Murphy Business &
513 N. Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
Potential Customers and the Internet
April 15, 2013 5:32:32 PM
We are all very familiar with our own Internet searches (and what appeals to us as well as what we find downright frustrating), but when was the last time you looked at your company’s website through the eyes of a potential customer?
Perhaps it’s time to check out the process from the opposite, er, side of the computer screen. If your potential (and existing) customers cannot locate your business online or become impatient waiting too long for downloads or having to sift through verbiage to find an answer, it’s definitely time to review and revise your site.
Does your page typically appear on the first page of an Internet search? If so, congratulations! After all, if your customers cannot find you while searching it is doubtful they will even make it to your home page.
It’s a tough world out there, and your competitors have more than likely hired search engine experts to help topple your position and move their own companies higher in the search rankings. Be certain your title tags are optimized. Use common words and phrases most customers would use for queries, and be sure to have unique titles for each page. Remember that search engines are not receptive to Flash navigation. Consider putting your best content on a blog first, as viewers are more apt to link to blogs over websites. Include your website address and links on the blog.
Page-loading time is an extremely important factor to users. In fact, most consumers state that speed is more important that other aspects of web design. It’s too easy to click and move on to a competitor’s site.
Now that your customer has found your site, what’s in store for the visitor?
Dr. Jakob Nielsen, a consultant U.S. News & World Reports calls the “world’s leading expert on web usability,” published his research findings in 2011 indicating that the “first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave.” More recent data has suggested perhaps today a typical viewer spends only a few seconds making that determination.
Faster Internet connectivity for most users has contributed to viewers’ overall impatience. And, most users today are experienced with phrasing their queries to maximize results displayed.
Is your site attractive and engaging? Or does it look dated or unsophisticated? Savvy consumers will quickly detour when faced with archaic design.
Research suggests it is best to avoid these potential nuisances that are likely to irk your existing and potential customers: links leading to pages “under construction;” pop-up ads; interstitial pages (those displayed before or after the intended page, generally used for advertising or to confirm information about the viewer); background music and other audio or video that automatically begins playing without a user prompt; and forcing viewers to register prior to entering your site.
Consumers expect ease in navigating your site. Use navigation with familiar terms located in logical places. Consumers are easily frustrated when faced with pagination (having to click through multiple pages to read an article in its entirety).
It should be most obvious, but these two warnings bear repeating. If your text is difficult to read, it won’t get read. This could be due to font sizes that are far too small or a color combination that does not have enough contrast (think pale lettering on a white background). If your text is poorly written and loaded with misspelled words and grammatical errors, kiss your credibility goodbye. Why should your company be taken seriously when your web author does not even take the time to double-check spelling and punctuation?
And speaking of writing, make certain your content is clear, informative and easy to read. Avoid lengthy paragraphs and run-on sentences: just looking at a page filled with text will turn most viewers away. Be concise and direct. Bulleted points and plenty of white space are good things! Visitors always appreciate graphics and interesting images.
Keep your pages fresh and current, and you’ll continue to attract new and repeat visitors (and perhaps loyal customers).
Just as I Remembered: Why Consistency is Important for Your Company’s Success
December 11, 2012 8:32:12 PM
I like consistency. I bet your customers like it, too.
Consistency brings repeat business from satisfied customers. It’s a simple thought, but one that is often overlooked in small companies.
Franchises are a step ahead in that regard. Although part of the charm of travel is discovering boutique hotels and wonderful local restaurants, if you are in a strange town and didn’t get recommendations from friends or do some research prior to arriving at your destination, are you going to take a chance or simply go with the familiar -- patronizing places you recognize and know will deliver the products and services you need?
If you’re in a hurry and driving in a strange part of your own town, are you likely to pull up to a Starbucks or McDonald’s for your coffee fix? You would, after all, be familiar with how the drive-through systems work (even the dual lanes and separate windows for payment and product) and whether or not the restaurant takes plastic cash. You know how many ounces are in each size and what they cost. You probably don’t even have to review the menu unless you are in the mood to try something you don’t generally order.
If your customers are coming back, they are pleased with the consistency of your product or service.
They are also probably familiar with the interaction they expect to have with your employees and have been satisfied with their experiences in the past. Whether your customer chats with a representative on-line or welcomes a member of your staff into his home, he knows what to expect. In retail settings, especially, customers feel confident locating store personnel when employees wear some type of company uniform. Although each is a unique individual, your employees should be relaying a consistent message through consistent behavior. Think of a different scenario: a hospital patient is also a customer. Although the stakes are higher and more personal, patients are looking for consistency from health care workers. If one medical professional washes his hands carefully and dons protective gloves before certain procedures, wouldn’t the patient expect that same behavior from the other staff members?
Also remember to keep consistent with your marketing. Branding is extremely important to a company’s success. Logos and slogans are to be recognized and remembered. Think carefully before making a decision to change either of these. Keep your message consistent in all written materials, packaging and advertising, as well as in the content of your web site and on social media.
Inconsistency is definitely inefficient. Corporate policies and ongoing training go a long way toward encouraging consistency. It is tempting as an entrepreneur to sometimes just take each day as it comes, but this often causes the business owner to spend a lot of time and energy putting out fires instead of preventing the initial sparks.
Thoughtful consistency is an integral part of a successful business plan.
