Today’s Guest: Little Guy Makes it BIG!

Join us as we speak with Dal LaMagna, founder of Tweezerman. Dal shows how a lot of pluck and a bit of luck can lead to success.
From creating the first computer dating service in college followed by drive-in discotheques, to inventing a psychedelic light box and selling waterbeds, LaMagna’s many money-making schemes tell the story of a sixties-era seeker who had inexhaustible ambitions, creativity, and resilience. Like the start of most small businesses, Tweezerman was a one-man show.  He did all the selling, inventory management, bookkeeping, shipping, and deliveries himself. He operated out of a 400-square-foot bungalow that was his office, warehouse, and home. His initial investment was $500. Years later, he sold the company and walked away with millions. Dal is author of the book, Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right (John Wiley & Sons).

Guarding your reputation online

The research firm TARP performed a series of studies on customer satisfaction from the late 1970’s through the 1990’s. It was found that many customer complaints are unreported, and that customers are far more likely to talk to others about negative experiences than they are with positive ones. With the prevalence of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it is easier than ever before for customers to relate their experiences to their contact base. As such, it is imperative that businesses do everything they can to find out what is being said about their products and company in general.

I’ve just posted my latest article on how you can use the Internet, including social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to manage your reputation online. Click here to read how you can manage your online reputation.

Managing Your Reputation Online

In a series of studies from the late 1970s through the late 1990s conducted by the research firm TARP, it was found that only 50% of consumers will complain about a problem to a company.  And on average, twice as many people are told about a bad experience than they are about a good experience. TARP’s last basic finding is that customers who complain and are satisfied are up to 8% more loyal than if they had no problem at all. 

These studies provide us some valuable lessons- unhappy customers are likely to never even let you know that they are unhappy, but they WILL tell their colleagues and friends.  Even if you have an excellent customer service department that resolves problems quickly, which actually helps your relationship with customers more than if they had never had a problem, you will often never have the chance to address these issues.

These problems are compounded by the fact that the prevalence of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, MySpace, Blogs, etc.) make it very easy for someone to spread the word about your company.  Since they are twice as likely to do so when upset as they are when happy, it is simple for a customer to express their disdain for a company or product to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of contacts.  If you never hear about a problem, how can you possibly hope to resolve it and get a chance to turn that unhappy customer into an evangelist that spreads the word about your great customer service? 

Luckily, there are ways to combat this problem.  Here are three essential tasks that are essential for managing your online reputation.  These will give your company the best chance possible to keep your customer base satisfied by helping you find customers that are expressing problems with your organization of which you are unaware.

1) Set a Google Alert for your company name- Go to: http://www.google.com/alerts – complete the form, entering your company name or any product names you wish to monitor.  You can set up multiple alerts for different terms you wish to monitor.  When you have done this, once a day you will receive an e-mail letting you know about any new information about your company and products that have been added to their database.  This will allow you to quickly discover both negative and positive comments.

2) Search Twitter at least weekly for these same terms.  This can be done in an automated fashion with a Twitter client such as Tweetdeck, or manually through searches on the Twitter website.  Again, the purpose of this is to find both negative and positive feedback about your organization.

3) If you sell products, either through your own website or through online retailers and partner sites, search product and company reviews for new comments about your company and products.  Whether they are sold through amazon.com, newegg.com, or even on your own site, it is imperative that you read the latest reviews.

Now that you have seen the latest feedback your customer base has about your company, respond appropriately.  If persons are making positive comments, thank them publicly by posting replies to their tweets, blog posts, and reviews.  You may also wish to respond with coupons or other special offers as a way to solidify their positive feelings about your company.

If someone has left negative feedback, publicly make it known that you would like to discuss their issue with them, and provide a means for them to do so.  Then make sure that you treat their concerns with a high priority in your customer service department.  You likely only have one chance to get it right with an already upset customer.  Lastly, once you successfully resolve the issue with an upset customer, ask them to publish their satisfaction in the same manner as they did their complaint. 

Following these tips will help you find unresolved customer complaints and deal with them appropriately.

Integrating On-line and Off-line Marketing

There’s a lot of discussion these days about small businesses obtaining greater access to capital. But what many businesses require much more than funding at this time are more clients and increased revenue. For this reason marketing must move from a temporary focus to a more consistent focus for small businesses. This has mandated a greater need for the smooth integration of online and offline marketing efforts. The following are some simple ways that this integration can take place:

Consistent Branding – Include your URL or website address on every piece of business communication. This includes letterhead, business cards, post cards, Yellow Pages, ads, flyers and handouts. Image Continuity – Try to use the same format, imagery and colors on your promotional material which is used on your web site. This promotes greater consistency, higher top-of-the-mind awareness and re-enforces your branding message. Use of Spaced Repetition – Be sure to promote the same message in your off-line material as on your web site. There’s nothing worse than offering a discount in the store or on a mailer but not showing this same discount on your web site. On-line customers may feel cheated or less important if we don’t include them in the program. Coordinated Timing – It is also important to roll-out promotional campaigns simultaneously. Planning on a target launch date for your campaign and ensure that all preparations are made by this date on both fronts (on and off-line). Professional Web Presence – It is absolutely critical that your on-line image matches your off-line (or brick and mortar) image. If your retail or office location looks professional, organized and reflects your business philosophy it is just as important that your web site does also. This means you may want to make the investment in professional web development services. Meeting the above criteria in the development and launching of any marketing efforts will make all the difference in the world when it comes to creating viable response.