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UNDER PROMISE, OVER DELIVER!

Sorry for shouting, lovely people. But this is my customer service slash LIFE mantra and I have to share it with you vigorously. Basically, people are less about GOOD outcomes and BAD outcomes, but about BETTER than expected outcomes or WORSE than expected outcomes. Manage peoples’ expectations and you are something like 90% of the way to being awesome.*

SOME RECENT EXAMPLES from my life:

O2 gave me some home phone and some broadband. They quoted more on the phone than they did on the website UH-OH!! The actual price isn’t relevant – it was still fine, and I was still willing to pay it – but it always SEEMS high when it is more than expected. They could justify WHY it was different, but it still appears to me they could be much clearer on their website and not leave a wee sour taste in their customers’ mouths. THEN they told me that my “start date” for broadband would be the 24th; the start date for my home phone the 23rd. Imagine my happiness when I get little emails and texts today, the 22nd, saying “We have connected you early!” My feeling is: they probably knew all along that they were being over-cautious in their deadlining. But it has resulted in a very POSITIVE feeling replacing the neutral feeling I would otherwise have had! Well done O2, clever people.

A BAD experience has been with my letting agents, Let-It. I won’t go in to the boring details but suffice to say that:
1. Adding charges as you go along is ALWAYS to be avoided. Be upfront. Where possible, don’t charge people ridiculous amounts for simple tasks!! And you ought to be able to explain charges.
2. If you say you will REMOVE a charge as a “goodwill gesture”, do not later reinstate it. That is, then, a retraction of goodwill. There is now no goodwill between us. Awkward…
Again, doing this means you have modified your customers expectations in a (positive) way, and taking it back is doing more damage than simply never promising in the first place.

DON’T MAKE PROMISES YOU CAN’T KEEP! Always give yourself room to manoeuvre!

*Totally meaningless statistic. But you get my drift.

The Social Media Revolution

Simply had to share this wee video:

Makes you think!

The Top Rules of Networking (And Why You Should Break Them)

I attended a very good networking event last night, although it made me realise that you have to approach networking as if it… isn’t networking. Come on, you wouldn’t be hugely different at a social gathering that WASN’T labelled as a networking event (this particular one was entitled “Everything You Wanted To Know About Networking… But Were Too Afraid To Ask”, so it was rather self-aware) so why do you need to be taught how to attend one?!

We did have a really useful session, not only “networking” (we did a speed-networking exercise which I think always helps to break the ice), but talking, sharing, discussing – making our own list of top tips for networking.

However, in the true modern blogger style, I would like to take a moment to look at the “top tips”… and explain why they are false. Ha!

1. Be yourself
Of course, it is important in building good, meaningful relationships that you come across as genuine and authentic. However, be wary of focussing too much on being “real” – people who might use your services or recommend you to others probably want to see the presentable, business-y side of you as well as the fun-loving cat-owner or whoever you happen to be. It is possible to “be yourself”… but still tailor your presentation to your audience. Be cautious of over-sharing (personal stuff) and neglecting to explain what makes you good at what you do. Women in particular find it hard to share successes with others – it can look bigheaded – but do try. My tip would be – don’t say “I’m so charismatic/intelligent” – they can discover this for themselves. Do say “I have been doing this for 30 years/I won an award for my work on X/I’m proud of the work we did for Y.” These are factual statements and, mentioned sparingly, won’t make you look immodest.

2. Manage your expectations
Don’t expect to meet everyone in the room, for example. Have a realistic goal.
Hmmm.. I for one do not go to events, flowing with free wine, banter, interesting people and potential customers/referrers and think “I need to speak to three people”. “I need to give out four business cards.” Maybe this is useful to have at the back of your mind, but I would say goal-setting was a little bit desperado.

3. Prepare your pitch
Obviously, you should know what you’re going to say about who you are and what you do. You should really know this already. But yeah, get it nice and slick and remember the salient points. Feel free to change it up. Practice saying it confidently. BUT be aware of sounding rehearsed, and be aware that your audience may not feel you HAVE included the salient points, so ask for questions once your quick “pitch” is over. Listen to how other people do theirs and try to refine yours to reflect the “best practice” you have witnessed.

