The Biggest Mistakes Catalogers Make When It Comes to eCommerce… Part 1

Catalogers and other offline marketers have many advantages when it comes to eCommerce.  Unfortunately, most of them don’t leverage their benefits.  What’s even more demoralizing? They often turn their positives into BIG negatives.

No, I’m not being a Negative Nelly here.  Ass-y Amy? Perhaps. That’s always a fair assumption.

But I digress…

I started my direct marketing career in the mail order world and I will always have a soft-spot for catalog and two-step companies.  There was nothing like opening an envelope filled with cash – yes, cash — from some little old lady 38 states away wanting a pack of greeting cards and a refrigerator magnet from the stationery company I worked for at the time.

So yes, despite the somewhat obnoxious, linkbait-y title, if you’re a cataloger – or any legacy company, for that matter — here are some of the biggest mistakes I see AND more important, tried-and-true ways/solutions for you to fix them.*

Mistake #1: Underestimating the value of direct/no referrer/branded traffic.

Sure-Fix #1: The people who know you – the ones who are typing in your company name or branded keywords – are more valuable than the ones who aren’t.  Period.   The direct/no referrer/branded folks have the highest propensity to act.  Granted, sometimes the actions are customer service-related (tracking an order, for example) but still… The people who know you?  They’re your gold. The center of your bullseye.

Put them in their own bucket.  Study them.  See where they are exiting.  (Remember, people typically choose to exit within 3 pages BEFORE they actually exit.)  Look at what they’re searching for.  Find out what they’re doing.  What they’re using.  What they’re not.  If you’re like most companies, you should develop an entry page specifically for the direct/no referrer/branded folks.

I know.  I know.  This tip sounds easy but less than 1 out of every 10 companies I visit actually does this.

The interesting thing is that when you do it (separate them into the proper buckets), you’ll see a lot of trends.  You’ll find those are the folks who do things like type in item numbers, use your recommendation engine or go into their order history trying to find a quick and easy way to reorder.  You may also find that they’re the ones who are likely to use the phone as the ultimate ordering channel – they come from a catalog, snoop around for the best deals/promo codes, look at your new stuff and then call in and place their order.  If this happens with your business, make sure you put your phone number all over the place – especially the cart/checkout and search functions.  As always, I recommend using special 1800# numbers for this kind of stuff – they’re inexpensive and not only are they good for your tracking but they’re good at getting your customers to the right place faster.

 

Mistake #2: Basing your navigational structure around your catalog categories.

Sure-Fire Fix #2: Just today, I’ve seen first aid kids under “Children” (should I alert CPS?); socks under “Novelties” (from an apparel company that puts scarves and mittens under “Accessories” but socks elsewhere);  vibrators under “intimate solutions” (which, incidentally, was buried under Health and Beauty); candles under Outdoor (even though they only sell indoor candles, not a citronella in sight); and Jams under Preserves, which was under Favorites but not Food even though Jellies was under Food, not Favorites.  (Heaven knows where the marmalades are — I couldn’t find them and they are one of that particular store’s most popular items.)

Here’s the thing.  Users don’t want to search for anything.  THEY WANT TO FIND SOMETHING.  I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, navigation (including your text search function) is one of THE biggest determinants of your online success.  Sure, you can say that nobody cares about navigation and everybody uses the text search – but you’ll be sorely mistaken.  In usability, you find that unless users know precisely what they are searching for and/or are sophisticated users, they’ll try using the navigation first ESPECIALLY if they are browsing/shopping or have had a bad experience with your search function or any of the half dozen or so they’ve used before it.  (Research shows that the site(s) immediately before the user came to yours has/have a direct impact on your success.)

My recommendation to you? Work your navigation but work it as if your sole goal was to sell the products and not to just put the catalog/offline products on the web.  Name the products what people are searching for – if they’re calling it a raincoat, don’t call it a poncho.  If they’re calling it a shirt, don’t call it a blouse.  If it’s a bestseller, don’t bury it under some innocuous category like “accoutrements” or “selected features.”  Also, be sure to make the categories indicative of what people are looking for – if you’re only selling PATIO FURNITURE, you needn’t bury it under GARAGE/OUTDOOR.  Be clear. Be specific.

 

Mistake #3: Not offering “Ordering from a Catalog?” tools.

Sure-Fix #3: Most companies do two things incorrectly when it comes to this valuable section.  First, they’ll call it QUICK SHOPPE or something equally useless when they should be showing a picture of their current catalog cover and saying “ORDERING FROM A CATALOG?”  Second, and even worse, they’ll take the whole section off the site altogether because “we tested it in 1998 and it didn’t work.”  Newsflash: 1998 was SIXTEEN YEARS ago, things are just a little different now.  Not to mention, your ORDERING FROM A CATALOG? section won’t work on all your traffic – it will ONLY work on potential catalog traffic.  So, if you know I’m coming in from a referral link on one of your affiliate sites, chances are you don’t need to show it.  For the record, your email sign-up should function the same way.  If you have my email address, you really don’t need to push a pop-up in my face asking for it again – you can use that space for something more valuable.

 

Mistake #4: Dumping all your new products on the web at the exact same time.

Sure-Fix #4: Yeah. I get it.  You put your new items in your new books x times a year in one big batch.  That’s cool.  FOR. THE. CATALOG.  But let’s be honest here, it’s a lot easier to promote stuff in a new book than it is on the web, right?  You give the item you want to bet your house on, the front cover; the item you’ll bet your car on, the back; maybe your smartphone (your kids?) on the inside front; and so on.  The web is different though – chances are, you’re more socialist on the web and probably a little lazier too – all the new stuff gets dumped in one fell swoop in a New section or put in your regular categories with dinky NEW bursts.  (The only thing more predictable than that particular pattern is the one where the majority of the products move directly from NEW to Clearance, eh?)

In a perfect world, you’ll use your web/email efforts to test new products and categories before they make it into your books.

In the not-perfect-but-still-great world, you’ll introduce the products to the web in small batches with precision.  The best products will get carousel frames and/or home page features; they’ll be shown in a thrust (batch-and-blast) email or two; and they’ll be introduced in your triggers; especially your Sneak Peeks, EBOPPs (Emails Based on Past Purchases) and EBOSIs (Emails Based on Selected Interest.)  The new products will get the time – and the space – they deserve.

 

Questions?  Comments?  An issue you’d like to see here?  Write me at info@amyafrica.com.

 

*(In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote all the sure-fire tips I could think of for catalogers and it turned out to be over 23,000 words, so I’m breaking the “mini book” up into smaller segments.  This is part 1 of the series.)

3 of Your Most Pressing eCommerce Questions… Answered!

