Buyer Beware: Be an Informed Consumer

The customer SHOULD be king -but sometimes, some businesses tend to treat you like a dog!

I created the 8 Week Power Blog Launch  because after 6 months of blogging, my clients would come back to me with various questions about what else they needed to be doing to make their blogs successful.

Because my clients are not “web savvy”, a significant part the course is education about web basics.   While I don’t guarantee that you’ll become instantly “web savvy”, when you finish the course you will have the basics you need to become an informed consumer on the web!

One of the things it teaches you to do is to “spy” on what’s going on behind the scenes  which in the context of building your blog, is ESSENTIAL information.  However, it’s can also serve as a sort of “truth detector” when used to evaluate the claims of various “success” gurus.

It made my day when I got an email from an 8 Week Power Blog Launch user:

“I was in talks with an SEO expert who wanted to work on my blog.  However, when I used the “secret spy tools” you shared in the course, I didn’t like what I saw.  This information alone was worth the price of the course.”

YEAH!!!

Quite honestly, those stories are ALMOST as good as the stories of phenomenal traffic growth from using the program.  One of those stories is Sara Healy.  Sarah is one of my blog clients who was the first in line to grab a copy of the program.

When Sara started the 8 Week Power Blog Launch program, I didn’t grab a screen shot of her Alexa ranking.  However, as I was composing this post,  I went in to check and see what progress  she had made over the past 3 weeks.  Here’s what I saw:

Her blog has seen a 939% increase in reach and has moved up over 4.1 Million positions in the past three months.  (Most of this has happened in the past month as she’s been working the steps of the course.)

I want to be QUICK to point out that this jump is the result of Sara’s hard work!  She’s a wonderful writer and has a gift for communicating effectively.  The course  didn’t provide any “magic”, it just provided the education she needed to make her blog a rising star!

I use these tools ALL the time in my journey about the web.  The other day, I followed a link to a product that claims to be very similar to the 8 Week Power Blog Launch product.   It was one of the dozens of “Make Easy Money Blogging” products available online and like a good Internet Marketer it is being sold via a long one page sales page site which features:

  • a picture of the “author” working on his a laptop under a palm tree by the beach
  • a photo of his collection of rare antique sports cars parked in front of a mansion
  • a “screenshot” of his earnings
  • a long LIST of testimonials.

Now, since his product PROMISES  A Ton Of Free Traffic (copied and pasted from his sales page -explaining the font and color), I decided to check on the blogs which he lists as “testimonials” for his “secret system”.  (Remember, his system is effortless so there’s no reason WHY the testimonials wouldn’t have blogs with amazing Alexa rankings!)

The first thing I notice is that several of the “testimonial” sites are not blogs but simply single page websites selling their own info products.  The few that are actual blogs are not doing well by ANY stretch of the imagination when it comes to traffic.

What was this guy THINKING?   Doesn’t he know how EASY it is to copy the URL and visit the site?

So much for A Ton Of Free Traffic without any effort on your part.

With that said, while the  8 Week Power Blog Launch program is not HARD, it does require an investment of time and effort on your part.

If Sara had purchased the program and then done nothing – well, then her blog would still be sitting in the dark corners of the unexplored areas of the web.  Instead she’s working through the program and as a result has increased traffic to her blog – and she’s not even to the “blog promotion” part of the course!

One of the “tools” I recommend you use in the course is the Firefox plug-SEO Quake.  You have to be using Firefox as your web browser to use it – but you should be using Firefox anyhow!  Install it and it will change the way you view the web!

The Name of the Game is Trust

Lately, I’ve been talking a LOT about the importance of TRUST as an essential element of your marketing efforts.  Here’s a word picture to help you “visualize” how the whole “trust building” process works.

Think of trust like you would a bank account.  When you first meet someone, the balance of the “trust” account is zero.  Then, as you interact with this other person, deposits are being made into the trust account.  To borrow from Tom Volkar’s blog – when you honor your agreements, explicit AND implicit, you’re making deposits into the trust account. When you don’t honor those commitments,  you are debiting the trust account.

