Customer/Client Complaints: A Good Thing

Help buttonThe phone rings and there is a frustrated person on the other end of the line. Someone stops by your office, or business, or customer service desk, with a question or a complaint. In either case something is not working for them and they need help.

What do we do? For most of us, we try to solve the problem the best we can and then go back to whatever we were doing. Fix and move on.

But … how many of us look at that person’s problem (or frustration) as a clue to something deeper? Is our system failing them? Are we asking them to figure out the rules, without giving them the rules? Are we only giving them part of the information they need?

I was reading Seth Godin’s post this morning titled Self service requires information, which requires design, and I had another epiphany. (Seth is often my epiphany go-to guy.) His message is about our interest in and need for (and I would add dependence on) self-service information. But in his usual very clever way he writes about one little piece of a puzzle, which is actually a huge puzzle in need of a much bigger table.

Instead of just fixing the current problem in front of us … because that’s easier … we need to dig deeper. What are WE doing that creates the problem in the first place?

It’s easier to blame the client or customer with the problem: clearly they don’t get it; rather than to recognize that we very well may be the problem in the first place.

SEO – it’s what makes me happy!

Love La ConnerThis week I had a really great conversation with web developer Pam Nilzon of Nilzon Designs. We spent some time at a local coffee shop chatting about what we love about what we do.

And I was reminded once again that I really do love what I do.

I love writing. I love writing online content even more. I love SEO. I love writing SEO content the most.

Why?

Because there is such awesome satisfaction in writing content that has measurable value! I know that I’ve done a good job for a client when they start on page 4 of a Google search, and over the course of several months (yes, it takes time … it’s not an overnight ‘ta-da’ moment), they start moving up in rank. Maybe it’s just up one page at first. Then another.

The fun comes when I check on their website one day and see that, yep, ‘ta-da’, there they are on page 1! And if I’m lucky (I swear there’s always a bit of luck involved in everything technological), they’re at the top of page 1.

As an example, one of my clients is the La Conner (WA) Chamber of Commerce. As business partners, the Chamber, Skagit Marketing and Writeology have worked extremely hard to enhance the Chamber website’s SEO. And it’s working. Not only working … it’s REALLY working! We did our research, we used a few key phrases that we knew were hot, we worked them into our very strategic content plan and we’ve been able to measure our success over the course of the past year.

According to the data supplied by Skagit Marketing:
2011 versus 2012
Visits:  82,290 increased to 102,830
Pageviews:  222,670 increased to 323,793

Visits Increase:  25%
Pageviews Increase:  45%

Using the key phrase ‘Getaway Weekend Washington State’, we’ve jumped from somewhere in the page 3-4 ranking, to the TOP of page 1. Sure it took several months of work, but we’re there, and we’re making sure we stay there for as long as Skagit Valley tulips bloom in April.

I love what I do. I really love what I do. Especially when I know it works.

Pick Up the Phone

Smart Phone and KeyboardI was at a training recently and I had a huge epiphany. It was like someone opened a section of my brain and some sort of brilliant explosion occurred.

Here’s what happened:
The trainer was talking about engagement. Online engagement. Text engagement. Email engagement. Phone time. Face time. And how they’re all important.

Our trainer then asked the 100+ people in the room to take out our cell phones. Then write down 3-5 friends or past colleagues (family didn’t count) that we had not talked to in the past 6-12 months. (Not via email or Facebook messaging…typing didn’t count. Only phone or face time.)  Once we had written our names down, we could not change them. No cheating. Then we were to call each person on our list for a 2-minute chat. It was the weekend, so we needed to call them on a personal line, not an office line. We had 10 minutes to check in with the 3-5 people on our list.

Here’s what happened next:
The 8 people at my table all quickly made our lists. Easy-peasy. Three people at my table started dialing. The other 5 of us sort of scratched our heads. Why? Because we didn’t have phone numbers for the people on our list. We had email addresses and could quickly find them on Facebook … but to call them? Couldn’t do it. We could have looked up a company phone number, but probably not a personal number.

Here’s what happened next:
A big chagrined, we called over the workshop facilitator and told her our dilemma. Who … of course … nodded her head and without skipping a beat said  … “Imagine that.” She didn’t have to say anything else. We all sat there sort or stunned. Then another table called her over. Same deal. And then another. Same deal. Some tables were buzzing with talking. Some people had moved to the side of the room and were chatting away. But a lot of folks were sitting at their tables with funny looks on their faces.

Here was her point:
Engagement is critical. We all know that. But all the emailing, texting and messaging in the world doesn’t count for much compared to voice-to-voice and face-to-face time. That’s where real connections are made. That’s where business is really done. That’s where engagement and trust begins and ends. We humans are biologically programmed to be social beings. But the definition of social in the true human context is not the same as the definition of social in today’s world.

Point taken. 
Epiphany embraced.

