The de facto assumption is that a promotional effort will bring your business positive results in the realms of branding, profit, and online reputation.
By and large, these assumptions are well-based, and the majority of businesses benefit tremendously from any type of promotional outreach, where basic considerations have been taken to guarantee the delivery of goods or services offered in the promo, in a manner that meets or exceeds customers’ expectations, and without thoughtlessly impacting your overall revenues.
Sometimes, however, things go wrong, and when they do, expect for your customers’ voices to snowball into a social media and online reputation disaster. If you are planning a promo and want to have all your bases covered, or you found this article while looking for the means to handle a PR crisis playing out in third-party review sites, social media, and the press, then we want to give you some preemptive advice as well as tried and true ways to handle a crisis once it happens. Join us as we explore how to avoid and how to handle a promo gone wrong.
Assess Your Delivery Capacity and Worst-Case Scenario Before Rolling a Promo
Just because you receive a pitch for a social promo through a third party, or you just saw a competitor do a promo, it does not mean you can follow suit.
Before you push a promo with added value or lowered pricing structure, measure your financial and operational capacity to deliver what you are promising, while maintaining the highest quality standards and without breaking the bank.
If you have been in business for a while, then you probably remember the cautionary tale of the cupcake Groupon gone wrong. Sit down with your operational and financial team, and estimate how a promo is likely to affect you if you have a high redemption rate. In a similar vein, don’t make profit assumptions based on a promo unless you have historical data to support it.
Don’t Corner Yourself: Include Small Print
If you are rolling a promo, then make sure you spell out the terms and conditions in a way that is clear, fair, and provides your business a way out should you experience challenges executing as promised. Include redemption alternatives and, if necessary, the option of full face-value refund to ensure a customer does not feel double-crossed by your business.
Avoid a Culture of Loss Leader-Based Promos
Unless you have sufficient consumer data to support the value of a promotion, where your business stands to lose money or barely break even, try to avoid it as much as possible. A well-designed promo includes terms that require the customer to engage with a variety of products and services at regular price in order to obtain the promotional service or goods.
By forcing transactional diversity, you reduce the risk of impacting your bottom line. There will certainly be occasions where there is marketing value in losing revenue, such as when you are introducing a new product or brand. In this case, the loss should be adjudicated to your marketing budget, and your success should not be measured directly by revenue. Instead, you should look for metrics of engagement to better understand the impact of your promo. Let us reemphasize that loss-leader promos cannot be the totality of your long-term promo and marketing strategy.
Google Yourself at the First Sign of Crisis
Now that your promo is rolling, if you suspect something has gone wrong, be on alert and continuously conduct searches in association with your business. If someone is talking about you in a negative light, then you want to be the first one to know about it in order to quickly engage in corrective actions. Whether it is a blogger or the press, you need to understand the severity of the message in order to properly address it operationally, and to take care of the customers already impacted by it.
Always Have Real-Time Review Monitoring Tools in Place
You might think we are asking you to duplicate tasks by Googling yourself and having tools for online review monitoring, but the reality is that when it comes to crisis management, time is of the essence. A well-designed, comprehensive review monitoring platform like ReviewTrackers will allow you to efficiently tackle customer-generated opinion where it is most likely to happen. With features like HootSuite integration, you can get real-time alerts to your mobile while remaining engaged in operational matters.
Be Honest: Your Customers May Just Cut You a Break
It is a well-known fact that when it comes to small businesses, local customers appreciate integrity above all. Don’t try to hide the reality of things. Sometimes, a little transparency can buy you a ton of rapport, and many of your regulars will even cut you a break. Don’t underestimate the value of relational integrity if you are dealing with a promo gone wrong.
Don’t Hide Your Head in the Sand
The crisis will not disappear by hiding it, or hiding from it, or simply ignoring the facts. Take a deep breath and tackle the situation one customer at a time. Make customer commitment and resilience your motto, and just make the next move. Many businesses have failed, not by having a promo gone wrong, but rather by having a case of paralysis when it came to dealing with the snags.
Engage with Customers at a Personal Level and Provide Viable Solutions and Alternatives
As a businessperson, you might be evaluating the crisis as a collective concept, but we ask you to make sure you don’t collectivize the situation. Treat each customer affected by the shortcomings of your promo at a personal level, and find solutions and alternatives that make sense to the individuals. Do not use templates when it comes to review responses, and whenever possible, contact the customer privately to offer remedy and options to right a wrong.
Keep Track of Your Successes and Failures and Optimize Future Promos Based on Your Learnings
Entrepreneurship is about learning. A promo gone wrong can be extremely costly and discouraging, but let’s look at it from the bright side. Take note of the details and learn from them. In the same way, you need to take a look at your most successful promos and identify how they have positively impacted your revenue, brand reach, and online business reputation. Whenever possible, you should seek to eliminate the bad and duplicate the good as you work toward optimizing your business processes in a way that is both sustainable and scalable.