Taking feedback well

Sometimes things don’t go the way you think they should.

Bad customer service, a broken website, you gangry womanet the idea.

People complain. I’d personally like to think that everyone is kind in their complaints, but it’s almost never the case.

I love the answer that Sheryl Sandberg gave to a question about scaleablity of a company/person.

“… people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.”

I wrote about this before here.

If one person took the time to write or complain, you can bet they aren’t the only one who feels that way. I know it can be hard to get past someone flinging crap, but if you can, you can often learn something useful.

Don’t miss the message for the attitude.

Photography from Prawny via Morguefile.com

SEO for Small Business:
5 Reasons It’s Important

duhYour online presence impacts the success of your business.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a big part in the process. You can do a lot on your own to OPTIMIZE your site. Check out my slides from the talk at the Harrisburg WordPress MeetUp about SEO: SEO Past Yoast

Mickey Welser is my business partner and an SEO Wizzard!  Here’s what she has to say about SEO and what real professionals can do for you.

Why should a small business owner be concerned about search engine optimization (SEO)?

There are many reasons. Here are just two:

  1. Because you want to provide search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo critical information so they will place your site in a favorable place in their search results.
  2. Because you want to provide visitors to your website with a fantastic user experience. That means visitors can actually FIND what they are looking for and what you told search engines they could find.

But here are some reasons to you should consider an SEO expert to help you structure your online presence to reach its potential.

The job of a search engine is to take the information typed in by the user and locate the most relevant websites using those keywords. Simply put, if you are not engaging in SEO – the other guy is!

By investing in search engine marketing, you are staying competitive with those other guys while giving your brand name exposure 24 hours, 7 days a week – even while you sleep.

Let’s take a look at what a good SEO service can do for you while you take a snooze…

  1. Optimal User Experience

    SEO is ultimately about providing the user with the friendliest, fastest, best experience possible. A search engine wants to provide the user with what they are looking for, and when it can do that, both parties are happy. A happy visitor will become a returning visitor, or give you a better chance at converting the visitor to a buyer.

  2. Optimal Reach

    People unconsciously trust search engine results.

    If Google places 123 Awnings in the top spot of a search, then it must have earned that place and it must be good. User then tells all his or her friends on Facebook that they are going to see the awnings that will reduce the UV rays. That user tells friends how awnings help prevent skin cancer, leaving the link for them to click as well.

    The laws of multiplication can work pretty fast, and before you know it, a group of people with sensitive skin are showing up at 123’s showroom or calling. Why? Because the search engine matched everything perfectly, and it all pointed to 123Awning’s site.

  3. Optimal Potential for Conversion

    Internet marketing, including SEO, attracts people who are already looking for your product or service.

    You don’t have to scream, dance, or wear cool clothes to gain an audience; they are already convinced of their need which is why they went searching in the first place. They were looking for you and you showed up right on time!

    You still have to convince them that you are the better company to purchase from, but half the battle is over.

    Once they come to your website, if you have invested the same tedious work to optimize the user’s experience with you by providing the content they seek, then you are well on your way to gaining a new customer.

  4. Optimal Exposure for Brand Awareness

    We said before: people unconsciously trust search engine results. The viewer may not call or run to your showroom right away. But they do use bookmarks, Pinterest, and Evernote. They go clicking around the world numerous times before making a final decision.

    If your website is employing SEO services, you increase the number of times your company name pops up during their search? What if your company came up 3 of the 5 times they searched for that desired product? Next thing you know, they have clicked through to your website.

  5. Optimal Insight into Your Customers

    If your website is properly optimized, it will increase your search engine visibility, usability, and credibility, all of which increase traffic to your site. Your SEO professional will be using Google Analytics to can track valuable information about your visitors.

    Find out what browser they use, what key words (this information is not as readily available due to privacy policies),  the technology they use, their geographical location, the days and times they are most active, how much time they spent on a page…on and on.

    This information will help to discover your target market, hone your advertising, and determine strategies based on facts rather than just educated guesses. The better you know your customers, the better product or service you can provide, the higher the ROI.

Search engine optimization is no longer an option for businesses that want to be competitive and grow. But it is only one piece of the puzzle.

If your website does not contain viable content, then no matter how much money or time you spend on SEO, it is wasted.

Content will always be king. But when used in conjunction with other important marketing tools, SEO will provide visibility, traffic, credibility, branding and help you gain valuable insight into customer behavior.

Really really simple steps in your call to action

How hard is it to understand that everyone who reads your newsletter
.. in print or on line..
does NOT know your address?

rant on poor invitations
This is a rant based on  three invitations of sorts, two in print and one on line. None of these inviations included important information about where to go!

Oh, I’d like to tell somebody where to go, but that’s a different story.

