General Post

Ever have this happen to you…?

August 4, 2014 by Leave a comment
Desktop with 3 monitors

A snapshot of my new desktop system

Ahhhh... After being forced to work on a decade old computer system for the better part of 6 months because my main system died, cutting into my income because the old system couldn't do all that I needed it to do, unboxing and setting up a brand new, high end system was something rather exciting to do over the weekend.

After about a half hour into it, I started to feel something amiss. I had 3 monitors, but only 2 DVI connectors. I had assumed that, based off the description of the computer on the website and the conversation I had with the sales rep over the phone, I would have gotten some type of adapter to hook up all 3 monitors.

I figured no big deal for the time being, I can use the HDMI connection to hook up the 3rd monitor and call them on Monday. Unfortunately, no matter what I tried to do, I could only get 2 of the 3 monitors working. Now the system itself could SEE all 3, but it would only show a display on only 2 at a time. I could get the system to switch which monitors were active, but never all 3 at the same time.

I spent the better part of the weekend trying to find information on the company website to try and figure out what I was missing. Having been a computer tech for almost 15 years, I knew it was something simple. I just assumed it was because of them not sending me an adapter and the video card could only power 2 of the displays, software-wise, without the adapter.

That Monday, I called their tech support. After explaining my issue, the rep was at a loss for words. They took over my computer and spent almost an hour going through the same steps I had already tried several times over the weekend, with the same results.

“What about an adapter, which I specifically asked for when I ordered this system?” I asked.

“Oh, we don't have those types of adapters.” was the reply.

“Well, so what you're saying is, when someone orders a system from you with more than 2 monitors, your standard reply is, 'Oh, so sorry, we don't provide you all the equipment needed to run the system you just spent over $1,000 on'? I find that hard to believe.”

With that, I got kicked up to a 'supervisor'. After another 15 minutes of back and forth, I was told that I needed to talk to another department for said adapter. I asked the supervisor that, since they'd already wasted over an hour of my time, could they contact the other department for me to get the adapter, I was advised it was no problem.

That was over a week ago, and no response. Also, absolutely no information on the site for how to hook up more than 2 monitors, even though the site shows that the video card I paid extra for could run up to 6 monitors.

It took me actually looking up the video card manufacturer and emailing them directly that I was able to find out how to run all 3 of my monitors. It did require an adapter, but not the one I had originally thought I needed. I was able to get the adapter locally for just under $25.

Why is all this important? Quite simply, even though I've been a loyal customer of this company for over a decade, having bought 4 or 5 systems over that time-frame from them, quite honestly, I don't know if I'd ever buy another system from them again.

Some of the other stuff I left out of this story was how, on the day I wanted to purchase the system, their entire site was down for upgrades, so I was forced to call them up to order the system. Also, it took 3 tries to get the order to flow through the system. Honestly, the first time was because of my bank trying to protect me from theft/fraud since it's not every day I drop $1,300+ on a computer system, so I'm not holding that against them.

Since they weren't able to accept my card, they offered me the option to pay via PayPal® with the assurance that I'd get an email within 3 hours to allow me to pay, giving me enough time to call my back to lift the block. That email never came but I was able to call back and order the system over the phone.

All this mess could have been avoided if they had made sure of 3 very simple things. If they had done these 3 things, I wouldn't have had any reason not to purchase from them again, even if I had run into the same issues of missing adapters.

  1. Make sure the business site has all the information that might be asked. If they had provided the same information that the video card vendor had provided me, I would have been able to ask for that bit specifically when I ordered. If they had advised me that they didn't carry that cable, I could have ordered it from a 3rd party vendor to have it at my house at the same time I got my new system.

  2. Make sure your tech support have accurate information. I had told the rep exactly what the problem was, even showing them the issue on the screen when they took over my system. The rep completely ignored me and kept trying to do other things that had absolutely nothing to do with the issue, and at one point, almost made it worse when I took control back to stop them.

  3. Especially after having me spend as much money as I had with them, own up to your mistake and try to make it right. If that supervisor had just said, “No problem, I'll get you that cable or at least find out what type of cable you need if we don't carry it,” I would have been satisfied. I had actually tried to find the adapter I needed before I had contacted tech support, but had gotten the wrong one, getting me frustrated because I had expected the adapter to come with the system to start with.

If those 3 things had been done, I'd still be singing the praises of that company. Now that I have the adapter, I love the system itself, but I can't trust the company to support me if I have an issue in the future. I also know their site's going to be worthless when it comes to getting technical help as well. I can't imagine what would have happened to someone who wasn't tech savvy in the same situation. They probably would have boxed it back up and sent it back for a refund on the premise that, if you can't provide what I asked for, nor can you support what you sell adequately, then I need to go somewhere else.

