Thursday, June 30, 2011

Web tech support calls are a gold mine to web developers

Support calls provide tremendous insight into how people actually use your pages.

It's easy for a web developer to say that a user should understand how a page works; to say that their webpage is “intuitive”... “Who could possibly misunderstand this button?”.

It is a humbling experience to be on the phone with a user who is clicking around and “your site doesn't work”. It's helpful to learn that some people expect something to work a particular way and they are stopped in their tracks when it doesn't.

A quick for instance: I was on the phone with the customer asking them to use our search engine. She said,"the search engine didn't take them anywhere." As I inquired further, I realized she expected to click on a “search” button. Our site's search lacked a button (users hit the carriage return to perform the search). Inside the search field, at the right was a small (X) button, that allowed you to clear your search. She was using the (x) as if it were the “search” button and was confused as to why her search kept disappearing and the site “did nothing”. (Later I found out she was browsing our site from her Android phone, which is whole different conversation).

As a minimalist, I may not add a search button since one is not required, but I will likely remove the clear button as it is of little benefit and potentially problematic.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Doing More With Less

This was part of our conversation with a large global senior executive team just before the economy took a hard dive. It is even more true, today. We hope it will help someone out there, and look forward to your thoughts and ideas on the subject!

Accountability is the key to doing more with less. But to make doing more with less successful, you must have a team that can not only can multitask -- but has "bought in" to the new corporate culture of multi-tasking. Doing more with less does not mean a larger work load, it means a smarter work. Right now, its about survival. Employees that don't buy into this concept, should not be working with your company. It's that simple.

To implement accountability throughout the entire organization you must add transparency. Implement a concise Annual Operating Plan (AOP) to ensure all teams are driving toward the same goals -- and working only on projects outlined in the plan.

There must be quarterly executive reviews held for each team to track progress and set benchmarks for meeting these goals.

Streamlining business by creating interdisciplinary teams that focus on circular strategic thinking and execution will be key elements to ensure success. Teams should not be made up of executives only but a cross section of all departments, head to toe.  Great ideas come from thinking differently, challenge every member of the team to think about all aspects of the business; sales, marketing, accounting, product management etc. Remember, many successful executives started in the mail room!

Streamlining at a Glance
  • Eliminate duplication of efforts, i.e., individual websites, regional PR agencies & ad agencies
  • Institute an immediate evaluation of IT infrastructure, consolidate where you can and cut unnecessary systems.
  • HR should evaluate benefits and restructure immediately.
  • Set deadlines for strategic planning budget, resource allocation and performance management report
  • Execute. Execute. Execute.
If you would like more information on this topic please .

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Take a fresh look at a problem and amazing things happen

Mindsets are sticky things. Once one takes hold, it takes conscious effort to change it. You need to decide to look at a situation with new eyes.

Revolutionary changes happen when one takes a fresh look at a problem, rather than accepting other people's thoughts/opinions/directions on the matter (the iPhone is a prime example).

Revolutionary changes are somewhat rare, not due to a lack of possibilities, but rather due to the inherent effort involved in thinking freshly.

Lytro is about to revolutionize the digital camera industry by bringing their light field camera technology to the market. Lytro changes the game: rather than a race to add megapixels to cameras, they've decided to completely rethink how a camera focuses, and it invented a mind blowing technology that allows you to set the focus of a picture after the picture has been taken. Check out this write up at All Things D.

Kudos to Lytro for breaking out of everyone else's thoughts and opinions about the camera industry and coming up with their own ideas.

Marketers Have Guardian Angels?

Many CEO's and other senior executives prefer strategy meetings to be with primary decision makers, only. They believe the old adage "Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth". But there is one person you should always invite to the party -- a rep from the legal department -- and sometimes, depending on the meeting, the Chief Counsel.

I know what you're thinking —"What the .... Why would I do that???" Truth is, the legal department is your Guardian Angel. They are there to protect you, your ideas, and the company you represent.

No, I never went to law school, so I have no vested interest in saying this. I am a marketer and I have seen too many companies choke and lose a ton of money down the road because their legal counsel was not in the vetting process early enough. By warning you of potential issues they can save you and your company time, money, and embarrassment.

Another benefit of having the legal department in all your strategic meetings and presentations is that they feel more involved with the company -- because of you -- and are thus more responsive to getting your work done -- ahead of other divisions.

Some of the most iconic campaigns we have worked on started with comments from our guardian angles — the lawyers! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Killing 2 Yelps with One Stone

Let me just say right up front, I am not a fan of Yelp. Yelp can be very frustrating to business owners because it allows anyone to say anything they want: Yelp doesn't care if the contents of a comment are completely and utterly untrue. Yelp doesn't care if a disgruntled former employee who signed an NDA agreement breaks their agreement by posting (lying) about your business on their site. Yelp, however, will filter comments they deem as suspiciously positive, and hide those comments from view (Scroll to bottom of reviews, and look for a tiny gray link that says "123 filtered"). The result is that the aggregate of posts on Yelp are more negative than the reality of the situation. (Oddly, Yelp only filters comments they deem suspiciously negative on the Yelp about Yelp page, making the aggregate of posts on Yelp about Yelp more positive than the reality of the situation, go figure).

