THE BLOG FOR AUSTRALIAN SMALL BUSINESS

CRACKDOWN ON FAKE REVIEWS

The tough new guidelines and penalties for business owners who cross the line on Review Sites.


Fake reviews of your business on independent review websites could land you in trouble with the ACCC. Here are the tough new guidelines to follow if you want to stay out of trouble.Glowing testimonials from happy customers on independent Review Sites can certainly help to drum up confidence in your business.
But positive AND negative bogus reviews are threatening to shatter the consumer trust in these sites.
The ACCC have introduced strict new guidelines to combat this unscrupulous activity, and even a business owner with good honest intentions will need to know the score.
Here’s everything you should know to avoid falling foul of the law…

 

Review Sites were such a good idea.
When a customer needs convincing that your business is going to deliver the goods, he or she is hardly likely to ask you for an unbiased opinion!
A genuine customer recommendation on a completely independent website is likely to carry far more persuasive power.

Unfortunately, the credibility of Review Sites has taken a battering in recent times, thanks to a flood of dishonest postings from business owners who think they can score some crafty extra points by writing a ‘fake positive review’ or even a ‘fake negative review’.

It must seem temptingly easy to pretend to be a genuine happy customer, and post a quick online review which praises your own business to the skies.
A particularly fiendish business owner might even prefer to take on the role of a genuine unhappy customer, and write a scathing review of a competitor’s business which tears the whole outfit to pieces.

People have been getting away with this shady behaviour for far too long, and consumer confidence in these review sites has dipped to an all-time low as a direct result.
Hardly surprising.
How on Earth is anyone ever supposed to know if a supposedly genuine review is the real deal or a fraudulent fake?

Thankfully, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has come to the rescue with a set of tough new guidelines which deliver strict penalties to those business owners who are not playing the game fairly.

And it’s worth taking a good look at these guidelines in detail, as even a business owner with the very best of intentions could potentially slip up and suffer the consequences if they haven’t brushed up on the rules… CONTINUE READING

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DON’T WRECK YOUR REFERRALS

How to avoid demolishing your chances of picking up Business Referrals.

 

Could you be demolishing your own chances of picking up valuable business referrals? Here’s how to stay on track and encourage happy customers to spread the good word.There’s no force in the marketing universe that can beat the power of a Word-of-Mouth Referral.

When you’re growing a brilliant business, it’s hard to think of anything that could rival the impact of genuine recommendations from trusted friends.

But could you be in danger of sabotaging your own chances of picking up valuable Referrals from happy customers?

Here’s how to keep those recommendations flooding into your business…


“Oy, Martin! I’ve got a bone to pick with you!”
Another ‘quiet’ drink down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar already looked as if it was doomed to failure.
Wonky Alan had just barged through the door, and he didn’t look happy.

He had no hesitation in telling me exactly what was on his mind.
“How come you’ve never referred anyone to my businesses? We’ve known each other for years, and I don’t recall ever getting a referral from you. Not once. Don’t you like referring good services to your friends? What’s the deal here?”

I took a gulp of my Frothy Apple Fizz Fusion and quickly gathered my thoughts.
The truth is that I love recommending good businesses to friends. I’m well-known for it. I must have made literally hundreds of genuine referrals in the last few years alone, all based on the simple premise of sharing good service with good friends.

But in this particular case, I had a problem.
Or more to the point, I feel that Wonky Alan had a problem as he was the one destroying any hopes he might have of ever getting a referral from the likes of me.

Here’s where I thought Wonky Alan was going wrong, as I reveal how and why some business owners are ruining their own chances of picking up those crucial Word-of-Mouth Referrals… CONTINUE READING

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MISLEADER OF THE PACK

How to Avoid Breaking the 3 Simple Rules of Honest Advertising.

Could your customers end up feeling cheated or conned by misleading advertising from your business, even if the mistake is purely accidental? Here’s how to avoid breaking the rules of good honest advertising.Here at the Martin Print Blog, I often discuss new and creative ways of demanding attention from your Business Advertising.
But it’s all too easy to get carried away with compelling copy, and drift a little too far from the clear and simple truth.
Here are the 3 Rules of Honest Advertising to help you avoid accidentally misleading your audience and landing your business in legal hot water…


I invited Old Bert to have a drink with me last night, down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar.
I’m not usually so generous to Martin Print’s very own grumpy caretaker, but I was willing to push the boat out after spotting one of Smokey Joe’s new promotional posters in the window earlier this week;

“FREE EXOTIC COCKTAIL FOR EVERYONE WHO WALKS THROUGH THE DOOR!”

It sounded too good to be true.
It was.

When I cheerily tried to claim our two free drinks at the bar, Smokey Joe swiftly drew my attention to the small print on the promotional poster, directly underneath the big bold headline.
He passed me a magnifying glass, just to make sure I could read it without too much eye strain.