Last week, I asked on Twitter if you had any eCommerce questions that I could answer.  I was inundated with email replies. Here are the first three:

Jessa from Austin asks: “I walked in late at a speech you were giving in Chicago and heard you scold someone on your panel about remarketing but I didn’t understand why. Are you not a fan of remarketing? We’re making about $35k a month from it which is a lot for our company.”

Short answer: I am a fan of remarketing as long as the costs are attributed appropriately.

Long answer: I LOVE Remarketing.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Personally, I despise it. (One glance at my search history and you’d understand why. Ha!)  Professionally, I think it’s fantastic.  HOWEVER, what I do NOT love is that most marketers grossly overestimate the “profit” of their remarketing efforts. For example, many folks will wax poetically about how lucrative their abandoned cart remarketing program is but they’ll only take out the ad cost/agency fees and they’ll completely ignore the original source cost.  Newsflash: those abandoned carts had to come from somewhere and that “somewhere” cost something.

I realize that many remarketing agencies and consultants disagree with my logic – they want their numbers to be as BIG and juicy as possible. The challenge is that there comes a point where it’s difficult to just “do more remarketing” without increasing the original sources/leads/starters.  More important, triggered emails are often A LOT less expensive – and frankly, boatloads more effective – when it comes to retargeting.  (Yes, the combination of email and banners/ads does work best.)  Bottom line: Do it but do it wisely.

 

Kyle from Delray Beach asks: “I heard you on a mobile webinar recently and you said to capture mobile numbers even though you may not use them. We’d have to pay about $2k for this field to be added to our system, is it really worth it?”

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Even if you never send out a text message in your life (which you will, and before you say you won’t, remember in 1993, nobody thought they’d send out emails either), mobile numbers are amazing for profiling.  They can also be very useful when you’re doing ECOA (Email Change of Address) and e-Append (both things I recommend.)

Please remember: if you are collecting mobile numbers, you need to tell the user that message and data rates may apply.  (Yes, you need to do this now, just in case.) I also recommend you list approximately how many messages you send a month along with a Text STOP message.  (A link to your Terms and Conditions won’t hurt either.)

 

Ruth from Seattle asks: “We implemented a carthopper at your recommendation and it’s working like crazy for the people whose email addresses we don’t have but it’s a waste of space for people we do.  How do we fix this?”

Short answer: Have more than one carthopper.

Long answer: Carthoppers are the catfishes that crawl along the bottom of your screen.  (Some people call them bottom pops.)  They’re designed for people who return to your site who have items in their basket from the last time they were there. (You can also test taking people who have active carts directly to the View Cart page.)  If you don’t have the user’s email address, the carthopper should remind them that they have items in their basket and ask them to give you their email address so you can send them their cart.  (Read: put them in your trigger series immediately!)  If you already have their email address, don’t waste the space and ask for it again.  Instead, show them a special TODAY ONLY offer and then send them directly to the cart with a big RETURN TO CART NOW button.  (If you don’t offer financial incentives/promotional codes, you can feature a new or bestselling product instead.)

5 of the BIGGEST Lies Conversion Consultants Are Telling You Right Now!

Lie #1: “Improving conversion starts with color testing your buttons. Button testing is THE most important thing because red/orange/green/rainbow/polka-dotted/zebra-spotted buttons perform x times better than any other color buttons.” You know what? Red/orange/green/rainbow/polka-dotted/zebra-spotted buttons can perform x times better than any other color buttons and in the big scheme of things, there are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of tests that you could be doing that are more fruitful. You can test the size of the buttons (the bigger the better), the number of buttons (the more the merrier) and the language on the buttons – they’ll all make a difference.  But is that your biggest swing?  If you want to hit it out of the park, is an orange button versus a red button really going to do it?  Probably not.  You’d be better served by testing new product(s) OR a new offer OR something – anything — else that makes you feel queasy in your tummy (keeping-you-up-at-night-worried-you-might-not-have-enough-stock-to-support-it uneasy.)

Truth #1: GO BIG OR GO HOME. You’ve got limited time. No, I’m not predicting your eventual death (I have a 900 # for that.) What I am saying is that you need to identify the home runs and swing for the fences when it comes to web testing. These teensy things that “improve conversion 613%” but result in only a handful of orders?  Not impressive.  And probably not worth your time either.

Lie #2:  “When you buy a good search package, you can just set it and forget it.”  Things like “good search package” and “responsive design” are completely overrated. Yes, they can both be fabulous but neither of them will solve all your problems overnight. (Adding an outside search package is a big expense for a lot of folks and with spending a significant amount of money comes a tendency to think that all your issues will magically disappear. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.)

Truth #2: You’ve got to work your search. Start by looking at the top 10% of your products and services.  Are they well represented?  Is the copy useful and compelling?  Does it tell a story?  Does it have all the information/details your users need to make a purchase?  Is your copy friendly for online users or did you just plunk in your catalog/offline copy? (Incidentally, that’s one of the biggest mistakes legacy marketers make.)

You’ll also want to look at what people are searching for – start with the top 100 searches to make it manageable.  Look at what they’re finding – what they’re not – and what they’re clicking on.  Tweaking/working those will all help you make your search better. For example, a client of ours noticed a bunch of their major competitor’s item numbers over and over in their unsuccessful searches.  Their “learning” search tool had redirected a couple (of the many) searches to similar products but not the ones that the client would have chosen.  Also, the search package was showing “no results” for most of the items. To fix it?  They added the culprit item numbers to the “right” product pages (with solid success, I might add.)

Lie #3: “_________________ works because so-and-so tested it x years ago and the results were posted {here.}”  Look, I’m all for best practices – I know some people hate them but I think they’re useful. However, one poorly executed test to a market that is NOT yours to a sample size that is NOT significant?  Yeah, I’m not a fan. Not. At. All.

Truth #3: You’ve got to figure out what works best for you and your company.  Best practices are good places to start.  Make sure they are practiceS, with an S, however.  Not one company doing one thing that may or may not have been executed properly.

Lie #4: “It doesn’t matter what kind of user testing you do, as long as you do it.”  I’ve made more mistakes than the average bear when it comes to user testing. Like eleventy bazillion times more. One of the biggest mistakes?  Thinking some random ass tester from East Podunk, Mississippi who knows nothing about my product, nothing about my market, and nothing about what I’m trying to do, would solve my site’s problems.

Yes, I have used several of the remote testing sites.  Yes, I like some of them more than others.  Yes, I think they can be useful.  And yes, I think that a lot of times it’s like giving a lollipop to a child who just fell from the top of a jungle gym TO THE ASPHALT.  It may stop their crying but it may not prevent them from having a concussion.