You do this all the time with friends, family and other people you come into contact with during the course of your daily life – including the “entities” with which you do business!

In the case of your trust relationship with business “entities”, when it comes time for real MONEY to change hands,  when it’s time to write the the check for legal tender, you’ll make a quick mental check of the balance of the “trust” account.    Unfortunately, there’s not a way to “log in to” the trust account to check the balance.   When you’re trying to establish with a new client, you’ll know you haven’t accumulated enough “trust” in the account if you ask for the sale and the potential client “balks”.

This is the word picture in my mind as I read a recent post over at David Airey’s blog.  In his post,  A Conversation About Spec Work“, David shares a somewhat heated exchange between a prospective client and a designer over working on spec.  In case you didn’t know, the BANE of a graphic artist’s existence – SPEC WORK!  (If you don’t get why a graphic artist might be upset over the prospect of working for “free”, check out Jacob Cass’ post, Why logo design does not cost $5.00)

All I could see in the exchange was a battle of two individuals whose trust accounts were empty when the trust checks were presented for payment.

Jacob makes a point in the comments section of David’s post where he points out that you don’t expect your dentist to work on spec.  (OUCH!  That illustration really “hit home” with me thanks to my little “dental drama” of late and the ensuing anti-word of mouth marketing campaign.)

However, Jacob is only partially correct.  While it’s true that ESTABLISHED dentists don’t offer to work on spec, it’s a different story for new dentist.

When you see an incredibly low cost initial appointment advertised by a dentist, it’s actually another version of working on spec.  While the dentist IS charging a small fee, the advertised price that doesn’t BEGIN to cover the variable costs associated with the exam let alone the fixed costs of running the practice!  If that’s not working on spec, I don’t know what is!

Working on spec is nothing new to anyone who is in the business of selling “nothing but air“.  Service based businesses usually have to do a LOT of spec work in the beginning!  Chiropractors, attorneys, coaches and consultants are just a few of the other professionals who are selling their expertise who must establish a significant level of trust with their potential clients.  I personally created a LOT of web sites in the beginning for minimal cost to build my practice.

However, as the service professional continues to build trust with an ever expanding circle of clients – then the need for spec work decreases.  Not only do you begin to get client referrals, but you can also share client testimonials to help build trust.

David Airey has openly credited his blog with building his business from a local business to one with an international scope.  David’s blog is acting as a GREAT vehicle for building trust with potential clients.

Not only can you feature client testimonials on your blog, but you can also share your expertise freely – which has the effect of making HUGE deposits in your trust account with your blog’s readers.

Building your service based business is a catch 22 type of deal.  In order to gain the trust of potential clients you have to have testimonials/referrals which you can’t get until you get clients!!!

That’s the reason for working on spec.  However, the good news is that  blogs are GREAT for building trust with prospective clients.  They can help you to build trust for your service based business.

Working in a No Trust Zone

We’re living in an age that is quickly becoming a “No Trust” zone. If you do business on the web, you should be especially concerned by antics occurring on the national stage which are serving to erode trust.

My family, like many others, has Olympic fever. However, you don’t have to be following the games to watch the degradation of trust that is occurring on the international stage.

I’ve written before about the importance of transparency in the world of Web 2.0. The law of transparency applies to every entity whether it’s a business, a country or an individual.

Building trustWeb 2.0 can be great when you’re authentically providing valuable goods, services and information. On the other hand, it can be your worst enemy when you’ve got something to hide.

Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose, especially in these days of Web 2.0 which could be called the “No Trust” Zone.   When trust is abused, it scars us and makes us less vulnerable and less willing to trust.

The problem is, when you’re doing business via the web, you’ve got a HUGE obstacle to overcome in that often you don’t meet your customers and clients face to face. For the throng of people who may visit your website, they have to TRUST that you are who you say you are. They have to TRUST that you can do what you say you can do.

Recently, as I was corresponding with my editor, the issue of trust came up. This is not the same editor I used to edit my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results, so this new editor hasn’t had the opportunity to earn my undying trust. He made an innocent comment which, little did he know, set off a multitude of alarms for me.

