Marketing lesson of the day: in the reputation economy, you can run, but you can't hide.
The guy who takes care of my yard has branded himself Wacky Wally (it's actually not Wacky Wally, but it's similar - names have been changed to protect the guilty, in this case). When you say it, it kind of makes you chuckle and it's easy to remember - probably a pretty good idea for someone who, theoretically, grows his business based on word-of-mouth and a good reputation.
Trouble is - Wacky Wally isn't a very good yard guy. I would fire him, but my landlord pays for it so I don't really care that much. I might have just concluded that Wally was just really busy and in-demand, so that's why he lets my yard grow uncontrollably for weeks. And, if I got frustrated enough and really did fire him, he probably could have talked me into a second chance or, worst case scenario, just lost one small customer.
But that's not how Wally rolls. Recently, Wally sent out an e-mail to all of his customers to ask them to vote for him in the latest Austin Chronicle Best-of-Austin poll for Best Landscaper, with the subject "LOVE".
Mistake number one was that he didn't BCC everyone, so we all saw the entire e-mail list of his customers (making it easy to Reply-All). But mistake number two actually happened awhile ago: Wally provided bad service, and didn't fix it.
Two replies (and only two) came back to the entire list almost immediately:
"Are you kidding? You were the worst experience we ever had regarding yard men!"
My puzzlement notwithstanding - if you will do something about those dead plants that you charged me for after your costly and protracted landscaping effort, I will not only vote for you several times but will forget that you did not return my "four" related messages begging you to deal with my plants.
I am not only forgiving, but easily bought off; if you fix my plants - I will vote my ass off!!
-Larry Hiller (name changed)
With LOVE, of course."
Final score: Angry Customers 2, Wally's reputation 0.
So, in the course of one e-mail, Wally pretty much weed-whacked his entire reputation and pruned his business quite substantially. Wally, I think you might want to try becoming a xeriscaping expert.