Yelp is not a Small Business Ally

I read an article this morning on HuffingtonPost about that horrible dentist who fired his assistant because she was too beautiful and he got distracted. While this story is very strange for so many reasons (But, maybe it’s why I have been fired from so many jobs…it’s becoming clear to me now) the reason I was moved to write you was to remind you that Yelp is not a friend to the business community.

If you have clients that are being asked to advertise on Yelp, you should be aware that Yelp exists for its users…not to support small businesses. While they claim otherwise in their attempts to get your advertising budget by citing the power of online user reviews, they don’t tell you that it is nearly impossible to combat negative reviews on their site.
The dentist above has seen their Yelp page blow up in the last few days with users attacking the dental practice for everything but the actual dental services received there. While you can argue the dentist is ridiculous, what if this were your client? We’ve all had ridiculous clients, but it’s our job to promote the work product or service. Reviews by people that have never set foot in this practice are going to harm the entire business and every employee that depends on that job to put food on their table.  What could have been a temporary news cycle PR nightmare will have lasting effects on the practice as long as the reviews remain on Yelp.

In a local Austin story, a horrible man said something horrible about the Newtown shootings on his private facebook page. It was made public and went viral. The man owned a Thai Restaurant and so people flocked to Yelp to write horrible reviews about the restaurant even though they had never had a morsel of its food. Again, the man could indeed be horrible (or dumb) but the reviews had nothing to do with his restaurant. The restaurant closed and with it all the employees lost a job, and if it was your client you’d lost a client (dumb and/or bigoted, but a client nonetheless).

For these reasons, we advise our clients to avoid spending advertising dollars on Yelp. We advise them to be members of the Better Business Bureau and to spend money on Search Engine Marketing and optimizing their site for better search results.

Online reviews are important, but we wouldn’t reward a child for a tantrum so why should our clients reward Yelp with media dollars when their users throw tantrums and they do nothing? Reviews show up in search results and are powerful influencers in driving traffic to a business. Google reviews are tied to your Google search results, map page, phone number and appear (in some instances) way above your own homepage.

People who use reviews have learned how to spot fake reviews written by the company or discount awful reviews posted by people that only post negative reviews or clearly had one bad experience. For that reason, we tell clients not to get to afraid of the one bad review.

It is possible to reply to reviews with a strategic response because it isn’t a conversation…you get one chance to make a reply on some review sites. So instead of wasting that space to say, “We’re sorry, please call us to help correct the situation.” A business owner should reply, “We reached out to this customer. We strive to provide good customer service because we aren’t in business to drive customers away. We regret a bad experience, but we’re confident that most of our customers appreciate our delicious meatballs and dancing waiters!”

In other words, take reviews seriously but not too much! There’s bigger fish to fry.

By | December 27th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Part 1: The Courtesy of a Reply

This is a departure in my usual posts on digital media, advertising or the latest trends and analysis in media. I want to talk about business etiquette and the appalling lack of respect and courtesy in business.  One of the things that I enjoy about business is the order and lack of vagueness. In the past couple of weeks I have been subjected to two egregious violations of this unspoken pact between businessmen and I feel compelled to discuss.

The Courtesy of a Reply

I am bombarded daily with requests for meetings. These requests come from emails, phone calls and even sometimes with cookie deliveries (I really appreciate the cookies).  If a legitimate business is requesting my time I make a point to reply. It only takes a moment to clean out my inbox with a simple, “Thank you for reaching out, however I am satisfied with my current vendor and am unable to fit you in my schedule.” That helps the person emailing me move on to their next prospect. Something I’ll cover in section two of this diatribe.

Another example of providing a reply is when someone requests something of me. Of course, I’m going to reply. Not only could it be potential new business but if someone needs something from me to get their job completed it’s my responsibility to get it to them. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is different. In my most recent situation, we had an inbound email asking for a proposal for new business. It was marked “URGENT” from the sender. As we do with new business requests, I pulled team members off of their project to work up a quick proposal and get it back to the sender. As is our custom, we turned it around in record time. It was then that it became mind-boggling to me. No response. Over the course of the next 7 business days I emailed and phoned to ensure the sender had received our “URGENT” reply and to ask if they had  any questions. We never received any acknowledgement, no “Thank you for  your quick reply,” and no, “Sorry, you were completely wrong for our business.”

