Can you build your own website?

Young man holding his head in front of a laptop screen with an error message.

We need a website but we don’t have the budget for what we need. What can we do?”

We hear you. New business. Small marketing budget. It’s a dilemma for small business owners or startups.  But you need to be able to market your business. And the most efficient way to do that is with a website.

The Cost of a New Website

Generally, you can expect to pay a minimum of $6,000 for a standard 6-10-page professionally designed  website. No e-commerce.
But what if you can’t afford that?
You have some options:
  • You could build your own…. if you know enough about coding.
  • You could use a platform like SquareSpace or Wix which makes it easier for non-professionals to create a website 
  • You could take a class to learn web design…if you have the time.
Odds are it will look like you built it rather than the professional look you’re aiming for. So one more option:
  • You COULD opt for a customized template.
Since we believe an amateur website does more harm than good, we recommend the latter. And of course hiring us to build your site.

Why, you ask, should you pay us to build a site that uses a theme?

Simple answer.
Even when we work with a theme, we’re still using our design chops (well, Iris’s).
And a designer brings skills to the table that you don’t have. Unless you’re a designer.

The Benefit of Working with a Designer.

Among other skills, a designer knows how to:
  • customize a theme so your site doesn’t look like it started with a template.
  • customize navigation so visitors can easily find what they‘re looking for. 
  • use plugins for added functionality.
  • Introduce a custom color palette and fonts that make your product or service shine.
  • work with a developer to customize additional features (think popup boxes, CTAs, forms, contact pages, etc).
  • suggest  other options you never thought of.
The benefit to you opting for a professionally designed custom template?  Considerable savings since we’re not building a site from scratch.
Take a look at EdgeIQ one of the sites we built using a WordPress theme which we customized.

Other concerns if you’re building your own website.

Let’s play Devil’s Advocate. Suppose you decide to build your own website. What do you need to know?

Concern #1: We’ve heard about websites crashing due to bad themes that aren’t updating.
WAGW: Make sure you buy your theme from a reputable company with lots of users. Satisfied users.

Concern #2:  How do we know which webhost to use?
WAGW:  Same way you research themes. Read reviews to see what people are saying about the various hosting companies. Look for one that’s robust, dependable and keeps you informed about updates.

Concern #3:  What about email setup? Which email program should I use?
WAGW: Hopefully you have an IT person who can help with that.

Concern #4:  How do I coordinate all these moving parts?
WAGW: Spreadsheets are great for keeping track of all the elements you need to complete a site.

More complicated than you expected?

Don’t forget that you still need to write the site content and do SEO (search engine optimization).

That’s why people hire professionals to design and build websites.

The time you’ll save by hiring experts is the time you’ll free up to do what you’re good at. Refining your product, service or sales process. Hiring an assistant or an intern. Marketing your business.

The tasks for a small business owner are endless. Smart entrepreneurs delegate whenever they can.

Read more about marketing your business.

7 easy-to-implement tips designed to help you stay top of mind with clients.

Why marketing matters more than ever

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Is your small business website ADA-compliant and why else you might be sued.

Elements depicting a smalll business legal issue

When you started your business, you filled out the requisite paperwork (type of business, tax forms, etc), and opened accounts (bank, credit cards, shipping, etc.).

You followed the rules for setting everything up.

But did you think about whether or not your website was ADA-compliant?  Was it accessible for people with disabilities who wouldn’t be able to view your site or hear any audio?

For many small business owners, the answer is no. Because those laws either weren’t in effect or weren’t enforced.

Times have changed. So have the laws. And with it, the odds of being sued.

What is your small business at risk for?

Probably lots of things, but today we’re just talking about websites.

You may not think about the possibility of being sued until it happens. And then you’ve got a mess on your hands and legal fees.

Is your website accessible?

The Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA) was made a public law in 1990 and amended in 2008.

Handicapped man in wheelchair sitting at deskIs it required to be on your website? Interestingly enough, no. But you can still be sued. And digital lawsuits are on the rise.

Best practices say that you should have an accessibility statement on your private business website AND an accessibility tool in place.

An Accessible Website Says “We Care”

An accessibility statement says to the public that you give a damn about inclusivity. You want people with disabilities to be able to get the same information any other visitor can get on your site.

Good for Business

Including an accessibility statement is also good for business. 20% of the population has a disability. If they can’t access information on your website, they can’t purchase your products or services.

We are now offering accessibility protection for ADA-compliance.

Contact us today to learn how to make your website accessible.

Learn more about accessibility in this thorough and informative article in Search Engine Journal by author Kim  Berg who writes: “Even though there are accessibility standards and guidelines to follow for websites and web applications, in the U.S. there are no formal laws to enforce them.”

What other issues keep small business owners up at night?

We thought it would be fun to compare responses written by humans with something generated with AI.

