We’ve all been doing business on the web for more than ten years now. We all consider ourselves experts.
And yet, I still see the majority of business people making these really stupid mistakes. These mistakes are a drag on business – and your revenue. They’re small things, seemingly, and simple. But they make all the difference in the daily interactions between you, the seller, and your buyers.
The Top Five Cyber Biz Mistakes
1. Missing or incomplete email sig. Let’s say you have just decided that you want to buy something from someone who has been sending you emails. You have a question, and you decide it will go faster if you call. What do you do first? You go to your email inbox, find one of their emails, and open it up.
You EXPECT their contact information to be at the end of each message, complete with a direct dial number and/or their mobile number. When it isn’t there – and it often isn’t – you have to go digging, which is a pain.
You open up your browser, type in their company’s URL, go to the Contact section, and, if you are lucky, there will actually be a phone number. You call the main number, and find yourself listening to an automated attendant giving you category choices (“For sales, press 1. For service, press 2.”) Finally the attendant tells you there is a dial-by-name company directory.
Now you know you will have to tediously spell their name out using the keypad until it is recognized. If you are using a smartphone, you have to put the phone on “loudspeaker” so you can dial and hear when the attendant recognizes the name. I should also note that if you are using a smartphone, there are often no letters on the number keys, so you have to refer to something else (like an old-fashioned phone or a diagram you’ve made for yourself, or your Skype window, which shows very faint letters on their dialpad).
Of course, at some point in this process you might decide that this is too much work. You may give up on calling and send an email, or you may decide that vendor shouldn’t get your business – and go looking for a competitor to contact.
This is crazy. We all should be putting our full contact information in an automatically appended email signature: Name, phone number(s), title, company, site URL, social media/VOIP names (Facebook [if appropriate], Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn), mailing address, blog URL. I even suggest including your email address, in case someone wants to copy and paste your contact info into another email they are sending someone else.
I bet we could eliminate 10% of the time we waste every day if everyone did this. And you’d be making it a lot easier for people to contact you when they wanted to buy.
2. Lack of attention to the little things on your website. Your copyright should be this year, not last year or the year before. An outdated copyright notice tells the prospective buyer that you are asleep at the wheel, not paying attention to detail, and probably aren’t very professional. Full contact information and a link to a site map should also appear with the copyright information at the bottom of every one of your site’s pages.
Once a month, click on all the links in all your sites. And try to buy something from yourself. I bet you’ll find something embarrassing each time you do this, something that is causing “shopping cart abandonment.”
Actively maintain and constantly upgrade your site.
Your website is your public face. People visit it every day, and pass judgment on your site in seconds. Don’t just put it up and leave it there. Visit it yourself.
3. “About” sections that don’t talk about company managers. CEOs tell me that they don’t like to show their management team on their About page because they’re afraid of headhunters. It’s a silly fear. LinkedIn is the world’s most convenient poaching/recruiting tool, far more convenient than your website. And if you are that worried about retaining your key managers, they probably have their resumes out on the street anyway.
And, importantly, your buyers want to know WHO YOU ARE. Showing the faces of your managers increases the trust factor, demonstrating to prospective customers that you are not just some sleazeball waiting to pounce on the unwary.
I recently looked at about a dozen websites for small and medium companies trying to make more sales in a competitive market, and NONE of them had a helpful About page. One even had a link to “our parent company”; when you clicked on that link, you were taken to a page that was all black, with only about 4 sentences on it in white type, about how great they are and how they want to help you. Very off-putting, and costing the “child” company lots of sales.
4. Incomplete and confusing emails. At the book fulfillment company I work with, there are two people I interact with frequently: the sales rep, and the customer service person. The sales rep always does a great job of communicating via email. I always get my question answered, in the first email she sends in response.
The customer service person does just the opposite. His emails ALWAYS force me to ask more questions. For example, recently Amazon was saying, “2 -3 weeks for delivery” on my book’s Amazon page. I assumed they had run out of stock because orders are hockey-sticking. But just to be sure, I checked with my rep. His answer: “They ran out of stock. They have several orders that shipped last week. Once received it will show in stock.”
Now, I can assume from this that he is really saying: “Amazon ran out of stock. We shipped more books to them last week. As soon as Amazon receives them, they will be able to ship immediately again.”
This is what he should have said. Instead, his answer begged more questions. Who are “they”? What is “it”? Indefinite pronouns are killers. Banish indefinite pronouns from your communications.
There are plenty of people in business out there who write this way. Their emails drive everyone crazy. They may know what they are trying to say, but they are not communicating those thoughts effectively and unambiguously to the recipient.
Be formal, explicit, specific, and thorough in your emails. Everyone who gets your clear messages, and is able to act on them, will thank you for it.
5. Old and useless subject lines. When we work on projects via email (which is how most of us work now), we file – and search through – those emails, using three filtering criteria: person, subject, date. The “person” and “date” fields are automatic. The subject lines are what separate super cyber citizens from the herd.
Don’t be lazy. Change the subject line when the message subject changes. This is especially important when you’re giving instructions to employees and vendors, and answering questions for customers. Make it a practice, no matter who you’re interacting with.
Your digital content should be answering questions, not confusing people – or forcing them to search elsewhere for the answer.
We are all doing business digitally now. There is a standard. Meet it.
All of your projects will go more smoothly. You’ll get more done – and you’ll sell more, too.