Appearances are everything when it comes to your online brand

Appearances are critical in business... especially online. Your potential customers want to know if your website looks trustworthy. We've all heard the phrase "the appearance of impropriety." The last thing any of us wants is to have that phrase linked to our companies and their websites.

I saw a quote in Website Magazine that sums that feeling up pretty well. The author wrote, "People make snap decisions when they browse the Web. They look for the familiar and the trusted and are equally concerned about fraudulent websites and viruses. To maximize traffic to your website, you need to quickly establish credibility and trust for your company and stand out from your competitors."

I know a perfectly good company -- a carpet cleaner -- with a completely sketchy website. I KNOW these guys. They are upstanding, honest people who do a fair job. But their website plays strange music, things are disorganized, and you just get the feeling that they aren't 100% on the up and up. My best guess is that they lose business because of it.

Take a critical look at your website and some of the things you do. Do you use trust seals in search results? Do you provide customer testimonials, complete contact information, and a detailed "About Us" page? Is your information well-organized? Does your site look friendly, warm, and inviting? How do YOU show your potential customer that you are trustworthy on the web?

In defense of the handwritten note

Over the past few years, email has become the delivery method of choice for many business correspondence. As smartphones and social media continue to rise, text messages and tweets are also gaining popularity. Yet, with all that technology, there are still times when a handwritten note makes sense. Here are a few examples to keep in mind:

Sales call follow-ups. Send your prospect a three to four-sentence note, thanking them for their time and reinforcing what you discussed in your meeting. People appreciate the personal touch a handwritten note provides.

Client thank yous. Mark each client's anniversary with you -- or any particularly large or meaningful orders they place -- with a quick, handwritten thank you card. For even more goodwill, include a handwritten thank you with each completed order or invoice.

Employee thank yous. When someone goes above and beyond the call of duty, recognize them with a handwritten thank you card. Your employee will appreciate the gesture just as much as your clients do when you send them a handwritten note.

Special recognition. If you see a customer or prospect featured in the newspaper, send them a quick congratulatory note, along with a copy of the clip. Send birthday and holiday greetings, and look for ways to let your customers know you're thinking of them on their special days.

Secret formulas, baited hooks... and the importance of compelling headlines

I saw this headline a few days ago: "Coke recipe still safely under lock and key in Atlanta." I clicked on it at once. When I went to read the article, I realized I'd been subject to link bait.

Link baiting is (in part) when you create a headline that is SO AMAZING your potential fish get caught on your hook. They just can't help reading your article. In this case, it was the implication that Coke's 125-year-old, top-secret recipe had been revealed.

People forget just how important headlines are. I'm not just talking about social media either. If your monthly newsletter has boring headlines, then how do you expect to hook YOUR fish? Writing counts. It counts on Facebook, in your blog, on Twitter, and most certainly on your printing. Boring newsletters are, well, boring.

Let me make you this offer: I will rescue you from boring headlines. When you call me, we can write some amazing headlines together. I have the experience. You have the newletter. Let's get writing!

By the way, in case you're interested in reading more about the story that inspired this post (the security of Coke's secret recipe), here's a link to a Reuters' article detailing it all:

Avoiding letdowns in your life

Completing a challenging assignment. Closing a tough sale. Making a big presentation. All of these can leave a person feeling on top of the world. But when that elation subsides, many people are left wondering, "What now?" The anticipation that drove them to push harder and find success is now replaced by an emptiness and longing for something more.

After investing so much time and energy into achieving a goal, it's only natural to feel some sense of letdown once that objective is achieved. Sports teams, for example, have to struggle sometimes to maintain focus after beating a big rival, so they don't let the next game slip by.

Commentators refer to these as "trap games" because it's so easy (and natural) for teams to let down their guard and not try as hard in the game immediately following a big, emotional win. The result, of course, can be a disappointing loss against a seemingly easier foe.

To lessen any feelings of letdown after big wins in your own business and personal life, experts suggest jumping into the next project right away. Give yourself a little time to recoup, of course, and to celebrate a well-earned win, but then start pushing yourself forward again. As tennis great Arthur Ashe once said: "Success is a journey, not a destination." Enjoy the ride.

Focus on adding value if you want to stay ahead

I ran across an interesting quote recently that I thought I'd share. "Times are tough. In times like these, clients tend to focus on the value proposition. 'Throw it at the wall and see if it sticks' is not a phrase you hear a lot in recessions. Instead, your customers will tend to have their eyes transfixed on your value proposition. 'How does this spend make me better off?'"

I saw that on a site about something entirely un-print related, but it is so true for so many industries that it cried out to be quoted. Printing hasn't been about "seeing what sticks" for years. I bet your industry hasn't either. I know that we have been focusing on making you better off for an awfully long time. But even so, it bears repeating.

You need marketing. Why? Because you want customers. But you don't want to waste your marketing dollars. As printers, we recognize that and have continued to adapt our product and service line to remain in line with our customers' nee ds as they evolve.

Of course, the same is true of your customers and the products and services you provide to them. Your customers don't want to spend money just for the sake of the next new thing. Make sure your value proposition makes sense to your customers, too.

The benefits of buying locally

I've been thinking a lot lately about online internet printing...something that, in a sense, we offer, too, with our website and our online ordering and our online estimating. But I was thinking about why anyone would pick an online printer when they could pick us instead.

Is going to pick up the phone at 7 p.m. when you are having a crisis? Are they going to work on Super Bowl Sunday because you have a big presentation on Monday? No. But here is the other thing. They don't buy stuff from you. They don't send kids to your schools. They don't talk to you at the grocery store.

So what's a local printer to do? For that matter, what's the owner of any small, local company supposed to do when faced with larger or out-of-market competitors online?

For me, I decided to fight back... and I came up with a BRILLIANT plan. Ready? I'm going to offer you incredible service, incredible quality, and be incredibly responsiv e to you. Best of all, I'm going to do ALL of that at a fair price! I know -- IT'S UNBELIEVABLE!

Okay, I'm at the office, and I'm waiting for your call!

The surprising value of a lifelong customer

How many customers do you have? A florist might say 1,000. Printers -- well, we have a few, too, right? How much is your average sale? For realtors (according to Google) -- about $260,000. For florists (I'm guessing here) -- $100. Printers... well, you know what you spend with us.

So think about it this way:

The big money isn't in creating products; it's in creating customers. A single, lifelong customer who lives his life spending the way you want him to may be worth six or seven figures. A single one.

That guy who spends $2,500 a year with you is worth $60,000 over a lifetime (25 years). That means you only need SIXTEEN lifetime customers to reach a million dollars. Want $10 million? That is only 160 lifetime customers.

Yes, I know it doesn't work that way all the time, or for everyone. But I also know this. Customer loyalty counts. And that's worth a million every time.
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