I am still shocked at how unprofessional and unbelievable it was of someone to ask me to drop everything and then not even give me the courtesy of a reply.

Here’s why this is important. Not only is it just business etiquette and professionalism, it’s courteous. Also, the business community is small and you never know when you’ll run into someone at a business function or worse yet need a job from them. We’re all adults, our business can withstand the sting of not getting your business, but to not even give us the courtesy of a reply to work we put together for you says that we dodged a bullet. We wouldn’t want to work with someone that doesn’t have basic communication skills or appreciates the work that people do for them.

Do you have a story about the courtesy of a reply? Tell us in the comments.

Look for Part 2: Knowing When To Stop coming soon.

By | July 26th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Intern programs should be mutually beneficial relationships

Interns are a vital part of the success for many students in the growth of their career. They are also a vital part of the success of many businesses.  A mutually beneficial relationship is how we at Broad Street view our internship program.  While our interns are not paid, we do provide a robust educational program in addition to work performed by interns.  The New York Times featured a story on interns and it focused on several disgruntled interns that felt they were taken advantage of by an employer or forced to do menial tasks while they were interns.  As an employer, I’d say there really are no menial tasks. As the CEO, I have crawled under desks to run power cords and hauled trash to the dumpster just as I’ve sat in meetings and conference calls to close huge deals. Both kept the company running.  If I, as the CEO with 15 years experience as such, can still take out the trash why wouldn’t I expect an intern to do the same thing when asked?

I won’t jump on “this generation” as entitled, even though that was my first thought at the whining by these interns in the article, but I will say that if you join an unpaid internship and are not learning then maybe you are not paying attention or maybe you aren’t naturally curious and the job you seek isn’t right for you. The bottom line is an internship is what you make of it.

Almost all of my interns have gone on to get jobs in less than a week after the internship in the industry. That’s a fact I’m very proud of and even include it in my bio when I give speeches. I love our intern program and I love teaching the business to new graduates or students.  We have so many candidates it’s a real struggle because we’d love to take on more. But, for them to have a good experience and get my time and have an opportunity to learn, we have to limit the number we accept.

I have had interns that were not “naturally curious” and were not a fit. I fire them. It’s tough to fire someone working for free, but we want to help those students and recent graduates in their career and when we don’t see that passion and understanding that everyone has to pay their dues we will cut them loose.

If employers are using interns to answer phones and go get lunch they are missing out. Fresh ideas come from those that are eager to learn and we embrace that in our interns. By the same token, it is up to the intern to make the most of their experience. Soak it up like a sponge. Listen, watch and learn. You can’t be expected to jump into a negotiation or pitch meeting or creative ideation meeting when you are so green. Experience takes time…hopefully you’ll get that from an internship program.  If not…then leave the program and find an internship that fits you. My advice? Don’t complain about the company and the intern program to the New York Times. Talk about a career killer!

Good economy or bad, interns are valuable to an employer and valuable to a student. Many interns have spent years in a well respected university’s industry major program and come to our office without any real world knowledge of how business or our industry works. Interns are as old as time itself. Sitting at the feet of the masters is a wonderful way to learn.


By | May 20th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Gamechanger: TV embraces digital

Since the very first online ad appeared, broadcast television has played down the value of digital advertising. That was before broadband internet reached 68% of U.S. households and 44% of Americans owned smartphones. It was before people were ditching cable to stream HD quality video from Netflix and Hulu to their big screen TVs in their living room.

It might have taken a while, but broadcast has come around and is changing the way digital media professionals plan their media and how they value video (both online and broadcast) as part of the media plan.  The TV has become just another screen where consumers get their video.

