Common Questions for Our Professionals

Here’s a roundup of the latest Q&As on Stik.com/answers – our community area where people who have questions can get answers from true professionals.

Popular questions currently looking for answers:

“What is the most important consideration when hiring an interior designer?”

“Who can help me with my relocation needs?”

“Is it getting any easier to get a home loan if your credit isn’t perfect?

“How often should I have my carpets cleaned?”

Know the answer to any of these?  Jump right in!

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Four ways to make sure your business shines online

Every year, hundreds of millions of consumers visit online feedback sites to help them make spending decisions. Here are some tips for maximizing positive reviews for your business, and for handling online criticism.

1.      Provide excellent service from the start. This may seem obvious, but the better your customer service is, the better your customer ratings will be. This applies not just specifically to customer service ratings, but also to overall ratings. Focus above all on meeting your customers’ needs and on making them feel good, and they will return the favor by writing favorable reviews.

2.      Remain level-headed.  While it may be frustrating to receive negative feedback, you must avoid getting too emotional; responding angrily to negative customer reviews will only exacerbate the problem. Whether your response is public or private, it is always best to be patient, polite, and diplomatic.  If you have trouble keeping your cool, it might be a good idea to appoint a trusted employee to handle customer reviews.

3.      Take criticism as an opportunity rather than as an insult.  No one likes receiving negative reviews.  However, they do provide important insight into how you can improve your business.  Try to remember that receiving some negative reviews may be inevitable, but they do lend authenticity to your business profile. Treat customer reviews seriously, implement constructive feedback, and take advantage of the free market research to make your business better than ever!

4.      Always seek out reviews, particularly from your happiest clients.  Positive reviews have a snowball effect.  As you accumulate more positive reviews, you will attract more business, and this cycle will cause both your customer base and your reviews to grow exponentially.  By asking customers for reviews, particularly those customers who are most pleased with your service, you can catalyze this process and take full advantage of the network effect.

 

Is coworking space right for your small business?

Leasing a co-working space can be a powerful tool for your small business, keeping your costs down, broadening your professional network, and simplifying your taxes.

What are co-working spaces?
Co-working spaces are far more than just offices shared by several startups and small businesses.  They are powerful collaborative communities that leverage shared office facilities, private spaces, and pooled professional resources to help all co-workers achieve maximum efficiency.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of co-working spaces?
Co-working spaces provide many advantages for startups and small businesses.
1. Cost-savings: sharing office space allows you to share expenses, which minimizes costs and gives you access to superior facilities that you could not have otherwise afforded.
2. Flexibility: a co-working arrangement is much easier to get out of than is a standard lease, and this gives you the mobility to expand or relocate your business without the headache and expense of breaking a lease.
3. Simplified taxes: it is much easier to deduct co-working expenses than “home office” expenses, the relevant laws and regulations are far less complex, and the deductions are less likely to elicit an audit.
4. Enhanced professional network: perhaps the greatest advantage of a co-working space is the close proximity to other like-minded entrepreneurs. By offering advice, and by sharing insight gleaned from experience, you and your co-workers can create a dynamic, fruitful, and mutually-beneficial work environment.

Co-working spaces also have their obvious disadvantages. There can be a lack of privacy, the cultures of different startups may not be entirely compatible, and there will likely be a steady stream of unfamiliar faces appearing in the office, making security a concern. It is up to you to decide whether or not the benefits outweigh the potential disadvantages.

How can you find a co-working space?
The Internet is a great place to start. Sites like Deskwanted, ShareDesk, and SharedOfficeSpace.com are excellent resources.  But perhaps the best way to find co-working spaces is personal referrals. Leveraging the valuable insight of someone you know and trust, you can find a co-working space that can help propel your small business to the next level.

Google+ & Social Search – Stik.com Co-Founders Present at LeadsCon

This week Stik.com Co-Founders Jay Gierak and Nathan Labenz presented Google Leader to an audience of 1,200 people at a marketing conference at the Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The reaction from attendees, including executives from Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, Allstate, and other Fortune 500 companies, has been incredible. One reporter wrote that I “channeled my inner Zuckerberg” while describing the power of social search.

Folks paid $1,000 to attend this conference, but we’re giving you the goods for free. Check out more info at stik.com/google-premium and see the whole presentation here:

F8 Previews in Review

Earlier this week I published two columns (one on BusinessInsider and one on AllFacebook) previewing Facebook’s F8 conference.

