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Marketing Online: Turning negative reviews into positive outcomes

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4

By Ken Ryan

 

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The above exchange between a would-be customer and specialty flooring retailer appeared on Yelp in June. While the complaint was relatively benign it nonetheless resulted in two dissatisfied customers walking away from a potential purchase.

The flooring retailer in question usually receives favorable reviews on Yelp, so the complaint was out of character. Still, even the best flooring dealers can receive negative online reviews no matter how great their intentions.

In this case, many social media experts say, the retailer responded appropriately.

“Nobody likes getting negative reviews,” said Taylor Cutler, demand-gen specialist for Podium, a company that specializes in social media and online marketing. “In fact, it can be hard to not get upset when a customer leaves a bad review. That being said, a small number of negative reviews adds to the authenticity of all your reviews. Consumers know that no business is going to be perfect, so they will be understanding when they see one pop up from time to time.”

The key to dealing with negative reviews, Cutler explains, is to view them as an opportunity to improve your business. “When responding to negative reviews the first thing you should do is remain calm. Lashing out at customers is never going to end well, even if you think the review is unwarranted.”

Here are a few tips from social media experts on dealing with negative reviews.

Be responsive. The age-old retort, “I am not even going to dignify that with a response,” might be a way to handle certain situations but not online complaints, experts say. It may be tempting to delete negative feedback. However, responding well to negatives can actually turn into a positive when other customers see a thoughtful and respectful response. “Typically when people come to social media with a complaint it is a result of some sort of miscommunication,” said Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, Flooring America/Flooring Canada. He recommends flooring retailers reply as quickly as possible and do whatever they can to help the customer out. “Good service and a prompt response can go a long way to make that customer happy. In most cases, his members have already worked directly with the customers to resolve the issue they are experiencing, and they are a result of things outside of our store’s control—like subfloor problems or issues with independent contractors who installed our product. If you’ve done everything you can already to please the customer, we recommend you briefly recap the steps you’ve taken in your response and invite the person to get in touch directly if she would like to discuss it further.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.34.22 AMFlooring America’s F.A.S.T. (Flooring America Social Tools) program, for example, provides comprehensive monitoring across all social media platforms so the buying group is able to find and address these complaints quickly as they come in. The My Floor Story creates a place for reviews to live on all member microsites.

Don’t wait too long to act. Numerous surveys have found that a high proportion of customers regard online reviews as credible. While negative reviews still make up a relatively small portion of all reviews posted— according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, only one in 26 customers will take the time to complain publicly—when you do get a bad review you should take it very seriously.

Research the incident. If necessary, speak to your staff to get their side of the story, and communicate privately with the reviewer to find out more details. If you’ve joined a review site, you should be able to message reviewers privately. If you haven’t joined, you can post a public message asking the reviewer to contact you offline (i.e., by phone or email) to discuss her concern. If the negative comment is on a blog, Facebook page or Twitter, you may have to respond publicly and ask the writer to contact you privately. The last thing you want is a public he-said-she-said argument. You can respond to inaccurate reviews to set the record straight about facts without getting into a tit-for-tat conversation.

Learn from it. Successful business people learn from negative reviews, improve their business—if need be—and then move on.

Offer a solution. According to Podium’s Cutler, apologizing to your customers is great but what they really want is a solution. He recommends including a detailed plan of action to remediate the problem as part of your response.

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Digital Marketing: Positioning aligned retailers to succeed in the online space

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-3-24-20-pmMohawk, the largest manufacturer of flooring, is leading the industry when it comes to retailer digital marketing. Mohawk’s digital marketing efforts reach millions of in-market consumers and drives traffic to its retail partners. From online to in-store, its innovative tools give retail partners best-in-class resources to navigate the evolving digital landscape.

Through partnerships with Promoboxx, Yelp, Google Plus, HomeAdvisor and many other leading digital platforms, Mohawk continues to provide innovative tools to give its retail partners best-in-class resources to capture qualified in-market consumers in their respective local markets.

In May 2016, Mohawk became the first U.S. manufacturer as well as the first company in the flooring industry to become a Google Partner, a certification of excellence in digital marketing.

“Everything we do at Mohawk is designed to direct consumers to our retail partners for a fully integrated shopping experience,” said Mollie Surratt, Mohawk’s senior director of public relations, content and social media. “Over the past few years, we’ve made significant investments to help connect consumers to our retail partners through a variety of search, social and online platforms.”

The heart of Mohawk’s digital efforts is the Mohawk Lead Center, a system that allows retailers to capture highly qualified leads, follow up and remarket. The Mohawk Lead Generation Program drives consumers who are ready to make a purchase into Mohawk retailers’ stores across the country.

“Mohawk is committed to the success of our valued retail partners, which is why we are continuously evolving to ensure our Aligned Retailers have the tools and the knowledge they need to deliver results in digital marketing,” Surratt said. “Our retail partners have embraced our digital marketing solutions—and when our customers are satisfied, we are satisfied.”

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Digital Marketing: Putting social media to work for your business

Expert advice on helping dealers take the virtual plunge

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

Achieving success at retail in today’s high-tech marketing, media-rich world requires a departure from traditional consumer-outreach thinking. Experts the world over agree that a solid social media strategy should be at the core of any marketing program.

That begs the question: What’s the best way to get started? It might sound elementary, but the first order of business is to get to know your audience. Experts say a retailer’s customer demographic will shed light on where they are spending time online. Facebook, for example, is the most popular social media platform for women ages 34 to 54.

