Reducing Buyer Anxiety Leads to Higher Conversions, Happier Customers

Joe Francisco Medelita Lab Coats and Scrubs

 

 

Our guest blogger this week is Joe Francisco, President and CMO of Medelita.com.  He is a tech savvy businessman who has been building his company using digital marketing as the foundation of his company’s marketing strategy.

Follow Medelita on Twitter and Facebook.

 

In 2011 Medelita was growing our online business, but not as fast as we would have liked. We were still in the launch phase of our business attending over 40 medical conferences in 2011 to introduce our products and brand Medelita Lab Coats and Scrubsto our key customer base; physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, dentists and veterinarians.

Our customers told us we had a great product. We experienced success selling our lab coats and medical scrubs at medical conferences throughout the United States and Canada. Customers were reacting very positively to ancillary services we provide such as free name and title embroidery and custom logo embroidery for group orders. Our goal was to replicate the medical conference experience through our website, www.medelita.com.

We needed to remove the new customer’s anxiety regarding the price, fit and sizing, and make it easy for them to understand the embroidery process. 85% of our orders receive some type of embroidery. 75% of the visitors to our site were new and we needed to convert them. We could not continue to go to 40 medical conferences per year. There just aren’t enough margins in our product to support these astronomical sales costs.

So we set out on another redesign of our site and emphasized “eliminating buyer anxiety.”

How’d we do it?

1.  Complimentary shipping on everything: orders, exchanges and returns. Truly FREE shipping.
2.  Our toll-free number and click-to-chat on every product page.
3.  Built a whole new interface for embroidery inspired by www.indochino.com
4.  Extended our Professional Courtesy Guarantee from 90 to 180 days.
5.  We added a powerful recommendation to our size guide – “Order two sizes. Shipping is free both ways.”
6.  Made returns insanely easy. Including a return label in sizing orders and making label and forms easy to access from customer’s accounts.

We launched most of these initiatives in 1Q212 with positive results:

1.  8 months at historic high conversion rates and a huge November.
2.  YOY traffic up by nearly 60%
3.  Dramatic increases for our brand searches.

Feedback is positive with extremely high Biz Rate reviews, daily effusively happy emails from customers and repeat business. We took what we learned about our customers’ fears and our success in direct selling and applied it to eCommerce.

If Mark Cuban is right, you should rethink your Facebook marketing strategy.

The post Mark Cuban wrote last week about Facebook really resonated with me.  I can’t get these words out of my head:

People go to Google Search with every intention of leaving it. They want to “engage, click an

Cuban was actually ranting about Facebook’s new policy of charging brands to reach the followers they’ve worked hard to collect, but that’s a different story.  What I can’t stop thinking about is:d leave”.  On the exact opposite side of the spectrum, people go to FB with the expectation that it is very likely they will stay on FB for an extended period of time. In fact we spend more than 26 minutes per day on FB. As this study said, FB is an alternative to boredom. FB is far more like TV than it is Google Search.

If Facebook is like TV, should our Facebook ads act more like TV Ads?Is Facebook advertising interruption marketing?

I disagree with Cuban that Facebook is just a time-waster; people spend time on the network to connect with family and friends, for entertainment, for product reviews, political discussion and for a zillion other reasons.  We ENGAGE  on FB; it’s a whole lot more than just plunking your rear down in front of Jersey Shore for some good old fashion television escapism.  Watching  TV is a passive experience, unless you’re in my family and you enjoy shouting at Jeopardy.

But Cuban’s right, using Facebook is not the same as searching on Google.  Your Facebook follower is not on the network to seek out a product; flashing PPC ads won’t work – they’re far too intrusive.

So, if we agree that a Facebook user is engaged and interacting, unlike TV, but not specifically ‘shopping’ for something, like someone using search, how do you craft an effective post to grab their attention without being annoyingly intrusive?  And that is the $64,000 question.

The answer: differently than either TV or PPC.  I know, some help that is, right?