Why Social Media? Let’s Start with the Basics

I often get asked what all the fuss surrounding social media is all about. The most common question is something like this:  “Why in the world should I worry about social media for my business?”

So, I thought I’d write a post that offers some basic answers to the ‘Why’ question. I’m only going to talk about Facebook in this post because it’s a simple tool and offers a terrific example of how powerful social media can be for your business.

  • Even if social media is not on your radar, it is for many of your prospects, clients and customers.
  • Social media offers you a unique opportunity, without face-to-face contact, to reach out to those folks in engaging and meaningful ways.
  • You can leverage your professional expertise or promote your products by sharing what you know in small bits and pieces.
  • You can build website traffic – and ultimately build your business.
  • As you continue to provide engaging, interesting content, you strengthen your relationships with the people in your network.

TargetThink of social media as a target. You and your business are the center of the target.You’re the first circle.

The second circle includes the people who already know you. These are the people you have probably done business with, or you know through professional circles. They like you; they trust you. They appreciate and enjoy hearing from you not only by phone and email, but would likely enjoy engaging with you via social media.

The third circle includes the colleagues, friends, and family of the people in the second circle. It’s unlikely you will know them. But many of them could easily become a warm prospect, or a client, or a customer – because the people in ‘your’ circle … simply by ‘sharing’ your content … are providing a very strong, yet subtle, referral.

The people in the fourth circle … well, you get the gist of this.

Social media is all about reinforcing relationships with the people who already know you, like you, and trust you. And it’s about cultivating relationships with people who – by referral – would like to get to know you, like you, and trust you.

How do you do that? It’s actually quite easy. And brilliant. As an example, here’s a recent Facebook post on my Writeology Facebook page. All I’ve done is create a link to a particular page on my website that offers information that I think my clients will find useful. If this were real, the reader could simply click on the hyperlink with the article title, and they’d go directly to that page on my website.

Sample Facebook Post

Remember the target? My Facebook post is the center. My network is the second circle. Let’s say I have 100 people in that circle. If those 100 people find my Facebook post useful and interesting, they will likely SHARE my original post with the people in their circle. Let’s say that each of the people in their circle also has 100 people in their Facebook network. The math is pretty easy. With one simple post I have the opportunity to reach a very large, whole new group of prospects.

As basic as this explanation is – and regardless of whether you offer a professional service or sell widgets - there are hundreds of ways to use social media to reach out to a potentially large and lucrative audience.

Here’s the bottom line. Whether you use social media in your personal life (and it’s absolutely fine if you don’t), these days it’s a proven, solid, smart marketing strategy. It works. It solidifies relationships. It generates referrals. It builds business.

 

 

Can Your Customers and Clients Find You Online?

I was in Denver this past week, attending an industry convention. I had a chance to sit in on a couple of educational sessions – one of which was very, very good. The discussion was about making sure that people can find you online.

Here is a terrific reminder for all of us with websites – and a need for people to find us via organic searches: Make sure Google can find you! Submit your content to Google. Take advantage of Google+ and Google Places. If you’re a retail business, you can even map your store’s floorplan.

If you’re into data, and want to tell the world what you’ve learned in visually interesting ways, here’s a fabulous tool for creating your own Infographics.

One of the session speakers made a comment that makes me feel a whole lot better about trying to keep up with everything online; his company is at the forefront of social media management: We are all experts, but we are all learning … all at the same time; all the time. Don’t think you’re supposed to know (or learn) everything through some wild online osmosis-way. It’s really, really okay to ask the person next to you how they did something. Because it’s pretty likely they learned it from someone else. Don’t be afraid to ask; don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know … can you teach me’.

Appreciating Seth Godin

I am a big Seth Godin fan.

He writes a blog. Nearly every post he writes strikes a chord with me. They make me think to myself … Hmmmm……..

Here is a recent post by Seth:

Two kinds of mistakes

There is the mistake of overdoing the defense of the status quo, the error of investing too much time and energy in keep things as they are.

 

And then there is the mistake made while inventing the future, the error of small experiments gone bad.

 

We are almost never hurt by the second kind of mistake and yet we persist in making the first kind, again and again.

 

Small ExperimentsSeth’s post offers a new way of thinking about the saying: The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a better outcome.

If your business  is stuck in status quo and you’re spending too much time trying to manage outcomes that don’t improve whatever it is you need to improve, look at things differently.

Do some experimenting. See if your hunches are right.

It’s not expensive if you try new things in small, manageable increments. But you might find the outcome(s) absolutely worth the effort and time.

Infographics – Fun With Numbers!

Infographic question markI love infographics - not only do they always include interesting information, they’re just plain fun to look at. I’m definitely not a graphic artist so I appreciate the design talent that goes into making interesting information more … well … visually interesting and engaging.