First:
Earlier this month we received the Harrisburg Magazine’s annual “Best Of” issue—including all the places that residents voted as the best places to do or get something.

And not a one of those beautiful full page promotions gave an address or a phone number. I wrote to the publisher to ask if that information was somehow classified for only “real residents,” to keep it all secret from the new comers? No reply. Sheesh.

Second:
Then there was the printed quarterly newsletter of the township where we live. We don’t live in the actual town, we live in the woods NEAR the town. But the town is the closest place with a post office and a pizza place.

They’re having a Halloween tour at their historical society. But no address. And heck, because we’re new and don’t live in the actual town, the picture of the building just wasn’t enough. A link to their website would have helped a lot!

Third:
An on line newsletter for the Hershey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (which is a very big deal event in old car circles around here in Pennsylvania. Quoted from the top of the email:

If you’ve never been to the Hershey Fall Meet, make this year your first. You will be amazed by the size of the show, the cars you see, the people you meet and the memories you make!

Buried about half way down this VERY long publication with info about voting and parties, I believe I found the dates, the actual address is a big sketchier.

end of rant on poor calls to action

There’s nothing worse than planning a big event and nobody shows up, simply because they didn’t know where to go!

Remember the simple Who, What, Where and When questions that belong at the top of what ever you write.

  1. Who is sponsoring this event?
  2. What is it? Tour, garage sale, fund raiser, church service, big party?
  3. Where will it be? That’s an address, people!
  4. When? Date and time
  5. And perhaps most important for events you want people to PAY to attend, include the FREAKIN’ PRICE!

When you’ve included all that information at the top of your article or invitation, then writing the call to action is pretty easy.

These glasses mean "look here!"Call to action:
Remember: People tend to do what you tell them, and do it without thinking.

So say: Call, visit, email… whatever you want them to DO!

Don’t say, please consider… blah blah blah.

You want me to consider something? I’ll do it later, maybe in the tub or while I’m driving someplace and can’t actually DO anything you asked.
Include a contact phone number, email address, or web address for more information

Get the most from your members’ address books, email or otherwise, supply them with the specifics above.

Write the copy for them.

Supply the pictures.

Make it a copy-and-paste job so it’s easy to share the important details.

The people who get the info will be able to decide what you want them to do! And then maybe actually DO IT!

What do you think is missing from invitations you’re seeing these days?  Give me something else to get ramped up about!

 

Replying to complaints

From polite and not so polite complainers

Often complaints can be the impetus to
fix a giant mistake or just
make an better experience for the next customer

If you have been in business for more than 20 minutes, somebody has probably complained about something you did or did not do right.

How you handle these suggestions can affect the progress you and/or your business will make.

A stereotypical grandmother will probably tell you that your garden is lovely even if it’s really not. She’s being polite or perhaps, she thinks, encouraging.

Oh, dear, you just can’t grow palm trees in Boston

A master gardener will tell you if a plant is invasive or just not suited to your area.

But let’s say your grandmother IS a master gardener. She will tell you that you can’t grow palm trees in Boston. She’ll keep coming to visit and she’ll keeps trying to tell you what’s not working in your garden.

If you’re not smart, you grumble to your friends about that “idiot old woman” who can never be satisfied with what you’re trying to do.

If you are smart, you listen to her advice and find something else that will grow better in your yard.

Further, I’m just guessing that this lovely kind grandmother will continue for some time to help you with your plans. Sometimes, perhaps she’ll be less patient with your efforts. But you know she was right about the palm trees so you keep trying to hear her points.

But if you don’t acknowledge her expertise, or say, at the very least, thank you, she’ll quit poking her nose in your business.

You might be happy about that because it’s way easier to not be annoyed with all the “help.”

On the other hand, your Boston neighbors will laugh hysterically when at your palm trees fall over in the snow and die.

How many Dear Abbey columns have you read where the grandmother says, “I’m just not sending any more checks. The kid never says thank you!”

What’s this rant about?
The folly of ignoring the expertise of outsiders by a business or organization

Sometimes the person complaining, we’ll call that person Gene, has no tact at all and calls the organization to task on obvious missteps. Leadership feels their collective blood boil when they see a comment from Gene. In an all too human way, they just want to shut Gene up and avoid any confrontation.

So they miss the jewel of wisdom in the conversation.

Sometimes the person complaining, we’ll call that person Kelsey, has a good history with the organization, specific needed skills and a habit of knowing when things won’t go as planned. Kesley has a bit more tact than Gene, but the longer Kelsey’s contributions are ignored, the less generous Kelsey is with advice.

Not everyone has the skill or social grace to criticize constructively.
But by ignoring the information, in either case, the organization suffers.

Don’t miss the message for the attitude

Some people will say that complaints written in email tend to be overly blunt, that the reader can’t always hear the intended tone of the writer.

