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Customer service Good Examples Improvement Manufacturing Marketing Small Business websites

A slight edge to improve your website’s contact page and calendar

This morning I got a note from Keith Lee at American Retail Supply in Seattle regarding our contact page discussion about Scouting.org from earlier this week. He mentioned that his site’s contact page includes directions to his retail locations.

That’s a simple idea that can save you and your clients a lot of time.

Let me put the cherry on top: Add a Google map showing where your business is located. Give them a page that can be printed that includes both – without all the other baggage your site has.

If you have a calendar of events on your site, speaking engagements, or what not – add clickable iCal links for them.

Those links will allow your customers to click them and automatically add them to your phone’s calendar, your Outlook or whatever calendar tool you use.

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Business culture Customer service Management Marketing Small Business websites

Message received: “DONT CONTACT US”

As you might be aware, I’m the Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout troop here in Columbia Falls.

I’ve been involved as a Scouting volunteer in numerous forms for about 20 years, at levels as low as you can get, and as high as a VP on our Council Executive Committee.

As a result, I have a pretty fair knowledge of the organization, and I know where to find info when I need it.

Earlier this week, I decided to call the National office of the Boy Scouts of America in Irving to ask a few questions.

Normally, Scouting officials expect folks to ask these questions of the local council office (ours is in Great Falls), but the questions I had were of the nature that the local council office couldn’t possibly answer them.

I should note that the local Council President, the Scout Executive (paid position, similar to Executive Director) and most of the Executive Committee are friends. I know when they won’t know the answer to a question I have – and this is one of em. Enough background, now the story.

So, I moseyed over to Scouting.org (the BSA’s national website) and got one message loud and clear.

Is anyone home?

The message being sent by scouting.org: DONâ??T CONTACT US.

The main page of scouting.org has no phone numbers on it. No postal address. No physical address. No map to the National Scouting Museum or to National HQ (both in Irving).

There’s no “Contact us” link or contact page. There is a link to find a local council office (ie: Ask them, not us).

Even in the area where it gives direction for someone applying for a job (I am not) all they offer is a PO Box for the 4 regional offices. No fax, no phone, no physical address.

So I broke down and did a search. The results?

  • Search the website for “Irving”…. you’ll find no hits.
  • Search the website for “National office” or “national headquarters”… you’ll find no hits.
  • Search the website for “scouting museum”… you’ll find no hits.

If you dig around and end up on scoutingfriends.org, youll eventually find an email form and a PO Box for Irving. But still, no phone number.

If you wanted to contact the national office for something of national consequence – such as giving them a bazillion dollars, becoming a major sponsor of the National Jamboree, calling the Scouting museum to make a donation, or simply to ask a question that a council office absolutely CANNOT answer (in my case, I guarantee it), you are out of luck unless your message is suitable for US Mail.

The girl’s got it

By contrast, girlscouts.org has a contact us link at the bottom of the main page, which takes you to a page with a mailing address, physical address, a phone number, a local council office finder tool and email contact form.

There is always a silver lining when stuff like this happens. In this case, the silver lining is that I have a new question for my Communications merit badge students: “Look at scouting.org and tell me if you can see anything wrong with it, Communications MB -wise.”

It’s easy to forget the simple things. Your customers want to talk to you. A “Contact us” link is one of those simple, essential, first impression things.

Categories
Internet marketing Small Business Technology Web Analytics websites

Taking the kids – and your website – on a long road trip

Today’s guest post is from Jill Whelan of HighRankings.com.

Jill describes a nice parallel between the preparation necessary for taking the kids on a long road trip (vs having them cry) and the symptoms your website uses to tell you what a crying child is trying to tell you.

It’s a good read, go check it out. Your website will thank you.

Categories
Advertising Corporate America Creativity Internet marketing Media Small Business Social Media Strategy Technology Web 2.0 websites

You and the NY Times, bucking for change of another kind

From the Oct 28, 2008 issue of the New York Times, an excerpt from the column “The Media Equation”:

Stop and think about where you are reading this column. If you are one of the million or so people who are reading it in a newspaper that landed on your doorstop or that you picked up at the corner, you are in the minority. This same information is available to many more millions on this paperâ??s Web site, in RSS feeds, on hand-held devices, linked and summarized all over the Web.

Things change. In every business.

Businesses faced with such situations typically have two choices: Adjust or lose the opportunity to do so.

Oh, I guess there might be a third: denial.

The NY Times figured this out a while back. Even the denial part.

To their credit, they’re still changing and adjusting how they provide content – a process of change they’d better get used to.

One example: They created the NY Times Reader, a nice Windows-based program that was created to display the Times in its original format on your screen, complete with high quality font display, 7 days of issues available to read with no requirement to be connected to the net once the news is initially downloaded.

But not all things are bright and shiny in the Land of Change: Another quote from the same column illustrates a collision of new and old thinking, and a teaspoon of Dont-Quite-Get-It-Yet:

More than 90 percent of the newspaper industryâ??s revenue still derives from the print product, a legacy technology that attracts fewer consumers and advertisers every single day. A single newspaper ad might cost many thousands of dollars while an online ad might only bring in $20 for each 1,000 customers who see it.

Is that just the slightest hint that they are still in a bit of denial about the price of newspaper print advertising out of whack with the value provided?