The Value of Organization and Time Management
March 13, 2012 9:31:08 PM
How often do you find yourself looking for that important – yet somehow misplaced – piece of paper? Do you promise yourself that you’re going to become better organized, but find the days, weeks and months slipping by with too much work to do and not enough time to start that new filing system or categorize your overflowing email messages?
Everyone can benefit from good time management skills, but these practices are particularly valuable for entrepreneurs, who typically wear many hats on any given day and don’t ever seem to have a second to spare.
Here are some tips that successful small business owners and time management experts have shared with us:
The best and the worst of times -To better assess what changes might be most helpful for you, it is crucial to understand how you spend your time each day. Where are you not making the best use of your time? Another way to approach this is to note what you are doing differently on the days you find yourself most productive.
Are you diligent at daybreak or mentally best at midnight? Do you need solitude and a deadline to focus, or do your best ideas seem to be found after social interaction or when you’ve taken the time to simply let your mind wander?
But it’s Leap Year, so I got an extra day - Every day has 24 hours, and there’s nothing you or I can do to modify that. It is up to each of us to manage our behavior: it’s the only way to better cope with the finiteness of time.
Eliminate those distractions that are not helping you become productive. Find a system that works to help get – and keep - you on track (there are many available, so choose something you feel comfortable with and will use). Set realistic goals toward better time management. Streamline your inbox and organize physical and electronic files of information.
Routine tasks need handling, but perhaps they need time limits. A perfect example of this is reading and responding to email. If you keep an eye on incoming email messages all day long and then stop to respond immediately, there might be room for improvement by simply limiting the times you read and reply. Many small business owners put email at the top of their list as an area that truly needs better organization and time management.
What’s really important – Make that decision and prioritize each day accordingly. Many small business owners feel they accomplish more if they begin with the most difficult challenge. Usually this is the very task one wants to avoid but by facing it first, with fresh energy and a clear mind, you might find it wasn’t so bad after all. When using this approach, deadlines are often met ahead of schedule.
Let someone else do it – Determine which jobs could or should be outsourced, and then allow someone else to do the work. Tedious or simple tasks could be contracted out to free up your time for something more precious, and those areas that fall outside your comfort level and areas of expertise should definitely be left to the professionals.
Just say “no” – Only you can decide where your time should be spent. In addition to running your company, you want to ensure you enjoy quality time with family and friends. Most entrepreneurs are also involved in their communities, which is a wonderful way to serve others while networking to help grow their companies.
But, how much time do you really have? Many self-motivated business owners find it difficult to turn down requests to serve on boards or volunteer in other capacities. By thinking about your time restraints in advance, and realizing how much energy will be required for various community activities, you might find yourself making different choices going forward.
This pie is always being cut in different proportions: one year may be a great one for volunteering, as your youngest child heads off to college; another year might be too busy with helping your parents move, hiring new employees and wanting to spend more time with your spouse.
Be true to yourself as you give of your time and talents.
What I need most – Don’t neglect spending time just on you. Understand your physical and mental limitations and respect those times you need to take a break. When you find your schedule slowing, embrace it (that might be a great time to review your progress and switch priorities).
One final note is that some flexibility must be considered with anyone’s schedule, but by spending a few moments each day organizing and staying on track, you are creating habits and routines that will enable you to stay calm and focused as you manage your small business (and your life!) now and in the future.
Do You Hear What I Hear? (More on First Impressions)
November 02, 2011 11:12:36 PM
When a potential customer contacts your company via telephone, what is the first impression received? Is the caller warmly welcomed by a live operator or receptionist, or does he get dumped into a frustrating, endless cycle of automated voice commands?
Sometimes the obvious is the most easily overlooked. A business owner has only one chance to make a first impression. Today, it’s common for a potential customer’s first visit to your company to be made by telephone, so make that initial contact a positive experience for your caller.
The first time a potential customer visits your company (whether in person, via telephone or through the Internet), he should immediately feel comfortable and confident about doing business with you.
Think about the image presented to someone who phones your organization for the first (or 50th) time. Will the caller feel welcomed and important? Is he likely to remain on the line to finish the transaction or call again for products and services in the future?
Telephone Doctor recently commissioned a survey that discovered the following:
• 85% of consumers indicated that telephone courtesy makes a difference when choosing which business they will patronize
• 65% prefer doing business with companies who have real people answering calls versus those that use an automated attendant
• 65% stated they are frustrated when placed on hold immediately after calling a company
• 48% refuse to conduct business with a company if they receive poor customer service over the phone
• The most frequently noted complaint: being placed on hold
The nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization Public Agenda discovered that a whopping 94% of its survey sample indicated it was “very frustrating” to phone a business and be greeted with a recorded voice rather than one of a live person.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, telephone operators are one of the top ten positions expected to decline within the next twelve months. Today’s voice recognition systems continue to improve dramatically, and the increase of electronic communication has considerably reduced reliance on the telephone.
Although many companies have made the transition from live operators to automated attendants for a variety of reasons (most notably to reduce overhead), the survey findings discussed in this blog should be carefully considered. Business owners may wish to ensure callers have a way to reach a live operator, and all employees interacting with customers on the telephone should be professional and courteous. Operators should be able to listen and really comprehend what the caller is requesting, so they can answer the question and fulfill the order or get the customer to someone who can.
Here's hoping you hear what your customers do!