Business Intelligence: The Game Changer

Collecting and properly analyzing your data will equip you with the information to drive intelligent business decisions in 2016. We are here to help.

Whether your company is a startup just getting its legs, an established business with decades of success, or an enterprise super power, IT DOES NOT MATTER. There is always room for improvement, increased efficiency and productivity, and more effective technology implementation.

The TWC Process

The proficient service execution is based on our flexible yet defined process, proven over hundreds of projects since 2004.

How does TWC work with clients? It's pretty simple. You have your business to run, so we make the world of websites and cloud technology less stressful for you...providing you with an "Easy Website Experience."

How much do you charge? Your project solution and price is customized to meet your needs. After your free, no-pressure to buy consultation, we'll determine what solutions best match your needs and budget. Then we send you a proposal to evaluate.

Isn't consulting for larger companies? Not anymore. Enterprise software used to be only for larger companies as well, but the cloud has changed this. Smaller companies need business intelligence and the right solutions just as much as larger companies do.

  • Plan
    Consult + Spec
  • Prep
    Design + Develop
  • Live
    Launch + Enhance
  • Website Dev
  • Mobile App Dev
  • Web App Dev
  • Consulting
Consult -> Proposal -> Spec
We'll meet with you to learn about your website needs in detail. Following the consultation, our team will put together a custom proposal outlining your options and solution details. If you decide to move forward, we'll then outline a detailed spec and project plan to get your new site live.
Consult -> Proposal -> Spec
We'll conduct a detailed consultation to understand the overall app goals, the technology scope required, and user functionality. Following the consultation, our team will put together a detailed proposal outlining your options and solution details. Upon acceptance of the proposal, we'll build out the application specification and project plan.
Consult -> Proposal -> Spec
We'll conduct a detailed consultation to understand your overall application needs, the technology scope required, and user functionality (both internal and external). Following the consultation, our team will put together a detailed proposal outlining your options and solution details. Upon acceptance of the proposal, we'll build out the application specification and project plan.
Consult -> Proposal -> Scope of Work
We'll conduct a series of detailed consultations to determine your needs and the areas of the business the potential scope of work would encompass. Following the consultation phase, our team will put together a detailed proposal outlining your options and solution details. Upon acceptance of the proposal, we'll build out the scope of work documents and start the engagement.
  • Website Dev
  • Mobile App Dev
  • Web App Dev
  • Consulting
Design -> Development -> Test
First our team will go to work on design elements to ensure all "alpha" content is correct. Upon approval, development (coding) begins to bring the site to life and deliver beta review to all applicable parties. This beta phase is where the final details and adjustments are made to ensure the site is ready to go LIVE.
Design -> Development -> Test
First our team will go to work on design elements to ensure all "alpha" content aligns with specification details. Upon greater-team signoff, the dev phase begins to bring the approved alpha to beta status. During the beta, full testing takes place involving internal and even public users to ensure all quality gate metrics are achieved prior to going LIVE.
Design -> Development -> Test
The design phase of web application development will ensure all "alpha" content aligns with the specification details. Upon approval, the dev phase begins to bring the approved alpha to beta status. During the beta, full testing takes place involving internal and even public users to ensure all quality gate metrics are achieved prior to going LIVE.
Engagement Preparation
This phase of a consultation engagement will greatly differ, but the primary steps involve the preparation for the deployment. This can include educating team members of the work to be performed and changes that will be implemented upon launch, ensuring the reporting and analysis tools are ready to go, and working with management to align all participants.
  • Website Dev
  • Mobile App Dev
  • Web App Dev
  • Consulting
Go LIVE -> Updates -> Maintenance
Upon a successful test phase and final client signoff, the new site is launched. Following the launch, there might be a continuous updates or maintenance needed. We can perform this if desired, or setup your team for easy self-management.
Go LIVE -> Updates -> Maintenance
Once the app is ready, it is submitted to the App Store for public download or deployed privately for internal download only. Following the launch, our team will perform necessary bug fixes and new feature updates as required.
Go LIVE -> Updates -> Maintenance
Once the application is ready for launch, it is rolled out publicly or internally to the user base. Following the launch, our team will perform necessary bug fixes and new feature updates as required.
Engagement -> Analysis
This phase of a consultation engagement will greatly differ, but will include the engagement per scope of work. During the engagement, data is collected so that analysis can be performed by us and management. Post-deployment analysis and consultations are performed as needed.
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Blog

When you find some time, feel free to read the below posts to learn more about how modern technology, the cloud, and business intelligence can make the difference in your company.