It is estimated that 25 percent of consumers go online after seeing a TV ad. That’s a huge spike right there. That’s not to mention that half of all TV watchers have a second electronic device in their hands, such as a smart phone or tablet, whilst in a comatose state on the couch engrossed in anything from “The Vampire Diaries” to “Mad Men.” But whether you are checking your email or talking on Facebook, the habit is now truly synced for TV watchers. So much so, the biggest topic of discussion on social media by far is TV content. We just love it and we can’t get enough, because with every wave of consumer technology — from video recorders to X-Box and Hulu — technology just drives TV viewing up and up, and with it the potential for advertising dollars and media measurement. (iMediaConnection)

As I get ready to attend next weeks iMedia Video Summit in San Antonio, video has been on our brains around here. In every speech I give about digital media I always talk about the emotional connection we have with video and how no matter the brilliance of a display ad campaign, a text ad on search or impressive facebook page a brand has the power of video is not going away.

The distinction between TV and online is becoming blurred at a rapid pace. Best Buy reports that 30% of the TVs they sell are “connected” online and has a goal to push that to 90% by 2015. The accelerated pace at which the public adopts new technology will surely see that happen.

Digital media planners have spent their fair share of late nights pouring over spreadsheets and doing the math on cost per engagement and click-thru rates and now they’ll have to include video in that mix as digital video grows exponentially. There is more high quality content, meaning more ad inventory and that results in more affordable pricing and better placements for digital video advertising.

We’re excited to see video included in ad spends and embrace the TV buyers that now work with us on how to integrate our campaigns to work together. All those years we heard about convergence and it finally seems to have arrived.

By | March 22nd, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Media Consumption and Digital Trends for 2012

I updated my annual presentation on media consumption habits and digital advertising trends for 2012 recently. I use this presentation in many speeches I give throughout the year to talk with brand marketers, advertising agencies and publishers to educate them on the change in how people consume media and how we can reach them efficiently through advertising.

The explosion of the mobile phone penetration (now over 43% of the U.S. population) and the Tablet is the new challenge for advertisers as we chase the “digital omnivore” and how they consume media on several different devices during their daily digital life.

Check it out. If you’d like me to come speak to your group just let me know. The question and answer period is always fun and I enjoy learning from those in the trenches as much as I love sharing this great information from comScore, Pew Internet Research and eMarketer!

By | March 6th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Austin ADDY Awards honors excellence in the industry

Austin has a robust advertising community. The Austin Ad Federation is one of the nation’s largest advertising clubs and has been named the “Club of the Year” beating NYC and Chicago’s advertising clubs. This Thursday, February 9, they will award top honors to the best of the best from this year’s local advertising agencies.

Great campaigns for brands such as Whataburger, L.L. Bean, HomeAway and more all originated here from the great talent we have in Austin. I’m very excited to attend this year and see the winners.  The competition is fierce!

The judges come from national agencies outside of the region and Austin’s ADDY winners often go on to win national awards.

The show is going to be at the beautiful ACL Live theatre in the W Hotel. The bars inside the theatre make it even better.

We did not submit any work this year since we are not a creative shop, but agencies we work with did and maybe a campaign we managed will win a prize!

It’s not too late to buy your tickets for the Austin advertising community’s biggest awards of the year!


By | February 7th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Navigating the holidays, professionally

Holiday parties are a staple this time of year. The calendar gets booked every weekend with events; the company party and obligations to friends and family this time of year can be exhausting.

When mixing the holiday with professional events, it is important to remember a few tips to avoid regret and over-commitments.

Here are my tips to survive the holiday work events and not kill your career

  • Show up. This should be a no-brainer, but skipping the office holiday party will get you noticed, and not in a good way.
  • Don’t be a complainer. Worse than not showing up is showing up and complaining about the location or the food. Nobody had to throw you a party and if you didn’t do the work to plan the event you certainly shouldn’t be ungrateful that someone did!
  • Don’t drink too much. This is not a night out with friends and you should be on your best behavior. Alcohol loosens us up and for some, it turns them into really obnoxious assholes. Don’t be one of those.

I have been to company parties where someone danced on top of a table and unbuckled his pants before someone grabbed him and pulled him down. I’ve seen couples get in fights after they had too much to drink. And, inevitably, someone gets just drunk enough to tell the boss what they really think of him/her. All of those minefields are best avoided if you aren’t getting plastered.