Here’s an infographic I found today on cell phone/smartphone usage.
Pew Research Center – Smartphone Infographic

Begs the question – is your website mobile-friendly? If not, let’s talk about ways to make it so.

Why Pinterest?

I’m reading a great book – recommended by a marketing friend of mine – about using Pinterest for business marketing. Pinfluence, by Beth Hayden.

I’ll be honest. The idea of having an online bulletin board with pretty pictures and recipes was absolutely not on my radar. I spend enough time in front of a computer every day … sitting at my desk for more hours looking at ‘stuff’ just didn’t sound like much fun to me.

However, this Pinfluence book I’m reading had me intrigued from the first introductory sentence and I am highlighting like mad as I read. I. Had. No. Idea.

pinterest-iconPinterest is a terrific way to engage your clients and customers through imagery. It’s very cool.  I’m looking at other sources for tips on Pinterest because I’m sure there has been a lot written. Today, I found a really good piece from Social Media Examiner titled 26 Tips for Using Pinterest for Business. Tip #10 has a nifty infographic … check it out.

Will I spend a lot of time on my Writeology Pinterest account? Probably not – but enough to know what I’m doing. Will I spend time helping my clients use Pinterest if it makes sense for their business? Absolutely. (I’ll have to get better at it first … I have some homework to do!)

Should YOU be using Pinterest as part of your social media strategy? That’s up to you. But don’t discount it until you learn more about it.

Again I say: I. Had. No. Idea.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Keeping Up

I met with some new clients today and they asked a simple question:

“How do we possibly keep up with everything we’re supposed to do on our website and with social media? It feels so lame to see that we’ve not posted anything new on our blog in months.”

To answer that question, I first calmly took a breath, then reached inside my prideful self, and responded … “Well … if you’ve looked recently (they had…), I’ve not added anything new to my site either. Sure, my clients all have great content, but it’s so easy to get busy and put writing for yourself off to the side. It happens to all of us.”

One of the people at the meeting jokingly said, “It’s that saying about the cobbler and his shoes, eh?” Eesh. That’s exactly what it is.

Today is December 18th. My last post was in August. I am aghast. Partly because I’ve not written a single thing. But also because I swear it was just August. My fall has been filled with new websites and fresh content for those sites and social media strategy meetings and marketing meetings and learning about Pinterest and trying to keep up, and things are changing so fast … and, and, …

Okay, those are not good excuses.

Resolutions Post ItIt’s December 18th. However, right now I am pretending it is December 31, and I have a brand new year ahead of me. I need to make a couple of work-related resolutions for this year.

Resolution 1
I will do two things this coming year:

  1. Acknowledge that I need a new system for making sure I my website has regular, well-written content.
  2. Create a system that will work for me so I can stick to my resolution.

Resolution 2
I will recognize that while #1 above is key, and #2 above is critical, I’m going to fall off the wagon when I get busy. And that’s okay.

Will I meet my resolution with, um, resolution, and find a writing rhythm that works? Yes. Will everything I write be wonderfully clever and fabulously thought-provoking? Nope.

And that’s okay, too.

It’s Alll in the Planning

Back when I was in school, I had to write a lot of essays and term papers. Quite often, before I ever turned in the actual, finished paper, I had to turn in an outline. My outline was supposed to be the ‘map’ of how my paper was going to get from Point A to Point Z. I loved creating an outline, because it helped me plan. My friends, on the other hand, disliked outlines immensely because it meant they had to plan. They couldn’t just pull out their trusty Olivetti typewriter about midnight (anybody remember the manual typewriter?) and turn in an essay the next morning.

I was thinking about this the other day when starting a website project for new clients. They are architects, and planning is their lifeblood. By the time I had met them they had been planning their website for many weeks. They spent a great deal of time thinking about what they wanted it to look like – down to drawing diagrams of how the pages would lay out. They spent hours thinking about each tab, and whether the tab titles would relay their intended message. They thought carefully about their content. They knew what they wanted their website to do for them – which for architects is very different than for someone who – as an example – sells widgets. They were organized and they had a plan.

Here’s why this is such a big deal in my mind.

A lot of businesses know they need a website, or they have a site and they know it needs a serious upgrade. But they don’t really know … as in really know

  • Who their intended target is
  • What their site needs to do for them
  • What tools they need to make their site work for them
  • What they want to say to their potential customer or client
  • How they’re going to get business from their website

A website doesn’t really do a whole lot for you – or your business – if it doesn’t meet the needs of your intended target. That … plain and simple … takes some thought. And PLANNING.

If you’re starting to think about a new website, or perhaps a website upgrade, and you’re not sure where to start with your planning, let’s talk. Not only can I help you think through the answers to the bullet points above, I can help you create a plan that you – and your website designer – can follow. Along the way, we can also work on your CONTENT – because without great content, your site very likely will be on page 3 or 4 of someone’s Google search. And you won’t get much business from a website that nobody sees.