Earlier this week I read an article called “First, Do No Harm,” a rant by a business author who pointed out several negative experiences she’d had recently – experiences which should never have occurred in a business that wanted customers to come back, refer friends and family or purchase additional products or services from them over time.
Sometimes businesses hurt themselves through bad business practices that might seem effective on the surface. So I came up with these 3 “B” words that should never be part of your social media, blog, and content marketing or communications strategies; in fact, these three Bs should never find their way into your marketing, at all.
It can be incredibly tempting to point out the shortcomings of direct and indirect competitors, especially if they are glaring. But I have found that in most cases, this backfires, for more than one reason:
- Belittle a competitor’s salesman and you may find yourself working for that company – or even reporting to that individual – one day in the future. I have yet to work in an industry that does not feel a lot smaller on the inside.
- Bash the competitor’s product and you may lose all credibility with a client who absolutely swears by it.
- Berate the tactics or tools used by the competition to sell products or services and you might find yourself looking foolish or downright curmudgeon-ly; especially if your company determines that it works and so decides to implement it within your company.
Think about how you feel in major election years when you’re subjected to all of the negative ads put on by politicians. Doesn’t it start to feel really phony after a while? When you go down the negative road in your marketing, you are often the one that comes out looking ignorant (not to mention, mean!)
The fact is, positive testimonials work for more than one reason, and one of those other reasons is that as human beings, we would much, much rather be around positively charged people and in upbeat circles. It’s not fun to be around negativity! And did you know that positive messages and images get shared 2x as often on social media than negative ones, and garner infinitely more “likes” and comments?
Take the high road. Let your competitors reveal their own shortcomings to the marketplace (they usually do). Let them make their own mistakes. Focus on maintaining your own integrity, believability and respectability. And position yourself to be able to take advantage of shortcomings and gather up the pieces – and the customers – if and when competitors fall.
Be positive about your own business, employees, products and services – after all, shouldn’t their worth speak for themselves? The way that you present your company should make people want to be with you, want to be part of the culture of your business and want to identify themselves with you and your products and services as brand advocates. You simply can’t do that if you spend your time putting down the competition.
While you should take the high road when it comes to the competition, that does not mean that you should simply “bear” their attacks by not responding to mis-information or outright accusations fired at you or your business. When you find that there is negative information spreading within your employee culture or within the market place, you should use your marketing tools to counter it and re-educate internal or external customers.
Make it your goal to address inaccurate information which has made its way among your staff or your prospects and clients as quickly as possible, head on. This is usually the best way to stop rumors from spreading and silence malcontents or mischievous competitors. One caveat, do it directly but do it as positively as possible. Don’t resort to mud-slinging; remember, when you wrestle a pig, you both come out covered in mud, and the pig likes it!
Whether you need to respond to a customer complaint or even an anonymous bad review left on an internet site that doesn’t permit you to respond on behalf of your business (unless, of course, you pay extortion – whoops – I mean subscription fees) do what you can to quickly, directly and fully resolve each situation.
People often mistake silence for acquiescence; meaning, if you don’t say something isn’t true, people may assume that it is. So you simply can’t afford to allow negative information or false information remain “out there,” unaddressed by your marketing.
That said, if you have done what you can to resolve a situation or better educate your employees or customers, let it go. You may not be able to convince everyone; but once you have done what you should and done all you can, it’s all you can do! You may simply need to let go of an obsession to prove that you were right in order to keep your business moving forward.
And that brings us to the third B Word that should never be part of your business: Brushing. White washing. Covering up mistakes, minimizing your accountability when something bad happens, covering up serious problems, covering for others or simply covering your own – er – hind end. It’s so tempting and sometimes even so easy to do – and while you may get away with it completely, the biggest problem with it is the effect it has on you.
If you brush over problems, brush away evidence or brush things under the rug, you brush away your own integrity. Even if no one else ever knows, you still know. This type of dishonesty is no less a lie than the bald-faced kind and it’s even more insidious. Because it leads to other lies. It erodes your character. And of course, if exposed, it absolutely destroys your reputation and that of your business.
These are three B Words that you certainly don’t want to describe your business, so don’t let them be part of your marketing! Whether you are blogging, using social media, crafting media ads or even simply communicating with your own employees, focus on the positive, make sure people have accurate information, and deal with problems directly, honestly and empathetically. And hold yourself accountable when it comes to your own character and the integrity and honesty that you want to characterize the culture of your business.