I just got off the phone with a close friend to make amends. Three nights ago, I called to share with her what I felt were some very funny moments from one of those new oddball reality shows that keep cropping up.
But after a few moments, I realized that she not only wasn’t laughing with me but she was in fact getting very ticked off at me!
Oopsie – I had caught her at a bad time and she was upset at being disturbed (she had gone to bed way early that night in order to get up at 2AM the following day.) Ouch! Still after a few stiff words, I hung up but now I was a little bit pissed myself!
I knew she and her husband were slated to start an important project (they are both licensed roofing and building contractors) soon and I had forgotten about the early morning wake-ups so it was my fault –I still felt slighted somehow.
Which was a dumb way to feel, since this woman and I have been friends for almost 30 years (we met while selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door; a story for another time). But despite our long term friendship, I still had to “make” myself call her and apologize for bugging her before their big job.
This little story is an example of how a bit of wrong timing and a little miscommunication can easily blow up between two people who know each well and like one another.
Just think of how the same story would end between with a small business owner and their online customers…
Nancy Needy is one of your potential customers. She doesn’t want to be a “pain”, but there is just so much stuff out there and she has to know about [insert the name of your product or service here] before she invests any of her hard-earned time or money.
She thinks she should contact your company to find the answers to a couple of quick questions, so she can make an informed decision as to what to do next. She goes online and surfs over to your company website.
Your website looks professional enough (not too outdated or hokey-looking) but not too “slick” looking either. A small company site with way too many bells and whistles always makes her think either scam artist or too big for her budget.
Poking around a bit, she is disturbed that she can’t find your phone number. She hadn’t thought to call you but she wanted it for her records just in case.
But all Nancy could find was one of those online “contact me” forms without any other information like a map or a street address to help her find your business.
Now Nancy is getting a bit ticked…she starts thinking…why don’t you have a phone number she can use? In this day and age, even junior high kids have phones. So where is yours?
And what about that street address? Even if you are a home based business, wouldn’t you have at least a mailing address or post office box if your company was legitimate?
Now Nancy clicks on your “about us” page and gets a generic, “We started this website because…” without any pictures or information about you, your staff or any details of why you do what you “say” you do.
And all the pictures or photographs, Nancy sees are slick, stock photos… where are the snapshots of your staff hard at work, your office building, a posed headshot or group photo or better still a photo of you with a happy and smiling customer?
Not to mention, there are no customer testimonials, thank-you letters or copies of any special events or press releases you have done. She can’t any new fresh content not even a lowly “free” blog at Blogger.com to tell her the details of your latest products or services.
She leaves in a huff, but next week after investigating other businesses in the area, she wanders back to your site, only to discover that it is down… suspended or deleted by the web hosting company for some reason.
Now, without you ever knowing it, Nancy Needful is pissed at you! She is also very disappointed since knows that your company is local and could have done a good job for her.
While she didn’t except you to compete with the big Fortune 500 websites, she does feel slighted that she couldn’t find what she wanted to know, in order TRUST you and want to do business with you.
Now you might think I am writing this story up completely from my imagination, but too often small business folks get so caught in the grind of making a living that they forget to market their businesses properly online!
Yes, I know it sound oblivious, but too often people think that word-of-mouth and a couple of yellow page ads provide all the “visibility” they need to keep growing their business.
Sadly, this is no longer true. In today’s new economy, many people (both mine and your customers) are using the Internet as way to save on gas, comparison shop and search out the best companies to work with or the best deals to buy.
We can’t stop this growing trend. We can only take the necessary steps we have to in order to keep our companies from being left behind.
Audit your own website – stand back and look at your website with fresh eyes. Is it still okay and aging well, or does it need a touch-up or even an extreme make-over?
Don’t trust your webmaster or web hosting company with your site – They may or may not send you notification of your site being down. Keep aware of the status of your account and get any payment or technical issues resolved as soon as possible.
To you, your site being down is nothing, but to many potential clients or customers, a website that is down is almost as damaging to your sales as an out-of-order business phone number. It is a signal of either neglect or failure.
Check out successful competitive websites – Results don’t lie. If some company in your area is going like gangbusters and you hear they make a good use of the Internet, then go over to their site and check out what they are doing.
Ask your customers what they think of your website – Okay, I understand that your site is like your baby… but even the nicest of parents can give birth to nasty kids occasionally.
So ask your clients or customers what THEY think you can do to improve your online presence. Of course most people will be caught off guard and won’t have anything to say much…
But if you are lucky you will stumble across your very own Nancy Needful and she will let you have an earful – of creative ideas on things you never even thought of.