customer service

Marketing Tactic: Doing Something People Aren’t Willing To Do

As Tim Gunn would say, I 'made it work' so I could live stream the Bar Harbor Fourth of July Parade as I promised by duct taping my 15 inch laptop out the window.

As Tim Gunn would say, I ‘made it work’ so I could live stream the Bar Harbor Fourth of July Parade as I promised by duct taping my 15 inch laptop out the window.

Bar Harbor, Maine has an epic Fourth of July celebration. It starts with the local Rotary Club’s Pancake Breakfast, followed by the parade at 10 am, and an afternoon of activities that include a craft fair, lobster races, and the MDI Seafood Festival (and, for many, a very popular activity commonly called “shopping”). In the evening the Town Band plays opening act to an impressive fireworks show that caps off the day. In addition to these Fourth of July spectaculars, Bar Harbor also happens to be the town one of my coworking spaces is in.

This year, I saw a few people in Facebook groups asking if anyone was going to livestream the parade. I had already agreed to volunteer the lunch shift at the Seafood Festival– and since I was coming into the fray anyway, I decided why not do something nice by coming in a little earlier and streaming the parade.

Despite using computers all day in my work, I’m not much of a computer hardware person so I started testing an hour before the parade. It took me a bit to figure out that I couldn’t use the amazing camera on my iPhone 6 for a continuous Facebook Livestream because the connection kept resetting.

After a few false starts (with people watching), I realized I could use my laptop camera and plug that directly into our network so I didn’t have to worry about WiFi. Once it was working, I duct taped my whole setup halfway hanging out our window.

In doing this, I figured out why people hadn’t offered to do it: it’s a pain. You need good internet, good equipment, a good power supply, and a good location.

Because we did the broadcast from Anchorspace (our coworking space), I did the Facebook Live broadcast from the Anchorspace Facebook page. I posted to a couple local groups and to my profile how to access the video (the direct link to where all our videos on our page are:

I told them that Friends of Acadia was also livestreaming, linked to both pages, and posted that if they ‘liked’ either page, they’d get notified when the broadcast started. A little salesy? Yup. Instructive and useful though for people unfamiliar with Facebook Live? Absolutely.

Here’s what I was reminded of: when you go out of your way to do something people are asking for that no one else seems to want to do, they appreciate it. 

Here’s a graph of our Facebook likes:

Now these weren’t just 25 Facebook likes I bought off the internet but real people connected to Bar Harbor–whether living here or coming regularly on vacation–the exact people I want to know about Anchorspace.

This group’s first interaction with us showed them that I was resourceful, fun, and tech savvy.

We also generated a lot of goodwill. People watched from other states, wishing they could be here. One woman recovering from an illness wasn’t able to attend but was grateful to watch. While these types of goodwill are not measurable, they are still worthwhile.

In other words, I think it’s always nice for us to look around our communities, our markets, our lives and see where people are asking for things without people providing them… and if we can help, we should. It’s our responsibility as people to make things easier for others… and if we make a few sales or get a few Facebook likes in the process, that’s ok too.

And if you want to watch the parade, here’s the recording (feel free to fast forward through the first five minutes as I figure out the issue and duct tape the computer to the window sill!):

“For a Dollar More, You Can Get a Large”- Upselling 101

We’ve covered selling in a general sense and gone into detail about cross-selling, the next item on the list is upselling.

With upselling, you’re selling a person a better, more expensive version of whatever they were initially planning on buying. If you’ve ever been to a movie theater or fast food restaurant, you’ve probably experienced upselling in the form of “For a dollar (or so) more, you can get a large.” You were already thinking of getting this meal anyway- the upsell increases the quantity of popcorn you were planning to get, and the movie theater makes more money.

Back to the baby registry example I used in the cross-selling post, Amazon also has a subtle upselling option. You can see “Customers Also Viewed…” which will offer a similar product from different brands at different price points (I say subtle because some options are cheaper and some are more expensive). Another potential upsell on Amazon is the comparison chart that appears with some products. I definitely poured over these, and the reviews, when creating my registry.

Again, just like with the cross-selling example, you can offer upselling options on your own website in a similar way.


General Facts/Tips for Upselling

While the whole concept of “For a dollar more you can get a large” may feel weird or gross to offer customers, it’s been argued that it can actually increase customer loyalty/retention. But how?? You’re just tricking them into spending more money, right? Not really. This article gives an example of upselling a service (car insurance). While the customer was calling their insurance company for a tow truck, the company mentioned “Hey, you’ve been a customer for X number of years and are now eligible to upgrade to a better insurance plan”. Since the person had been a customer for such a long time, and they had to wait for the tow truck anyway, they said “Yeah, why not.”

