- Speak Plainly or Forever Lose Your Customer
Part of the equation of success is being seen as relatable. From time to time, almost all of us hits this wall to one degree or another. And no, I’m not saying you have a personal failing here.
When you start a business, you either are an expert in your chosen field, or you become one through exposure, education and experience.
One thing you inevitably have to contend with is communicating to your customer or client. And it turns out that in some cases we might be giving them too much credit for understanding things of a technical nature. No one likes to admit they don’t understand something, and most simply nod and play along. It’s a defense mechanism to avoid feeling embarrassed, and we often learn through this approach things are explained anyway, and will fill our gaps in knowledge.
But enough about “us”, let’s talk about “them”. The general population, the consumer, your customers…the public.
Earlier this week a story hit the wires with some interesting information. There has been some expected back and forth on how valid the survey is, though the company who performed the survey is standing by its claims that this is valid. And apparently about 11% of Americans think HTML is an STD. Hit the link for the actual stats, but here’s a summary:
- Most still have no idea what SEO stands for (search engine optimization)
- Apparently a gigabyte is a South American insect
- Motherboard? The deck of a cruise ship
- Star Wars gave us a robot called MP3
- Stunning biological news – a blu-ray is a marine animal
- Software is, according to some, just comfortable clothing
- USB is an acronym for a European country
- And finally, over half of the respondents felt it’s important to have a good knowledge of technology today
Now, whether this survey is the real deal or not, we’ve all met people who we could easily imagine honestly fielding these answers.
And this serves as an important reminder. If even only 10% of the US population actually answered like this, that’s about 31 million people!
- That’s more than 3 times the population of New York City.
- Almost 10 times the population of Los Angeles
- That’s half of Italy
- More than half of England
- Almost all of Canada!
From a business perspective what does this mean? Well, it could mean that the well cultivated 101 approach you’re taking needs a revamp. It could be that some of your customers are still getting confused. It means taking great care to clearly explain everything, provide details and answer even non-obvious questions.
If you’re using a manufacturer provided feed for your ecommerce site, it might pay to invest in fleshing out scant data across products. Start with the popular stuff and branch out from there.
It could mean taking even greater care to explain technical specifications or information. Assuming your customer can easily understand the manufacturer’s data, or will learn it could easily be a dead end…or an opportunity.
Online education is an expanding sector, so taking the time to prep material designed to help neophytes become better versed could pay dividends and separate you for the competition.
The bottom line here is to be careful when engaging with customers. They might be polite and smile and nod when you use technical terminology, but don’t assume they understand it. Make sure you take the necessary steps to educate them so they feel comfortable. It’s that comfort that leads to the sale. As we wrap up, here’s a business focused article around the worst buzzwords you can use inside your business. Are you guilty?
Sr. Product Manager
- Doing Right By Customers
Social media has changed our lives, no question. As a consumer, today you have more power than ever. The Internet brought a massive expansion in choice of where we shop, and increased access to lower prices via that competition.
Social media, however, is an equalizer. It’s a conversation medium like none that’s existed before. Enabling a customer in Florida to talk directly to a manufacturer in Oregon in real time (timing permitting, of course) to get direct answers form the source.
Outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more enable people to speak directly to retailers, sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. Those same outlets have become havens for businesses seeking to engage customers, be they fanboys and girls or haters.
And while it’s nice to interact with those who love you, it’s probably even more important to interact with those who are disappointed with you. It’s from them that you will learn how best to improve products, services and processes.
Amazon hit a wall once upon a time. They’d cracked the nut on ranking, began to dominate ecommerce and took hold of a large portion of online sales for many people. But then people started to complain. And they complained enough about one thing that it caught Amazon’s attention: the packaging of shipped items needed improvement.