Fortunately, I was able to communicate with him WHY his comment had set me off. Last year, I hired a virtual assistant. I had spoken with her repeatedly as she did work for one of my clients. Long story short, I signed a contract to pay her $700 per month for a minimum of three months. I gave her a project immediately to which she claimed she was anxious and able to do. In the end, she didn’t have the skills she claimed she had. I ended up paying $2100 for something I could have created in 10 hours because she possessed neither time management skills nor the technical skills to complete the project. (Did I mention that when she finally delivered the product, it was such a mess I couldn’t use it!) She refused to refund my money and instead offered her future services. I haven’t heard from her since.

Ken McCarthy once wrote words of wisdom to which I still cling. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “9 out of 10 independent contractors don’t know what they’re doing.” He followed this statement with a story of how he hired a gentleman to create a video for him. The gentleman’s website showed an image of the man holding a high end video camera. That was enough to sell Ken on giving the guy a try. Unfortunately, when the guy showed up to the shoot, it was painfully obvious that posing with the camera was all the guy had done.

Which is why Ken recommends that you “try out” new contractors on unimportant contracts before you give them the assignment of creating something important to your business.

You’re living and working in a No Trust Zone. Your marketing, your blog, your advertising must ALL focus on a single goal: to build trust with your clients or customers. You build trust slowly, through communication. That’s why I adore blogs as marketing tools for independent service providers. A blog allows you to build trust with potential clients and customers because quite honestly, it’s hard to “fake” expertise over the course of a hundred or more posts.

Are you viewing your blog as a trust building vehicle? Do you see evidence of client’s lack of trust? How do you build trust with your potential clients and customers?

Do You Measure Customer Service By Satisfaction or by Complaints?

communication

When it comes to business, measuring is an integral part of success. While measuring sales, marketing even web visitors is common, many businesses fail to recognize the need to measure customers service… and with good reason.

Measuring customer service is hard and quite honestly, most businesses are not created with customer service as part of their business DNA.

Customer service as part of a company’s DNA is the absolute best description of what it takes to truly deliver on the customer service front… and it’s so not mine. That phrase totally belongs to Ben Yaskovitz. It’s in Tip #4 of his latest blog post Using Great Customer Service as a Differentiator.

What an elegant, descriptive way to describe the perfect delivery of exceptional customer service.

Ben goes on to tell of his own customer service testimonials from his start up Standout Jobs.

Exceptional customer service has earned him not only testimonials but also new sign ups for the service. Obviously customer service is part of the Standout Jobs DNA.

This really contrasts with my own experience with another start up. However, a more recent and horrible tale is tole by Marketing Pilgrim Andy Beal who writes a tale of customer service gone bad with his blog post Office Depot Joins the Reputation Deadpool.

In a nutshell, Office Depot put out some ATTRACTIVE bait to capture a new customer by offering a great limited time offer of a special low-low price on a Toshiba Laptop. That’s the way it works. A a business, you entice a customer to try your product or service with an offer that is too good to resist. Office Depot even sweetened the already sweet deal by offering next day shipping. You can’t build a successful business on profit margins this thin, but it’s necessary to win new customers.

Then, as you fulfill the order, you amaze the customer. You meet or exceed their expectations with the hope of winning that customer as a steady customer for life… or at least, the next few years.

In Andy’s case, Office Depot was trying to woo him away from his “steady” office superstore, Staples. At the very least Andy expects flowers, a nice dinner and a movie. Poetry, a moonlight gondola ride and ridiculously expensive champagne would have sealed Staple’s fate as soon to be “used to be”. Instead, Andy was stood up and then sent a bill for flowers he never saw and a dinner he never ate. Andy’s devotion to Staples has grown ten fold as a result of the experience. Meanwhile, Office Depot’s brand is being drug through the streets after being tarred and feathered.

Obviously customer service is NOT part of Office Depot’s DNA.

