There’s so much involved in either starting up a new business or entering a new phase of your existing business. It’s an exciting time. And you probably have a lot of money invested that you can’t wait to start recouping. You may have put in new phone lines, or started a new website as part of your new program. Now you just want to get everything up and running so that you can start seeing returns on your investment as quickly as possible.
But let me warn you. Do not jump the gun. If you haven’t worked out all the kinks and tested everything several times, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. Sending out those sales pieces to invite people to call you or visit your website before you’re ready to accept orders can lead to lost business, a tarnished company image, and unhappy customers who may decide not to give you a second chance.
Let me tell you two true stories. See them as cautionary tales. One of them involves one of my own clients. The other involves one of the world’s major web-based businesses. Believe me, if it can happen to them, it can happen to you, so learn the lesson well.
The Opt-in That Didn’t
This first story concerns one of my clients, and it illustrates the fact that you should make sure your phone numbers and your website opt-in pages are in full working order BEFORE you send out your sales pieces.
My client sent out a mailing inviting people to visit their website and opt-in so that they could receive certain free information. The idea was to give people something valuable, and capture their information for future campaigns.
Two mailings were sent out, and the results were very disappointing. But as it turned out, the problem was purely technical. In spite of the seemingly normal appearance, the opt-in page they had set up was not working correctly. When prospects went to the opt-in page, it would appear to be working normally. Prospects would enter their name and e-mail address, and everything appeared to be fine.
What they did not realize was that there was a problem with the backend database that nobody had caught (because they hadn’t tested it). It was not capturing the information that people were entering. So people were opting in, but because the database didn’t work, their information was not being recorded, and my client was not able to track the campaign.
That meant that all the costs associated with two mail campaigns were essentially wasted. Not only that, they also had a bunch of disappointed and dissatisfied prospects – and since the company had no way to identify them, they couldn’t make it up to them and try to repair the damage.
This problem could have been avoided with a complete run through of the process and a test of how – or in this case if – the database was functioning. It was a hard pill to swallow, but one my client took to heart. No more rushing into the next step of a campaign until there was assurance that everything was ready technically to meet the demand.
Traveling Down the Wrong Road
My second example involves a company that’s a huge Internet presence, and that you would think would know better. I’m talking about Travelocity.
Their entire site is set up to get customers to keep adding services before finishing their transaction and leaving the site. One of their big money makers is adding on a car rental to a flight and hotel package. They make it easy for customers to get everything from Travelocity at one time – or at least that’s the idea.
But Travelocity noticed that it was having a problem. Customers were getting to the car rental page. And they were filling in all their information such as the pick-up airport or city, the pick-up day, the drop-off day, type of car desired – everything just as they should. But just as they were at the moment of finalizing the booking, right at the point of sale, they were abandoning the order.
This didn’t make any sense, and Travelocity sent in its Web team to see if they could find out why people weren’t completing their bookings. The team tried to re-create the problem by making its own bookings, but they never had a problem completing an order. What could be going on here?
Travelocity turned to Tealeaf, a Customer Experience Management (CEM) software company that’s been helping companies get their acts together since 1999, and was acquired by IBM in 2012. Tealeaf looks at a website from the perspective of actual users. It reveals what the user’s experience is like in order to tease out site errors or issues that may negatively impact transaction outcomes.
Tealeaf went to work, and they learned that customers really were trying to complete their bookings, but they were leaving out one detail that seemed unimportant, but that was messing up the whole process.
There was a dropdown menu where the customer should have entered the time of day when they would pick up the car – something easy to ignore.
But if the time of day wasn’t entered, the dropdown menu would default to midnight, at which time most car rental offices were closed. And that resulted in customers being told that no cars would be available at that time. In fact there were lots of cars available, but they weren’t available at midnight. The Web team from Travelocity didn’t discover the issue because when they tested the site, they always entered a time that was during business hours, and so there were always cars available. They missed testing the one thing that needed to be tested. They weren’t approaching their testing as though they were a customer who didn’t know anything about the site.
It’s a Complex World
In today’s world, marketing is a multi-channel process. You may have to coordinate your advertising campaigns with your phone system and your website. And every piece of the puzzle has to be in place and ready to function properly, or you’re going to have a problem.
It’s imperative that you try everything out, try to break the system, and try to see it from the perspective of the person who will be trying to place an order. And make sure you have everything right BEFORE you send out your sales pieces.
It won’t do you any good to send out your invitations early, if the party won’t be ready when the guests arrive.