Truth #4: If you’re using folks to test your site, use a good balance of prospects, customers, competitors’ customers AND people who don’t know you from Adam.  You should NOT use only people you’ve found on the street, your kid’s preschool, or from your great grandmother’s senior home.  Yes, you can use some but people who actually have propensity to buy your product will behave differently and their needs should be represented.

Lie #5:  All mobile transactions are created equal.  This comes up a lot at mobile conferences.  I know because I am often the morning keynote and then, for the rest of the day, speaker after speaker who follows me, wastes 5-10 of their allotted minutes, pleading their case about why I’m wrong and/or an evil demon spawn. (There are many reasons, this is NOT one of them.)

I get it.  I really do.  Mobile conversion sucks – and I mean REALLY sucks, and if you separate the tablet traffic from the phone traffic, it’s even more demoralizing.  So, the easiest way to make it look better/sexier than it really is, is to say “oh, who can define what a phone is?  Is a Nexus 7 a phone or a tablet?” and then greedily rub your hands together like that Mr. Burns guy from the Simpsons as you watch the attendees nod like bobbleheads.  Newsflash Mobile Speakers of the Planet: if it’s not the primary device you hold up to your ear as you take or make calls, we can safely call it a tablet at this point.

Truth #5: It’s smart business to separate your phone traffic from your tablet traffic.  Why?  Because it’s likely that your tablet conversion is fantastic (it’s often 2-3x desktop conversion these days) and your phone traffic is pitiful.   That’s not what’s important though.  What’s important is that you get an honest idea of what’s working in each medium so you can make the appropriate tweaks/fixes/overhauls.

Have something you’d like to add?  Send it to info@amyafrica.com or tweet it to @amyafrica.  If it’s good, I’ll include it in one of my next posts.

 

Never Befriend A Man Named Hussein

Please note: this is not a post about Obama.  I’ve already addressed how my brother saved his life once and I’m not going down that rabbit hole again.  Ever.  Too many full-tilt crazy people and LRAs on my list.

You ever get introduced to someone and the minute you hear their name, your brain kicks in and says “I knew it!  This guy? Definitely a jackass!”

There’s a scientific reason for that feeling – and you know you’ve had it — but this is an ecommerce post so I won’t go into the details here.  (Jump to the end if you want to know how you can find out the brain explanation.)

One of my closest friends has this hate-them-in-your-tummy feeling about girls named Amy.  He despises them all.  Well, except me and that’s because I frequently remind him that my touchy-feely-hippy-crunchy-love-light-and-joy mother wanted to name me Star so Amy is really just a placeholder for the poledancer/stripper name I should have had.  Star Africa?  Please.

But I digress…

According to my personal email address book, I know 17 Husseins (of various spellings.)  Sadly, I don’t have contact information for the one I’d have married (you know, the guy who’d 100% be on my soulmate list) but I have a dozen and a half others – first and last name Husseins.

In my experience, Husseins are some of the sweetest people on the planet.

Till they’re not.

They’re all warm and cuddly and then you say something innocuous that sets them off, and they become a donkey on the edge with a dragon to prove it.  (Hello, SEO traffic from random quotes.)

Bottom line: Husseins (which incidentally means blessed) are the scorpion to my frog.  (#Measure people please note: sample size is too small and I know you have 111 ways to tell me my conclusion is not statistically significant.  Feel free to move on and spare me the Excel spreadsheets that come whenever I post.)

So, the question becomes are all Husseins like this or am I making statements that purposely alter their action(s) so that my theory becomes true?

In other words, how Oedipal am I?

With or without the Oracle of Delphi’s help, we create self-fulfilling prophecies all the time ESPECIALLY on the web.

Navigation is likely the best example.  You get what I give you.  If I don’t give it to you, you don’t get it.

Navigation accounts for 40-60% of your success online.  Over 80% on a mobile device.

People are going to do what you give them to do.  If they want to buy a rake and you force them to figure out whether they should click on gardening tools OR gardening supplies OR outdoor gear OR outdoor living, it’s your own damn fault when they bounce or attempt to use your crackerjacked internal text search and fail.

Users are going to click on the things you tell them to click.  If you don’t tell them to click, they aren’t going to click.

Your navigation controls their fate.  It’s that simple.

What other predicted-behavior things are there web-wise?  Here are six of the ones I see the most.

Low Adoption To Cart (ATC) Rate – These days, marketers are so caught up in the social proof, big data and omnichannel BS that they often miss the big picture.  You know, like the fact that the majority of websites have plenty of traffic but they just don’t know how to effectively convert it.  If you don’t have action directives on every view, you aren’t going to get the ATC rate that you should.  This isn’t about having orange buttons or using Hevetica instead of Arial, it’s about having BIG, BOLD, IN-YOUR-FACE buttons that tell the user to add-to-cart or buy now all over the place.  It’s about having more than one perpetual cart per page so that the user is constantly reminded they’re supposed to place an order.  It’s about not having dead ends, creating urgency and causing people to act.  It’s about asking for an order.  Over and over and over.  Till you get it.  Period. (This works the same if you’re in lead generation.)

High Abandoned Cart Rate – Distracting links/navigation in your cart?  A survey pop-up that asks the user to rate your order process before they’ve completed checkout (my personal pet peeve)?  No ordering alternatives (meaning no phone number or other contact information?)  Lots of rude error warnings?  Address correction things that take you to sites that aren’t secure?  Irrelevant questions?  Too many steps?  Exorbitant – and unexpected – shipping/delivery fees?  All of those things – and dozens more – make your users jump ship.  “Experts” tell you that people leave because they are searching for a discount/coupon – yes, that’s definitely a SMALL percentage of your folks – but it’s not the biggest reason people abandon.  (Giving them large discounts is often the easiest way to convert them but it’s not why they leave you at the altar.)

High Bounce Rate – Let’s face it.  If you’re like most, you deserve the traffic you get.  Take it from someone who is recklessly using Shrek quotes (as seen above) just for the traffic/comic amusement.  Link farming? SEO black-gray-ish tactics? Posting on random blogs and/or unmanaged comparison shopping/affiliate sites?  Remarketing programs run amok?  They’re all going to get you garbage traffic which is then going to get you a high bounce rate.  It doesn’t matter how kinky I am, if I’m coming from an adult “finder” message board and you’re selling property management supplies, I have to be really creative to figure out how to make your leasing rental forms suit my needs (unless I have some sort of paper cut fetish, I suppose.)

