About a year ago I had a meeting with a business owner in the hospitality sector. Revenue was down, profits were down, debt was up and cashflow was negative. This person had reviewed and cut costs, entered into payment arrangements with suppliers and believed that the answer to the problems lay in better marketing because patrons had stopped coming to the establishment.

During our discussion I asked how the business rated on Trip Advisor. “Oh those guys hate us!” was the reply. I had done a little analysis of “those guys” before our meeting and their comments made interesting reading. Over the past 100 reviews there was a large spread of one and two star ratings (terrible and poor) as well as four and five star ratings (very good and excellent). However, the bad comments were very bad with many recommending which competitors would provide better service. Furthermore, there was a constant theme as to which areas of service were problematic.

What a goldmine: here was a raft of free information which indicated that the business can deliver excellent service but that quality is inconsistent. It also provided customer recommendations as to how to fix these problems. A lot of other businesses would pay a fortune for this - and here it was for free. I suggested implementing a customer service improvement plan but the business owner disagreed so she engaged someone else to to do some marketing for her.

One year later this business is no longer in existence and I guess that the marketing campaign merely spread the bad news faster. Perhaps more people wrote more bad reviews and let’s be honest, bad news travels fast.

Marketing is effectively a promise and if you can’t deliver on that promise you will get found out. If your sales are down or your customers are consistently telling you things you don’t want to hear, listen to them and act. They are the people who will decide whether you will stay in business and they're not fools. Respect your customers and they will respect you.