How to Tackle a Negative Yelp Review

How to deal with negative Yelp reviews
When you’re in business, bad reviews come with the territory. Regardless of honest effort and a sincere commitment to customer service, the time will come when you will face a less than ideal online review. This negative comment may feel like a punch in the gut to a small business owner. The good news is that there is always a solution.

Customers love Yelp because so many companies don’t moderate the reviews, giving more power to the consumer. But those Negative Nancys can add up, if you’re not getting positive reviews to “push down” the nay-sayers.

If you get a negative review on Yelp, keep these things in mind:

  • Burying your head in the sand isn’t going to make the bad review go away. Attack it head on.
  • Always begin your response by thanking the reviewer for their business and their feedback.
  • Keep replies short, sweet and to the point.
  • Respond in a timely fashion. Stay tuned in to what people are posting on Yelp, and anywhere else online.
  • Some people just want to complain, BUT if there is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, tell that customer what your action plan is to fix it. Explaining the changes you’re making, or have already made to remedy the situation is the best way to build trust.
  • Be calm and professional in your response from a raging customer. Take a deep breath and remember that these are paying customers and your goal is to salvage that.
  • Flag any false reviews. False reviews are not permitted on Yelp and can be flagged for removal. Reviews that are hearsay or share misleading information are candidates for flagging.
  • The best way to redeem yourself from a bad review is by seeking out loyal and happy customers to write a great one. Never be cheesy or overbearing by offering free gifts or rewards for their review. Simply ask your most consistent customers/clients if they would be interested in leaving a review. Educate your loyal followers on where to go to post a review. If you’re offering an awesome product or service, it should not be difficult to redeem yourself from a negative comment.

Remember, Yelp is not the only option for small businesses looking to improve ratings and customer interaction. Consider checking out other review sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yellow Pages, Facebook, and more. And if you haven’t set up alerts to track your Twitter mentions, do it now. Knowing what consumers are saying about you and your business is key to growing and improving.

Have you ever received a negative review on Yelp? How did you handle it?

About the author:

Jenn Boutwell – VP Marketing & Strategic Alliances
I am a Sage One brand ambassador and team building virtuoso. Professionally I am known for building strong teams and organizing complex situations. I am passionate about making small business owners’ lives easier so they can spend more time on what they are passionate about. When I’m not running between meetings, I’m running half-marathons and training for a full marathon.

Drop me a line at

Are You Ready to Turn Your Hobby into a Business?

Ready to turn your hobby into a business?
Over the years, I have seen more businesses fail than I can count. The formula usually goes something like this: employee decides he/she can do a certain “skill” independently, quits job, starts his/her own company, has no idea how to run said company, and ultimately fails. You can be the very best at what you do, but if you can’t successfully run (and grow) a business—you’ll be drowning within the first year. So before you turn your hobby into a business, ask yourself—am I ready for that level of commitment?

Here’s what makes the difference between a hobby and a real business. It’s more than just wishful thinking – it’s a real plan.

Have a plan

Eight of every 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within 18 months. Only 20% avoid the crash and burn! Sadly, most of them head down the road to failure from the start by skipping the planning process.

You need a plan! I can’t emphasize this enough. Not just goals or what you think you need to make, but real planning – extensive market research, a definition of your niche in the industry, customer analysis, plan of operations, a financial plan, and projections for revenue growth at least three years out. Be REALISTIC and plan for things to go wrong. Trust me, they will. 

Set it up

You can’t hang out your shingle and skip the legal stuff. You need to register as a business –and this is where a lot of hobbyists get things wrong. Choosing the right type of business can be critical. While there aren’t many options, the distinctions between each could make or break your business.

Options include: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, S Corporation, or Limited Liability Company. Your choice will determine what income tax return form you’ll need to file. Need help? Read the SBA’s article on determining your federal tax obligations. You may also want to read up on whether or not the IRS considers your hobby a for-profit endeavor.

Get your tools in place

So many people underestimate the role a streamlined business plays in startup success. Anything that makes running your business easier needs to be set in place well before you dive in – and there are a lot of options out there.

