Your website is great – too bad your business sucks

This is the story of a locally owned business with a fabulous website.   The website “worked” – it brought a new potential customer into the store and the staff went to work to make sure that a potential new customer  left – never to return.

Our story begins many years ago when  I purchased a small fish tank for my small children for Christmas.   My son chose as “his” fish a specimen called an iridescent shark which is not really a shark but a catfish.  This demonstrates the power of “branding” – because I’m sure my little tyke would not have been nearly as passionate about the prospect of owning an iridescent catfish.

At the time, I encouraged the kids not to name their fish because surely they wouldn’t survive long enough to justify a name.  I was wrong.  That darned fish lived for more than 7 years.   Over the years, I had to buy a 10 gallon and then a 20 gallon tank to accommodate the growing fish.  When he passed – we had to bury him in the backyard instead of flushing him down the toilet… he was that big.

Fast forward to another Christmas when I again purchased small fish tanks for my much older children.  This time the aquariums were more of a “gag” gift – and once again the joke was on me.  We originally purchased 3 fish and awoke the next morning to find a swarm of teenie, tiny fish trying to avoid the bigger fish.  We filled the additional tanks with these “bonus” fish.  A year later we purchased a 28 gallon tank to accommodate our fishy pets.  The new larger tank means purchasing more fishy friends.

This blog post isn’t about looking ahead  and acting accordingly- though it could be.  🙂  This blog post also isn’t about something becoming bigger than you ever thought it would be – and it could be as it happens often in the world of blogging.

This blog post is about being disappointed by the business I found lurking behind the effective website.

There is a locally owned pet store which is housed in a building with elaborate decorative images painted on the exterior.  I’m kind of surprised that it never caught my attention before.  See – even though I’ve driven past this particular pet store dozens — perhaps hundreds of times – the elaborate paintings on the building and the prominent signage never registered with me.  I have regularly ignored this pet store’s signage – until I became an aquarium owner.  Now, the signage declaring this pet store was voted #1 caught my attention- breaking through the cacophony of advertising messages and singing a sweet melody compelling me to come hither.  My inner chatter changes to focus upon this new discovery….

“Voted #1 you say?  Isn’t that giant panda painted on the front interesting and unique?  Gee – I need to check this place out.”

I talk about this phenomenon in my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results.

I didn’t stop at the store on that trip – but I did check out the store’s website when I got home.  The website did a GREAT job of “selling” visitors on why this pet store was indeed the best in the region.   The next day, I piled my family into the car with the intention of filling our fish tank with fishy friends from the interesting and unique pet store we had just discovered.

Unfortunately, the store displayed and described on the website was very different from the real thing.  Warm and inviting?  Hardly.  Try disheveled and stinky.  Forget the fact that the tanks were streaked and dirty and that there was water standing on the floor – what truly horrified me was how the store’s three employees huddled behind the cash wrap area talking amongst themselves.  Despite spending more than 20 minutes in the store, we were never acknowledged and we left empty handed.

I pity the person who handles this pet store’s internet marketing because it’s inevitable that the business owner will complain that “the website isn’t working.”

I can attest that the website DID work – perfectly.  Bravo to the architect.

That website was the reason we hopped in the car and made a trip to their store.  Unfortunately, the store’s employees are the reason we hopped back into our car and headed over to the big chain pet store across town.

We weren’t the only people to leave that store empty handed that day though I have no idea whether the others were compelled to visit based on the signage or the website.  It doesn’t matter – because non of us received any customer service from the staff of this store.

Dear Store Owner:

Your website worked.  It motivate my family to take action – but your staff obviously wasn’t prepared for our arrival.

As a result, one of your competitors “ate your lunch” this past weekend.

Sincerely,

Just one of the many lost customers last Sunday afternoon.

Honestly, I could have forgiven the disheveled appearance of the store’s interior if a smiling, helpful clerk had offered friendly assistance.  A simple acknowledgment of our presence would have gone a long way that day.

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.  That’s why it’s important that your website makes a great first impression.  However, it’s even more important that your business lives up to the expectations set by your website.

Customer Reviews Set Consumer Expectations

Expectations of your business will literally shape the whole consumer experience for your customers.   This is nothing new. In my post, “Social Media – It’s a Moral Imperative” I wrote about how a movie’s marketing campaign painted an unrealistic expectation of being a comedy – and then delivered scenes of horrific violence and very little “humor”.

The same is true of your business.  Marketing sets expectations.  If you deliver on the promises – if expectations are met – then consumers will be satisfied.  Fail to deliver – and consumers will complain.

While this is nothing new – what is new is that we’re living in a world where communication is lightning fast and ridiculously easy thanks to social media.   This creates a world where your consumer’s unmet expectations (realistic or not) can mean an avalanche of negative online reviews .

Setting realistic expectations of your products and services is essential to your business survival.