Websites: Giving You a Second Chance at a First Impression - Part 2


Written by Nick Kane

In the last post, you read a story about how first impressions don't always work out how you'd like them to and that a professional website can be there to help redeem you and your business. This second part provides some advice to ensure your website will make the ever-so-important "virtual" first impression needed to keep the interest of a potential client.

How do I know if my site needs to be more professional?
Do you have confidence that when a customer or potential customer visits your site it will favor your business in their minds? DO NOT fall into the "making excuses for your website game" – people this day in age are too smart and have already heard or used all of them before. Just get your website where you know it needs to be and be proud of it. If you are not sure where it needs to be, contact a trustworthy web developer for a free consultation.

Check out competitor sites. How does yours compare? When a neutral or undecided customer is visiting your site in addition to your competitor's, which way will they swing?
(It's important to evaluate their sites frequently. I can't tell you how many times a client has gone to reference a competitor's "not so great" website only to find it has been redeveloped and is looking much better. Who knows, maybe they have read this article too.)

Steps to Take When "Professionalizing" Your Site

  • Logo = Do you need a new one? Maybe your existing logo needs a little digital enhancement for use on the web?
  • Looks Clean = Clean is synonymous with professional in many people's minds. Think about the difference between a clean looking office vs. a messy one.
  • Content = Be sure it is up to date, applicable, and professional.
  • Nice images = Often times the difference between an ordinary and an incredible looking site is the images that are used. There are many stock image websites where high-quality images applicable to your business and content can be found. If you choose to use your own images, consider hiring a photographer to ensure this same quality level can be achieved.
  • Loads fast = Nothing can be more frustrating than a website that loads slowly. The days of waiting for your dial-up connection to catch up are long gone. Visitors will discredit you and your site if it doesn't respond quickly to their actions. Many "bargain" hosting solutions oversell the space on their servers or use outdated hardware. Be sure to choose a reputable hosting solution provider for your site.
  • Reaches Out = Provides an opportunity for your site visitor to reach out to you in a convenient way. Whether this is a custom consultation web form or a link to your social media page, providing contact methods comfortable to your visitors will result in higher contact frequency.
  • Appeasing color scheme = Be sure your site's color scheme is consistent, relevant to your company, and appeasing to the eye.
  • Navigation = It needs to work well, be logical for your visitor. We all know how frustrating a site can be with poor navigational structure.

More often than not, a website owner knows if their site is up to par. It's similar to someone needing to get in better shape…they know full well they are out of shape but may be missing the motivation, the know how (easy to get lost in a sea of options), or the understanding of its importance to their overall personal health. The health of your business WILL BE NEGATIVELY IMPACTED by a website lacking in professionalism.

You now know what you need to do – throw away that old shirt. Well, in addition to the shirt thing take ownership and responsibility of your site's professionalism as it can mean the difference between a potential customer's confidence in you or confirmation that the waterlogged business card was no fluke.

 

 

Websites: Giving You a Second Chance at a First Impression - Part 1


Written by Nick Kane

We've all heard the famous expression "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Because of the fact that so much judgment is cast during the first impression, most of the world's premiere sales professionals are always "ON." They always look presentable in public, they come prepared for all meetings and sales presentations, and most of all they pay close attention to the smallest of details. This type of commitment to first-impression excellence is often what separates them from…well, the rest of us. Anyone want to guess on how many pictures exist of Howard Schultz at the neighborhood market in sweat pants?

Now, the rest of us have "off" days professionally.

  • Perhaps we're stressing about a personal issue at home?
  • Maybe we didn't get to bed as early as we would have liked for the past 3 nights and could easily be mistaken for a cast member of the Thriller video?
  • Possibly we waited until the last minute to prepare for a presentation and unless we've been learning the material subliminally at night, it's not looking good?

The biggest bummer about these "off" days is that more often than not they occur at the most inconvenient of times.

I am not always "ON" either. In fact, if you were to bump into me at a coffee place around the corner from my house there is a good chance the meeting would not be advantageous for me from a "first impression" perspective.

One reason is I'm not much of a coffee in the morning person, so if you see me there I'm in definite need of a pick-me-up. With this in mind, let's look at a not-too-unlikely scenario that may occur.

