Have You Created a Frankensite?

Have You Created a Frankensite

It starts with a clean, professional, easy to use website.

Then you launch a new product line, so you add a new button/ad/page, etc. Innocent enough right?

Next your company receives an award from an industry publication. Why not show it off on the homepage?

Then you read an article about a Google Adsense millionaire. Why not throw a few ads in, and pick up some extra revenue?

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You’ve Got 5 Seconds – Don’t Waste Them

You’ve Got 5 Seconds – Don’t Waste Them

What goes through a visitors’ mind in the first 5 seconds after they land on your site? After all, that just might be all the time you’ve got until they reach for the back button. Let’s speculate on what happens at each moment…

Second 1 – Impressions: First impressions are forming. What loads first? Your header logo? Your navigation? Ads? As your page finishes loading, your visitor is already unconsciously judging your site based on the quality of your website design. Though average visitors know nothing about web design best practices, they are quite good at identifying poorly designed sites, and abandoning them for lack of trust. After all, if your site design sucks, what does that say about your products or services? The first impression is often the last.

Second 2 – Definition: Here comes the big question, “Who are you and what do you do?” At this point the visitor needs to know the purpose of your site and what sets you apart. Your landing page must communicate unique value, not just what you sell. Keep in mind visitors come in from all directions, so don’t ignore the backdoors such as product and category pages. Does your website header (viewable on all pages) have a unique value offering or only your homepage?

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Is Your Customer Service Offensive or Defensive?

Is Your Customer Service Offensive or Defensive

As much as customer service is all the rage, and heralded as the new marketing, it’s still viewed as a cost-centre by most online businesses. This I believe, is entirely due to a defensive approach to customer care.

Defensive customer service can be defined as any type of reactive customer servicing such as answering calls, responding to email inquiries, or responding to live chat sessions.

Providing good defensive customer service will never result in a flood of new business for two reasons:

You will only have personal contact with a fraction of your total customers. (those who have questions, problems, etc.) Only this small segment will be impacted by your excellent service. Note the uniqueness of this situation, in a brick-and-mortar world, you do have personal contact with each and every customer.

Good service is an expectation. Yes, some companies like Zappos go above and beyond customer expectations with extraordinarily helpful service, including referring customers to competitors for products they don’t stock. But for the most part, good service is a requirement for doing business.

At it’s very best, good defensive customer service will only prevent you from losing what you already have. It will not, by itself, create hoards of new word of mouth business. Unless… you change the paradigm.

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Web Marketing Success in 3 Words

Web Marketing Success in 3 Words

It’s staggering to consider how many marketing failures are the result of broken promises.

We rarely think of it this way, but every button, every subject line, every headline on our website is a promise. Whether or not that promise is kept determines whether we win the trust of our visitors, or lose them for good.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at a fictional shopping scenario, not unlike an experience that happened to me recently.

  • Customer receives an email from electronics retailer with subject line “HDTV’s Starting at $700″
  • Customer opens email and finds a graphic showing only 1 TV and no details. BROKEN PROMISE:
  • Subject line promised an HDTV for $700, but email contains no support for this theme
  • Customer clicks on Button that says “Shop HDTV’s”, and is taken to the website’s homepage, which differs completely in the look and feel of the email creative. BROKEN PROMISE: Button claimed to let visitors begin shopping the TV models, instead they’re left stranded on a seemingly unrelated page
  • Visitor reaches HDTV category page displaying dozens of HDTV models. The $700 model is the last item on page 5. BROKEN PROMISE: This retailer made it very difficult find the $700 TV model promised in the subject line
  • Once on product page, customer clicks “Add to Cart”
  • Customer lands on a page upselling the extended warranty. BROKEN PROMISE: Customer received no confirmation that item has been added to cart

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Survey Says… You’re Not Getting the Right Feedback from Your Customers

Survey Says… You’re Not Getting the Right Feedback from Your Customers

Nearly every business collects feedback from their customers, and rightfully so. Yet something has always bothered me about the way most online businesses elicit customer suggestions and criticism: they usually get it from their best customers.

In other words, the people most likely to give feedback are the people who spend the most money. So what’s the problem with this? Simply put, these are the people who’ll give you the least helpful advice. Let me explain…

Here’s the 2 types of people that volunteer feedback:

the first time customer, who is excited about your products/services
the long time customer, who has an ongoing relationship with your business
Here’s the problem: if we only receive feedback from the paying customers, what is everyone else thinking? After all, if your products suck, or your website is broken, people leave, they don’t hang around to give input.

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Top 10 eCommerce Startup Mistakes

Top 10 eCommerce Startup Mistakes

If you have any experience working in eCommerce, I’m going to bet you can list 10 mistakes you’ve made, or have seen others make while running their online store. Or maybe you’re currently setting up shop online, and need some advice on what pitfalls to avoid.

Below are 10 eCommerce startup mistakes I’ve encountered while working with online businesses. Specifically, many of these blunders are made by companies who are taking a traditional business online for the first time.

#1 – Blowing the budget on web development and neglecting marketing:

In the brick and mortar world, you get free traffic just by setting up shop on the street corner. The same does not apply for eCommerce. The “if you build it, they will come” mentality still exists in the minds of zealous, first time internet entrepreneurs. If you want a successful website, plan on spending as much on marketing and optimization in the first year as you pay for developing the site.

#2 – Getting Stuck in Endless Cycles of Design Revisions:

In traditional marketing or store operations, you have to get it right the first time, because it’s too expensive to redo your store signage a week after you open. However, the tools available to you online allow you to easily evolve and optimize your website overtime. As General George Patton once said, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” The same applies to websites. Don’t expect a perfect website on day one. Rather than focusing on perfection, make a commitment to optimization after the website launches.