We googled “What keeps small business owners awake at night in 2023?” and found this from customer service success firm, SmartKarrot.

    1. Lack of employee engagement
    2. Losing key skilled people and trust issues
    3. Building a community
    4. Diversity and social pressure
    5. Facing big changes

Then we asked the same question of Bard, Google’s new AI platform which they describe as “a complementary experience to Google Search”, and we got this:

Here are the top 5 things that keep small business owners up at night:

    1. Making money.
      This is the number one concern for small business owners, and for good reason. After all, without money, you can’t pay your bills, your employees, or yourself. There are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of making money, such as:
      • Conducting market research to identify your target market and what they need:
      • Developing a strong marketing plan to reach your target market
      • Offering competitive prices and high-quality products or services
      • Providing excellent customer service

2. Attracting and retaining customers.

Once you’ve got customers, you need to keep them coming back. This can be a challenge, especially in a competitive marketplace.

There are a number of things you can do to attract and retain customers, such as:

      • Offering loyalty programs
      • Providing excellent customer service
      • Keeping your products or services fresh and innovative
      • Building relationships with your customers

3. Managing cash flow.

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. If you don’t have enough cash coming in to cover your expenses, your business will eventually fail.

There are a number of things you can do to manage your cash flow, such as:

      • Create a budget and track your expenses
      • Set up a system for collecting payments from customers
      • Get a line of credit or other financing

4.  Dealing with taxes.

Taxes can be a complex and time-consuming hassle for small business owners. There are a number of things you can do to make tax time easier, such as:

      • Hiring a qualified accountant
      • Keeping good records
      • Filing your taxes on time

5.  Juggling responsibilities.

Small business owners often wear many hats. They may be responsible for marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, and more. This can be a lot of work, and it can be difficult to balance all of your responsibilities.

There are a number of things you can do to make it easier to juggle your responsibilities, such as:

      • Delegating tasks to employees or contractors
      • Learning to say no to new commitments
      • Taking breaks when you need them

AI Search Summary  

The results were interesting. They were focused on different factors. And neither mentioned work-life balance in the top five.

The customer service success firm listed issues with employee engagement, an inability to retain skilled workers and trust issues as the top two concerns.

Bard cited making money and attracting and retaining customers as the two most important.

We interpret this as pretty logical. 

But we found Bard’s use of the line “There are a number of things you can do to” in each numbered item annoying repetitive.

A company that helps people grow their businesses will focus on employee-related issues and procedures. Because that’s what they do.

Bard, on the other hand, has nothing to gain from its response. Making money and retaining customers is definitely top of mind for most small business owners.

How to interpret these results. 

If we were writing an article on what keeps small business owners up at night, much more research would be required. We’d also want to interview small business owners who are in the trenches every day.

Which is why at the moment, we’re seeing AI (and Bard) as great basic research tools that can save us time.  And what’s wrong with that! 

Read related articles:

5 traits that successful businesses use to engage customers

Understanding Customer Care


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7 ways to nail customer service.

Man's hand striking a very large nail with a very large hammer.

3-minute read

The customer may not always be right (sorry, Mr. Selfridge), but if you want to keep her, you better figure out a way to make her happy.

Now! Not later.

With an endless array of resources and tools to make customer care easy — training programs for brick & mortar store personnel, sophisticated technical tools for selling online, sales coaches for every possible niche — there’s simply no excuse for shoddy customer service.

Website chat function not working? That’s a great way to tick off a potential client.  You’re better off not having a chat box than having one that doesn’t work. !#@/%!!!

If you’re a small company or a startup and don’t have a live person answering the phone, make sure your voice message doesn’t dead end people. Give them some options on how to reach you.

I’ve tried to reach a service provider in the middle of a work day only to hear a message saying. “Sorry, we’re closed now (In the middle of a workday), and no one’s here to help you. Please call back tomorrow.”

Seriously?  Not only can’t I get my question answered but I have to wait 20 hours to even speak to anyone.

Change your voice message if you can’t help a customer.  Give them some other options for how to reach you. Email still works. Or a contact page on your website.

Think “how do I help a customer right now?”

Tomorrow is too late in a world where business is done 24/7 online.

Customer Service Chat
I recently joined a customer service Twitter chat called #CustServ. It “meets” on Tuesday night at 8p CST and lasts for an hour. It’s been around for fourteen years and is still going strong. So you know it must be worthwhile.

Every week features different questions about customer service. So if you ever thought we’d beaten the topic of customer service to death, think again.

Shoutout: In case you’re interested in joining #Custserv chat on TUESDAY 9 pm ET/6 pm PT, reach out to hosts @MarshaCollier and @GregOrtbach on Twitter.

Back to today’s topic…..

Obviously, you’ve never going to be able to make all of your customers happy. But if you don’t satisfy most of them, you’re going to be in trouble.

And satisfying really isn’t sufficient.