I’m seeing a worrisome trend – one which is not only being recommended by various “gurus” but also being practiced by business owners who obviously are not aware of the danger involved.

Many businesses – big and small – are engaging in creating their own “reviews” for their business. One popular info product recommends  this course of action – especially if customers aren’t online actively participating in online reviews.  This popular resource recommends that SEO professionals and business owners go out and actively create the reviews they “know their business deserves” by leaving reviews under pseudonyms.

Here’s the hidden danger with this troubling trend.

Let’s say you’re a physician concerned about your online reputation.  You hire someone to  create 5 star reviews for your practice.  Those fictitious reviews are prominently displayed in your local search listing.

Your multiple reviews make your local search listing tops with Google maps and this begins bringing new patients to your office.  These patients are expecting 5 star service because – after all – that’s what it looks like others have been saying about your medical practice. They’re expecting short waits in the waiting room, they’re expecting considerate, competent staff – they’re expecting the doctor to have a great bedside manner – but when they arrive – that’s not what they get.

Perhaps a “real” review of your office wouldn’t have given your practice five stars on every options.  Perhaps a real patient would have rated your office wait time as “moderate” – but real patients didn’t write those reviews so the new patients who came to your office – expecting a brief stay in the waiting room are now fuming as the minutes tick by and they still haven’t been seen.

Trust me when I tell you…

The online review of the consumer who has been disappointed will be far worse than the authentic review of a dissatisfied consumer.

I’ve observed what seems to be a bit of “social justice” happening on these social media review sites.  It seems that when real consumers encounter exaggerated claims of service and satisfaction – they seem to be motivated to respond.  While my personal evaluation of a particular business may have been a 3 out of five – I’ve seen time and time a glowing 5 star -obviously fictional-  review followed by a scathing 1 star review.  Was the 1 star review accurate?  Probably not – but it seems to frequently be issued in response to an undeserved 5 star review.

The worst part about the glowing – but fictitious  – 5 star review is that it unnecessarily sets unrealistic expectations for your product or service.  While a 3 or even 4 out of 5 star authentic review my not be a huge boost to your ego – it is authentic and not only can it serve as useful consumer feedback but it also sets a more realistic set of expectations for your product or services.  This more realistic set of expectations means higher levels of consumer satisfaction which leads to positive online reviews.

After all – authentic online reviews on only a reflection of what is being said about your business in other areas – not only other online sites but offline as well.

Web Terms You Need to Know: Landing Pages

If you’re new to marketing via the web – or even if you’re not – you may not be familiar with the web marketing term of LANDING PAGES.  However, it’s a term you should know, love and even embrace because your landing page can make or break your web site management and marketing efforts.

A LANDING PAGE is simply a page specifically designed with a purpose in mind.  It’s the first page that a visitor will see when he/she arrives at your site.  As with most of the posts I do here, this post was inspired by a horribly misdirected effort which literally broke my heart.

My story begins as I was exchanging emails with a  publisher about the possibility of me writing a book.  I’m using my Gmail to correspond with him and as I’m logged in to Gmail, my eye is magnetically DRAWN to an ad which appears across the top of my screen.  It is truly a MAGNIFICENT example of a Google Adwords.  It was short, it was pithy and it was compelling – the only “problem” is it was tightly targeted towards MD’s.  So much for my growing suspicion that Google knows EVERYTHING about me- turns out they don’t know I didn’t go to medical school.

I wish I’d copied and saved the ad before I clicked because even though I’m not an MD who wants to hire a ghostwriter, I felt compelled to click.    Yeah, it was THAT GOOD

To say I was aghast when I got there would be an understatement.  The Google Adwords author was obviously not familar with the term “LANDING PAGE” as part of his web site management and marketing efforts.  While the ad I clicked was tightly targeted to medical doctors who want to hire a ghostwriter – the page I landed upon when I clicked the ad didn’t mention ghost writing for medical professionals in any way shape or form.  It was a generic one size fits all one page web site.

This my friends is a case of someone who needs an introduction to the concept of a Landing Page.

Seth Godin is constantly banging the Landing Page Drum.  As Brian over at SEO Moz points out, a well crafted landing page can make SEO easier as well.  Obviously, the gifted Adwords writer isn’t familiar with their work.

Landing Page Basics

Hit the links above for more in depth articles on Landing Page Basics.  (Seth’s is base line – Brian’s gets more in depth from an SEO perspective).

Creating an effective landing page hearkens back to the drum I frequently pound which is “Keep Your Visitor in Mind!”

Think of your web visitor.  Who is he/she?

Chances are that your visitors is searching the web for answers.  Whether it’s proper attire to wear for Wednesday night at the bowling alley or where they can score tickets to the  Britney Spears Circus Tour – web visitors often go web surfing with a purpose in mind.