However, the advantage of email is that the reader CAN take a few minutes to get past the rant and find the jewel in the pile of doo-doo and then, take a high road in response.

If the master gardener says you can’t grow palm trees in Boston, ask for suggestions of what you could grow to give you the same feel of height or architectural interest that you were aiming for.

If someone complains about your website, ask for specific things you should consider doing.

Do a little research over the suggestions. The Great Google knows everything. And without too much investment of time, you could find support for the suggestion or a different way to address the issue.

 

Photo credit: by: Ian Britton at FreeFoto.com

Valuable Feedback… How to get it easily!

Good feedback is
like a warm blanket on a cold day.

happy gumbiesIt makes me feel safe and warm and cared-for. And I hope the warm fuzzies transfer to new people who might be thinking about working with me.

But what if you don’t have any actual written feedback?

It’s remarkably easy to get it. Just ask for it.

A good time to do that is before you’re all the way finished with a project, when you client is excited about what’s happening.

That’s not to imply they won’t still be happy later, but in the middle of the project, you are top-of-mind for the client. Later, they may be on to something else and, much as we don’t like to think it’s the truth, they probably forget about you.

When you’re asking remind them, too, that you don’t want a letter of recommendation, just a few words that describe the relationship and what they get from it.

Remember, if it’s your plan to share the feedback on your website or in a brochure, nobody will read a long letter anyway.  So when you’re publishing, bold the important part of the comment. That will help visitors get the salient points and skip over the extra words.

Alexandra Franzen posted over at Mashable a great piece on helping people give useful feedback.

She says if you can give people at least a starting point, they’re more likely to give you what you want and need.

She lists great prompts for good feedback, the kind you want your mother (or possible clients) to see. Like:

I’m constantly impressed by the way [your name here] handles problems like ___.

And then there’s also the other kind of feedback.

They kind that points out where you’ve messed up or didn’t complete something exactly like the client thought. That’s the kind we wish we didn’t have to hear.

HOWEVER, it can be the most useful of all.  Think about it:  If nobody tells you you have spinach in your teeth, how would you ever know?  And once you do, it’s easy to fix.

So she lists some prompts like:

 The most challenging thing about working with [your name here] is ___.

If you ask for feedback, you have to be ready to receive even the negative kind.

And not with an excuse or even a reason. It’s more useful for you and more respectful to the client if you ask: How do you think I could fix that?

Do you have some other prompts for getting feed back?

OR if you’d like to write something about working with me, I’d be really happy about that!

Photo credit: JessicaGale from morguefile.com

Who is your ideal client?

I know that finding my ideal client is paramount to having the most fun doing what I’m doing.

Yep, that might sound like a strange notion coming from a web developer. But when you work for yourself, you have that wonderful opportunity to enjoy what you do, or do something else!

I used to be ADHD coach and helping my entrepreneur clients do that was often a big topic. Once I heard Sonia Simone, of Copyblogger fame, suggest that “I am my ideal client.”  I don’t think she meant necessarily exactly like me… but I generally like to work with people who have the same sensibilities and values.

Dana Rayburn wrote an excellent article for the ADHDcoaches newsletter, Circle, on just this topic. She says:

Being clear on my Ideal Client also improves my conversations with potential clients. Instead of focusing the calls on selling my services, I’m focused on finding out about the person … I’m able also to quickly and easily know who isn’t the best match for me and can quickly refer them to another coach.

My ideal clients are people who not only
want to work with me but who also understand that
I want the best for them,
their business and their website.

I know that getting a new website can be overwhelming. There are lots and lots of questions to ask and answer. AND I’m trained as a coach, so I have skills to help you figure out what it is that you want.

You should also know this: I’m not a “client is always right” kind of person.

That just means I won’t let you run with scissors.

However, I will always listen when you tell me what you want. I will tell you when I think something you said is brilliant, and I will tell you—in plain English—when and why I think something is a mistake.

Wanna know for sure?  You won’t know if I’m YOUR ideal webmaster until we talk!
Contact me. Or call (443) 255-3401

Kerch McConlogue signature

Photo credit: Placardmoncoeur from morguefile

Taglines, stinkin’ taglines, how do you write one?

Make your company’s tagline clear and useful to your prospective clients

glowing skelton out of focus : morguefile.com: file0001204248801.jpgWhy do taglines freak people out?

You can pay marketing people lots of money to make one for you. But if you don’t have lots of money, don’t despair (well.. at least over your tag line!)

You can still have a business. You can have a great business without one.

Fear of the tagline comes under the heading of a “should.”

You think your tag line should be perfect. Or else:

  • no one will buy from you
  • no one will find you on the internet
  • no one will want to have children (er) do business with you.

Totally, sucks to be you!
This is all B.S.!