I was up most of the night finishing up a complex proposal that had been requested last-minute by an established client the day prior. I wrapped it up around 9am with an hour to spare before my virtual meeting at 10. In desperate need of some caffeine, I jump in my car and head to the local "Coffeebucks." At this moment I was far from having a professional or frankly a respectable appearance – hadn't showered or shaved, was wearing shorts and flip flops, and atop my "up all night" hair was an old baseball hat. In addition, I was wearing THE t-shirt. You know the one I'm talking about – it's the shirt you should have either burned or thrown away years ago. Possibly the shirt your significant other has already tried to throw away but you "rescued" it after catching a glimpse of it in the top of the can while taking out the garbage for weekly pickup. In my case it is a white shirt called 'The Kramer.' For those of you who aren't Seinfeld fans, I'm sure you can do a search for that string and learn about it. Let's just say this shirt looked a lot better 236 washes ago.

After arriving at "Coffebucks," I ordered and patiently waited for my drink. The anticipation of your drink order being called out by the barista behind the drink counter is big moment. I think of it as "Coffeebucks Bingo". All you need are those 5 identifiers that match your order card and you're all set: Venti; Triple-shot; Iced; Americano; With Room.

Bingo. I grabbed my drink, went to take a sip and as I did I dripped a good portion on 'The Kramer.' Oh well, just heading right back to the home office anyway so I turned around and headed towards the door. At that time I heard "Hey Nick," and sure enough it was a client of mine waiting in the order line. As I reluctantly walked over to say hello I noticed the client was not alone. He then said to the woman standing next to him "This is Nick Kane – the Seattle website consultant I was telling you about. Nick, this is Jane Smith (not actual name). She is in need of some professional website services and I was telling her about you and your organization." Now, you can probably imagine how unprofessional I must have looked at this point. Not only was my appearance not ideal for a first impression, I was not "ON" in my communications either. After a minute or so of awkward chat, she asked for my business card. I reached into my wallet and saw one lone card. It was dog-eared and looked like it had even gotten wet at one point. I regretfully handed it over, and headed out thinking to myself that the only thing that would have made that first impression worse is if I would have spilled my Americano on her shirt as well.

With all that had happened during the first impression, guess who contacted me for their website needs? You got it. Now, it could have been the recommendation of the client, the fact she didn't have anyone else in mind, or maybe she was a Seinfeld fan. Regardless of the reason, she did mention my Seattle website design site and how she liked reading about some of the key differentiators about the company. Now, in this scenario it sure paid off that the website listed on my business card was not lacking in professionalism to give me a chance at saving a botched first impression. Most individuals after visiting a professional website would consider the fact that the first in-person encounter may have been a fluke, and possibly even do some personal reflection to realize they too have been in similar situations. If they decided to still check out the site and it wasn't professional, it's like verification in their mind to the absence of professionalism.

This story is an extreme example of a botched first impression, but these types of things happen both personally and professionally to people all the time. Unless you are one of the few out there that are always "ON", take the steps to ensure that your website is setup to support the professional image you are trying to present or that truly matches the reality of the experience your clients will receive. If you don't show or prove this to them from their first visit to your site, you may never get another chance to try.

Check back soon to read about website first impressions. What steps do you need to take to ensure that your website is professional enough to not turn off a potential client?

 

 

How Your Website Can Help Bridge the Generation Communication Gap


Written by Nick Kane

Over the past 15 years, communication has vastly changed. The most common form of business communication is no longer face-to-face interaction or telephone conversations but rather email. And, quickly on the heels of email are other forms of digital communication such as Instant Messaging (IM), texting, and social media. Even though this constant shifting driven by technology is inevitable, I still find myself feeling stuck between two differing schools of thought or "generations" if you will. Don't get me wrong – I clearly see and understand the advantages and efficiencies of digital communication. The movement away from even formal business emails to texting, IMing, or "tweeting" does match the trends of society. Every year that goes by people become busier, their lives and work environments more fast-paced. The ability to thumb a few words to get your message across in less time than it would take for a recipient's phone to ring 2 times is a no-brainer for many. However, the other part of me is holding on to the traditional way of building and maintaining relationships: a firm handshake; looking a client in the eye when presenting your solution to their needs; or feeling their appreciation when you put forth time and expense to travel to their location for an in-person meeting.

There are definitely individuals that live on the end of these spectrums. One might be the worker who can't complete even one sentence in an email without reverting to some form of text lingo. The other might be a sales person who insists on site visits or lunches for all communications with a potential customer. Just like in other areas of life, dangers often lie in the extremities. Both of these individuals are missing out and will end up losing deals. So, the question really is "How do you walk the fence?" How do you maintain traditional business practices while taking advantage of all that technology offers? And, more specifically for this article "How can your website help you appease to clients of two differing communication philosophies?"