It’s a difficult question to answer because there are a whole host of additional questions that have to be answered before you even begin to get creative:

  • Who is your target customer?
  • Are they on your page?
  • What other networks do they hang out on?
  • What problems can you solve for them?
  • What are their biggest complaints about what they’re using now?
  • What have they reacted to positively in the past?
  • What pisses them off about Social Marketing?

Creating any effective ad is tricky, difficult work. Crafting an effective one for Facebook can be even more complex because the space is still so new and ever changing.  The honest answer is that you really have to know your customer to get it right.

Should You “Dabble” in Social Media?

A smart marketing friend and I have had a few discussions revolving around the question:Dabble in Social media

What is the proper response time for Social Media complaints?

He has stated a few times (and I’m paraphrasing here, because he is fully capable of making his own argument) that our expectations are too high; we, as in the social junkies, expect responses within hours if not minutes.  There are situations that are too complex, and companies that are too busy, to fix a problem or get an answer to you in a matter of hours.

I agree wholeheartedly with that thought process: some problems are complex and require time to sort out.    However, I do not think there is an acceptable excuse for not RESPONDING quickly, as in within hours. His question for me then was “‘What if company x is just dabbling in Social Media.’

I had to think on that one.

OK, I’ve thought.  Here’s my answer:

You should not dabble in Social Media.

I understand that not every small business owner is internet or tech savvy; some of us are just too busy getting work done to maintain a Small Business Facebook Page or Twitter account and respond within hours.  If that describes your business approach to social media, my advice is: get off of the social networks.

Here’s why: having a Social Profile means that your social savvy customers will find you there, and when they do, they’ll expect you to use it as a channel of communication.  If you are only going to check it infrequently, you are opening yourself up to unintentionally disappointing your customers who reach out to you via your page or profile.  It’s like setting up a voice mail at your business and only checking it weekly.

Do I think really Small Business should abandon social marketing? Absolutely not. But if you can’t commit to checking your social pages and profiles at least a couple of times a day, then perhaps you should rethink your social existence.  It is supposed to be a 2 way conversation, and if you’re not listening and responding, they’ll stop wanting to talk to you at all.

THIS is how you do Social Customer Service

A friend of mine had a very valid complaint about FB iFrames.com’s website auto-playing music, so she did what many irritated customers would do these days: she posted her complaint on the FB iFrame Facebook Page.

What happens next you can see for yourself:

Customer Service on Facebook

FBiframes responded to her initial complaint within 7 minutes, and then apparently fixed the problem within 20.  When I looked through the complaints posted by others, it appears that it is their regular practice to respond within a couple of hours (often much more quickly) to any post on their wall.

I’ve had many discussions with marketing friends of mine about what is a decent response time when someone complains online, and we often have differing opinions.  I’ve been told on more than one occasion that the expectations of social marketers is unrealistic; companies at times cannot immediately respond.   I disagree with that thought process.  It may be that your company cannot fix the problem within a matter of hours, but if you are going to play in the social arena, you need to be listening when your customers complain and at the very least, respond within hours if not minutes.

Is that an unrealistic expectation?  I don’t think that’s a marketer’s call to make.  Social connectivity has changed what your customers expect, and responding in lightening speed to at least let them know they were heard certainly may stop them from looking for another, more responsive, competitor.

Bad Social Practices Blow Up in the Middle of the Night

Last night I was on Facebook at 1am  – I know, sad, but also rare. I was unwinding after a long brainstorming session and just surfing around.  Then I see my friend Danny Brown calling out Oracle Social for adding him to a page he never Liked. I wander over to the page and find that I too had apparently “Liked” the page too without my knowledge, and loads of my friends had as well.  The comment section was growing rapidly with others making the same complaint.

So there, for at least 30 minutes in the wee hours of the morning, Oracle Social was growing thousands of Likes per minute, its comment section was blowing up with complaints, and no Community Manager could be found.  The forced followers debated whether this was malware, customer acquisition or even a fake page.  Social savvy people started tweeting and emailing corporate.  Many of us reported the page a spam.

At around 1:30 am I gave up, went to bed, and thought: THIS will be great fodder for Spin Sucks and other blogs with huge PR/Marketer followings.

