ensure they understand the purpose, goals and expectations of them.

When planning a marketing campaign, it’s important to consider who the targeted market will be contacting. Would they call the main phone line and speak to reception? Would they call accounting to clean up their account before participating in whatever special is being marketed to them?

It should be assumed that not all campaign recipients are going to follow whatever instructions are listed, especially if they’ve built relationships with other team members within the company.

The more informed your team is as a whole, the higher quality customer service they will all be able to provide and the more successful your marketing campaign will be.

Something that has worked well for me is to create a marketing or event overview. This should include the following:

  • Name & dates of the campaign
  • What the purpose and goals of the campaign are (make sure to exclude any information you would not want provided to customers such as profit so employees do not accidentally pass this information along to customers)
  • How it’s being marketed with samples of everything (i.e. screenshots of web banners, copies of emails and mail pieces, etc;) so all employees know exactly what was sent to customers and have a copy for their reference

After the campaign, I also add sections for results, what worked well and what could have been done differently to have made the campaign more successful for reference when planning future campaigns.

4. Analysis & Reflection

One of the most important things to do after a marketing campaign is to take a look at the campaign overall to determine how effective it was and to provide real examples for future planning.

  • Was each step taken as planned?
  • What percentage of the target market was reached? (i.e. opened emails)
  • How many responses/attendees were there?
  • What were the final costs in comparison to the budget?
  • Were the goals reached?
  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work well and how could it have been done differently to have been more successful?

While particularly successful campaigns are useful for planning future campaigns, unsuccessful campaigns are an incredible learning tool to show what to avoid in future campaigns to make them more successful. Perhaps the reason for failure has nothing to do with your campaign, but everything to do with bad weather conditions, fierce competition or other circumstances out of your control. But by noting these, you can better plan future campaigns with continued success and learning each time.