Steps to meeting the needs of two generations
A good place to start is to evaluate your current sales or support processes. For example, think of how many contacts are usually required to reach a sale or make a relationship beneficial for your business. A contact would be any exchange of communications between a member of your staff and the customer. Here is an example:

  1. Potential customer contacts your company after hours using the phone number on the website. They leave name and phone number for a call back.
  2. Staff member reaches out to individual to see how they can be of service. They learn the potential customer is interested in service A. Staff member passes along basic information to sales representative.
  3. Sales Rep contacts lead and discusses their need in detail. A follow-up meeting is scheduled to deliver proposal.
  4. Meeting takes place to deliver proposal and solution offering details. Lead is given time to consider their options.
  5. Follow up call made by Sales Rep to the lead. They discuss proposal in more detail and determine modifications need to be made.
  6. A modified proposal is sent to the lead.
  7. Lead contacts sales rep with desire to move forward. Sales rep walks the customer through a signup process. This step may or may not include contract signing, payment, etc.

AND SO ON…

Write them down on paper or thumb them out on your "iPhonDroidBerry" device. Next, identify which steps either require or would greatly benefit by in-person or phone contact. Let's say in the above example that 3, 4, and 5 are these steps. Out of those remaining steps that weren't identified, how many of them could still be accomplished if someone else or technology took care of them? These are the steps that your website design and web-based technology might be able to assist with. How? Let's examine them further.

Steps 1 and 2 could be replaced by a customized, web-based consultation form that is located on the contact page of your site. Think of it as a contact form on steroids. It would of course gather general contact information about the potential customer, but would also take it a step further. Determine the types of questions a non-sales staff member would ask on a first phone call. Ideally, this is the same information handed off to the sales rep right before step 3. Keep in mind that the more information your sales rep is equipped with before the call, the more successful the call will be. The main advantage in eliminating step 1 and 2 above with a web-based consultation form is that is saves two phone contacts and most importantly time for everyone involved.

Another important component to this form is that it should be database driven. Why is this important? Well, a form that simply sends you an email with the results is fine for initial notification and many contact forms are setup this way. However, you're really missing out on an opportunity to manage and report on this data. Let's think about the advantages of having this data in a database. In addition the database containing the fields from your form, it could also include additional fields such as 'Called Back' (Yes or No value), 'Date Called Back', 'Interested In', 'Converted' (Yes or No value), and 'Staff Notes'. You'd then have the option to view or run a simple report to show how many contacts have been received, your efficiency at calling them back within your target guidelines, lead conversion percentage, visitor interest, etc. At a very basic level, what if the email notification gets accidentally deleted? We all know this is more than possible, especially with important messages regularly getting sent to spam folders.

You can even take this a step further by having the form add this data to a ticketing system department. I won't go into detail about the advantages of ticketing systems in this article, but depending on the options selected on the form it can create a new ticket in the applicable department. Many sales departments have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ticketing, or other system setup to track all types of information. For those who do not, a custom web-based consultation form can be a great place to start.

What can your customized website design do to help with #6 and 7? Well, for starters you can setup a web-based quotation system that can be used to store and update quotes/proposals. In the case that a modification needs to be made, it can be done using the online system so that the client can access the new document details in real-time. In addition, when they are ready to move forward it would be great to have an online signup process. They could virtually accept the proposal, agree to terms and conditions, complete the contract, provide payment details, and more at their convenience from any location.

Sound complicated? Well, it's not as complicated as you might think and there are many web-based applications that can be customized to meet your specific process requirements. Sound expensive? Most systems can be setup from scratch for a very reasonable investment. Think your customers won't go for it? Be careful not to underestimate the impact of our web-based world. Your customer base is probably already very comfortable with web-based process. For those that aren't, you can always have a staff member walk them through each virtual step either in-person or over the phone similarly to how you are operating now.

The reality is that in most sales processes today there is no longer room for 5-10 in-person or phone contacts. To properly meet the expectations of the two differing communication philosophies, it's important to walk the fence by keeping your process flexible for both. Invest some time researching or speak to a Seattle web consultant about how web-based systems can reduce the amount of non-digital communication exchanges in your processes. Let technology and automation assist the efforts that are still required to meet the needs of your customers, and better prepare you to make the most of your in-person meetings and phone calls. In doing this, you will successfully cater to the current customer base communication expectations.

