Why your website really, really matters

Was talking with a friend about a service that I found and really liked. I told him to check into it as I knew that he was looking for the same type of service. I explained to him that before I used the service I had thoroughly researched the company , spoke with a number of people at the company, and even spoke with a few people who had used the service. He said he would check it out.

A few days later I asked my friend if he had checked out the service I had recommended to him. His response?

“Are you sure its a legitimate company. I checked out their website and its really bad.”

All the positive information he had gotten from a trusted resource (me) was put into doubt based on a few seconds of viewing a website. Why? Because a website is many times the first sense that someone gets on whether a company knows what they are doing. Is this fair? Maybe not. Is it reality? Absolutely.

Look at it like having an attractive storefront. Does a store front have much to do with merchandise, pricing, service inside. Maybe. Maybe not. But a nice storefront sure as heck will attract more customers…initially. Its got to be followed up with good service, merchandise, prices on the inside.

A website works the same way. Customers are looking for signals that will alert them to possible deficiencies within a company. Just as an unattractive storefront acts as a signal, so does an unattractive website, even if the service has been recommended as a great one. Do everything you can to eliminate any signal that says “my company has deficiencies.”

A website is a great place to start.

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How to create a tag line

My company is in the process of updating some of our marketing pieces which includes the website, tag line, business cards, etc. I really enjoy the processes used for creating each of these but want to focus on the tag line for this post.

Here is the process I like to use.

1. Come up with a handful of questions that can generate single word answers. Here are the question we are using.

What does (company name) do?
What do we provide?
What do our clients value most?
What are our clients trying to get rid of?
What do our clients wish for the most?
What do you do in your job?
Why do you do what you do?
What is (industry)?
What expectations do our clients have of us?
What qualities characterize our clients?
What do you believe (company name) should be known for?

2. Create small groups of diverse employees. Somewhere between 5 and 10 people per group works well. If you are just starting out or on your own, you can organize some friends over drinks and have some good success. The exercise only takes about 20 minutes.

3. One group at a time, place everyone near a wall with a post-it pad and a pen or pencil.

4. Read the first question out loud and instruct the team to write down as many one word answers as they can think of and stick them to the wall. One answer per post-it.

5. Instruct the team members to say the word out loud as they stick them to the wall. This really gets the juices of the other team members flowing. It is extremely important that they write down everything that comes to mind no mater how random it seems. The idea is to trigger a fast, reactionary type environment.

6. Allow around 1 minute for each question. Be sure to collect the post-its after each question and set them aside. Group the post-its by question so you can go back and reference them. Continue the process until you have gone through all the questions.

7. Now the fun starts. And you can do this on your own or include some of the previous participants. Start combining words. Try two, three or four at a time. Combine them in ways that make sense and ways that don’t make sense. Even add new words. You should be able to come up with a good number of options for tag lines.

From this point its just a matter of narrowing down to something you like. But remember, it needs to be unique, memorable, descriptive, short and to the point.

Your tag line is often the first impression. And you know what they say about first impression. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Leave the right message

I get many voice mails every day from sales people pitching their wares. Some of the messages are quite good. Some of them are not. But I got one the other day that was simply inexcuseable.

The message started out fairly typical. Name, company, and a brief overview on what she was selling. She then mentioned that many of my competitors use her service. She proceeded to list the competitors, only they weren’t my competitors. The companies she mentioned were in a completely different industry….* 3 to delete.

Not leaving the perfect voicemail when making a phone call is understandable, but not doing your homework is not. Take 5 minutes to research the company you are calling. In fact, dig a little deeper than you normally would so that you can provide a nugget of information that you competitors don’t.

Every contact is a opportunity to differentiate yourself. Take advantage of it.

The Medici Effect and Soft Eyes

I was watching The Celestine Prophecy on Friday night (yes, they made a movie) when I realized the powerful connection between a previous post of mine on The Medici Effect and a post I had read a few months ago on The Nametag Guy’s blog called Soften Your Eyes. And for those of you that are familiar the the story of The Celestine Prophecy the irony is not lost on me.

Anyhow, The Medici Effect is basically the premise that true creativity can be found through the cross-fertilization of ideas from different, and unrelated fields. The Nametag Guy’s post talks about how softening your eyes as you wonder through your daily activities can help you see things that others may miss. You can see the connection. But its not easy to do…at least for me. And from what I’ve seen, many of my friends.

We get so caught up in rushing here and rushing there, all the while thinking about what we need to get done or what we wish we would have done. Its normal. But I would recommend that you allow yourself moments throughout you day to slow down and soften your eyes to your surroundings. Let’s give it a try. I’ve got some football highlights on the TV.

– the helmets they wear look so simple but serve a very important function.

– how much time and research has gone into making a truly effective helmet?

– this is true for all the padding and equipment a football player uses.

– how many man hours have gone into developing this equipment?

– sometimes the most important things are virtually unnoticed by fans (clients).

– what is important to my business that goes unnoticed?

– how can I notice it?

– how can I make my clients notice it?

No real break throughs here but 90 seconds of “softening” my eyes has brought up a subject that I can talk to my colleagues about. Something exciting may come from that conversation. The key is to get the wheels turning. Do this often enough and great ideas will emerge.

Smoothspan also elaborates on The Medici Effect in this blog post.

Oh, and one other piece of advice, steer clear of The Celestine Prophecy movie.

15 thoughts on the basics of blogging

Everyone seems to be blogging but you. You’ve probably read a few articles about it, maybe even checked out a few of them (heck, you’re reading one now), or maybe you even have some favorites that you follow. But how the heck can writing a blog help sell your service? Let’s review some basics.

One of the keys to selling a service is to be viewed as an expert at what you do. Services are purchased based on a promise that you or your company can perform the task you are being paid for. And being perceived as an expert reinforces your capabilities to the client. Blogs offer a great way for your customer to arrive at a general understanding of your knowledge and capabilities before they agree to purchase your service. Here are some basics:

1. Post at least once per week.

2. Let your customers know about your blog. Have a link on your website. Put the URL on your business card. Tell them about it.

3. The blog must provide information your clientèle will find of value.

4. Keep the posts short and to the point.

5. Be sure to respond to anyone that takes the time to make a comment on your blog.

6. Read Copyblogger.

7. Think about what your customer wants to hear, not what you want to say.

8. Stay on topic. Your customers don’t want to hear about your opinion of the iPhone. Unless, of course, you sell iPhones.

9. Write in a conversational style. Blogging is about having conversations and exchanging ideas.

10. Don’t be afraid to link to other blog posts you find interesting. Its about facilitating ideas and exchanging information.

11. Make comments on other blogs. Join the conversation.

12. Use Technorati or Google Blog Search to find other blogs that might interest you.

13. Blogger is a good place to start. There are more advanced tools you can move to as you become comfortable.

14. Learn to write good titles for your posts here.

15. Get started today or you will never start. Remember, you are the expert and there are people out there that want to hear what you have to say.

Marketing the ultimate service

As a marketer, are you following the presidential elections? You should be.

All political opinions aside, politics is the ultimate when it comes to marketing a service. Political strategists are basically marketers with a huge budget trying to position their candidate in such a way that they will get a elected. And what service is bigger than serving one’s country as President of the United States?

Background images are used to convey themes.

Phrases are used hoping they will resonate.

And clothing is selected and worn for a reason.

100’s of millions of dollars will be spent during these campaigns. And nearly all of it will be used to try to get the public to “buy” the service that each candidate is offering. Some things will work and some things won’t. Watch, enjoy and learn.