If, as Naomi Dunford over at ittybiz.com says,

Your tagline exists in order to give your Most Likely Buyers a reason to stay.

…then, it’s about clarifying your business purpose.

If your business name is the same as your name, you need a tagline.

If it’s pretty clear what you do like say if your business name is “We Fix Broken Websites” then maybe you don’t need one.

Cute is not required.

Your idea of cute and your ideal customer’s ideas may not match. So you lose them before you ever start. Same goes for catchy… maybe it doesn’t catch them.

It’s all about clarity of purpose.

Consider these taglines from ChomchomAdvertising

Chiffon Margarine:
It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature

The name of the product is pretty darn clear. No fooling around.

But add that tag line and the implied quality jumps out.
If you were standing in the butter aisle in the grocery aisle, would you mistake chiffon margarine for butter?  Nope.

Same goes for:

Allstate Insurance:
You’re in good hands with Allstate.

If you’re looking for insurance in the phone book (I know, does anybody do that any more?  But conceptually speaking…), you’d find Allstate with the rest of the insurance companies.
Their tagline implies that they’ll take care of you.

But what about:

CNET:
The source for computing and technology.

You might not know about CNET.  So if someone handed you a business card that just said they worked there, you could be forgiven for not knowing what they do. Their tag line gives you a pretty good idea about what the company does. Not cute. Just clear.

Check out the rest of Naomi’s article on how to write taglines

And remember:

It’s … more useful to be clear than anything else.

A portrait is more than just a picture

guy on the phone

It might just be me, but I’m getting really tired of looking at websites with pictures of people that I just know are models. They scream “FAKE” to me.

I’m also tired of  pictures of people that look like they lined up at a photography studio in the mall and got standard head shots.

Business is about the relationship. It’s hard enough to build one when you’re sitting across a table—face to face—with the client. But when you’re miles away and maybe you’ve never met, a good photograph is a really important.

Many people do judge a book by the cover.

Your photo on a website or a book jacket is an opportunity for your client to identify with you or imagine what you might be like in person. On the most basic level, it is an opportunity to know that you are a specific human with only one head and no third eye.

Your portrait begins to make a connection with people you may never see. It conveys a certain look behind your eyes and tells what is important to you.

But a good portrait is more than just a photograph—a dispassionate representation of a face. Your portrait begins to make the connection with people you may never see. It conveys a certain look behind your eyes and tells what is important to you.

When you prepare for a portrait session, spend some time thinking about your ideal client. If you had to dress up to meet that person, what would you wear? What would you say—if you couldn’t talk to him? Your portrait must tell that story.

Also think about the rapport you’ll need with the person on the other side of the camera. S/He won’t be nervous. Try not to be self conscious.

If the photographer is really good, you’ll be at ease and probably know the best shot when he takes it. But if he’s not so experienced, you’ll have to work at presenting the face you want to use.

What is your look?

People are generally most comfortable in groups of people who look like/feel like themselves. So match your photo to the clients you want to attract.

It will be your face with which people will connect, so be careful of a full body photo. But you might want something else in the photo with you.

If your dog is really important to you, why not have him in the picture with you? Check out these photos of people who work for Specialties in Wool . They are all real people and their photos show that clearly! The pictures help buyers connect with the people who are making their custom knitted Christmas stockings.

Pretend these clip art photos are real life coaches

How does your image measure up within the rest of the people in your industry? That’s what you’re going for here.

regular man with a tie

This is a standard photo of a man who could be a coach. Clearly, both he and the photograph are professional. He seems friendly but you can’t tell much more.

happy man with a tieHere’s a guy who might also be a coach to professionals. But I feel like I know more about him. From the frames in the background, I think he’s got some kind of training. And it looks like he’s easily talking to someone sitting across from him. He’s comfortable.

guy with weights

Is there any question that this guy works with people who are trying to be fit?

smiling young man
Or that this guy is hip and doesn’t believe he is the center of the universe?

What says “fun” better than puppies?

This guy clearly likes to have fun. I want to work with someone who’s having fun. But then that’s my value and maybe not yours.

A couple of final tips on the process:

If a friend is shooting your pictures, take many more than you need so you’re sure to find one you like.

While a plain background is considered norm, if you love to garden, maybe that’s a better place to do the work.

If you use a professional photographer, have a discussion about copyrights before he begins work. Yes, it is your face, but he made the art. So get him to sign over to you the copyrights to the image. Or if you choose to let him retain the rights, negotiate the fee structure for future use—both yours AND his.

When choosing the final photo to use on your website, check it out on your monitor at about 150 pixels wide. Monitors can’t really render much above about 72dpi, so there’s no point in saving the photo at 300dpi or greater. Print is a different story.

This article was originally published in Circle, the newsletter of the ADHD Coaches Organization in April 2006.