Hug Your Competitors: 4 Steps to Embracing Online Criticism
I lost my wallet recently. It was a total bummer.
And the problem wasn’t so much that I lost my credit cards (I could cancel and replace them) or the cash (only $15), but dang I really liked that wallet. After years of wearing through crummy wallets, I finally found one that could survive for more than a few months.
I bought the wallet from a company called Saddleback Leather, a company which specializes in impossibly well-built leather stuff. What sold me on the wallet was this video, a perfectly orchestrated piece of passive-aggressive marketing. (It’s a long video, but it’s worth it.)
In this video, Saddleback does a great job of embracing online criticism from their outside competitors and bootleggers by effectively showing them how the sausage is made. From the quality of the leather to the dies used to cut the straps, they give out (for free, even!) just about everything a shady company would need to create their own bag.
Why the heck would they do that? This might seem like career suicide, but, it’s really one of the smartest marketing moves I’ve ever seen.
By telling bootleggers how their bags are made, they’re giving potential customers the scoop on how to spot the bad stuff. Their well-planned reaction to negative criticism saved them from losing business — and won people over as well.
The bad news: eventually, your brand is going to receive some criticism from a competitor or a client. At first, this can be hard to take, but it’s largely a cost of doing business. Problems arise, however, when these competitors start scooping your clients or online reviews (like Yelp or Google Reviews) ding your credibility. Don’t sweep your problems under the rug. Here’s how companies should react to online criticism.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Everyone’s looked for information about a restaurant or store online. When you Google your company, chances are your website comes up first, but that’s not always what your customers look at first. Often, people flock to Facebook or Google Plus Local for reviews before looking at what the company has to say about themselves.
What you can do: Pay attention to what others are saying about your brand online. Set up a Google Alert for the name of your company that will ping you whenever someone mentions you.
Address the Issue and Admit Fault
If someone complains about your product or service online, do not dodge the issue. Face the problem and address what the problem is. And, if applicable, be quick to admit fault. There’s nothing hidden online, and your company is no different. Sweeping your customers’ problems under the rug will come back to bite you.
What you can do: Converse with whoever is making claims against you, don’t just shoot their arguments down. Let them know that you care and you’re there to help them.
Use it to your advantage
Here’s where the magic is: the cloud of complaints have a silver lining.
Whenever complaints arise online, you’re granted the opportunity to demonstrate in a public place how responsive your company is to your customers. Just like complaints, any response you have for customers lives online forever. And positive, helpful comments are great marketing in their own right.
What you can do: Get creative! What did you learn from this interaction? Would your potential customers learn something as well? Turn this interaction into a ringing endorsement of your awesome customer service.
Don’t be afraid to reveal the “secret sauce”
McDonalds is working hard to shed its fast-food reputation. And it’s doing that through programs like Your Questions, which tackles rumors about McDonald’s food head-on, using video when possible. Instead of hiding the secrets that make their company what it is, they’re very open and forthcoming with answers about their food.
Heck, they’re even giving away the sauce that’s on the Big Mac (the literal “secret sauce”), which was an industry secret for years. And they’re not losing business because of it, they’re winning trust.
Tesla Motors, inventors of some highly covetable electric cars, just gave away all of their proprietary inventions’ patents. Why? To advance the technology of the industry as a whole. They’re already 10 steps ahead of everybody else, so why not?
What you can do: Whatever your company does, there’s another company out there that does pretty much the same thing. Your differentiator lies in the way you tell your story and turn it into a tale your customers are itching to read.
How does your brand embrace competition online? Leave us a comment below!