By Mark Bolin
When hiring web companies to do any online marketing, there are some important things to consider. Many people in our industry do not have a very strong background in computers. This is mostly due to our being outside and not growing up with computers. Because of this, there are a few traps that can catch us off guard when we hire a company to do our website. Most website companies are made up of younger people. That is perfectly understandable, but sometimes they lack understanding of the customer and how best to present information to them.
Because they have grown up with email, voicemail, texting and instant message, which you lack the basic understanding of; it is hard for them to understand how your basic communication is still done today by telephone. It is also hard for them to fathom someone not knowing their way around a computer.
Here are two examples of how things can get overlooked. It is very hard to believe that this could still happen.
I was trying to get a hold of the friend who had a pond supply company and I was in my car pulled over and looking at his website to get his phone number. I soon came to realize his phone number was not anywhere on the website. I even did a Google search looking for local directories like Mantra Yellow Pages and his phone number would not show up.
I finally just stopped by and was talking to one of the salesmen sitting at his desk and mentioned this to him. He immediately went to the website and found no phone number. I could see the frustration in his face.
We had done work for him previously, but he hired a full-time IT guy from a local college to handle all of the ongoing marketing work for the website. Many of you may be wondering how this happened. How would somebody overlook something so big and not have it mentioned it? One of the biggest reasons is that his full-time IT professional may not use his phone as much as one would think. He uses text email and instant messenger phones.
It wasn’t that he left the number off on purpose. It was just that he never thought of it, because it was not that important in his mind. The reason they never noticed it, is because they delegated everything to him and they never checked their own website to make sure everything was correct. The reason people didn’t call him telling him about the omission is simple; they couldn’t. I don’t know why no one emailed them, but it did not happen. I don’t know how many months this guy had a website with no telephone number.
This is an extreme case, but I have seen much worse on websites. Another nursery that I have an inside track with had another type of problem that is also very common. The owner hired a person to do all the online marketing. He knew that his website was overdue for an overhaul and was excited, because she had ideas of email marketing like “plant of the month” and so on.
Here’s what really happened. Because this person was so computer savvy, she also assumed everyone was or needed to be computer savvy as well. She convinced them that they were going to save all kinds of money by not sending out a catalog. Instead, she recommended they tell people to go online to get what they needed. Their availability was 35 pages long and they were asking people to view their availability online using a unique password, which customers had received in a letter explaining the process. Customers were then supposed to print out the availability on their own printer.
On top of that, for years there was a universal password for all customers to access their availability if they wanted to. They removed this simple, universal password, because they were trying to lead people to the online ordering. When customers called their sales reps to find out why they could not get into their online availability to see if a plant was available, the sales reps could not help them, because every password was unique and private.
The sad part was that the salesman tried to warn the owner that this was a big mistake, but the owner was so convinced that this tech savvy woman’s marketing was ahead of his competition, that he dismissed all of his employee’s concerns. Thank God he started to realize what a disaster it was becoming. As the season progressed, no one was downloading anything and most garden center owners vaguely remembered the letter even existed. Many had probably misplaced or thrown them away.
They could tell you every catalog they had received from competitors, but could not recall anything from this particular nursery. When the salesman told them what the nursery had decided to do, most garden center owners rolled their eyes and many of them were quite put off. One customer said that business must be so good, because of the arrogance of them to assume that he was okay with entering a unique password and clicking 6 to 7 buttons to go online and use his ink and printer to print out the company’s availability just to buy from them.
Many of you might be saying, “This girl really doesn’t know what’s going on”, but actually, she is intelligent. It’s only her generation that has not experienced lack of technology. She could not believe that there were people in the salesman’s territory that did not even have a fax or computer.
The salesman explained it this way:
“It is not our job to bring people into the 21st century. It is our job to service them in whatever they are. There were times 20 years ago that 1 in 20 people owned a fax. Eventually, everyone owned a fax machine. Then, some moved on to email. All of the years that I have been serving these customers, I meet them where they are. I have never asked them to do something they are not comfortable with.”
Once this company realized what was going on and sent availability lists out, they started to see orders coming in again. As I write this blog entry, the company has only received 10% of its orders through the online ordering system that they were so excited about. And, the majority of those orders are smaller than last years in comparison to orders recorded through sales reps, which are larger. With online ordering, there is no way for the person to get suggestions on other items that might be helpful for their business. Many people don’t like this.
There is a simple solution for all of this. When a company builds a website for you, go to your website and look through it yourself. Have your friends, family and customers check it and ask their opinion about navigation, content and so on. It is amazing how much you will learn from them.
At The Site Gardener, we build a lot of web tools for marketing and online ordering. It can get very complex. I have started showing my customers these tools and asking them for their opinion and thoughts. It is amazing how many great ideas and things that I look at every day. These things need simple tweaking here and there to make them more user-friendly. When we put tools on the websites we build, I am amazed at how many great ideas I get from the users. These are ideas I never thought of and they not only enhance, but simplify the program. We can’t just think of everything and don’t expect your IT person to either.