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Small Business Marketing

Think You Can Manipulate Positive Customer Reviews? Think Again!

By | Small Business Marketing | One Comment

customer reviewsThe Internet is a powerful thing.  Occasionally, the misguided try to control it.  No, not North Korea, we are talking about a tiny hospitality center in New York.  A place called the Union Street Guest House.

It appears that the Guest House was concerned that some guests might not like their house.  They were worried that these grumpy guests may try to use the big INTERNET contraption to tell others about their displeasure.

Rather than spend time and money to make sure that guests received a fabulous experience, the ‘Mensa’s’ at Union would just charge those guests five hundred bucks for writing about an unpleasant trip.

This genius idea was included in the expansive fine print policies of the Union Street Guest House back in 2012.  The early draft read –

If you stay here to attend a wedding and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event (this is due to the fact that your guests may not understand what we offer and we expect you to explain that to them).

It is clear that the folks at USGH (so easy to misspell it simply as Ugh!) were serious about this customer service brainchild.  By the time this policy caught the eye of a reporter at the NY Post (http://pagesix.com/2014/08/04/hotel-charges-500-for-every-bad-review-posted-online/) the warm welcome said it this way, with the requisite header –

REVIEWS:

Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our Inn, your friends and families may not. This is due to the fact that your guests may not understand what we offer – therefore we expect you to explain that to them. USGH & Hudson are historic. The buildings here are old (but restored). Our bathrooms and kitchens are designed to look old in an artistic “vintage” way. Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines. (although comfortable and functional – obviously all beds are brand new) If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here.

Therefore: If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500. fine for each negative review. (Please NOTE we will not charge this fee &/or will refund this fee once the review is taken down). Also, please note that we only request this of wedding parties and for the reasons explained above.

Now, a thing about the Internet, it seems to be as controllable as a hose-soaked feral cat.  (Not that I condone soaking feral cats, or any cats for that matter.  In fact, I love feral cats.  Many of my best friends are feral cats)

But I digress.  The point is, ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, it has been a free roaming, uncontrollable thing.  Kind of like the Blob.

So trying to command positive responses with the threat of a penalty is going to achieve the exact opposite, and it did.  Yelp, Trip Advisor, and other Travel sites predictably blew up.

Even more inexcusable, USGH’s own Facebook reviews trashed the company.  Turn off the site people!  Most that have never stayed at the property are saying things like –

“hey Union Street Guest House Owners…now now ….don’t let all this negativity get you down, buck up chaps….just change the signs outside get rid of the name and pretend you never heard of the union Street Guest house…”

“I recently stayed at a competing hotel, the Inn at Hudson, for a local wedding. The service was excellent and upon leaving, I left a very positive review for the Inn at Hudson. Somehow, the Union Street Guest House learned about my positive review for a competitor, hired a Russian hacker to compromise my bank’s security and access my savings account, and took $500.”

“I wish I could rate you less than 1 star for your “negative review” policy.”

So, this is where the people at UGH went completely crazy.  Someone at the ‘House’ decided to borrow from quick response political hacks. You know the ones who react when their private posts of private parts somehow become public.

You guessed it.  The Union Street Guest House PR team misspoke, fibbed or just plain lied.  Here is what they posted on the their Facebook site –

“The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”

Really, that is why it existed from at least 2012.  That is why it was rewritten?  Or maybe all of their policies are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.  Here are a few that are just hilarious   –

  • We reserve the right to hold deposit[s] until we feel that all charges, taxes, fees, damages, or any other financial obligation has been resolved regarding you and anyone in your party.
  • Cancellations made within 15 days will be charged for the entire length of stay. 100% of your reserved stay will be billed to your credit card when we accept your online booking.
  • Children are welcome although we would ask you to watch over them as all of the furnishings are one of a kind.

Their legal team should do stand-up.

On a serious note, we sympathize with small businesses trying desperately to make a living by offering a great product for a great value. We understand how hard it is to try to do it all, but when you make a mistake, own it.  Apologize. Ask for forgiveness.

The idea of holding cash captive to coerce positive feedback was misguided and mean.  It was a huge miss.

Tell the truth.

Some people don’t get your lodging.  It bugs you. You wish they appreciated what you offer. If they don’t, you can’t help it, and you certainly can’t control it.

Ten Things SMBs Can Do To Better Market Their Businesses (On The Cheap)

By | Small Business Marketing | No Comments

For those who don’t know, I am a fairly active advisor over on the American Express Open Forum and one of the questions I see more often than any others are… “how do I market my small business that does [insert industry here] without spending thousands of dollars per month?”. The answer will typically vary based on the industry the individual is in, but there are many things that can be done for all businesses to help generate online awareness and help grow their companies.

In today’s post, I will be outlining ten things that any small business can do to better market their business and do it inexpensively.

Blog Like Crazy

One of the easiest ways to better market your business, and probably my favorite is to blog like crazy! Every day if possible!

Small businesses should keep a list of the most common questions asked by their prospects and customers and work diligrently to create content for their blog that speaks to those questions. If you don’t have a lot of customers, you can also monitor the best blogs in your space by using Feedly and working to create similar content that seems to get shared socially and that individuals engage with.

