Monday Mornings with Madison

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Fake Reviews – Part 2

With the advent of the Internet, word-of-mouth referrals, written recommendations and printed reviews have spread into the online world. All manner of websites now allow consumers, experts and trusted sources to write reviews about any product or service… or person, for that matter. Such sites abound including Linked In, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, Urbanspoon and countless others. They allow people to rate everything from restaurants and hotels to retailers and professionals. The problem is that as much as a quarter to a third of all online reviews are totally fake.
Some companies spend a lot of time and money to get good fake reviews or generate bad reviews for competitors. Why do they do it? Is it really all that beneficial to the business? And, if so, what’s to stop all businesses from writing fake reviews until no reviews – even legitimate ones – will have any credibility? Continue reading

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Fake Reviews – Part 1

It’s been said that people do business with people they know, like and trust. That is considered by many to be a basic truth of business. The key ingredient of that formula is trust. Customers want to do business with companies that they trust will do a good job and treat them fairly and courteously. Long before the Internet, consumers used the old-fashioned but reliable method of identifying worthy vendors: Word-of-Mouth. It was understood that past performance was the best indicator of future behavior. From doctors to department stores and from Realtors to restaurants, people would frequent nearby businesses recommended by a family member, friend or colleague. A business that was highly recommended generally could be trusted to deliver a good product or service.
With the advent of the Internet, however, consumers had more choices of companies with which to do business, including companies that were much farther away than their neighborhood. The global village offered more choice but with it also came the challenge of knowing which businesses to trust. The old-fashioned method of identifying worthy vendors was updated for the Internet age. Word-of-mouth referrals evolved into online customer reviews. To facilitate the process, websites sprung up that allowed consumers to write reviews about their experience with that business. Sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, and others, allowed customers to rate vendors; everything from restaurants and hotels to retailers and professionals. Problem solved? Not exactly. It now appears that as much as 25-33% of all online reviews are completely bogus. Called astro-turfing, the problem of fake reviews is a growing. Continue reading

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Dressing for Success

While it’s been said many times that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, marketers know that people do just that. That’s why product packaging plays such a pivotal role in product sales. Product packaging designers know that looks matter, and without a properly designed package a product is hard to sell regardless of how good its other attributes might be. Indeed, packaging design represents what the brand stands for as much as other elements of the brand visual identity do, and in certain cases the packaging is almost as important as the product itself.

This applies not only to the sale of products. It also applies to the most valuable resource any business has… its employees. Career coaches and HR experts agree that applicants should dress for the job they want, not the job they currently have or last had. Applicants are evaluated first by their appearance, which is a key part of body language. Employers want to hire someone who ‘looks the part.’ But ‘dressing the part’ applies not only to those seeking employment. Dressing for success is a personal philosophy that everyone in the workplace should adopt. While office attire has certainly changed over the years, giving rise to ‘business casual’ and ‘casual Fridays’, how employees dress for work still matters. Here’s why. Continue reading

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Untying the K”nots”

What is standing between you and success? Is it a person, place or thing? For many, a person is the biggest obstacle to achieving their greatest dream. It might be an enemy or nemesis. Or perhaps it is a competitor. Or it could be a coworker. It might even be someone much closer, such as a friend or family member. But for some, it is someone even closer than that. For some, the most daunting impediment to achieving their goals is their own face in the mirror. That’s right. For some, the biggest barrier to achieving their dreams is themselves and the negative self-talk inside.

For some, the knots binding them from achieving their wishes and dreams are in their mind and heart. They are bound by the have nots, can nots and do nots in their own minds. They are anchored by the will nots, may nots, and might nots that have affixed themselves to their hearts. They are tethered by the could nots of the past, the should nots of the present and the anticipated would nots of the future. The “nots” in their thinking become the actual knots that bind and obstruct their path to happiness and success. Most importantly, the am nots, especially thoughts such as “I am not good enough” hold people down. And if you think that positive thinking and positive self talk is just a bunch of nonsense, think again. There is scientific proof that positive thinking has a powerful positive effect and negative thinking has a powerful negative effect. Continue reading

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The Scoop on LinkedIn’s Skill Endorsements Feature

About a year ago, LinkedIn — the preferred social media site for professionals (especially in the U.S. and U.K) — rolled out a new feature called ‘Skill Endorsements’. According to LinkedIn, skill endorsements were meant to be “a great way to recognize your 1st-degree connections’ skills and expertise with one click.” They were also supposed to “let your connections validate the strengths found on your own profile.” In short, Skill Endorsements were meant to be a simple and effective way of simultaneously building your professional brand and engaging your network. Fast forward one year. LinkedIn has recorded over 1 Billion Skill Endorsements to date. Yet, it also appears that the Skill Endorsements feature typically either baffles or bothers users most.

Questions about it abound. Beginners want to know how to give or receive Skill Endorsements? Others wonder whether they should endorse former employees or colleagues. Some want to know why LinkedIn implemented this feature at all. What is the point of Skill Endorsements? Still others want to know why LinkedIn’s Skill Endorsements feature functions as it does and, more importantly, is there a way to make it stop? These are all good questions. Let’s consider the methods, motives and madness of LinkedIn’s Skill Endorsements. Continue reading

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Warning: Selfishness Is Bad For Your Health

In a dog-eat-dog, competitive marketplace, many people develop a ‘me first’ mentality. Those adopting this mentality choose to do what is best for himself or herself first and foremost and then — if time, energy and resources allow — might deign to help others. And, it seems that this ‘looking out for number one’ attitude is becoming increasingly pervasive in today’s modern society. To many, this egotistical approach to life is justified as the best way to ‘get ahead.’ The question is: does selfishness pay?