 

 

Your Site: Open for Business Even When You’re Closed - Part 2


Written by Nick Kane

As discussed in the last post, it is incredibly important that your website is open for business even when you're closed. If you still are wondering why, here are some scenarios to consider.

Scenario #1: They call your phone number only to hear the dreaded "We're sorry but our office is currently closed" recording.

  • Hopefully they leave a detailed message about the reason for their call in addition to their contact info, best time to call back, etc. This will at least allow your staff to return their call first thing during the next business day or whenever they wish to be contacted. This call back should also have a higher success rate in that preparation by your staff can be performed in regards to the customer's interest or inquiry (pricing, details, availability, etc.).
  • Maybe they leave only their name and phone number however – not a bad thing, right? Or is it? Let's say you were not the only business they contacted. By the time you get back to them with "How can we help you", they may have already received the details they were looking from your competitor… putting you in the backseat straight out of the shoot at least in the responsiveness category. Even if they haven't heard back from a competitor, this can still greatly delay and decrease your success rate with the playing phone tag game or simply adding multiple calls before they get the information they are truly seeking (since your first call(s) will be discovery in nature).
  • Often times they may not leave a message. They may just decide to not further their exploration, or tell themselves that they'll just "Call Tomorrow" during business hours. This is very common, and for all of us that lead busy lives we can attest that "Calling Tomorrow" doesn't always happen. A thousand distractions can occur the next business day from a sick child to unexpected issues at work. By the time this potential customer is done taking care of their issues it may be "after hours" once again and the whole process starts over.

Things to consider
Accidentally deleted messages – Come on now, we've all done it or had a staff member make the mistake (maybe you didn't hear about that one getting lost).
Unclear messages – This is unfortunately all too common, and can be the result of many factors: digitalization of the audio, strong accents or callers who are weak in the language, speaking too fast, background noises, hands-free mics, bad cell phone reception areas for the caller, etc. You might hear everything but one digit in the middle or end of the number and unfortunately it becomes a lost cause.

Scenario #2: They send an email to the address on your contact page.

  • Their email is nicely formatted, their inquiry is clear, and they provide all the appropriate contact information including a phone number and best time to reach them. This is similar to the detailed phone message above in that your staff member can now prepare a little more for the call and increase the success/conversion rate.
  • Their email is not nicely formatted, does not contain much information about who they are or what they are inquiring about, and no phone number is provided. At this stage your only option is to send them an email back and hope for the best.
  • The email regardless of format and information comes to you and it's such a busy day you don't receive it right away. Maybe by the time you get it is late day, or the individual who checks that account was out sick or on a personal matter. Now your call or email at the end of the day shows a lack of responsiveness…especially if you aren't delivering the end information to the client in the case that they didn't provide you with the specific information in their email.

Things to consider
Spam Blockers – a great tool and necessary this day in age with all of the garbage that is being sent at mass quantities. However, the drawbacks are that depending on your email program or email server's settings you may not get a message every so often. In addition, maybe you get their message but yours ends up in their Spam or Junk mail folder.
Time Spent on email composition – OK, so hopefully yourself or the staff member you have answering inquiry emails can type and compose emails at a reasonable rate. What about the potential customer? What if they are not very good with computers or don't type very fast. Composing a detailed message can be very time consuming for them.

Scenario #3: They fill out the basic contact form on your site.

  • The visitor spends time providing their name, company name, phone, email address, and even a detailed typed messaged in the body of the text area provided. This allows your staff to get back to them in a timely manner with the information they are requesting.
  • The visitor does the same as above but upon clicking the 'Submit' button they temporarily lose their Internet connection and when they click on the back button they lost everything they just typed. Now, hopefully they are patient and fill out the fields and type the information again. The message may be a little shorter this time and it would probably be a safe bet to say if it were to happen again they may have lost the patience previously mentioned.
  • The submissions are often basic in nature such as "I want to speak to someone about your services/products". This again leaves the staff member now spending their time trying to contact the individual for the discovery call vs. lining up the details to deliver to the person upon their first contact. The results will logically be less successful when extending out that period of time between your staff and the potential buyer of what you are offering.

Things to consider
Time spent typing message into text area – The boxes are often times small, don't provide formatting options, make it difficult to view the entire message without scrolling, and just aren't the most user friendly thing around – especially for the slow typist .
Spamming submissions – Often time forms are not protected against spamming attempts and result in some to many "garbage" submissions per day. This can very annoying and fill up an inbox in a hurry risking the oversight of important submissions or messages.