Truncated Strategy – I see this more and more as of late, especially when it comes to mobile.  Folks will tell me that they don’t need – or can’t afford – a mobile strategy in the same breath that they say they are increasing their email frequency but aren’t seeing the results they used to.  Um, yeah.  So over a third of your users are reading your emails on their smartphones.  When they’re interested in a product/service they see, they click on the link – you know, the one YOU put in the email.  If you don’t have a mobile site – or at the bare minimum a page that gives your phone number and a click-to-call button – you shouldn’t be shocked when you see a decrease in email orders as you’ve effectively terminated their path and given them nowhere to order.

Weak/Non-Existent Transfer – This is in the same vein as truncated strategy.  We know that over 90% of carts and lead forms are abandoned on mobile devices.  In time, that will get better but it’s not going to improve this season that’s for sure.  If someone adds something to their mobile cart (or they start the inquiry process), and they subsequently abandon, you should transfer them to a CSR (best choice for phones, doesn’t work well for tablets) AND you should mimic their cart on your traditional (desktop) site.  The whole “mobile department is different from our web department” schtick is as exasperating as the “web department is different from our catalog department” baloney.  In the end, nobody should care where you get the order as long as you get it.  Not sharing your riches with your other departments/colleagues just ends you all up in the poorhouse.

Email Deliverability Issues – I don’t know who the idiot consultant(s) is/are that are telling companies that they should email all of their old hard bounces and opt-outs (“as long as they are over 18 months old”) but I’d like to use them for target practice.  Apparently there are more meth addicts in web consulting than I previously imagined as this is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.  First, hard bounces are labeled as such because they are PERMANENTLY UNDELIVERABLE.  Second, even though you may get some of your users back in the fold, mixing a bunch of crappy names into your file of good names  is NOT good for deliverability.  We spend boatloads of time on email creative when the majority of success happens outside the envelope – a big part of that success comes from getting your email delivered.

Have other things you think I missed?  Give me a shout.  I’m @amyafrica on Twitter.   Why Twitter? I need to improve my Klout score to get more business SAID ME NEVER.

Oh, about that brain thing.  In the next few months, I am starting a newsletter specifically about brain stuff.  I am doing an email – not a blog – so I can write whatever I want without impunity – you know, like how I may or may not have found myself spread-eagled on a highway beside my car with a cop pointing a gun at me a couple weeks ago.  If you want “in” on the list, send me an email to info@amyafrica.com.  If I like you, you will be added.  If not, sorry about your luck.  It’s probably your name.  As you’ve probably heard, I’m fussy.

 

P.S. My friend, JoAnna Brandi, says I use hostile language to get people to react.  Clearly she hasn’t seen my in-box because I don’t need any more hate mail than I already get.  She is right in one regard though – I do like to bat the beehive.  Why?  Because I genuinely like to remind people that you can change any/all of the self-fulfilling prophecies you have about your business…. your life…. your relationship(s)…  your fate…  The points above?  You can fix all of them.

 

8 Things That Drive Your Users Bat-Sh*t Crazy

“I saw you in the gym. You’re very strong.”  He said.  “Especially for a girl.”

It was 6:11 am and the silver-haired gentleman standing outside my door was wearing a burgundy-colored, Hugh Hefner-style robe and bright white tube socks.

I made a mental note to myself that I should start staying at Hampton Inns instead of luxury hotels.  Not only is the wireless FREE — not $29.95 per flipping day — but Hampton Inns have far fewer crazy-ass people.  (They probably don’t lock their fire doors either.)

Before I could reply, he continued.  “That’s why I need you to open my ketchup.”

For the love of all things holy.

Before I could conclude if that was the worst pick-up line EVER, he thrust a teensy bottle of Heinz from his right pocket.

“I can’t get it open.”  He stammered.  “I knew you were up because I saw you walk by when they were delivering my eggs.  You really should wear shoes in public places. The world is very dirty.”

The world is very dirty said the man propositioning me to take the clear security stuff off his ketchup.  (Incidentally, what exactly do the room service guys do with those little bottles of ketchup for it to require such protective plastic?  I mean really.)

I thought about explaining (sarcastically) to him that his socks weren’t going to protect him from all the communicable carpet diseases you could get from the Mandarin Oriental but I didn’t want to give ole’ Hugh a heart attack so I just smiled and replied: “I hate those little bottles of ketchup too.  Those safety seals are impossible to open, even with a knife.  Let me show you my trick…”

Then I went to get a pen.

I took off the protective seal for him and handed him back the bottle.  “Enjoy your breakfast!”

“Thank you,” he said.  “Thank you very much.  You can always count on women to know such things.”

Great.  It’s amazing to be a girl.  If things don’t work in internet marketing for me, I can always stalk the room service staff at ritzy hotels offering to open old geezers’ ketchup.  Just call me the Condiment Prostitute.

He left and I went back to work.

Six minutes later, he was back.

“I can’t get it out.  The ketchup.  I can’t get it out of the bottle.  Can you help me?” He asked as he handed the bottle back to me.  He continued: “The knife.  It doesn’t fit in the bottle.  I tried the fork and the spoon too.  I thought about using my pen but…”

“Of course” I replied not wanting to know what kind of killer viruses pens have (they must be far worse than carpets).  I grabbed my key and headed out the door and across the hall to his room without even thinking.  (Hey, Dexter this guy was not.  Plus, didn’t you know?  I’m strong… ESPECIALLY for a girl.)

I showed him precisely how to tilt the bottle and then smack it hard on the bottom to get the ketchup out.  (Yes, I am aware that this whole story sounds like a giant euphemism – let me assure you it was not.  If I was interested in magazine publisher look-alikes, Rupert Murdoch is far more my type.)

And then I left. (Well, after we had a lengthy discussion about the Presidential Debate but that’s all together a different topic.)

That morning I told the story to the crowd at my speech.  There were about 800 people in the room and there were a lot of nods.  Perhaps the nods were the nice nods we give to people who are clearly one French Fry short of a Happy Meal but if I had to bet it’s because most of us have our very own ketchup story.  (Not a story about where we knock on random doors in our tighty-whiteys but where we can’t do something simple – like open a bottle of Heinz for our hashbrowns.)

Our websites are chock-full of things that appear super simple yet are annoying, impossible or annoyingly impossible.  Here are the top 8 that I see most often as well as ideas on how you can fix them.

Poor navigation.  This is BY FAR the biggest for users.  I’ve written about it ad nauseam.  The rule of thumb is to remember that navigation is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You get what I give you.  If I don’t give it to you, you don’t get it and you are forced to use the text search which brings me to…

Bad text search.  Look, even Google and Bing don’t get text search right.  If they did, they wouldn’t need to show you over 70,000,000 results for women’s shirts. The key with text search is to remember that the presentation of the results is more important than the results themselves.  Make sure that you’d bet your house on the first result the user sees.  You should be able to bet your car on the second.  Your phone on your third.  (Okay, for most of you reading this blog the order is likely phone, house, car.  Or maybe just first phone, second phone, tablet.)