4. Listen
I can’t really come up with a reason why you SHOULDN’T listen to others within a networking event – it makes you look good, it allows you thinking time, it allows you to gauge their response to what you might say, and obviously it gives you a chance to find out how THEY might be useful to YOU rather than the opposite. However, don’t JUST listen. Listen “actively” – repeat back what they say to show you are listening and to help yourself remember key facts. Ask questions. Listening isn’t simply about being quiet while they speak.

5. Build relationships
This does capture the idea, which I am a big fan of, that networking is not simply about shoving business cards in people’s hands and telling them all how amazing you are. Quality over quantity is surely key – you would always want to recommend or assist your friends, and that is how networking should work – by making you more friends within relevant sectors. However, don’t spend the whole time gassing with one person and don’t expect to make bezzies. Unfortunately you do have to be rather cynical about networking events – people are there to make useful connections.

6. Don’t dismiss anyone
This is true, you ought not to think that someone’s business isn’t important or useful to you. People are more complex than that, and you also want referrers as well as customers. However, we can all tell when the benefits of a potential referral will never outweigh the excruciating boredom, or obnoxiousness, of an unwanted networking pest. So do be a bit selective.
It is true that you ought not to badmouth competitors or previous clients, no matter how tempting this is. Negativity and criticism is a very unattractive trait.

7. Remember business cards
Well, yes, you probably should. BUT:
– Don’t fiddle with them, or become obsessed by them and treat them like poker chips.
– Don’t give them to people before you’ve even started talking to them – not least because that person will become distracted by your card and stop listening. (It also makes you look like an idiot).
– Don’t hand out rubbish ones. Obviously.
– Leave white space on your card if possible. Carry a pen with you. Write down the most important thing that THAT PERSON (who you have just established a beautiful relationship with) needs to remember about YOU.

8. Make a good first impression
They say that it takes seven subsequent pleasant encounters with someone to make you like them, if your FIRST impression of them was awful. This is what we call a MEANINGLESS STATISTIC, as obviously it depends on so many external/other factors as to be absurd. How awful does the first meeting have to be? How important is it that you like this person? (You might try harder with a friend of a friend, for example.) I have known people, who I found fairly abhorrent, to turn it round rather quickly with some humility, a witty comment or an interesting titbit. So don’t panic too much about your appearance, your opening line or your first impression on someone – but don’t neglect it either!

9. Follow up
I like to send a wee email to people who I have met and GENUINELY ENJOYED TALKING TO after an event, to tell them so. My advice here is quite straightforward – what would you like to receive? A template email from someone you spent five seconds shaking hands with saying how much they liked meeting you and why not check out their great deals? is going to feel awfully hollow. Make your follow-ups genuine and also specific (i.e. not making it look like a template email, and also in terms of where you go from here – do you have a useful referral for them?)

10. Referrals
Make them. Make them first. This is all good advice – you can train people to do something by leading by example, certainly. But don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. “Oh, you’re looking for a hairdresser?! I haven’t been to one for five years, but I did go to this one once, who isn’t near you geographically, and was distinctly average, and the referral is not useful because that particular hairdresser won’t have the foggiest who I am.” Or “Oh you are a plumber! Give me your card. I will send an email to all my friends tomorrow just basically saying that I have the contacts details of a plumber.” Make good, useful, genuine referrals.

Any thoughts?

Create A Custom 404 Error Page

It would be EXTREMELY frustrating to lose a potential (or even existing) customer over something as silly as a broken link – and, unfortunately, you won’t even always be able to track them down and fix them on your own website, never mind others. Other sites which link to your page, or old bookmarks, could lead customers to the wrong place – and then send them packing to a competitor.

One fairly easy way to rectify this situation, if you know your way around the backbones of your website, is to create a custom error page, usually known as a 404 Redirect. This means that when someone clicks on a “broken” link (a link which no longer goes anywhere/exists, or has been typed incorrectly) within your domain (www.yoursite.com/anythingcouldbehere..) they will see a page specifically designed to keep them within your website. 

Example: The home page of my company website looks like this:

And our “custom 404-redirect” page looks like this:

This has been designed to look exactly like the home page, with a quick explanation of what might have happened, and pleeenty of links to other pages within our website.

Method: Create a page like the one above, designed to fit in with the look and feel of the rest of your website. You can decide what text to include but make it obvious that the link they clicked (or the address they typed) wasn’t quite right. Give suggestions of where to go next. Save this page as 404-redirect.html.
Next, go to your .htaccess file and type the following:

ErrorDocument 404 /404-redirect.html

Voila! You can test it by typing http://www.yoursite.com/goaskjjsjgabsfdf in the search bar🙂 (or something – you get the idea..)