My father taught me a wonderful trick when mixing business with alcohol. I have one cocktail and then sneak back to the bartender and give him a large tip. (Which reminds me, don’t complain about the cash bar. Your boss doesn’t want to hear that you think he is cheap and that you are ungrateful. And, tip your bartenders even if it’s an open bar.) Anyway, I tell the bartender that when I ask for another drink, put it in a cocktail glass with a stirrer but to not add any alcohol. This way while others may be getting boozy and thinking about climbing on a table for a impromptu strip show, I am remaining sober and not creating a humiliating and potentially career-ending YouTube moment.

Remember, it is possible to have engaging conversations and an enjoyable event without alcohol. It is also nice to not have to explain what you were doing in the corner with someone’s young assistant.

And, never call in sick the next day because of a hangover. Everyone will know and think you can’t handle your liquor.

  • Don’t sexually harass your coworkers. Just because you’re out having a drink don’t feel someone up or make an inappropriate comment about how hot someone looks. You still have to work with these people. If you feel the urge to do this, leave the party…you violated a previous rule of drinking too much.
  • Mingle. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Say hi to the boss (but don’t throw your arm around him or her and try to be besties). Make people feel comfortable and thank people that have helped you out throughout the year. It’s also ok to thank the people that planned the party. There is nothing wrong with being gracious.

Once you get past the holiday party, there’s a few other situations that often arise during the holidays at work.

If you deal with clients they probably expect a small token from you. This is true even if there’s a corporate policy against them accepting gifts over a certain dollar amount.

I have discovered that clients probably get a lot of bottles of wine or buckets of popcorn (our joke when we receive popcorn is that we must be a tiny client they hate.) So, I usually take some homemade treats or ask them out to lunch. I love lunch and getting to see my clients in a social setting and talk about something other than our business together helps build lasting relationships and is often more appreciated than dropping off a bottle of some wine they won’t ever drink anyway. And for the love of Pete…don’t drop off corporate logo mousepads!

I do prefer to schedule lunches over dinners. I’m a little selfish in that I like my evenings free, if possible. Chances are, so do my clients.

Keeping my evenings free allows me to spend time with my family and friends and that is truly what I love most about the holidays.

With that all said, I’ll see you at the next holiday party with my fake drink and genuine smile!

By | December 1st, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Cyber Monday to beat 2010 record. Merry, Indeed!

This holiday season is looking to be a merry one for both brick and mortar and online retailers. comScore was forecasting a 15% increase over last year’s record-breaking billion dollar day on Cyber Monday and all indications are this year will beat it. Retail sales climbed 16 percent on Black Friday, and shoppers spent $398.62 on average, up from $365.34 a year earlier, the National Retail Federation said yesterday, citing a survey from BIGresearch.

ComScore, an online traffic tracker, noted that Black Friday brought in $816 million in U.S. online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date this year. Friday’s online sales revenues represented a 26% spending increase compared to the same day last year.

Retailers traditionally pull out the big deals for the holiday shopping season and this year was no exception. Major retailers like Best Buy were opening Thanksgiving night with major sales on select items that had crowds lining up before they even finished the pumpkin pie.  While the economy continues to lumber along, many analysts were fretting over the holiday numbers. Meanwhile, it seems Americans are tired of saving their money and staying home and decided to take advantage of rock bottom prices designed to lure them back to stores.

Stocks rallied on Cyber Monday as news of the Black Friday success was heard, meaning a very Merry Christmas for not just little boys and girls, but for ailing retail outlets suffering through down numbers and low expectations.  Apple and Amazon were big winners on Friday.

New to the mix this year is a robust mCommerce report on purchases via mobile. The iPhone led among mobile devices, according to IBM, accounting for 6.58 percent of m-commerce activity, followed by Android with 5.2 percent and the iPad with 4.71 percent.

By | November 28th, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Are ad agencies the new Congress?