Impossible Capchas.  The person who invented these little suckers should be known as the Modern Day Stalin and executed like Mussolini.  My feeling is that if you use these, you are lazy and need to be subjected to 24 hours of Oogielove.  (I saw it once – ironically for love of the terrorists-in-training — and I will never be the same.)  If you employ capchas it means that your IT department wants the user to solve your technical issues.  (Clue: there’s a reason why IT guys aren’t in charge of marketing.)

Useless double opt-ins.  See capchas above and multiply the number of bullets and hours used before the kill shot by six.  You know who uses the most double opt-ins?  Spammers, mailers who get high SPAM complaints and the services who attract spammers and those who get high SPAM complaints.  If you’re a legit mailer, send out a series of introductory welcome emails (with a clear way to unsubscribe) instead.  While you’re at it, develop a solid preferences center.  They are worth their weight in gold.

Slow sites.  I know.  I know. People are tired of hearing me talk about speed even more so now that your SEO says that speed doesn’t matter to Google.  Speed matters to users most in the cart, the checkout, and the search function.  It also matters a lot in chat (live and instigated), video, and mobile.  Especially mobile.

Having to search for the Buy Now/Add To Cart/Sign-Up Now buttons.  Rule of thumb: at least one BIG, BOLD, in-your-face action directive on every view.  At least two perpetual carts – preferably three – on every website page.

Hiding the D&A information.  Delivery and Availability (D&A) information should be near the pricing.  Headline, subhead, reviews, in-stock information and the pricing?  They should all be together in one neat little package.

Improper use of cookies.  Look folks, when someone puts something in their shopping cart on your site (or starts to fill out a lead form if you’re not an ecommerce site) and they come back in two hours, two days, two weeks, two months – it should still be there.  If the product is out-of-stock, use the opportunity to sell something else but whatever you do, don’t clear the carts.  The information is valuable for profiling and for sales.

Have other things you’d like to add?  Send me an email to info@amyafrica.com and I’ll add it to the follow-up list of things that stress folks out in my next newsletter.  Right now, I clearly need to find someone to open my Xanax.

 

UPDATE: My buddy, Debra Ellis, added this one which is too appropriate to wait for the newsletter.  She says ”I would add ‘having to search for contact information’. People make it hard to find the contact information because they mistakenly think that customers want to talk to them and will make random calls or spam them with email. You and I know that customers want to place their orders and solve their problems as quickly as possible. If the site is set up to do this, few will call. If not, the calls help identify the problems.”  True that.

 

 

My Brother Saved Obama’s Life…

So, the other day Obama did something that completely sent me over the edge.

And frankly, it made me want to kill the guy.

This isn’t a political blog and before you start yapping about whatever devil candidate you believe in, let me be clear that the party or the person isn’t the issue here – at one time or another I’ve wanted to murder people from both parties. Hell, I’ve even wanted to off people without a party. I guess you could say I’m an equal opportunity assassin. Well, potential assassin anyway. I’m still hoping to find a Slovenian to do my wet work for me.

As I went over the strategy in my head to rid the world of Evil, I thought of how I’d do it and what my defense would be. If you’ve spent more than 30 minutes with me, you probably know I have a foolproof strategy AND that unlike I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket (aka President of Iran) and his idle threats against America, my plan would work.

Then, I thought of the tiny terrorists.

The fact that the little monsters share my last name, which in cases like these is unfortunately not Smith or Brown, means their lives would be terribly impacted by a crazy auntie* who {somehow murdered} the President of the United States. So as much as, in that moment, I wanted to kill the guy, I knew I couldn’t do it because of them, which effectively means by having children who share the same last name as I do…

My brother saved Obama’s life.

Do you agree with that statement?

Yes or no?

Or do you think who/what really saved Obama’s life was…

The Secret Service? (Newsflash: they’re too busy with Colombian hookers.)

The thought of imprisonment. (I promise you flying 500,000+ miles a year, private or not, is worse than a SuperMax prison .)

Conscience? (Robert Hare’s bestseller is based on my personality type. Hint: The word “without” is in front of conscience in the title.)

Something else?

As you are contemplate your navel about the above, you’ll probably ask yourself: “What exactly is the point of all this yammering?”

Best Buy.

More irritating than Obama’s latest constitutional breach is all this talk about how Amazon is putting Best Buy out of business. Allegedly (cough, choke, cough) folks are getting in their cars and driving to Best Buy in record numbers (cough, choke, cough) only to find what they want and then come home and buy it on the internet.

We can go through all the reasons why this logic is about as likely as Biden taking a bullet for Obama (unless it’s to put it into his own gun) but suffice it to say:

The only thing putting Best Buy out of business is Best Buy.

I don’t profess to be a retail expert nor do I play one on TV so, I’m not going to wax eloquently as to why a better, more aggressive salesforce (or maybe just one that doesn’t bolt in the other direction when you walk up) would change the shape of Best Buy’s business. (Incidentally, Amazon has grown sales by 41%, 40% and 28% the past years. Best Buy’s fiscal sales growth rates have been 2%, 0% and 10%.)

What I will say is that the Best Buy website is circa 2005. (Yes, I’m being generous.)

And there are a lot (a lot a lot) of ways that it could be improved. (As an aside, this year, Best Buy hopes to grow online revenue by 15% whereas Wall Street expects Amazon to grow 30%.)

For example:

More robust entry pages. My mother, whom I’m convinced is having a torrid affair with her Geek Squad guy, gets the same entry page as I do. (To put this into perspective, my mother thinks you need scissors to cut and paste something on the computer.) Even though neither of us are gamers we both got an entry page with Max Payne today. If Best Buy was using their data (including our respective Rewards programs) they’d know exactly what to show us. Hint: it would not be Max Payne.

Better use of email, especially triggers. It’s no secret that Amazon has a VERY successful email program. Granted, they have one of the lamest abandoned cart emails I’ve ever seen but at least they mail something consistently. Instead of depending on random thrust (aka batch and blast) emails Best Buy could have an arsenal of serial triggers: EBOPP’s (emails based on past purchases), EBOSI’s (emails based on selected interest), and so on. Best Buy has all sorts of interesting information, they should do a better job of using it. It’d also be nice if they actually collected email sign-ups but that’s likely far too “aggressive” for a company that’s shutting down stores and impacting thousands.

More aggressive use of mobile. When I use the store locator on my mobile device, send (SMS/email) me coupons I can use on my next visit. The coupons should have deadlines as deadlines create urgency and cause people to focus.

