Jan 31

What do you do when you get the ballpark question? I had two today. One on the phone (never met the guy) and one from a prospect (our first meeting) that asked, “So….what would a ballpark price be for your services…”

Now, before I go on a rant, I have to say I can’t blame them. It’s a fair question and I’ve committed this same infraction many a-time myself.

But the key is this: the question doesn’t help them. The prospect wants a solution to a problem/potential. They want to solve that problem, and most could argue, at a reasonable rate of return. How much something costs is irrelevant until the size of the problem is identified. Most prospects haven’t taken the time to define that first and by telling them even a ballpark price, they’ll have little context to determine if the price is reasonable.

The prospect wants to solve a problem. They hope you can be the hero. Telling them the price too soon will most likely result in helping nobody-especially the prospect. Now, they’ll flounder until they find some low-cost provider, who’s cheaper than the price you mentioned (congratulations, you set the bar) and they’ll probably get an inferior product or service that won’t solve their problem.

Do your prospect a favor: Don’t ballpark a price for them. Go through your entire sales process and give them the price when you know what the problem is. You’ll both be happy you did.

Jan 29

Google Local, which used to list only 3 companies in its local search results, has decided to make room for more. This should be a relief to companies who wanted to fairly share the lime light. We’ve been battling other local firms to get the one of the coveted three spots. But now, Google has opened it to ten companies, looking now like:

The downside? Now sponsored links and Google Local results take up the majority of the screen real estate. Those hard earned organic listings are being pushed even further down the page, making them less valuable. Ah, the Lord giveth and he taketh away.

Jan 28

We said it back in October 4 of 2007:

“Progressive companies are going to embrace web sites as commercials instead of brochures. You’re going to see much less content, and much more video…”
Post: The new web

Take a look at Nintendo Wii’s site. They don’t only use video on the home page or as a flash introduction, they use video throughout their WHOLE site. There is no copy. All of their content is video. They want to show their “customers” (okay, models) using their product. They are showing the user experience. Anything a company can do to get you to experience the product online, that much closer they have you to buying their product.

Words alone aren’t going to work any more. Just pictures? Nope. Video. And when “they” can figure out how to deliver touch and smell, then it will be a wrap. And those might be here sooner than you think.

Jan 23

How did we do with our headline for this blog?

I’m always intrigued, and note, how well news agencies write their headlines. Here’s this morning’s headlines:

How a typical person would have written these, would be:

-Man dies
-Stock Market Down
-People Illegally Leave Gaza to Egypt

None of these headlines (that I just wrote) compel me to act. Look at the CNN headlines. They use words like:

-tragic death
-seeing red
-walls blasted

Now, let’s juxtapose this versus some Google Adword headline writing. I just searched for CPA Services:

Wow, look at that middle title! “Accounting Services.” Whoa, that’s an eye-grabber isn’t it? Only the third one instills any compelling action in that it uses “Find.” Still pretty weak.

Review your adword campaign. Compare your headlines, to say, the local news headlines. Note the difference, and then apply your findings accordingly. Or better yet-hire a professional copy writer, and the ROI will probably be through the roof.

Jan 22

“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Isn’t it funny when we think we come up with new ideas? Web 2.0, please.

Another wise man wrote:

“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Jan 21

There’s a big difference between a house and a home.

To a husband, he lives in a house. The husband sees his house as some sticks and brick. He may be proud of his garage or shed, but mostly, he just lives in his house.

To the the wife, its her home. Her home is the extension of herself. It welcomes guests in its ambiance. Her home cradles her family, provides a blanket of security and nurtures the little one’s until they’re ready to flee the nest. Her home, on the contrary, is not sticks and bricks-her home is full of emotion, love and self-expression.

We men, have made the same mistake with web sites. We “just want a web site.” So we hire someone to build such a thing. Replace sticks and bricks with code and some design. What do you get? A web site. Congratulations.

Enter branding. Now, your web site is no longer a web site. It’s an extension of your company. It tells the user-not necessarily through words but through experience-who you are. Your web site tells them why they should do business with you-not because its over selling, but because the user can now relate to your company. They don’t see a web site. They see a living, breathing personality. They have just had an experience with your company. They understand who you are, what you do and why they should do business with you. Ahhhh, what a difference.

Jan 17

I hope you made a snowman today. The upstate shuts down when it snows, and we woke up with a nice layer of the white fluffy.

My first thought was, “Wow, it has to be staggering how much in productivity the upstate loses when it snows.”

If you’ve lived here for any amount of time, and you’re from the north (that’s about 80% of you), you know that Greenvillians don’t go anywhere if there’s a hint of snow-and that includes work, school or even church. This place shuts down and locks down (the trash is still at the curb-no trash pickup when it snows I guess).

But in the end I thought this, “Merge is really fortunate, because like the mailman-rain, snow, sleet or shine-we can work.” With a quick text message to all employees, they instantly knew to just stay and work from home.

And this isn’t just for Merge-this is for new economy companies-those of us who are fortunate to work with ideas and intellectual capital. Such hiccups in the weather, supply chains or lead paint from China don’t hinder us. We can continue to work. We can continue to be productive.

Think: How can your company move from the old economy to the new? It can be done-and must be done at some level to remain competitive. Today is the perfect example. Those companies whose workforce continued to work just gained an edge on their competitors whose employees had the audacity to call in to say they couldn’t make it to work. That is so unbelievably foreign to the new econonmy company.

Jan 16

So Apple rolls out a slew of product improvements, namely, the MacBook Air. It’s a sexy-thin, full keyboard laptop. As I would describe it any way.

My purpose is not really to tout the MacBook Air, but to highlight Apple’s ability-or rather guts-to change the hardware requirements of an industry.

They did it with the floppy and now they’re doing it with the CD-ROM/DVD. The MacBook Air doesn’t have either [sic].

Apple built the MacBook Air to be a wireless machine. How do we install software 90% of the time? By download. How are movies (on a laptop) going to be “consumed” within the next 6 - 18 months? By download (you can do it now, through another announcement of Apple’s movie rental through iTunes, live as of yesterday).

Apple decided what the purpose of the machine was going to be (wireless connectivity), they looked at current trends and helped move that trend along by not trying to be all things to all people. When companies are everything to everyone, they can’t make progress. Apple has proven to take a stand on its product development (simple interface for the iPod, no floppy, no CD-ROM) and people gripe, whine and complain for about 6 weeks, and then they realize they can live without the unnecessary appendages.

Question: What’s your company’s floppy drive? What are you continuing to support at the sake of progress? Take a page from Apple’s book and sacrifice for the short term so you can have long-term progress. And the funny thing is-it’s for your customers, not you.

Jan 15

Spin Machine

Adam Landrum | January 15, 2008 | 8:58 pm

Which one do you believe?

Jan 15

All too often, the temptation of companies is to make the home page communicate as much as possible…we do this, we do that…and oh!, we almost forgot…

Hold on, cowboy. The most effective home page does one thing and it does one thing well: it simply starts the positioning of your company in the mind of the user.

That’s the reason branding and concise copy writing is so important. You have to “say” so much in about 1 sentence. After you successfully get the positioning communicated, your home page then becomes the traffic cop, asking, “Where would you like to go next?” showing users on their merry way.

The bottom-line: Simplify your home page for greater web effectiveness.