Religious and spiritual leaders have forever warned about the perils of selfishness and touted the virtues of altruism. But now there is mounting scientific evidence that selfishness is actually bad for your health. Instead of a ‘me first’ approach to life being beneficial, scientists are finding that selfishness is actually harmful not only to society as a whole, but also to the individual being selfish. Inversely, doing nice things for others and putting others’ needs first actually is not only good for society but also for the do-gooder. Continue reading

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Embrace Office Organization

Organization and time management are two of the biggest challenges that people face day-to-day. Busy lives often result in messy lives. This is true both at home and work. In fact, lack of time often leads to clutter. At home, it might be the medicine cabinet that needs tidying. Or it might be the utensil drawer in the kitchen that needs sorting. Or it might be financial records that need organizing. For some, clutter is confined to one area. For others, mess is found in every drawer and closet… every nook and cranny. Lack of organization is not just irritating to the eye and stressing to the mind, it can actually cause real problems. For example, a person can’t take medicine if they can’t find the medicine. Bills not paid on time can result in a lower credit score or worse. Cluttered closets can hide resources that result in unnecessary purchases.

At work, lack of organization can also cause problems. A cluttered or messy desk can waste time as an employee searches for a needed paper or file. A disorganized supply room can cause staff to order additional supplies needlessly. Cluttered or misplaced records can even result in lost clients if key work is overlooked or deadlines are missed. Disorganized accounting records can wreak absolute havoc during an audit or at tax time. Given that organization is key to efficiency, economy of motion and effectiveness, how does a leader or manager ensure that all staff get and stay organized? How can a busy employee stay organized despite a heavy workload? Continue reading

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101 Questions to Ask When Considering Marketing Strategies

The best marketers know that, when it comes to marketing, variety is necessary in order to cut through the fog of competition and the vast noise of the marketplace and be able to reach each customer where he or she lives. Regardless of the industry, there is no single marketing channel that is best. The key to successful, long-term marketing is to reach people in the myriad of ways in which they prefer to receive or are most open to accepting messages about products or services. Just as people come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, religions and cultures, so do their preferences for interaction and their receptivity to messages. Some people prefer email promotions. Others look at direct mail circulars. Still others are influenced by billboards. And others listen to radio ads. Some even look at good, old-fashioned print ads.

A marketing channel that is totally ‘outdated and passé’ to one person, such as a branded desk calendar, might be ‘old-school cool’ or just plain practical for someone else. And a new edgy marketing strategy that may make no sense to one person, such as mobile ads, may hit the bulls-eye with someone else. The key is to not fall into the trap of thinking “This doesn’t speak to me, so therefore it won’t appeal to anyone else.” The smartest marketers keep an open mind.

But keeping an open mind and embracing variety has a price. While a diverse marketing program is important, that approach – if unchecked – can also be prohibitively expensive. Given the ever-broadening number of marketing channels available, it is impossible to advertise or promote a company everywhere all the time. So how does one decide which strategies to try and which to ignore? It is a matter of analysis and assessment. The first step is to ask a lot of questions. Continue reading

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In Search of The Best Marketing Channel

It’s been said that variety is the spice of life. Different strokes for different folks. To each his own. These expressions all communicate the fundamental truth that every individual has their own preferred way of doing things or approaching life. What resonates with one person may make no sense to someone else. What one person loves, another may detest.

Take, for instance, how people like their steaks cooked. Some like their steak cooked ‘medium’ which is pink at the center. Others like their meat a little less cooked, ‘medium-rare’, which is pink with a little red in the center. Still others go in the other direction and want a steak ‘well-done,’ cooked through until the meat is gray (which typically offends chefs and gourmands). At the other extreme, some prefer their steak so rare that it might still ‘moo’ on the table. So which customer is right? Is there one best way to cook a steak? When it comes to the restaurant business, the answer is that there is no single ‘right way’ to cook a steak. While chefs may have an opinion on the optimal temperature to cook meat, restaurateurs understand that they must serve it however the customer prefers. The customer – who is paying for the food — should get what they want the way they want it… and preferences vary greatly.

Is that also true of marketing? Is there one best way to deliver a marketing message to customers? Or do preferences vary greatly? If you ask most anyone in business about marketing, they likely will tout the virtues of one or two particular marketing channels above all others. Indeed, company leaders are perpetually in search of the single ‘best’ marketing channel. And they will argue vehemently in favor of the one they deem is ‘best.’ But is there one marketing channel that is consistently superior over all others? Continue reading

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Poison Pill: How to Deal with a Toxic Employee

No employer ever wants to think of any employee as ‘toxic’ or ‘poisonous’. Yet anyone who has ever worked with or managed a large team of people can attest that there is occasionally an individual who is so negative and damaging to the workplace that he/she is secretly thought of as a ‘poison pill.’ It could be an employee who is great at her job, but speaks to customers with utter contempt. It might be a stellar salesperson who is a top producer but treats support staff like lowly peasants. Perhaps it is a manager who is wonderful to customers but rude and harsh to his direct reports. Or maybe it is an employee who says all the right things to management but then turns around and bad mouths the company to other employees and customers. Whatever the scenario, the problem of a poisonous employee is not one that can be ignored.

The real problem with a poisonous employee is that, like a poison pill dropped in a well of fresh water, he or she can contaminate the entire source. Left untended, that individual can create problems with customers, other employees and management. But dealing with a poison pill employee can be tricky business, especially if the person is great at what they do. How should a company handle the hostile employee that threatens the harmony and success of the team? The answer is carefully but decisively. Continue reading

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