It turns out that Smokey Joe was actually offering a Free Exotic Cocktail to everyone who walks through the door…and buys a Smokey Joe Mega Grill Meal for only $99.99.

Hmm.
There were plenty of disgruntled noises coming from my fellow customers, one of whom was even threatening to report Smokey Joe to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) for false advertising.

If Smokey Joe had followed his usual route of getting Martin Print to professionally produce his promotional material, my team would have been very quick to point out the huge mistake he was making.
Alas, he got a mate to run off very low quality prints on the cheap, and he was now left to deal with a very unhappy crowd of customers.

Here’s how to avoid upsetting your own audience by following the 3 Simple Rules of Clear and Honest Advertising


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AVOID THE BOGUS RULES OF SMALL BUSINESS
Why You Should Never Follow These
Mythical ‘Unwritten Rules’ of Business

False! Wrong! Bogus! Untrue! Let’s take a look at a list of some of the worst unwritten rules in Small Business and why you should never follow them…Are you following any of the so-called Unwritten Rules of Business?
If so, could you be making a very dangerous mistake and putting your business health at serious risk?

I was having a catch-up with my good friend Wonky Alan last week down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar.
I’d spent what seemed like two hours listening politely to his latest news, updates, and plans for the future.
In fact, I’d managed to get through four Fizzy Frothy Fruity Fusion drinks before it got round to my turn.

Eventually, I got the chance to share some of my own new stories and anecdotes from the continuing design-driven adventures of Martin Print.
However, I was only really starting to get to the good bits when I was abruptly cut short after less than ten minutes.

“Stop!” yelled Wonky Alan, dramatically. “Have you been feeling unwell or something? It sounds as if you’ve been breaking every unwritten rule of business in the book! Maybe it’s time you took a holiday?”

Well, I wouldn’t say no to a holiday. But I strongly disagreed with Wonky Alan’s reasoning.
I’ve always had a bit of a problem with ‘unwritten rules’ of anything.
If a rule is so good, why on Earth has nobody ever bothered to write it down?
Could it be because the rule in question is actually a bit rubbish?
Is there even perhaps a small chance that the unwritten rule could turn out to be completely wrong?

At this point, Wonky Alan pulled out a curiously named book from his pocket called The Definitive List of Unwritten Business Rules.
Hmm. Surely a contradictory title? Unless all the pages were blank.

But no, the pages weren’t blank. In my honest opinion, the pages were crammed full of very bad business advice which should definitely have remained unwritten and unspoken.
Wonky Alan seemed to have been absorbing all this nonsense recently, so I decided to postpone sharing my own stories and news until our next catch-up.

I felt our time would now be better spent on exposing the lack of logic in many of these mythical guidelines, and ripping up The Top Four Completely and Utterly False Rules of Business


CONTINUE READING

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MISLEADING HEADLINES AND BROKEN PROMISES
Why a Deceiving Headline Could Permanently
Wreck Your Business Credibility

Insert your amazing attention-grabbing headline here! But could a misleading headline lose long-term customers and damage your business in the long run?We’ve all seen them.
Completely over-the-top and frankly ridiculous headlines which were clearly designed to entice you into investigating further;

“LOSE HALF YOUR WEIGHT IN LESS THAN SEVEN MINUTES!”

“CLAIM YOUR FREE WORLD CRUISE BY FILLING OUT THIS QUICK SURVEY!”

“I’M GIVING AWAY A MILLION DOLLARS TO EVERYONE TODAY! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE! TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY.”

Hmm.
I’m pretty sure that most sensible people would be instinctively repelled by such crude attempts to capture your attention. We can almost smell the odour of rotting spam emanating from every word and exclamation mark.

It’s taken just a couple of seconds for us to pass judgement on the companies that throw this type of headline in our faces;
They’re crass, they’re sensationalist, they’re not to be trusted, and we wouldn’t ever dream of conducting business with such a dubious outfit.

But can even a perfectly responsible and intelligent business owner fall into the trap of delivering a misleading headline to an innocent audience?

Just how do we know for sure when we’ve crossed the line with a damaging headline?

I recently had an unfortunate experience of my own with a slice of marketing content from a fellow business owner.
I was initially very interested and in great need of the services on offer. But I was immediately puzzled by the baffling dramatic headline which suggested that I could take full advantage of these professional services for just a tiny, tiny fraction of the amount that I was reasonably expecting to pay.

Could this be true? How would that work? The business must surely lose a fortune on every deal it makes! That couldn’t be right.
Could it?

CONTINUE READING

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GIVING YOUR CUSTOMERS THE BOOT
Is it Ever Acceptable to Get Rid of Your Own Business Clients?

