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Tales from suburbia no. 17

Or, how to run an e-business your customers will love

As spring began to uncoil a week or two ago, the parlous state of the lawn at Maslen Acres became apparent. I needed a new mower. A proper one. With an engine.

I did my research and found a brand – Hayter – and spec I thought would be right for me. But I needed to be sure. I wanted to talk to someone. In person. (Don’t worry – there are three really important points about selling and e-commerce coming up.)

As it happens, there is a Hayter dealer here in Salisbury. I went in and hung around hopefully, eyeing the long row of gleaming machinery in red, silver and British Racing Green.

A salesman approached. I readied myself. He would ask probing questions about my lawncare needs. Ascertain my budget. Then recommend a mower and reassure me of the wisdom of my purchase. No! Instead, after a desultory conversation, he palmed me off with a couple of brochures and pretty much showed me the door.

Now, these machines are not cheap. They can’t sell many in a week. And here I was, in his shop, presenting buying signals so clear even a mole could spot them. Ho hum.

Off I went to the net and found Classic Lawns. A great website: easy to use and stuffed with testimonials and other proof of their commitment to customer service. But here’s the really wonderful thing. Two days after entering my credit card details, my shiny new mower arrived.

Here’s why I’m chuntering on like a retired colonel.

Three essentials for effective e-commerce

One, if you’re selling high-ticket items – lawnmowers, management reports, it doesn’t matter – for God’s sake, don’t give people brochures if they’re right in front of you. This is the time to SELL. That means asking them questions, about their budget, their needs, their timeframe for buying. And watching for buying signals. Questions from them about how to use your product are an example.

Two, if you’re running an e-commerce business, all the glitzy animation and slick web copy in the world won’t work for you if your back-end is shaky. I contrast my experience of Classic Lawns with another gardening website that, somewhat grudgingly, promised delivery of items far smaller than a lawnmower in 14 days. Fourteen! In that time I could have walked to my local garden centre and back and still had time left over to re-roof the shed.

Three, collect testimonials. If your business is as good as your corporate brochure claims it is, your customers will send you letters and emails of appreciation without being asked. If it isn’t, no matter. Go out and solicit them. On the web, you have to reassure people constantly that it’s safe to do business with you. Real words from real customers are one of the most effective ways of doing this.

And since this newsletter is at least partly about copywriting and clear communications, I’d like to praise Classic Lawns for selling lawnmowers, not ‘lawn solutions’.

And my point is?

If you GIVE great service, you don’t need to witter on about your ‘passionate commitment to excellent customer service’. This is a simple point often lost on large businesses with ‘dedicated’ customer service departments.

And if you haven’t done so recently, order something yourself from your own website and see what happens. Give your site a frustration rating and multiply that by the number of people ordering, or trying to, every week. Happy?

Categories: Maslen on Marketing and Web copywriting.

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