At 8:15 am I check back in, sure that there will be some resolution: utter silence from Oracle.  The comment section is full of pissed off people, and coincidentally or not, many of them are Marketers who are social ‘experts,’ although they’ll all detest that title.

We still don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we do know one thing: Oracle has dropped the ball on this one in a huge way. People have been on a Facebook Page that bears their brand complaining loudly, and there is total social silence.  Their corporate twitter accounts and email have been contacted: social silence.  Add that to the fact that many of us are bloggers and you have one very loud, pissed off contingent that you have not even begun to dialogue with.

When these PR stumbles happen at large companies, we always ask: what should we realistically expect? What is an appropriate response time?  Some have argued that hours, or even an entire day is ok.  I disagree; even managers of small  Facebook Pages check in first thing in the morning. Saturday morning in particular is a heavy usage time on Facebook and Twitter… is it really possible that no one at Oracle knows about this yet?  I doubt it.

The Oracle Social page is almost up to 1 million likes, from zero last night; sometimes it’s not so great to have a large audience.

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How Kind is Your Company?

If you’re an avid reader of Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks you will have read her fantastic story of the ultimate Starbucks customer experience. Those of us who regularly patronize Starbucks aren’t really surprised.  Just last week How Kind is your company?my daughter and I  drove through our old Starbucks and ordered our regular drinks; without even seeing us the drive through barista said “I know who this is! How’s Addie?”  Of course we felt special.

I have friends who still try to convince me I’m getting ripped off when I buy my $4 chai, but I know I’m not. The personalized, friendly customer service one receives at Starbucks is incredibly rare.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.   Social Media was supposed to make us more human… give us an opportunity to connect with our customers in a real way, uncluttered by traditional marketing speak.  It is supposed to allow for conversational exchanges between brands and buyers.  Sadly, most of us have forgotten that, and use it too much like a promotional machine… a digital billboard we aim at our targets.  We have forgotten how important being nice actually is.

What Starbucks knows is that kindness works.  People want to be treated as if they matter. Don’t believe me?  Try this: mail a handwritten Thank You to all of your customers from the past week.  I guarantee you will get a reaction. Why? Because companies have forgotten the human dimension.  Because we all want to be remembered.  Because in this age of automated bill pay and internet banking, the humanness has been sucked out of our lives.  Our customers crave it.  We ALL crave it.

Now go and look at your company practices:

  1. Who answers the phone and how do they do it? Have you ever instructed them on what you expect?
  2. What did the last 10 Facebook posts look like?  Was there any attempt to generate conversation?
  3. Is your Twitter stream just a broadcasting mechanism?  How many actual conversations have you had on there in the past month?
  4. Are you telling your company stories?  Is there a mechanism for your employees to hear them internally?
  5. Are you asking your customers for THEIR stories?  Are you giving them a voice?
  6. When was the last time you took an anonymous company poll to ask for employee input?
  7. How are you rewarding employees for excellent customer feedback?
Maybe Mitt was half right; maybe corporations are supposed to be people.  When was the last time you looked at your company practices seeking out evidence of kindness?  I know, it all sounds a bit mushy, but It Is REAL.  I believe it’s the single greatest ingredient in Starbucks’ incredible success.  If more companies made it part of how they do business, we’d have more success stories, and posts like Gini’s would be a lot less rare.

 

Networking and Sales: The Low Budget Marketing Strategy That Works

Most small business owners and/or marketing departments face the challenge of growing sales with a budget that forces them to maximize every dime.  Too many times I’ve heard some version of  “We have no money for marketing” uttered marketing on penniesby a client, and my answer is always the same “That’s no excuse.”

For one, it’s rarely true. Often they don’t have MUCH money, but that’s not the same as having none. If you truly have none, shut your doors now.  If we’re honest about your limited budget, we have somewhere to start.  Of course the first thing you need if you don’t have it is product literature – a business card and brochure at the minimum.  I know, we do live in the world of online connecting, but you need to give the people you meet in real life something concrete to walk away with that convinces them that you are actually in business.  After that, you need a plan that involves little dough and lots of ‘go’ on your part.

