Michał Sadowski: nothing compares to a discussion with customers [INTERVIEW]
Marta Siekierska

Jak sprawdzić, co o twojej firmie mówią w internecie? Kiedy zła opinia staje się kryzysem i jak na niego reagować? O tym między innymi opowiada Michał Sadowski, założyciel i prezes firmy Brand24

PayU: Are Polish entrepreneurs, in particular those operating in eCommerce, paying any attention to their online reputation?

Michał Sadowski: Until recently, eCommerce entrepreneurs did not understand the importance of web monitoring and interacting with users, their potential customers. Actually, I think we can talk about a certain pattern here, as every business thinks a good product can silence all the critics. In fact, the good product involves good customer service as well. We observe that increasing number of companies do not add new services to their portfolio, but extend the scope of customer service. And it makes a world of difference. Eventually, entrepreneurs start noticing that their online reputation directly translates into sales.

Do we trust online opinions when buying on the web?

More and more people decides to buy something after reading positive comments they can find online or hear from friends. We rarely get convinced by adverts or billboards. In times when even a minor purchase is preceded by online research, you start to realize why online reputation matters. Negative comments may lead to a potential image crisis, and no positive opinions may undermine business development.

Does online reputation mean more to entrepreneurs from other countries?

No. In fact, entrepreneurs operating abroad are even more ignorant about their online reputation when compared to Polish eCommerce sector. My company – Brand24 – and other entities offering internet monitoring tools did a lot to educate the market. That is why Poles know more about this particular issue than entrepreneurs from the United States, although first companies offering monitoring tools were in fact established in the United States many years ago. Nonetheless, the entities operating there focus on the largest companies and offer rather expensive tools many middle-sized companies cannot afford. That is why internet monitoring is perceived as a service reserved for the moguls from the Fortune 500 list and unavailable to a restaurant or online store owner.

How can any eCommerce startup start managing its online reputation?

First, such company needs to find any news about it. Most people do not create new queries, but find the already existing ones. Sometimes you even do not need internet monitoring tools to find them. Anyway, the first move involves joining a discussion and convincing others that the company respects its customers. In other words, if someone mentions your company online, you thank them for recommendation or try solving the customer’s problem. Interaction is the key and listening is the least you should do. Discuss, engage your customers and build relations. You can find people on the web so positive about your brand, so-called brand ambassadors, they will recommend it online and offline. They can boost your sales and leverage marketing efforts.

What data that eCommerce entrepreneurs can acquire owing to internet and social media monitoring is crucial?

Seemingly, any crisis-related news that can escalate and encourage a group of people to post negative comments about a brand is important. However, social sales is a highly increasing trend Besides, finding information that someone is searching for something we sell is crucial as well.

Let me give you an example. When my daughter had learned I was going to the seaside, she told me not to come back without a sea urchin. So I spent three hours looking for a sea urchin mascot. Eventually, I added a Facebook post saying: “Dear Facebook, where can I find any sea urchin in Tricity?”. And Gdynia Aquarium was one of the first to reply: “We have just seen sea urchins mascots at our store. Visit us and put an end to your search.”. This way they achieved two goals – invited one customer and presented themselves to Facebook users following this discussion.

Is it common that a company owner perceives a brand in a dramatically different way than internet users?

Yes, it is very common. We dealt with numerous cases when a brand did not know the reason for drop in sales. Usually, it turned out that an article showing the company and its services in a bad light was published on the internet, e.g. on Wykop or other blog. This is what happens to brands that have no clue what is published about them online and how it can affect their sales.

What are the symptoms of having a serious problem online?

Usually it involves two factors – the number of news about a brand and negative reactions it evokes. Sometimes a single spark is enough to start a crisis, e.g. a comment published by a popular blogger or YouTube celebrities.

Companies use Brand24 tool to gain information that is published about them online. Can you tell any example of using this data in a rather extraordinary way?

Actually, some of the applications of our tool are so astonishing that we, tool creators, can hardly believe it. For example, the organizers of Woodstock Music Festival used it to find persons who were glad to go there. Imagine the look on their faces when  Jurek Owsiak recorded a video to thank and invite some of them to enter the stage and backstage. The internet users were completely surprised and appreciated it a lot. Other example involves using internet monitoring to search for concert tickets. People who would like to see a sold-out concert use the tool to find the last available tickets. The third example involves people trying to find their unique, but stolen items, like a customized bike or photo camera. The tool allows them to find sellers listing these items on an auction platform.

Is there anything a company may not learn about itself owing to internet monitoring?

Of course! Monitoring is a convenient tool for reaching customers in their natural environment and checking opinions about certain products or companies. Still, nothing compares to a real discussion with customers. The tool is not providing you with a list of opinions about a company, but it allows you to access people, who have something to say. The task for entrepreneurs is to interact with those people, ask them questions to better understand the customers.

So what does one need to do to be successful?

In general? Love what you do. That way you are the real you. When you love what you do, you do not work, because you do not treat it that way. In other words, it means that regardless of the size of your business, you need to stay close to your customer. Even when you have thousands of them, you need to talk to them from time to time, and it does not matter whether you are CEO or marketing director. Do not think you are not in the position to do so. Establish the contact personally.

I learned this lesson before I entered the online sector, when I had been working as a cook in a pizza chain. Each month restaurant managers had to work one shift as a cook and waiter to stay in touch with reality and customers.

***

Michał Sadowski – founder and CEO of Brand24, an internet monitoring company. One of the tool’s feature allows companies to notice when any negative opinion about their product or service is posted on Facebook. Within six years Brand24 has gained trust of investors becoming a leader of the Polish market. Today, the company hires 40 persons and provide its services to over thousand companies, but Michał Sadowski has global plans. Brand24 is present on 6 continents and one of its offices is located in New York. The founder of Brand24 is not shy – he shares a lot of photos and videos presenting his daughters Róża and Lila, publishes coverage of his business trips, plays guitar and flies a drone to record his activities. Still, you would struggle to find any other young entrepreneur having equally positive online image.

Sadowski received many prestigious awards for entrepreneurs, e.g. Aulery 2012, Ekomersy 2012 and The Next Web Startup Awards 2013. In 2015, the Brief magazine titled him the most creative person in Polish business and he was included in New Europe 100 – a list of the most influential innovators in business, politics, culture and science in the CEE region.