Today, Amazon consistently seeks feedback on items you are shipped. Did it arrive intact? Was the packing well done? Was the box intact or crushed? They want to know about the condition of your item from when you saw it on your front step to when you took it out of the factory packaging. And they’re less concerned about THEIR packaging, but more concerned about what happens when a third party ships something to you. Amazon can control its own actions, but not necessarily that of those third party vendors.
While not every business has the size, shape or shadow of Amazon, every business can learn to care like they do. And let’s be clear here. We’re not talking best-friend-consoling you caring. We’re taking about sifting through details to find what works for a customer AND improves profitability. This is business after all.
Continual usability testing can go a long way to curing what ails your customers, too. Ever had the disappointing experience of using a mobile device, going to a site and realizing their navigation doesn’t accommodate a touch environment? Without a pointer, you can’t activate the navigational elements to get where you want. Now, if you’re the business, sort that stuff ASAP. What are you waiting for?! People are on mobile…NOW.
The good news is that more and more businesses are getting smart about social media programs. No longer just using them to push sales messages out, they’re increasingly being used to engage customers, talk about problems and are seen by more businesses as an early-alert tool for brewing problems. Yes, your dirty laundry may get aired in public, but that’s going to happen whether you participate in the conversation or not. Better to be involved than ignore things and develop a bad reputation.
And that’s the point here. Being responsive to customers. Thinking of them first, while not ignoring your business needs, and finding a way to deliver an outstanding experience. When you impress a customer, they share that experience. When you disappoint a customer, they share that experience. But turning disappointment into a positive, that’s a surefire way to convert complainers into advocates. Accomplish this a few times, the word starts to spread, your reputation looks better and the long term effects are solid and proven.
Sr. Product Manager
- Quality: Do You Have It, or Just Think You Have It?
Most websites feel they produce quality content. Some even have internal processes in place to review, rate, edit and revise content prior to publication. This does, admittedly, usually take more people, so it costs more and so can be a bit daunting for many smaller businesses to enable. But what is clear, is that everyone strives for quality. Who wouldn’t? We all know quality is a sought after trait. Be it in an automobile, a hand bag, a pair of hiking shoes, a donut or even in the content posted to your blog or site.
Even large publishers with established editorial processes in place have instances when things happen that erode the quality of content, however. Simple things, usually, like grammatical errors, spelling errors, but also sometimes bigger stuff like mistakes around facts, or the wrong image in an article. Mistakes happen and in the end, it’s still humans editing things, so it’s completely plausible that the odd typo gets through.
So in the real world of a publisher, such things can slip past all too easily – even with multiple eyes watching. We’ve all experienced that moment where we see something go live and are stunned by the glaring typo in the middle of the article that 4 people failed to pick out during editing. It happens.
If it starts to happen frequently, though, a pattern emerges.
If you’re constantly on the fly and typing the word “from” comes out as “form” (I frequently do this), imagine how a reader sees this? It’s confusing when reading, to say the least. At best they simply move past the typo and keep reading. At worst they simply throw in the towel at such repeated issues and seek a new source for content to consume.
We’re talking about the basics here. The “how you write” matters as much as the “what you write”.
Many errors are common; like using the incorrect word or phrase in a given situation. Here’s a list of 20 common mistakes writers often make. That list is skewed toward literature writers, as opposed to technical writers, but you get the idea. Here are 15 more “grammar goofs” from CopyBlogger.
Some errors come from misunderstanding a topic, a lack of grammatical understanding, speed or a series of other decisions. Things like sentence structure (run-on sentences, lack of punctuation, over punctuation, etc.). Things like turning off spell checkers. Rushing or skipping your proofreading. All can and do happen.
As we all learn to read and write, over time we begin to see patterns. We instinctively begin to understand how to construct a sentence, which words to use where, and how best to convey our meaning. This starts happening when you’re a child. Cast your mind back to that time in your life and you’ll likely be able to dredge up a memory of how daunting it all was. Learning to write, when your entire world to that point was printing. Learning the meaning of new words through vocabulary homework. New equations with new symbols to understand; math was/is a language of its own!
