Jun 26

A good salesman knows they need to ask for the business at the end of the meeting (and they aren’t afraid to ask).

For most companies, their web site is a sales tool. Yet many never ask the user to do anything except “contact us.” That’s like going to a restaurant that doesn’t provide you with a menu-you wouldn’t know what to ask for.

A great example are web sites that ask for donations. Web site owners make $1,000’s per year simply because they ask. Think of the tip jars. They earn their keep because they ask. I think of my four year-old daughter. She gets what she wants because she asks, asks, asks and asks.

Ask and you will receive. Don’t ask, and you still may receive, just not much.

Bottom line: If you want your web site to be a sales or lead generating tool, ask the user to engage with you.

Jun 24

Trust. It’s amazing how much our economy depends on this simple virtue.

Ebay is all about trust (I’ll prepay you and trust that you’ll ship it).
USPS mail (I trust that if I put this check in the mail, you’re going to deliver it).
Employer / employee relationship (I trust you’ll do the work and you trust that I will pay you).

When trust is established, transactions move seamlessly. But trust must be earned. What are you doing in your business, relationships or even on your web sites to build trust? Without it, you’ll have a hard time succeeding.

Look at your website. Does it convey that you are trustworthy? If not, what can you do to improve that?

Here are some ideas:
- add testimonials
- add a guarantee
- list your high-profile customers who have entrusted you already

Bottom line: Build trust to build your business.

Jun 18

Do you remember your last purchase you made on the web (or used the web to make the purchase)?

I do. It was an upgrade to Merge’s phone system, TalkSwitch.

The structure of the purchase was web site -> phone call -> purchase. There was no real way to do what I wanted to do on the web site. That usually would aggravate me, but in this case I was okay. Why? I felt like I needed to talk to somebody.

But what the web site did was get me all the way from where I was to where I needed to speak to somebody. It got me to the next step in the process. The way it did that is it provided me a plethora of information about all of their products, features, pricing and a nifty product comparison chart. I basically had a couple of very specific questions that I knew the web site wouldn’t answer. So I picked up the phone and called.

They answered. I asked my question. They answered the question. I ordered. And during the order process, they added some more valuable information to the process. I was impressed.

The Bottom Line: Web sites don’t live in an isolated bubble. They are an integral part of your company’s marketing tools. Make sure the web site fits into everything else that you do.

P.S. Not only was the TalkSwitch buying experience great, but so is their product. They have IP Phones and their main product is a very affordable “big company” phone system for small companies. I highly recommend you visit TalkSwitch’s web site. Who knows, you may end up buying one!

Jun 13

Here’s the old way to buying:

      You, the buyer, are in charge.
      You don’t trust the seller.
      Your objective: cheap as possible.
      Meeting/relationship is adversarial.
      You tell the vendor what to do and how to do it.
      Withhold payment as long as possible.

I confess, I have fallen into the old way of buying many times. I wonder though what would happen if this is how we bought:

      Tell your problem to the seller, and let them tell you what to do
      Trust the seller has your best interests at heart.
      Have a collaborative meeting.
      Your objective: Pay what it takes to accomplish your objective-as long as you have value.
      Pay immediately.

Don’t we want our vendors to do a good job for us, to provide value and to help us solve problems. Then doesn’t it make sense to change the way you buy? Treat your vendors well, pay them fast and thank them for their hard work. What type of treatment do you think you’d get from the vendor if you treated them well?

Bottom line: Use the Golden Rule to get more out of your vendors by treating them as you would want to be treated.

Jun 11

Google’s Map Street View has been out for awhile now, but available in only major metropolitan areas. Now it’s available in Greenville. The photo is of downtown Greenville-hey, that’s Merge’s office! (how ’bout that?).

To see the technology in action, visit Greenville, SC in Google Maps and click in the “Street View” in the upper right hand corner.


Jun 08

Recently, we attended a party where the theme was “The Last Supper” and each couple brought something they’d want to eat if it were, well, their last supper.

