Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Web Sites Can Hinder You

I'm sure all of you have had dealings with ornery or unhelpful web sites.  It is a truism that a bad web site can be quite costly with respect to lost business.

In fact, I just shut one off after a protracted fight.  I am interested in having a service performed, but the web site is resolutely disinterested in giving me the tiniest shred of pricing information.  I am forced to build the desired product with the online tool and only when done will I be informed what the bottom line will be.  That is unacceptable.

Another web site I looked at had a cascade of page choices, all poorly labelled and none particularly useful.  It was as if each page was labelled "The Information You Want is on the NEXT Page" (which would then bear the same label.)  Ridiculous.

And let's not even discuss failure to provide contact information without a hunt!

These web site failures are, unfortunately, working for your competitors.  Whatever other marketing you may do can be utterly undone by a web site.  A web site provides clues on the way you do business and how you can (or can't) solve a potential customer's problems.

Bottom Line:  Don't let a badly designed web site hurt you!  Have your site reviewed by a friend or ally and if necessary engage a professional designer who does good work.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Titling Yourself

In my metro area there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are published or who are working on a book, and I expect this is true of many similar markets.  It's a fantastic idea for those who aren't daunted by the time and cost commitment to making a book a reality.

A book can significantly add to credibility, establishing the author as an expert in their field.  A book can be used as a pot sweetener when holding or participating in a business event, and a book can even in the right circumstances generate some additional revenue.

But a book requires thought.  A prospective author should ask some hard questions.

Is writing and publishing a more productive activity than an alternative?  That work and expense may substantially detract from critical business activity.  There may be cases when a book may not be more than a vanity item for the author.

Can the author demonstrate either some new perspective or ideas?  "Yet-another-book-on-the-same-subject" is a reality.  I've seen too many interchangeable titles here and always crave something original.  Again, there is the vanity risk of having one's name on a cover of a relatively empty book.

Is the author prepared to work with professional editors?  Some books I've seen are simply terrible because the author declined to involve someone whose skills can boost a book's success.  It is an additional cost but could save the day.

Bottom Line:  Titling yourself can be a huge boost to your venture, or it can be an embarrassment.  Do think about taking the plunge but ask those hard questions before committing.  You may be the rock star of your market!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bad Image; Bad Mojo

I recently had the need to do some business with a well known chain specializing in certain higher priced goods.  That business consisted of redeeming a service we paid for (one of those "X for life" deals).   The story is almost hilarious except that in three contacts this business cost themselves my business.  They created a horrible image.

First contact was with a sales associate who, learning my intent, rolled her eyes and affected an "I couldn't care less" attitude in filling my order.  Yeah, I redeemed your service.  Even if no more money crossed the counter you still need to act like I am a meaningful customer!

Second contact was with a sales associate who forcefully and belligerently argued for all kinds of reasons why she couldn't honor my contract but eventually did because I didn't give up.  And even then made sure I had to come back---four days later.

Final contact was a pickup.  It took four employees to find my order in a single product filing cabinet (three small drawers.)  And yes, it looked as incompetent as described.

And after that last episode, a hapless employee asked if I might like to stay longer to see more of the current merchandise.  Uh huh.  Not any more!

Bottom Line: Be sure to treat customers well at every transaction,  honor your agreements with promptness and appreciation, and focus on creating the comforting image of a business that knows what it is doing.  Little things may mean the difference in generating bigger future sales or losing a customer for good.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Is Livestreaming the Real Deal?

I am seeing ever more use of "livestreaming" video by small business owners in my market.  While I am wholeheartedly in favor of the use of video in marketing, I confess to being concerned that livestreaming isn't working extremely well right now.

Everything is a question of production values.  Home brew video is generally a problem for many.  Most of the small businesses I know don't invest in proper video recording equipment and often record straight to a smartphone.  It shows.

Livestreamers take this to the next extreme, usually recording as video "selfies" and creating wildly changing backgrounds and lighting effects as they adjust position or focus on subjects of interest.  I am reminded of The Blair Witch Project.  The result really isn't pretty.

My advice is to engage a professional videographer who has the equipment and experience to cast a livestream to best effect.  Barring that, the camera should at least be mounted on a stable tripod with light to its rear, and, if possible, a wireless microphone should be used by the speaker to improve sound quality.

Bottom Line:  Video is a wonderful tool that can bring life to a marketing program.  Livestreaming is a video technique that can boomerang on the user.  The small business owner using livestreams must ensure that equipment and control are as professional as possible.