Networking is the keystone of your low budget marketing efforts, and sales is right there with it.  Too many people get hung up on the difference between Sales & Marketing, and to that I say “Hogwash.”  The line is and should be blurred beyond visibility. Marketing is creating the message and keeping your brand in the forefront of people’s mind; Sales is closing  the deal. If done properly your networking (marketing) will blur itself right into a sale.  If you don’t know where to start, start here:

  1. Your local Chamber of Commerce: often maligned as cliquey time wasters, I can tell you that a Chamber is what you make it. For a fee of usually under $300 you can gain access to hundreds if not thousands of other business owners, and very often inexpensive or free ways to market your business.  If you want to explore how to effectively use your chamber, check out Frank Kenny.  At the minimum, go to the events they offer, join  a committee  and get to know the directors.  Actively seek out business by asking for it.
  2. Community Involvement: joining a charitable organization, the PTA, or any other community based group that has a mission is a great way to get to know a lot of people in a non-threatening environment. Of course you already know that nobody likes to be sold, but people DO want to buy from people they know. Make sure they all know what you do if they ever need your services.
  3. Cold Calling: and stop rolling your eyes, gagging, or whatever the idea of cold calling makes you do.  I used to turn my nose up at it too, until I got turned onto S. Anthony Iannarino‘s philosophy. The truth is that there was a time when most salespeople were dependent upon cold calling. Now, in the internet age we’ve all become a little soft. It’s so much easier to be rejected via email or LinkedIn, and we can at least tell ourselves we tried.  Cold calling works, and I would argue even more effectively because so few people do it.  You need to have a plan when you call, and be simultaneously interesting and delicate, but by using it you can at least get a meeting to introduce your company.
  4. Surgical Marketing: In order for cold calling to really work, you have to have both a target AND a plan of action.  You need to be able to tell that target in a matter of seconds how you will help them, not what you can sell them. If you haven’t created a target list, do it, and then figure out the best way to approach each individual target.
  5. Referral Requests: You have friends, former co-workers, and professional connections. Use them. Again, your request must be delicate and it wouldn’t hurt to offer a referral reward alongside it. Nearly every business starts out by leaning heavily on the circle of people that know and care about the founders. Every person you know well should understand what you do, how passionate you are about it, and what the perfect referral is.
  6. Social Media: It isn’t free because it costs a lot of TIME, and it has the potential to be a huge time suck, but managing a Social Media page properly allows you to illustrate what you do and how it helps your potential customers.  It can open up an entirely new stream of lead generation.  (You didn’t think we’d make a low budget marketing list without it, did you?)  Eventually you’ll have to pony up money to measure its effectiveness, but in the early days it will take lots of your time and analysis to see what works.

All of the above will cost you minimal amounts of money and tons of sweat equity, but it is the way out of your low budget marketing scenario.  You will have to network to create opportunities and then sell the deal by persistently following up on genuine leads. You’ll have to be able to identify those worthy leads and close the deal; at the end of the day it will always be about your ability to sell.  Do the above consistently, keeping your goals in mind and remaining undeterred no matter how many rejections you encounter, and you’ll work you way out of the low budget marketing scenario and earn yourself the ability to become truly strategic about how to market and grow your business.

Do you have a story about building sales on a shoe string budget? We’d love to hear it.

You can’t DO Social Media

DISCLAIMER: I have absolutely no intention of joining the inane argument about which generation should be in charge of your Social Media community.  Statements like “No one over/under 25…” make me furious because it is so ridiculous to judge anyone based solely on their age.

However, like all of us older Social Media geeks, I have encountered the discussion in real life far too many times. Over the past 2 years I’ve had an ongoing ‘debate’ with a young man who started a ‘Social Media Management’ You can't DO Social Mediacompany; he once declared that ‘in 5 years there will be nothing BUT Social Media Marketing.’  I know, it’s another discussion not worth having because it is based on idiocy.  Very few companies can thrive with only ONE marketing tactic driving their sales.  TV, print, signage, email marketing… they’ll all change in the next 5 years.  Social Media will change too… but none of them are going away.