Emphasize urgency. One of the BIGGEST and best advantages that a retail store has is that you can walk away with the product that very minute. You can touch it, feel it, sniff it, steal it. You don’t have to wait a day, two, or even ten. You leave with it that VERY SAME DAY. Best Buy handles the whole delivery issue in a somewhat dicey way. They are very clear – in red text (oy!) of all things – when SHIPPING IS NOT AVAILABLE. They also show you what stores have the product (great) but they’re not clickable so if you don’t actually know where the store is or it doesn’t make sense (i.e. Southcenter in Tukwila, WA doesn’t have the product I want but Tukwila, WA does – WTF?), you can’t look it up.

Be clear that users are easily confused. You know what Best Buy does when all the appropriate information hasn’t been filled in? They fade out the button. Yeah. Brilliant idea that is, she said sarcastically. Look at their mobile phone pages and figure out how you’d buy. Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re a marketer, which means you have a way bigger advantage over this stuff than the average bear. Can you imagine how someone who doesn’t shop online maneuvers this minefield? Me neither.

If you offer live chat, be speedy, direct and above all, collect email addresses. The only thing urgent about Best Buy’s chat now button, is the word “now” in the button itself. Plus, don’t ask me why when you click on the button (on a traditional computer) you get MOBILE CHAT but it’s sort of interesting that they only collect first name, last name and phone number. They also offer the chat button when their chat is closed. (Frustrating at best from a user perspective.)

Work your search. Search for “handheld” on the Best Buy site. Is that what you expected? A wireless internet ratio with an alarm clock? It says there are (2) handheld things on the left but there are 335 things listed at the top. Hmmmm…. How exactly does that work? In any case, I’m clear that’s probably not one of their more popular searches but go on, look up stuff on the Best Buy site. I’ll wait. You’ll find that the search results are inconsistent and often seem to lack any sort of logical prioritization. Their navigation forces you to use the text search (it’s not complete enough to find much, if anything) so the things it returns had better be good. Sadly, they’re not.

I could go on and on about things they should change but the point is that I realize that it’s sexier for folks to blame Amazon for stealing Best Buy’s business. Just like “my brother saved Obama’s life” is way more of an interesting headline than “7 things Best Buy can do to improve their business.”

The bottom line is that Best Buy really is the only thing that can save Best Buy’s business.

Blaming Amazon won’t save Best Buy’s business.

With the amount The First Lady likes to shop, it could very well be the death of Obama however.

And therein, you know part of my plan.

*I mean, according to She Who Must Not Be Named (aka my sister-in-law) their lives ARE constantly being endangered by her husband’s wackass sister, but I’ll save those stories for my personal blog.

Note: I realize that there are real people with real feelings behind Best Buy’s site. I’ve met several of them and there are a couple I’d help find jobs for tomorrow if they asked. From my perspective, the downfalls of this site are a management issue. You go to eMetrics and you see them yapping away about how good their analytics system is. Data means jack if you don’t use it to better your business.

 

De Da De Da De Da Do Do.

When I was first starting out in usability (walking uphill both ways to work in raging blizzards with only cardboard scraps taped to my bare feet), there weren’t any best practices or proven methods for ecommerce or lead generation sites.  Sure, there were a couple folks who professed that designing the perfect toaster was exactly the same as building the ideal website but there wasn’t anyone that I’d go all Koresh over, that’s for sure.

So, we had to figure things out for ourselves.

We got a lot of things wrong but the things we got right, we got REALLY right.  So right, in fact, that they made up for all our mistakes, errors, and just plain idiotic pontifications.  (Yes, I’ve had many.  Many being a gross understatement.)

In the early days, we’d give folks $500 to watch them shop online.  Now you have to give away free cars, luxury trips and 11 days of being married to Kim Kardashian but at the beginning — back in the Dinosaur Days – $500 was a lot of money.

Each person would have their own area — which simulated their home or office environment, depending on where we thought they did most of their browsing/shopping.

We’d give them the credit cards and let them go wild.  They could look at porn (which people seem to have no qualms of doing in public – and on videotape — I might add); buy stuff; bid on an auction; or do whatever they wanted to do with the $500.  If they didn’t spend it, they didn’t leave with it.  So if you spent $100 out of the $500, you didn’t leave with $400 in cash.  There was an incentive — and a hard deadline — to spend the money.

A high percentage of people sent free ecards.

Yes, you read that right.

Folks sent free ecards.

People would come in and instead of doing what I’d do (which is spend all the money IMMEDIATELY so I could be assured I’d get every last cent of it!), they’d go online and start sending their friends ecards about the experience.  “I’m doing this great thing!  We get $500 FREE MONEY to spend!  I wish you were here.”

After they wrote everyone, their brother, and their pug that they knew, they’d move on to something of greater importance.

They’d do things like watch HamsterDance.

De Da De Da De Da Do Do.

Over and over and over.  Like a lovesick teenager listening to a break-up song.

Fifteen minutes before the end, we’d give a signal that the time was almost up and then, and only then, would people make a mad dash to spend whatever they could of their $500.

Over sixty percent of the people had money on their credit cards when they left.  (Note to self: It was in those final moments — in the deepest, darkest hours of my career — that I lost all faith in humanity.)

Folks tell me all the time how much better the internet has gotten – and how much more evolved we are – but the truth is, things are pretty much the same.

People still abandon their carts in much-too-large percentages.

Our traffic still bounces way more than it should.

Open and clickthrough rates are still at embarrassingly low numbers.

Folks still bail immediately or a couple pages after they’ve used search, even if the search has been deemed “successful”.

Sure, we’ve gotten a little bit better about keeping people or getting them to come back but in the end, our numbers haven’t varied all that much.

Why?

Perhaps it’s because we still aren’t asking ourselves the right questions.

Are we asking for a first kiss or a f*&k?  If I don’t want to sleep with you the first time I meet you, are you asking for my number (read: email address or mobile number)?  Or are you an all-or-nothing proposition?  (Hint: if the only place you are asking a user for their email address is along the bottom of your site, your odds are as good as picking up a California Dime for a one night stand.)

Or maybe it’s because we’re still not doing the right things.

Yes, I know, Pinterest is sexy and putting up your last 10 years of catalog covers is way easier than setting up the rules to dynamically merchandise your home page but in the end what’s going to bring you the most money?  Amazon’s been dynamically changing their home page for years, what are YOU doing on yours?

