Archive for the ‘Small Business Advice’ Category


7 Tips for Handling Negative Comments on Social Media

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Written by Paul Murskov


Social media is an excellent way to connect with your customers and inspire brand loyalty. However, the public, immediate, and interconnected nature of social media poses unique customer service challenges. Deal with a negative post or tweet the wrong way and it could be shared and retweeted to hundreds or thousands of prospective customers in minutes.  So, when managing your company’s social media profiles, you must be quick and competent when responding to negative comments on social media. To handle these miniature PR crises in the most mature, professional way possible, take these seven steps.

1.    Try to catch complaints before they get posted. At TalkLocal, we once had to leverage social media to resolve a complaint with Comcast’s internet service. The company could have spared itself the embarrassment of a negative Youtube video if they had just gotten back to us when we contacted them directly. The moral of the story is that people will often reach out to you with complaints before they take them public, so watch your phone and email.

2.    Timing is everything. A sluggish response to an upset commenter is easily misinterpreted as you ignoring them. Have a same-day deadline for responding to social media complaints; delegating a monitoring role to an employee or Google Alerts can help you stay timely.

3.    Don’t feed the trolls. The social media sphere contains some aimless, generally anonymous provocateurs known as “trolls”.They are the rabid wildlife of the internet; a nuisance that comes with the territory. You should not concern yourself with trolling comments; just delete them if you have time. Look for bigotry, extreme obscenity, and irrelevance as indicators that an angry comment is a troll and not a legitimate issue.

4.    Only delete trolling comments, and NEVER “return fire” at any angry posts. Deleting a legitimate complaint implies that you refuse to resolve the issue. The only thing worse is escalating an angry comment with more anger, an extremely immature move. In short, do not respond to angry commenters while agitated. If somebody pushed your buttons, take a few deep breaths and calm down before dealing with them.

5.    Sound like a person. Now that automated customer service is so common, there’s a risk of responding to comments in a way that sounds computerized even if it isn’t. Make sure that you sincerely empathize with an upset commenter, and mention details of their complaint in your first response.

6.    Offer a customized solution. Answer their specific complaint, and make sure you’re not just referring them to customer service or a webpage. This has the double benefit of proving you’re not a robot and satisfying the upset commenter as quickly as possible.

7.    Know when it’s time to move the conversation elsewhere. While it’s nice to show off how much you care about your commenters’ concerns, more than 3 back-and-forths with someone will just bury other people’s comments and carries the danger of catastrophic public escalation. If the conversation is getting long, it’s better to respectfully move to a private venue like phone, email or chat.

In summary, the best policy on angry social media comments is to be prompt, useful, and compassionate— in other words, just be a grownup about it. If your business has any informative or entertaining stories about social media complaints, we’d love to hear them.

Three Leads-Turned-Nightmares that Screening Could Have Prevented

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

By Paul Murskov


Leads can be hard to come by in the contracting business, and sometimes service professionals make bad moves finding new jobs. In this day and age there are hundreds of consumer protection resources, but contractors can be manipulated too. Below are three contractor horror stories that started with an honest search for work, and then turned ugly.

Dietz’s Defamation Debacle

Sometimes a random lead really is too good to be true. When Christopher Dietz found a home renovation job from a high school classmate, he happily set to work, completing the project “in a workmanlike manner.” Soon, however, his relationship with the client turned sour. It started with a lack of pay. Then she demanded additional free work, angrily locking him out of the house when he refused.

Then the Yelp smear campaign started. After losing upwards of half a million dollars of revenue to slanderous online reviews, Dietz ended up having to go to court to save his business and his name from his nightmare lead.

“Went Into My Account and Pillaged”

The forum of ConsumerAffairs tells a cautionary tale about unscreened lead aggregators. Dozens of contractors have stories of losing thousands of dollars in hidden fees to such companies over nonexistent leads, some of which claim to originate from vacant homes.

Other grievances include dishonest business reviewing practices; one contractor claims that his old reviews were displayed on a competitor’s account after he canceled his.

