Talking Business

Marvin Carolina Jr.: Feedback—it’s good for business

Before I begin I want to congratulate you. For what? For having the courage to launch your business and the stamina to stay in business. I was once a small-business owner, and I know how difficult it is. Not only is it difficult competing in an ultra-competitive global market, it’s sometimes difficult hearing criticism about how you run your business.

Most of your friends and family members who offer their opinions have good intentions, and although it’s sometimes difficult listening to criticism, they’re merely trying to help. The holidays have passed, and if your family is like mine, you get together during the holidays and discuss who’s doing what. If you own your business, when the conversation turns to you and what you’re doing, you will surely have family members visit your website and tell you what they think.

Some will visit to see whether they want to buy your product or service, and some will visit for the sole purpose of giving their opinion. I know how it feels being on the hot seat, getting good-spirited, unsolicited feedback about your business. But I have to admit: I’ve also given my share of good-spirited, unsolicited feedback. My family would probably say I’ve given more than my share.

Comes with the territory

You’ve no doubt discovered that people enjoy telling you what they think about your business — even when you haven’t asked — and comment from family and friends isn’t limited to the holidays. They offer it year-round. Some comments are mean-spirited and some is tactful, but regardless of how it’s delivered, the message is you should do something differently. Since you take pride in how you run your business, it can irk you a bit.

But feedback is important. To improve the way your business operates, you need to know what works and what doesn’t, which is why it’s important you have your customers complete surveys.

No obligation

Some small-business owners don’t like feedback because they think it threatens the way they do business. But it doesn’t. No matter what anyone says, no matter what comments they offer, you decide whether you’ll implement their suggestions. Asking for feedback doesn’t obligate you to use it, and you’ll find that on occasion someone will offer something that proves helpful.

Accept it

Some people bring things to your attention because they genuinely want to help, and some bring things to your attention because they want to point out your mistakes or your perceived mistakes. I’ve found a way to determine what a person’s motivation is.

Ask them to write their feedback down. If they’re willing, they’re probably trying to be helpful, but if they’re not, they’re probably trying to be hurtful. Either way, think about what they’ve said. You’re getting free advice! And it may actually be good advice.

Website

Your website is your marketing centerpiece. No single marketing piece will have as many readers as your website, so no single marketing piece will be responsible for shaping as many opinions about you and your business. It introduces you and your business to each person who visits it, and I’m sure you know, the first impression is a lasting impression.

Friends and relatives may visit your website out of curiosity, but prospective customers will visit for information. Regardless of who visits and why, you have to make a good impression.

If your website touts your business’ attention to detail, for example, but your website is full of misspelled words or poorly written sentences, the visitor will conclude your product or service is probably of poor quality, too. They also will question your judgment and professionalism because a shoddy website represents a lack of both. This isn’t just true for your website. It’s true for any marketing piece you circulate.

Not just your website

Each marketing piece conveys a message and leaves an impression. To leave the impression you want, you need good copy. Each piece below is important. Think about the ones used at your business. Are they well written?

▪  Advertisements

▪  Annual reports

▪  Biographies

▪  Blogs

▪  Brochures

▪  Case studies

▪  Direct mailers

▪  Fliers

▪  LinkedIn profiles

▪  Memorandums (important)

▪  Newsletter articles

▪  Press releases

▪  Sales letters

▪  Signs

▪  Testimonials

▪  Tweets

▪  White papers

Conclusion

My hat’s off to you for the job you’ve done. Criticism stings sometimes, and while it’s not always given in the most gentle manner, it’s usually given with good intentions.

In addition to getting feedback from family and friends, it’s also a good idea to get a professional opinion. If you want feedback about your website or your brochure, for example, ask an editor or writer to review it. If you don’t know one, you can reach mine here and check out his website.

Feedback, whether given by a customer in a survey or by a cousin over the phone, is important for your business. No matter how good you are at what you do, you’re not an expert at everything. Make a habit of asking for feedback. Use what you can, and dismiss the rest.

Marvin Carolina Jr. is a vice president for JE Dunn Construction. He can be reached at marvin.carolina@jedunn.com.

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