Kelly over at Maxiumum Customer Experience writes:

Your customers are skeptical. There are customers who want you to provide delight, and then there’s this lady. Depending on your industry, there may be thousands lined up behind her. At this point she’s not looking for delight. She’ll take a discount or some other special offer, but what I heard in her voice says it’s not what she’s looking for.

She wants to know somebody at this company cares.

BRAVO Kelly!!! That’s a hit the nail square on the head kind of observation!!!

Does anyone at your company care?

Trust me, if there isn’t anyone who cares, it’s going to show. It’s surprising how a truly sympathetic ear can take the edge off of the burning rage that builds when you feel you’ve been reduced to a number.

How do you measure customer service?

Leadership Tools offers these as ways to measure customer service quality.

  • Customer Attrition Ratio = number of customers leaving / total number of customers (for the same time period) – the higher the ratio, the less likely it is that your company is consistently delivering quality customer service.
  • Sales Growth – your reputation precedes you. If people are still buying from you, and referring others, chances are they are happy with the service and they are loyal to your organization.
  • Customer Survey Results – directly asking customers to rate the service level they receive is by far the best way to measure service quality.
  • Customer Complaints – be thankful for each complaint that comes to your attention. You can only provide a thoughtful response to customer issues once you are made aware of the issue. When customer’s complain they represent not just their issue, but perhaps an issue that is affecting others.

However, it’s all for naught if customer service isn’t part of your company’s DNA. It’s cool to care about your customers. Pass it on!

Blogs…Credibility…Trust

Blogs are a GREAT way to build credibility and trust with your prospective customers/clients. If you’re selling e-books or copy paper, building credibility isn’t important. However, if you’re selling something of substance such as your time and expertise, then building credibility is the most important “marketing” you can engage in.

The thing is, the reason blogs are such a GREAT way to build credibility and trust is that it’s hard to fake expertise over the course of a hundred or so posts because when you blog, you reveal yourself.

This morning, I saw on my iGoogle that the RSS feed that the blog of an author I respect and admire had been updated after several weeks of inactivity. I had heard great things about this guy and even though I don’t know him personally, he already had a substantial balance build up by reputation in his “trust account” with me.

When I discovered he had a blog, I subscribed to the RSS immediately. However, his posting to his blog is spotty and his posts didn’t seem to have much “body”. However, he’s got a nice trust balance with me, so every time he posts, I’m there. I’m reading but I’m definitely not commenting. After all, what could I do to add to a conversation with someone of HIS caliber?

He began with the tired blogging excuse “I’ve been busy.” OK.. I’ll buy that. After all, he’s already got my respect and trust. However, he then launches into the tired MMO (make money online) tactic of “look how rich I am.” He writes about how he’s property shopping for a 2nd home and he’s posting links to lavish builder’s sites in a warm climate.

OOPS! His trust account balance just went to zero in my book.

In today’s post, at the bottom, I saw an offer for a product -a product which I would have bought… had there been ANY trust left in the account.

Contrast that to my experience with Monika Mundell who maintains the The Writers Manifesto.

I stumbled upon Monika’s blog and subscribed to the RSS feed. I began reading her posts and after a while, began to comment. I’m not a freelance writer, but I am interested in honing my writing skills and her posts were instructional and well written. Then, I saw Monika begin posting on another blog to which I subscribe. She is writing great posts like Make Money with Freelance Writing but the interesting thing is, while it’s still “her writing” she has successfully assumed the “voice” of this established blog.

NICE!!!

I’m swamped yet I have a new project I’m nurturing so I hired Monika to write the articles for me. We connected via email and a few days later VIOLA… I have 8 great articles ready to go, even though the past two days have been “no shower” days for me! She did an INCREDIBLE job. It’s like I wrote them (after reading all her posts and following all of her “rules”)… but I didn’t – she did.

I’ve been watching Monika blog for a while now and by watching her, I could tell she was walking the walk. However, in just a few months of subscribing to the “highly hyped” writer’s blog, I can see he’s all talk and no walk.

Blogs are a great way to establish credibility and trust… even when you aren’t aware that people are watching!