Are you connecting with your customers and prospects on your terms or theirs?  Most marketers think this means “are you emailing enough?”  That’s only part of it.  (And I’m willing to bet you’re not emailing even close to the amount you should be.)  It also means… do you personalize your site to MY specific needs?  Do you show MY recently viewed items?  Do you leave MY items in the cart indefinitely?  Do you offer me suggestions on what I should buy based on things that I’ve bought before or have looked at?   Is your site designed to appease the CEO of your company or is it customized for me?   Do you use deadlines to create urgency and cause me to focus?  Do you clearly delineate your bestsellers and customer favorites or do the merchandisers use your most valuable selling space to get rid of clearance and overstock items or to push new items that they don’t even know will sell?

You get the drill.

Years later, the questions really haven’t changed.  Sadly, nor have we.

De Da De Da De Da Do Do.

 

 

 

Malcolm X Lied To Me….

When I was nine, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

In the book, Malcolm X gets high by taking nutmeg.

Innovative, right?

Yeah. Not. So.Much.

Malcolm X is a liar.

Nutmeg, especially ingested in very large quantities, does JACK except to make you want to vomit.Violently.

If, after adding several heaping teaspoons of nutmeg to your daily coffee, or you know, mixing it with water in a stolen shaker from your parents liquor cabinet, you feel like you are having hallucinations, it’s either the placebo effect or extreme nausea.It’s no great high.  Period.

What does this mean?

It means you can’t believe everything you read.  (And yes, Geezer, I realize I’m giving you an easy out to stop reading this and/or mock me.  So be it.)

Besides Malcolm X, who else is lying to you?  Sadly, I can’t speak about your wife, mistress or teenager but I can tell you about the top eightPinocchiosI’ve seen hanging out in the ecommerce world lately.

Deluders who tell you that conversion is the be-all and end-all of internet marketing. Conversion is a great metric when used sparingly.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can double your conversion overnight by blocking/eliminating all your garbage traffic.  Your conversion rate will skyrocket.  Your revenues?  Not likely.  Hell, they often drop.  Conversion rates are not the primary indicator of a successful site or campaign.  

Deceivers who say that the 200% lift in conversion you’ll get from their button test will “rock your world.”  Unless you’re reading the results at the same time there’s an earthquake, this is very unlikely.Granted, a 200% lift sounds sexy until you put it into perspective and realize that the difference may only be 2 orders.   (Which from an online perspective isn’t statistically significant anyway.)  Yes, there are times when the numbers are real – and amazing – but do some digging before you don a hardhat.

Prevaricators who yap that the only reason why people abandon their carts is because they want to look for a discount coupon.  Yes, there are people who do this – especially if you give your promotion code box/field a lot of prominence.  However, it’s not the majority or primary reason.  In fact, it’s usually on par with the “I-was-shopping-at-work-and-my-boss-walked-in-so-I-quickly-closed-my-browser” rate.

Falsifiers who report that the majority of sales from your remarketing campaign are incremental. I am a big fan of remarketing and if you have an aggressive email capture system and a solid abandoned program you’ll be able to pluck off a lot of the leads, without paying someone a commission.  

Misleaders who try to convince you that you should only email your customers once a week because people hate email.  (These are usually the same folks who say that you shouldn’t use pop-ups because users hate them too.)  Internet marketing is a numbers game.  Get your ego out of the equation and do what’s right for your business.

Fibbers who tell you that mobile marketing is difficult and expensive.  Yes, there are many consultants/agencies making boatloads of cash off of mobile.  However, that doesn’t mean you need to spend that much.  Right now, there are three keys to mobile: just showing up, speed and navigation.   Not to mention you simply must have mobile-friendly emails.  Do you need to spend $100k and $5k a month for service to get good mobile results?   Only if you can’t find some swampland in Florida.

Trickster ESP’s who tell you their delivery rate is 96%.  Unless you count delivering to SPAM and trash folders as “delivered.” As an aside, these are often the same folks who tell you to split your list into openers, non-openers, clickers and non-clickers.   You know what that does?  Puts all the garbage names into one bucket so they’re easiest for the hosts to delete!

Snake oil salesmen who repeatedly ask you “what the ROI of your mother is” when you ask how much money you can expect to make from social media. You’re right to ask.  They’re not liars for saying this, they’re just idiots.  Or maybe they’ve just pounded back too much nutmeg.

Exit Strategies (or why I could never get a job at IKEA)

There’s a comedian who tells a story about getting lost in a forest which he had apparently mistaken for an IKEA.  “I thought the instructions just hadn’t been stapled on to the trees yet.”

Most people, especially those who know the difference between a Phillips and a whatever-one-of-those-other-screwdrivers is called, don’t really think this joke is all that funny.

I, however, find it hilarious.

I put together a piece of IKEA furniture once.

Well, technically that’s a lie.

I bought a piece of IKEA furniture once.

It never really got put together.

I carefully opened the box. 

I gently laid out all the pieces.

Next, I took off all the A-B-C-D labels that were dotting the furniture.

It was a hassle.  They really stick those suckers on.

Then, I looked at the directions.

“Put A into B.  It should latch tightly.”

Um yeah.  About those stickers.  I looked at the little pile of them in the garbage and remember distinctively thinking “you are not so smart.”

Yes, I tried matching up the pieces of wood to the little map inside.

For about 10 seconds.

Then I went and got a Hefty Cinch Sak.

There are some things that are not worth $99.

Specifically my heart.

So what exactly does my incompetence have to do with the web, ecommerce, mobile, email, and whatever else I occasionally (yes, I am being generous here) write about?

Web users – YOUR users – are much like me.

They may be Rocket Surgeon sharp, dumber than a box of rocks, or somewhere in between but when they come to your site, they’re going to do it their way.

Then, they’re going to ask for help.  Or, you know, they’ll just throw your crap in the trash and go with pre-built find a “better company to do business with.”

The difference between me and YOUR user is that you have a good chance of saving them.  IKEA had no chance of saving me – sitting on my floor contemplating whether or not I should start taking the short bus to work – but you have a good chance of saving your users from leaving when problems arise.

What’s the best way to do this?

Exit strategies.

There are lots of different types of exit strategies.  These are the best four:

Develop an instigated chat program.  It blows me away how few companies use instigated chat.  Sure, a lot of folks have regular chat (which incidentally is almost never on when I need it) but very few companies are using instigated chat to their advantage.  Where do you start with instigated chat?  Checkout/cart and search functions are usually the best.  (If you are not an ecommerce business, start with your forms: quotes, inquiries, etc.)  Help your user in the place(s) they  are struggling the most – not only will you reduce your abandons and increase your revenues but you’ll learn what works and more important, what doesn’t, on your site.  It takes about 9-12 months to get your instigated chat formula down pat, so don’t give up on it a minute before then.  Why does it take so long?  Usually it’s because it takes that amount of time to figure out who the best “chatters” are in your company.  (Hint: they’re typically not the best phone reps but instead the people who can text message, Tweet, and so on.)

