You Can Have it Fast, Cheap or Good. Pick Two

I see posts occasionally on Facebook where people seek recommendations of companies that provide various services. Invariably, they want those services “cheap,” “affordable,” “at a reasonable Social media price.” They want “quality.” They want the services from a “reputable company” or an “honest company.”

I placed these words in quotations because all of these words are used in the same post quite often. Can we be real for a second? I bet you never in your life have said, “I need to hire a supremely shitty electrician who has tons of negative reviews, will charge me an arm and a leg, and whose work may result in my house burning down.” So I think the fact that you want great service at a great price is a given, and therefore, unnecessary to media 1

Instead, why not simply ask for recommendations from your friends or from people in a Facebook group for a company with which they have experience? I’ll take a friend’s recommendation over where a business falls in Google organic search results any day (although I’m still all about Google organic search!). Then you can call for pricing. This way, you avoid the risk of insulting business owners who might otherwise have been social media 2willing to give you a price quote, but now they don’t want to sound off in your comment thread for fear of being known as “the cheap auto mechanic” or “the cheap plumber.”

I believe most business owners would agree that they don’t want their claim to fame to be that they’re “the cheap (fill in the blank).” They may want to be the best, but I don’t know many people who allow the adjectives “cheap” and “best” to occupy the same business media 3

What does all of this have to do with public relations? The textbook definition of public relations is this: a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,  according to the Public Relations Society of America. In addition to operating a reputable business, how effectively your public relations strategy works helps determine how frequently your name is mentioned when people post on social media that they’re in search of a company that performs your particular type of services.

I’m writing this post because of a Facebook group I belong to where requests for business recommendations appear all the time. The examples I’ve pulled as screen shots come from that group and I’ve blurred the identifying information because it doesn’t matter who wrote them. We’re all guilty from time to time.

How to Respond to the “Cheap” Request

Sometimes business owners feel incensed when they read these posts. No one wants to feel as though their quality of work isn’t valued. My public relations advice to those business owners is this: keep those negative reactions to yourself. You won’t attract new customers by leaving a snarky comment in the thread. Instead, I recommend treating this as an opportunity to educate not only the person who wrote the post, but all who might follow that thread. Lots of people are watching these conversations, even though they may never leave a comment. Instead, why not try one of these approaches:

  • I believe the people who write these posts aren’t intentionally trying to insult business owners. They’re simply looking for value. So don’t address the “cheap” part at all. Leave a comment with your phone number, or invite them to message you their information so you can reach out via phone.
  • Sometimes these threads turn negative, with commenters accusing the person of being insulting for demanding high quality service on the cheap. Be the person who turns this negative into a positive. Leaving a comment that says something like, “Hi Joe! I read you loud and clear. We all want great quality and value, and my company prides itself in offering that to customers. Feel free to call me or give me your number and I’ll call you so I can explain our process and give you a price quote.”
  • Most of us are willing to pay more for something when we’ve been educated a little about the quality, process, etc. Facebook is a great way to educate. Leave a brief comment that gives an overview of what goes into pricing your particular product or service, or mention the scope of service covered in your pricing. I place emphasis on brief because I know you have a job to do, and it likely doesn’t involve investing lots of time in Facebook responses. A quick explanation and a number to reach you should suffice.

Just remember that social media is a powerful public relations tool that can work for or against you. Luckily, you often get to control which way it will be. It’s all about your reaction.