Out of thin air.

A few months ago, I started doing grocery delivery. Today I got a message saying that I had saved 30 hours this year – a considerable chunk of time.


Add the extra time I’m saving by working out at home instead of the 20 minutes drive each way to the gym.


And then there are the 12 hours I save each month by using TextExpander – a magical piece of software.


With all this extra time, I’ve been working on two books on climate change – one for adults and one for kids.


It’s always satisfying to create something “out of thin air.” But these books were created using the crumbs of newfound time I might’ve Netflixed away if I hadn’t been careful.

Drafts

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The new “dinner party”

In the 1970s, my parents’ friends gathered each weekend to catch up about life, their kids, and what plumber they were using. 

Today, that same “dinner party” occurs on Google reviews, Facebook, and other online review sites. And while the people aren’t friends in real life, the collective wisdom gives people enough confidence to call the plumber that’s getting lots of thumbs up.

It’s super-important that someone in your business is in charge of managing the online review process.

First things first:

Most importantly, spend time making sure your business is consistently creating happy customers.

If customers aren’t consistently happy, spend your time fixing your business. Full stop. 

Good service = the best marketing because it will generate repeat and word-of-mouth business. And you also won’t have to find new customers to constantly replace your unhappy ones.

Once you’ve got happy customers, put someone in charge of online reviews:

I use 5 Star Business because it makes it easier for my customers to leave a review. Since the software on 5 Star Business “senses” what platform a customer is already signed into, there’s less chance of a customer abandoning the process because they forgot their Facebook password.

Any way you do it, reach out to all of your customers and ask them if they’ll do you a favor and post an online review.

Once you get a review, respond to it

If you go here you can see my exact responses to Google reviews, but here’s my response “structure:”

  1. Express “joy and appreciation” for good reviews, “This review made my day!”
  2. Express “concern and appreciation” for the feedback on bad reviews, “This is so helpful for me so I will address it with my whole company at the next Team Meeting…”
  3. Point out something specific about their experience with your company: “I saw photos of the mahogany deck that Jay stained, it looks fabulous.”
  4. Mention the person at the company that made them happy – this shows that I’m not an absentee owner.

Why generate online reviews?

  • Your competition is already generating reviews, and it’ll be hard to “catch up” to a competitor with tons in a few years.
  • At some point, someone is going to leave a bad review online. This is normal and expected. Having lots of good online reviews and great responses to reviews helps to “water down” the occasional bad review. 

Be patient!

I aim to generate just two online reviews a month.  Please re-read that sentence and set your expectations low. This is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Understand, it’s much better to consistently get reviews than to get them in fits and starts.

Don’t:

Gather at the holidays and get your relatives to post tons of reviews in one week. Not only are fake reviews against the rules, putting tons of reviews up at one time is a signal that they’re fake. 

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

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“I’m not getting social media leads.”

This is the first post in my series, “Is my small business normal?”

As you may know, I own a house painting company in the Boston area, and I post to 4 social media accounts each day.


A friend of mine saw me post so often on Social Media for my painting company that she assumed I was getting tons of direct, measurable painting leads from the posts. She said she was even thinking of hiring a marketing associate whose sole responsibility would be to post on Social Media for her business.


I assured her this would not be a good use of her finite marketing dollars.


You see, I get almost NO direct business from social media posts. For me, posting on social is 99% for “awareness” and not as a natural lead source.


This is worth repeating – in my case, posting 4x a day on Social Media does not bring in any measurable amount of painting business. I consider Social Media as a way for prospects to become aware of my painting company’s brand, in case they need a painter in the future.


This way, if someone gets my direct mail, sees a Google Pay-Per-Click ad, or sees one of my lawn signs, they might think to themselves, “That logo is familiar to me,” in a way that your neighbor’s face might be familiar.


If the internet is a highway, then my Facebook and LinkedIn posts are billboards.


Like driving down a regular highway, there is customer awareness a brand can capture by having an outdoor billboard. And while you probably wouldn’t pull your car over to buy an iPhone or life insurance from the billboard right then and there, the advertiser is hoping the billboard makes enough of an impression on you that you remember their brand when it is time to buy.