"OK, I now see the value. What's next?"
There are many ways to go…most of which are directly related to your specific business operations, Internet usage and computer skills, amount of available staff on hand, type of industry and business you run, etc. I would recommend getting in touch with a trusted web consultant that can speak with you in detail about your business and situation. Some options to possibly explore with them can include:

  • Database-driven inquiry forms built custom for your business allowing for data tracking, reporting, conversion statistics, and information access at anytime in the future.
  • Enhanced web-based voicemail systems
  • Call Center or user chat functionality
  • Knowledgebase, Wikis, Forums, and FAQ systems
  • E-commerce and online ordering systems
  • Automatic phone call and text message generation
  • Online catalog

Remember, an effectively designed website can be one your most valuable assets if used properly. The days of simply having a website are over. Your website needs to work for you and your business. So, regardless of your business' hours of operations, keep your website not just online but OPEN 24/7.

 

 

Your Site: Open for Business Even When You’re Closed - Part 1


Written by Nick Kane

A common problem with many business website designs today is that they do not cater to the visitor who is on the site after the company's operating hours. With the standard business being open between the hours of 8am and 6pm, and the website being online and accessed 24 hours a day means almost 60% of every day is left unsupported by the company's operating-hours staff. Here are some other statistics about Internet usage and time of day worth consideration:

  • Close to 70% of Internet usage in the Daytime is work related.
  • Less than 35% of usage is work related in the evenings, late night, and during the weekend.
  • Adults between the ages of 25-54 make up over 67% of all internet usage in the evenings, late night, and weekends.
  • Over 66% of Internet usage is personal vs. work-related during the evenings, late nights, and weekend.

Early morning = (M-F 6am – 8am)
Daytime = (M-F, 8am – 5pm)
Evening = (M-F, 5pm – 11pm)
Late night = (M-F, 11pm – 6am)
Weekends = (Sat-Sun, all day)

*Statistics derived from "The OPA White Papers: The Existence and Characteristics of Dayparts on the Internet – Volume 1, Number 3". A special series from the Online Publishers Association. Click here to visit their website.

Why do I need to make my site "After Hours" productive?
1. Majority of working Americans are at their own jobs making a living during the same time you are.
Although billions of dollars are lost every year due to employees using the Internet at work for unproductive activities, they will most likely be spending a majority of the time on work-related activities. In addition, only a portion of the positions held by Americans have them sitting in front of a computer. So, of course the individuals who are not may rarely be on your site while you're open.

2. It's "beer thirty" somewhere.


Even if the site visitor is reaching your site during their business day, it might not be yours. For example, we ran into this issue many times while located and operating in Hawaii. For half of the year, Hawaii is 6 hours behind the East Coast. By lunch time in Hawaii most businesses east of the Mississippi were closed or getting ready to do so. By not taking into account that your business can be hosting traffic and possible customers from anywhere in the world you are at a major disadvantage.

3. If it's productive after hours, it will be just as or more productive during operating hours.
Most of the methods you will use on your site to enhance its after-hours productivity will also assist you and your staff during operating hours. For example, instead of perhaps getting a phone call in the middle of meeting, while you're on the other line with a client, or out on a sales call your visitor simply used the tools provided to them. Now, they know you are open and should answer the phone, but maybe they were busy as well at the time so that a call wasn't the most convenient method of contact. Regardless, you now have the information you need in the format you desire and can get back to them after the call, after lunch, or as soon as you have a moment. This can actually be a huge time saver for both of you since instead of performing discovery with them you could be spending that time on getting them the data or answers they were seeking – a Win-Win for both parties.

One of the greatest benefits an effectively designed website provides a business is the 24-hour exposure. However, if this advantage is not utilized properly the positive results will most likely not be produced. The site may look good, provide a lot of useful information, and even strike the interest of the visitor to attempt some form of contact (phone call, email, in person visit to location, etc.). At this stage, the website has performed magnificently and served its purpose as your company's virtual ambassador.

So, take some time and make sure that your website is reaching all of your customers, clients and potentials at all parts of the day. If it is not, then you have some work to do. If you still don't see the value of the operating hours of your website, check back soon for some scenarios that will help you see the problems and find solutions.

 

 

Efficient Business Operations – Systems, Systems, Systems Part 2


Written by Nick Kane

In the previous post, the first two keys to successful system establishment were discussed. We will now view the next two steps: Evaluation and Correction and Testing.

Evaluation
Once the data has been collected and transferred into an adequate and applicable reporting format, it can then be evaluated by management or other designated party. The goal of this step is to see how the newly defined or modified operational process is working. It may now be determined if the previous pain point has been improved or eliminated, how the data for the new process compares with that of the previous one, etc.