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The Ultimate Holiday Checklist for E-Commerce Success

The Ultimate Holiday Checklist for E-Commerce Success

I’m making the list, be sure to check it twice to ensure success for your e-commerce website this holiday season.

Offer Bounce Back Discounts: Your site will be flooded with traffic this holiday season. How can you harness that traffic to create year long business? Consider offering a good discount incentive for customers to come back and shop in January. You can automatically email them a coupon after each order, or send one along with the package. Don’t forget to email and remind customers to come back and use their discounts.

Loosen Up & Emphasize Your Return Policy: While a 30 day return policy is commonplace for the rest of the year, it may scare off early shoppers during the holidays. Make it clear to your visitors that you will accept returns and exchanges on all Christmas gift purchases. Be sure to let visitors know early and often about your policy, such as on product pages and the shopping cart.

Review Past Failures & Successes: Try this as you plan your busy holiday season. Take a look at you and your competitor’s website’s through the lens of the Wayback machine. What worked and didn’t work last year? What can you improve upon?

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Optimizing Websites for Short Attention Spans

Optimizing Websites for Short Attention Spans

There’s a very good chance you won’t finish reading this blog post. Why? Because you’re constantly bombarded with distractions and options.

You have plenty of other blog posts to read or emails in your inbox beckoning for your attention. Even if you commit to reading this you may be distracted by a ringing cellphone or a text message. Or maybe your brain will suddenly remember that proposal you had promised to send out 3 hours ago. Just as you may abandon this post, at this very moment, dozens of visitors may be leaving your website for similar reasons.

When optimizing our websites, we often focus (and rightly so) on elements such as web forms, buttons, product pages, shopping carts, etc. It’s easy to forget the countless external factors that affect the attention of our customers.

Preventing Controllable Distractions

Many distractions, such as calls from customers or bosses can’t be prevented, but some are within our control, such as:

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25 Web Form Optimization Tips

25 Web Form Optimization Tips

Stop for a moment and consider the goals of your website. Regardless of whether it’s a purchase through a shopping cart, a lead generation, white paper download, or a email opt, I’m going to bet every one of these actions requires a customer to use a web form.

With web forms playing such an important role in the completing goals, it goes without saying that we should optimize the heck out of them. Below are 25 tips for doing just that.

Ditch the Captchas: Captcha’s are great for blocking spam, but some evidence suggests they are just as good at blocking conversions. A little spam isn’t the end of the world, and definitely isn’t worth losing conversions over. If you must use a Captcha, make sure it’s easy to read.

Remove Unnecessary Fields: Do you really need to ask for your customers date of birth and gender? Even if your customers aren’t concerned about privacy issues, odds are they’re lazy and might just abandon your excessively inquisitive form. Here’s some great advice from Get Elastic on registration forms.

Keep It Simple: Just because we can use CSS to do all sorts of fancy things with text boxes, doesn’t mean we should. Keeping form fields simple will ensure that customers understand their purpose and won’t confuse them with design elements.

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Avoid the eCommerce Low-Trust Tax

Avoid the eCommerce Low-Trust Tax

What’s one thing that all successful e-commerce sites have in common, regardless of their industry, technology, or experience? Their customers trust them.

E-commerce in particular lends itself to a low trust environment. After all, when you make a purchase online, you’re giving money to someone you can’t see, for a products that you can’t touch. Needless to say, trust is a crucial aspect of transacting business online.

Duct Tape Marketing recently interviewed Steven M.R. Covey on his book The Speed of Trust. Covey speaks of a “low-trust tax” which makes all business processes less efficient. Inspired by this concept, I came up with 10 ways to avoid paying a low-trust tax with your e-commerce site. If you have any ideas of how to inspire trust on your website, please leave a comment below.

Have a Real About Page: I’m not talking about a vague paragraph describing what you do. I’m referring to a personal, detailed explanation of who you are. Share your mission, your passion, and your vision with customers. This information becomes a powerful word of mouth tool when customers are telling friends and family about your products or services. Consider even showing pictures of yourself and your staff to add an extra personal touch.

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12 Ways to See Your Website for the First Time

12 Ways to See Your Website for the First Time

What’s possibly the #1 problem preventing you from improving your website?

You.

As much as we want to believe website optimization is all about tactics and strategy, often the key to success lies in our own behavior. In order for optimization to occur, we first have to properly collect and interpret data about our websites. However, if the daily processes which we use to collect data are overly systematic and rigid, inevitably out of the box thinking will cease to exist.

Let face it, we all get into ruts by doing things in the same old way. So how can we change perspectives and see our website through a different lens? Here’s 12 ways to help you look at your website as if it were the first time.

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3 Remedies for a Web Analytics Overdose

3 Remedies for a Web Analytics Overdose

“Not enough information” – here’s a problem the web marketer never has. Rather, the opposite is true, too much information, especially when it comes to web analytics. So how can we make sense out of the myriad of data we’re confronted with? Here’s 3 remedies for the all to common web analytics overdose.

Remedy #1 – Focus on the Few, Not the Many
“If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” — Mother Theresa

People know millions of children are starving in Africa, yet rarely act on this knowledge. But what if one of these children showed up on their doorstep? Who wouldn’t act to help this child? The emotional connection with a single child trumps the astonishing, but paralyzing knowledge that millions of children are starving.

Sometimes we’re so fixated on the mass of data before us we forget there are people behind the pageviews. Have you ever stood behind someone as they used your website? Don’t just watch how they interact with the site, watch their demeanor. Ask them how they felt about the experience. Clickpaths rarely tell the whole story. What happens between the clicks matters. How the customer feels about the experience matters even more. Try focusing on just a few experiences, whether by observing people directly, or using a visual analytics tool such as Clicktale.

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