IRCE 2012 – BoldChat from LogMeIn (review from Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition tradeshow)
Another review from what I discovered at IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) tradeshow in Chicago, IL.
One of the more interesting solutions I found for eCommerce sites was from one of my favorite SaaS providers – LogMeIn. They have been providing great remote access for my remote support needs, as well as for many clients. LogMeIn is an easy solution to implement – a quick client based program, and you have the ability to access your (or your clients) computer from any current browser. It handles multiple monitors and has multiple layers of security. They have different levels of product from Free (really free) to enterprise.
LogMeIn has introduced BoldChat (they may well rename or at least redo the logo which looks like 3 different words) as a low cost chat solution, a midrange solution and an enterprise solution to go up against LivePerson.
The low cost option is Free – http://boldchat.com/free-live-chat-software.asp. Can’t beat that cost, the limitations seem to be reasonable. The biggest limitations are how many chats per month, and how many concurrent sessions are running. This is enough to get most small ecommerce sites up and going, allow them to build those FAQ answers, and design how to organize your resources for prompt response. By the time the number of chats (750 per month) is becomes limiting, the next level should be a no brainer for your organization to fund at less then a fast food lunch is these days.
The basic level is $99 per seat per year or $9 per month. So for less then a Vonnage account, or RingCentral or any other telephony solutions (well maybe Skype can be less) you have a great way to be able to have chat. Complete with a self documenting solution for building your business into a repeatable solution.
The enterprise level has more features, and does cost less then your typical rent for the desk space and share of a break room for your agent. This level will integrate into SalesForce.com, have predictive messaging, better integration across team members and more reporting. At the enterprise level the mindset is to work more collaboratively as a team across your chat team.
Chat is quickly becoming the expected norm in ecommerce to assist in providing excellent quality service to visitors who want to learn about your product. If you don’t provide enough service on the site, they will take there business elsewhere with the click of a mouse or often with a quick jump in the car. Chat is also an opportunity to see into the customers real needs and questions, rather then having to guess what they are looking for. This tools allows you to collect real questions (in the way real visitors ask them, not how you think they ask them), and allow you to sculpt your most appropriate answers for re-use.
If you are planning on having relationships with your clients and will be using the Internet, plan on experimenting and testing with chat as soon as possible. It’s useful not just in answering a few questions while juggling another voice call, but also in having a self documenting way to collect answers for your next agents, and sales team members. These can be collected and put into a FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions (a whole other post). That is one of the easier ways to implement the systems approach of Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited of working ON your business, rather then IN your business.
IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) is over for 2012.
To all who came to IRCE2012, THANKS for visiting Chicago, the local economy appreciated your visit. I appreciated your ideas and the opportunity for networking in my backyard.
Even after all these years in technology, it still amazes me to see how technology continues to move quickly in a few different directions. So while I will be highlighting some different companies I met or got reaquanted with in the near future here at SEODamian in future posts, let me share what I see were some major trends here from the show.
One of the big values I find in going to trade shows is the ability to compare and contrast different vendors in the same hour. The challenge with other solutions for comparing (trade journals, industry reviews, analyst reports) is that they often span data that makes comparisons irrelevant. They are X’s last quarter’s version compared to Y’s next quarter’s beta version. You still get the same issue at a tradeshow, but you can typically sniff out the game and get the real scoop on what the 2 companies are at today, and compare to 3 other similar solutions. Some of the key trends I saw in Internet retailing are:
- Prices are dropping. No big change there, except the rate they continue to drop. Typically not the same product at the same company, but by a new competitor creating most of the functionality of an existing solution and more for a lower price. Be it Chat and chat management (LivePerson look out, LogMeIn and others are looking to eat your lunch), survey tools, Addon’s to Magento (shopping cart platform), shipping auditing (no minimums needed here), affiiliate management, flash sales tools (keep it all in house or partner) and more.