A Contractor, Not a Counselor

Matt Lederer’s contracting business in Chicago learned the hard way what can happen when a job comes from a lead who hasn’t actually decided what they want done. For Lederer, a simple condo renovation turned into a drawn-out power struggle between the client’s family members over details of the job.

In the end, he lost valuable work time trying to act as a mediator, and was left with dissatisfied customers despite his high-quality work.

All three of these horror stories have something in common: The contractors could have avoided them by screening their leads. Having a clear picture of who a prospect is and what they want is an invaluable safeguard against falling victim to leads that are troublesome, dishonest, or just plain crazy.

At TalkLocal, we hope you’ll protect your business through due diligence on prospective jobs. If you’re looking for cost-efficient leads that won’t screw you over, we’re here to help.

Out of the Slump: Motivational Quotes and Advice

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Written by Paul Murskov


We’ve all been here before. Your monthly sales goal feels impossible to meet, your last few calls have gone nowhere, and healthy concern has turned to paranoia. Is my phone voice annoying? How is my boss going to take this?

Breathe. Slumps happen, and they’re usually easier to fix than you’d think. Below are some words of wisdom to help you get back into your groove.

“This too shall pass.” –Persian Sufi proverb

One of the easiest ways to start recovering from a sales slump is simply to avoid a negative mindset. Remember that slumps are natural, and don’t be too quick to blame yourself (or anyone else) for a few hiccups in your performance. Optimism when dealing with stress is correlated to higher returns in call centers, as demonstrated by this Maastricht University study.

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” –Will Rogers

When your sales are sub-par, it’s natural to panic a little bit and start working harder without actually looking at what’s wrong. A much more helpful reaction is to step back and do a little analysis. Business owners use sales data to improve their performance; you can too.  After pinpointing your biggest revenue sources, you may find that your so-called slump is simply a case of misguided focus.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” –Ernest Hemmingway

Confidence is a salesperson’s best friend, but pride can be their worst enemy. There’s nothing wrong with asking your peers for advice; in fact doing so is linked to long-term productivity growth in a sales force. This is yet another reason to get to know your coworkers— the cure to your sales trouble could be sitting next to you.

“100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.” –Wayne Gretzky

This aphorism from the hockey legend illustrates another cardinal rule of recovering from a slump: No matter how low your morale may have dipped, you cannot reduce your efforts. I shouldn’t need to show you data that links frequency of calls and sales results; it’s common sense that when faced with a rough patch, you have to keep trying— whether that means making more calls, changing up your calls, or phoning a friend.

Experiencing highs and lows is part of being a salesperson. The lows are a lot less gloomy if you stop thinking of them as a reason to freak out, and start thinking of them as an opportunity to improve yourself. Hopefully these sayings will not only help you beat your slump, but also enable you to help your colleagues beat theirs. As I said at the beginning of this article, we’ve all been here before.

Do’s and Don’ts of a Small Business Website

Sunday, February 15th, 2015


The phone book is dying. In 2015, when someone needs something, they Google it. Thus, high quality small business website design is a requirement for success. With so many possibilities available for website design, here’s my list of the most important do’s and don’ts for the online face of your business.


Simplify navigation. Nothing deters a potential customer like getting lost on your website, so make it as foolproof as possible. If you’re wondering whether or not a page is necessary, it probably isn’t. Also essential is a logically-organized site map, even if it’s just a header or side bar with pages categorized.

Include a Contact Us. If you are successful, you know the value of being accessible to warm leads, potential employees, and other business interests. Make sure your website includes a secure page, button, or feature that allows visitors to reach out to you.

Be mobile-friendly. At a given time, the majority of people browsing the internet are now on mobile devices. Skimping on mobile formatting can be a costly mistake, as visitors on their phones are likely to be discouraged by tiny text and a won k y  l a y o ut on a website not designed for their device. Reactive websites automatically adjust to mobile viewing, saving you the hassle of developing a separate mobile version.


Have ANY AUTOPLAYING SOUNDS. Imagine walking into a store and immediately being ambushed by loud music and voices. What makes that any more acceptable for an online storefront?  Unless you want to annoy your visitors (and scare off those discretely browsing from work), just…don’t.