How does this create customer loyalty/retention? Knowing that you are eligible for greater benefits as time progresses increases the chances someone will stay on as a customer for longer (provided there’s already a value in the service/product). Additionally,  the same article suggests upselling should be a win-win- your customer should feel like they are “winning” (but not in the Charlie Sheen sense).

An example of upselling where the customer doesn’t feel like they are winning: when a cable company tells you you’re eligible for a month long trial for 100 extra channels (yes, please!) but you unknowingly stay signed on and have to pay additional fees the next month. Not cool, don’t do this to people.

How to Upsell

Unlike cross-selling, it’s a little trickier to upsell after the sale has happened (unless the customer decides to return their purchase for something more expensive, which is pretty inconvenient when you think about it).

Here are a few ways you can help make the upsell happen.

Educate your customer.
 Comparison charts, videos, blog posts, and other methods to educate them about the difference between different products/services (and subtle justification of price differences) allows the customer to be open to be upsold.

Be ready to bundle.
If you want to upsell your kayak tour consumers with optional $10 Otterbox rental and $15 gourmet lunch, it makes sense to bundle products together for a lower price point when it makes financial sense.

Show your bestsellers.
Kissmetrics has pointed out that upselling happens fairly infrequently (4% of sales), but one of the ways to increase your odds is by recommending the most-sold items in your store. It’s probably a social thing- I will second guess my purchase if I see that the majority of people are buying this other thing. Even if I end up sticking to my guns, I’ll at least check it out.

Start with current customers.
Upsells work much better for existing customers. A recent example of this is me getting up-sold on for Beachbody Coaching. I had been using their on-demand workouts anyway as a result of not being able to run, but when asked if I wanted to become a coach at a greater cost to get some additional perks, I agreed. Why? Because I already knew the value of the stuff I was paying for, so I was okay with paying a little extra a month for things I was already going to use anyway. To me, it was a win-win.

Offer packages, including one very high end one.
An example of this is from a pinup photographer in Texas who offers four packages from $450 to $2250. Her most popular package is $850, which people feel much less bad spending money on when they see they could be spending more than double that. Most consumers buy the mid-tiered price item so give them options.

Setting Up Upselling Online

Use Your Existing Ecommerce Software
To implement upselling on your own ecommerce site, Woocommerce has a pretty straightforward interface for upselling (very similar to what they use for cross-selling, actually). Check with your ecommerce software’s FAQ section with how it is set up in your software.

Use Your Website Content To Help People Choose
If you have a list of services on your website at higher price points that people hem and haw at (and opt for the cheaper option), you can educate people in a few ways:

  1. Set up an FAQ page to make sure people know exactly what they’re getting and can determine what is beneficial to them.
  2. Create a multiple choice “Should I choose X or Y?” Some websites do this with a quiz, others with a features comparison chart. This allows a side by side comparison of two (or more) options.

Going through this process shows that you are invested in what the customer actually wants and what would work best for them: “Sell the benefit, not the product.” In other words, you may see the benefit for a person to buy the higher priced item but you may have to help them realize the value your product/service will add to their life.

Make It Exclusive
If you feel like creating a little mystery, allowing only certain people to buy a higher level item (think credit card companies with certain credit cards only a very exclusive group of people can apply for) can add to its mystery.

Think About Your Website Design/Copy
There are certain ways to make your website work better for upselling. One way is to run A/B tests with different designs/copy and see which give more sales. This is called working smarter, not harder! Learn more about A/B testing here.

In short, upselling is not a sleazy practice but one that builds customer loyalty in addition to benefiting your business.  

How to Write a Good “How To”

It was 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1997. My Dad embarked on a solo mission to the garage to assemble a basketball hoop for my brother and I. Armed with a tool kit, a set of instructions, and the kind of confidence you get from a neighborhood Christmas Eve party, he was ready…or so he thought. Around 1:30 a.m., he had assembled the entire hoop. Backwards. Next steps were taking apart the hoop, waking up my mother, and reassembling. They finished in time (4 or 5 a.m.) to get about an hour of sleep before we woke up, and Santa got all the credit.

Have you ever been totally frustrated by a how-to, online or offline? There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to follow instructions or a tutorial that doesn’t do a great job of explaining how to do something. You may even end up abandoning the project, and worse, harbor a bit of resentment towards the people/company who made such terrible instructions in the first place.

