Monthly Archives: March 2013

Online Customer Reviews: Harness the Power of Yelp and Amazon to Grow Your Business

By Gail Z. Martin

While directories like Yelp permit customers to add comments, there are also plenty of other sites that specialize in reviews.  These include dedicated review sites like, which covers a wide array of consumer products, and more specialized sites reviewing movies, books, camera equipment and other niche interests.  As newspapers and magazines have cut “soft” news, such as reviews, online sites have sprung up to fill the gap.  Some of these sites, such as, are from a well-known expert (in this case, Chicago Sun Times long-time movie reviewer Roger Ebert), but many are written by citizen-journalists out of a passion for the subject.

Love reading?  You can start with reviews posted by readers on, and even read best-of lists compiled by other Amazon users.  But if you want to go deeper, you’ll find dozens—perhaps hundreds—of blogs and review sites in your favorite genre or non-fiction topic dedicated to book reviews.  In many cases, the reviews are the opinion of the site owner and will be colored by their personal likes and dislikes (which is part of the charm for readers).  In other cases, the review site will recruit reviewers who agree to submit reviews according to the site’s guidelines.

You’ll find review sites for cameras, camping equipment, board games, computer peripherals, video games, luggage, sound equipment—just about every hobby under the sun.  Some sites have only a few hundred readers, but more established sites can get millions of hits from a legion of dedicated readers who turn there first for information.  So, how do you get included?

Begin by reading the site carefully.  Many sites explain how they acquire the items they review.  In some cases, reviewers speak solely from their own experience with items they buy and use themselves (you’ll find this true for many book review sites, for example).  Other sites have a policy for receiving free samples from companies, and will disclose that the items were sent free of charge instead of purchased.  Big review sites (such as have a budget to purchase items for review, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

Next, read the reviews to determine the personality of the reviewer.  Some reviewers try hard to be impartial, citing both the positives and negatives.  Others enjoy trashing everything, or take a very snarky tone.  That’s part of their personality and it draws their loyal readers, but it may not be a good fit for your product.  Know what you’re getting into before you try to place your product with a reviewer.

Follow the site’s guidelines for requesting a product review.  They may want you to query first before sending the actual item.  Some sites will review certain types of products only on a seasonal basis, or may have designated months for different categories of items.  If so, their guidelines will tell you how far in advance to submit your request and/or items to be considered for a review.

Should you only shoot for reviews from large sites?  Not necessarily.  Smaller sites, blogs and social media review pages may not have millions of readers, but they probably do have a loyal core of followers who could be valuable early adopters and spark buzz.  These sites are usually more approachable than some of the very large review pages, and may provide quicker turnaround.  Treat every reviewer with respect regardless of the site of his or her following, and be sure to follow their guidelines to the letter.

Realize that when you submit your product for review, you agree to accept whatever they post.  Reviewers are not required to like your product just because you sent it to them for free.  Even a positive review may include some criticism just to be balanced.  It’s also possible that a reviewer may write a negative review, especially when the review is highly subjective, such as reviews on books, restaurants, food items, and other products dependent on the user’s tastes.  You can’t demand that a negative review be withdrawn unless it is truly vulgar and profane or meets the legal definition of slander, which can be difficult to apply given the protection afforded to journalists, even for unpopular comments.  Where user comments on a directory might be removed by the site administrators, when you’re dealing with a review site, you’re usually dealing with the owner whose “product” opinion.  That’s why it’s so important to assess the personality of a reviewer before submitting items for review.

Getting a great review online can provide tremendous visibility to consumers who might not otherwise have become aware of your product or service.  Excerpts from great reviews can also be quoted in praise of your product, and links to positive reviews can be posted on your site.  (Never copy the entire review without the writer’s permission, since reviews have copyright protection.)  While there is some time and effort involved in compiling a list of relevant reviewers and sending off items for review, you can receive tremendous promotional value for a relatively small investment in time and shipping costs—a truly productive way to market your company!

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin


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Online Reputation Management: 5 Ways to Protect Your Personal Brand and Manage Your Reputation

By Gail Z. Martin

The idea of customers posting reviews for the world to see makes a lot of business owners nervous.  While they believe in the quality of their product and service, they fear that competitors or mean-spirited people may post unfair or inaccurate information online that could damage their business.  It’s certainly possible that, despite sterling quality, a disgruntled person might post a negative review.  However, according to Yelp’s own analytics, the vast majority of reviews posted are very positive.  Most people posting reviews want to alert readers to their favorites, not trash companies.