Why you need to delight your customers.

Quite simply: if you don’t, there are always eager competitors waiting in the wings!

Think about why you return again and again to shops or websites or service providers. What is it that makes us want to spend our money in some places and not others.

Most of us have favorites. Ever think about why?

As someone whose business depends on excellent customer care, I’m very aware of the type of customer service I receive. And I make it a point to either mention it….to friends or on social media.

Anyone who spends time on social media knows a company can suffer a lot of damage when bad reviews go viral.

So how do you encourage the smiley faces and minimize the bad reviews?

HOW to delight customers.

Here are seven ways:

  1. Be responsive.
    Especially to negative reviews or angry phone calls. The customer may or may not have a valid reason to be angry but that’s not the point. If you don’t respond, you won’t know.
  2. Acknowledge the error.
    If the customer’s anger is justified, this is your opportunity to turn things around and create a fan for life. People forgive. Acknowledging the error or oversight is the second best response on the road to delight. No error? If the customer is wrong (sorry, Marshall Field), address their anger. But don’t apologize for something that’s just a creep sounding off. Say “we’re sorry you had a bad experience” and let it go.
  3. Be authentic.
    In today’s woke world, insincerity feels just plain wrong. We want to do business with people we like and respect. Pretending to give a damn when you really don’t will not win you clients or friends.
  4. Ask for feedback.
    If you’re sincere about making the customer happy, asking for their input on how you can do better says “We want to make things right. We care about you. Your business is important to us.” Who doesn’t want to be heard?
  5. Listen.
    Once you get the feedback….assuming it’s legitimate, do something with it. Asking for input and then ignoring it is worse than if you’d never asked in the first place. But addressing something that would make your business better is a smart move.
  6. Learn from the people who do it best.
    One of the best ways to improve customer service is to learn from the companies that do it best. Pick up the bios of CEOs who built billion-dollar companies. Never a bad idea to learn from the superstars.
  7. Make delighting customers a part of your company culture.
    Then be sure to incorporate it into your branding and new employee onboarding.

How to build delight into your messaging.

I’ve always been intrigued by clever messaging. Especially when it focuses on the customer (as it should).  So the first time I picked up a piece of art I had framed at Artists Frame Service, the little black and yellow tag attached to my package caught my eye (hint: great choice for good grabby design colors).

It said something like “we don’t want you to be satisfied, we want you to be thrilled”. Stuck with me over the years. Today they’ve added stores and  expanded their tagline. It’s now a Thrilled Guarantee.

“We don’t want you satisfied, we want you thrilled. If you’re not 100% thrilled with your order for any reason, let us know and we’ll make it right.”

If that doesn’t tell the client you want them to be happy, I don’t know what does!

And that’s a perfect way to end an article on customer service.

But wait. What would ChatGPT say?

After I wrote this post, I asked ChatGPT for examples of good customer service.  This is what I got.

Text Description automatically generated

Pretty spot on, right?

Took less than 60 seconds to deliver that info. Next time I’ll check with it before I start researching.

Want to read more on customer service?  Here you go:
How to deliver a remarkable customer experience.
Understanding Customer Care.

If you liked this article, we hope you’ll share it with some colleagues. We’d certainly appreciate that!

And you can sign up for our chock-full-of-interesting-news right here.

Thanks for reading and see you next month!

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8 Best Practices to Increase Product Page Conversion Rates

Today’s guest post is from Andrew Scherer

8 Best Practices to Increase Product Page Conversion Rates

Getting your product pages right is critical if you want to succeed at ecommerce. Whether you’re listing your products on your own ecommerce store or a third-party marketplace like Amazon, optimizing your product pages will increase conversions and sales. 

Here are eight practices that will help you get more conversions on your product pages. 

1. Use High-Quality Media

The first thing you should start with is using better-quality photos and videos. Humans are visual beings, and good product images will sell your product in a way that words can’t. 

Research shows that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than words! That is more important than ever on the internet, where you are competing with so many other ecommerce websites and need to catch someone’s attention quickly. 

Furthermore, people can process multiple elements of an image simultaneously. On the other hand, when you only list a product’s benefits in a bullet point list or paragraph format, people process those different benefits in a more linear structure. Due to people’s short attention spans online, getting as much information across as quickly as possible is critical. 

Additionally, visuals affect different areas of the brain, triggering emotions that influence decision-making. They engage the imagination. Thus, good visuals can directly lead to more conversions. 

According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, we process text using our short-term memory, while images allow for better data retention. Images can lead to more conversions in the long run. Most people won’t make a purchase the first time they land on your site, so getting them to remember you is critical. 

So, what type of images should you use? One tip is to hire a professional photographer to take your own pictures instead of using photographs you took from the manufacturer’s site. Otherwise, you won’t stand out in the Google image search results. 