But over just a few months, you learned it. You learned to construct sentences, use descriptors properly and convey the desired meaning. You learned those equations and aced your tests. You wrote essays and term papers constantly building on your early knowledge to produce better and better results.
So today, as you scan the newspaper, or read something online, it’s patently obvious to you when you encounter a typo, or a sentence just doesn’t read correctly. Again, most times we simple scan past it and keep reading, but in some cases, it’s a show stopper. The point becomes lost as your focus shifts to seeking out errors. You can begin to see all future work from this author in a negative light, as typos become commonplace in their writing.
Yes, there are multiple ways to write some words. Similar phrases develop differently in different areas of the world, and even within different regions of one country. But those aren’t errors. Those are simply differences. And while an American reader might get a wiff of Canadian, for example, from a writer using a different version of a word here and there, it’s how Canadians are taught to spell certain words.
This might all seem a bit “down in the weeds”, but just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours. If you struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of error free content exist to serve the searcher? Like it or not, we’re judged by the quality of the results we show. So we are constantly watching the quality of the content we see.
Sr. Product Manager
- What’s In A Name?
An age old question that carries a fair amount of import online. Domains are, essentially, real estate. And like actual real estate, you encounter a wide array of people trying to accomplish a wide array of goals.
Some seek to develop, wanting only a domain applicable to their needs, willing to look a bit to either side and focus on building their site. Some seek a broad collection, acreage, if you like. Owning as many as possible, while staying focused on domains that, they hope, will prove a reasonable return down the road. In some cases, this could be the hopes of millions upon sale, but by far the vast majority come in as final sales much, much lower than that.
But buying a domain for $8 and selling it for a couple thousand a few years later is still a healthy profit. Most sellers are willing to wait to ensure they get a reasonable value for their “realestate”. And often, buyers have a more pressing need for a domain: you’re ready to launch a new site, and THAT is the “perfect” domain, and you’ve just got to have it.
In those conditions, be ready to pay. And maybe you should. You’re launching a business after all. If you’re building a site, planning on hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each year, is a one-time purchase of, say, $7,000 “too much”? That’s up to you to decide, but bear in mind…
- You think it’s perfect
- It allows you to execute on the plan you have, instead of changing anything
- t’s a low cost when compared against expected revenue
- It allows you to move forward quickly
- It helps you avoid delays searching for the next most perfect domain
So maybe it is perfect, but then again, maybe you could work with a different domain and save a bundle, too.
Keep in mind the Internet is full of sites with domains that are simple words, made up words or not even words at all. Simple words are desirable because they’re just that – simple. They are all gone, long, long ago in fact, so the likelihood of finding one, and it being low cost are virtually zero today. And those made up names, don’t be quick to scoff them. A number of well-known sites were founded on domains that may not have even been words in their time.
The point here is that with a bit of creativity, you could find the perfect domain very cheaply. At the very least, it’s worth putting time into researching the space to understand what to expect and be ready with a multi-faceted plan when it comes time to buy.
Buying domains “on the drop” is perfectly fine, but keep in mind it might have a history. It pays to research that history, as some domains get abused in previous lives and are being dropped for a reason. While it’s not the only resource, The WayBack Machine is a useful way to take a look at what may have historically been showcase don a website. Expect lots of broken images in there, but even a few minutes of research can help you understand a domain’s history.
In the end, if you’ve got a business to run, or are starting a new one, don’t be held hostage and waste time fretting over your domain. Yes, it’s worth thinking about, and making a thoughtful purchase when you can, but that needs to be balanced against the bigger picture of your business.
Sr. Product Manager
- 9 Marketing Tactics to Employ For Your Business
There is always a lot of focus on specific topics. Search engine optimization and social media management spring to mind. And for good reason. Both can deliver more returns than the cost to activate. But are you looking across a broad spectrum of tactics? Do you have a plan for multiple areas that can be activated to help propel your business higher? Let’s take a look at the most common areas businesses should be thinking of. These are in no particular order, as what matters most will vary between businesses.