Just today I discovered that this same Social Media Management company did something that burns me, and should burn everyone else who ever reaches out to a Facebook Business Page for customer service:

They deleted a negative post.

Young and old friends – Never, Ever do this.  Not unless the post contains language that will offend your audience.

If someone takes time out of their day to reach out to your company for help, HELP them. The removed post wasn’t rude, it was simply requesting help after repeatedly calling and emailing.  Not only was it removed,  it wasn’t even RESPONDED TO.

This brings me back to one of my most persistent gripes about Social Media: It isn’t there for the DOING.  It is a tool. A Tactic. An incredible communication tool for small business.  Sure, people will complain.  And, just like in Real Life, every customer complaint is an opportunity for relationship building. If the complainant is so irrational that you cannot build a relationship with them, your patient, professional dialogue about their issue gives you the opportunity to build trust with the other people listening.

What has me so fired up about this type of ‘delete’ is that I know how very hard small businesses work to gain customers. I know that, especially in THIS economy, each one is so precious. Erasing any of them is criminal.  And I am convinced that this sort of reaction is what “doing Social Media” is. But that’s not good enough. You need to have a strategy, a plan… you need to nurture your online community.  You need to be there for the good and the bad.  You need to be prepared, in advance, for the bad and how you will react to it.

Here’s the myth debunked: Social Media is no different than real life customer relations.  Whatever you should do in a Real Life situation should be done in your Social Communities too.  Would you hang up on a disappointed customer, or would you try to resolve the issue professionally?  I think everyone knows the answer when they just stop and THINK about it.  Social Media, like the telegraph, phone, and email before it, is simply a new communication tool.  Don’t loose your marbles trying to ‘do’ it, and just ‘do’ good business.

How to Get Results From Your Chamber of Commerce

Small Businesses often have small marketing budgets; it is an absolute necessity that they maximize every dollar spent on marketing. Networking is crucial if your marketing budget is tight, and your local Chamber of Commerce can be the Using your Chamber for Business networkingbiggest bang for your buck if you know how to make it work for you.

I have lived all over the Eastern US, and in each location I’ve been involved in Chambers.  Some are stronger than others, but in order to make any Chamber work for you, you must not sit on the sidelines; get involved.  Here’s a short list of to dos:

  • Read your membership documents: As soon as you pay for your membership, read every thing handed to you and look out for the free deals.  Most chambers give you discounts on advertising or even free opportunities to get your business in front of your fellow members during your first year of membership.  Don’t let them sit unused.
  • Meet with a Chamber Employee: Set up a meeting with whomever handles Membership and/or Marketing and make sure that they understand your business, and ask to be made aware of every marketing opportunity. Make a friend inside the Chamber and keep in touch.
  • Attend Events: This may seem like a no brainer, but I cannot tell you how many people I come across who pay their dues, never go to events, and then complain that they’re ‘not getting anything‘ out of their Chamber.  You must attend different types of events as well – some breakfasts, some lunches, some evening events.  You’ll find that other people get into routines and you’ll miss meeting them if you don’t go to the ones they always attend.
  • Volunteer: You must give to get, and the best way to be noticed and make friends in your Chamber is to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as you work on a project or event together. People do business with people they know, and you really get to know your fellow members when you work with them towards a goal.
  • Offer to Speak: Chambers are often searching for professional speakers willing to get in front of other members and help them learn more about a particular subject. If you have the ability and knowledge, don’t be afraid to give some of it away.
  • Sponsor an Event: Not only will sponsoring a high profile event get you noticed, it will bring lots of good will from your Chamber.  Offer to host an event at your business if possible… the first hurdle in getting a new customer in the door is to get them in that first time.  Once they’re comfortable, they’ll come back.

Like so many things in life and business, you only get back as much as you give.  Chambers can be powerful weapons for your marketing arsenal if you know how to use them.

What have you done to get the maximum out of your Chamber?

If you want to learn more about how to maximize your Chamber membership, check out Frank Kenny’s endless stream of helpful tips.