Tag Archives: gain confidence

How to Diffuse Online Criticism of Your Business

Have you ever looked up a business online and some other site is outranking their homepage for their brand name in the search results? I see it pretty frequently while researching companies that come across my path, and frequently those other results are bad reviews, negative blog posts or other mentions of the company that are getting more attention than the company’s actual website.

Word on keyboard

This type of thing happens when companies are unable—or unwilling—to respond to online criticism in a thoughtful and genuine way. Today, I’ll go over a few things you should keep in mind when responding to negative feedback online and in social media.

Ways People Talk about Your Brand

Conversations can either happen directly with you in your controlled online spaces or about you on third-party sites. Criticism can arise on your Facebook page, tweeting you directly or commenting on your company blog, or they’ll be talking about your company on external forums, review sites, blogs, etc. You may or may not be able to respond directly in external venues, but you can still likely contact them by email or message in an effort to reach out.

Principles of Responding to Negative Online Comments

Craft each communication carefully. You’ll often only have one chance to diffuse the tension inherent in these interactions. You have to keep your cool, no matter what, and that’s a lot easier to respond without sounding defensive or annoyed if you take the time to craft a smart, effective response that you know will probably be seen by someone besides just the recipient.

Get to the heart of the real problem. At the heart of every online criticism of a business is the assumption that the company is a large, anonymous, impersonal entity that won’t respond to fair criticism. Surprise them by letting them know that’s not the case with you.

You have to be aware of the full problem, not just respond cluelessly to tweets or Facebook posts or comments without knowing the background on the situation. Looking oblivious or uncaring about the real issue that’s bothering the person makes you look insensitive and out of touch.

Don’t deflect criticism—own it. Don’t misstate the facts, and don’t try to spin the situation to seem more favorable to you. Be honest if nothing else. Apologize—even if it’s not your fault—and set about making it right. It’s the only way to get past the criticism to a resolution of the situation. If you fall on your sword and show everyone that you’re not dodging responsibility, you’ve at least got a shot at winning some hearts and minds back and maybe even impressing some people with your human response to the situation.

Put your money where your mouth is. A refund, coupon code or just free stuff doesn’t cost you that much in the grand scheme of things, and it seeds online conversations about your brand with positive reactions from customers who are happy that you made something good out of a bad experience.

Thank people for the feedback. They’re helping you identify chinks in your armor, flaws in your processes or even abusive and incompetent employees. They deserve a medal. And when you acknowledge the effort they took to help you improve your business, they’re going to respond positively.

Above All, Be Genuine

The best way to be impersonal, anonymous and disconnected is to try and fake your way through your interactions with people online who’ve criticized you. Dig deep, be empathetic and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you can’t do that, and respond from a place of understanding and sympathy for the hassle the person is complaining about, don’t bother responding.

Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.

How to Know Your Business Idea isn’t Ready for Prime Time

The odds are against any given idea for a product or service actually succeeding. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and common business mistakes sink new businesses even before they really get rolling. Assuming you have your wits about you, and you’ve learned from experience what mistakes not to make, how do you know your idea is a good one?

Since there’s no guarantee that even very well-thought-out business concepts will work, there’s no set formula for guaranteeing your success. There are some questions you can ask yourself to help give you a good idea whether your idea is ready for the big time, whether you need to go back to the drawing board or if you should scrap it altogether.

Take a Good, Deep Look at Your Competition

Your competitors are a good indicator of the barrier to entry for your idea to break into a tight marketplace. Are you doing it (your product/service) better than the current big players in the industry? Are you doing it cheaper? If you are, is it possible for you to get noticed, either through targeted marketing or through word of mouth?

All of these questions could send you back to tweak your idea or work on it a bit more until you’re sure it’s fully baked. If you feel like you’re ahead of the curve, however, it may be time to move ahead with your business idea and start disrupting the current status quo, as all good business models do.

Time is also a factor when it comes to competitors. Many ideas have a shelf-life, and you’re often competing against other entrepreneurs who are rushing to get the same thing, or an alternative, to market. Can you get there before they do?

Do You Have the Resources to Get it off the Ground?

Your idea might be phenomenal, but if you don’t have the capital or —perhaps more importantly— the startup talents to get it off the ground, it might as well be a dud of a concept. Acquiring financing is a pre-requisite, and having the manpower to make your idea happen is the key. Even more important is having the right people in place who have a similar passion and vision as you do for the idea.

Also, don’t ignore time as a resource. If your startup’s time and talent is already distributed to too many other projects or ventures, is this new business idea going to be starved of the attention it needs to succeed?

