Tag Archives: small business

Why Internet Stores Fail to Stay In Business

29 Jan

As the owner of a small internet website that’s operated for 14 plus years and as an avid customer to hundreds of other online websites, I feel that I have my finger on the pulse of what it takes to run a successful online store.

There have been countless times that I have discovered a policy (or lack thereof) that made me think “whoa, how do they stay in business operating that way?” And inevitably the answer is “they don’t”.

So let’s look at the top 10 reasons that internet stores fail.

What can you do to keep online customers happy?

What can you do to keep online customers happy?

1. They try to be all things to all people. This might be the single hardest thing for a store owner to stick to but it’s one of the most important.  If a customer asks for something that you do not offer, you want to be able to give it to them.  DON’T. If you are going to specialize in making bracelets out of  stones and a customer calls or e-mails you and asks you if you can make earrings out of bottle caps, you should probably politely pass.  Why?  Well, do you have all the supplies without making a special trip? Do you have the time to learn how to make the “best” bottle cap earrings that you can make? Yes, I believe in good customer service, and yes I believe in accommodating the customer in every way possible but I stop short of filling special requests for products that are not something that we currently offer. It’s costly, it’s a time drain and if you’ve done your market research correctly, it’s really not something that’s going to make you money. When a customer calls our store with a request that is not something we do, we concentrate on explaining to them what we can do and this extra attention almost always results in a sale.

2. They fail to communicate in a timely basis with their customers.  If a customer e-mails and asks a question, that question should be answered within the next 2 hours, preferably sooner. This includes evenings up until 9PM.  How many times have you found an item that you’d like to buy in an online store, but you just have “one little question” that you need answered?  So, you click on the e-mail us link, ask your question and then….. nothing.  Just the other morning I needed 1 more of a particular plush animal that I didn’t have enough of in stock.  I scoured the internet and found what I was looking for in a small shop.  Since I was paying for shipping this lighter weight item, it was more economical to order multiples so I decided I to order three.  And because it appeared to be a small shop I e-mailed to find out if they had 3 in their inventory. I waited all day and no reply. Since it was Friday and I really needed them quickly I ordered 3 and in the SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS section I said, “I have ordered 3 but only really need 1. Please don’t hold up my order if you don’t have the full amount in stock. Just adjust my credit card and send what you have.”  I got the automatic order receipt but nothing else. There was a link in the receipt to check my order status.  I clicked on it the following Tuesday morning and what was my status?  Nothing. Grrrr.  No matter what happens from this moment on, how likely would I be to order from this store again?

3. They don’t offer PayPal as a form of payment. Let me just say that I don’t work for or own stock in PayPal. It’s just that if I’m doing business on the internet and am not familiar with a store, I am significantly more inclined to make my purchase if they offer PayPal as a form of payment. Why?  Well, I don’t have to hand out my credit card info to a place that I’m not familiar with. I am comfortable that with PayPal I have more protection from being a victim of fraud.

4. They don’t change their websites with the seasons/holidays. If a retail website has no indication on it that there is an upcoming holiday, I wonder about it.  Conversely, if I shop a website in February that still has Elf and Santa Claus pics, then I would worry about shopping with them too.  It’s like a huge sign that says “no one really monitors this website.”

5. They don’t put themselves in their customer’s shoes. Frequently, we get customers who are in a hurry and don’t read our “Delivery” section and aren’t sure what delivery method to choose.  Many times they will choose Standard Overnight delivery (very expensive) when Regular Ground Delivery would get it there in the same time frame.  We always e-mail the customer, explain the cost savings and offer to change their delivery and reduce their costs.  It’s what we’d want someone to do for us. Same goes for obvious typos on the enclosure cards.  We correct any glaring errors because we believe that part of our responsibility is to make our customers look good.

Free Social Media Tips for Small Business

22 Jan
So much Social Media, so little time.

So much Social Media, so little time.

Did you ever feel like the whole Social Media world was changing so fast you had to get up 2 hours earlier in the morning just so you wouldn’t get lost with what changed overnight?  Me too!

So, I thought it might be helpful to explain my understanding of the various social media outlets in an easy to understand format.

FACEBOOK – This is a perfect outlet for any small business.  Pestering the hell out of friends and relatives to buy your products will certainly increase sales. Your friends will buy something  just so you’ll leave them alone!  Who wants to really “shop” for anything while they are reading a post about a high school crush getting a divorce??!!

TWITTER – A great source for getting new followers to learn about your business.  It is especially effective if you use the word “FREE” in your headline – that’s what I did and guess what? YOU are reading this!

YouTube – This is the perfect medium for a small business to demonstrate how their products work.  If you aren’t much to look at, have a  really attractive person do the video. If they are “hot”enough, it doesn’t even make a difference if your product is any good, a LOT of people will buy it anyway.

