Every company’s dream is to be known, far and wide, for “something”—and for that “something” to bring customers back over and over again. AND for their customers to tell everyone they know about that “something.” One reason consumers return to a particular retailer is because of the experience they had. Another reason is because the experience was memorable—in a positive way. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Selling’ Category
Recently a member of our team found this infographic. The statistics are fascinating, especially the one that said 52 percent of abandoned online shopping carts occurred due to the shipping and handling costs.
Another statistic I found fascinating was, during the holiday season in 2010 the average order value with shipping was $86.58, and with out shipping it was $125.20. A $38.62 difference may not seem likemuch, but it can add up in the end. Would you rather have people buying your products because you offer free shipping or abandoning because the shipping costs are to high?
These statistics reminded me of an experience. I wanted to buy a perishable food product that was difficult to find in regular stores. The price seemed reasonable so I went the website and placed it in the shopping cart. As soon as I saw the shipping cost, I aborted my purchasing quest immediately. The product was five dollars and the shipping cost was $30! I was willing to pay a few dollars for shipping, but $30 was outrageous, especially since the product wasn’t very large or heavy.
If they had offered free shipping, I probably would have thought about buying more than one container. But since their shipping was ridiculously out of my price range they lost my business.
As business owners it is important to weight out the pros and cons of free shipping. It might be in your companies best interest to have a free shipping option, but then again it might not. You decide.
Businesses that sell products online live and die by the number of consumers they get to their sites. They spend lots of money on SEO, paid keyword searches and affiliate marketing to attract eyeballs. They speak of “driving traffic” to their sites, as though it flows in a single direction.
Traffic flows both ways, though, and by failing to think of the traffic leaving their sites, they may not be using their online marketing dollars as effectively as they could be.
A couple of months ago I attended a panel discussion where Tony Zito, CEO of MediaForge, said merchant webpage abandonment is 98 percent (i.e. only 2 percent of visitors buy anything) and shopping cart abandonment is 80 percent (which means only 20 percent of visitors who started pulling out their wallets finished the transaction). He said most of the people who get to a merchant’s website (the traffic that their SEO and keyword purchases bought) leave product pages to go out to blogs and social media sites to find reviews on those products. Can you imagine 80 percent of customers in a Target shopping center wheeling their carts to the checkout line, only to leave them there and walk out of the store to ask whoever is standing outside whether they should buy such-and-such a product? Crazy. And yet that is exactly what happens online.
Savvy merchants allow reviews of their products on their own sites, but people are naturally distrusting of those comments, even when written by consumers who probably have no financial tie to the company. The irony is that the “independent” bloggers who review that company’s products on an external site (the very blogs where potential customers land after leaving a product site looking for “unbiased” reviews) are probably getting compensated for writing those reviews. Although federal regulations now require bloggers to disclose financial compensation for products they review (see Jeremy Shoemaker’s disclaimer where he says he benefits “financially or otherwise from everything [readers] click on, read, or look at” on his site), many readers ignore those disclaimers.
I’m not saying it is wrong for bloggers to benefit financially from pushing merchants and products. Quite the contrary: right or wrong, consumers trust the bloggers, so the bloggers should be compensated for the value they bring. In fact, I am saying that online businesses should allocate even more money and resources to these bloggers and review sites. Since that usually comes in the form of affiliate marketing (i.e. the merchant creates an affiliate program for a product, a blogger joins the program by running trackable ads for that merchant on his or her blog, and gets compensated for each sale made thanks to the consumer clicking through the ad prior to the sale), these businesses should increase their affiliate-marketing efforts.
Merchants engaged in affiliate marketing often lump those dollars with expenses used for SEO and paid searches. Although affiliate marketing is great for driving new eyeballs to the merchant’s site (like SEO and searches), it is also a great tool for capitalizing on lost traffic. Regardless of how potential customers got to a merchant’s site, once they leave, it isn’t the SEO that is going to get them back. They’ll come back 1) if they find what they are looking for (i.e. a favorable review on the blog) and 2) if the blog they’re on makes it easy for them to get back. By merchants making sure they have an ad on that blog, they are increasing the chances that the consumer will get back to their site and finish their purchases.