301 Redirect: If a customer clicks a saved link to, for example, your Contact page, which used to be http://www.yoursite.com/contact.htm (and this is what they click on) BUT you have long since changed it to http://www.yoursite.com/contactme.htm – then you can help your customer further by taking them to where they DO want to go.
Again, get into your .htaccess file and type:

Redirect 301 /contact.htm http://www.you.com/contactme.htm

or

Redirect permanent /page.htm http://www.yoursite.com/page.htm

More information can be found here:
http://www.searchengineguide.com/stoney-degeyter/three-easy-ways-to-fix-broken-links-and.php

Some Thoughts On Twitter

I have been reading quite a bit lately regarding how to use Twitter effectively as a business – useful blogs here http://www.thesocialpenguinblog.com/2012/02/08/10-things-a-brand-should-never-do-on-twitter/ and this one is OK too: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6696/The-9-Worst-Ways-to-Use-Twitter-for-Business.aspx) As a result of this, I have taken some actions that I thought I would share with you.

1. I have completely removed the Automatic Direct Messages that would be sent to new Followers. Don’t know why we ever did that, now that I think about how impersonal – and ultimately fruitless – it is. I now send new followers a personalised tweet saying thanks. Much nicer.

2. I have gone through alllll the people we follow and deleted the ones which are taking up valuable space. It is a list I have inherited in my role, and perhaps these people seemed cool at one point… presumably a point before we hit the 2000 threshold. If you follow way more than follow you, you not only look sad, you also reach a limit when Twitter won’t let you follow any more. If this means you are missing out on relevant people to your industry, go back and get rid of the dead wood. (Sorry, that sounds a bit mean.)

3. I have also added all of my contacts to appropriate lists – which I think will be useful in the long term. This should mean I can “send” Tweets to people who will be most interested in them (theoretically), which is always good marketing chat. Again, time-consuming short-term!

4. I have had a look at our (massive) database of contacts – already neatly segmented – and started to go through them (starting with local businesses, but you might choose a different approach) making sure I am in some way socially connected with them. My preference in terms of B2B is definitely Twitter, hence the need to MAKE SPACE to make sure I am following all my top customers. Which I now am. Yippee!
On a side note: It does seem to be a good idea to have a list of “top customers” – people that you deal with regularly – and make sure you are keeping channels of communication open with them (in as many ways and formats as possible). And remember, communication is not just about talking, it’s about listening too!

Interestingly, I also received an eflyer with a link to this article on social media: www.mashable.com/2009/10/28/small-business-marketing/ which wasn’t particularly good at all. Ah well!

CSS is Important!

What does !important mean within the Cascading Style Sheet of a webpage? It means that whatever other styles are applied afterwords, that first – or most important – style remains. It means that you won’t accidentally override a style you do want to apply universally.

So in this example:
p { color: #ffffff; }
p { color: #000000; }
the paragraph text color will be black (#000000), although white is given in the first instruction (#ffffff).
This is because the styles are applied in a cascading manner, hence the name cascading style sheets. Formatting from a style sheet is applied first and foremost (and will apply if no other formatting is defined), but can be overriden by inline styles, such as <p style=”color: #ffffff”…> </p> 


OR by using !important in your CSS. So in this example:

p { color: #ffffff !important; }
p { color: #000000; }

the paragraph style will always have white text.

More information from this nice lady: http://webdesign.about.com/od/css/f/blcssfaqimportn.htm

Perfect Websites 2

Here comes part deux of my Handy and Useful “web development for dummies/ top tips guide” to perfect websites! Having already discussed user-friendly websites, let’s look at creating SEARCHABLE websites and then how to MEASURE results🙂

Searchability
 – Can Customers Find You / Does Google Love You?


Meta Data – this is the info nestled in between the <head> </head> tags of your webpage. I don’t claim to understand much about this stuff, but there are some basics which the interweb spiders can read and use to organise your website.
The META data ought to have a NAME and some CONTENT, and is most useful for defining keywords and a description of the page (this what is shown by web browsers!)
So that would look like this, maybe for this page for example:

<meta name=”description” content=”Blog covering online marketing, social media, communications and customer service” />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”marketing, customer services, online marketing, social media, blogging, websites, web design” />


You will also need a nice title, shown in the very top of your browser when you look at a webpage.
<title>Fruitful Communications</title> <– notice this has an end tag but your meta tags do not. 