So what's a business to do? Here are a couple of strategies you might want to implement:

Add Yelp into the meta-tags on your site. Purchase a domain with your name and Yelp combined in the domain name. Link that domain to your site. The goal of these tactics are to get your site to appear higher in a Google search result than the actual Yelp page for your business.

While the above tactic may help to reroute traffic away from poor reviews, your real goal is to reduce the number of poor reviews and increase the number of good reviews. Technology can help here too!

Look at it this way: if people had a good experience with your business, then you need a way to capture that and encourage them to yelp about it. If someone had a bad experience with your business, then it is important for you to learn about the bad experience, address it quickly and directly, and hopefully resolve their upset so they don't feel compelled to Yelp about it. A negative experience is a ripe opportunity to show the strength of your company by demonstrating that you know how to redeem the situation.

The process I'm going to recommend requires that you have your customer's e-mail address. Pretend you are a hotel. After the customer's reservation (but on the same day), send them a “how did we do?” e-mail that links them over to a short survey. Give them the opportunity to enter a star rating and comments (a large bright smilie face on the form can help to set the tone!). Ask them for permission to republish their comments. You've done a couple of things here: you head them off at the pass–if they're upset then you allow them to vent to you directly, possibly defusing their emotional need to complain about you on Yelp. They may also defer Yelping for a few days just in case you might decide to get back to them. And those first few days will make a substantial difference as to the emotional tone of their Yelp, if they decide complain at all. Of course, they may refuse to fill out your survey and go rant on Yelp anyway, but at least you did your due diligence by asking them how their visit was.

At this point, if you receive a negative comment, excellent! Someone who does not like you has given you information that you may use to improve your business! You may decide to follow up with them and thank them for their comments and maybe even give them a gift certificate. But make sure that they don't feel like you are badgering them: don't follow-up repeatedly with questions about how can you do better.

So what we've accomplished up to this point is we are now reducing the number of poor reviews (if you turn the situation around it may produce a positive review, but don't expect it). But you can add an extra wrinkle to help increase positive comments.

Remember your survey asks customers to give you a star rating. After they click submit they are brought to a page that thanks them for answering the survey. If a customer gave you a five star rating, provide them with a link over to your Yelp page and encourage them to praise you there. "we're so glad you enjoyed your visit! click the button if you would like to help the us by sharing your experience!"

The email survey process accomplishes a few things: it improves the feedback loop from customers which will help improve the business. It provides a proper outlet for unhappy customers to vent their frustration: better to tell someone who is in a position to make a difference about the matter than to just rant about it ineffectually to the world (did we actually just make our customers more responsible people too??). It captures positive commentary and asks for permission to republish those comments, thereby giving you great customer testimonials that you can use elsewhere. It locates the most favorable customers and nudges them to help you by encourages them to post their comments on Yelp.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Designing for the ever-changing landscape

Web designers must never be done learning. They should never get comfortable, thinking they have mastered their jobs. New devices, form factors, and interaction methods require rethinking existing design strategies.

iPhones in iPads are a great example. There is no mouse, there is no clicking (only tapping), there is no rollover or hover. Lots of great interactive designs assume that users will use their mouse to interact with the page. Remove the mouse from the equation and certain things that used to be exciting now fail to work.

Are your designs “finger friendly”? Do they work just as well by tapping as by mousing? Do your pages resize– when one might reasonably expect it– to fit the width of the device? If you display a phone number, can you tap it to dial it?

If you aren't accommodating these devices, at best you are diminishing your brand experience, at worst you are failing a forward thinking portion of your audience.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Navigate The Jungle — Start With A Plan

A band of explorers was struggling to make their way through a thick jungle to some fabled ruins. In the front of the entourage was the hatchet crew seriously hacking away at the thick undergrowth. Behind them were pack animals, explorers, and a couple of elephants. The leader of the expedition decides to mount the tallest elephant in hopes to see where they're headed. Once atop the elephant he gets a glimpse above the jungle, and sees the ruins, but they are off in another direction.

The Explorer yells down:
"Hey guys, we're heading the wrong way!"

To which they yell back:
"Quiet! We're making progress!"

It is very easy to get mired in the day-to-day tactical operations of your business. It is much harder to get your head above it all in order to see if you're heading in the right direction, but it is critical. Take some time to glimpse above the trees and see if you headed in the right direction.

The Potential Price of "Free" Social Media

While it is free to participate in social media, resources will be required to manage your online presence. Make sure your dedicated resource is savvy to the intricacies of social media. Don't pick someone just because they are inexpensive. Mistakes in the social realm can end up ultimately costing you more money than you saved by picking that intern to "do your Facebooking and Tweets".