Why “Why” Matters

Why “Why” Matters

Why do you do what you do?
When you’re making a buying decision – any kind of buying decision – whether it’s choosing a restaurant, an electrician, a realtor, a painter, an attorney or a bank, do you care about the why? I do. In fact, I’ve become obsessed with the why. If I’m going to choose your services I want to know what drives you, I want to know that you’re passionate about what you do, I want you to be able to tell me why you do this every single day. Take my bank, for example. They won me over because every teller at every branch is so friendly. They exude enthusiasm. They love working there and it shows. I figure that If you love what you do every day then you’re going to do it well and I’m going to get your best.

Beyond the What and How

If companies are eager to tell you what they do – and they should be – they’re even more eager to tell you how they do it. They want you to know about their latest technology and groundbreaking techniques, how they’ve invested in education, how they’re on the cutting edge. This is all good stuff. But does any of that set them apart from every other company in their industry? Does it make you want to do business with them? Does it make you feel good about choosing them? Maybe. But for me it’s more about the why and less about the what and how. This is not a new idea. Simon Sinek has built a following by advising us to start with the why. He uses the example of Apple as a company that starts with why and explains how their commitment to innovation and user satisfaction has created a legion of Apple evangelists.

Try Asking Why

In my initial meetings I use a questionnaire to gather important information about my client’s business. A few weeks ago I added the following question to the top of the list, “Why do you do what you do?” The results have been extraordinary. Some clients answer the question immediately and with great enthusiasm. Some have difficulty answering it at all. The point is this. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. (I didn’t make that up. I wish I did). Let your passion show. Let people know why you do what you do.  They will connect with you in a visceral way. In a way that goes beyond intellect. In a way that gets them to choose you because it feels right. And isn’t that what you want?

And Now Back to You

How much have you thought about the why of your business? Is it a question you can answer easily or do you have to think about it? When you’re choosing a company to do business with, do you care about what drives them? Share your thoughts with me in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit: openpad

Homepage Slideshows: Time to Face the Ugly Truth!

Homepage Slideshows: Time to Face the Ugly Truth!

Rotating slideshows are distracting
What’s The Goal of Your Website?

This is the first question I ask my clients. It surprises me how difficult it seems to be to get an answer. It’s pretty hard to build a website if the goal of the site isn’t clear. But one thing I hear all the time is something like this:

“I’d like a rotating slideshow on the homepage.”

As a designer I have to admit that these slide shows are visually appealing. But even though they are enormously popular, I advise my clients against using them. Why? Because unless your website is strictly informational, chances are you’re using it to sell something – a product, a service or an idea. That rotating homepage slideshow that is currently in vogue may actually be making it harder for potential customers and clients to buy what you’re selling.

It’s About Conversion, Not Page Rank

Your analytics reports are telling you that lots of people are visiting your site. Good. When you do a Google search for your business, you’re at the top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Good. You’re not gaining any new customers. Bad! So what’s going on here? If you’re focusing on attaining the number one spot on a Google search then you’re focusing on the wrong thing. Wouldn’t you rather have a hundred new visitors to your site who all end up buying from you than one thousand new visitors who do nothing? Pretty obvious right? The objective is to convert your visitors to customers. It’s time to face the ugly truth. The lovely rotating slideshow that is occupying your homepage’s most coveted real estate is turning potential buyers away.

Engage, Don’t Distract

In his regular column on Design, Usability and Conversion, Tim Ash of Marketing Land sites the following:

The whole idea behind image sliders is that a message or image is displayed for a brief while — maybe a few seconds – and then is replaced by another message. But this type of stopping and starting pattern is the most compelling form of movement, because of our evolutionary need to be aware of hidden dangers lurking nearby.
 
Simply put, the human brain is hard-wired to notice the onset of motion, which makes rotating banners especially distracting. We literally cannot tune them out.

Ash further states:

So, while the movement of the banner may attract the attention of the subconscious, the conscious brain works hard to ignore it.

It May be Time to Break the Habit

Does it really make sense to put your most important information, your key calls-to-action, your value proposition, the “why” of your business in a format that research tells us is likely to be ignored? I like the homepage slideshow just as much as the next guy. I think they look cool and are a good way to attract attention – for a few seconds. That’s how long it’s going to take for your visitors to realize that just before they’ve absorbed the information embedded in the first image, the next one pops onto the screen. The next step is user frustration followed by a quick exit. So unless the sole purpose of your website is to look cool, I would suggest rethinking that rotating homepage slideshow.