So you need to ask yourself, do you have good information on your site for all the products and services you offer, or do you assume they'll be able to fill in the blanks? I can assure you, some of your visitors will have the motivation to do it, but not the majority. If they have to struggle to find the information they're looking for, they're going to go somewhere else.

The same goes for your staff, or at least the ones that come in contact with your customers. Do they know enough to answer most questions a customer might ask them? Most customers will understand if the rep doesn't know all the answers, but the rep should make the customer feel comfortable in the fact that the rep is going to take ownership of the issue and track down the information for them.

As the saying goes, if you don't take care of the customer, someone else will.

So have you ever had this type of issue before with a company, either because they had inadequate information on their site or because their reps weren't trained well enough? Let me know in the comments below.

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Funny thing about throwing your back out…

July 14, 2014 by Leave a comment

The pain was excruciating. I couldn't turn my upper body, lean over, or cough without feeling like a screwdriver was being driven into my back. Just the thought of picking up a glass of something to drink almost caused me to break out in a cold sweat. If you've ever thrown your back out, you know what I'm talking about.

It had happened while helping get my Mom into the car to take her to a doctor's appointment. Because of her age and health issues, she's unsteady on her feet. With that being said, I was in the process of walking her down a wheelchair ramp when her legs gave out on her. Thankfully, I was close enough and fast enough to catch her and literally hold her 190# of, at that point, dead weight. Twisting in place I was able to get her seated in a chair safely. Unfortunately, I doubled over in pain almost immediately.

To make a long story short, I was bedridden for a day while heavily medicated, and it took nearly a week before I was back to normal. "So why is this important?" you might ask. It's simple, really.

During that week, I would have done anything, or paid anything within my ability, to have the means to get rid of that awful pain. Think about that for a moment. If you, my wonderful reader, had come up to me right after I had injured myself, and offered me some magic pill or strange yoga posture that would have taken the pain away, you could have been several hundred dollars richer. That's about how much I lost from being unable to work for a week.

The point is, if you had been able to get rid of my pain, you would have been my hero and you would be hard pressed to get me to stop singing your praises to anyone who would listen. The same goes for your current clients and customers. If you can find a way to help stop their pain, whether it's a smoking cessation program, or helping them get over feeling guilty about not being able to play with the grand-kids by helping them get in better shape, you'll become a hero in their eyes.

Once you become their hero, they'll become your greatest salesperson. So what can you do to help with your prospect's pain? Figure out how your product or service can do that and you'll always have a steady stream of new customers.

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Are you using your advertising dollars where it’ll do the most good?

June 23, 2014 by Leave a comment

So I was reading a book the other day called:

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More (This links to Amazon, where I get a small commission for each purchase)

I found a lot of what he was saying in his book to be quite interesting. It also got me to thinking about how often business owners overlook what this means. The primary think he talks about in his book is the Pareto principle, what most people know as the 80/20 rule.

What this principle means, in a nutshell, is that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your effort. The remaining 20% of your results comes from the remaining 80% of your effort. It’s a statistic that holds up under quite a few different circumstances. In a sales department, it usually winds up being 20% of the sales force are making a majority of the sales.

Granted, it doesn’t always break down to exactly 80/20. Sometimes it might be 77/23, 82/18, or something similar. It’s close enough to make some pretty accurate guesses as to what might happen if you change X to affect Y.

Anyway, what’s surprising is, a lot of people know what this 80/20 principle means, but they don’t really take advantage of it, or they don’t believe it pertains to them and their business. The problem is, it actually does pertain to them in some form.

Whether it’s something as simple as turning your bookkeeping over to someone else because you invest too much time in it for the return on investment you get from it, or outsourcing your cold calls to a 3rd party company because the cost per lead from the telemarketing company is cheaper than how many you get from your employees who get paid by the hour, in some way, you are affected by the 80/20 rule.

Where this rule really starts to show up is when it comes to your repeat customers. What this principle says is, for every 100 repeat customers you have, 20 of them will bring in 80% of your revenue. Think about that. Possibly 80% of your advertising might be wasted on those 80 people who only bring in 20% of your revenue.

Most business owners don’t ever take the time to analyze their customer base in this way. If you do take the time, you can focus your advertising on the people who make up most of your revenue. Another way to look at it is you can be more straightforward in your advertising to the 20%, i.e. we have this for sale at X price. Think about how Apple© advertises their next iWhatever.

All it takes is a press release saying, “Hey, our newest widget is going to be for sale on XX date for $YY. See you there.” What happens? You have Apple© fanboys, and girls, camped out in front of the nearest store for hours before they even open, just to get something that is marginally better than the last widget that was released.