Oooh, and if your title is more than 66ish characters, browsers won’t display it properly. Check your count here. More information on length, here.
This is useful as search engines use this information to see what your page is about. Simples.

TOP TIP: Try not to use generic page titles such as HOME or ABOUT or WELCOME. This is part of your online marketing and searchability, so USE this space wisely. What is actually unique about you? What do you do? Instead of “HOME” or “PAGE ONE” try “Theatrical Supplies” or “Glasgow Joiner” for better searchabilityness.

URL Format: Silktide will score you on this, and search engines will judge you on this as well. This embodies the difference between:
http://www.site.com/sasjh-akjshf%sololo-psdhjkg/fsdhgoog/kjh&amp;^^bcskdhgksdjgjhgsldhgjsdhgsd (assuming this still was an actual URL)
and http://www.marketing.com/adverts.html or http://www.glasgowhair.com/highlights.html
Everyone prefers a neater URL. Keep yours short and sweet, and as specific as possible.

Broken Files:

“Broken files usually mean part of a webpage is missing or broken, like so:Some broken files aren’t noticeable to the user, as the missing file may not be used in a way that is obvious. For example, a background image might be missing, but a plain background might still appear ok. These broken files are still an issue however, as they slow down the webpage from loading; the missing files must be unnecessarily requested and rejected by the webserver.”

Thanks, Silktide. Couldn’t say it better myself…

W3C compliance: I only recently discovered how utterly essential this is, as my website wouldn’t display properly in Mozilla Firefox. (Remember, ALWAYS test your website in the most popular browsers! This includes Safari, Opera, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox.) But there is no point in testing your website unless you know what is going wrong (and how to fix it.)
Anyway, I discovered that Firefox will only show very well coded webpages – those that follow the strict rules of CSS.
Luckily, W3C provides a handy checker! Available, free, here: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
You can also make sure your website generally complies with W3C, which will make it a well-loved and respected site! http://validator.w3.org/
These will also tell you *what* to change, and where it is in your code, so they are extreeeemely useful.

Incoming links: Search ranking will also be decided based on how many other (good) sites link to your site. (This will affect your Page Rank score, see below.) SEOmoz Open Site Explorer is useful for checking this (but can only be used a certain number of times in one day.) See how many (and what type of) sites link to your site, and make sure the information they have is correct and up to date, so that their users might just click on the link!

Facebook and Twitter: Having social media accounts will increase your searchability (users can find you more easily if you are present in more places) and ranking (not least because you will be creating more links to your actual website..). They are also, of course, useful in themselves.

Use CSS!! As discussed, make sure your Cascading Style Sheets and in-page styles are tip top using the W3C checker, to increase the chances of perfect display in all browsers. Also, where possible, use CSS to reduce the amount of code search engines need to read.
Keep your formatting in a separate document, in other words. Learn more – lots of simple articles on this site. 

Search Ranking: OK – search for your site on Google (either by company name, products, services or other keywords that you know your customers use – I’m sure you have researched that by now) and see how high up it is listed. Anything past Page 1 may as well not be there, so you want to be on this first page for your main keywords. Silktide provides a Search Ranking score based on your defined keywords.

Google page rank is also cool, as it shows how “good” your website is in Google’s mind (if it had a mind). This is decided by hundreds of factors, some of which I have outlined here, many of which are mysterious to all.

Popularity Silktide also measures your overall “popularity”, using http://www.alexa.com/ stats. This shows how your page measures up to other websites… worth keeping an eye on.

Analytics This is the most important measuring tool, like, ever. Make sure you are tracking every single page of your website, monitoring results, and making changes to improve results. http://www.google.com/analytics/
Fairly easy to use and self-explanatory, although remember to exclude your own viewing of the site.
Go to the cute little Settings icon (like a wee nut for a bolt) once you have logged in, and click to Filters. You can then Exclude Traffic from your IP address.
Find out your IP address by going to http://www.whatismyip.com/
So much more to say on analytics but, basically, make sure you have it and you have the tracking code on every page🙂

Anything else you think I should include here? Let me know🙂