This week has been my favourite time of the year. It’s nothing to do with Christmas: It was the interview episode of The Apprentice where the 5 remaining candidates get the pleasure of having every aspect of their progress businesses past and present, business plan and general characteristics by 4 of Lord Sugar’s key aides.
I watch this every year, not because I’m mean, but because nothing gets past these 4 musketeers. They analyse everything from how accurate the candidate’s market research is to how realistic their figures are. And they always look at the candidate’s current business website and for about 80% of the time, there are flaws.
Last year, out of the 2 finalists that went on to become Lord Sugar’s business partners, one hadn’t updated her website for about 5 years and the other one had an accreditation displayed on his website which shouldn’t have been there. ironically both of these budding business owners, went on to become Lord Sugar’s business partners.
This year was no exception: There was the hangover cure guy who boldly claimed on his Amazon page that he’d sold over 1 million sachets, when realistically he’d only sold 47,000 and the Tennis events organiser that had listed half her events on her website as cancelled. And my personal favourite: Camilla, the nut milk entrepreneur whose original online branding was so provocative that it bordered on soft-core porn.
My son, who was also watching this with me, was looking up their websites on his iPad and we both had a good look. And indeed there are flaws. There were superficial flaws such as a logo that had been cropped to the extent that you couldn’t read the company name, a website that was clearly designed just for desktop users and my critical eye found that one of the slogans was “Just another WordPress site.”
I’m not saying Claude Littner, Linda Plant, et al are looking at your website right now, but like it or not, humans are naturally curious species beings. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that after meeting someone either in person or interacting with them online, I’m straight onto Google or Linkedin to find out more about that person and their business. Making it all the more important to keep your website and social media profiles updated.
Even after 18 years of working in the web industry, it kills me when someone dismisses updating their site saying “no one is looking me up online” Wrong. So wrong. People are looking you up whether you want them to or not. If your website or online profile aren’t up to scratch, it is going to reflect badly on you, whether you are #1 in Google #1000.
So take half an hour on a regular basis and look objectively at your website and social media profiles: Are they up to date? Is there anything new you can add? Are you emphasising your achievements? And more importantly, is it truthful? Can you back up your achievements (with accreditations, testimonials and media coverage)? Even better ask a friend or colleague to take a look. What do they think? Sometimes a fresh set of eyes makes all the difference.
it is the final tonight and I wish the final 2 candidates the best of luck. It is hard to tell who is going to win this year. I have looked at both of their websites this morning (Sunday) they have both been updated since Wednesday night, so its anyone’s guess.
I have a customer who sells Guides to Driving Abroad mainly via Amazon. Much to his angst this week, he received a 2 star review from a disgruntled client, who had clearly bought his guide and knew a bit about the local area. To say he was devastated was an understatement!
But the way he handled it was professional: He researched the issue straight away, got the correct information and came to me (who helped compile the guide) and together we rectified the problem and had the revised copy ready for download that day.
Which is all great, but now there is still a 2 star review on his product page, that won’t go away. He toyed with the idea of contacting Amazon to have it removed, but unless its abusive or spammy, then why would they?
There will always be people who leave negative reviews: Some have a point, others just need to get a good hobby (preferably away from computers), but how you deal with their criticism can make the difference between a future customer hitting buy now or hitting the back button.
Reply to the feedback: Thank the person for their feedback. Acknowledge there was an issue, but now the error has been corrected and ask them to download the modified version. Even if the person was very brusque with their language and the review was quite damning, this demonstrates to everyone else reading that you took the criticism professionally and used it to improve your product rather than turning it into a full blown slanging match.
Get some good reviews: Reviews are tallied and your average rating is given. So despite the 2 stars, now might be a good time to contact the people that have downloaded the book and liked it. Ask them first what they thought of it. If the feedback is negative then get an insight what was wrong and act on that advice. If the feedback is positive then ask if they would be willing to leave a 5 star review on Amazon. This in turn will bump up your average.
So far progress has been steady and it is quite a novelty concept to me as the business coach gives me homework to do each week. Last week I was asked to make a list of every prospective client that hadn’t proceeded forward. I did so and out of my own curiosity, I checked their websites. Except for one that had recently re-designed their website for desktop, tablet and mobile use, regularly updated their site and engaged in social media, had been pretty much left for dead: Some had not been updated since 2011, others had created a Facebook page, written 2 updates and then given up.
That is a shame because they are missing out on sharing their information with others, engaging with what could be potential customers and associates. All of this being vital stuff for any business. Also if people want to find out more about your company, product or service, a 3 year old post announcing your company’s now set up on Facebook is hardly a good sign!
The thing is, a lot has changed since 2011: For a start, there is way more competition out there, Google have got smarter at detecting websites that provide regular and useful advice (and filtering out the ones that can’t be bothered), and according to Google, mobile search may overtake desktop search by next year.
Even I have fallen under this category: I half-heartedly set myself up on Twitter and Facebook a few years ago, but its only really in the last 6 months that I’ve taken the time to set up a decent Company profile and now regularly take the time to share and converse on both. I’m still a long way off seeing any visible results, but the local community know that I’m out there and some of my customers have asked me more about the building work currently taking place on my new office.
In fact, here is a rundown of the best excuses I have heard and my answer to them:
No one expects you to spend all day chatting on social media or writing up your latest blog post. But by allocating a small amount of time (about 1-2 hours) each day or week is time well spent. Even better if you opt for a time when you are at your most productive.
You can also use tools to save time. For example wouldn’t it make sense if you use a social network platform, such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to save you having to visit every social networking site you currently use? If you work late at night, you can also schedule posts and updates for the following day when people are more likely to read it.
For the larger task of re-designing your website or re-writing your web content, use your allocated time in steps, so for example write up your home page content during one session and maybe your services pages for the next. Or just outsource it altogether (Just saying!) 🙂
This mainly falls under the category of social media, but can be useful for web content. Offer advice, give tips, answer questions that other people in your community are asking. Give a top 5 list of the most useful tools that you use, share other people’s posts if they inspire you/ anger you/find amusing/find intriguing. Find a couple of online resources and share their stuff for the same reason. Give reviews, tag people, converse with them, share related news articles, the list is endless.
Or you could engage your followers to do the legwork on your behalf: For example hold a competition/prize draw like and share your post or hold a photo competition based around your product or service.
Not everyone is going to hang on to your every word. If no one responds then don’t sweat it. Retweet or reshare your post at least once more, but if not then just try again. Take the time to interact with your followers online, engage with them. Keep going and…
It may not result in a sale or a conversion straightaway, but sharing your expertise in the long-term lays the foundation for people to recognise you as an expert and in turn will contact you when they need your product/services. Also Google recognise your expertise and will duly reward you.
So what of my ex-prospect list? Well, my homework this week is to get in touch with them and let them know that I can still help them and demonstrate how I have helped others. Normally I would be sceptical, but frankly, I can’t wait.
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