Do you think Apple© dumped a bunch of money into that advertising promotion, sending out ad after ad, building up a campaign over several months to get them to buy? NO! All they had to do is appeal to their 20% group with a simple message that, “Hey, it’s new, it’s shiny, it’s available, and it’s from Apple©,” and they come running. Heck, they probably could have sent a one shot email to get them to come running.

On the other hand, the remaining 80%, the ones who probably have other types of phones, those are the ones that Apple© has to put in a real effort to reach. Whether it’s trying to compare feature sets and benefits, to pricing, to range of colors and cases available, Apple© has to put in a lot more money and effort to reach that 80%.

So… Why am I going on and on about this? It’s simple. How much money are you throwing away by either sending an advertising message to your 20% that’s overkill, or not spending enough on the advertising to reach your 80%.

More importantly, are you losing money overall trying to reach that 80% only to bring in 20% of your revenue? If, instead, you focused on that 20%, who bring in the 80% of your revenue, the group most likely to purchase from you again, would you really be losing that 20%. The saving you’d get advertising to a smaller group along with the higher response to each individual advertisement might actually make up the loss in revenue from not advertising to the other 80%.

The only way to determine something like this is to put your numbers under a fine tooth comb and test what happens when you start shifting your advertising budget to lean more towards the 20% or 80% group and see how the numbers work out.

A simple 20% change in how you spend your advertising budget could add up to an 80% impact to your bottom line.

Tell me what you think. Do you think it’s better to advertise more to the 20% to save on advertising costs, or is it better to lean toward the 80% since they’re the ones that’ll be harder to sell? Tell me what you think in the comment section below.

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Hello [Insert name here]

June 9, 2014 by Leave a comment

The other day, my wife got pretty excited about a package that arrived. Apparently, it was something she’d been waiting for and just couldn’t wait to open. Now, to paraphrase the immortal words of Zig Ziglar, my wife is a decided auburn hair color, meaning she decided she wanted her hair to auburn.

In fact, she’s been doing her own hair color for as long as I’ve known her (going on 16 year), and I have it on good information (I.E. She told me so) that she’d been coloring her own hair for most of her life. With that type of background and experience, when I found out what the package contained, her enthusiasm bewildered me.

What she had received in the mail was hair coloring from a company she’d seen via an infomercial. Trying to figure out what the big brouhaha was about, I started asking questions.

“So dear, what’s so special about this hair coloring opposed to what you normally get in the store?”

I don’t remember her exact answer, but it was something along the lines of, “They made this hair color especially for me!”

By that point, I was a little intrigued. I’d never seen her get excited about hair color. A good percentage of the time, I don’t even know she’d touched up her coloring unless I notice the bottles in the trash. So trying to figure out why this was so different, I watched as she showed me what the box contained. By this point, I have to mention that her excitement appeared to have reached a plateau and was starting to come back down to what I figured would be a normal level, but when she read what I assumed was the instructions, she got all excited again about it being hair coloring made especially for her.

The reason I’m going into such detail about all this is because of what I read on that one sheet of paper that was in the box. While my wife continued to happily rummage around in the box the hair color that was made “especially for her,” I took a glance at what was written on that sheet of paper. What I saw was a brilliant example of not only great marketing, but a very astute knowledge of what makes a customer loyal

I’ve included a picture I snapped with my smart phone of the sheet of brilliant copywriting this company included in their package. This one sheet of paper turned this product, from just being custom mixed hair coloring, to my wife’s own special blend. The formula ID starts with my wife’s initials. It says it was prepared for my wife’s name. It reiterates it’s a custom color created solely for my wife, and even suggests which hair color specialist mixed it up for her.

At no time did it feel like they forced her name into this sales letter. And make no mistake, this was a very powerful sales letter. It told her indirectly that, if she wanted to get more, all she’d have to do is call the company and reorder HER special hair color.

This brings me to the question I want to ask you. How well do you know your prospect or customer? Do you provide just the right amount of personalization to get them excited about purchasing from you? Do you run the risk of going overboard, maybe to the point that the customer feels uncomfortable? Or are you at the other extreme where, even if it’s not your intention, you make them feel like just another number? Getting this right can make a huge impact on your sales. If you can transfer that feeling of ownership onto your customers and get them excited about the purchase, they’re much more likely to purchase from you again. They also have a tendency of becoming your best spokesperson, excitedly telling everyone they come across how great you are. And that’s something that money can’t buy.

So let me know what you think down below. Do you agree, disagree, or aren’t quite sure?  Also, if you have a particularly effective or unique way to make your customers feel like your products are especially meant for them, I’d love to hear about it as well.