As speculation built that Facebook would be launching a major media service, I worried that Facebook might be focusing on the wrong opportunities:

For the economy as a whole, more media means more advertising opportunities. That’s great for Facebook’s short-term bottom line, but not so great for the rest of us. We don’t like the advertising we have. Too often, it’s an annoying shouting match between competing brands: banks and insurance companies, reeling from a loss of consumer trust, trying desperately to win us back.

Facebook’s great potential is in better advertising. Yet, the social network appears to be ignoring some important foundational steps in that direction.

You can read both posts to learn about the projects that I think Facebook should be giving more time and attention.  I’m not suggesting anything too radical — rather, I am mostly encouraging Facebook to open a few game-changing advertising tools that it has previously tested for general public use.

The big announcements are now behind us, and the tech press is swooning over Facebook’s new gadgets, but we’ll have to let the dust settle before we know if the new tools are as suitable to commerce as they are to media.  To Facebook’s credit, they have opened up a whole new set of flexible tools for developers that should make Stik.com and other high-value social sites better in one way or another.

Hat tips to:

A Travelin’ Brand: TripAdvisor’s Facebook-Connected Reviews Threaten Travel Brands

My latest guest post has just been published on GigaOM.  The big idea is that online review sites are undermining brands by making it easier for consumers to know the quality of specific locations and individual service professionals.

Here’s an excerpt:

Take this Google search for Super 8 Motels, for example. On the front page, you’ll see ratings that hotel guests have written about particular Super 8s on TripAdvisor, Yahoo Travel and Yelp. Importantly, the reviews vary widely. When I checked, a New Mexico location was rated 4.5 stars, while a Los Angeles location was at 3.5 stars and one in British Columbia had only 2 stars. Such location-specific information undermines brands’ ability to affect consumers’ purchasing decisions with 30-second TV spots and gives TripAdvisor a powerful position.

TripAdvisor is ahead of other travel sites thanks in part to their use of Facebook-connected recommendations, which help websites make sales by establishing instant trust with visitors. As a potential hotel guest, I am interested in the consensus among previous guests, but I am especially interested in what my friends have said. Reviews can be intensely personal — for example, here’s my TripAdvisor review of a beach resort in Mexico — and if you know the author, it makes a huge difference in how reliable you consider the review.

For the Super 8 brand, the end game could be scary: as TripAdvisor accumulates more and more trusted reviews, the best-performing Super 8s, all of which are independent franchises, may eventually realize that their business is suffering from their association with lesser motels. At that point, we might see a “brand run,” wherein the best locations leave the chain, lowering the brand’s value and ultimately leading to its collapse.

See the post itself for a few recommendations for brand managers.

I didn’t have space to discuss which sorts of brands are more or less threatened by reviews sites, but it’s worth pointing out that consumer product brands like Coca-Cola, Gillette, and Doritos are safe.  Online review sites don’t make sense for such items, as everybody already knows the taste of Coca-Cola.

Franchise brands like hotel chains and national insurance agent networks (think Farmers, State Farm, Allstate) – will face the biggest challenges as consumers gain access to location- and employee-level reviews.

The Next eCommerce Engine: Personal Recommendations

Here is Nathan’s piece on Business Insider, highlighting how personalized recommendations will drive the next phase of eCommerce growth.    Despite a growing number of online alternatives, the brick & mortar retail model has largely remained intact and eCommerce still only accounts for  7% of retail sales in the US.  What happened?

In short, the prognosticating class failed to recognize two basic facts:

1. As social creatures, people like to establish trust via personal interactions before making important purchases

2. As physical creatures, people prefer to touch even the most basic things before buying.

This history of eCommerce since 1999 has largely been about overcoming these two hurdles. Progress has been slower than expected, but there have been notable successes. Amazon, for example, disrupted books and music sales by making it fun and easy to sample media on their website, and in this domain the old predictions are starting to come true: Borders is closing their doors.

Yet, eCommerce has remained highly impersonal, and the fate of booksellers has been the exception, because websites have never had a good way to promote trust-building interactions. That is, until Facebook began powering 1-click logins for other sites.

Read the full article here.  Hat tip to Lauren at Business Insider for her continued support.