- SaaS is the trend. The cost to distribute code to customers, and deal with your internal data center/stack complexities is too expensive for most tool creators. It is far easier for them to increase staff to keep 1 (or 2) data center up and going, then trying to guess how you (the customer) tried to make your data center secure and how you dealt with your specific legacy issues. The test bed is far easier to set up (if they are using AWS-Amazon Web Services, it is about 3 command lines to generate ‘another’ test bed). If you as a retailer can’t deal with SaaS or it’s API, look for adding at least one 0 (zero) to your cost in purchase price, and far more in TCO.
- Big data is here. Small startups need a credit card with a few dollars open on it to get a billion dollar data center (Amazon Web Services) to build ‘rock hard’ services. The cost of AWS is low enough that the ability to deal with incredible amounts of data in real-time changes what is being deployed as solutions. This shows up at the consumer level as presorted and pretargeted for their needs, not brood strokes. No longer is confirmation that a card number may be valid a real number good enough. It has to be validated that it belongs as a charge, not reported stolen and has the proper credit limit.
- The is no one stop shopping. The amount of tools to run a successful ecommerce site continues to grow. From the need to change pricing rapidly on one or all your SKU’s, to deploying across multiple channels (store, Amazon, eBay, Affiliate, traditional site, Facebook, ShopEngines) you need a collection of tools that is reminiscent of the stacks of apps in the 70’s and 80’s. The big difference, they are best not home developed, and often hosted in and out of house.
- Change is now often measured in weeks and months rather then years for software deployment. If you don’t like what you see today, what a quarter and redo your RFP (Request for Proposal). But monitor the products and community reaction in the meantime.
There was a lot more I saw, but 500 booths is hard to summarize in a few lines, so more to follow in the next posts.
While reading a discussion on using auto-responders for visitors to church congregation websites, I felt compelled to share my thoughts.
The ideas apply not only in email relationship building, but also in all online relationship building. The core is building trust.
As was stated, the concept of auto-responder email is good. It has been proven effective repeatedly in the for-profit world, because it can build trust. However, most implementation in secular and non-secular of auto-responders is terrible. Just as a greeter at a store can totally change the experience for the better or sink the relationship with the whole chain, so can poorly written email generic auto-responders. A poorly written email auto-responder can seem like a chain letter or worse.
There is a reason why communications professionals will write 50 drafts. They are working to get the best chance to communicate the intended tone and message to their audience. Just like a minister will often spend all day or all week writing a sermon to get it ‘correct’, and it still evolves through multiple services on a Sunday (or Friday or Saturday). Even the Bible has gone through a few revisions of the centuries to make sure its message and tone is unmistakable (perhaps it may not be done being revised to tell its story based on the number of interpretations of its messages in different denominations across the country and world).
More Recent Data – Direct Marketing
I would recommend that we look at what has a longer history then email auto-responders for how to most effectively communicate with new relationships. While still much newer then the Bible, direct marketing or direct mail has a much longer history then email. Direct marketing studies performed decades ago realized that it took seven (from letters, TV spots, Radio or in-store visits) ‘touches’ to get the optimum amount of interaction with a perspective person to solidify the relationship (relative to invested cost of each piece). New studies increase that to 9 or 11 touches with the increased onslaught of communications and greater sensitivity to building trust.
That is much of what is at issue here – trust. Does the new guest trust that you understand them? And do they trust they understand the ‘real’ congregation you represent? It becomes hard to trust that you understand someone who may not understand themselves (as may often be the case of shoppers/searchers). It becomes hard to trust, if they only meet a few people in a congregation. It becomes hard to trust if they don’t have a solid referral from someone they trust (especially if they are coming from a place that did have solid referrals and it did not work out). A congregation is where many people put more trust then most any other relationship they have (including family or spouses). Visitors may not know they are looking for a place to put that much trust, but often they are.
Have you earned that trust?
Look at how would you build trust with a new relationship in an off-line manner and consider how to translate it to written form. That may include some disclosure yourself and the congregation (when the annual meeting is, how the board is elected), but often not on the 1st touch. It may include offers to be inclusive, but just as you would not propose on the 1st date, you may not invite someone to lead a group in the 2nd email. The building of trust is based on a mutual exchange of signals that show commitment on both sides. If you don’t properly respond to a visitors signals you are being as rude as kissing someone who shows no interest in a physical relationship.