You should take photographs of the product from different angles, ensuring the lighting is on point and you are using a high-quality camera. Another tip is to include humans in your pictures, especially happy-looking people that fit your target audience, so your visitors can identify with them. 

A video walkthrough of the product and its benefits can also be helpful, but use a professional voice-over artist instead of a robot-like voice. 

2. Write Compelling Product Descriptions

While images are important, they are not enough; you also need a compelling product description. The product description is what people look at to find the product’s specific benefits. 

A good product description lists the item’s top benefits in a bullet-list format, using simple language that is easy for most readers to understand. Each bullet point should be short and sweet, focusing on one specific aspect. You should lead into the bullet point list with a brief intro highlighting the product’s primary purpose. 

You can go into more technical details about the product in a second bullet point list or a separate section at the bottom. For example, if you are selling a computer, you might go into more specific information about the Intel chip, graphics chip, etc. On the other hand, something like the RAM capacity might go into the first bullet list, as it’s more important to potential buyers. 

3. Focus on the Value Proposition

A common mistake online sellers make is not focusing on the actual value the product offers to consumers. You must put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and figure out what truly matters to them. How will this product affect their lives? How will it improve their daily quality of life? Which problems are they experiencing and looking for solutions for? 

When listing the product benefits, you need to focus on the benefits on the user’s end instead of simply listing the product’s great qualities and features. That requires a better understanding of your target audience. 

Using surveys can help you understand the issues potential buyers are trying to solve and the top things prior customers like about this product. For the latter group, using automated email follow-ups after a purchase can help. 

4. Remove Unnecessary Elements

Too many unnecessary elements can overwhelm visitors and lower your conversion rate. Unneeded aspects on your product page might include: 

  • Pop-ups that ask readers to sign up for an email list
  • Advertisement banners
  • Self-playing news videos

Including plenty of white space and minimizing elements allows the most critical page aspects to stand out. For example, instead of including many CTAs, have a single, prominent call to action. 

5. Make the Add-to-Cart Button Very Accessible

By the same token, make the add-to-cart button easily accessible. This button is your primary CTA on your product page. 

The reason this button is so effective is that it doesn’t force users to make a purchasing decision just yet. They can add the product to their carts and then decide later whether to buy it. Allowing potential customers to take small, positive steps toward a purchase instead of requiring them to go all out all at once is a very effective strategy for increasing conversions in the long run. 

Once someone has added something to their cart, you can use abandoned cart email reminders to follow up, even if they don’t check out right away. 

One way to make the add-to-cart button more accessible is to make it “float” at the bottom or side of the page, even if the user scrolls down, allowing them to click on it at any time. 

6. Include Customer Reviews

More than nine out of 10 people read reviews online, and 84 percent trust them as much as personal recommendations from family and friends, according to research. If you don’t have any reviews on your product pages, people will be more hesitant to purchase the product. 

Customer reviews create social proof. They allow people to see first-hand what previous buyers are saying. If they are satisfied with their purchasing decision, potential buyers will be more confident going in. 

Not many people like being the first one to try something. People like to travel on the beaten track. They would prefer if someone else takes the risk instead of them. 

So, how can you get reviews? A simple automated email follow-up sequence after a purchase is one of the best ways to do it. Include a link that takes people directly to the review section and encourage them to share their thoughts. 

Remember that if you are trying to get reviews on third-party marketplaces like Amazon, you have to adhere to the review guidelines of that platform. Most third-party marketplaces do not allow you to incentivize users to leave reviews by offering discounts, free products, or other perks. 

On your own website, you have more freedom. Nevertheless, you must still follow FTC guidelines regarding incentivized reviews:

  • You must disclose the incentive. 
  • Do not make the incentive conditional on the review being positive. 
  • Do not ask only customers you think will leave positive reviews. 
  • Only ask actual customers, not people who have not purchased the product, staff members, family members, or friends. 

You can read the full FTC guidelines here

7. Upsell or Cross-Sell

Not everyone will be interested in the specific product on the page or decide to buy it. However, they may still be looking for similar products, which is why cross-selling is so essential. 

You can cross-sell before, during, or after a purchase. If you’ve ever visited Amazon, eBay, or another online marketplace, you’ve probably noticed that it lists relevant products that potential buyers might also be interested in. 

When someone checks out on Amazon, it will sometimes suggest they purchase the product together with another product, saying that people often buy those two products together. 

That’s known as cross-selling. You could also do it after a purchase. Once someone has paid for something, recommend another product that complements the original product. Upselling is similar, but it involves selling a higher-priced product, such as a more expensive membership tier. 

The theory is that once someone has already spent money, they are more likely to spend even more money to get a better overall experience. 

An excellent example of how to cross-sell is no other than McDonald’s. It has always trained employees to ask questions such as, “Would you like fries or coke with that?”

However, these days, it has taken cross-selling to a new level by using digital order screens that encourage customers to add extra items to their orders. 

