Sunday, August 18, 2013

Obamacare - The Impacts on Businesses of All Sizes

This past week I attended and presented at a function for small business owners. After the convention, I joined some of the attendees at the reception for a round table discussion on business strategies as we head into the 4th quarter of 2013 and plans for the upcoming year. At some point during those discussions, the subject turned to the looming Obamacare roll out and mandate. There is no shortage of reports in the media on how this health care act will be a blow to the employment rate as business owners are faced with additional expenses and overhead, but I was surprised to learn that of the ten of us sitting at the table, that eight are already strategizing how to offset their own personal budget when the mandate to secure health insurance is imposed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What is Reputation Management?

Probably the most asked question that we get from our current and potential clients is "What is Reputation Management" which is typically followed by "Does My Company Need It". 

What is Reputation Management
Regardless of what industry you are in or what position you hold within your company, there is one thing that all of us have in common and that is we are consumers. Whether it is going to the local shopping center, having a service performed on your vehicle or doing a little online shopping, you are a consumer. As a consumer, we have a valuable resource at our fingertips in the form of the internet. It is estimated that more than 3/4 of all consumers use the internet to conduct searches on companies they are considering doing business with from batteries to home buying and everything in between. What the consumer finds out about that business when doing research is typically the deciding factor of whether they pick up the phone to call or hop in the car and visit the location in person. One negative review can impact a business for years and years and is often times enough to steer that potential client to a competitor. 

Reputation Management is a campaign that is designed to ensure your company, products and services are making a positive first impression. We work with clients who find themselves on both sides of the fence. Sometimes it is a company who has received a negative review online and they are feeling the rippling effect of that negative perception and other times it is clients who have never had a bad review and want to ensure it stays that way. Through our reputation management services, we monitor the review sites, directories and internet forums for any mention of your company whether it is good or bad. If a bad review surfaces, we use a predetermined path to combat the review and get it away from the frontline of your companies web presence. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Technology - The New Accessory

I may be showing my age here, but it didn't seem like too long ago that me and my buddies were cruising around the streets of Atlanta calling friends from our "car phone" which was more like a duffel bag that plug into the cigarette lighter. Times have changed, portable phones got smaller (real small) and then started getting larger again with the introduction to smartphones. All of which was a precursor into the corner we are turning now with technology that you can wear.

Raise your hand if you remember all of these phones!

By now, most of you have heard of Google Glass. The wearable technology that allows you to take pictures, videos and even surf the web all by speaking a command. While Google Glass is still a pre-release product, there have been thousands who lined up to be beta testers of this technology. Overall the reviews that we have heard are positive for the most part. As with the first generation of any product, there are some tweaks that need to be made before they hit the mainstream and become a household product. Expect prices to drop as more consumers grab their pair of Glass. As with anything, once the demand starts to diminish, so does the price tag.

The Pebble Smart Watch is On Sale @ Best Buy Starting Today.

It should be no surprise that Smart Watches have hit the retail stores today. Well, not all retail stores. Best Buy and Pebble have teamed up to offer the latest in wearable technology - the smart watch. Initially, my thoughts were that this would mimic the look and bulkiness of calculator watches (showing my age again), but the developers at Pebble had other things in mind. The new smart watch is lightweight and offers you a customized display through downloadable apps for their watch. By linking up with your smartphone through bluetooth technology, the watch allows you to check your email, texts, caller id, listen to your favorite music and more! Both Apple and Google are hot on the heels of Pebble, so it may be worthwhile to sit back and let the competition begin. Although, with a moderate price tag of under $200, if you can't wait ... we can't blame you. Apple has been busy securing patents across the globe for their iWatch and it is always interesting to see what the Google developers come up with. Some of the buzz that we have heard includes a built in GPS feature and bendable display screens.

So it becomes that the latest accessory that you need for your wardrobe is --- technology! Quite a journey from the days of the bulky corded car phone. Apple and Google have not yet announced the release dates of their smart watches, but something tells me it will be on my Christmas lift.