Of course in the age of digital tools like Constant Contact, iContact, HubSpot, InfusionSoft and many others, the best practice is to consider not creating a single one size fits all approach. Again the lessons and proof go back to the early days of direct marketing and have shown a segmented approach is best. Send a different series of letters to parents then young adults (possibly both if they are indeed young adult parents). The relationship of an empty nester will be different then many 30 year old divorcee’s.
If they overlap, consider staggering your send times. Don’t send them all on Mondays, send the parent letters/auto-responders on Wednesday, Young adults on Friday, etc.
Look at the rules of etiquette in similar online venues (online dating is probably the most clearly documented) and use them to create an appropriate method to build trust with new visitors and you will create many new relationships.
Auto-responders (multiple with proper spacing) can be a great tool in developing mutual trust in a new congregant, especially if it is integrated with personal touches along the way. Especially if it is show ing of the care you would take for a new parishioner. This is your chance to show you care. Does that not deserve a little more effort then 10 minutes for a one size fits all generic letter.
How much time and effort do you typically spend on your auto responder emails? How many do you use? Join the conversation below and share your wisdom.
Are you trying to develop your site’s SEO because your new business is growing? Are you getting ready to move to the next level with your start-up?
I am constantly trying to see what tools are available to ease my work, and my clients efforts (especially after I set them up for success). I run across a variety of sites that are successful in short-cutting the learning curve. Instead of having to read 2 books, or sit through 5 months of classes or pay $10,000 in consulting fees, there are a plethora of solutions to help you get at least a cursory education on a variety of challenges for start-ups.
Here is another website that I found it has a great deal of wisdom in short nuggets. It is GUST.com, a website that matches investors and start-ups in one place, creating a clearinghouse for entrepreneurs to look for angel investors in a single location. But the nugget that I found that was really valuable was the hundreds of videos that they have as short 1 to 3 minute nuggets of wisdom from those that have been through the trenches before.
These are investors that most often have sat on the entrepreneur side of the table. They have learned the lessons of start-ups. Most often they learned the hard way. They are often boiled down in the way investors talking to many perspective start-ups can grasp most quickly from practice and repetition. The repitition of dealing with many pitches throughout the day, giving the same advice over and over. Their wisdom tends to be in short little nuggets that you can walk away from with your mind clearer and more focused then the cup of coffee you sipped while watching. These might even be good nuggets to put around your management tables to start out at different meetings. It might also be an interesting way to kind of go through and bring in an outside person to lend some advice to some of your conversations/arguments that you and your management team are having as to how to solve a problem. Certainly, they’re not the absolute perfect answer to everything, but I do find some thought-provoking ideas in there that can be helpful in trying to map out your course, and stay on path to growing your start-up.
I know what you think about gust.com, and the idea of looking at short videos for gaining wisdom and keeping your energy level up as you go through the challenging days of marketing your business to the world through search engine optimization.
Do you understand specifically what your website visitors are looking for or do you only have a generic idea? If you understand what they are specifically looking for to meet their needs, you have a much greater chance of true engagement. When you have true engagement, your odds of a sale increase dramatically, if not today, then on the next visit.
But if you don’t understand how to look at the trends and numbers, you will have a challenging time understanding what your visitors are really looking for.
That’s why retailers count how many people are coming in and how many people are coming out there also counting how many of them are actually purchasing. I have worked with over 100 different retail chains from single store retailer to office supply big box stores. They are counting by the month, day of the week, hour of the day (I know, I installed the counters that go back to the corporate databases with these body counts). They are counting how many of purchasing customers are actually signing up for the e-mail list. They’re counting how many of purchasers are return customers from previous orders. There also counting what is the average amount of each visitor’s spending. Retail stores count the numbers in so many ways you would be amazed. Just like you need to on your website. Your website is not a black box. You need to be paying attention to what’s happening.