  • For cash flow: The goal is to get paid faster. Find an online solution that will allow you to get everything done in one place. Check out Sage One – it provides just what you need to get paid faster and seamlessly. Our automated invoicing services make you look great in front of customers, and help you avoid any invoices piling up or late payments slipping through the cracks. It’s a perfect accounting solution for start-ups and small businesses. Features include automated reports, ability to link your bank account, and more.
  • For building relationships (aka: customers!): How will you get marketing done in as little time possible? How will you use tools like social media to spread the word about your business? Get familiar with some of the tools to help you share your brand’s message – quickly and easily. Time is going to be your hottest commodity so you better get yourself organized. I like SproutSocial , personally, but Hootsuite is another great option. These social media tools can help you make a splash from the start and take your outreach to the next level.
  • For your ideas: One of the best things to do before jumping into your business is to gather your ideas, your plans and your business visions all in one place. The last thing you need to be doing is sifting through a mountain of papers at your desk trying to find that million-dollar idea you wrote down a month ago. There are hundreds of online solutions to get you organized. Evernote will save you time and energy best spent somewhere else. And Wunderlist is a great tool for tracking “must dos” for starting and managing your business. It also gives you an effortless and easy way to add collaborators. It’s an essential for me.

Make Sure Your Business Fits Your Lifestyle

Before you jump from hobby to business, make sure you have a realistic view of what your capable of. Risk is part of the deal when it comes to entrepreneurship, no doubt, but are you ready to give up your leisurely passion to commit to a battle for a place in the market?

Make sure that your potential business fits into your lifestyle, is one that has the potential to provide you with an income, and is actually do-able. Going after your dreams and doing what you love is great – but owning a business is a completely different thing than being employed, and it’s not the best fit for everyone.

Be honest with yourself—are you ready to turn your hobby into a business?

About the author:

Lawton Ursrey – Sage One awareness guru and fellow entrepreneur
I have a healthy disrespect for the impossible and a passion for the little details. While I run my own small business, I am also passionate about helping other small business owners. If I’m not running my business, or helping you run yours, then I’m probably playing guitar.

Follow me on Twitter.

Grow Conference Brought Tech Innovation to Whistler

Grow conference

This month one of the worlds most respected tech conferences, Grow, was hosted in Whistler, BC. With big name attendees that included Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Jawbone and Facebook, we knew we had to check it out!

Here’s a summary of our experience at Grow.

Wearable technology is hot

When I heard wearables was going to be a key topic at Grow this year I was expecting to hear about the usual suspects, Samsung Gear, Apple’s upcoming iWatch and Google Glass. To my surprise I was taken on a journey through the history of wearable technology, what’s happening now and what’s on the horizon.

The buzz about new technology makes us forget what came before it, and Grow made me realise that wearables isn’t the future, it arrived years ago (think Nike+ and Jawbone). There’s a lot out there that we don’t hear as much about in mainstream tech media, but it’s just spreading like wildfire through word of mouth. Some great examples include Recon, Misfit, MC10 and Sproutling, who are all developing technology related to tracking health and well being.

Disrupt rather than simply innovate

Brian Solis, from Altimeter Group, gave an inspiring speech about how businesses need to be building or moving their businesses toward disrupting incumbent organisations and processes—as opposed to just basing it on something that is slightly different than what’s already cool or successful. He gave some great examples including Uber, who have turned the taxi industry on its head by offering greater convenience, an alternative to traditional taxi bookings.

The elephant in the room: privacy in an increasingly connected world

There were some great updates about applications that are pushing the boundaries beyond mere GPS tracking. Applications like Waze, Life 360, and hardware that tracks your actions such as Google Glass and Misfits sleep monitor. But the big question is always this: “Will people really give up their privacy and adopt these technologies in their masses?” The reality is if you want to use them you have to give up a certain level of privacy.

Waze’s Julie Mossler commented that when people see a worthwhile gain from giving up some of their privacy, they’re happy to—the initial concerns over online banking is a great example. This confidence came with a cautionary note, however, that users need to be comfortable with that happens to their data from a security, storage and potential marketing permissions standpoint.

So much happened at Grow that we’re already looking forward to next year to see how tech has progressed in a year! Stay tuned for more!

About the author:

Keith Arkle – Product specialist and customer advocate   
Keeping our customers at the forefront of my mind is always a priority in my work. In talking about our product and preparing product launches, I always want to make sure our messaging is consistent and accurate. When I’m not working, I am probably hanging at home or travelling with my wonderful family.

