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Avoiding Business Promotion Pitfalls

Promoting your business to acquire new customers should boost your bottom line over time. But promotion pitfalls can have the opposite effect.

If your company has service vans, your company logo and phone number (or even website address) are probably on each van. This is a great idea until someone with poor driving habits gets behind the wheel of one of those vans.

To avoid promoting a negative image of your company:

• Ensure anyone driving one of your vehicles has taken a defensive driving course. If you have them take it on company time, you send a strong message about how important that is.

• Make it clear that nobody is to talk on the phone while driving; even a small distraction can result in big negative consequences. Pull over to take or make a call.

• Communicate to employees that courteous driving might not generate sales, but driving that isn’t courteous spreads a sales-killing image.

Several years ago, it was all the rage to hire a search engine optimization (SEO) company to help boost a company website’s visibility in the search engine results. Thousands of businesses using SEOs found their sites banned from search engines because of methods used by these SEOS, and they spent thousands of dollars repairing the damage. If you think on it for a bit, you can draw several lessons from that.

For a few years now, social media has been the big thing. Self-proclaimed “experts” write articles advising businesses to have a presence in various social media platforms, blog daily, and “engage” people who will probably never be your customers.

Some social media activities may be appropriate for your business. But think carefully before expending resources. If, for example, your firm basically “runs pipe and pulls wire,” what can you really say in a daily blog and who will read it? But if you are the guest speaker on a webinar targeted toward your customer base, that session will probably be a productive use of your resources.

Social media platforms can present hazards even if your business is never mentioned. A localized social media platform covered a firm’s customer service area. On that platform, one of the firm’s owners posted in his own name, not representing the firm in any way. It was pleasantly worded, so to him it could not possibly be taken in a bad way. He wrote why a particular political candidate was a good choice.

Supporters of the opponent discovered the writer was an owner of this firm. Instead of respecting the owner’s personal opinion, which in no way disparaged their own choice of candidate and had nothing to do with the owner’s business, they created serious blowback to his business. The smear campaign wasn’t honest or fair, but few people even questioned the accusations.

What’s the lesson here? Avoid certain topics on public forums, even when not wearing your business hat.

Government agency employees generally must follow practices similar to these recommended policies for small private firms:

• If posting with your business hat on, keep any posting totally about your business and its concerns relative to serving its customers in your target market.
Agency: Keep it about agency business.

• Bar key personnel from posting personal views on “hot topics” (e.g., politics), even on their own time using their own identity. A protective separation between private individual and your company probably does not exist.
Agency: Don’t generate personal controversy, it could reflect on the agency.

• Prohibit employees from using the company name in their own private social media. For example, they can’t mention it on their Facebook page.
Agency: Don’t mention the agency in your personal posts.

• Ask employees to use good judgment before deciding to post any photos of themselves. Give examples of what is permissible and what to avoid.
Agency: Keep them appropriate for all venues.

You can’t control what messages other people send about your firm. But you can influence those messages by keeping your communications positive and non-controversial.

No matter how innocuous you believe your personal opinions are, think very carefully about the business ramifications before expressing them in social media. Expressing your opinions in social media probably will not change anyone’s mind; is the risk to your business worth the low likelihood of any reward?

Reserve your personal opinions for the people you are most comfortable with, rather than putting them out there for strangers to take the wrong way and then react badly.

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