8. Optimize Your Website Speed

Finally, make sure your website loads quickly. One of the top reasons customers will abandon a product page is because the website is too slow. Whether the images load slowly or it takes forever to be taken to the shopping cart, people don’t have a lot of patience online. 

Final Thoughts

If you want to get more conversions on your product pages, it’s essential to look beyond organic traffic and start using other sources, such as Facebook and YouTube, to drive visitors to your site. Diversifying your traffic sources ensures a steady traffic flow, even if a specific product page doesn’t rank well or a Google algorithm update ruins your rankings. 

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Why you need to have a monitoring program set up for your website.

screens showing website monitoring graphs

After your WordPress website goes live, you may think the website work is finished. Not so.

WordPress is the most popular content management platform in use today and is constantly evolving. With its popularity comes security risks. This means that the core version of WordPress is constantly being updated as well as the plugins that are used to develop a site.

It’s important to regularly update these since many of them are security safety fixes. Think hackers getting into the back end of your website.

However, updating plugins can sometimes cause conflicts…. which might cause downtime.

When to update plugins.

We recommend waiting a little while to update plugins because bugs can cause your site to go down. If you wait a few days, the plugin creator should have ample time to fix any unexpected issues that arise.

Ongoing WordPress website monitoring is important to make sure that when plugins are updated they won’t cause your website to go down. And if it does, it can be fixed quickly.

It’s also important to monitor website uptime in case something happens with the web host.

Occasionally, we’ve had instances where either the hosting or SSL certificate was not renewed because the credit card on file had either expired or the account number had changed.

Unless someone is monitoring your site, this can go unnoticed. Which means you may be losing business!

These are only a few reasons we include six months of website monitoring and maintenance for all websites we build. After that, our clients can purchase ongoing monitoring for a very reasonable fee ….which most of them do.

It’s a small price to pay for knowing your online store or business is always open.

if your website is dated and no longer filling your business needs, we’re happy to chat. The start of a new year is the perfect time for a website revamp.

Read more about keeping your business functional and secure.



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Revisiting Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word of Mouth

If you were born after 2000, you may not be familiar with word-of-mouth marketing.

Suffice it to say that word-of-mouth was a hot topic in the early 2000’s.

According to referral marketing firm Extole, the term is attributed to psychologist George Silverman in the early 1970s. Silverman referred to word-of-mouth (WOM for short) as “teleconferenced peer influence groups”.

A simpler definition: WOM refers to users or fans of a product or service sharing what they like about it. Or don’t. It doesn’t cost a cent….unless you’re paying influencers on social media. And it’s a marketing tool every business should be using.

In their 2003 book, Creating Customer Evangelists, Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell call these happy fans “evangelists”.  Here’s an excerpt from MarketingProfs.

In his 2006 book, Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, Andy Sernovitz talks about “honest marketing”. Your fans do the work for you, spreading the word about how great your  product is. It’s authentic.

And my personal favorite, Emanuel Rosen’s The Anatomy of Buzz published in 2002. Buzz is the “word-of-mouth magic” that happens when consumers are persuaded by recommendations by friends. Note: a revised copy was published in 2009.

Fast forward to 2022 and a recent Orbit Media Wine & Webinar featuring Jared Spool. His  presentation was titled “That One Weird Trick That Makes Marketing Soooo Much Easier”.

 Keyword: influencers.

The trick? Using word-of-mouth to turn customers into influencers.

Suggestion: go sign up for Orbit’s Wine & Webinars if you want to stay informed and entertained.

Back to Jared Spool.  An author, consultant, speaker and UX (user experience) expert. His job description is “Maker of Awesomeness”. And awesomeness is what he says marketers need to focus on. 

Spool suggests that people are so busy with social media that word-of-mouth (which falls under the social media banner) gets short shrift.

Ever hear of the Kano Model? I hadn’t til I heard Jared.

The Kano Model is a tool that breaks out the way people respond to a product (or service). It’s a way for you to determine customer satisfaction based on three criteria. 

The first criteria is Basic Expectations. As the term suggests, these are features your target market expects. If you’re buying a house, you expect a certain number of rooms, maybe a garage and basic amenities.  

Criteria #2 is Performance Features. These are the satisfiers. For the house you’re buying, central air conditioning and nice landscaping aren’t necessary (basic) but they’re attractive.

Criteria #3 is Excitement Features. And these are just that – exciting. They elicit WOW! reactions and delight the user. In your house hunt, a glam marble bathroom with a jacuzzi, soaking tub, heated floors and a big walk-in shower fall into this category.

Delight, The Ultimate Tool

The goal is to “enhance performance and increase customer satisfaction with features your customers will be delighted with”. Survey Monkey does a  good job of explaining how it works. 

A Positive User Experience (UX)

Whether you call it UX (user experience) or CX (customer experience), it’s basically the same.  

