Sword and the Script

Small Business Negative Reviews are a Gift; Here’s What to Do



by Frank Strong

Small Business Negative Reviews are a Gift
She was unhappy with a small businesses service, so she left a negative review.  She gave the business two stars in Google.

The business owner was outraged by the review. “You will be hearing from our attorney,” he allegedly wrote in response.

And there, in just a few paragraphs, one negative review went from zero to sixty in a game of chicken that isn’t likely to benefit the business.  It’s generally not a good idea fight with customers, let alone angry ones, and it’s downright dismal to do it in public.

Sure, such a public debate might draw attention, but it’s certainly not desirable attention. Even if a case winds up in court and the small business wins, it still loses.  It’s called the Streisand Effect, which The Economist sums up as follows:

Named after the American singer and actress Barbra Streisand, the Streisand Effect describes how efforts to suppress a juicy piece of online information can backfire and end up making things worse for the would-be censor.

The noise aside, there are plenty of other reasons to get over it and move on. There’s the psychological and emotional toll, the sheer business distraction, and in event of an actual lawsuit, the attorney fees.  Finally, at the end of it all, there’s current and future customers to consider:  Who would choose to do business with company – amid an ample supply of competitors – that sues its customers?

But we are right and the customer is wrong

Maybe it’s the case that the small business is right and the customer is wrong, but it’s very difficult to prove an opinion wrong.  An opinion is just that: an opinion.

Small businesses are especially prone to this sort of visceral reaction to negative reviews, because the business is often a reflection of their life.  Often small business owners have taken huge risks to start the company, poured countless hours into it, and made incredible sacrifices.

A small business owner that has gone from nothing to something, may feel a range of emotions when one customer comes along to seemingly ruin it all. The small business owner is stuck on what’s right and wrong, “But we are right!” he or she might exclaim in exasperation and vowing to go after the reviewer.

It may be true.  You may be right, but it doesn’t matter; everyone won’t see things through your lenses. A better solution is to address the matter and get back to business as soon as possible, because you have other customers to serve.

Quoting from a contributed article in another publication, a Wall Street Journal blog cited Josh King, a lawyer and the general counsel for Avvo, which in part, provides a review site on lawyers.  He said, quite eloquently:

“The trick is to not get defensive, petty, or feel the need to directly refute what you perceive is wrong with the review. It’s far more effective to think of future readers when writing the review, rather than the original reviewer.”

A few negative reviews are not the end of the world

In a childhood fable, an emperor walks around naked because the staff – and people – are too afraid of insulting him or raising his ire.  As a result, he runs around in the buff believing his own little fallacy because he created an environment where feedback was unwelcome.

Feedback, even in the form of a negative review, is a gift. It’s a chance to make an evaluation, a change – or to validate the current direction. No leader, small business or otherwise, can effectively lead people, an organization or a business without feedback. Those negative reviews are special gifts.

Rest assured I’ve had plenty of experience with negative reviews with a grain of language and viciousness that would stun most people. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like a trying exchange with an outraged customer.  Beyond experience, there’s a wealth of research data to support the idea there’s a better way to respond than with outrage:

  • Engagement. Some 16% of brands ever acknowledge comments – either positive or negative, but brands that do, tend to see more engagement.
  • Credibility. Research consistently shows that a few negative reviews adds credibility. Nobody gets straight A’s in business and a business can’t serve a dozen, hundreds or thousands of customers without earning a few D’s or F’s.  Simply stated, a long list of glowing reviews isn’t believable. What matters is the aggregate – that the reviews are generally more positive than negative.
  • Power in responsiveness. In one retail study, 61% of respondents said they would be shocked if a business responded to their negative review. For those that were contacted, about a third deleted the original post or turned around and wrote a positive one. About 20% became lifelong customers. Responsiveness can turn critics into fans, and fans into fanatics.

Even if a good faith effort to respond to publicly respond to a negative review goes sideways, or worse, south, every other customer or prospect that sees that review, will see the response as well.

What should you do about a small business negative review?

Respond with a sense of humanity and try to solve the problem – an offer to do the work again, a refund, a discount – or in some way demonstrate that you’ve heard the issue and are working to address it.

Most people – customers – will be blown away by the fact the business takes their complaint seriously. True, it won’t always work out and a business can develop persistent detractors, but over time, people will come to see those for what they are – unfounded rants.

Phil Buckley, a Raleigh-based SEO, who has had his own experiences with negative reviews, and who is curating, perhaps even mediating, the story in the beginning of this post, sums up a sound response metaphorically.

A bartender who didn’t notice a customer didn’t enjoy a drink in his bar the previous day wakes up to a 2-star review and “rather than attacking the reviewer to show the world his desire to do right – he replies…”  Phil continues:

“I’m sorry your experience wasn’t as good as it could have been, it’s my fault. I personally strive to make every customer experience on they’ll remember and recommend to their friends.

I’ve already refunded the amount of your purchase and if you email me your mailing address I’ll make sure I send you a gift card for you and some friends to give us a chance to redeem ourselves.

Let me know if there is anything else I can do.”

Additional reading:

Photo credit:  Flickr, via Creative Commons; CC BY 2.0.

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Corporate America Invoking Theft of Time



by Frank Strong

Corporate America Invoking Theft of Time

Dr. Seuss once asked, “How did it get late so soon?”

People invented the concept of time, and yet our perceptions vary by personality and culture.  For example, I can assure you firsthand, the notion of time in the Middle East is very different than on the streets of New York City.  One study of security cameras from a restaurant comparing customer interactions from today, to those of 10 years ago is a remarkable record of how our sense of time has changed.

