Small Business Tips 3
While online reviews and social media benefit small businesses by enhancing communication with consumers, it is possible for negative online reviews or comments to damage a business’s reputation. It is important to properly manage your business’s online reputation. These tips are designed to help you avoid some common pitfalls and find ways to turn a negative review into a catalyst for improvement.
- Monitor your online reputation. You cannot afford to ignore your business’s online reputation. There are online tools such as Google Alerts and Social Mention that allow you to monitor reviews and social media content regarding your business. Reading both positive and negative reviews will help you improve your business and refine your customer service.
- Do not ignore constructive criticism. Even if you disagree with a reviewer you cannot dispute that they were left with a bad impression. Look at a negative review as an opportunity to improve your customer service skills and your business. Try and find the root of the problem. Is there anything you could have done differently? Did you promise something you were unable to deliver?
- Keep your emotions in check. It can be hard not to take criticisms directed at your business personally. The best way to resolve the situation is to keep calm and remain professional. Avoid criticizing the customer or responding with sarcasm. Turning a negative review into an open argument will only make matters worse.
- Respond and take action to resolve the matter. If possible address the customer to try and resolve their concerns in a reasonable way. It is vital to make an effort to win back the customer. Sometimes offering a discount or a refund on a previous or a future purchase will help. Satisfying an unhappy customer may create a more loyal customer and ultimately generate positive publicity for your company.
- Do not respond to harassment, vulgarity or threats. If a reviewer is harassing you and your employees or using inappropriate language you may contact the website administrator and bring the review to their attention. Many sites do not allow inappropriate language, threats or harassment in reviews.
- Do not break the rules. You should never create your own or pay others for positive reviews. Review schemes will only make your problem worse. Many sites penalize companies that utilize review schemes for their business and many potential customers have caught on to the look and feel of fake reviews. The best way to counter negative reviews is to improve customer service.
- Call your LegalShield provider law firm. The laws and judicial rulings regarding online speech are currently evolving and vary from state to state. While websites that publish reviews are generally protected, some online reviewers may be liable for defamatory statements that harm the reputation of an individual, business, or other group. Litigating online defamation cases may be costly and time consuming, but there may be alternatives to court action. Call your LegalShield provider law firm and speak with an attorney about your legal options.
Small business owners frequently sign contracts with employees, vendors, banks and contractors. It is important to make sure your contracts are enforceable in a court of law and are free of potential surprises. One of the greatest challenges LegalShield provider attorneys face is attempting to resolve problems with a contract that has already been signed. Have your LegalShield provider law firm review any new contract before you sign.
- Verbal Agreements – Verbal agreements are difficult to enforce. In addition, each side can have their own interpretation of what was discussed. It is vital that any agreement you enter into on behalf of your business involves a signed written contract.
- Check for Errors – Make sure all of the names, titles and addresses in the contract are correct. Even simple clerical errors could hinder your ability to enforce a contract.
- Keep it Simple and Concise – Keep contract language simple and unambiguous. Confusing language and legalese results in uncertainty. Business contracts should be easy for both parties to read and understand. An attorney shouldn’t have to translate the meaning.
- Payments – Your contract should be specific about monetary transactions. When are payments due, who should be paid and how much or what percentage? Set deadlines and penalties for late payment.
- Confidentiality – It may be necessary to include a confidentiality clause in your contract, particularly if the other party will have access to privileged information. Losing important trade secrets or compromising client data can be costly. Talk to your LegalShield provider law firm if you have questions about confidentiality.
- Determine Jurisdiction – If the various parties entering into a contract are located in different states you should indicate which state’s laws will govern the contract. Indicating where the contract will be enforced will help avoid a dispute about jurisdiction should court action be needed. State laws may differ so it is important to consult with your LegalShield provider attorney.
- Dispute Resolution – Include in your contract rules for settling any disputes that may arise between the parties. Negotiation, mediation and arbitration may help you avoid court should a conflict arise.
- Termination – Set the terms for terminating the contract. You may consider including failure to make payment or meet specific deadlines as a cause to terminate the contract. Setting specific terms and guidelines for termination is an important way to avoid disputes and confusion.
- Attorney Review – As a LegalShield small business member you have access to attorneys who can review your contract and point out potential legal difficulties. Do not sign a contract until it has been reviewed by an attorney.
- Notarize Signatures – Having all signatures witnessed by a notary protects the legitimacy of your contract. Should you need to go to court to enforce a contract and the signatures are not notarized, the other party may dispute their signatures authenticity. If so, you will need to authenticate the signature, which will delay the legal process and increase costs.
Selecting the right name for your business involves legal, financial and marketing considerations. The following information is designed to help you make informed decisions to protect your intellectual property and avoid potential legal problems. If you have questions or need legal assistance call your LegalShield provider law firm and speak with an attorney.
- Selecting a Name – When selecting a business name it is important to consider what it communicates about your business and how the name will appear on your website, promotional material and letterhead. It may be helpful to work with a consultant or marketing agency to find the right name for your business.
- Reputation Check – Review the websites and content that will appear when a potential customer searches for your business online. If those businesses are direct competitors or if they have negative online reputations you may want to consider another name.
- Trademark – It is also important to make sure the name you select does not violate an existing trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office offers a search tool to help. Visit the Trademark Electronic Search System here. If you wish to file for your own trademark contact your LegalShield provider law firm and discuss the details with an attorney.
- Registration – If you are forming an LLC or Corporation you will need to check the name availability with your state corporation commission or secretary of state. Some states will allow you to reserve a name for a certain period of time before officially registering the business. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a list of links to the various state agencies responsible for registering businesses. If you have questions about the laws in your state contact your LegalShield provider law firm.
- “Doing Business As” (DBA) Name – Registering a DBA name, sometimes referred to as a fictitious or trade name, is required for sole proprietors or partnerships wishing to use a business name other than their own personal name. LLCs and Corporations must register a DBA name if they wish to use a name other than the one they used to register their business with the state. DBA registration is completed through the state or county clerk’s office where the business is located. Several states do not require DBA registration. Contact your LegalShield provider law firm to learn more about the laws in your state.
- Domain Name – You should also consider your options for a business domain name (website address). Domain registration is affordable, but it is important to make sure your business name or an adequate variation is available. Negotiating the purchase of an already registered domain name may be costly. Check the availability of your desired domain name on the WHOIS domain name database.
- Social Networking – Social networking has become an increasingly important marketing tool for businesses. Check the availability of your business name on sites that are important to your industry and set up accounts to reserve them.