Since I’ve already maximized my marketing budget in other lead-generating ways like direct mail, pay-per-click, and SEO, using social media to give another brand impression of my company works for me as part of a larger strategy. Remember, it takes a person seven times to see your message before they take action – Social Media, for me, is just one of those times.


A tenet of my blog is to explain what’s “normal” so you’re not comparing yourself to some unrealistic metric.


So, if you’re posting on Social and not getting any quantifiable leads, you’re not doing anything wrong.


I publish small business ideas weekly. To receive future posts by email, subscribe here.

Popular posts:

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How does your small business serve your life?

Invoicing with love.

Invoices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ina Garten (aka “Barefoot Contessa” on Food Network) cooks with love.

I have cooked her recipes dozens of times, making sure to follow them perfectly, and mine never taste nearly as good as when my mother makes them.  

My mother cooks with love too.

But the love I don’t bring to cooking, I do bring to other things.

I love untangling a problem. I love SEO and Google Analytics.

Heck, I’d even say I love preparing invoices. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I “send customer invoices with love.”

I love when I see people take pride in life’s little tasks.

 After I email a customer their invoice, I also send them one by snail-mail.

I make sure a (pretty) postage sits nice and straight in the corner of the envelope.

In fact, since the post office will deliver an envelope with a crooked stamp, the only reason I put a postage stamp on straight is, well, pride.

When I “invoice with love” I write a handwritten note thanking each customer, and include a postage-paid envelope, so customers don’t have to find a stamp.

I also enclose a little treat:  a magnet that’s personalized with important phone numbers from the customer’s town.

Including the personalized magnet also provides some weight to the envelope.  Customers open my invoice more quickly because they’re curious about why it’s so heavy.  I guess it’s not a stretch to say that “invoicing with love” actually improves my cash flow.

A treat inside an invoice!  I’ve never got one, have you?

If you have no idea how your invoices look to your customers because someone else prepares them, then take a peek this week.  

How do your invoices make you feel about your company?  These tiny customer touch points add up to what the big-wigs call “branding.”  

They say, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

What tiny thing do you do with love?

 ***

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Mrs. Tyler

I love to talk shop so much that I can’t help but peek behind the scenes when I travel.  

 

Every summer when my kids were young, we went to Tyler Place – a magical spot that feels more “camp” than “resort.”  

 

But make no mistake, there is nothing campy about the food at Tyler Place. This vacation consistently draws persnickety palettes back year after year for its gourmet, farm-to-table menu.   

 

And there’s a 3-year wait for a reservation at Tyler Place because a family has to “drop out” before a new family can take their place. And, well, families rarely drop out. They come back year after year and even return with their grandkids.

 

By the time I got the call that we’d been “accepted,” it felt more like being admitted to Harvard than just handing over a credit card to pay for a week-long vacation. 

 

The Tylers are certainly doing something right!

 

What’s also distinctive about Tyler Place is that the Tylers themselves mingle, run activities, and eat with the guests. 

 

Everywhere guests look, there’s a Tyler.

 

“What percentage of the hash browns do you think should be crunchy?” One of the Tylers asked me one morning in the line for breakfast. 

 

I had never thought about the ideal ratio of crunchy-to-mushy hashbrowns, but he sure had.   

 

And it turned Mr. Tyler was there in line with me to inspect the breakfast potatoes, which he felt should be “65%-brown-and-crisp to 35% white and mushy.” 

 

As a business owner, I understood that having the Tylers roaming amongst paying guests was a way to quality-control the operation.   And I appreciated that they cared enough to stay engaged.

 

It certainly would’ve be easier for them to hire out the day to day management of the resort and “stay out of the weeds.”  But I’m not sure they’d have a 3-year waiting list if they didn’t obsess about the crunchy-to-mushy ratio of the hashbrowns.

 

In my business, I’m Mrs. Tyler.

I have all kinds of standards that need enforcing – all of which are as fastidious as Mr. Tyler’s hash brown ratios – but I can only do this if I’m connected, engaged, and there.

 

Mrs. Tyler wants her presence known. She’s watching, overhearing, and connected.

 

The mice don’t play when Mrs. Tyler’s around!

 

 

Dozens of colorful bikes on bike racks at Tyler Place

Bikes are the only way to get around at Tyler Place!