Making Lemonade from a Lemon; a Case Study Regarding Online Reviews and Recommendations

What should you do when a negative review pops up on an online site about your business?  The review can be on Yelp, Google Places, Merchant Circle, Urban Spoon, Tripadvisor, a number of other online sites or in the case of my client, Gary Rumbaugh Construction, on Angie’s List.Angie's List online Review Site | The Marketing Engineer Blog

Gary is a General Contractor in Omaha, Nebraska. He has been in business since 1982 and has built a reputation as being extremely trustworthy and competent at home renovations and customer new home construction. His operation is efficient and he utilizes a number of sub-contractors that he has built a strong relationship with over the years. He know they do great work.

I have known Gary since the early 1990s as our sons were in Boy Scouts together.  I knew him first as a friend, then as a contractor, then as a client when I launched my business in late 2010.  I built his website, created a Facebook page, LinkedIn Company page, Google + page, YouTube channel, Pinterest, and Google Place listing.  I also helped him manage his online directories and that included sites, like, MerchantCircle, Houzz, and of course Angie’s List.

I took over control of the listing Angie’s List had created and filled it a keyword-rich description, added, photos links to videos, etc.  This was primarily to create keyword-rich content on a high-value website to search engines and for SEO.

Good Reviews, Bad Reviews

The Reviews starting coming in. I encouraged Gary to take a personal approach and reply to every Review or Recommendation.

In June of 2012, a negative review on Gary’s business gets posted on Angie’s List. I alerted Gary to this posting which was not on his craftsmanship, rather a lack of communications.  In today’s online world we may all rely too much on impersonal communications like emails and texting, rather than the simple phone call.  Gary, as a small business owner does many task associated with his business himself and time can be an issue. Well, he had bid on a project, sent the quote via email and never heard back from the prospect. He figured he was one of several contractors bidding on a project and did not win the bid. Not is this case, and not in the case of another person who then listed another review along the same lines on Angie’s List about not communicating after the bid was submitted.

We needed to spring into action. I showed Gary how to create a reply on Angie’s List so not only the person that listed the review would be notified, anyone that came across the listing would also be able to read Gary’s reply.  Next, we needed to get his clients to list some reviews on Angie’s List, which six customers and two suppliers wrote some very nice things for Gary. This took place last Fall and into the first half of 2013.

Another negative Review was placed by an AL member that said that Gary had supplied an outrageous quote regarding repairing a door to an apartment on his rental property.  Turns out, no quote was ever made as Gary had told this person he did not do “handyman” type work and suggested he contact a local handyman that would be better suited to address his needs. There might have been some confusion on who supplied the quote.

Gary has heard positive comments from several people that has read his reply (rather the one I help craft for him) on the negative reviews.

The Results of Replying to a Review

The results were outstanding. There is seldom a week that goes by that Gary does not receive a call through Angie’s List for a bid and he has won most of the work, even though he has not been the lowest bidder. He has gotten so much work that his business has been booked through most of 2013.

Then in early May 2013, he gets a call from the Editor of Angie Hick’s syndicated column asking him for his “expert opinion” as a leading professional in the middle of the country on the housing market!  The story was published on Mother’s day in papers throughout the United States and also online. He was one of only “three” builders in the country to be interviewed for the article. The reason he was given for being selected was the popularity of his listing being looked at. I keep telling him, I should have charged him more or should get a commission on the work he is getting for the Inbound Marketing and Reputation management program I helped him with.

But that is not all. We took other steps to build a Houzz listing and rounded out his Google Places (the online mapping site) listing. He is also getting calls from people that are finding him on those sites as well. I can take credit for helping create the SEO program and some limited Inbound Marketing strategy, but much of the results are due to what Gary does and how he relates with his clients and prospects. In marketing there is a saying, “you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” I cannot make Gary’s business look better than what it truly is already. He is an outstanding craftsman that is a quality builder.  Maybe that is why he has a slogan “Original in Design…Exceptional in Execution.”  You can visits Gary’s site and check out his social and review site links (bottom of each page) at

If you have any comments, please feel free to contact me here.

About Jeff Quandt

Jeff Quandt is an Inbound and Digital Marketing Strategist and owns On-Q Marketing LLC. He helps businesses get found in a Google Search bringing prospects to business' website to generate leads.

Then through Inbound Marketing tactics qualify the lead, nurture the lead, and ultimately converting the lead/prospect into a customer.

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