To do this, merchants should put themselves in the shoes of their consumers. For each product they sell, they should do a search for that product and see what the top blogs or reviews for that product are. If there are negative reviews, that’s a separate product issue that they’ll need to deal with. But if there are favorable reviews, the merchant needs to make sure they have an ad on that site, ready to redirect the consumer back to their own site. By doing this, merchants are essentially using affiliate marketing programs to cast a wide safety net to catch potential consumers who stray from their site. Getting back to the Target example, that’s like anyone in the store’s parking lot telling the wayward shopper that not only are the items in the abandoned cart good, but also walking the shopper back to the front of the checkout line to finish buying the goods.
If just a small portion of the 80 percent of abandoned shopping carts come back to buy, that’s money well spent on bloggers.
I’ve been thinking about cold calling lately. Because we are a small startup, we have no gatekeepers to manage the phones, so I’m the recipient of many sales calls, most of which are cold. We also make outbound calls to promote our own product, so I’m hoping to avoid using the same annoying practices that seem so common in the calls I receive.
First, let me say I’m not opposed to receiving cold calls. As entrepreneurs, we’re always on the lookout for any tools that will allow us to grow our business effectively. And sometimes the only way I become aware of those tools is by somebody I’ve never heard of calling me out of the blue. But because of that mentality, I think I have more patience with cold callers than most. Still, I do give more attention to cold callers that don’t annoy me.
I searched for some cold-calling blogs to see if I’m out in left field on this one. I found a few that I thought had some good tips, such as Tips for Making a Great Cold Call , Cold Calling – How To Make It Work and I Get Cold Called.
With those as a starting point, I’d like to add my own pet peeves here, in hopes that people who engage in cold calling will steer clear of these pitfalls.
- Fake pleasantries. I once had a friend from Croatia who asked, “Why do you Americans always ask me how I am when you don’t mean it?” Nowhere is that more prevalent than in cold calling. Nine out of the ten times I pick up the phone from a number I don’t recognize, I hear somebody I don’t know blurt out, “How are you?” That immediately makes me groan and think, “Oh boy, here we go again.” I don’t feel like they really care, and I don’t like that I have to come back with a response that is just as fake. So right off the bat, I’m on the defensive.
- Not telling me where they got my information. I’m a bit of a privacy freak, and yet my business contact information is right on our website, so I expect that I’m going to get calls from people I don’t know. However, unless someone tells me how they got my information, it still feels a little creepy. I feel much more at ease if they say they got my information from our website, my business card, a trade show I attended, etc.
- Not listening to me. I like people to ask me questions, as long as they are genuine ones. That gives me a chance to help them understand whether I’m as good of a fit for whatever they are selling as they thought. But asking questions and genuinely listening to my answers are two totally separate things. If they interrupt me when I’m speaking, or only ask questions by rote where it is obvious they don’t care what my answer might be, then I can tell they care more about their product than they do me and my business.
- Not knowing my business. I assume that if someone goes to the trouble of calling me to tell me why a certain product or service will help my business that they know what my business is. After all, it isn’t hard to go to our website and read the information that I’ve so carefully chosen to put up there. So if someone calls and has to ask about my business, and it is clear they haven’t done any preparation, I’m not as forgiving with my time.
- Assuming I’m the person they should be talking to. Because our company is small, chances are I am the right person, regardless of what they are selling. But it is nice if they let me know who they are hoping to talk to, and ask whether I’m that person first. It is frustrating to have to listen through four scripted paragraphs before I finally have a chance to insert that I’m probably not the right person to talk to in our company.
- The stereotypically slick sales personalities. I realize cold calling is something most people don’t enjoy doing, so it takes a certain type of personality to do it. Unfortunately, a lot of those personalities seem to be men in their mid-20s with stylish black pants and shoes, sporting lots of gel in their hair (e.g. the guy in the picture above). I can almost smell their cologne over the phone. They talk too fast, care too little about me, and the excitement they have for their product seems too fake, as though their stimulation comes from the caffeine they are drinking rather than a real respect for their product. Stereotypes are dangerous, so I doubt this is a very accurate description. All I know is that’s how the person on the other end of the phone sounds to me. So when I hear someone that doesn’t sound at all like that, I sit up and pay attention.
- Talking a mile a minute. I guess all cold callers realize their rate of rejection is high, so they start to expect it and go into each new call armed accordingly. Somehow they think the faster they talk, the more information they’ll get through before getting shot down, and the more info given will somehow translate into the recipient ultimately realizing their folly, remembering what was said, and giving the product a second look. If I’m going to give a caller some of my time, that means I’m willing to hear what they have to say for a few minutes. But they need to be aware of not overdoing it, though, which takes me to my next point.