GFC – I just learned about this today!  I’m really excited.  Apparently it stands for Google Friend Connect.  What a wonderful way to get the word out!  Wait, I just read it was actually discontinued for non-Blogger sites on March 1, 2012. Damn, I just knew that I should have gotten up earlier….

PINTEREST – Fabulous, fabulous site. This is especially great for any small businesses that offer a highly visual or highly creative product that they have worked on for years, painstakingly perfecting their craft.  There is no greater high then seeing someone has re-pinned their product……under the topic “DIY” – even better “Weekend Projects for Kids.”

KLOUT – I had to check this out when my great aunt told me about it. She said it analyzes all of your social media and gives you a rating between 1 and 100 to show how much you influence people. My great aunt’s score was 77.  My company’s score was 36… Hmmm.

I hope you’ve found this information helpful.

5 Ways to Stop Telemarketers from Bothering You

16 Jan

We’ve all been there. You are right in the middle of doing a project which requires both hands and getting ready to address the most complicated part when BBBRRRNNNNGG, your telephone rings.  As a small business owner, letting the call go to voice mail could result in the loss of a sale, so I drop what I’m doing and run for the phone. And what do I get for the disruption and inconvenience? A telemarketer who wants to sell me a “loan” for my business. A loan that I didn’t apply for, don’t need and suspect comes with a HUGE interest rate if I were dumb enough to accept it.

Now the first time a telemarketer calls, I always give them the benefit of the doubt.  Everyone has a job, and this one is theirs. Out of respect and courtesy I firmly state I am not interested and to please remove my number from their database.

But when the second or third time rolls around, it takes its toll.  So what methods can you use to deter future calls?

And while we’re talking about unwanted interruptions, what about those pesky e-mails?  The ones you get several times a week for things that either you have no interest in whatsoever or for things that you “thought” at one time you might want but have since decided against it.  Guess you aren’t allowed to change your mind. Ever. Day in and day out, you have to manually delete those e-mails that the Spam filter missed.

What do you do? I’ve come up with a few methods that have worked for me and I thought I’d share them with you.

Make it NOT worth his time to keep calling back.

Make it NOT worth his time to keep calling back.

1. Why would they ask that?

Answer the phone and act enthusiastic about everything they have to say. When they stop to breathe, ask a question about a service or product that is completely unrelated to what they are calling you about.  For instance, if it’s for a loan ask “How many times a year would you recommend that the furnace be cleaned?”  The first time, they will more than likely pause for a minute and then they will continue trying to close you. At this point ask a second question that is not only unrelated to the product/service that they are talking about but also on a completely different topic from the previous question that you asked – example- “Do you know how far the drive is from Newark to Tallahassee?  About this time you should hear a dial tone. SCORE!

2. Auto Forward Company Executives

Research the company and find one department’s e-mail address or even better the individual e-mail address for a senior level executive with the company.  Forward the e-mail to the individual, explain that you have asked to be removed from the e-mail list but, as of yet, this has not happened.  Explain that you are now going to forward each and every e-mail you get from his/her company to them.  More than likely you will get either an automated reply or a reply that states they don’t “handle” that department.  That’s ok.  Because now you are going to use your e-mail program and set up a mail message rule that will automatically forward each e-mail you receive from that company to the person that you contacted and then automatically delete it from your system.  About the 4th forwarded e-mail the VP of Finance gets, you can bet it will be taken care of.

3.  Terminal Hold

Again, act very interested in what they have to say. After about 1 minute, ask them if they can hold on a second.  Put them on hold.  Walk away from the phone. Take a walk around the block.  The first time they will more than likely call again. Act as if you have no idea that they called before and again act interested. After another minute ask if you can put them on hold for just a second. Run to the store on an errand. Repeat as often as necessary – shouldn’t have to do this very many times.

4. Ask for explanations

Answer the phone and as soon as they tell you who they are (or ask for the owner) change into an alternate voice.  If you can do an accent, that would be even better.  Ask about their product but use your new accent and if you can change accents in the middle of speaking, that’s even better.  Every time they ask you a question, pretend not to understand a particular word and ask them to explain what that word is.  For instance, if they say they want you to subscribe to a magazine  you would say “Subscreeepshune, what is word subscreepshune? I not fameeeeleure with zhis verd. Explain to me pleeeeeze.” I want to bet that after the 4th word inquiry  (if you get that far) they will give up.

5. Bad connection

Similar to #4, you could act like you have a really bad connection. Talk loudly and ask them to repeat every sentence. Reply with variations of what they’ve told you.  For instance, if they have said “We’d like to update our listing” then reply “My face needs misting?” – again, the more bizarre your “take” on the conversation is, all the better!

I hope you find these methods helpful and if you have any of your own that have been successful, please post it in the comments below as I’d love to add some to my collection.