How much is too much?

As a company we never want to be sending out emails or any type of communication for that matter, that crosses that line of too many times. So how many is too many? That's a difficult number to pin down. It depends on many different variables and those variables can change from company to company. What we do know is that a gentle reminder can help spur a thought and/or lead to a sale without be intrusive. A gentle reminder could be a salesperson casually mentioning a sale without trying to "close the deal". It could also look like a reminder on an invoice or statement. However it's done, remember that, as Henry Ford once said, "a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business."

Some Thoughts on Planning

There are many things to think about when planning for the year. What will be the financial strategy? Will marketing look different? Is there new equipment that needs to be purchased? Obviously, running a business can get stressful, but if there's one thing we know it's that, while there is a lot of risk in business, there are great frameworks that can help to make things operate and function a little smoother. A couple of things included in those frameworks are:

  • Guesses need to be educated and risk needs to be calculated.
  • How you build can matter just as much as what you build.
  • Make sure that your marketing brings in revenue not just attention.
  • Worry less about timing, things get re-invented all the time.

This is by no means an all inclusive list, but will hopefully spark some ideas. Frameworks have been developed for many things, so keep in mind that you don't always have to re-invent the wheel.

Proper Tools make all the Difference

Having the proper tools can make all the difference in how my day goes. For instance, I'm not a designer, which is why I got excited when I heard about the site Canva. I was listening to a webinar and the speaker talked about it as a design site for non-designers. This instantly got my attention and, after some investigation, I was impressed. The site offered exactly what the person had described. Essentially, this company has designers create the foundation and then the end user can come in and tweak that design by adding their content and pictures. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, then take some time and rearrange the elements. It doesn't have everything, however, it’s great for specific things like setting up an email template, social media post, or infographics. This tool may not be the ultimate design tool, but it might help you and your team to better portray a message to customers. Also, it’s a given that, in smaller businesses, most people on the team will wear multiple hats. Tools like these help those of us that are juggling multiple jobs to do them better, faster, and more efficiently. As always, if you have any questions about this newsletter or suggestions to make it better, please feel welcome to send those our way!

Be Visible

In continuation of the Cutting Cost article from last month, we’ve written up an article with some more tips. The first section is about getting your information out there and in view of your clients. The second section is about helping people and sharing the wisdom gleaned from you’re years in business.

The big idea behind this list is Be Visible.

  • Add Company Information Everywhere – A company needs to have their information everywhere that is reasonable and logical for the company. This means that company communications, such as emails, invoices, promotional materials, etc, should include not only contact names and numbers, but also the company website, any forums and/or blogs that are regularly posted to, social media, etc. If it can be linked to, then it should be included. The point here is to let clients and potential clients know where they can find you.
  • Offer Professional Advice – I once had someone tell me that they may not be able to give good advice on running a business, but they could certainly make a list of all the things not to do. While mistakes are guaranteed in business, if you’ve been in business for awhile, then chances are that you have some wisdom to impart. This is all about being involved in and helping the community around you. If a client or potential client is having trouble on a project that you have expertise in, then offer up your advice to help them finish the project. This could be in an online forum or at your customer’s site. Projects like this show that you care about your clients and can help establish a company as an expert in the field, which can lead to word of mouth referral. As we’ve seen time and time again, word of mouth is one of the strongest marketing tools that can be harnessed.

Again, the big idea here is to be visible. While these changes may seem small, the goal is to use the tools that are already at your disposal. Adding your company information and any place where you can be found doesn't take long. This means, in many cases, making one time changes to email signatures, invoice templates, etc. Becoming the subject matter expert for your community can be as simple as spending a little time in an online forum answering questions, posting helpful tips to social media, or spending time at a client's site to find the issues and offering you're advice. 

Don't feel like you have to be involved in every possible outlet or that everything has to be implemented all at once. Simply find the specific social sites, forums, etc. that are relevant to your client base. 

404 Page

There's going to be times when things just don't work properly. Normally, I shut my computer down at night (a good practice to get into for personal and non-essential computers), but one night I didn't. The next morning I realized that I had left my computer on so I gently shake the mouse to wake everything up and what I saw put a smile on my face.

As the guy who is in charge of the website, I would get frustrated when things didn't work properly. Then one day I realized that this was just going to happen. That there was nothing I could do about this issue except to take preemptive measures to avoid inconvenience. I realized that even the companies much larger than mine still had issues, hence the image above. This image appeared because a webpage wouldn't load. Most of the time this is fixed by refreshing the screen, sometimes it takes a few minutes for a server to catch up with all the request that are coming in, and sometimes this means that something is actually broken. When this does happen, because it will at some point, will customers get a funny message that makes them smile, that lets them know the company is human and not perfect, or will they get a blank page and be confused about what is happening? A few companies have taken a very lighthearted approach to this issue and some have forgotten about it. 

What will your customer’s see? Whether the choice is made to be a little fun on the 404 page or keep it basic, there needs to be a couple of simple things that are always included:

1. Make sure that the customer knows what happened. This doesn't mean that a paragraph has to be written, but simply a basic explanation. 

2. Give the customer some direction. This may be a link to the homepage or it may be a note that says to refresh the screen. Regardless of what is chosen, make sure that it is clear how to proceed. 

Below are a few examples of good 404 pages. I realize the image is small, so to see a larger version of the image simply click on the name of the image you want to see.