If these types of customer engagement don’t make absolute clear sense to you, then I would suggest you go and spend some time and with brick and mortar retailers. Consider even working as a retailer. Learn how retailers convert the looky loo’s into true engagements. Yes we have all been shopping, but look at how retailers work with other customers not just yourself. Learn how retailers try to customize to the needs of each person, not a one size fits all. It is important that you learn how to look through a store or website through the eyes of a customer. It is important that you understand that the customer is always right in their perspective, and how they are looking at the world. And if you don’t understand their perspective, it will be very hard to understand why they’re not buying from you. If that same attitude of understanding is what a potential customer or visitor is looking at when they see a store and their perspective also becomes very useful.
This attitude of looking at your website comes into play in how you design your SEO and SEM. Did you need to present the right kind of signage from the street to get the customer to pull into the parking lot? Once they get inside the store, they need to see what the sign promised is fulfilled. SEO and SEM is about creating it signage from the street. You can fake a man once or twice, but once you do, they will ignore your sign for the rest of their life, because you made them cut across left-hand lane and pull into your parking lot. And they will tell their friends to ignore you or worse. You need to create a good ‘sign’ in your SEO/SEM to attract your visitors into your store. But you also need the sign to be a good indicator of what is in the store.
Just as stores don’t (at least those that survive long term) have the same layout year after year, websites also must evolve and continue to improve based on what works and what does not. This should be done as measured experiments. You can follow the models used in Lean Start-up (Eric Ries) and E-Myth Revisited (Micheal Gerber). Those experiments need tools like Google Analytics and other tools like ChartBeat. Topics of other blog posts.
Oh, not selling products on your site? I would place heavy odds that you are selling your ideas – be they the idea that your service is better then someone elses, or your idea is more important then the next bloggers. Remember to look at the website through your visitor’s eyes in the path they took to get to your website, and your pages.
Check out this website and their whole approach to marketing. Let me know how long it is before you figure out who’s actually the big company behind the totally different approach to marketing.
Here is what stands out in looking at this as an effective marketing tool:
- it is fun and colorful
- it has movement – both in the rotating graphics as well as in the variable typefaces being used.
- It is inviting, both from its graphics and it’s ability to share with others, and the ability to easily find information
- it states what it can do for me in a non-sales format way before I ever can get to the point of finding out what I can buy from them.
- It focuses on community and how we can interact locally, rather than with a big mega Corporation.
- It’s quick, concise, clear, and the messaging text is easy to figure out what it’s about, then get on, get off, and move on to my next task at hand.
- the navigation is easy to follow. While I usually don’t like the drop downs and chase the cursor type websites, this one is easy, because the targeted areas are large, and easy to click on, with a single layer drop-down.
I think the key here is that they are starting from a customer perspective, rather than from a corporate perspective, which is very key for any business these days, especially in working with the younger generation.
This site may or may not be the best for search engine optimization. Although it really is not clear exactly what terms they would be trying to optimize for anyways. They do rank at the top for “next door Chicago”. Which if that is their brand focus here, it is a good approach. But I imagine in the list of site objectives, SEO was lower on the list, and they are more successful in other site objectives.
I would love to have your perspectives on this.
There are a whole variety of purposes for a website. Some are for vanity, others to build community, some just for venting. But more then a few are about trying to build a business. Especially those website builders that are interested in search engine optimization, building a business is a very common site objective. With that in mind, I am often asked where to go to for resources on getting started.
I often start a discussion about ‘How do I start a website?’ with an exploration of what the objectives and priorities are of a website, before going into the how to.
But assuming supporting your business is your primary objective, here are a few key resources I would recommend:
- High level business plan suggestion –
MS Word Business Plan Template from Guy Kawasaki.
If you don’t know who Guy is, you should. He is a thought leader in how business should be done in this millennium. Guy started his success at Apple Computer, but along the way has become a successful venture capitalist, and therefore has sat through many many business presentations good and bad.
I am listening to Guy’s Reality Check (not Reality Bites the movie by Ben Stiller), and the book is a collection of Guy’s blog posts over the years. These blog posts and his book echo so much the experiences of many who have been successful in growing a business and getting capital investment. He has learned what works from the perspective of what it will get someone to write a check and do a deal.
