A short post, if you are an executive in the small to medium business space, I urge you to read; What your Website tells your Competitors is what it tells Everybody in your Industry including your Prospects as well as Yourself (via the Order Of Magnitude CEO’s blog)

“Why should I tell my secrets on my website, a number of competitors will see it?”

Read that article for the correct answer.

Bad Web Design

August 6, 2010

A slide show from Baseline Magazine titled; 10 Habits of Bad Web Design.

I have written about some of these ghastly things, but that slide show has some some goodies nicely summed up.

The SMB Takeaway

Your Website is part of your brand – so be nice to it, and to the people visiting it

We humans are vain.

I know the term is fairly negative and synonymous with conceit, but admit it! most of us get a thrill from seeing images of ourselves or our names somewhere.

You could call it our desire for that 15 minutes of fame, perhaps it is just seeing our name in print, I don’t think it matters what we call it, the result is usually the same.

So work with it!

How you work with it may vary depending on your organization size. But that little bit of human vanity may be something that we should not ignore.

How?

For smaller businesses, take a look at this website sample. This smaller business has put photographs of customers on their website for a few years now, but now they are even adding the ability for their customers to add their own images.

If a customer puts their own photograph there – you can bet that at least family and friends are going to be referred to it! One of those family or friends just might say;  hey! I they had a great time, we should check it out….

For larger SME’s that exact idea may not work for you. But how about internal motivation? employee engagement?

You have an internal company newsletter or intranet site – how about a quick picture accompanying that successful training program completion (they do call the concept recognition after all)

The SMB Takeaway

Don’t underestimate the power of the human ego

I have written before about the risk of taking shortcuts.

I want to revisit this to give an example of how not taking the extra 30 seconds to do something right the first time can add hours of extra work later on.

This scenario is true by the way!

Lets imagine that your company name is ACME Building Corporation Inc.

Lets also imagine that your domain name and web address is http://www.acmebuilding.com – seems simple enough right?

Now lets imagine that it is a few years later, you have been growing and it has reached the time where you want to add a secure Web Mail server for your remote people, or perhaps you want to add the ability for people to shop on line at your website.

The most common way to add this type of security is to add SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security technology to your website. This technology is what gives that little lock on your web browser to confirm that the website you are visiting is indeed who they say they are, and to assist in keeping data transfers secure.

To get this SSL technology, you need to request a certificate, the company providing the certificate makes some checks to ensure that the website you want to secure is legally yours, and you get one of these certificates. Again – not overly difficult.

So! step one, you go through the process to request the SSL certificate – Then step two? you find that whomever first registered your company name on the interwebs for that http://www.acmebuilding.com domain, was too lazy to register it to your complete company name; ACME Building Corporation Inc.

They cheated, and took the shortcut of registering it as being owned by the shortened ABCInc.

Since that shortcut of ABCInc is not your registered business name, you cannot add that SSL certificate until you get that company name fixed. In our case we had to create a new company record and actually transfer the domain ownership to what should have been our name in the first place.

As a note, this could also happen if you had a supplier register your domain name under their business name. By this I mean that your acmebuilding.com domain was created and owned by Shay-Dee Web Design Corporation.

The SMB Takeaway

Take the 30 seconds to do it right, the first time.

And a reminder, if you had someone else set you up on the web – make sure it is your name as owner – not theirs.

This post is the next in my occasional series introduced in this post titled; IT In Marketing.

The short summary – this series documents a pretty typical smaller business that does not have a marketing staff, and the relatively simple changes that can be made that will improve the website part of your marketing efforts. For the last episode, click here.

Onwards

I had a great conversation with Glenn Schmelzle, unlike myself, he is a professional in marketing. Glenn blogs about marketing and technology on his Marketing Whats New blog.

First, he gave me a good lecture on some ideas that I had neglected to think about!

Now, in my own defense, Glenn did have one excellent question though that I had already though about and could answer with at least reasonable intelligence.

What am I measuring?Measuring Results

There is an old old saying; If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

And any work on your website is no different, you need to know where you are going, and how you will measure that you are getting there.

I need to know what is being truly measured by the work I am doing. How do I know if I am actually improving anything? – because If you are measuring nothing – you never know what you have actually achieved.

In this case?

Since I was starting from zero, my measurements for this first stage of redeveloping our website were really modest.

In one of the earlier posts in this series,  I documented that we were invisible. If you used a search engine to look for products in our space, you  could not  find our website. The only way you found us was if you actually searched for some portion of our company name.

From that I could infer that this meant that people were using Google as a phone book – Google our name then click the link that leads to our contact information. Not the best for new business!

Two simple measurements

So my initial measurements?

Measurement #1 is simply that when people search via Google, Yahoo or Bing for information in the area in which we compete, that we begin to be found.