  • Figure out how to delight your customers.  
  • Make their lives better.  
  • Solve a gnawing problem.  
  • Exceed their expectations (or what Kano calls Basic Expectations).

Happy customers share their experiences. So do unhappy customers but that’s for another post.

Applying the KANO model.

Have you been delighted? Think about the last time you were delighted by a product or service.  I

I’ll start. I went into my local hardware store looking for a plant moisture probe. I knew they would have it cause they’re my “go to” neighborhood store and they have above and beyond what most hardware stores have. 

This time, however, the product was out of stock. So much for my Basic Expectations. 

But this store knows how to exceed expectations. The salesperson headed over to the computer, located the product I needed, ordered it for me and told me they’d send a text when it was in. An hour later, I had a text telling me it would be in next Thursday for me to pick up.

On Wednesday,  I got a phone call saying it was in the store and I could pick it up. Promise a customer something. Then exceed that promise.

According to the KANO model, this store’s service is above and beyond a basic expectation. So of course, I’ve already told more than a few people that it’s the best hardware store I’ve ever been to.

That said, the same word-of-mouth also works to hurt your company if you fail to satisfy a customer’s basic expectation. 

The customer who goes into that hot new Italian restaurant and has bad service and/or cold food will share that bad experience with anyone who asks how it was. 

A bad experience spreads like wildfire on social media. Think of all the restaurants that closed during COVID. The ones that were able to keep customers happy survived. The ones that didn’t have enough staff closed. And the internet became more important than ever for sharing experiences. And for cheerleading.

If you’re not currently using word-of-mouth marketing, add it to your marketing plan for 2023. 

Related Blog Posts

How to deliver a remarkable customer experience


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Is Your Company’s Positioning Statement Accurate?

how to determine market positioning

Positioning is like a roadmap for your business. It drives all of your branding, messaging and marketing.

A clear positioning statement defines:

  • Who you are.
  • Who you help (your target market).
  • HOW you help (the problems you solve or needs you fill for clients).
  • Your USP (unique selling proposition).
    What makes you different/better than the competition?

Static Messaging Is…Ho Hum…Stale.
Your messaging should not be static. It needs to evolve along with what’s going on in the world – politically, economically, culturally.

If not, your brand will be out-ot-touch and not be seen as authentic. Since authenticity is a key driver of customer acquisition and retention, you can’t afford for that to happen.

In an INC article titled “In the Age of Brand Authenticity, Most Marketers Are Missing the Mark”, author Amy Balliet claims’ ”Only about one in every three marketers consider reworking their brand messaging and positioning when planning their overall marketing strategy.”

If you fall into that category, you’re missing out on growing your business.

So how does authentic and timely positioning work?

According to a  Zoom article titled, “Positioning in the age of authenticity”,  “Authentic positioning means your words match your actions.”

The days of allowing your business to say one thing but do another are long gone.  Customers want to know what you stand for and who you are.

Claiming to run a green company when you’re really not doing all you can to save the environment will eventually backfire.

Ever Heard of Greenwashing?

From misleading packaging claims to pseudo recycling that still harms the environment, companies that greenwash are eventually found out.

Check out this article from, 10 Companies and Corporations Called Out For Greenwashing.

It’s not just oil companies that claim to do one thing but in reality do something else. Giant banks and investment firms claiming to be eco-friendly lend money to companies that pollute the environment and contribute to global warming. There’s still culpability. And consumers aren’t letting companies get away with that any more.

It’s All About Trust.

Companies that garner customers’ trust are the ones that will succeed in a turbulent marketplace….which is what we’re seeing at the moment.

Are gas companies screwing us at the pump or are they simply passing on increased prices they’re paying?

Can we trust that organic products we purchase in the grocery store really are?

Are the medications we take as pure as pharma companies claim they are?

We like to do business with companies we trust. Fortunately, in an age of unlimited media (thank you, Google), sussing out misleading claims is fairly easy. Eventually, dishonest companies get found out.

What can YOUR small business do to boost authenticity and accurately position your brand?

Here are three simple to-do’s to earn (and keep) your clients’ trust:

  1. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
    People remember and will hold you accountable.
  2. Don’t abandon your clients.
    There’s nothing worse than disappearing after the project. It says to the customer “We got paid. That’s all we care about.”
  3. Let clients know you want them to be happy with your work.
    Ask for their feedback (good or bad) and use it to improve how you work.

We are forgiving people. If we believe you’re sincere about mistakes you’ve made and changes you’re making in your company, you can recapture our loyalty. And loyal customers are what every small business wants.

Need convincing?

According to this article in Forbes titled “The Value Of Investing In Loyal Customers,” keeping your current customers happy and making repeat purchases is key to growth for almost every business.”

It’s easy enough to do if you make authenticity and customer care part of your corporate culture. It’s certainly far easier that prospecting for new customers.