 

Example of a great personalized sales letter

Sales Letter from eSalon

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Not entirely dead yet.

June 7, 2014 by Leave a comment

I would like to apologize. I have been on an unexpected hiatus for much longer than I expected. Since my last post, I've had several family emergencies, catastrophic computer damage (my main system and backup system both went down for the count. I'm actually writing this on a 9 year old bargain laptop running Windows XP), significant financial hardship, wrote a book on writing, and finally an enforced introspection of what I wanted this business to become.

After much reflection, and getting the rest of my ducks in a row, I believe I'm going to carve a new path for my business. Over the next month or two, I'm going to be significantly overhauling my business and what type of companies I want to serve.

I also plan to start having regular updates to this blog again, along with having a monthly newsletter. So for those of you who have stuck around, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'll hopefully make it worth it to you all.

Keep your eyes peeled for the content changes that'll be happening over the following weeks, and again I thank you. Have a wonderful weekend.

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Are landing pages really needed?

July 22, 2013 by Leave a comment

 

I had to go to Wal-Mart the other day to get some plastic bins to pack up some stuff that we were going to put into storage. When I got there, I found out that they had changed the layout since the last time I had been there, so the great hunt for the bins had to be undertaken.

 

For the next 10 minutes or so, I walked up and down several isles, getting more and more irritated by my inability to find what I had gone there to get. Being a stereotypical man, I didn't want to ask anyone where they might be located. I just figured I'd eventually find them. After my long search, I finally found the isle that held the bins I was looking for. Mission accomplished.

 

What, you may ask, does this have to do with landing pages? Quite a lot actually. When someone comes to your website looking for something specific, whether it's due to an advertisement they've read, a friend referred them, or from Googling you, they want to see specifically what they were looking for. The last thing they want to do, after arriving at your site, is to hunt around for said item.

 

Another parallel is that, during my search, I really don't remember what was on any of the shelves when I was walking down any of those isles. It wasn't until after I found what I was looking for that I really took notice of what was around me. The same is true for your web visitors. Assuming they stick around long enough, and are motivated enough, to try to search for the item they want, they're not going to notice anything else you have to offer until they find what they came to your site for in the first place.

 

Granted, having many things to choose from is great when someone is just browsing around your store, or website, a customer is never going to browse around until after they accomplish their mission of finding whatever they came to you for first. Then, and only then, does it make sense to offer items directly related to what they were looking for originally.

 

What I mean by this is, if someone comes to your site looking for a specific type of surfboard, then an appropriate landing page is going to talk about nothing other than that surfboard. It's only after that prospect puts said board in the cart that it might make sense to suggest surfboard wax, but not a car battery.

 

Once your prospect makes their purchase, and only then, should you ever route them to your main site. Granted, you may lose a few sales here and there because your new customer doesn't want to create a second order. You'll lose a lot more sales though by diluting the focus of your sales message before they made their first purchase.

 

It's always a lot easier to get a customer to buy from you again than it is to get them to make an initial purchase. So creating a landing page that helps them overcome their buyer's resistance will do more to help you create a relationship than just throwing a bunch of products at them and hoping one catches their interest.

 

What do you think? Do you feel landing pages aren't worth the time and effort to create, or do you feel that it's a great online advertising tool?

 

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In direct response advertising, less is more…

June 27, 2013 by Leave a comment

No, this doesn't mean cutting back on your advertising budget, but what it does mean is using your advertising budget more effectively. The main way to do this is to narrow down the list of prospects you're trying to reach.

What I mean by this is, instead of casting your net wide, trying to catch as many people as possible, instead focus more on the type of person who's going to want to purchase your product or service. In other words, don't waste advertising dollars on someone who'll never purchase your product. For example, I don't care how tender and juicy that black angus steak might be, you'll never be able to spend enough money or be persuasive enough to convince a devout vegan who's a card carrying member of PETA to buy it.

What is a more effective use of your budget is to first get a real good picture in your head of who your ideal prospect is. I mean a real, living, breathing picture in your mind of who and what your best prospect would look like. Once you can firmly picture what your ideal client looks like, you'll be one step closer to creating a much more powerful advertising piece. You'll be able to focus your message with laser-like intensity, burning away all objections.

Once you can firmly envision your ideal client and gear your material to talk to them specifically, you'll be sending out less advertising material, advertising that'll be much more effective.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Why? And finally, who is your ideal prospect?

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Workshop – “What’s next” Small Business Workshop Series 3/21/13

March 20, 2013 by Leave a comment

Going to the "What's Next" small business workshop. More info here . Looks to be interesting. Having SEO and Social Media segments, along with several other segments that look to be interesting. Hope to see you there.

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