What if someone does post a negative review?  If you find a negative post online, take a deep breath and let yourself calm down, then read it again to see if there is any truth to the customer’s disappointment.  Business owners can post replies to reviews, but you should do so carefully and strategically to avoid making a bad situation worse.  If the customer had a bad experience, you can make a public apology, offer them a replacement, and try to make it right.  You may not sway the unhappy person’s opinion, but you’ve publicly demonstrated that you heard, you listened, and that you attempted to correct the situation.          Most consumers realize that mistakes happen; they just want to know that you care enough to fix it.  You may not win back the disgruntled consumer, but you’ll go a long way toward preventing one comment from souring the opinions of others.

If the comment is minor, saying nothing may be the best way to handle it.  If the customer didn’t like the seasoning in your soup, for example, you probably can’t change their opinion without changing your recipe.  People are entitled to their opinions, so if it’s a matter of taste and not quality, readers will probably take it for what it’s worth and make their own judgement.  By replying or trying to argue with the consumer, you just draw attention to the post, turning a minor comment into a major argument and making yourself look argumentative.

What if someone posts a really bad comment?  If the comment is abusive, uses vulgarities, racist language or profanity, it’s likely that you can appeal to the site owners to have the comment removed.  Many sites include internal filters to remove over-the-top comments or to push them far down in the results, making it less likely that an outrageous comment is seen.  It is also possible to contact the user who posted the comment and politely ask them to remove it.  If that doesn’t work, and the comment is truly both malicious and defamatory, it is possible to bring legal action for slander.  How far you take it depends on just how much damage you believe the comment can cause.  Another way to deal with negative comments is to ask your loyal customers to help you out by posting their own positive comments, which will push an unreasonable review so far down the queue that it will be seen by fewer people.  And, you can ask your friends to also request that a truly objectionable review be removed (sites may pay more attention to multiple user requests).

In my experience, companies worry far too much about the possibility of negative comments.  Does your company operate in an ethical manner?  Do you offer a quality product that lives up to your claims?  Do you strive for good customer service and follow through on  your promises?  If so, there should few reasons for your customers to say anything bad, and lots of cause for them to sing your praises.  Here’s something else to consider:  consumers have talked about businesses to their friends and neighbors since the beginning of commerce.  With today’s online directories, you now have a chance to hear what they’re saying, and if the comments to reveal areas for improvement, you can make the changes necessary to avoid future problems.  View comments as feedback, and recognize that it’s impossible to make everyone happy.  The positives of visibility and good user comments far outweigh the negatives.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Review Sites: The Power of Word Of Mouth with Yelp and Citysearch

By Gail Z. Martin

Productivity is all about getting more results from the time or money invested.  Promotion is one of the areas where businesses look to increase their productivity; in other words, to get more bang for their buck.  Online reviews and directories are yet another tool businesses can use to get their name out in front of more potential consumers and reach them during their decision process, when prospects are actively planning a purchase.

Many people remember when there was only one directory: the phone book.  As a growing number of consumers migrate to cell phones instead of land lines, phone books have become less valuable, both to businesses looking to be found in their pages, and to telemarketers using them as a way to cold call.  But with the rise of the Internet, a new breed of directory has taken hold, a hybrid of the old phone book category listing crossed with a dynamic, interactive social media tool where consumers can provide feedback to merchants and communicate among themselves.

Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and Citysearch are three of the most popular online directories.  They include a wide variety of business types, ranging from products to services to hospitality/entertainment, combining basic information such as company name, address and phone number with the option for customers to add comments.  The company information may have been added by a consumer, or by the company itself.  Categories are rarely an exhaustive listing of every business in that service type (but then again, the old phone directories only included companies willing to pay for an ad).

Most directory sites create their basic content in two ways: collecting publicly available information from other published sources, and allowing users to add sites live online.  This means that your business may already be out there, so it’s a good reason to Google your company on a regular basis to see where you’re showing up and to make sure that your basic information (address, contact information, category) is correct.  You may have also been added by a recent customer, or by a helpful bystander who knew about your firm and wanted to make the listing more complete.  You can also add your own company, and there are some strong reasons why you should consider doing so, if you’re not already out there.

The first reason for making sure you’re represented in online directories has to do with consumers’ preferences.  Today’s consumers turn to online sources for information gathering far more often than they pick up a printed directory of any kind.  Online information is believed to be more accurate because it can be frequently updated than a printed document.  Obviously, this isn’t always the case (incorrect information can be posted just as easily as accurate information, and sites don’t always get updated as frequently as they should be).  In general, though, consumers have had good luck finding the information they’re looking for online, so they come back again when they need to search for something else. Most directories for the general public (i.e. not a membership directory for an organization) list companies for free, because they want users to add content.  If your company isn’t in the directory, consumers in a hurry may not bother to look further, and you lose out.