To avoid being the target of someone’s wrath because you’ve written poor instructions, this post is here to guide you through creating a how-to that guides people from start to finish with minimal frustration. Remember, most people “read instructions when they are impatient, fatigued, or even terrified” (see above Christmas Eve anecdote).

Consider your audience. If you’re writing a how to for the general public vs. a specific task for an employee, your instructions will probably look a little different (assuming the employee has some industry/insider knowledge, compared to a random person on the street who probably has no idea what you do).

Introduce the objective/end goal. What is the end result a person should have at the end of these instructions? This can just be one or two sentences, nothing crazy.

List all materials. This is the place where it’s important to be thorough and organized. For instance, if your product is a model airplane, include a list of a) materials included and b) additional materials needed before starting the project. If there’s something that would make the project easier, but isn’t necessary, include it in a “recommended materials” list.

Write instructions as commands. I’m guilty of slipping into passive voice, but when it’s time to give instructions things like “and then you will want to…” or “it should look like…” don’t instill a lot of confidence. People are looking to you for direction, so don’t be afraid to sound bossy.

Don’t get jargon-y. You know what people hate, especially when they’re trying to figure out how to do something? Feeling dumb. If you’re writing instructions that include a lot of jargon or words that people who don’t work in your industry will understand, it’s probably going to be more frustrating than helpful. If you do need to use industry terms to explain something (or name a part, for instance), include a picture showing what it is exactly (you may be surprised how many people find this helpful).

Speaking of visuals, these can be a great thing to include in your how-to (especially since we’re assuming you aren’t using video here). Even in your list of materials, depending on what they are, could include a visual next to each item showing what it looks like. If it’s an assembly project, showing the progress after each completed step assures people as they’re moving through the instructions that they aren’t just blindly going about things and hoping it comes out the way it’s supposed to at the end.

Have someone else read through. Chances are, if you’re writing instructions about something, you are already fairly good at it. Having someone who’s less familiar with the process, or at least some degree of separation, could provide a bit of insight toward where your instructions are unclear. If you can’t get an extra set of eyes, wait a day or so and try to follow your own instructions from scratch, taking notes on areas that could use more clarification.

Although the Christmas Eve basketball hoop incident was mainly user error, it’s an experience we all want to avoid giving to customers if possible. Keep in mind the toughest audience is people who are going to have the hardest time generally: those who are “busy” and/or “grouchy.” This additional resource below can help you cater to that particular group:


Instructions: How to Write Guides for Busy, Grouchy People

How To (Not) Run A Facebook Contest

“I know I’m not doing it legally but…”

I smile as my friend/small business owner confesses to not running an exactly legitimate Facebook contest. I like how I’m kind of a Facebook priest that people confess their sins to.

Now she’s totally right; I am willing to bet Facebook is not going to come after her relatively small page for running a Facebook contest that is against their rules.

(Facebook? Rules? Yes there are some:

The best way to follow the rules? Use an app to run your contest. I’ve used ShortStack for a photo contest (note there is no affiliate link there meaning I am getting exactly $0 to recommend them to you). It works great… and at $30/month for the two months we needed it, it was a great tool. If you look up ‘Facebook contest app’ you will no doubt find others that will work for your particular contest.

Now I see plenty of people trying to avoid this but here’s a couple of reasons why I think you should fork out some money and do your contest the right way.

1) Facebook rule compliance is automatic. 

Does reading fine print make your queasy? These contest apps have done that and created a way to hold contests that follows Facebook’s (often changing) rules. If you get in trouble, the app developer is going to get hauled into the trouble with you.

2) Your contest is confusing without an app. Trust me. 

Story time folks.

Our local vet ran a photo contest recently on Facebook. The photos with the most likes (one in the cat category and one in the dog category) won. So the first step was submitting the pictures, which were supposed to be emailed. Only some people posted them to the Facebook wall. Or forgot the date they had to submit them by.

Once that fiasco finished, there was the voting. So the picture in each category with the most ‘likes’ won. So few people ‘shared’ the picture of their cat/dog onto their personal profiles to get likes… but the likes from their friends (who were looking at a photo on the profile) did not count toward the total like count of the photo on the vet’s Facebook page. Also some people left comments without liking the photos, thinking a comment also counted as a vote.

Does this look like my dog being in a photo contest? Yeah, it doesn't to me either.  Is your Facebook contest equally unclear?

Does this look like my dog being in a photo contest? Yeah, it doesn’t to me either…and as you see, my friends are confused by it too. Is your Facebook contest equally unclear?