Follow me on Twitter.

Small Biz Owners: Is Instagram Worth Your Time?

Using Instagram to market your small business
With over 200 million monthly active users—Instagram is officially a force to be reckoned with. 60 million photos are being shared every single day, all over the world. But how do you translate that into business success? Originally founded as a personal platform for sharing, cracking the code as a business takes a unique strategy.

So what is it about those perfectly square images that hold so much marketing power? For starters, the app allows you to automatically share your photos on your businesses’ other social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter. It also allows you to tell the story of your brand—through stunning visuals.

A picture speaks a thousand words, and it’s time for small businesses of all sizes to harness Instagram’s incredible potential. Here’s how.

  1. Stay True to Your Brand
    Instagram is a place to highlight and expand your brand’s unique story through images. It doesn’t matter if your focus is B2B or B2C—the app can be useful for any business. The important thing is to post photos and videos that capture the true essence of what you care to represent in your industry. Companies selling highly visual products have it easy. Those who sell a service might need to be a bit more creative. Consider giving your audience a behind-the-scenes look into what you do. Highlight your team or feature your clients. Be authentic and your followers will reward you.
  2. Apply the 80/20 Rule
    Just like other marketing efforts, your Instagram content can’t be all about you. If you’re looking to build more business, appeal to your target audience’s senses. Don’t focus 100% on making the sale. Your viewers will take notice, and unsubscribe. Think about what sort of images your audience would find appealing, and post that. Consider using the 80/20 rule—20% of your pictures highlighting your product or service and 80% building the brand with images that will appeal to your target audience.
  3. Collaborate with Other Users
    One great way to gain an engaged following on Instagram is to collaborate with other users. Find other businesses or influencers in your industry and find a way to be featured on their pages. You can also encourage your current customers to get involved by asking them to post a picture tagging your account. Consider running a photo contest or product give-away – by giving something to the Instagram community, you’ll get attention back in return.
  4. Utilize Hashtags
    Hashtags are your ticket to free advertising. Just like with Twitter, using the right hashtags can bring new eyes to your brand. Use hashtags that directly relate to the product or service you offer. Once you’ve established your brand on Instragram, you could create a hashtag campaign to increase buzz and engagement. Come up with a unique hashtag and encourage other users to use it in their posts.
  5. Create an Experience
    Perhaps the most exciting part about using Instagram as a small business is the endless amount of creativity you can use to enhance your viewers’ experience. Don’t underestimate the power of this app. Put in some time and effort with your creative team to put together a strategy and create high-quality content. Create a storyline that compliments your brand and leaves people asking—what happens next?

How do you use Instagram for your small business?

About the author:

Jenn Boutwell – VP Marketing & Strategic Alliances
I am a Sage One brand ambassador and team building virtuoso. Professionally I am known for building strong teams and organizing complex situations. I am passionate about making small business owners’ lives easier so they can spend more time on what they are passionate about. When I’m not running between meetings, I’m running half-marathons and training for a full marathon.

Drop me a line at

Keeping the Momentum: Tips for Small Biz Growth


If you’re a small business owner, you’ve taken a leap of faith. While you are confident in your product or service, a scary statistic looms over your head—this year, more small businesses will fail than succeed. Although business may be going well now, you need to keep momentum going so you can continue to succeed.

Here are three ways to keep your small business moving and growing:

  1. Do Less Work
    This sounds crazy – but trust us! In order to success you have to focus on your business function, not the time consuming work that can drag you down. Getting distracted and bogged down by details is a surefire way to crash and burn. Streamline your process—work smarter rather than harder. Here are a few examples:-

    - Billing: Money is a pretty crucial aspect of your business, so make it easy for yourself. Using a tool like Sage One can help you automate your billing process—preferably one that is designed for small businesses. This will make it easy for you to automatically generate professional invoices, as well as send late payment reminders.

    - Scheduling: For many small businesses, setting employee schedules can be a nightmare and a huge time suck. There are plenty of online tools to help you and keep your team on the same page – including Sage One which has integrated time tracking.