Post irrelevant content or links. The argument behind posting random things on your business website is a half-baked attempt at generating traffic and link reciprocity. Even in the unlikely event that this works, it significantly hurts the aesthetic of your website and looks unprofessional. Keep it relevant, even if it means having a little less content.

Use elaborate Flash decorations. This is a matter of time and resources; a dizzying Flash intro for your site isn’t really in vogue these days, and can be very labor-intensive. Once again, for reasons of site aesthetics and user convenience, it’s better to skip this one.

Today, your business’s online presence is just as important as its physical presence— more important for many businesses. Your website is often a customer’s first impression of who you are and what you’re about, so follow these tips and make it count.

Valentine Cards for Customers from Local Pros

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

A little industry humor makes for a sweet valentine, especially if it’s meant to show your loyal customers how much you value their business. That’s why we have these Valentine cards for customers. Give them a chuckle and set your business apart with these Valentine one-liners.

Electrician Valentine: 


Dentist Valentine:


Maid Service Valentine: 

Maid Service Valentine


Handyman Valentine: 


HVAC Valentine:


Plumber Valentine:  



Roofer Valentine:



Happy Valentine’s Day!

Motivational Quotes For Work: The Presidents On Leadership

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

presidents day

Leading a small business is a stressful and often thankless job that requires a lot of motivation for success. Now, as we remember the 43 Americans who have taken on the most draining leadership job available in our country, the Presidency. Many of them have something to say about leadership that’s useful whether you run a sovereign state or a small shop.  Below are five motivational quotes for work and leadership. Enjoy, and get motivated!

“A little flattery will support a man through great fatigue.” – President James Monroe

Motivational Quotes for Work

President #5 understood the importance of positive reinforcement. Encouraging employees to take pride in good performance makes them more motivated, and thus more productive. The last three words emphasize celebrating individual victories even when times are tough, a great way to keep morale high during these rough patches.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – President John Quincy Adams

Motivational Quotes for Work

Monroe’s successor tells us how much of a difference leading by example can make. Ambition is contagious, and the only way to have a highly motivated workforce that respects you is to be highly motivated yourself.

“It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.”  – President Martin Van Buren

James Monroe- Motivational Quotes for Work Presidents

This aphorism about making excuses carries weight coming from a man who learned English as a second language before becoming President. Every business owner prefers employees who come to them with solutions rather than roadblocks; creating a culture of doing instead of talking is a smart move as a leader.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” – President Abraham Lincoln

Motivational Quotes for Work

Without drive to make it happen, a business is just a good idea. Old Abe reminds us of how important a spirit of determination is to success in leadership. He should know— Lincoln maintained his resolve through the breakout of civil war, the Confederate invasion of the Union, and several assassination attempts before his tragic night at the theatre. Makes your business’s problems seem a little less concerning, doesn’t it?

“The only man who makes no mistake is the man who does nothing.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

Motivational Quotes for Work

Entrepreneurs are familiar with this idea because risk-taking comes with the job. Our canal-building, big-game-hunting, San-Juan-Hill-storming President reminds us that not every risk will pay off, and that’s OK. If you have never made a bad professional decision before, you almost definitely don’t own a business.

Your office is probably dealing with fewer crises than the Oval Office, but no leadership position is easy. As we celebrate our Commanders-in-Chief, take heed of their wisdom and how it can help your business. America was a small and high-risk venture too, once.


You Have Reached The Voice Mailbox Of…

Sunday, February 8th, 2015


It’s one of the most anticlimactic moments in a salesperson’s day — you call a warm lead, hoping to seal the deal…and then it goes to the machine. As you wait for the beep, remember that your message matters; sales can be made or lost by a voicemail. Below are some key elements of a message that will keep the conversation going.

Brevity. People’s attention spans are really short, and no one wants to spend several minutes of their life listening to a voicemail. Your target is closer to 30 seconds; word-efficiency is key.

