“This goes for the restaurants as well as the users. As you’ve found, some businesses may be a bit naive to the fact that they need to adopt the ‘customer-is-always-right’ mentality that drives CriticMania, so look for chains that already use technology extensively in their businesses or who pride themselves on their customer service. You have to first engage the customers themselves. Once you engage them, the business will see the value in adopting your service.
“I’d suggest focusing on getting early-adopter customers to be the ones advocating for CriticMania at a store. Figure out a way for those people to get the retail establishments they frequent to sign up. Perhaps you can offer an incentive for users. Or look at other successful models, such as Foursquare or Waze, where users are ‘checking in’ and engaged in a community. There could be a network of CriticMania critics. The more you build out that user-generated community, the more likely you are to attract early adopters. Then the businesses don’t have to do much, other than sign up with you and put up a sign that they use your service.
“To find early adopters, you can tap into what people are already saying on review sites like Yelp and others. Use those sites as a development pipeline. You can also create some splash pages to test what works with search engine optimization. I suspect — as you do — that people would much rather talk directly to a business than complain in the blogosphere. If you can facilitate that, you can really take off.”
“Thank you so much for this feedback. Community is definitely a top priority for us. Primarily, we’re focused on the opportunity we have to build relationships between customers and the businesses who serve them. Your advice offers great perspective for an additional way we can frame this positive element as we work to engage businesses in using the platform. It’s interesting, too, to consider expansion in the context of how we might additionally strengthen a community for customers using CriticMania as well.
“Because our service functions only around businesses who are signed up with our service (because it wouldn’t work for consumers to send texts/feedback to a manager who wasn’t using the platform), we’ll have to dedicate some time and energy to ways we can grow support for our product from the customer base up. I do think we could benefit more strongly from utilizing existing restaurant and business-review sites to paint a more complete picture about exactly what organizations stand to gain from implementing our platform. Perhaps we could also find ways to gauge the interest of current/potential customers and how much they feel they’d benefit from a service like ours, and that enthusiasm could then be used to promote our platform directly from the consumers — since, after all, they’re the ones businesses are working for.”