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Negative Bytes Can Come Back and Bite You

by Michel Fortin

As most of my business is found through referrals, I received a call from a company that was referred to me by someone at the college where I teach marketing management. They were looking specifically for help in the area of e-commerce (i.e., SQL database programming, shopping cart software, and notably merchant account set-up, which is in my estimation a more daunting task here in Canada when compared to the American banking system).

They were told that I would be the "expert" to contact. While I was flattered somewhat, I had to decline since my expertise is mostly in business development and marketing. Granted, the extra business would have been a great addition to my portfolio. But I felt that I would offer a disservice if I were to serve them in a way that would not have been to their best advantage.

And so came two interesting observations.

First, while others would jump at the opportunity, the potential damage that it can cause my company in the long run would be rather serious. Of course, I could have provided the service and would have found the resources to do so. But I felt that it would be better for me to simply refer the prospect to one of my other clients who is more qualified in that particular area.

As mentioned in a previous article (see http://SuccessDoctor.com/article26.htm), the long term effects are usually the opposite of the short term ones -- crime, sex, and drugs are typical examples. In marketing, however, since credibility as well as third party, word-of-mouth advertising are key (especially on the Web), providing a service that I was not qualified to render could have cost me down the road. Many clients in my practice have encountered that very problem and are now faced with the possibility of closing their doors because of it.

Poor service and the lack of integrity online may not seem as important. But in actuality the underlying and oftentimes inconspicuous negativity it may cause can (as one of my mentors once said) "come back and bite you." On the Internet, bites (or negative bytes, in this case) can indeed be worse than its barks -- words online carry more weight. Why? For two reasons:

     1) Roger Dawson, author of "How to Get Anything You Want," once wrote,
         "If it is said, it could be true, but if it is written, then it must be true."

     2) And words online stay around for a lot longer than any other medium --
         including the fact that their flow is almost impossible to stop.

My mentor also said, "Implication is more powerful than specification." While I usually use this phrase to demonstrate that implying superiority is more powerful than stating it (in instances where one's expertise is implied instead of outright declared -- e.g., through ezine articles, e-books, forums, and good service), the negative aspect applies just as well.

In other words, if you offer poor service, or a product of lesser value than what you claim (even if it's not apparent in the short-term), the mere implied notion that you are offering poor service can kill you in the long run. Statistics have shown that, when a person is satisfied with a product or service, he or she will tell 3 other people about it. But when that person is dissatisfied, 10 others will get an earful. Online, those numbers are easily multiplied.

Nevertheless, my second observation came from something I've learned from Jay Abraham (see http://www.abraham.com) who I believe to be one of the most savvy and successful marketers in the world. Jay often teaches Deming's marketing concept of "optimization." In short, it says that, if you do not make the best use of whatever business process in which you're engaged, you'll never grow your business to the extent to which it can really become.

In the same way, making your customers realize -- and then providing them -- the optimal value of what you offer is key to expanding your company's profits if not future profitability. Internet marketers are faced with a plethora of competitors and service-related issues. Therefore, losing a customer online is much easier than it is in the offline business world.

If prospects don't recognize the value of what you offer and, more important, don't receive it, they may not only choose to never buy from you but also never return if they do buy. In the very least, they may talk negatively about you. While that might seem trivial, on the fast world wide web a customer's dissatisfaction can propagate faster than a virus. Rants or "negative bytes" can appear everywhere: Web sites, newsgroups, message boards, emails, and, of course, conversations -- people would far more tell others what to avoid than where to go.

While legal teams can work incessantly to stop the spread of negative publicity, recent cases have proved that, online, it can be a more arduous task than what most would tend to believe. (Interesting cases in point are http://www.aolsucks.com and http://microsoftsucks.com.) In the very least, if people don't know you exist, you simply don't. But if you offer poor service or fail to deliver the level of service you promised, you will be avoided -- like a virus.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.

Tags: Sales and Marketing



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