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Why aren’t people opening your emails?

Getting people to open your emails can be daunting.

With overloaded inboxes and so many subject lines vying for attention, yours really needs to pop to get opened..

As marketers, we are constantly working to improve open rates. After hovering around 31% for several years and being ok with that number (since the average open rate for marketing newsletters is 20.5% according to Campaign Monitor), we’ve noticed a consistent increase in our open rates in the past year. The last newsletter we sent out got a 51% which is pretty great.

What are we doing differently? 

A number of things. And we want to share some tips about what we’ve done that might help you boost your open rates too.

  1. Research.
    We pay close attention to what makes us stop while scrolling through our inboxes and also those we zip right by. That helps us write better subject lines of our own.
  2. Do your own due diligence.
    I remember reading articles not that long ago that suggested writing subject lines like:
    • Don’t open this email.
    • Limited time offer.
    • You don’t want to miss this.
    • This is your last chance.

Yawn. Yawn. Yawn.

I regularly zipped right past those in my inbox. So obviously I wasn’t going to write anything like that.

If you’re not sure that your subject lines are screaming “open me, open me”, do some A/B testing.

3.  Appeal to people’s natural curiosity.
Spend enough time writing your subject lines until you find what works.

SInce our goal is to craft subject line copy that’s compelling, intriguing and fun, rather than a subject line with one topic, we mention two or three. Like these recent examples::

    • Business trends, gallery openings and more.
    • Some fun things to do and new biz tips to try.
    • Perfect clients, bunnies, and more…..
    • Messaging, Live Networking and some (Free) Stuff You Need

That tactic seems to be a little more interesting to readers who like variety and choices. More like a buffet of goodies than one topic that may or may not be of interest to your entire list.

4. Make the content worthwhile.
Remember getting magazines in the mail and being so excited to dive right in and see what goodies they held?

That’s how you want people to feel about your newsletters.

So think about mixing it up a little. We still focus on marketing topics. But we also share interesting places we find and fun things to do in Chicago….with a focus on local and women-owned businesses. We call them Small Business Shoutouts. And every month we get more feedback from subscribers who say “Love your newsletter!”

That certainly helps the open rate if your readers look forward to reading each issue.

5. Make it visually appealing.

The design of your newsletter has a major impact on how readers respond.

A well-designed document enhances your brand and presents your business  professionally. Smart use of white space, a clean, easy-to-read typeface, a scannable layout, compelling images — all of these affect how well your newsletter is received. And opened.

Adobe shares some smart design advice in this article about newsletter design titled:  Captivate your audience with simple, stunning newsletter designs.

That’s a wrap for this month.

Hope this post gives you some good ideas on getting more clicks on your emails and newsletters. If you still need help, we’re always happy to chat.

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How to create an Ideal Client Profile

graphic showing 1 red token in a line of blue tokens

Before you start any marketing, you need a plan. Without one, you’re bound to make scattershot efforts. A waste of time and marketing dollars.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen more than a few startups  make this mistake. It’s painful to watch.

But it’s an easy fix! Start with developing a client profile.

What does your ideal client look like?
This provides direction for how you position your company and informs content development for all of your marketing.

Think in terms of the attributes of someone you’d consider to be the perfect client. You might give him, her (or them)  a name if that helps create a personae. Then lay out the following:

  • Type of Company
  • Industry
  • Number of Employees
  • Sales Volume
  • Geographic Location (if relevant)
  • Job Title:
    • CEO
    • VP of Sales
    • Marketing Manager
    • Sole Proprietor, etc.
  • Personae
    What traits does this ideal client have? Patient, focused, responsive, direct, open to suggestions or knows exactly what she wants?
  • Budget: Ideal allocation for your product or service. No budget, move on.
  • Value Recognition
    What value do you bring to this ideal client?  What problems can you solve? What needs can your product or service fill?

Once you’ve got this ideal client profile laid out, you’ll have a clear picture of the type of client you want to attract.

Then you can proceed to direct your marketing efforts to convince that potential client why they should do business with you..

If you’re ready to move forward, here’s a Guerilla Marketing Form to work on next.

See you next month!

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How to deliver a remarkable customer experience

Gordon's Ace Hardware Store in the Gold Coast

Last month, we blogged about what NOT to do when offering new products or services.

This month, we focus on how to deliver a remarkable customer experience. Because delighting customers not only keeps them coming back but also sharing their delight with others (can you say word-of-mouth marketing?).

I believe in learning from the companies that are doing it best. Like Netflix — which has figured out how to provide an amazing customer experience by streaming a seemingly limitless number of shows.

During Covid lockdown, Netflix kept us sane.  Stuck inside, we talked with friends about who was watching what. We shared on social media. Soon other streaming companies jumped on board. But Netflix was the first.