But Having Said That …

I should say that even though I advise my clients against using the ubiquitous homepage slideshow, if they insist I will use it anyway. My job is go  give them the information they need to make good choices.  It’s still their decision.

Now Back to You

Are you hooked on the homepage slideshow? Does your website use one? If so, can you tell how it is effecting your business goals? Does anything I’ve said here make sense?

You CAN Write Remarkable Content

You Can Write Remarkable Content

It may take a few tries but hang in there

I was privileged to attend a conference a few weeks ago presented by Merrimack College as part of it’s 2012-2013 Leadership Series entitled “It’s Time to Create Your Digital Platform!” As a perk of membership in the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce, admission was free. I gladly would have paid. Two of the three speakers, Michael Hyatt and Brian Halligan, are best selling  authors. Halligan also happens to be co-founder and CEO of Hubspot, a marketing software company that helps businesses transform the way they market their products. The third, Sally Falkow, is a highly respected public relations guru. I took notes, scribbled down links to websites, wrote down recommended book titles, sent out real time tweets and, giving in to my inner geek, got my books signed by the authors. Later, when life had slowed  down some, I looked over  my notes. One phrase jumped off the page. Each of the speakers said it during their presentations. Some said it more than once.  It took on the aspect of a mantra. To get noticed in a noisy world, you have to write remarkable content.

Sound Scary? It Doesn’t Have To Be

I started thinking about my clients – you – the good people who sometimes read my blog. I’ve heard you say it. “I’m not a writer. I can’t write remarkable content.” Well here’s how my trusty Oxford American Dictionary defines the word “remarkable.”

re • mark • a • ble (ri-mahr-ka-bel) adj. worth noticing, exceptional, unusual.

If you’re not a professional writer I understand why you would be intimidated at the prospect of writing exceptional or unusual content.

It’s All About Your Audience

My point is this. If you sell concrete, your website should be geared to people who want to know more about concrete. Since concrete is your area of expertise I’m betting that you can produce content that, if not exceptional or unusual, is at least  worth noticing? That is to say worth noticing to your audience. Don’t get me wrong. No matter how much expertise you have in your field, a professional writer will always do a better job at crafting your web copy than you will. But if you focus more on the worth noticing part of the definition of remarkable and less on the exceptional and unusual parts, you just might be surprised at how remarkable your content is.

Some Helpful Resources

If you’d like to dive a little deeper into the world of remarkable content, here are a few links that are favorites of mine. I hope you’ll find them helpful:

Now Back to You

Did you write your own copy for your website? How did that go? Or did you hire someone to write it for you? Were you satisfied with the result?

P.S. To my writer friends and colleagues. Don’t be angry with me for suggesting that clients on a limited budget might want to try writing their own copy. My intent here was to give them some helpful advice if they want to go in that direction. Know this. They will never replace you.

I Network, Therefore I Am

Buffalo Wild Wings in Saugus, Massachusetts hosting a networking event sponsored by the Saugus and Peabody Area Chambers of Commerce

Socializing is one of the most basic of human activities. This has been true since the dawn of man. Whether around a fire after a grueling hunt, or the television after an episode of American Idol, we love to gather and tell stories. We are social creatures. It’s what we do.

Socializing With an Agenda

I like to think of networking as socializing with an agenda. Madison Avenue got it right in the seventies with this classic commercial for Faberge shampoo. (I’m not hawking Faberge products. The video is for illustrative purposes only.) Remember the line “they’ll tell two friends and so on”? That’s networking.

Then there’s the young man who, in the early forties, developed a method for turning black polyethylene slag, a waste product produced in oil refinement, into a material that was flexible, tough, non-porous, non-greasy, odorless and translucent. He knew he had something but it wasn’t until he met Brownie Wise in 1948 that he and his product became household names. Brownie’s idea was to hold informal social gatherings in peoples’ homes to demonstrate the product. “If we build the people,” she was fond of saying, “they’ll build the business.” Apparently, Mary Kay and others were listening. The man was Earl Tupper and to this day, the Tupperware Home Party, remains the exclusive outlet for Tupperware. Earl Tupper sold his company to Rexall in 1958 for a staggering $16 million. That’s networking.

Note: Thanks to the Archive Center of the National Museum of American History for the Tupperware story.