Planning. The only thing worse than a long, rambling voicemail is a long voicemail consisting mostly of “uh…” Think of what you’d want to put in a message before you call, and when doing so, remember to include the…

Essentials. Name, company name, phone number, customer’s name. Say them early and say them often. It’s important for the customer to remember your information; using their name increases their chance of remembering yours. Just as important as the basic info is the value proposition, where knowledge of the customer’s industry comes in handy. In as few words as possible, tell them why doing business with you (or at least calling you back) would give them an edge on their competitors and add to your…

Tone. Your aim is to be courteous but not presumptuous. It’s a good idea to start with “good morning/afternoon” and end with “thank you for your time,” but adding more pleasantries may annoy.

Follow-up. Adding an email makes your message seem more professional and increases your chances of getting a response. Also, odds are your customer can read faster than you can talk; the follow-up email gives you the opportunity to expand on some points you may have abbreviated in your voicemail.

Leaving a good message is a balancing act; these elements share a theme of maximizing content while minimizing length and complexity. If you can master this, you may find yourself selling to leads who don’t even answer the phone.

Writer and Small Business Influencer Shashi Bellamkonda On SMB Innovation and TalkLocal

Friday, February 6th, 2015

A few years ago, in a conversation with Steve King (co-founder of Emergent research and blogger at SmallBiz Labs), we were discussing innovation and technology used by small businesses. He said that by nature, small businesses use technology to solve their problems but don’t always think they are innovative. His example was of roofing companies who figured out that instead of visits to the client and a climb to the roof to give estimates, they could use their computer and Google Earth and measure the roof accurately. Even if the business paid $400 per year for the Google Pro subscription, it was worth the savings for these roof repair companies. Google just announced that Google Earth pro is now free. This is amazing and innovative.

When cell phones started having cameras, one of the first flooring contractors who came to my house actually used his elementary flip phone to show me photos of work he had done for other clients.

The last two painting contractors who came to my house actually took my email address and sent me their quotes by email which is convenient rather than speaking to them on the phone and scribbling their quotes on the back of an envelope. That’s definitely a smart use of technology by contractors, roofing companies and plumbers.

Smart small businesses also use YouTube to showcase their expertise. Not only does this earn them a following among DIYers, it also earns their trust. When the job is too big, local viewers will turn to that familiar face for repair and renovation help.

Whenever I search Google for answers regarding my repair needs, I find lots of helpful advice from relevant service professionals in their own blogs as well as industry and DIY forums. This is SEO strategy at its finest. The forum discussions give the website of the repair company a lot of relevant content, raising their Google rankings and enhancing their credibility with customers. I found a company that would replace my charging port for my Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone in Fredericksburg, VA called RockitRepairs and they also have a blog that answers questions.

We talked about the use of Google Earth, photos, email and blogs. However, one of the most basic and essential ways in which businesses get discovered by consumers online is through  local directories and map listings on Google, Bing, Yellow Pages, etc. Of course, I’ve also found disconnected or inaccurate phone listings there, as well. That’s why I am so impressed by TalkLocal and the businesses I have found there. I can get quotes from 2 to 3 contractors very quickly and I never worry about being sent to voicemail, scheduling conflicts, and other hassles. More importantly, the quality of work has been excellent.

The fact that TalkLocal empowers me to reach a quality local business even if that business lacks a strong online presence makes TalkLocal extremely innovative.

Congratulations to TalkLocal for being recognized as a Business By Innovation finalist. I voted for them because I’ve seen the positive impact of their innovative service first hand. You should too!

Shashi-BellamkondaShashi Bellamkonda is VP of Digital Marketing at Bozzuto. He has been recognized twice as one of the Top 100 Tech Titans by the Washingtonian and Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champion 2011 by Small Business Trends. Follow him @ShashiB and read more of his insights at Shashi Bellamkonda blog.

Have A Lead Follow-Up Pre-Call Ritual: It’s Only Weird if it Doesn’t Work

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Whether yours is a logical preparation or a bizarre superstition, it can really make a difference in your lead follow-up performance. If it makes you feel more confident and at ease, even having lucky penny or a square from your baby blanky can mean the difference between nailing the sales pitch and closing the deal on the one hand, and fumbling over your words on the other. So, whether your ritual involves rehearsing your key selling points or doing push-ups, such activities tend to perform one of two important functions:

Boosts your confidence in yourself

Boosts other people’s confidence in you.