Do you want to confuse people at each stage of your contest?  No? Then get an app, it’ll automatically take care of a lot of these issues for you.

And literally just as I wrote this, I saw a post go by asking me to ‘like our banner’ to enter a contest. The status update itself had no image which led me to wonder: What banner? The cover image on your page? The photo you posted about the contest two weeks ago? I’m the local informal Facebook ‘priest’ as we have established earlier. So if I don’t get it, your people won’t either.

3) Customer service is way easier. 

Now let’s say you were running a photo contest like our vet friends. If I had set up a place were people could submit photos on their Facebook page and then made a deadline, I could simply say. ‘Go here to submit your photo’ and the submission page would automatically go away on the deadline. Then I could have made a voting page for each pet viewable on one screen. I could have restricted the votes by Facebook profile, IP address, etc. The act of voting (or not voting) would be very clear by using a ‘vote’ button. I can even make a rules page which as a link comes up when people are on the contest page.

Do you want to answer the same questions over and over? Yeah, us either. Having an app with everything findable within it will save you a lot of emailing and panicked messages.

4) People will like your page if you run a good contest, not if you coherse them. (This is just a me thing, you can legally run a contest that makes people like your page to participate.) 

If you make me like your page, spin on my head, share it with 16 friends, then vote, I’m not going to do it. But if you run a simple, organized straight-forward contest that people enjoy, guess who will like your page? Contest participants.

Now if you want to make them like your page to do it, that’s perfectly within Facebook rules. But I want someone to like me because they do, not because I made them. So a more creative contest might be submitting a photo or captioning a picture. Something creative that people want to share or otherwise be involved with.

So please do hold Facebook contests. The good ones make me laugh and give me hope in humanity. But do try to use a contest app. It’ll make your customers’ and your life easier for just a few bucks!

And as bonus reading, here’s another great article on this topic:

These Two Weeks In Business: The Package Edition

It’s been said that hairdressers have the worst hair and the cobbler’s kids are the last to get their shoes. Growing up in a hardware family, we were often the last to get handy people at our house. Good thing my mom is pretty good with powertools!

Well, with web people, this idea translates to sometimes your web professional having a poorly maintained site (while still doing a pretty good job on yours).

While I do keep things up-to-date on my site, the list of little things to improve it end up stacking up until it reaches a breaking point.

Last week, mostly while I was avoiding creating a presentation, I did a lot of work on my own site. It’s not something you’d necessarily notice but mind if I give a little tour?

I created packages and then a chart to help understand them.

If you got to, you’ll notice a bunch of packages for businesses and non-profits starting at $200/month. I’ve asked a few business owners (and maybe they were just too nice to tell me) but they said the prices seemed fair and the packages were easy to understand.That said, if anything with my packages seems off/weird, please comment! If you’ve ever met me (and heck, even if you haven’t), I hope you know I appreciate it when people are honest with me. :^)

Basically, I calculated prices based on my hourly wage, since I know about how long it takes me to do something. Also by pricing monthly, I was hoping to make people understand a lot of this stuff is on-going and is something I am able to maintain/create on a regular basis that’ll add value to the business.

I am all about making things simple to regular people… so I made this handy dandy flow chart.

I was on vacation with my mom, who owns a business, when I showed her my service packages. (Admittedly, this is probably a pretty biased audience to start out with but I thought it was better than nothing!)

“These all look good,” she said, “but how do I know what I need?”

In the hotel room, I immediately began sketching a flow chart. When I got back home to Photoshop, I made the chart below and emailed it to her.

“Oh this is great!” she said.

When my friend Matt told me making an image map is ‘easy’ (i.e. making it so when you click on parts of the chart, it goes to different links), I gave it a shot. And you know what? It was. Now when you click on the package you need, poof!, you are taken to a web page with the package description and, in the future, example clients, testimonials, screenshots, etc.

So you can click on the chart to see it up close… Let me know if you find it easy to follow or if you see any improvements I could make!

My mom wanted to know how she would know what services she needed, because they all sounded good. How about a flow chart? I said. And guess what, it's clickable!

I sent out my monthly newsletter, and got tons more subscribes from it than ever before.

I got an email from my sister about a month ago about blogging software and, since I had practically written up a whole thing for her, I thought I would also send the information in my monthly email newsletter. To see my summary of some ‘free’ blogging technology out there, here’s the archive link to it. ‘You should put this on your website’ my friend Chris said. And I did, along with a way to subscribe to the newsletter. So if you want, you can subscribe on the main page of my site or on the Breaking Even Facebook page.
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