This blog post is actually a collection of resources for a Pitch (to ask for investment funding) framework, business model spreadsheet and business plan tempate. They are templates and suggestions on how to structure your communication with brevity and clarity. The key takeaway I keep sharing is: most people want to know you know your stuff, and then prove that you know by being able to communicate it with succinctness and in format that tells a story to your audience. Fail to speak to your audience and you will fail to get your objectives met.
His ALLTOP.com is also an interesting tool for trying to keep up on the information firehose in a manageable fashion. I have set it as my homepage.
- I have mentioned Seth Godin a few times. His writing is light and breezy. His insights are disturbing if you have spent too much time in school. His attitude is sacastic or worse. His effectiveness is stunning. Having proven his ability to practice what he preaches (just read or listen to the stories of his writing and how it has paid his bills very well over the years), he has great authority among many in the know. His YouTubes are fun to watch as well. But the library or AddAll.com is worth a stop for reading some of his books as well. I particularly recommend Linchpin
In spite of his light and fun writing style, I think his ideas are pretty fundamental to the way the new world is. You need to be the best or plan for painful mediocrity needing to adjust to everyone else’s desires not yours. Linchpin tells the story that trying to be 2nd best or worse is hardly worth getting out of bed in the morning. Be the best – 2 ways:
- Be ‘fortunate’ enough to be the best in a ‘standard’ area of pursuit.
- Be creative enough to define your niche of being best. The key is you should be able to introduce your self as ‘the best ………’ in a way that everyone you meet knows it is the truth. That may be by geography, or creating a new market segment or reframing an existing segment. It may seem like cheating but it is not it is focusing and niching yourself. If you need to keep slicing your area of pursuit then keep slicing, but be the best.
- Here is the story of the marketing and passionate niche I was telling a few clients about. http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2012/01/11/the-tim-ferriss-effect/ It demonstrates how the world of broadcast over narrow-casting has passed from an idea to theory finally as absolute law. Our markets are large enough (over 303million in US alone) and flat enough (ship most anywhere in the US 2 day for under 2 pounds, but so much is the speed of Internet) and segmented enough (how many Yahoo groups are there today, how many Meetup groups are there today in your area) that you need to look at business differently. So many business owners keep trying to get the ‘big’ publicity hit and fail to understand that most success comes from targeting the key people you want to connect with. That success from connection individually rather then exposure of many. There are other lessons, and some ideas that will not apply to you (he gets specific so they don’t match everyone everytime) but concepts are important to understand the direction the world is taking.
- Explore your business using the Business Model Canvas. I have worked with many different start-ups.
Along the way, I have built a variety of questionnaires that I found very helpful for all to understand and clarify what the real objective and strategy. I would create long documents as outlines for information gathering and initial interviews. In trying to find the secret sauce of each organization was an effort. What made them unique over the ‘next guy’. Business Model Generation changed my approach after decades. Having recently found this 1 page tool, I find it naturally replaces my flat mini-book of questions with a single sheet that is far more action oriented, less overwhelming to all involved and more action oriented.
An online tool for creating similar business model canvas is at Lean Canvas
And of course, there is the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. This is what I (as well as many other authors and thought leaders) consider the bible to entrepreneurial strategy. This book has literally fundamentally changed many business owners lives. But also positively changed the many employees and team members working for the those businesses for the better. It has helped many employees from continually beating their heads against the wall, making everyone’s life better. Understanding why so many businesses fail can be very helpful in creating a strategy to avoid the issue yourself.
Michael has created a few empires, and a whole series of books based on his E Myth model. I have read most of them (more coming out almost monthly now targeted into specific industries), but I still recommend reading this easy and targeted parable first before an industry specific volume to anchor the story, concepts and framework the deepest. I usually recommend audio format if you are short on time for most business books, but I still have not found an audio version that is as good as his written version.
What are your favorite business resources? Do you find books the correct format for learning new business models? Join the conversation below with a your comments and help a fellow business grow.