    - Marketing: Small businesses that utilize social media can save a lot of time by scheduling posts ahead of time. Choose one day a week to schedule all of your content for the week ahead, and engage as needed. Services like Sprout Social make it easy to streamline your posting while also providing powerful analytics tools to track your progress.

It’s easy to get distracted by the details—but don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember why you started in the first place and adjust your priorities to spend more time doing what you love. The success of your business depends on it.

  1. Outsource What You Can

    Learning to delegate is one of the most important aspects of a successful small business. But handing certain aspects of your work off to others can free you up to focus on more profitable, high-priority tasks.

    Online collaboration tools are making it easier than ever to work with virtual teams anywhere at anytime. Not a gifted graphic designer? That’s okay. Admitting your limits is the first step to successful outsourcing. Then, it’s a matter of finding the right people to work with. Websites like Elance can help you get connected with professionals in virtually every field to hire on an as-needed basis.

  2. Collect Testimonials and Client Stories

    Many times, small businesses forget to harness the power of their existing clients and customers. Be sure to consistently gather feedback from your client base. Many times, a referral is the only proof a person needs to trust that your company is legit. Feature these success stories on your website and on your social channels.

    Sometimes, small businesses get cold feet about contacting their clients for a testimonial or referral. Don’t be afraid to simply ask. Make things easy on them by providing a template. In order to grow, you can’t be afraid to let the whole world know what you do and that you do it well. If you’ve done a good job, clients will be more than happy to recommend you and sing your praises.

How do you keep things moving at your small business?

About the author:

Lawton Ursrey – Sage One awareness guru and fellow entrepreneur
I have a healthy disrespect for the impossible and a passion for the little details. While I run my own small business, I am also passionate about helping other small business owners. If I’m not running my business, or helping you run yours, then I’m probably playing guitar.

Follow me on Twitter.

Freelancers—Is Your Email Sending the Wrong Message?

Email etiquette for small biz ownwers
As a freelancer, the reputation of your business falls solely on your shoulders. Unlike some of your friends, you do not have the luxury of relying on an established Fortune 500 company to handle your branding. You ARE your brand—and that comes with a huge responsibility to communicate effectively with clients.

In many cases, your first impression as a freelancer will set the tone for the remainder of your experience with each client. Every e-mail you write should be specially crafted to establish your expertise and professionalism. Here’s how:

Set the tone

Make sure that your clients understand right away that you can offer them value. This does not mean oversell yourself and appear desperate. Instead, keep things simple and direct. State who you are, what you can offer, and how you can help them.

Follow the client’s lead

Every client you take on will have a different style of communication. Some will be formal, others will be more laid back. A few might prefer daily correspondence, others may check in with you on a monthly basis. Follow their lead and match their communication patterns.

Don’t waiver

There is a fine line between being polite and being taken advantage of. Just because a freelancer’s client relationships may be more fickle than a larger agency does not mean that the value of your service decreases. Be strong and cut out the unnecessary apologies. You are confident in what you offer, so be confident in your communication.

Cut it in half

When in doubt—delete. There is no reason to over explain or oversell your offer. Eliminate technical jargon or anything that serves purpose to you rather than your reader. Succinct writing will show that you are confident and also respectful of the receiver’s time. Whether you are pitching to a new or existing client—stick to the facts. Include a short introduction, state your reason for contacting, and leave it at that.

Create your signature

E-mails should be branded just like any other piece of marketing material. Make sure that the recipient can learn more about your product or service in one click. Set up your signature to include appropriate links—website, blog, or portfolio. Your sign off should always remain consistent.

Strong email address

Perhaps the first thing a client will see is the address they are receiving the email from. Your email address should exude professionalism and credibility. While AOL, Gmail, and Hotmail are all great services for personal use, you will be taken more seriously with your own domain. Example—“”

Emails represent an incredible branding opportunity for your freelance business. Make sure that you are setting the tone with your clients and making a strong impression.

About the author:

Jenn Boutwell – VP Marketing & Strategic Alliances
I am a Sage One brand ambassador and team building virtuoso. Professionally I am known for building strong teams and organizing complex situations. I am passionate about making small business owners’ lives easier so they can spend more time on what they are passionate about. When I’m not running between meetings, I’m running half-marathons and training for a full marathon.

Drop me a line at