To boost your own confidence: Get In The Zone

Psychological preparation wards away anxiety and gives you a good attitude, increasing your sales competence. In sports, the link between mental exercises and performance is well-documented, and it holds in sales as well. Here are some common tricks to boost your own confidence:

-Listening to music and dancing

-Bragging to yourself—reminding  yourself of who you are and what you do

-Disregarding all distractions; meditating

-Completing a ritual routine: special meal, short recreational activity, superstition, etc.

To boost other people’s confidence in you: Get An Edge

External preparation improves the impression you make on other people, directly boosting your chances of success. Studies of musicians reveal that both guided rehearsal and cosmetic preparation have positive effects on high-stress performance, findings that are applicable whether you’re a violinist or a salesperson. Here are some common tricks that prepare you to give a great impression:

-Walking yourself through the call

-Coaching or being coached by a colleague

-Wearing your best clothes

-Making sure you have good posture and a genuine smile

Rituals of both types can be helpful right before a particularly important sales call, or at the beginning of your day. Either way, don’t be ashamed of your pump-up traditions, no matter how strange they may be. It’s only weird if it doesn’t work, and for whatever reason, it actually does!

So, tell us: What rituals work for you?

Comment below or join our Linkedin Group to be part of  the discussion. Top responses will be included on an upcoming post!

Written by Manpreet Singh


5 Autumn Marketing Ideas Consumers Will Fall For

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Written by Manpreet Singh


That’s how much Americans spent on Halloween this year, including $2.8 million on costumes alone. The record numbers could be a positive indicator for the economy.

But, you’re no retailer. You don’t just sit around, watch your own hot air turn to vapor in the cold wind and count the days until Black Friday.
Popcorn and scary movie rentals dominate family entertainment budgets. But, the essentials are your bread and butter.

And guess what:

– The leaves dropped like flies and consumers need someone to rake them

– The cold weather is just strolling through the windows as if their outdated insulation were a “Welcome Mat”

– Their car wheels are bald and will start to slip so badly you’d swear they’re slathered with Rogaine.

Consumers will need your help, like yesterday, and they’re starting to realize it.

And, the same unseasonable chills in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond that drove trick-or-treaters home early also lit a fire under consumers’ backsides that will eventually rocket-propel them through your door.

So, to help you turn up the heat this season, here are 5 Autumn Marketing Ideas Consumers Will Fall For

1. Send them a holiday card:

A simple message of well-wishes and appreciation is the softest, warmest way to sell your services and your brand.

2. Give them a “gift”:

Sales and consumer rewards are welcomed during the holiday season. Still, with the holidays coming up, promotions that have too aggressive a tone can feel as invasive as interrupting family dinner…no matter what time it is. But, wrapping those same promotions in the form of a present can enhance the warmth of the season.

3. Focus on the essentials:

During the colder months, people instinctively focus on survival. Meanwhile, the coming holidays elevate people beyond selfish materialism. So, while a gentle up-sell is always smart once you’ve built a rapport, your direct marketing outreach should focus on those products and services with a clear tie-in to the protect-and-nurture instincts of your consumers. Few people want to feel like they’re just treating themselves or keeping up with the Jonses. Make your services about a needed quality of life improvement for the whole family.

4. Give:

Even as consumers value investments in their own home and family right now, they are acutely aware of the less fortunate. Helping the consumer act on those feelings will make them feel good about their purchase while distinguishing you from competitors. Specialize in Heating and Cooling repair? Partner with your local Fuel Fund and offer a limited-time promotion where you donate a portion of every sale to helping low-income families meet their energy needs. That’s just one of many ways to help consumers enrich their lives and the lives of others at the same time this season.

5. Decorate the store front:

Seeing seasonal and holiday cheer on the shingles and in the windows of community shops helps to open hearts, and therefore wallets, during a walk-in visit. Be sure to find affordable ways to carry the theme throughout your stationery: email signatures and even flyers. And, remember to retain a welcoming atmosphere for people no matter what holiday they celebrate.

But only if your marketing strategies are hot enough to attract those heat-seeking missiles…