Giving your customers the boot…but is there a better way of waving goodbye to troublesome business clients?‘Letting go’ of under-performing staff members is a very unpleasant but often very necessary duty for a winning Small Business owner.

But how should we feel about ‘letting go’ of our actual customers?

Is it ever acceptable to wave goodbye to the very people that we’re supposed to be serving with our excellent products and services?

I was enjoying a drink with an old entrepreneurial friend of mine yesterday, down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar.
Actually, ‘enjoying’ might be far too strong a word in this particular case.
You never really feel those welcome waves of euphoria when you’re in the company of Negative Nigel.

“Oh no, it’s him again!” he suddenly cursed as he glanced at an email which had popped up on his Smartphone screen.
It’s funny. A very similar thought had crossed my mind when I first walked into the bar and realised that Negative Nigel was the only other person in there.

“Trouble at work, Nigel?” I asked, politely.

“Yeah. This customer has placed another order with my business,” he replied, with an air of weary resignation.

It sounded like quite an odd thing to get upset about. I’m usually quite happy to see new orders rolling into Martin Print. That’s the whole point of business, isn’t it? Unless I’ve been getting it hideously wrong all these years…

“This customer is nothing but trouble,” he expanded. “He upsets me and my team. He’s always rude and quite offensive. Nothing is ever good enough for him. And he never even bothers to pay us on time. I hate it when he places a new order with us! Hate it!”

Hmm.
It sounded to me as if Negative Nigel may have reached the point where it made more sense to end the customer relationship instead of prolonging the agony any further.

But when I suggested this to Nigel, he looked at me as if I’d suddenly lost my mind.
“What?” he spluttered. “You mean I should fire my own client? That’s sheer madness! You can’t do that!”
He paused for a moment.
Can you?”

CONTINUE READING

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HOW NOT TO TREAT
YOUR AUDIENCE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The Winners and Losers in the Biggest Online Meltdown of the Year

The Social Media antics of Amy’s Bakery may have developed into the biggest online meltdown of the year – but why has this huge Social Media disaster attracted so many new followers and fans to the business?Is there really no such thing as bad publicity?

If all publicity is good publicity, then the owners of Amy’s Baking Company Boutique & Bistro should be rubbing their hands with glee right now.
But I can’t help feeling that they’re far more likely to be hiding behind their hands in deep embarrassment and regret…

If you haven’t yet heard the wince-inducing details of Amy’s Baking Company and one of the biggest Social Media Meltdowns ever, then the full story is below – including some quite astonishing Facebook posts.

But what can we learn from this online fiasco? Can a company actually reap any benefits from such a high-profile train wreck? And why on Earth has this particular company’s Facebook audience shot up from 2,800 fans to nearly 100,000 fans since the incident?
That surely can’t be right…can it?

Well, let’s rewind to the beginning of the story.
Amy Bouzaglo and her husband Samy are the controversial couple behind Amy’s Baking Company Boutique & Bistro, and they run a troubled restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

They recently featured in an episode of U.S show Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares in which the straight-talking TV Chef attempts to put struggling restaurants back on the right track.

In this particular case, Ramsay was fighting a losing battle.
In fact, for only the second time in the show’s long-running history, he conceded defeat and declared the restaurant owners to be far too difficult to work with, and beyond his help.

After the episode was broadcast, Amy and Samy attracted an avalanche of negative online comments throughout the Social Media universe, as viewers vented their distaste for the couple’s business behaviour on sites such as Facebook, Yelp, and Reddit.

The overwhelming feeling seemed to be that the couple were rude, horrible, and vile.
Their business ethics were questioned when they admitted to simply re-selling desserts from other bakeries at inflated prices. And they were even labelled as ‘criminals’ when they were seen to be ‘stealing’ tips from their own waitresses.

So, how did Amy and Samy respond to this wave of online criticism?
They hit back. On their own Facebook page.
And that’s when the trouble really started…


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BAD MANNERS AND RUDE BUSINESS
How to Avoid the Most Common Ways
of Annoying Your Clients and Colleagues

Are Small Business owners at risk of treating our clients and colleagues in a rude manner without even realising it? Here are the most common Business Etiquette mistakes to avoid…“Good morning, Sir. You’re looking well today! May I take your coat? Please do take a seat. I’ll be with you as soon as I possibly can. May I offer you some refreshments while you wait?”

This is the kind of greeting that I often dream of hearing as I’m reluctantly making my way to the local gent’s hairdressers just around the corner from Martin Print H.Q.