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to respond to a negative online review

Multi-million dollar business have folded due to the effects on negative online publicity, but not from the media - from the consumers themselves. One bad experience can create a ripple effect that can fracture or destroy your company's reputation. With consumer review sites such as Yelp, Merchant Circle or HotFrog and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, one bad review can be circulated to a countless audience of potential customers for years to come. If your company has received a negative review online, do not panic and by all means, make sure you respond and react in an appropriate manner. 

Two years ago, my wife and I were looking into taking a vacation and checking out some hotels that were in the area. There was one in particular that sounded like it would be a perfect experience for us. While researching how close it would be to some of the attractions that we wanted to visit, I tossed the address into Google maps and up popped their profile and reviews. I typically take consumer reviews with a grain of salt, especially if there is only one or two bad reviews. Why? A handful of bad reviews from the thousands of customers that have used a business service or product is not always the best indicator on what your experience will be. We all know that satisfied customers thank you and move on. Many turn into repeat business and a very small percentage will actually search out the review boards and leave their accolades for you. On the other hand, a disgruntled customer will almost without a doubt make it their mission to bad mouth you to anyone and everyone that will listen. That was the case with this particular hotel. They had 3 negative reviews. While I admit to not putting too much thought into such a small amount of negative reviews ... that doesn't mean that I am not curious. So I clicked on the reviews and what I read floored me. 

A family had recently stayed at the property and had a negative experience from the time they checked in until they checked out. Some of the things the reviewer mentioned are out of the hands of the hotel such as the noise coming from the highway, the "animal sounds of passion" coming from the room next to them and the weather. It would be different if the complaints would have been about the staff, condition of the room, lack of amenities or safety concerns. What followed their negative review was nothing short of a PR disaster. The owner of the hotel decided to take the initiative to blast and insult the customer to the point where he actually said and I can't even make this up "If you ever decide to come back please let me know so I can dismantle the smoke alarms and evacuate the hotel while you are sleeping". He stopped short of saying why he would evacuate all of the guests except for this family and dismantle the smoke alarms, but it was pretty clear where he was headed. I couldn't believe what I read. Did this guy really just say that in response to a relatively harmless review? Does he know that as soon as you hit submit, there is no backtracking and your words remain online until the end of time? Needless to say, we found another hotel to stay at and had a great time! How hard would it have been to simply say that "We apologize for the experience that you recently had while being our guests. Your comfort is our top concern and while we cannot control the weather, we would have gladly recommended some local indoor attractions that your family could have enjoyed while on your vacation". It would have been so easy to turn the review around and let the customer know that you and your staff would have gladly accommodated them if they would have just asked. 

The second mistake that many businesses make when they get a negative review is to "fluff" the review sites with fake reviews. Bad Idea! This can cause more damage to you in the long run. There are no shortage of companies out there offering to sell you positive reviews. One such company has recently found themselves in a lawsuit with Yelp. Avoid this type of image recovery at all costs. You do not want to find yourself flagged as an offender on any review sites. Take your lumps and move on. If possible, respond to the negative review and offer a resolution. If you have received a bad review and not sure how to respond ... give us a call or visit us online and we will be glad to provide you with your own personalized disaster recovery plan. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ground Control to Major Tom

We are now less than a month out from the official launch of Bulldog Consulting Group, a project that has literally been years in the making. It is no secret that consulting firms are a dime a dozen, so what makes Bulldog different? We are a group of industry leaders who have come together with the single mission of providing Creative, Effective and Affordable consulting services to small and medium sized businesses. Our mission is simple - to promote the visibility of our clients through Online Marketing, Brand Awareness or Product Development. 

Bulldog Consulting Group is headquartered out of Atlanta, GA with offices in Boston, MA and Los Angeles, CA. In 2014, we will be expanding operations into Dallas, TX and Chicago, IL to provide our clients with a nationwide presence. We provide both onsite consulting services and remote consulting services. We are excited to launch this new venture and bring our clients a combined experience that expands more than half a century. Stay tuned as we continue our path towards the July 4th launch of Bulldog Consulting Group. Our website is currently being developed to provide you with resources at your fingertips and our social media accounts are being rolled out for you to keep up with what is going on behind the scenes as launch day approaches. 

Major Tom, this is ground control ... countdown sequence is on!!!