Inspire Positive Conversations Behind Your Back

Inspire Positive Conversations Behind Your Back written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Today everybody can publicly give a thumbs up or down to each customer experience.

Whether you’re an Uber driver or a brain surgeon, you have to accept that online reviews are now built into the buying process.

While negative reviews can certainly impact business, it’s second only to having none at all.

When potential customers don’t see reviews or any trace of satisfied customers, you immediately fall off the short list.

Since you know customers are already going to talk behind your back, you want to make sure your business lands on the right side of reviews.

Here are eight ways you can inspire customers to talk positively about you online:

  1. Highlight the things people love about your business. Your stand-out qualities could be your areas of expertise, location, service, or a special touch that people have come to associate with your business. Develop a list by asking loyal customers to weigh in and share why they frequent your business. Highlight their reasons on your social media profiles, website, and online business listings and directories. This helps separate you from the pack, reinforces your strengths, and drives word-of-mouth.
  2. Create memorable experiences. The customer experience doesn’t need to be over-the-top or cut into your profits to be memorable, but it should make an impression and be unique to your business. After all, customers tend to remember how you made them feel more than what they purchased. Creating a memorable experience can be as simple as the welcome customers receive when they enter your physical or virtual business, recognizing their birthday or sending a personalized thank you note, for example.
  3. Be transparent and authentic. In other words, ditch the pitch and focus on addressing the customer’s needs. That requires your conversations and marketing content to inform and steer them toward the best products and services for their particular needs and budgets. When they know that your priority is to help them get the most from their investments, they’ll be more inclined to buy from you and recommend you to their friends.
  4. Freely offer your expertise. There’s a misconception among some small business owners that if they offer free advice, they’re cutting into their profits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you work for free or compromise your livelihood, but you can strike a balance by sharing enough knowledge to establish your credibility and reputation. Some simple ways to do this are through proactively answering frequently asked questions and offering insider tips and shortcuts on social media or in your email newsletter. Make those tips easy to digest and share online and your customers will thank you for helping spread the word.
  5. Solicit feedback and read between the lines. Nobody wants to be surprised by a bad review, which is why it’s so important to encourage customers to provide feedback, even if it’s not always what you want to hear. Along with regularly engaging customers in soliciting their feedback, consider initiating short surveys in your newsletter or on your Facebook page. Also, depending on the products and services you sell, it might make sense to follow up a few months after a customer has been using your product for a little while. Along with these overt requests for feedback, pay attention to a lack of response as it can speak volumes. Additionally, take a good look at how your customers are engaging with you online. Are they clicking on your email content and sharing it or have there been dips in your subscriber list? Keeping an eye on these subtle customer actions and reactions allows you to continuously improve the customer experience and get ahead of potentially negative reviews.
  6. Share great content. Follow news and trends that are happening locally and in your industry. Specifically, be on the lookout for posts that relate to your customers’ interests and present an opportunity to reinforce your value. Along with sharing the content, make the post your own by inserting your views (while giving credit to the original source). This engages your audience, inspires them to share your content, elevates your profile, and reinforces what makes your business unique.
  7. Foster an active online community. Use your social media platforms to spark conversations with customers and connect them with each other. You can do this by tossing out a question on social media, sharing content from followers, and spotlighting customers. Fostering an active online community helps quickly spread the word about your business while giving you great insight your audience so you can deliver more personalized marketing campaigns. Not to mention it helps instill brand loyalty.
  8. Shape the conversation to earn great reviews. Every small business owner knows that online review sites are getting more sophisticated at spotting fake posts and preventing them from going live. Yet that doesn’t mean you should sit idle and hope for a positive review to magically appear. When customers tell you they’ve had a great experience, let them know which review sites your business is listed on and suggest they tell others about it. If you keep the dialog light, let them know how important their online feedback is to your business, and avoid quid pro quo situations, they’ll be inspired to write authentic posts.

Motivating customers to talk positively about your business starts with providing a positive customer experience, engaging customers with helpful, free advice and consistently asking for feedback to continuously improve the products, services, and experiences you deliver. Then you won’t have to worry about those conversations happening behind your back.

About the Author

Dave Charest

Dave Charest is Senior Manager, Content & Social Media Marketing at Constant Contact. Dave and his team make stuff to help small businesses do better marketing. For more insight and advice on marketing your small business, subscribe to the Constant Contact blog.

Duct Tape Marketing

Self-Driving Cars Drive Closer To Reality and Uber Is or Isn’t Behind the Wheel


I spent the day at Mercedes Benz Research and Development North America (MBRDNA) in Sunnyvale, California getting a full briefing on the state of the company’s EV, machine learning/AI and autonomous work. More on that soon. By the time I arrived home later that evening, thank you Guy Kawasaki for the ride, I received an email from Uber that it was set to debut a bold new autonomous pilot in San Francisco effective immediately.

Wait. What?


Indeed. Uber is extending its current mapping and self-driving ride/hail pilot currently underway in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the home of Uber itself…San Francisco. Now riders will have the opportunity to catch one of a small fleet of self-driving Volvo XC90s to their next destination.

That happened a lot sooner than I expected.

Now before we get too excited, let’s keep in mind that these are tests not the introduction of official self-driving services. Testing is critical to learn, break things, and advance the technology to accelerate safety and consistency. And while the car is technically driving itself most of the time, there is a specially trained driver ready to take control at any moment. There’s also an additional passenger who is tracking and analyzing real-time data to optimize performance along the way.

In a blog post announcing the program, Uber explained the benefits of testing in public, “Expanding our self-driving pilot allows us to continue to improve our technology through real-world operations. With its challenging roads and often varied weather, Pittsburgh provided a wide array of experiences. San Francisco comes with its own nuances including more bikes on the road, high traffic density and narrow lanes.”

This move didn’t arrive without controversy of course.

Immediately following the announcement, the California DMV claimed the test is illegal and issued the equivalent of a cease and desist.

The DMV requires a permit to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. Recently, it announced 20 companies were granted this special permit. Personally, I’ve been driven in a self-driving Mercedes as part of this program in Silicon Valley.

Uber believes  its technology is exempt because it operates with a full-time driver.

Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s Advanced Technology Group, in a blog post published early Wednesday morning, “The rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days, and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”

The DMV disagreed. And to be fair, every self-driving test by any carmaker or technology provider on public roads includes a specially licensed driver behind the wheel at all times.

“It is illegal for (Uber) to operate its self-driving vehicles on public roads until it receives an autonomous vehicle testing permit. We have a permitting process in place to ensure public safety as this technology is being tested. Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits to test hundreds of cards on California roads,” the DMV said. “Uber shall do the same.”

“Nope” appears to be Uber’s response. It continues to drive its pilot program in SF pedal to the metal.

The Self-Driving Uber Experience

So what’s it like to be a human guinea pig in Uber’s autonomous experiment? Most consumers report that it’s a bit anticlimactic. Why? Because there’s nothing really to report. The drive seems normal albeit without someone operating the steering wheel, gas or brake pedals or guiding the vehicle in most cases. The human driver takes over to ensure safety, which is strange to say. That’s why we’re going autonomous in the future after all. Humans make mistakes. For now however, so do computers. That’s the point of the test.

There have been some interesting reports though that reveal just how much self-driving cars need to practice and learn given the countless scenarios that drivers encounter on any given day.

Marisa Kendall with the Mercury News offered details of her “eventful ride” with a self-driving Uber.

Then the car encountered a parked truck that was blocking part of the lane. At the same time, a bird flew in front of its camera. It was too much — the car slammed on its brakes in the middle of the street, ceding control to its human driver.

Believe it or not, this is how the car learns. Each drive feeds a master repository to help it perform in complex conditions that human drivers consider second nature. Kendall also documented a complicated scenario where the car performed normally…

But the car also “saw” pedestrians and bicycles and waited for them to pass before making turns. It noticed when the light turned green and started moving on its own, and once swerved to miss a truck sticking out into the road.

Other reports documented a “robot” Uber running a red light, which made the headlines of course. However, that story was human error according to Snopes.

It’s meant to be an immersive experience that gives riders a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. Uber provides a large touch screen in the back that displays the car’s route and a real-time rendered version of the what the car sees through its cameras and laser guidance systems. Uber also lets passengers take selfies using a camera facing the back seat. They can then email the picture to themselves and share on social media for all to see, like and share.

The Next Car You Buy Won’t Be a Car You Actually Buy

Uber is investing ghastly amounts of money to prove out its self-driving technology to compete against, well, everyone it seems. But it’s not doing so to simply operate as a sophisticated taxi or limo service. Uber wants to be your next car.

In its announcement of the San Francisco pilot, Uber was transparent in its intentions…

Creating a viable alternative to individual car ownership is important to the future of our cities. And to get there, we need to fuse our ridesharing network with world class self-driving software and hardware.

This is a controversial topic. It almost seems inconceivable that humans won’t own cars. But none of this will happen overnight. In fact, many car markers are betting on shared services, developing “Vehicles as a Service” (VaaS) programs that account for shared or on-demand ownership. Human and robot driven cars will co-exists for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, these are exciting times and we may or may not be the ones driving ourselves toward our new future. Some of us might just recline the seat and let the car do the driving.

UPDATE: General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced on December 15th, 2016 that the automaker will begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Michigan. Recently, Michigan Governor Rick Synder signed a package of bills that legalize operation of autonomous vehicles. The goal is to bring the spotlight back to Michigan as the beacon of automotive innovation. Additionally, Barra also announced that the Orion Township assembly plant will product its autonomous test vehicles in early 2017. This is the same plant where the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt is produced.

“We expect GM will become the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass production assembly plant,” Barra said during a press conference.

GM is already testing its fleet of 40 autonomous vehicles at its Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich as well as on public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz.

UPDATE 2: Uber still refuses to apply for a $ 150 permit to test self-driving cars citing “principle.” The company challenged the DMV to explain why Tesla’s Autopilot system doesn’t require a DMV permit.

UPDATE 3: The California Attorney General threatened action against Uber if it does not heed the DMV’s request. In a letter signed by CA Supervising Deputy Attorney Generals Miguel A. Neri and Fiel D. Tigno, “the Attorney General will seek injunctive and other appropriate relief.” if Uber does not pull its self-driving cars from San Francisco streets.


Please read X, The Experience When Business Meets Design or visit my previous publications

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Brian Solis

DAY 3 @ the V&A: Behind the Scenes of my Shakespeare Course

This is a guest post by Dr Enza De Francisci who is currently preparing a Shakespeare and Italy course at the V&A supported by the University College London-King’s College London Collaborative Learning Fellowship in the Arts, Society and the Humanities (Arts and Humanities Research Council)

Today’s day at the V&A involved taking my international students from the University of the Arts London[3] to the Theatre and Performance gallery and leading my first ever tour and talk. After much ‘drama’ on the way to the museum, we finally made it. And what a surprise to see the recently opened display: Make/Believe: UK Design for Performance 2011-2015. This display revealed the diversity of performance design over the last four years and featured work from around the world each based on a different form of music: opera, dance, theatre, to pop music — the works will later be exhibited at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in June 2015. This display was both visually and aurally stimulating. I particularly liked the colourful ‘Wishing Tree’ against the vibrant blue background in a mini reproduction of the set for Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale designed by Bob Crowley which was staged at the Royal Opera House in 2014. The recreation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni also produced at the Royal Opera House the same year caught my eye: the rotating wooden set exhibited all of the different angles of the stage designed by Es Devlin. It was interesting to hear clips from Wagner’s Das Walküre and Das Rheingold which were both produced in 2013 at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo in Sicily. The display came to a close with a screening of the Paralympics Closing ceremony in London in 2012 featuring the likes of Rhianna and UCL’s very own Coldplay. So that brought me to the end of my gallery tour but did my students have any questions? Yes: where’s the Jewellery collection?


My students were drawn to the Jewellery gallery by the sparking bright lights from all the diamonds. Over 3,000 jewels are stored here from Ancient Greece to the present day: gold Celtic breastplate, medieval love rings, pendants, pocket watches, diamond tiaras. Transfixed by all the jewellery and glued to the screens demonstrating the preservation of certain pocket watches, my students did not want to leave the gallery. But one more stop to go!

Watch and Case, Jean Fazy, 1765 - 70

So on to our final destination: Fashion. Here, my students who specialize in fashion design took over the tour and enlightened me on all of the different garments. We sat in front of many modern dresses and my students were able to comment on the design, designer, and historical period. In the midst of the gallery was the recently opened exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. This exhibition presents approximately 200 pairs of shoes ranging from sandals from ancient Egypt to more extreme forms of footwear by today’s fashion designers, taking into consideration the cultural significance and technology now available to produce such designs. What an incredible tour — theatre, jewellery and fashion all in one day. Just one of the many perks of combining the teaching profession with such an incredible museum.


Platform Shoes, Vivian Westwood, 1993