However, the reality never quite matches my hopes.
Instead, I usually get something along the lines of;

“Oh no, not you again! Are you really due another haircut so soon? You’re determined to ruin my day, aren’t you? Oh well, sit down and be quiet, and try not to scare off my other customers. Don’t touch anything either, I’ve got my eye on you…”

To be fair, it’s not quite as bad as it may sound. I’ve been enjoying this kind of ‘banter’ with my local hairdresser for years. Besides, he’s the only one around for miles, so he knows that I’m unlikely to take my custom elsewhere.
I’m fairly sure that he wouldn’t treat new clients like this. If he did, his business would never have lasted much longer than a week…

But are Small Business owners ever in danger of accidentally annoying customers and colleagues with Bad Business Etiquette? Could some of us be at risk of displaying common rude behaviour without even realising it?

I got thinking about this topic as I settled back down at my office desk again, following my typically blunt experience at the Hairdressers.
Doris, our resident cleaner, popped her head round the door to say hello.
Well, kind of.

 “Oh no, you’re back again!” she cried. “I was going to clean your office, but you’re in my way again. You’re always in my way! Can’t you just go away and do something constructive instead of sitting there and pretending to look busy? Why don’t you go and get your hair cut or something? What? You have? Oh, right. It looks terrible. Did you ask for your money back?”

Hmm.
You know, any normal person might start to feel paranoid about constantly soaking up so much abuse in one day!
But, fortunately for everyone concerned, I’m far from normal.
And I know for sure that no harm or malice was intended in any of these abrupt conversations. No offence was taken.

I’m also fairly confident that most of us would never dream of communicating in such a seemingly discourteous manner in the professional arena of Small Business – either to customers, business associates, or fellow team members.

But what if we’ve picked up some bad business habits which cause offence without our knowledge?
Here are some of the most common examples of rude business behaviour which should be avoided at all costs…


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DON’T PANIC! DON’T PANIC!
How to Avoid Getting in a Dizzy Spin with Your Business Customers

Getting into a business panic! How do you stay calm and professional in the face of tricky demands and requests from clients?Aaargh! Look out! A minor unforeseen problem is on the horizon, and it might just take us all down! Run away! Run away!

It’s fair to say that the life of a Small Business owner is packed with new challenges and unexpected hurdles, particularly when we’re dealing with slightly ‘tricky’ customers who perhaps need a little more help and dedication than others.

I’m sure that most of us have good days and bad days.
We have those days when we feel as if we can overcome any kind of problem without even breaking into a sweat, and then we have those days when even the tiniest unwanted surprise can make us crumble and reach out desperately for the Panic Button.

So, how can we ensure that we stay calm and professional with our customers at all times, even when they might be making demands that are making our heads spin with hysteria?

This week, I had to reluctantly participate in a very expensive shopping trip for new tools with Old Bert.
We have this rather odd arrangement which involves Old Bert dragging me around every tool shop in town, picking out a selection of obscure instruments which are apparently essential for the ongoing maintenance of Martin Print H.Q, even though I haven’t got a clue what most of them actually do.
For my side of the bargain, I just get out my wallet and pay for everything without question.

It has to be said that Old Bert can be quite a demanding customer, and I could tell that some of his questions and requests were baffling the store owners and getting them all flustered.
If Old Bert ever felt that he couldn’t get a straight answer or a helpful response, then he’d drag me out of the shop and try his luck with the next one on his list.

We eventually found a store owner who could confidently meet every one of Old Bert’s confusing demands, and this turned out to be the store that ended up taking most of my money.
I should probably stress at this point that I had very little to do with the decision-making process here. I just felt like an innocent bystander caught up in the horror.

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THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Is a Lack of Customer Complaints
a Reassuring Sign of Good Business?

Are your clients and customers strangely quiet or reluctant to give feedback? Maybe this is because your business is perfect in every way, and there’s no cause for complaint! Or maybe there’s another side to the story…“Complaints? Don’t be silly! That’s not something that my business ever has to deal with, thank goodness. I’m far too busy for that kind of nonsense!”

Honest Howard was making another one of his bold boasts down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar.
The rest of us had been enjoying a reasonably intelligent and insightful debate on the most effective ways of dealing with a valid customer complaint, when Honest Howard suddenly popped up from nowhere and hi-jacked the discussion to make one of his typically flamboyant statements.

“My business doesn’t make mistakes,” was his slightly ridiculous opening gambit.
“And if you don’t make mistakes, then you don’t get complaints. It’s perfectly simple, really. You lot could learn a thing or two from me, you know. I don’t waste my time handling complaints, because I never get any. That leaves me free to concentrate on the important things in life, like business growth and golf.”

Hmm.
Well, the logic seemed sound enough.
But then again, there’s very little sound to be heard if your customers aren’t actually saying anything at all…

To be honest, I would have been quite happy to have left Howard’s claims unchallenged, if only because Honest Howard’s voice gets on my nerves at the best of times, and I wasn’t really in the mood for fanning the flames any further.

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