A landing page is simply a page created with that specific visitor in mind.

For example, when I launched my 8 Week Power Blog Launch product, I ran a PPC campaign and targeted the the keyword term “How To Blog.”   I then created a Landing Page for that PPC campaign which leads with the copy,  “How to Blog!

The reason being, if someone is searching for “How to Blog” I don’t want them searching high and low for the answer to their question – which is “how to blog”.

Imagine if instead of sending a web surfer to a page that leads with the term they’re searching instead I sent them to the main page of THIS blog.  Sure, there’s a nice big ad for the product over in the right hand column – but that ad is competing with lots of OTHER content here.  The visitor might get distracted by my witty banter and dry wit.  Heck, I might start blogging about Hemp Bagels again and then the reader would be magically transported back to their college days. Before you know it, they’re out searching for their friendly neighborhood drug dealer rather than worrying about their original question which was – what was it again?  Oh yeah, they wanted to know “How to Blog.”

If you think ADD and ADHD are afflictions that only exist in the classroom -guess again.  Both these syndromes are alive and well on the web.  Easily distracted humans beings NEED landing pages to focus their attention on the task at hand.

Of course, the very most BASIC element of creating a landing page is to get inside the head of your visitor – the prospective customer or client you want to reach.  Need help with that?  Pick up a copy of my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results

Strategic Marketing: Using Deadlines and Discounts

Strategic marketing means promoting your products and services with a clear cut plan. Like most small business marketing consultants, I do a MUCH better job of doing this with my clients than I do in applying strategic marketing practices to my own stuff.

If you didn’t know it before, you should learn this now; it’s HUMAN NATURE to procrastinate! It’s why coupons have expiration dates, it’s why businesses have limited time SALES. There’s not better way to motivate buyers to ACT NOW than to impose a deadline! Putting a deadline on a discount is essential.

A discount without a deadline is simply a price cut.

Creating a deadline is a good marketing strategy. So, when I offered my Fast Track to Blogging Success for free, I put a deadline on that discount. The deadline has now passed – and the 100% discount is now over.

However, as I went in to remove the code, I remembered how I HATED it when I wasn’t able to get Naomi’s report when I missed the boat.

It was time to “enforce” my own deadline – and I was faced with a dilemma. If I didn’t remove the 100% discount, I’m a liar. If I remove it, then someone’s going to try to use the discount because they got here late and it won’t work. Then, forever more, if they ever think about “Virtual Impax,” it will cause “bad vibes”.

Talk about a “no win” situation!

So, instead of REMOVING the discount, I just reduced it. The discount code “CathRocks” now takes $10 off the $24.95 price.

Add to Cart

If you got it for free – then you still got a bargain, however if you’re late to the party – you can still pick it up at a discount.

However, in order for this discount to be “motivating” it still needs a deadline. Otherwise, it’s simply a thinly veiled attempt at a price cut. So the deadline is now moved to November 1 for the “CathRocks” discount code which was originally offered to readers of Cath Lawson’s OUTSTANDING blog.

If you haven’t checked out her blog, you should.  She definitely offers business advice from the “been there, done that, bought the T-shirt AND the factory which produces the T-shirts”  point of view.    Cath is a serial entrepreneur – and honestly, I don’t think there’s any other kind of entrepreneur.  She shares her wisdom with a healthy dose of wit via her blog on a regular basis.    In other words, she’s the’s the real deal and it shows!

What is YOUR blog worth?

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger is getting inundated with the news of the 1 Man Blog Sells for $15 Million Dollars

The question at the back of EVERY blogger’s mind when they hear news of a blog sale is, “I wonder how much MY blog would bring?”

For John Wu, the sole author of Bankaholic the answer is a cool $15 Million.

Darren reports:

the blog has an Alexa ranking of 42,168 and averages less than 20 comments per post. The blog does seem to rank very well for a lot of bank terms and I’m sure drives targetted traffic.

That’s the key – TARGETED TRAFFIC.  The blog buyer is Bankrate, which is acting very much like Google in this acquisition.  It’s the old,  “let someone ELSE do the hard work” and then the big guy with deep pockets sweeps in to collect.    John Wu got to perform the hard work – building up the blog over a period of 26 months.  He did the digging and Bankrate gets the gold and John’s labor is being WELL rewarded with a ROI of $576,923 per month for his efforts.

However, I think it’s important to remember that he didn’t launch this blog with this payday in mind. Instead he set out to create a tightly targeted blog focusing on attractive and tightly targeted keywords.  Now a big player wants his blog and is paying handsomely for John’s hard work.  Congratulations John.

Oh, and in a medium where community is everything, this blog is a bit light on that aspect.  Blog posts don’t get a lot of comments, but the blog delivers where it counts and that’s on desirable keywords and targeted traffic!

Oh, and for what it’s worth – Bankaholic is a WordPress blog.