Measurement #2 When people do find us, it is not simply a one page click – Google our name – then click the contact page for the phone number. In other words I want to show that as people begin to find our website, that they are taking a few minutes to actually read up about our product, service etc.

It is still early – but both of these measurements are beginning to improve.

Photo Credit Darrren Hester via flickr

There was an animated discussion on Twitter this past Tuesday about what too often seems to a bane of our existence; Customer service as delivered through call centers.

To start, let me state that as small to medium businesses, if we are committed to good customer service, I believe we have an advantage that the big companies don’t. Simply put, we are closer to the front lines and customer needs.

And IT can be a linchpin to support your customer service efforts.

Sure, as this example I wrote about shows, IT can help your customer service in both the pre-sales and sales processes, but for this post I just want to follow up on after sales customer service. After sales customer service usually translates into the word support because something is not working correctly, or not understood. In other words; Help Me!!!

I also want to leave this in a Business to Business (B2B) context, not business to consumer (B2C) because that is the majority of my experience.

With that out of the way, we know that supporting your product or service can be costly.Customer Service

Statistics show that first line telephone service can cost up to $36.00 per call, and that amount goes up if escalation to another tier of service is required.

Looking at that number, many businesses then make one mistake; Customer Service costs that? lets reduce!

But there is a better way to look at it.

Try asking; What is it costing our customer? By that I mean what is the value they have placed on your product or service. Is it differentiated? or a commodity? How is this time and effort asking questions and getting this fixed costing them?

That expectation of value is what you need to look at when planning customer service strategy for your product or service. As an example, if you sell me recycled toner cartridges for printers, my value of the product may say that a quick replacement of a defective cartridge is excellent customer service.

But if I spend six figures? My perceived value changes, and you need to accommodate that.

This post will be the first in a short series, this one will deal with lower perceived value products, the next will dive into more higher perceived value issues.

And part two in customer service is the human element

One of the common refrains that were voiced during  that Twitter chat was a simple theme; people want to feel like they have been heard, that there is a reason, or an answer to their problems. Even if there is no solution that will make your customer 100% satisfied (sorry, that unit does not work in 30 feet of water) they will be even less satisfied with you if they just get no response.

So how can you use IT to help both the human and cost element?

One of the easiest customer service objective for SME’s is Call Avoidance.

No, I don’t mean hide your phone number or ‘Dump the Chump’ games. I mean you have a Website, use it! Add a section for frequently asked questions. Add common customer service issues and known problems.

Love them or hate ’em, Microsoft is a master at this. If you have an error in some Microsoft product and search their Website for an answer, you may find a technical bulletin that contains information that explains;

STATUS
Microsoft has confirmed that this is a problem in the Microsoft products that are listed in the “Applies to” section

To resolve this problem……

In some cases that message will tell you that it won’t be fixed until the next version of the product.

While you may find it frustrating to have to wait – at least you know the answer! You are not left in the dark guessing.

Forward looking companies have taken this concept to the next level by having public Question & Answer forums where other customers may be the ones answering questions.

And don’t let this web based data stagnate. As your customer service team fields calls, ensure that new questions or identified issues get added to that on-line repository.

Each time that your customer find the information that they need with out calling your customer service team, the happier they are, and the happier you are.

The SMB Takeaway

Our Websites are too often underutilized. That Website is prime real estate to create an environment where your customers can try to help themselves first.

Allowing them to help themselves provides both the the answer that they are looking for, and reduces the number of calls you are receiving.

Photo Credit urbanmkr via flickr

That title sounds a little bit like some sort of spammy e-mail doesn’t it?

Like many things, if you are being literal? That title is completely accurate – but figuratively?

Well, let me back up.

This post is the next in my occasional series introduced in this post titled; IT In Marketing.

The short summary – this series documents a pretty typical smaller business that does not have a marketing staff, and the relatively simple changes that can be made that will improve the website part of your marketing efforts.

In one of the previous posts in this series,  I showed the steps of how I plotted a baseline, did some (free) website analytics and how I intended to tackle fixing our website content.

One key point that I previously mentioned was important to me;  I did not want some 2 plus year project trying to rewrite the whole web site.

I wanted to modify it one  page at a time. Write it, proof it, test it, then put it on the site. My goal being to refresh the content on one page per week. (the whole purpose of this series is that it is a part time thing right?)

I previously wrote that in the several months I was just monitoring traffic to the website – we got zero (none, nada, zip, zilch) visits to our site by people that found our website by the search engines – unless they were actually searching for part of our company name.

If you searched for: What is ABC Corp’s address

You found our website OK

If you searched for anything in our business space – well you didn’t find us.

Back to my weird title!

After just the second week, having only refreshed the data on only two web pages, I received three web site visitors that found us via the content we have – rather than just our company name.

I was able to tell our management team; ‘hey we got three!

When a co-worker reminded us that ‘three’ was 300% better than Zero!

You can get updates to this blog by clicking the RSS icon on the Home Page!