It’s NOT about how many people see the ad

It’s about who sees it, and further, who responds to it. That’s what advertisers should be paying for. One price to display to just the right audience. Another price if they respond.

Why another price if they respond? A great ad in front of the right audience at the right time will elicit a good response and generate more than enough revenue to make the ad worthwhile.

If this isn’t clear, consider this: If I see a feminine hygiene commercial 42 times (or 42,000 times), is it likely that I will ever respond? Ladies, you could easily find a parallel from the male world that you’d never respond to.

So why bother displaying the ad?

Why doesn’t the NY Times offer the option to never see ads, in exchange for paying more to read it? Or maybe I just don’t have time for ads on weekdays, so the Sunday Times still shows ads to me. Different fee.

It’s 2008. My paper should react to me and my needs. I might not mind ads if they were targeted at my needs, based on demographics and psychographics, among other things.

These ideas are troublesome for a print publication. Revolutionary to the newspaper business perhaps, but easy for a digital publication to deliver.

With all that in mind…

What kind of information should you be looking at for improved delivery? Sales info. Customer support info. How to info. Company news. Info for employees. Info for business partners. Training.

How are you and your business prepared – and continuing to prepare – for the speed that information delivery is changing?

Two choices. Adjust, or become the next $1 magazine like TV Guide. Not a $1 for one issue – $1 for the entire magazine.

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Community Competition google Marketing Positioning Restaurants Small Business SMS websites

Sticking a fork in restaurant websites

Though I haven’t mentioned it here in a while, my series of columns in the Flathead Beacon about local websites has continued over the last couple weeks. It’s on topic here as well, so let’s elaborate on it a bit further than I have space for in the Beacon.

Next week’s column takes a look at local restaurant websites in my area.

One thing stands out here, and thatâ??s the chains. Most all of the franchise restaurant chains have corporate-managed websites that are well done. But weâ??re not here to help them â?? they have plenty of help already.

What you can do is look to them to see what to consider when putting your web site together. Things like menus, a map to your location (pleaseâ?¦), whether or not you do catering, what meals you serve (ie: do you serve breakfast and lunch only?)

One example was a restaurant between Columbia Falls and Kalispell that I happen to like. Their site is simple, isnâ??t much eye candy-wise, but it touched on the essentials for a 3 or 4 page restaurant website.

It talked about their location (included a graphical map), their phone number, their address, their catering info (could have been more complete), their hours, which credit cards they take and the facilities they offered. This site could easily be completed in an afternoon. No, itâ??s not as fancy or as complete as it could be but it is what is absolutely necessary.

Slow cooked Angus sirloin, local asparagus, truffle butter sauce
photo credit: irrational_cat

They didn’t bother to go into great detail on the food, the special ingredients they fly in from coastal fisheries, their use of local game, organic local vegetables, custom processed meats and local seasonings, the romance of their massive fireplace area, the expertly trained staff, the menu, special occasion bookings, private dining rooms, banquet and special occasion services, their expert sommelier (not sure if they have one), the chef and his/her training and experience, and so on (those are all hints, if Iâ??m not being obvious enough).

No testimonials. No photos. No video. Cooking is an experiential thing. Video and photos are critical.

Butâ?¦their site achieved an important goal: to provide basic information needed to contact them and go there for a meal.

The unfortunate thing is that many local restaurants had no site at all, and that included those who also offer catering.

Iâ??ve gotten some good feedback from previous posts on this topic, including a great phone call from a reader in Kalispell whose input I will include in a later post on the subject.

Someone told me they felt that not all businesses need a website. Sorry, but I have to disagree.

Even if all you do is put up a one page site with your location, hours and a map, that is far better than nothing. You wouldnâ??t likely open a business and not have a phone. You wouldnâ??t skip on printing menus in your restaurant. If youâ??re a consultant, attorney, CPA or other service professional, you wouldnâ??t blow off printing business cards.

Not having even a one page website is equivalent to not having a phone or a business card.

Even if your business is busy and doesnâ??t need more work right now, you need a website. Everything has ups and downs. The time to dig the well is before youâ??re thirsty.

See all those kids running around with cell phones? They wouldnâ??t use the Yellow Pages unless you forced it on them. It wonâ??t be long before they are your 18-35 demographic group.

If you donâ??t have a website, to that group of people, you donâ??t exist.

Kids these days know that they can text â??59937 mexicanâ? to 466453 (ie: G-o-o-g-l-e on your phone’s dial pad) from their cell phone and get back a list of Mexican restaurants in Whitefish Montana with their phone numbers.

Le digo yo
photo credit: fluzo

Did you know about that? This feature isnâ??t limited to searching for restaurants. Where do you think that data comes from? A Google search, of course.

But it isnâ??t just the young adults who use the web these days.

One of the phone calls I received about websites was from a self-proclaimed â??older personâ?. She had some great feedback about what is important to make a site usable for people who arenâ??t 29 anymore. She doesnâ??t want to be ignored when she uses the web. Neither do the 18-35 or 25-55 groups.

What demographic can you afford to ignore? Most businesses canâ??t afford to ignore any of them, but there are exceptions. Not having a website is ignoring at least one, maybe more â?? especially tourists. They research what they plan to do using the internet.

Do you want to be on their radar, or not?