This evaluation period can vary in complexity, but one key factor in its effectiveness is the quality of the reported data. All of the steps are linked and impact this one, but properly formatted data can make it much easier for the assessor to make accurate evaluations and judgments.

Worth Noting
Pride must not be involved in this step (or any of them). It might be a good idea to have a different person or team member perform the evaluation step than the responsible party for defining the new process. The point of this whole thing is to provide honest and open analysis, and often times a person who defined the new method may not be as open-minded to its true results and effectiveness.

Correction and Testing
Now that the system has been defined, carried out, and had its data captured and evaluated, it's now time for management to make the adjustments they feel will improve efficiency or production even further.

These corrections to the system must also follow the same steps as detailed above: Definition and Documentation, Data and Reporting, Evaluation, Correction and Testing. In doing so, it will continue the same structure allowing for a constant movement towards customization and optimization within your organization and business unit.

A good way to track these corrections is through the use of revision documentation techniques. This can be as simple as Rev.1, Rev 1.2, Rev. 3, etc. It can also include additional data such as what exactly was modified, who made the changes, why they were made, what changes were also considered, etc. Additional separate "system" documentation can also be beneficial for management as well as other staff. In this situation (and most others my opinion), you just can't have too much data. Disk space is so affordable these days so storing this data should not be an issue. You never know when that data you don't think is needed today can really be useful in the days or years ahead.

If a correction to the process is not evident to the evaluators or management, it might be a good idea to keep the process as is for a longer duration of time. Some process adjustments will be apparent quickly, others will require more time. As long as the data continues to be recorded consistently and accurately, it can be evaluated and compared periodically to see if a solution has become more apparent.

Worth Noting
Just like we all learned in science class way back when, if you are going to change the variables of your experiment and track accurate results, it's a good idea to only change one related variable at a time. For example, if you change both the amount of phone calls made to potential clients in a week but also change the target market that you are calling, how will you know which adjustment worked or didn't work? Maybe they both worked together for an improvement but when making both of those adjustments at the same time it will be very difficult to determine the specific impact each one made to the system or process.

Web-Based Systems
A system as we've discussed today can be recorded and documented on paper or electronically. A web-based system can be thought of as an electronically-documented system that is stored on Internet or Intranet-based computers. This allows for many advantages over a paper or non-shared electronic system such as allowing for collaboration and access between two or more parties. Here are two examples of a web-based system:

1. CRM
One example of this would be a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that is put in place to help track a company's sales and customer service activities. By having this system web-based, the users of this system can access it from varying locations such as different office computers, a home office computer, or even a mobile phone. The collaboration benefits are similar in that a team member can interact with the customers in a way that is visible to other team members and/or management – ultimately providing the opportunity for a more seamless communication and experience for customers.

2. Task Management
Every company is in need of and uses a form of task management. This can be managed many ways – time managment or project management software, an email inbox, hundreds of sticky notes, white board space, or my favorite the "working on whatever task has the loudest and most upset customer or boss demanding it be finished." method. The crazy thing about task management is that even though everyone needs it, a very small percentage of organizations that we've dealt with over the years have a solid system in place for handling it - greatly and directly affecting productiveness and efficiency.

By instituting even a basic web-based task management system, a company can greatly improve its organization levels, staff and management visibility, goal focus, prioritization of objectives and tasks, roadmapping ability, task and project scheduling, company planning, and numerous other areas of work performed on a frequent basis.

Consultant Summary
The need to provide a detailed system-implemenation approach is great as it involves an area of business that is crucial to productivity and efficiency levels. If you have not been doing a consistent or thorough job of implementing systems within your company or office do not panic – you're in the same boat as many others. However, now is the time to start. Contact a trusted business consultant today to see how your business can be lifted to higher success levels now and in the future.

 

 

Efficient Business Operations – Systems, Systems, Systems - Part 1


Written by Nick Kane

It has been said by many that the three most important things in real estate are "Location, Location, Location." When it comes to efficient business operations, I would say that the three most important things are Systems, Systems, Systems.

Dictionary.com provides the following as one definition for the word system:
"due method or orderly manner of arrangement or procedure"

When a company establishes an orderly manner of procedure or 'system' for how it will operate in certain circumstances it has taken a first step towards efficient operations. This first due method may be correct or far from it, but it is a crucial beginning to the process.

There are 4 keys to successful system establishment.