The second reason for being in online directories is word of mouth.  Consumers have always trusted what other “real” people say about a business more than they trust paid advertising.  Before the Internet, those conversations took place over the back yard fence, in the line at the grocery store, or at social events.  Now, consumers like to read reviews posted by other customers before making a choice to buy.  They’re not only interested in the quality of the product; they also want to know about the quality of the customer service provided by the merchant.

The third reason for being in online directories is search-ability.  Every time your company appears online, it helps to boost your search engine results.  The more people are talking about your company and the more places it appears online, the higher the search engines place it in their results pages.  Being present online pays off, not just in being visible on an individual directory site, but also through the secondary boost every online mention gives to your Google results.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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by Lisa Chell

The first week of January 2013 represented more than a New Year for me. It was the week that the ‘baby’ of my four children turned 18 and became a legal adult.

Remember turning 18? I do.

One thing has changed from when I was that age: parental advice.

When I was 18 and tossing around ideas for my studies and career, the questions I got asked were: Will you make a good living? Will you be able to buy a house? Does it have security? What kind of benefits will you get? Does it provide a pension?  A typical conversation with my parents would end with “As long as you can make a living and provide for yourself.”

While some of these questions still get asked today, there’s one glaring difference when I talk to my kids. I end conversations with “As long as it will make you happy. The rest will take care of itself.”


I believe it’s been an under-rated and overlooked priority in how we live our lives.  Most of my friends followed the same advice as I did and what I see is disturbing. There’s a whole generation of us who are, just now, seeking happiness, purpose, connection and something more meaningful than a paycheck.

A friend’s marriage ended after 25 years.  The reason? She wasn’t happy.

A former colleague is physically ill and constantly in and out of hospital because he’s so stressed out.  The reason?  He’s in a job he hates but has 19 years invested and doesn’t want to walk away from a good vacation and benefits package. He’s not happy.

A client whose job as an executive paid for all the trimmings, trappings and travel her heart desired and yet she suffered from severe depression.   The reason?  Money didn’t make up for her lack of worth or happiness.

Happiness doesn’t come from the outside in.

How does a person nurture and align with happiness when we were taught to seek something else? How do we wake up every morning and say “I’m happy to be me!!” regardless of what exists in our physical realm?

Good question. I believe it’s been answered in a similar way by spiritual leaders, masters, gurus, speakers, and authors for years. Happiness comes from mind, body, spirit connection and mastery.

What separates the unhappy from the happy is the difference between knowing something and living it.

It may look something like this:

Mind: Self inquiry, living the universal laws, living your values, gratitude, laughter, journaling.

Body: Mindful movement such as yoga, tai chi, dance or walking, pure nourishment, holistic health practices and body work.

Spirit: Daily meditation and prayer.

Happiness is not a time-based outcome. It’s a journey to the sweet spot in your heart and soul that carries positive energy from the inside out.  Wherever you are on the path, today is the best day to take your next step.

Are you unsure how to take that first step towards a happier you?

Pura Vida! Pure Life!

Lisa Chell is a speaker, trainer, Power Coach®, best-selling author and president of Ultimate Clarity Incorporated. Her mission is to help others find happiness and joy as leaders of their own lives through connection of logic and heart.  Lisa and her partner Sherpa of Happiness Valerie Sheppard, are co-creating a Happiness Sabbatical in the tropical, eco-rich splendor of Costa Rica July 19-27, 2013.

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Time Management: Gain New Customers in Less Time on Twitter, Facebook

By Gail Z. Martin

The biggest key to productivity on social media is keeping your top goal firmly in mind and approaching your online time with an action-list.  Go onto Facebook or Twitter with one to three tasks that can be accomplished in 10 to 30 minutes, and keep your mind on business while you’re there.  By using this “power surge” process, you accomplish more in less time and avoid distractions during working hours.

What can you do in such a short time?  You can invite people to become your friend or “like” your page, ask a question or make a comment to someone who is already a friend or who has liked your page, post a quote or short tip, or check out what top speakers and experts are posting on their sites.  You can post a link to a helpful article, or set up a Facebook ad.  Shoot a quick video with your smartphone and post it to YouTube. Take a photo and add it to Pinterest. You’ll be amazed what you can get done in a short period of time when you keep your activity focused on achieving your top goal and reaching your ideal audience.

 Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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