Find a Skeptic to Rip it to Shreds

Sometimes you need someone who doesn’t buy what you’re selling to show you where your weaknesses are. If your idea can survive the gauntlet of someone who doesn’t like the concept picking it apart, it’s less likely that you’re ignoring glaring flaws that could spell its doom.

This is where having a trusted mentor can come in; someone whose expertise and experience you trust, but who’s not so emotionally involved in you that they’ll be afraid to tell you where your concept goes wrong. Emotion doesn’t belong in business decisions, so having an uninterested, objective third-party vet the idea is a key step to determining whether you really have something.

Remember and keep in mind

After Everything, Trust Your Gut

No number of assessments or second opinions can make the decision for you; you’re the one who has to pull the trigger. That means you need to take stock of your feelings, your confidence and your willingness to move forward. Often your gut will tell you things your brain can’t quite articulate.

Don’t make emotional business decisions unsupported by good evidence; you can fool yourself into believing what you want to be true. However at a certain point you have to take what you know from research and experience and just make the decision to either go forward with it or dump your idea and go back to the drawing board.

The gut check is really a way to test your own enthusiasm for an idea; your passion for it. Are you willing to spend your time, energy and money on this project? Hard work isn’t the only ingredient in a startup’s success, but it’s a definite prerequisite. If you find you’re not excited enough to dive in head first, maybe this isn’t the idea you want to be spending your time on.

If you’re idea survives all this scrutiny, it’s likely that it—and you—really are ready to go after it. If that’s the case, best of luck to you!

Mike Mann is a serial entrepreneur and author seeking to drive real-world change using profits from his many profitable business ventures. To learn how to make your own business a success, and to hear more about Mike’s charitable vision, read or download his book.

A Long-Term View

If you’re not looking ahead, you’re falling behind. At all times, you must be looking toward the long-term future of your business or charity. This requires intense focus, hard work, and an ability to multitask. You must set demanding goals and simultaneously pay attention to the big picture and small details. Above all else, you must have full confidence in yourself. There is no room for self-doubt in business.

Setting the Right Goals

While goals about next month’s revenue or this year’s product sales are important, they are not enough. You must also set goals for the years ahead. A successful business plans three or more years ahead and sets appropriate targets to meet along the way. If you are not constantly working for a goal beyond the current fiscal year, you may lose sight of your vision. Meanwhile, your competitors who do focus on the future will rush past you and claim more market space.

Your goals should challenge you. If they seem easy to achieve, you will not reach your potential. The best goals will seem a little beyond your ability—the route to the finish line will not seem totally clear. James Collins and Jerry Porras defined such goals as “BHAGs” in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. BHAGs are “big, hairy, audacious goals.” BHAGs encourage creative thinking and problem solving that will open doors to new possibilities. You can only become aware of opportunities if you are looking for them. Along the way, set achievable targets that will serve as mileposts on the way to your BHAG.

Splitting Your Attention with Focus

There are only so many hours in the day. Most people work as many of those hours as they can. The only way to get ahead is to be more efficient during those hours by using Best Practices. To do so, you must focus on many tasks and projects at once. You also must take care when splitting your attention to look at details. By nature, multitasking leads to a quality loss unless you take care to avoid it. Focusing on details enables you to maintain top quality on multiple projects.

When examining the details of many projects at once, it can be easy to forget the big picture. You must always keep your ultimate vision in mind as you look at each individual project. One way to accomplish this is to limit your projects to only those that accomplish your BHAGs best. Being the best in your market space is what makes you successful, and that requires a big-picture view to achieve.

Maintaining Your Confidence

Confidence comes with direction. If you have set a BHAG and appropriate milestones along the way, you set the stage for confidence. Confidence also comes from knowing your talents and knowing the industry. Staying up to date by reading articles and going to conferences is a critical part of maintaining your confidence and keeping your skills sharp.

However, you will make mistakes. It is crucial that you do not let mistakes shake your confidence. When you feel confident, you can make decisions faster and respond faster to the demands of our rapidly changing economy. If you feel self-doubt, your decisions will always be made after hesitation, and your more confident competitors will beat you to the finish.

Winning Success

With a solid plan, challenging goals, and confidence, you are on the path to success. When you split your attention between the details of each task and the overall vision, you ensure that you stay on that path. The only ingredient remaining is motivation, and that comes with passion, which we talked about earlier. When motivated, you will reach your goal. To stay motivated, you must find something that drives you. For some, it is charity. For others, it is providing for a family. The best motivator comes from deciding what you most want out of life and making it what you work for.

Please share your thoughts on what your vision is. What goals do you set, and what motivates you to get there?