A study commissioned by Avidan Strategies reveals that CMOs are not thrilled with their agencies. That’s probably nothing that comes as a shock as we’ve seen major shake-ups in the industry in the past few years. Agency consolidations, big accounts moving over, publishers becoming agencies and clients taking things in-house. Not to mention the fact that the way people consume media has changed at a breakneck speed that makes it a challenge just to keep up, much less innovate.

But what I found shocking was the dissatisfaction with traditional agencies and their ability to integrate digital into the comprehensive media strategy. Still? Only 38% of the clients surveyed were satisfied with the way their agency handled digital integration into their strategy. I’ve been traveling around all year giving speeches to industry professionals on the changes in the ways people consume media and how it requires agencies to adapt, evolve and think of new ways to strengthen relationships with their clients. I guess I’ve just been taking it for granted that what I was talking about was elementary and agencies were much further along in integrating digital into their strategies. Not so, according to clients.

The vast majority of clients feel that agencies are struggling to change their business model and, so far, are playing catch-up with interactive agencies. Clients simply do not see traditional agencies as adjusting well in an era of rapid technological changes.

When we started Broad Street Interactive, it was to bridge that gap. We knew that digital budgets weren’t always big enough to warrant taking on a designated digital agency and we knew agencies may not be ready to commit to hiring a full digital team of strategists, creatives and media planners just to focus on digital. We partner with agencies to provide that missing link.

We build relationships with our clients so we can provide input and digital strategy with them. We don’t walk around telling them traditional is dead and alienating agencies (and clients), but we work with them to fit seamlessly into a media plan. Our goals are to do what’s best for the client…the end client. Our agency partners understand that in today’s world sometimes nimble groups of experts may not all work in the same building and in order to serve the client we may have to reach out to each other.

I feel sorry for the CMOs that said they don’t feel their agency is integrating digital in their strategy. I also feel sorry for the agency that isn’t actively pursuing relationships with digital experts to provide a whole picture of media from every medium that benefits the client and the agency.

By | November 7th, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Dancing and social media are kicking breast cancer’s butt

Every client will at some point ask us to help them get “buzz” or to make something go viral. We always say that we can’t make something go viral, but we can study things that have and figure out what nerve it hit or wave it rode to go viral. Medline, a medical supply company, did that two years ago with their “Pink Glove Dance” promoting breast cancer awareness month. Since then, the video has received over 13 million views on YouTube and blossomed into a full blown national contest that is a big part of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities. This is a great example of the organic way something went from being viral to becoming a funded marketing campaign.

Here’s the video that started it all in 2009

The top three winners will receive donations to a breast cancer charity of their choice.  The amounts of the donations are $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place.

They hit a nerve. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is helping raise awareness about breast cancer and the pink ribbon campaign, first launched in 1991, is wildly successful. Having worked in the healthcare industry for years, I carry around a bag of pink ribbons every October and hand them out while reminding everyone I talk to–airport ticket counter staff, waitstaff, grocery store clerks and clients, to get your routine mammograms!

More than half a million votes have been cast so far for the 139 videos competing in the “Pink Glove Dance” national contest. The competition features more than 17,000 people from across the country — from hospital CEOs showing “moves like Jagger” and a fire chief bringing new meaning to fireworks by shaking his groove thing to Katy Perry’s hit song — all dancing in pink gloves in the name of breast cancer awareness.

The videos are popular on YouTube and being shared across facebook pages. This online activism is helping to both raise awareness for women to get their routine mammograms and raising money to find treatment and a cure for breast cancer.

Social media has made it easy for people to just share a video on their facebook wall or tweet about a video or message relating to a cause. These online messages are a powerful part of a campaign and are not “just” status updates of “likes” or even votes for videos. A 2010 study shows that online activists are just as likely to donate money to a cause as those appearing in these videos.

The campaign combines the unexpected–doctors and nurses dancing–with humor (doctors and nurses dancing and lip-synching) with the emotional (videos including breast cancer survivors) and an uplifting message of hope through these videos. It is a perfect example of how the seed of one moment online can become a movement that creates a “sharable” event online.

Two years later, the sequel video shows 4,000 healthcare workers and breast cancer survivors from all over the United States and Canada.

By | October 24th, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments