What to Do When Customers Bash Your Brand or Product on Social Media

Social media is essential for engaging with customers. Sometimes though, small businesses may wish customers were not so engaged on social media. If clients are taking to social media, not to praise your products, but to bitterly criticize, then your company will have a full-blown crisis on hand. Understandably, not all customers who engage with a brand post positive or neutral comments. The goal of a marketing strategy is to maximize positive engagement and minimize negative engagement down to near zero.

But what happens when the negatives end up overtaking the positives? How can a small business respond without spending too much or making the crisis worse?

Don’t Confront the Negative Posters – Being confrontational on a public platform like social media will never end well for a brand. Unless being confrontational is actually one of the traits the brand is trying to promote. Most brands, however, do not want this. If your team tries to confront the accusers, regardless of the merits of the claims, you risk a small argument from snowballing into a veritable social media spectacle. It takes years to build the reputation of a brand, and only minutes to destroy it beyond repair.

Take the High Road and Put the Matter to Rest Quickly – For example, learn about what happened to Iggy Azalea, a promising musician who damaged her brand permanently by relentlessly arguing with critics on Twitter. Keep in mind that the negative reviewers are not losing massive profits by arguing with a business. Therefore, the company should take the high road. Without sounding condescending or deceptive, put the matter to rest with a genial post. Keep it short and apologize if you have to. Don’t drag on an argument any longer than it needs to and let the news cycle move on.

Ask a Consultant What to Do – Marketing experts like the Corporate Business Solutions consultants can help your small business respond to a major PR crisis in a timely and sensitive manner. If your marketing team is inexperienced in responding to negative feedback that is making its way to media, hire the experts to manage the problem.

The main thing during a PR crisis is to avoid the problem from getting worse. Refer to CBS-CBS.com on how your small business can prepare for negative publicity in advance.

How Famous Businesses Create Great Company Cultures

If a small business wants to retain its top talent, increase employee morale, commitment and productivity, then the business must have a great culture. Company culture is a term that pops up a lot in business-related news articles. It refers to the internal environment of a business and the rules and procedures that drive employee, manager, and customer relations. A good company culture is essential for long-term business survival.

So, exactly how can a small business create a good company culture? Let’s look at some examples of famous brands that have managed to create truly excellent company cultures (selected by Corporate Business Solutions consultants):

Twitter – Twitter has managed to avoid some of the major pitfalls tech companies faced by developing a good company culture. The workplace is highly team-oriented with an emphasis on motivation and inspiration. Twitter also offers other benefits like free lunches, yoga classes, and even unlimited vacations for select employees. Those are only some of the reasons why Twitter employees cannot stop boasting about the company.

Warby Parker – Warby Parker is a major prescription eyeglasses brand. The company ensures that the internal culture is positive by arranging numerous events that drive positive interactions between employees. For example, working at Warby Parker means attending fun events, going out to interesting lunches, and overall socializing with co-workers a lot.

Zappos – The online shoe brand does not tread slowly when it comes to company culture. Zappos is heavily invested in providing great customer service. But the customer is not the only focus here. Zappos has 10 core values that all employees must learn. Zappos believes that happy employees lead to happy, and loyal, customers.

Squarespace – Squarespace is a highly successful startup that was once ranked as the best place to work in NYC. Why? Well, the reasons are many. The company has a “flat” hierarchy where the management level between the employees and the executives are few. Squarespace is actually applying a common startup tactic to a much larger company. Also, the company offers amazing benefits to employees like full health insurance coverage, pleasant workplaces, in-office stocked kitchens, and flexible vacation periods.

There are many things small businesses can learn from the above examples of creating a great company culture. CBS Corporate Business Solutions also want to include the importance of taking steps to reducing the incidents of verbal abuse and sexual harassment at the workplace if a company wants to create a truly great culture.

Tips for Managing Freelancers

Freelancers—it’s a word that evokes both elated and derisive responses from small business owners. Companies, both big and small, rely on freelancers to a certain extent. Inarguably, it doesn’t make sense to hire full-time employees for temporary tasks that may not exist in several months. Some companies, especially tiny ones, rely on freelancers if hiring full-time employees is too expensive.

Corporate Business Solutions can help your small business decide whether it wants to hire freelancers or not. But the tough part comes when the business has to manage the freelancers. Here are several tips on how to manage freelance employees of your company:

Get Ready to be Flexible—Most people work as freelancers to have flexibility. That is to say, freelancers don’t like working 9 to 5. That doesn’t mean freelancers work less efficiently. Most freelancers keep irregular hours and tend to prioritize work based on fees and importance. Therefore, when negotiating with freelancers, be flexible. Set deadlines instead of hours.

Do Convey Your Expectations—Unlike office workers, freelancers are practically strangers who don’t know about the goals and priorities of your company. Therefore, for each project, the expectations should be conveyed clearly. Be explicit about the standard of work you expect and when you want things to get done. If you require the project to be completed in stages, be clear about that as well.

Communicate Well—Do keep in touch with freelancers when a project is ongoing. It can easily clear up misunderstandings. If expectations or standards for project changes, don’t wait until the last moment to inform the freelancer. Keeping in touch is very important for striking a good working relationship with the freelancer.

Build a Good Relationship—It’s a nightmare to hire and fire freelancers all the time. Therefore, test a few and start building a professional relationship with freelancers your company can rely on. If the relationship is strong, your business will be able to rely on the freelancer for years.

Do you think your business could save time and money with more freelancers? Opt for Corporate Business Solutions Reviews to find out whether hiring freelancers would help or weaken your small business’s team.

How Should a Small Business Handle a Publicity Crisis

It’s the worst nightmare of any business. Public relations or perception crises are not wholly uncommon to small businesses. Usually, it’s the big businesses that are plagued by publicity issues. But small businesses should not feel too secure. Publicity crises can happen for many different reasons. It could be due to a misunderstanding, a mistake on the part of the business, or even unforeseen legal issues popping up. Whatever the cause is, here is some brief advice from Corporate Business Solutions for small businesses on how to weather a publicity storm:

Diagnose the Problem – First of all, the company should move quickly to understand exactly what the problem is. If outsiders are accusing the business of anything, there should be an internal investigation to find out if such accusations hold any merit. Once the CEO and the top managers know exactly what is going wrong, then the business can move to address the problem effectively.

Leadership is Important – Leadership is most important during a time of crisis. Without a good leader, a CEO or a senior manager, there’s little chance that the business could navigate the crisis. If the executive officers are not showing good leadership skills at the moment, or if the crisis is somehow their fault, it’s time to find a new leader capable of keeping the company together in a time of crisis.

Take Swift Action – If action is called for, don’t wait around to do it. In most public relations crises, businesses are accused of malpractice or selling low-quality products in some form. If the customers are complaining, then don’t wait to apologize. At lease inform that the problem is being looked at. Do not try to shift blame, because it will not be perceived well.

Stay in Touch with Customers – Don’t ignore customers and their complaints during a time of crisis. It’s more important than ever to provide good customer support as the crisis is unfolding. They won’t be too happy, but it’s important to keep communication lines open to avoid complete abandonment.

Inform Shareholders and Investors – Keep internal stakeholders like shareholders informed of what is happening and keep them updated on new developments as the business addresses the crisis. The last thing a company needs in a time of disaster is a shareholder revolt.

Last but not least, call in a consultant like CBS Corporate Business Solutions to formulate a plan of action to address the disaster head-on.

 

Negotiation Tactics for Small Business Owners

Negotiation is a major aspect of doing business in any sector. And yet, small business owners who don’t have extensive professional backgrounds could find it difficult to strike effective negotiations with partners or clients. Corporate Business Solutions consultants can assist small businesses in certain types of negotiations. But there are certain techniques that any business owner must know.

If you are a small business owner who needs to improve negotiation skills, here are several tips to follow:

Know the Dynamics of the Deal: Don’t go to the negotiation table without understanding what’s in it for you and the other side. Which party needs the deal more? It’s important to understand who needs leverage before the talks start. Also consider the constraints the other party is facing, as well as alternatives that could put your side at a disadvantage.

Be Courteous: Talk patiently and be courteous when entering into negotiations. Do not be overly aggressive, as you could be perceived as a difficult person to deal with. But don’t be too agreeable either, because then you would be seen as someone who is easy to persuade. Hold your ground, but be professional and do not get into verbal battles.

Dress Appropriately: Do dress properly for the negotiation table in a manner that won’t offend the other party. It may be common to wear casual or even business casual clothes at the workplace, but the same attire could be interpreted by the other party as you not being serious about negotiations. The dress is an unnecessary thing to be troubled over. Therefore, dress in formal and practical clothes when meeting in person to negotiate.

Don’t Drag It: Time is the bigger killer of deals. If negotiation talks are prolonged, chances are high that the deal might go sideways or get killed before completion. Therefore, don’t take too long to conduct talks. But don’t rush things as you could end up with the short end of the deal.

There’s no doubt that business negotiations can be tough. If you require expert help, you can contact one of our CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants for valuable advice.

Paid Advertising Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

Paying for advertising is one of the biggest investments small businesses make. Therefore, the money should be spent wisely. CBS-CBS.com consultants advise many clients on setting up small businesses budgets. One of the major issues we have seen is wasteful spending on digital marketing. Here is our advice for small businesses that want to avoid overspending on online ads. These are some mistakes to avoid:

Using an un-optimized landing page—The landing page is the primary reason your Google Adwords traffic becomes conversions. If the landing page is slow, boring, irrelevant, or not optimized in any meaningful manner, your site will not see increased sales. Therefore, make sure the landing page is tested to drive conversions.

Limiting promotions to only one paid advertiser—Paid advertising is a varied genre. Therefore, don’t limit your budget to just one, like Google Adwords. Make use of other paid channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Also, try to find niche paid advertising channels in which your target audience is most likely to engage. If your company is B2B, for example, then LinkedIn would be a better place to buy ads than Facebook.

Ignoring specialized publishers—When you buy an ad on Google or Facebook, you are advertising to a general audience. If you want to advertise to a very specific audience, then you need an ad publisher who can reach websites, blogs, and media companies that reach this audience. Therefore, do invest in publishers like BuySellAds and Blogads to reach niche audience with the likelihood of high conversion rates. You can contact a CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultant regarding reaching niche audiences through paid advertising.

Not using remarketing strategies—Remarketing and retargeting strategies aim to attract people who have already visited your website or followed a link. Visiting at least once indicates the interest of some sort. Therefore, paying for advertising to this audience is a great way to attract high-quality traffic. You can get more for your money considering that only users who were at least once interested in your products are returning.

Last but not least, your paid advertising strategy must match your budget and vice versa. If you are on a limited budget, redo the strategy to benefit from only the most lucrative channels, and not experimental ones. You should match the budget to strategy to avoid both overspending and underspending.

Hurricane Harvey Highlights the Importance of Small Business Disaster Preparedness

Hurricane Harvey has made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast turning quiet streets into raging storm rivers. While the rescue operations are ongoing for regular folk, it’s important to pay attention to the hurricane’s impact on the small businesses in the area. The area Harvey is barreling through is a major hub of the state’s offshore oiling business. As a result, there are many small businesses operating in the region. Unlike the bigger companies, small businesses are hit hard during disasters like hurricanes.

As much as 40 percent of small businesses don’t survive disasters like Harvey, says a disaster specialist with Fox Business. Experienced Corporate Business Solutions have noted that many small businesses do not adequately prepare for natural disasters. It’s understandable that most people might be concerned about personal safety. But small businesses can lose a lot during disasters. The business can end up literally torn apart by a hurricane and lose inventory and property. Here are several suggestions from our consultants on how small businesses can prepare for disaster and minimize losses:

Have an Emergency Management Plan – All small businesses should have an emergency management plan at hand. Such a plan makes an early assessment of potential damages a small business could experience in case of a disaster. Also, such plans prepared in advance roles to take on for employees and managers in case a natural disaster strikes unexpectedly. In simple terms, this is basically a handbook on what to do in case of a flooding, hurricane, or a tornado. Your business absolutely needs to make this plan in advance, preferably with the help of experts like the ones you can find in CBS-CBS.com.

Take Necessary Steps to Physically Secure the Business—Small businesses should always have at hand the necessary tools to board up a store in case disaster strikes. Well prepared managers should call construction experts in advance to find out the best ways to secure the store so it can withstand most natural disasters.

Get Insurance Coverage – Business insurance coverage should include a provision for natural disaster emergency situations. Your company must be covered for the most common natural disasters the area you are located at faces. The FEMA website has some useful information for companies about getting disaster insurance.

Small businesses should also have a system in place to address local government emergency alerts for disasters. Set up a communication system so that all employees are informed of such alerts and evacuations when needed, are facilitated.

The Must-Know Laws of Writing Business Emails

Writing business emails are a fact of life for those who run a small business. But do you know how to write proper business emails? Here is a list of rules that all small business owners must follow when writing business-related emails:

Enter a Subject Line – Never send business emails without a subject line, warns Corporate Business Solutions, unless you want the emails to be ignored. Emails without subject lines would just end up in the trash or spam folder.

Add a Signature at the End – Gmail and other email services let users add an electronic signature to all emails sent. It’s highly advisable to use this feature when sending formal and semi-formal business emails. It’s just like adding your actual signature at the end of a memo or a business letter.

Avoid the “Hi”—Instead of starting the email with a “hey” or a “hi,” try using a professional salutation like Ms (name). Hello is more acceptable than hi, and you can start emails with Hello (name of recipient). Decide which is more suitable depending on the nature of the correspondence.

Read it Once Over – Don’t send the business email without reading it at least once. Avoiding embarrassing spelling mistakes might help you land a deal. Even a silly error could be interpreted by the recipient as you being sloppy and not serious, which is bad for business.

Let the Recipient Know What You are Talking about – Keep in mind that the recipient might not always know what you are talking about, especially if you are responding to a chain email. To employ the use of “one-liners” to refer to the subject matter. For example, write “with regards to (subject)” first and then continue the email.

Avoid Trying to be Funny – Don’t assume that jokes translate well in emailed text as in real-time conversations. Even an innocent joke could be misinterpreted by the person on the other end. So, don’t try to be funny and instead be formal when sending any business email.

Do Reply—Reply in a timely manner to all responses you get to business emails. If you don’t have time to write a lengthy message, do address that and at least say you will get back later with a better response.

Master the above email etiquette to improve your professionalism as a small business owner. Get more advice at CBS-CBS.com.

That Google Memo and Company Culture

If you are an avid consumer of business news, you must have already read about the 3,000-word Google memo by an unnamed employee that has gone viral. The memo details an employee’s dissatisfaction regarding Google’s new efforts to recruit more women and minorities. The author of the memo is rather offended by the tech giant’s push to hire more women engineers and cites “biological differences” between the sexes for underrepresentation of women in tech. Regardless of what you think about women or diversity, the memo raises an important question about company culture.

Small business owners often need to take decisions about hiring new employees that may not always be to the satisfaction of already existing employees. In local small businesses, for example, employees that have stuck out with the business for a while may not like it when the company wants to hire senior personnel to expand. Regardless of what hiring quotas end up being, business owners and managers must always maintain a strong company culture as well. The culture could be more diverse, or rather closed. However, all employees must ultimately have close working relationships that further the goals of the business. It’s never good for business when employees don’t get along well.

Here are several suggestions to small business owners from Corporate Business Solutions consultants about maintaining employee cohesion and building a strong company culture:

Listen to Complaints – There should be an effective method for employees to voice their complaints about the workplace environment. Some of these complaints will have merit, and most might not. Regardless, it’s important that all employees understand that the boss listens to them.

Let Them Know Empathy Matters – Don’t expect all your employees to get along like BFFs. Some will be close friends, others will not. The managers must ensure that employees have good working relationships with one another regardless of personal feelings. Some of these feelings may be sexist or racist, as in the case of the Google memo author. Don’t ever let your small business be embroiled in a racism or sexism scandal. It will ruin your business and expansion efforts for years to come. The company cannot change personal beliefs of workers either. What the small business owners can do is build an empathizing company culture where all employees respect one another.

Keep Goals in Mind—Make sure all employees share your vision for the company’s future. This matters more so than almost everything else when it comes to succeeding as a business.

If your small business needs to make the workforce more efficient and solve company culture issues, you can seek help at CBS-CBS.com.

How Small Businesses Should Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is as valuable as cash assets to small businesses. Most companies, especially big ones like Google and Pepsi, spend millions each year protecting intellectual property assets. That’s because IP infringements are all too common. A company’s IP can be breached even via mundane things like signing a new contract with a partner or proposing a new design with a contractor. Losing the IP value of anything means that a small business loses an asset. Considering that, here are several methods recommended by Corporate Business Solutions to protect your company’s IP:

Sign NDAs with Everyone: It’s very important to include an IP clause in nondisclosure agreements that the company signs with clients, partners, contractors, freelancers, or anyone else. This indicates to the third-party that your business fully owns the copyright of a certain asset, and thus discourages infringement. If a breach does happen, your company will have the legal advantage to take the matter to the courts.

Be Careful of Disclosures Made to Freelancers: More and more companies are now getting business done via third-party freelancers or self-employed agents. If these non-employed workers get involved in the development of something, they can later make a claim on the IP. To prevent this, sign an NDA with an IP clause as mentioned above. Also, be careful of the sensitive disclosures you make to freelancers who might be able to use the knowledge to turn a copyright claim to their advantage.

Beware of International IP Rights: Small businesses themselves can be perpetrators of IP violations, sometimes unknowingly. This is quite true with regards to companies that sell internationally. Always make sure that patents, trademarks, or copyright claims of your company cannot be contested internationally. You will have to check international patents and IP registration to be sure.

Negotiate with IP Violators First: IP claim lawsuits are typically costly and prolonged for both parties. Therefore, it’s best to open dialogue with a potential violator before going to court. If you think an entity is infringing on your company’s IP, you can send a legal letter notifying them of the infringement, and send a cease and desist letter. You can hire mediation services to come to an agreement with the violator before getting into a lengthy court battle.

Always think of IP as assets. Things like patents add wealth to your small business. If you want to conduct a company review of business operations, including your risk for unregistered IP, contact us at CBS-CBS.com to find a consultant.