One thing to keep in mind is that quality is more important that quantity, so if you don’t have time to post every day, don’t. Post a few times per week, but make it awesome!

Google+ Local Page

Many small businesses are local businesses trying to attract customers within a geographic location. If this is you, you should setup and optimize your Google+ Local Page so that it become relevant for the products or services you offer and your geographic location.

Here’s a great guide to setting up and optimizing your Google+ local page.

Citation Building

After setting up your Google+ Local Page, you will want to setup other map/business directory listings. These are referred to as citations. Citations always contain your business name, address, and phone number, also referred to as NAP.

Citations help solidify in the eyes of the search engines that your business is legitimate and deserves to show up high for localized search queries. One of the best places to start is by running your business name and zip code through GetListed.org.

Help A Non-Profit

One unique way to help market your business is by helping a non-profit organization, or several organizations. If your business chooses to engage in such a practice, you need to make sure you are doing it for the right reason. Just to get publicity, brand awareness, and links to your site is an awful reason to help a non-profit. If you do it for the right reason, the non-profits will talk about you and you will get the publicity you deserve.

Write A Guest Post

Not only should you be blogging like crazy on your own site, but you should put forth some effort to contribute to other high visibility blogs in your industry. The purpose of writing a guest post is two fold, one to help get your name out there as a thought leader. A good guest post will will drive traffic back to your website and will often times bring potential customers. To vet the sites you want to post on, I like to look at social activity on their posts, if their readers leave good comments, do they have a decent number of RSS subscribers, do they have an email newsletter, do they have a following on Facebook, etc. If not, I’d probably look elsewhere. Here’s a good post on guest posting.

Shoot & Publish A Video

Gone are the days of needing expensive video cameras and video editing software to produce a video that drives interest for your business. Most individuals are packing a far better video camera in their pockets that most households could afford just fifteen years ago.

Bust out that smartphone and snap videos of your products or services in action. Take video of your clients providing testimonials and so forth. You’ll then take this video content and publish it to YouTube and other platforms like Vimeo.

Give Products or Services Away

I don’t think I have to tell you that people love free stuff. They especially love free stuff that’s valuable or extremely relevant to them. One of the quickest ways to generate visibility for your business is to give away your products or services. When you do this, tell everyone you know and ask them to spread the word. You can also run a contest on Facebook using a services like Rafflecopter to help you organize and execute your contest.

Guest Lecture

Guest lecturing is another fantastic way to promote your business. Every college and university professor would love for a seasoned professional in their vertical to prepare a lecture and relieve them from their daily duties. I have guest lectured dozens of times at local universities here in Utah on marketing and business topics. Each time I have, I have generated leads for new clients and I’ve even found some great employees from it.

Build Out Social Profiles

You can and SHOULD build out the four big social profiles, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, brand them to look and feel like your business, and participate on a regular basis. When you are participating make sure to tag your content with relevant hashtags to ensure your messages get in front of your target audience.

Become THE Thought Leader In Forums

Lastly (for this post), you should identify 2-3 forums in your space and participate on a daily basis. Set aside 20 minutes each morning to go in and answer questions that you are capable of providing an amazingly helpful response. After several months of doing this, you will start to be known as the industry expert that everyone can go to for answers to their questions. Another awesome thing about forum participation is that you can see what questions are being asked most often (kind of like questions asked by your prospects and customers above) and create content for your blog that answers their questions.

If you’re quick about it, you can head back to the forum and add links to your new content on your site and bring those potential customers to your front door!

So there you go, ten ways to market your business, without spending a lot of money. Obviously, this isn’t an extensive list, but a list that I use on a regular basis to better market Stryde and many of our clients.

How To Properly Set Up Your Google+ Local Page

By | Small Business Marketing | No Comments

If you are a small business owner, you most likely had a Google Places or Google Maps page to help your customers find your business. In the last few months, Google has decided to replace Google Places pages with the new Google+ Local pages. In most cases, if you had a Places page, it should have been transferred over for your. If it wasn’t or you are going to be setting up a new Google+ Local page, you should follow our step by step guy to properly setting it up.

The first thing you will need to do is log into your Google+ account and hover over “more” in the lower left navigation and click on pages.

pages

Next, you will want to click on “create a new page”.

new page

Next you will want to select “Local business or place”.

local business

Next, you will want to select your country and local phone number. Pro tip: make sure this is the phone number you use for your business and the same one that is listed everywhere online.

Next, you will add your business name and the address of your offices. Pro tip: make sure this is the name of your business that is used everywhere online as well as the same address that is listed everywhere online.

business name

Provide a link to your website… yes, this will count as a “created” backlink toward your website

Lastly, customize. Add your logo. Add a cover photo. Add your email address and then click finish!

customize

Okay… you may think you are finished, but you are not. The next thing you need to do is verify you page.

verify

The verification code will most likely be mailed to your place of business. Sometimes, Google allows you to get your pin via phone. In both cases, they will provide you the instructions you need to get verified.

The very last thing you will want to do is add a bunch of photos and videos. This tends to add a personal touch to your page and helps your potential customers connect with you and your employees before ever picking up the phone or visiting your store.

I hope that this has been a helpful tutorial on how to set up your Google+ Local page. If you have any questions, please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section below.