So I found it interesting to learn that Netflix is now partnering with Walmart (another company that seems to know exactly how to build sales) selling products related to recent streaming hits like Squid Game. They’ve created an area on for an online store called Netflix Hub.

A stretch you say? Hardly. It’s brilliant.

Netflix’s strategy is to develop new revenue streams to support their core subscription business. Promoting hit-show-related merchandise in a new marketplace allows them, as their EVP, Jeff Evans, says: “to connect with the Netflix fan base and potentially attract new customers.”

It’s probably safe to say that any small business would be over-the-moon happy with growth like Netflix. In Q2 2021, the company generated over $7.3 billion in revenue. Their growth curve since 2013 is one that makes investors smile.

What can your small business do?

Why not apply Netflix’s strategy to your small business marketing efforts?  What can you learn from them? What do they do that you don’t?

I found the answer I was looking for in this article in Media Labs.  And it’s pretty basic for a brilliant idea — “Netflix knows how to cater [to] their customers’ needs by giving them a remarkable experience. This is the real success story of Netflix..”

Creating a remarkable experience isn’t something that only big companies can do. Small businesses can absolutely do it. Maybe even easier. We don’t need to run it by layers of departments for approval. We simply need to make it part of our company culture.

Let’s see how that works.

I’ve identified 5 things that make for a remarkable client experience: ‘

  1. Offer Choices
    Make it easy for customers to get what they want. Netflix lets customers watch shows they want — when they want them — on a variety of devices.
  2. Offer Personalization
    In this HubSpot blog post, Kaleigh Moore writes about 8 Brands Creating Memorable Customer Experiences That Go Above and Beyond.  One company called Function Of Beauty lets customers create their own personal hair care products. They offer an online quiz to determine your hair type as well as colors and fragrances you like. You get a product created just for you. Talk about feeling special!
  3. Surprise Surprise!
    Surprises are the impetus behind mystery box subscriptions. There are boxes for almost any interest. They’re great for gifts when you’ve run out of clever ideas. You can find themed boxes for just about anyone on your shopping list. For example,…treat your mixologist brother-in-law to the Shaker & Spoon Cocktail Club. Or gift your sister the crafter with Home Made Luxe so she can create homemade goodies themed to each month (for these and 28 other cool subscriptions, head over to Buzz Feed.)
  4. Outstanding Customer Care
    Marshall Field of the eponymous, now defunct, Chicago-based retail store said “Give the lady what she wants”. Fields was famous for their return policy of “no questions asked”. It takes “the customer is always right” to a whole new level.  Ritz-Carlton has one of the best customer care policies around. Employees are encouraged to “give the client what he needs”. And each employee is given up to $2,000 to make that happen. See #11 in this Qualtrics post titled: 11 examples of companies delivering great customer service. But you’re a small business owner. The above examples reference big companies. How does that apply to you? Great question! Which leads us to the 5th way to offer a remarkable customer experience……
  5. Make the customer feel special. Be like Ace.
    Ace Hardware has been around since 1924. Some of you may remember their jingle (we had jingles before the internet) — Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man. Ace is a franchise company with over 5,000 stores around the world. Most of these stores are independently owned and operated by local entrepreneurs. So even though the parent company is huge, each store functions as a small business.I want to talk about my local Ace store, Gordon’s Ace Hardware. This is in their profile: “As the helpful hardware folks in your community, we promise that, “helping you is the most important thing we have to do today.” And helping customers with really excellent customer service is exactly what they do.I stopped in there last week to have a key made. As I walked in the door, a salesperson asked if I needed help finding something, which I did because the key carving station had been moved. Got my key made in a snap. Stood in line for a few minutes chatting with a woman behind me who told me you could find ANYTHING at this store and how helpful the staff was.

    At least three other people walked in while I was waiting to pay. One customer after another. Each was warmly greeted. I was surprised to see this kind of traffic since Amazon probably carries 90% of the merchandise Ace does. And probably cheaper.

    At a time when retail vacancies are high —  the vacancy rate in Chicago’s Loop is 20% — how is this small local shop thriving? We’ve had empty storefronts in my neighborhood since I moved here three years ago. And I know my neighborhood is not unique.

    What is unique is the way my local Ace Hardware makes customers feel.  Like we count. Like our business is valued. Like they’re happy to see us.

    I’ve never been in an Ace store where I didn’t get amazing service, so I know this focus on customer care is part of their corporate culture.

    After meeting my share of bored salespeople who obviously don’t what to be there, it’s awfully nice to be warmly greeted by kind people who really want to help you find what you need.

    And that just doesn’t happen when you shop at Amazon. It’s efficient and the prices are good. But it’s impersonal. And creating a remarkable customer experience involves human interaction.

    So what can you do to create remarkable experiences for your small business customers?  Have any ideas we haven’t covered? Feel free to comment below. We’d love to hear them.

    On a related topic, check out our post on how to nail customer engagement.

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