Small claims court wasn't really an option - as the total $ I could have gotten back would have been too low to justify the time and effort but the the notion of letting the guy off the hook was too much to bear so I decided to put on my SEO and online reputation management hat. I've spent much of the last decade working to improve my clients' standing and online reputations so the logical thing to do was create an SEO optimized campaign to prevent other skiers from making the same mistake as I had.
Step 1 - The Obvious
Step one was to create review entries in all the obvious places. Yelp. Google and Better Business Bureau (although I'm not sure the BBB has much standing any more).
The nice thing about using Google Maps for the review was that I can see the number of views my review received. Because I have over 300 reviews (and 2 million plus photo views) my reviews tend to show up fairly high in the listings for a business.
Step 2 - Getting creative
Simply posting on Yelp and Google was a good starting point but I wanted to take things to the next level. This required getting creative. First step was to add a page to my personal website that was titled "Ski Tuner Reviews"
This particular web page has been very carefully designed and tagged. My goal was to create a page that would show up in a google search for Ski Express Richmond VT. The page title + the review HTML (carefully structured to be searchable) plus the actual review content gives me a change to get crawled by google. The secret sauce though is the use of JSON review tagging. You could create it by hand or use this handy URL to create your own: https://jurisdigital.com/tools/schema-review-generator/
Step 3 - Building Traffic
My goal now is to start carving traffic away from Ski Express, Richmond VT and to my review page. Luckily his customer base is highly regional so when the snow flies I'll be able to run two types of PPC campaigns:
1. A geo-targeted campaign specifically tied to his business name that drives traffic to me.
2. A facebook campaign which targets his own page followers as well as friends of his followers.
For pennies I'll be able to start to siphon away roughly 30% of his organic traffic (according to google numbers) and take then to my review page. I suspect that based on feedback I've already received that my Facebook campaign will also garner a number of other negative reviews giving me additional credibility.
Step 4 - Go beyond digital
As much as I enjoy digital marketing it isn't always sufficient. In this case I wanted to generate additional impressions and awareness among his potential clientele where they were most likely to be - namely ski slopes. To this end I created my own t-shirt and ordered it in two sizes. A medium for day wear and an XXL that I can wear over my ski jacket. Since I volunteer at Cochrans to help teach little kids to ski and am a member of the Smugglers' Notch Ski Club the number of ski impressions that I can hit during the 100+ days I spend each year on the slopes should number in the thousands.
In this day and age reputation management is paramount. It starts of course with doing good. Be responsive, take responsibility and stand by your word. Savvy business owners have realized that the reach and impact of a negative experience can spread far and wide and have long lasting impacts. As for me - my new skis are on order and I'm looking forward to next winter. And finding a new place to tune my skis.