Dealing with a Bad Online Review of Your Business

Online review sites are the rage. Unfortunately they often are given more credibility than they deserve. I wrote a piece back in 2016 about some disturbing things I have heard more than once about Yelp.

Experts agree that negative reviews to which you respond appropriately can actually do you more good than positive reviews, which are often looked at as biased or from your friends.

Responding appropriately is the issue. What does the fuzzy word, “appropriate” actually mean? Good question, glad I asked it. Sometimes the best appropriate answer is no response at all. Often an apology and clarification is the appropriate approach. However, there can be many “sticky” situations including snarky people and people who are just “over the top.” Responding appropriately to them is a talent and may require some thinking.

We suggest you consider there are two audiences for your response: the original poster and others who may read the thread. You don’t really want to get into a lengthy back and forth with the original person as that is likely to make things worse. What you really want from them is a thank you after your post. While that may not be possible, look at your response from the point of view of making it a happy ending for you and the poster.

The other audience is the larger community of people who will read the review and make decisions about your business based on that review. How do you respond for that audience, which may be different from how you might respond if you were only considering the original writer. This is a talent. I recently found a great example (in my opinion) of how to respond where the greater audience was the primary audience but the response was also likely to shut down the original complainer.

Dealing with online reviews is a real issue in the modern world. Gaining the skills required to appropriately respond is critical.


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You Didn’t Need to do a Study to Project This

An article in Automotive News Europe citing a “study” by AlixPartners, LLC states that billions will be spent on developing autonomous cars with over 50 major players involved. They then confidently predict that most of these efforts will fail, and only a few will survive. Well duh, that’s how it always works when a disruptive technology comes along.

What would be really nice to know is who the few survivors will be. They aren’t able to predict that. No surprise and no slam on them for not being able to do so.

This was a serious piece written by a Bloomberg reporter for a recognized publication. And I am unsure if anyone funded the “study” or if AlixPartners released it for publicity purposes, which they succeeded in getting. I guess I wonder how this is newsworthy as it’s clearly obvious to the most casual observer in the field.

Anyway, maybe I am just a cynic. (well no maybe there)


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How Far Behind Is Marketing … Still

I recently found this article in Ad Age about the “new” idea that Marketing should integrate with product development to create better products since promoting (marketing in their language) better products is easier. The author cites the CMO of Rambus, (a company with no products incidentally) as a leading proponent of this idea. We commend him on this thinking.

Too bad the author didn’t read Ralph’s article in Industrial Marketing Management 20 years ago where he not only showed why such integration was necessary but how to do it. Or the first part of our book Value Acceleration which also so states.

But then most of the Marketing profession is still focused on the back-end of Marketing … unfortunately.


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Why Brand Awareness Is A Misleading Metric

This example is political, but it’s not about politics. Many mainstream political experts  dismissed Donald Trump early on because he had a 99% awareness rating and a very high unfavorable rating in the polls. For example, back in May of 2015 his favorable to unfavorable rating in Iowa was about 30% favorable to 67% unfavorable. Experts believed that with a high awareness rating there was no way he could change this. This is a perfect example of awareness being meaningless.

As of August 31, 2015 The Donald was polling over 60% favorable in Iowa and about 30% unfavorable. Political polling “experts” claim they have never seen anything like this complete shift, especially given the virtually 100% awareness rating.

Brand awareness does not equal brand understanding, brand affinity, brand preference or anything else. Reis and Trout have noted for many years that it is much easier to capitalize on what people already believe than to try to change their minds. They are generally correct in that statement, and if one tied that statement to a 99% brand awareness rating, one can easily see how the brand Donald could have needed a lot of work to change its position.

Unlike most brands, which do try to stand for something, most politicians move with the “polls” to try to become what voters seem to want at the time. A 99% awareness metric, tied to a 60% unfavorable rating would clearly suggest to “brand experts” (or political consultants) that a re-positioning of the brand was in order. That’s where the awareness metric can mislead you.

Awareness does not equal understanding much less preference. A high awareness tied to a low preference could simply mean that those who believe they know your brand, don’t. If you believe people misunderstand your brand, you have to figure out how to get them to take the time to know you. Increasing awareness is not the answer, increasing engagement is.

Don’t settle for awareness metrics to make important decisions. Look at engagement. If it is low and preference is low, perhaps more engagement could change that for your brand.


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Influencer Marketing

As those who know me realize, I have my opinion about “paid influencers.” I found a great article that describes it as akin to clickbait. I commend it to you.


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Is Brick & Mortar Really Dying, or Just the Current Merchants?

I have posted many time about the self-inflicted “death” of brick and mortar stores. A quick review of the Retail category will show you many.

Others have written that the demise is inevitable. I have disagreed and further stated that the primary problems are self-inflicted.

If the other writers are correct and I am wrong, what caused to spend $13B to buy a brick and mortar retailer, Whole Foods?


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Do They Work Hard To Be This Stupid, Or Does It Come Naturally?

Ok, that might be a little harsh, but JC Penny deserves it. After they tossed Ron Johnson who was repositioning the stores really and brought back the guy they fired for unacceptable performance; they then hired a home improvement CEO to fix their situation. He has now hired a home improvement CMO to help him. Her job is apparently to use digital wizardry (social media etc) to drive more sales, which will either be online or in-store.

How is that going to work out well? Are they trying to attract Millennials to a store those kids think their grandmother’s shopped in? (Who else is social media focused on? Gen-X, ok they think Penny’s is their boring parent’s store), and if they get into the store is it not going to confirm their every expectation that it is their grandmother’s retailer? And if they instead get them to shop online, why will they like the merchandise selection? Ron Johnson’s plan, which really did change the store, might have benefited from a stronger social media push to get new customers faster as their old ones fled the new store. But how on earth is the root cause of JC Penny’s continuing decline a social media failure?

How stupid is this? Pretty stupid in my opinion. But let’s look at who they hired, as the Board continues to amaze me at how many mistakes they can make. Though this set may finally do them in.

The hired a guy that supposedly turned around Home Depot by focusing on supply chain. Indeed Home Depot has managed to bully their vendors into many concessions for the privilege of continuing to sell through Home Depot. But Home Depot has a dominant position in the category. Exactly what leverage is Penny’s going to use to abuse their suppliers?

They hired a CMO who lasted less than a year and a half at Lowes (another home improvement retailer) whose expertise is digital marketing. How does that really help an also-ran retailer like JC Penny break out. Oh wait they fired the guy that tried to do that. So what do they want? More sales. When do they want it? Now. Will this work. Not in my opinion.

The JC Penny Board of Directors is clearly approaching legendary incompetency status as did the GM and HP boards before them.

And we shall see. As I said in my post two weeks ago, these bigger retailers can last a long time on their glide path to extinction.


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