It didn’t work so well-at least in what people brought. But what was more interesting was the question I asked: “If this was your last supper, where would you eat and what would you have?” Some responses:

-Carrabbas - Chicken Marsala
-McDonald’s - with the Quarter Pounder done right
-Carrabbas - they’re Caesar salad—ooh.
-Baskin Robbins - Bubble Gum Ice Cream
-Olive Garden - Bottomless Soup and Salad

Really? Does this strike you as, well, boring? Or should I say safe? I mean, come on, your last supper and you want to eat at a chain restaurant? Now, I’ve never eaten at Carrabbas, so maybe it’s great and food worth dying for. I doubt it. (The McDonald’s comment I sort of get!).

The point is, we don’t venture out. And when I say, we, I mean me, because I think it’s all relative. I might have chosen a more “original” restaurant then the ones above, but I may still pick something here in Greenville. Someone really cultured would probably pick a restaurant in France, Italy or somewhere else known for really good food.

These responses show the power of a brand (consistent, reliable experience; i.e. if it’s going to be my last supper I want to make sure I like it!) but they also reveal a glaring weakness of a brand: We don’t want to think anymore. We don’t want to risk. We just want to know that we’re going to like what we’re going to buy, no surprises. It makes for a very mediocre life, doesn’t it?

Instead of going to the beach this year, go to the mountains. Instead of going to your favorite restaurant, hope online and fine a well-reviewed hole in the wall. Instead of going to watch that blockbuster movie this year, rent a foreign film (or go up to Asheville to their foreign film theater). Instead of going to the Peace Center for a play, go to one of the smaller theaters (there are about 5 of them in Greenville alone-or if you haven’t been to a play in five years, then go to the Peace Center!). Instead of playing the same golf course for the 12th time in a row, go try one of the other 50 you’ve never played. Instead of watching your favorite TV show, talk to your wife. Instead of listening to your music at home, go out and listen to live music.

I think I got off track. But the point is this: Brands can be like habits. We don’t think and we just do them. To live a little, get out of brand-land. Maybe anti-branding is the new brand?

Jun 04

Today I attended training on “Building Effective Boards” for non-profit boards.

Merge is a for profit company mind you, but I currently serve on a non-profit board. So I wanted to sharpen my board skillz. (Yeah, that’s with a z.)

Here was one take-a-way today: the #1 reason people give is:

They know about the organization (65%-the leading indicator by far). You might have thought the leading reason people give is because they believe in the cause, the non-profit is really efficient with donations, etc., but nope, it’s: “Does the donor know about your non-profit?”

So the strategy of non-profits is to make sure potential donors know them. And when I say “know,” I’m not talking “about” them. That donors know the organization. They know the mission, the purpose, how they run, who the people are, etc. There are many, many ways to do that. Surely part of that approach is their digital strategy, right? Most likely a newsletter + blog + online video + web site, or a combination there of assists them in this mission.

I truly hope they’re leveraging the web to help their donor base “know them” (it’s only a $300 Billion market). If not, I think they’d see donations go up if they executed such a digital strategy.

And by the way-if knowledge is key for non-profits, do you think that applies to the selling process for “for-profits?” How well does your web site allow prospects to get to know your company?

Jun 02

Here’s how web development usually happens: Go into a dark closest and don’t come out until the entire project is flat-out done.

The problem? Web projects are a daunting, time-consuming task. 60% of projects that should be done never get started. 30% of projects that do get started never finish. And over 50% of all web projects fall way short of expectations, because they took much more resources (time and money) than originally allocated or estimated.

[By the way, I made those numbers up, but they are educated guesses.]

Web development firms are the worse offender of stat #1 (they never start). Firms usually have really bad web sites while their clients’ web sites shine. We just don’t have enough time to do our own.

But I think there’s a solution: Incremental Improvement. Don’t go into the dark closet and make sure everything is perfect before you come out. Take a section of your web site and improve that section. Make a tweak to your home page. Add some functionality to your services page. Liven up your bio pages for goodness sake. Make an improvement to your web site every month, and before you know it, you’ll have a new web site by the end of the year.

Merge will do an overhaul one of these days. But in the meantime, we’re going to do Incremental Improvements on our own web site. You’ll see the home page change, the portfolio section get updated and our bios get a little more zip. An hour here, an hour there. It’s not perfect, but hey, it’s progress.

Maybe Incremental Improvement is something you want to consider for your web site?