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Don’t listen to TripAdvisor reviews (unless they’re good)

Hospitality is the only industry I can think of where rank amateurs can write reviews of businesses for everyone else to see, with no reference made to their own abilities or experience. Or even what kind of mood they were in.

I don’t know any food journalists who write reviews on TripAdvisor – certainly none of the writing team at our own publications such as food magazine do.

So that means the experience, reliability and motives of those who do write TripAdvisor reviews might be a little…how shall we say… ’suspect’?

Maybe I’m being harsh, maybe ‘unreliable’ might be a better word.

I’m not saying that online reviews are a bad thing, but as a business owner there’s a strong argument for just ignoring the bad ones. (Read the good ones – everyone needs a pat on the back occasionally).

The successful business has a niche, a following, a tribe who love them and value them. And the secret is to focus on your tribe, engage with them and nurture them. And not to worry about the others.

Do customers actually know what they want?

It was Steve Jobs who said “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses”

‘We’re not DJs taking dodgy requests’

They were talking about about the dangers of listening too much to customers or focus groups when designing a product, and I bet we can all think of a time when those words have rung true in our own businesses.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t listen to your customers, but more that our customers don’t always know what they need – we can’t always bend to meet their every whim. We’re not DJs taking dodgy requests. We have to exercise taste and make difficult choices about whose opinions and advice to act on and whose to ignore.

You can’t be everything to everyone

You can’t be all things to all people, trying to do so will only result in you being nothing, to no one. I’m not sure that sentence makes complete sense, but you get my drift.

Successful businesses need vision, passion and authenticity, and the outcome is something that is beautiful for its customers – for its tribe. These are the people who see value in what you do, who are prepared to pay a fair price for your hours of toil and your ideas, and the ones that will tell their friends (and fellow tribe members) about you.

These are the people you should care for, go the extra mile for and apologise to if you make a mistake. It’s the tribe that keeps you in business.

So, who are your tribe, where can you find them and what should you be telling them?

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