The major end items that suck our time like black hole are easy to identify: Inefficient meetings, needless “reply all” emails and the fruitless endeavor of interruption marketing. This is partly why content marketing has earned a reputation beyond mere novelty:  Content is currency brands barter in exchange for a few moments of attention…of time. Read More…

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The Buyers Journey and Why Content Marketing is a Thing



by Frank Strong

The Buyer’s Journey is why Content Marketing is a Thing

In January 2013, I was licensed to skydive.  For a variety of very good reasons, it had taken me roughly 10 months to complete the accelerated freefall (AFF) course at Skydive Orange.

As newly licensed skydiver, I needed to think about buying my own gear.  While rental equipment is available, every jump will cost roughly double, there’s always a chance the dropzone (DZ) will need that gear for other AFF students and by design, it’s intended to meet a variety of sizes; it’s not fitted well.

I wasn’t about to rush into buying gear either. It’s expensive and if a skydiver makes a mistake ordering gear, the chances are good it’s going to be an expensive mistake. Read More…

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The 5 Major PR steps to the Declaration of Independence



by Frank Strong

The 5 Major PR steps to the Declaration of Independence

We often think of the Declaration of Independence as a singular event, the starting point for the war that would ensue over the better part of a decade.

As it is history, if it is the record of life, the details are never quite as clean cut and there were a series of actions, including many with a public communications component, the played out over many years leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

Though I use the word PR in the headline of this post, public relations isn’t the right word given the grass roots and decentralized inertia.  Propaganda might have been more accurate then, but the meaning today has dwindled to mean drivel. There is clearly a communications component to several of these actions – here are five that stand out in my mind:

1. Message. “No taxation without representation,” was the colonial zeitgeist. It represented several decades – from 1740 on – of discontent with the policies of the crown to fund European wars through colonial taxation.  The gripe? The colonies, first founded by people who sought to escape repression, had no influence over the creation, governance or implementation of these taxes. For a time, the French and Indian Wars united the king and his colonist against a common enemy. A junior officer in the Virginia Militia, a young George Washington, would learn valuable warfare lessons he’d draw on as the commanding general of a revolutionary army. Read More…

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Infographic: Sales Struggle with Marketing Content Deluge



by Frank Strong

Sales Struggle with Marketing Content Deluge-header

These particular posts didn’t have many social shares and yet the analytics demonstrated someone had been looking at them.  The traffic was noticeable.

Generally I’ve found – both on personal professional sites – that for every social share, there are three visitors. So why were there so many page views on these particular posts?

With just a little more thought, the catalyst became obvious.  The sales team had found these posts and were emailing them to customers and prospects as a touch point. Read More…

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8 Epic Takeaways from Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing



by Frank Strong

8 Epic Takeaways from Joe Pulizzi Epic Content Marketing

There are a lot of business books that claim to have something for everyone – from beginner to expert.  Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi, is one of the few that fulfills that promise.

Recently I finished his book, and as it is with many books I consume these days, I listened to the audio version – all 8.5 hours of it – over the course of several long drives. It was well worth the time invested and I’d recommend it to anyone in marketing, if you consume one book by year’s end, make Epic Content Marketing that book.

Pulizzi says he first started using the phrase “content marketing” in 2001 when working for a custom publisher.  Few marketing executives had an interest in “custom publishing” but the term content marketing seemed to resonate. Read More…

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Is LinkedIn Becoming a Spam Paradise?



by Frank Strong

reelSEO linkedin

When Grant Crowell received four LinkedIn messages in a single week pitching Mark Robertson’s ReelSEO video summit, he was fed up.

It was the same message sent four different times, from three different people, including Greg Jarboe, co-founder of the marketing firm SEO-PR.

“LinkedIn is about making real connections,” he said in a message complaining to ReelSEO posted to Twitter.

The response to that complaint from the official ReelSEO Twitter handle was dismissive, “Opt out – it’s that simple.” Read More…

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Improve Marketing ROI 700% with this One Weird Trick!



by Frank Strong

One wierd trick morpheus
There’s one weird trick that can solve all of your marketing problems. It’s a magic bullet that’s so incredibly effective, it’s amazing that more people don’t know about it.

Marketing agencies HATE this psychologist!

After more than 10 years of rigorous study, a psychologist has discovered how you can improve marketing:

  • Create massive awareness
  • Drive astronomical traffic
  • Develop thousands of leads
  • Convert more 80% of your leads

It requires no upfront investment, very little effort and you’ll start converting leads to sales in a week.  Best of all it is absolutely guaranteed. Click this link now to find out this amazing secret. Read More…

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PR Pros learned to Drink Coffee from a Goat



by Frank Strong

PR Pros learned to Drink Coffee from a Goat

Son of a goat!  It can be the ultimate slur, or simply an expression of surprise, which is the case here. Who knew we learned to drink coffee from a goat?

It’s true according to the video embedded nearby, which I first spotted on Visual.ly and attributed to PhD Comics.  The reality is, comics are hard to take seriously, unless they have earned a doctorate and taken a long view of a daily habit.

Allegedly a goat header in Ethiopia observed his goats were rather spry after eating coffee beans.  Add water, boil, and the rest is history.

The video is less than 90 seconds long: Read More…

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Off Script #8:  Mitch Joel, How a Period Begins a Conversation



by Frank Strong

 

The period used to be the end of the story. Period.  End of story.

Today, it’s just the beginning.

In many ways Mitch Joel has built a business around this concept and recently he (and his partners) sold that business to WPP.  There may have been a period or two in the acquisition agreement, but again the conversation is just getting started.

Typically, Off Script interviews are conducted by email, but this will be the first conducted by Google Hangout. Moreover, I asked Mitch – a blogger, author, podcaster, speaker and entrepreneur – for 15 minutes and he ended up giving me about 30. Read More…

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