- Don’t respect me. At some point in the conversation, I need to make a decision to continue learning about the product or service. I can do that either by answering questions I get asked, or by asserting myself. However I do that, I don’t mind getting a little resistance if I decide to stop the conversation, but I quickly change my tone (and attitude) if it seems like I can’t get off the phone. I appreciate it when people allow me to make my own decisions.
- Don’t help me understand the benefit. Do I need the product or service? Maybe, but if I can’t easily see the benefits, I’m not going to stick around long enough to find out. And if I do decide I need it, that doesn’t do anyone any good unless they realize I need it. So they should follow up with questions to discern my level of interest.
- Either no script, or nothing but script. If people act like they don’t know what they are doing, like this is the first call they’ve ever made, I wonder why they are wasting my time. A lack of confidence on their end is palpable on my end. But on the other end of the spectrum, people that are clearly reading straight from a script don’t give off the impression that they are capable of listening to and understanding any responses I may come up with. So the people that resonate best with me are the ones in the middle. They confidently cover all the points they need to, while demonstrating a genuineness that I can respect. That tells me they respect my time and input.
Business cards seem straight forward, right? You just need your company name and logo, your contact information, and a little design. A lot of blogs about business cards focus on the creative, outside-the-box-to-get-you-noticed elements of business-card design. But have you thought about the utility of your business card? Have you made it easy for the person holding your card to remember you, and reach you again? Here are five tips you should consider when designing new business cards.
- Ditch the glossy paper. Yes, you want your card to look professional, and often we equate glossy with professional because, quite frankly, it looks nicer. But it isn’t very functional. In Japan, it is bad form to write on someone’s business card, but here in the United States it happens all the time. How often have you written notes on the back of someone’s card, such as physical cues about them, something specific you discussed, or their level of interest in your product? Well, you can’t do that very well on glossy paper. Instead, you get back to your office and see nothing more than indentations made by your writing utensil, with no idea what you were trying to write. Although there is nothing you can do to prevent receiving glossy cards from contacts, you can make it easier for them to make notes on you by using a light card stock that easily facilitates writing.
- Ditch the dark colors. I’ll admit, I like dark colors when it comes to design. Websites and marketing materials with dark backgrounds just seem to have a certain “cool” factor going on. But like with the glossy paper, they can actually be counterproductive. Sure, you want your business cards to give off a certain vibe, but don’t do that at the expense of function. By printing on a light card stock, you’ll increase the chances of a digital card reader to pick up your contact information (see Moving Business Cards into eSilverBullet). And the easier it is for someone to get your information into a database, the more likely they’ll be able to reach you when the time comes.
- Put your mug on it. Sounds a little self-righteous, right? But isn’t a business card about promoting your business? And aren’t you, as an individual, an extension of that business? Attorneys, bankers and realtors seem to know this, based on their proclivity for putting their pictures on billboards, print ads and business cards. But besides the self-promotion, there is a practical reason for doing it. You hand out business cards usually one at a time, when you are face-to-face with someone. They know what you look like when you give them a card. But will they remember what you look like when you contact them later on? Probably not. But they will if you’re smiling at them from the card in their hand. And since people are more likely to do business with people they know and like, that smiling face can go a long way toward making them feel like they know and like you, even if you’ve met just once in person.
- Display your contact information prominently. Yes, you want to make sure your business card tells a little bit about what your company does. But a business card is more for contacting purposes, not for selling purposes. So a business card is more like the white pages than the yellow pages. People thumb through rolodexes looking for a specific person, rather than looking for a type of business they may want to use. So make it easy for the person to find you on your card, as well as how to contact you. Make each piece of contact information very clear, both in placement and description. And not all contact information is of equal importance, so take that into consideration. People usually put phone and fax right next to each other, in the same font and size. The reality is people will call much more than send a fax to you, and it is easy to punch in the wrong number when the two look so similar.
- Keep the design consistent with your marketing. Your business card should be an extension of your marketing materials to make sure your branding is consistent. So even though the card will be used more for contacting than marketing, you want someone who has been exposed to your branding elsewhere to instantly recognize you belong to the same organization as soon as they see your card. And if your card is their first exposure to your brand, you want them to know they are at the right spot when they go to your website, which they will if the look of your website matches that of your card.