Networking Etiquette

I said that networking is socializing with an agenda. There is nothing wrong with that. But you must play by the rules or you will lose the social capital you have earned and may never get it back. Here are some tips that work well for me:

  • don’t play at being interested in others. Be genuinely interested.
  • ask people what they do before you start talking about yourself. Listen to the answer. Really listen.
  • don’t lead a conversation by trying to sell your product or service. Instead, seek to establish your expertise or authority.
  • dress appropriately – this  may seem obvious but I’m still amazed at how many people show up at networking events dressed for the beach, or the nightclub or …. well you get my point.
  • act appropriately – this too may seem obvious, but if you’re spending more time chatting up the bartender than the other professionals in the room ….. well you get my point.
  • business cards – yes, exchange business cards. That’s why you’re there – to expand your professional network. But don’t, I repeat, don’t add your new contacts to your mailing list without asking permission. This is a real pet peeve of mine.
  • don’t be shy – this is a tough one. If you’re shy by nature than the whole idea of networking is probably challenging for you. Remember that everyone is there for the same reason – to make new contacts and expand their sphere of influence. Once you introduce yourself to a few people you will get into the groove.

The thing about networking etiquette is that the rules aren’t codified or written down anywhere; they’re mostly a matter of common courtesy. But like all rules, violating them comes with a penalty. Many of the people you are likely to meet at networking events are seasoned business professionals. If you come to the party shamelessly selling your wares or talking about yourself non-stop or grabbing business cards and leaving, you will not be taken seriously. That’s the penalty.

And Now Back to You

Are you a networker? Do you belong to any Chambers of Commerce or other professional networking organizations? Has your participation helped you grow your business? What tips can you give others to get more out of networking? Talk to me.

4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Business

Starbucks Winchester, MA

The good folks at Starbucks in Winchester, MA get it.

Here’s a secret. It’s all about customer service. Here’s another secret. Simple isn’t the same thing as easy. There’s a huge difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. With that said, here goes.*

1. Answer  Your Phone

I can hear the moaning. What’s that you say? You’re too busy to answer the phone? Really. How  do you feel when you call a company and are told, by a recording, to “listen carefully as our menu options have changed?” I’m used  to it by now but I still don’t like it. When I was working with John Webb from Webb Transportation Services, LLC several months back, it was clear to me that his business was thriving.  I asked him what he was doing that his competition was not. “Simple,” he said. “I answer the phone.”  I tested him by calling the company several times. Guess what. He, or his Director of Operations answered the phone every time. Not every other time. Every time! How refreshing.

2. Return Phone Calls and Answer Emails

This is a tough one. Our inboxes are littered with emails – many of which are spam or plain junk. I get that. What I’m saying is this. Identify which messages are relevant to your business and answer those quickly – the same day if possible. If you’re being asked about something you’re supposed to do but haven’t done yet, politely say that in your response. Responding quickly and honestly is better than waiting a few days to finish what you’re working on and then responding. If you’re in a meeting or at a client site, answer as soon as you can. (I have to say this: if you’re in your car, pull over. There. I’ve said it.) You get the point. I try to practice what Brain Tracy calls single handling. That means responding to important emails right away instead of leaving it for later. You will be more likely to forget if you don’t do it right away. The main point is this. Don’t ignore emails and phone messages (unless you’re doing  it intentionally and with knowledge of any consequences). Doing so will eventually erode your reputation and damage your business.

3. Do What You Say

Nothing will hurt your business more than making promises you don’t  keep. If you tell a client you will have their proposal to them by Thursday, get it to them by Thursday (Wednesday would be better). If you promise to gather some information and email it to them by Monday, email it to them by Monday (the previous Friday would be better). How annoying is it when a client tells you they will get you something by a certain day and then doesn’t do it? But here’s the thing, if you don’t do what you say, don’t expect your clients to either. Remember Ghandi’s famous quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

4. Show Up

“Eighty percent of success is showing up”

Woody Allen

For some reason – I have no idea what that reason might be – general contractors have a reputation for showing up late or worse, not showing up at all. (General Contractors, don’t send me hate mail. I’m only stating what I’ve observed and what others have told me.) When Alan Weisner started his interior painting and home fix it business several years ago, he knew that simply showing up at the time promised would separate  him from his competitors. So committed was he to this mission that he named his new company We Show Up. Brilliant! Several years into his enterprise, We Show Up has consistently garnered the Better Business Bureau’s highest A+ rating, qualified for Angie’s List’s Super Service Award in 2010 and 2011 and won Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston Home Award in the Small Repairs category north of Boston for 2010. Amazing what happens by just showing up.

*Disclaimer: I have not mastered all four of these points. I work on them consistently. I thought you should know that.

And  Now Back to You

As a business owner, what is your take on the four points  mentioned above? What about as a consumer? Do you agree? Is it unrealistic in today’s fast paced world to expect businesses to do these four things? Talk to me.

Photo credit: SierraTierra