- Paid Search
- Long the darling of ecommerce, any site that has a conversion can use paid search (PPC) to its advantage. Understanding how to write good, compelling ad copy is important, and managing each ecosystem to affect click and conversion rates takes time and dedication, but is often worth it.
- Display Advertising
- Banner ads! People love to hate them, but if you’re after brand awareness, it’s tough to beat a display ad takeover on a popular website to plant your message and brand in front of the masses. Typically seen as a low performer in terms of click through rates (CTRs), this is highly dependent on things like your imagery, call to action and placements, not to mention sizing. Like a holiday dinner or pickup trucks, bigger is better.
- Paid Social
- Social is not really where you go to “sell” per se, and paying for social exposure doesn’t change that. Still great for getting your message to the top of the heap and making it stick around for a while; paid social is gaining its fair share of proponents. Rates are often low, CTRs can be solid – what’s not to like?
- Email Marketing
- You’ve all heard the proclamations: “Email is dead; Long live email!”. Truth is, email is still one of the highest performing conversion mediums on the go today. You have a loyal customer, who already trusts you and includes you in their life. Maybe rewarding them for that inclusion and offering a small discount to email subscribers is just the ticket to snag some additional sales this weekend?
- Public Relations
- Repeat after me: “I will not put out a press release unless I have something newsworthy to say.” And just because you WANT to say it, that doesn’t mean it’s worth saying in a press release. Abused so much as a way to gain links and overused as an optimization tool, the press release still has a job to do: alert press to something newsworthy. Press today are so flooded by useless press releases, they usually ignore most of them anyway. Not saying it has to be Earth shattering news (though if you are about to shatter our planet, a little notice would be nice). But telling the world’s press you’re now open an extra hour on Saturdays is hardly going to light the sky ablaze.
- Conversion Optimization
- Still under-utilized. This process examines your sales funnel and refines it to gain more revenue by introducing conversion producing actions and eliminating conversion robbing ones. Definitely worth sourcing an expert for this stuff. CO has been a boon of many a business, turning average conversion performance on its head with explosive growth. For my money, this topic and the one that follows, are a cinch for budget if I’m spending money to market a site.
- An old standby that so many skip in favor of putting budget into the new and flashy. Why anyone would skip getting direct feedback form their customers on ways to improve things is still baffling. This should be a natural first stop in any search optimization plan.
- Organic Social
- Good ol’ fashioned social media. Still a fave for creating dialogue, engaging with customers and calling out people and businesses when they do wrong. Whether you’re here or not, there’s a conversation happening about you at some point. Far better to be engaged and seen to care, than to miss the conversation and seem aloof. Some of the greatest customers start as social antagonists, but once engaged, they change their minds and become a fan. And who doesn’t want more people cheering for their business?
- Search Engine Optimization
- One of the grand daddy’s of online marketing tactics, this one still has a lot of value. Today’s optimization should center around covering the known best practices, building a better user experience and developing standout content that impresses visitors. Many of yesterday’s shortcuts are spam signals today, so make sure, as you learn, that your sources are current. That’s free ebook on eBay, probably not the most reliable source of up-to-date SEO information. Long standing consultants, trusted news sites and blogs that have been sharing info for years, a much safer bet. SEO is still a fundamental; a baseline marketing tactic every website should engage in. Just don’t get too mired down in the details.
You might not be able to execute on all of these, but at least you have a list of tactics you can turn to when the budget tree drops some green your way. And in many cases, while your usual tactics may perform well, introducing a new tactic, or refocusing on one that’s just humming along, can see nice increases in responses, clicks, traffic and conversions.
What would you add to this list? What other online marketing tactics do you think perform well and people should remember to employ?
Sr. Product Manager