Implement a usability program, even if you just use the Google tools that are available to you.  Yes, I am a big fan of TeaLeaf.   No, not everyone can afford it – and even if you have the money to buy it, you may not have the people resources to use it.  However, there are lots and lots of other user tools available to you – check out Bryan Eisenberg’s honking big list, er, site here which includes ClickTale and Crazy Egg, two very economical packages.  Heck, if you don’t want to spend the $350 a year, use the free one provided by Google.  None of them are perfect but they will give you a solid indication of what’s happening on your site: what people are clicking on, where they are stumbling, and so on.  Plus, they’ll really help your creative team (including your artists and your copywriters) by showing what messages and art styles are the most compelling for your users to click on.

Add the phone number to your top navigation, your righthand column and the bottom navigation.  Put it all over the place in the cart/checkout and internal text search results. I’m a huge proponent of putting the phone number at least once per view, especially on your top exit pages.  Many companies are allergic to this – they think that customers shouldn’t need to call – and they’re right.  Customers shouldn’t need to call.  The reason they do is because your site sucks and they are giving you one last chance to get the order.  If you’re like most, you will get a quarter of the people on the phone.  If you don’t get a quarter or more, your website is often either terribly efficient or just plain terrible.

Utilizing effective pops.  Pops are another one of those things that marketers avoid like the plague.  Their logic is “I hate pop-ups, they’re very distracting.”  Um yeah, you bonehead, that’s why you use them.  You want to distract the user from leaving.  Pops come in all shapes and sizes.  They don’t have to be anything like the ones you see on the adult content sites.  (We all know that’s what scares you – you can’t close those suckers fast enough and you freak.  Stop looking at things you shouldn’t at work or when your wife is 10 feet away.  You’ll like pops a lot more.)  Pops can pop up or pop under.  They can come in the form of midis, catfishes, or sidewinders.  The key to good pops is killer creative.  If your creative isn’t killer, thehe pops aren’t going to work. 

What other exit strategies do you use that work?  Share them in the comments below or send me an email at info@amyafrica.com.

Do You Keep Hoping For the Best?

Yesterday, I spent $624.17 in a bookstore.  The old school bricks-and-mortar kind where you can actually touch and feel the books.

If I had bought the same books on Amazon, I would have gotten them for under $400.00.  ($363.20 to be exact.)

I read everything on my Kindle, my iPad, my Tablet, my Droid, my iPhone, sometimes even my BlackBerry but unless the publisher isn’t selling an ebook version or it’s a cookbook, I rarely buy “paper” books any more.   Except for the tiny terrorists.   They get REAL turn-the-page books.

However, this post isn’t about how much I overspent or my nephews — which according to the missile mail I got last week, I talk about FAR too much.  Cute considering blue moons come along more than I blog as of late.  But I digress….

I was waiting to meet a friend for lunch.  I was early and since he is Iranian (translates to he will undoubtedly be at least 45 minutes late at all times) I knew I had some time to kill so I wandered into a small children’s bookshop.

The place was cluttered and just-a-little-bit-dusty in a magical sort of way.  There were all sorts of nooks and crannies filled with overflowing beanbags and little chairs.  There was a tot-sized stuffed animal tea party going on in the back.  The entire store was dotted with colored 3×5 index cards with handwritten reviews.  And the owner, a doppelganger for Angela Lansbury,  had a pink name tag on that said “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle,” one of my favorite children’s book characters.  (I still have my Mom’s copies of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books from when she was a child.  Yes, Sherry Chiger, I do have a mother.)

It was absolutely perfect.

“Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” spent about an hour helping me find new children’s books.  I told her what my nephews liked and she found all sorts of things for them.   The boys have a lot of books so for every 10 books she showed me, there were about 2-3 I didn’t think they had.  

I read the first six books she suggested and then I just took whatever I thought was missing from their collection and added it to my stack.  I totally trusted her recommendations.  The quaint little lady who smelled like lemon and gingersnaps knew exactly what she was doing.

When I went to checkout, I gave her my credit card and asked her if she could keep my number on file and just send me new books every month.

“Why would I do that?” She inquired in earnest.

“Because I love your recommendations and it’d be great to send the boys a surprise package of books each month that have already been pre-approved.”

“That’s a lot of work.” She said in a somewhat exasperated voice.

I looked at her and smiled.

I wanted to explain to her that another $300-$400-$500-$600 (or whatever) order a month was a lot of money – especially since she DIDN’T DISCOUNT A PENNY and WAS MAKING FULL PRICE ON THE BOOKS.  (Not to mention I had been the ONLY one in the store for the better part of an hour — at lunchtime on a very busy street.)

Or that the UPS store was just two doors down and she could basically drop off the books with our account information and they’d take care of the rest.

Or a bazillion other things that would help her make money. 

But I knew it was a lost cause.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle knew her children’s books but things like deploying triggered emails and mailing packages were way outside her comfort zone… and her scope.  Her strategy was, in her words, “to keep hoping for the best.”

Haven’t we already proven this hope stuff is sort of depressing? 

Customers tell you what they want all the time.  They tell you what would make them happy and how they would spend more with you if they could.  Sadly, most of us choose to ignore it.

What would happen if you didn’t?  What would happen if you tried a bunch of new things to see which one(s) worked so you could add them to your arsenal?

Chris Hansen co-owns a company called Great Garden Plants.  His business is growing like weeds, er,  gangbusters while the other behemoths in his industry are falling and failing.  Why?  Because he’s always asking his customers what he can do to make their gardens better.  He’s not like me – he doesn’t say “I want to sell you more stuff” – he says “what do you need that I am not offering?  What problems are you having in your garden (i.e., are the deer eating your trees?) that I can solve?  What favorite things are you not growing because you think you can’t – I know I can find something similar that will work for you.”

Great American Business Products is a much larger company and they do the same thing.  Take their Convenient No-Hassle Refill Program for example.  You pick the products you want to receive on a regular basis and they’ll automatically ship them to you FREIGHT-FREE on your schedule.  They guarantee you’ll never run out and that you won’t get price increases.  Their overworked-and-often-frazzled customers LOVE it — they lock in the product AND the savings and they lock out the stress!

Stave Puzzles customizes your puzzles JUST FOR YOU – not just in the level of trickiness but in the pieces too – you can get different shapes, different words, different whatever in your puzzles.  (As an aside, they are my VERY favorite puzzles on earth.)  Eastwood offers instructional product videos.  Stonewall Kitchen and King Arthur Flour both have recipes.

What are YOU doing?  How are you listening? 

P.S. Remember, for every 10 things you try, you only need a couple to work.