Monday, September 12, 2011

Being mobile is having a location

Location matters, even online. We are social creatures. We love interaction with real people. We don't just "like", we love people that we have conversations with (even on Twitter and Facebook). This human nature extends to "being local". It is not just for reducing a carbon footprint that people are interested in local businesses. We like our communities, and we love the businesses that serve them well. Yeah, we can all jump in the car and drive for an hour to the big box store. But there is a warm feeling that comes from chatting to a local shop owner before buying something, then stopping for a coffee at the local cafe, or a pint at the pub. So how on earth does this work when you are online?

It is alright to have an online personality. OK, its better than alright, it is essential, if you want to be part of the social media conversations that people crave. So if you have a personality online, why can't you have a location too? Everybody recognizes that your presence is faked if you appear to be online 24 hours a day. Instead you are somebody real if you are in a location that finally recognized it was time for the sun to set and you to go offline. That is only one way to have the appearance of "location". If you truly are a local business, one that requires people to inhale the aroma of your coffee as they sit and enjoy sipping it, or discussing the merits of this widget over that one when fixing a blocked drain, then you need to go a step or two further. 

As a local business, having a website is essential, even though 99.999% of the world's population will find it irrelevant. But you do want your online presence to be relevant to 100% of your local population and visitors who might want to make use of your services. For this, your website needs to do three things:

1) help people find you
2) help people learn more about how you can help them
3) help people remember you

Maybe you'll be surprised that being local to people online is easy. In fact, you can be closer to potential customers than perhaps you would like to be in reality: nestled in their pockets and purses. Yep, you need to be on the smartphone that people resort to when they didn't plan well enough before leaving the house so they can find your address, in Google mobile search results when they are looking for a place for lunch, or finding out how to fix that blocked drain from somebody who knows. Being mobile is having a location close to your customers, whether they search for you or scan your local newspaper ad with a QR Code. Having a website just isn't enough.

With a mobile friendly website, people can find you when they are close to you and ready to buy (there are some trick to this that make it work even better). They can learn what you have to offer when they have found you. And if you are smart they can remember you by a quick click to Like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter or join your email newsletter. Because the best customer is the one who is local and comes back again and again. Being mobile gives your location and online personality a meaning, and gets you more of the best customers.

A post from the Improving It blog
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Friday, September 02, 2011

End of summer - plan for better, not cheaper

The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin...Image via Wikipedia
Is it me or are the days feeling noticeably shorter already? There are pluses and minuses to the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the weather is cooling down and companies are planning for next year. Depending on your viewpoint, all of these can be good or bad. It is also the end of the year when companies in the US start to really look at what the outlook is for the next year, and what resources they need to achieve their goals. 

For many, this end of year 'planning' is unfortunate, since this often relates to cost cutting and downsizing. And as the news already starts to leak out about large corporations across the country shedding staff, I know that the end of the year can really be a time for corporate change. But why can't change occasionally be a good thing? We rarely hear about companies planning to improve business processes, bring in new trainers to help employee development, or add new websites to improve online customer service.

Unlike politics, where it seems politicians rarely have time to do anything positive before they are back on the road for re-election, companies could take the option for longer-term planning and change. The reality of the situation is that stock price drives decisions, and Wall Street and the City vote on a daily basis how we should feel. How often does the Board of Directors vote in favor of the CEO with long term goals at the expense of short term stock price?

At this end of the year I would love to see companies present a positive approach to their investors. Aim for growth, by changing things that help  attract new customers more easily, retain customers who buy more, and develop employees to be more productive happily (and not just through fear for their jobs). And I mean present this approach as real strategies, not just investor spin.

I'm already working with companies making changes for the better, so I hope this is a sign of renewed fortunes in the economy. Business processes, employee development, software and marketing all go hand in hand. Let's consider how we can work with next year's forecasts for a turn-around in fortunes, by using the tools we have available for real, positive change. 

A post from the Improving It blog
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