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 children for Christmas at a national pet store chain.   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 son would not have been passionate about the prospect of owning a catfish. That catfish lived for more than 7 years.   As he grew, I had to buy a 10 gallon and then a 20 gallon tank to accommodate him.  When he finally passed, he had grown so large that we had to bury him in the backyard instead of flushing him down the toilet.

It’s crazy how long it took me to “discover” a nearby locally owned pet store.  What makes it crazy is that the store was housed in a building with elaborate decorative images painted on the exterior.  Despite the fact that I’ve driven past this particular pet store a dozen or more times each week, the prominent signage and elaborate paintings on the building never registered with me – until I became an aquarium owner.

Suddenly, the signage declaring this pet store was voted #1 in the area caught my attention.  It broke  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.

THIS IS IMPORTANT!  I didn’t stop at the store as soon as I noticed the sign.  I was busy and had sh*t to do. Once I got home (aka wasn’t driving),  I checked out the store’s website.  The website did a GREAT job of “selling” visitors on why this pet store was indeed the best in the area.   The next day, I piled my husband and children into the car with the intention of filling our fish tank with new fishy friends from the interesting and unique pet store I 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.   The tanks were streaked and dirty. There was water standing on the floor. While the state of the store was appalling, what truly horrified me was how the employees acted. During our entire visit, three employees huddled behind the register, talking amongst themselves.  Despite spending more than 20 minutes in the store, we were never acknowledged.  Not surprisingly, 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 website’s 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 left empty handed. We headed over to the big chain pet store across town and spent a small fortune.

What’s even worse is we weren’t the only people to leave that store empty handed that day. I have no idea whether the others were compelled to visit based upon the signage or the website.  It doesn’t matter – because not one of us received any customer service from the staff of this store on this day.

Dear Store Owner:

Your website worked.  It motivate my family to take action and visit your store.   Unfortunately, your staff didn’t welcome our arrival. As a result, one of your competitors “ate your lunch” this past weekend.


Just one of the many lost customers last Sunday afternoon.

I probably 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.


  1. I’m a big believer in researching mom and pop stores to see what others say about their service and quality. Having a great website is definitely a step in the right direction of getting me to go there. But like you I am also sometimes disappointed with what I find. Every once in a while though you find a diamond in the rough.