Next, review the various social media platforms to see what might work best for your needs. The possibilities on social media are growing and evolving, with new platforms launching frequently (see graphic). Among the most popular are Houzz, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn. Before deciding on a platform that best suits their needs, objectives and, yes, capabilities, retail business owners and operators should consider how much time they can devote to social media. Many experts agree that about an hour a day should be spent on each social network (at least when first starting out). Next, retailers need to consider the audience and demographics. For instance, which social networks are used most by your customers?

Many online marketing proponents believe Facebook tends to deliver the greatest results given its widespread use across varied demographics. According to Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier and digital marketing specialist at Simple Marketing Now, it’s helpful to start with Facebook as most dealers are already familiar with this social network on a personal level. “I’m hopeful that someone has done some experimenting and is somewhat familiar with one of the networks,” she said. “It really helps to understand the network from a personal point of view before getting involved with business perspective.”

Starting off small with Facebook makes sense, experts say, as consumers often search that platform in much the same way that they look for a regular webpage. At the same time, marketing advisors and professionals only recommend posting something on Facebook that has a purpose. In the case of floor covering dealers that means attracting new customers and retaining customers that dealers have already sold.

On the flip side, many retailers remain hesitant to get involved with social media because of seemingly inevitable negativity, particularly with customer reviews. Most dealers know all it takes is one unhappy customer sounding off on a social network or review site to potentially affect other consumers. However, business owners should take these reviews as opportunities to turn negatives into positives.

“More frequently, consumers who are thinking of replacing a floor are looking online for answers: what to buy and where to buy it,” notes Paul Friedrichsen, owner of BrandBiz, a marketing and branding consultancy. “That means she’s probably paying close attention to online reviews. In fact, research says 70% of online customers rely on reviews before making a purchase. So, if you’re not listed on a review site then you’re not in the game. Even worse, if you are online but your reviews are lousy, you’re already losing.”

Ultimately, presence on the top social networks is key, particularly visually based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Posting original, engaging content on Facebook is paramount, along with short, attention-grabbing blurbs on Twitter. Business listings on Google+, Yelp and Angie’s List will help with search rankings and garnering customer reviews. Houzz—which allows users to express their creativity—is another network rising in popularity in recent years. It works like Pinterest in that it is based on inspirational photos, which falls right in line with the home furnishings/fashion industry. Once a dealer has selected a platform—or group of platforms—the next move is allotting a budget for online marketing initiatives. One of the best things about social media, experts say, is it offers an advertising vehicle for a very low price. You can actually choose to spend nothing, but experts suggest working with a budget—it can be as little as $35 a week—to get additional exposure. “It’s the cheapest media money you will ever spend,” Friederichsen said. “You could spend $10 on Facebook to boost a post or ad and get 1,000 people to look at it. The return on investment for this doesn’t compare to anything you’ll spend in mass media.”

Whittemore also encourages boosted posts. “You are basically paying Facebook for increased visibility. It’s a fabulous tool because you can target certain people in specific locations and you can do it for very small amounts of money.”

But don’t boost everything and anything, she noted. “Before you boost, see if the post gets some organic attention [with likes and comments]. If it’s a dud, don’t waste money on it. You want a mixture of updates—some about you and some about topics that are of interest to your customers. You have to test what works.” social-infographic2015

Creating a connection
At its core, social media is a helpful tool for building relationships with customers. It’s an opportunity to give them a behind-the-scenes view of your business or how “human” you are. It also enables dealers to highlight top-notch customer service and the quality of completed jobs. Experts recommend dealers share photos of their best installations.

“If you want to attract new customers or get the word out about your business, you may want to focus on what’s new in the store or talk about some events you are hosting,” Whittemore suggested. “Think ahead of time to decide what you are going to share and when. And if someone comments on your post, be sure to respond in a reasonable amount of time.”

Experts also suggests dealers get their customer service reps and sales teams involved with social media as well, as this helps with consistency. “It’s not a matter of showing up once; you have to be there all the time,” Whittemore stated. “It’s like joining local business organizations or attending chamber of commerce meetings—you have to go regularly to meet people and hand out business cards. Social networking serves the same purpose, except you’re doing it all online.”

 

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Mohawk forms industry’s first partnership with Yelp

YelpElevateCalhoun, Ga.—Mohawk has forged a new partnership to provide its aligned retailers an enhanced online presence on Yelp, called Mohawk Elevate powered by Yelp. It’s the first marketing partnership of its kind between Yelp and a flooring manufacturer.

“Mohawk is the industry’s digital leader,” said Mollie Surratt, senior director of public relations, social media and content for Mohawk. “So this was a natural step for us—teaming up with Yelp, the clear leader, to give our retailers additional digital support in the reputation management space. Yelp will help our retailers connect with thousands of consumers who trust the Yelp review process to guide them to quality businesses and products.”

Yelp’s purpose is to connect people with great local businesses. It does this by offering business profile pages so consumers can locate businesses, visit them and then post reviews of their experiences. By the end of Q1 2016, Yelpers had written more than 100 million local reviews.

Visitors access Yelp via their mobile devices (approximately 91 million a month on average during Q1 2016) and their desktop computers (approximately 69 million a month during Q1 2016). Home and local services businesses account for 12% of reviewed businesses on Yelp by category.

According to Yelp, 78% of consumers turn to review sites of its kind to find local businesses, and four out of five users visit Yelp because they intend to buy a product or service. Yelp helps consumers make buying decisions and drives local purchases because consumers trust Yelp reviews as the most influential, highest quality and most trustworthy reviews online. That trust is embedded in Yelp’s recommendation software, which protects consumers and business owners by highlighting the most trustworthy, useful and reliable content on Yelp.

In addition to the Yelp website and mobile app, Yelp reviews are syndicated to a number of major review sites and search engines including Apple Maps, Siri, Amazon, Yahoo, Bing and Mapquest.