  1. Definition and Documentation
  2. Data and Reporting
  3. Evaluation
  4. Correction and Testing

In this post, we will discuss the first two keys listed here.

Definition and Documentation
The first key is probably somewhat obvious – defining and documenting the guidelines, procedures, players, and all other set of rules in which need to be adhered. The establishment of this step often times requires a major investment from an individual, a team, a division, or the organization as a whole. This investment in resources albeit monetary, labor, etc. is probably the reason why the definition of the system may never take place when it should. In a larger organization, the chance for a formal system to be established is higher than in a smaller company.

This is not solely based on our experience as web design consultants in various industries but can be attributed the more defined roles within a larger company. With pre-defined position responsibilities and department budgets, a superior can assign members of the organization the duty of establishing systems for a process or event. Having these systems in place allows for better visibility into productivity as well as making it easier for new hires to jump right into productive activities after joining a team.

Defining and documenting seems like a logical plan that will pay off over time, but in a smaller company there isn't always the commitment from management to establish these systems. Pre-defined roles, responsibilities, funds, etc. aren't always in place and the distributor of these internal resources may decide there are other more prominent places to utilize them. As a result, months and years can go by without the systems ever being properly defined and documented. There are most likely "unofficial" systems being followed on a daily basis, but without the documented definition they only exist in the minds of the current staff. When staff members leave or new staff is brought on board, the training and time necessary to reach productive activity levels will in turn be greater than in a larger company. Not to mention, non-system practices will be passed on that probably should not and important aspects may be lost with the exiting staff.

Getting Started
A good place to start is by gathering some or all of the following that is relevant: goals for the system, pain points with the old or non-existent system, profit figures, rates of success or conversion, start dates, etc. This is similar to the initial stages of planning a road trip – where are we going, when are we leaving/returning, what vehicle we'll be taking, MPG of that vehicle, what other stops we want to make, and the like.

Next, start with a broad roadmap or high-level outline stating goals and other items. Then, work to fill in the details (the stops on your road trip). Use visualization tools such as flow diagrams as it can help determine the logic behind the system. You will know when something is missing and continue to work until you reach the 80% mark. Why 80%? Well, the odds of defining the perfect system right of the bat are very low. In addition, when tweaks and modifications are made to the system, it will usually be to those final 20% details that you struggled to define.

In summary, this definition and documentation may be a painful step…but the vital one in the establishment of efficient operational systems. The commitment and support of upper-level management as well as the dedication of staff resources will be needed to properly complete this stage.

Reporting System
Establishing the reporting of resulting data is necessary for proper evaluation and process improvement to occur. The way in which the data/results are measured and reported is custom to the specific situation. Some examples of resulting data are:

  • Number of escalated issues resolved within the 24-hour goal
  • Responses to a job posting from a particular recruiting channel
  • Converted sales leads derived from marketing campaign A.

Whatever your resulting data may be, it should definitely be accessible by the evaluator or evaluation team. Reporting is a way for this to be accomplished. This data is there, but sometimes rules need to be defined to have this existing data entered into a tool for reporting and visibility. It is important that this be taken seriously, as without accurate and consistent data it may be very difficult to properly evaluation the process. This data may be pulled from various stages of the cycle as well. The more data the better as not all of it has to be used right away, but someday down the road it may come in handy.

Getting Started
The reporting of this data is sometimes already present within an organization – in a database, a software package, etc. That would be the first place to look. Many times however, a reporting system must be established to accomplish the visibility and reporting goals. Purchasing a software program or having one developed is an option to consider. This can be extensive and expensive in some cases, so we recommend speaking with a consultant experienced in this area to be sure you make the proper decision for your situation and budget.

Remember, when it comes to efficient business operations it is all about Systems, Systems, Systems. Stay tuned for the second part of this discussion where we will touch on Evaluation and Correction and Testing.

 

 

Reporting – The Importance of Accurate & Meaningful Data


Written by Nick Kane

There is no shortage of data in the world. Some is free, some is expensive, some is outdated, some is skewed, some requires top government agencies to steal and/or to protect it, some can make you rich, some can make you depressed, and some can provide or destroy hope. Data is EXTREMELY powerful. I'm sure you've all heard the expression "He who controls information controls the world." Don't get your hopes up – this short article is not to provide the secrets of world domination. However, it is set out to help your business get on the right track towards industry, market, efficiency, and productivity domination.

What type of data would you like to know in regards to your business? If you knew 'A' about your competition, could you achieve 'B'? If you knew the decision-making logic or purchasing patterns of your customers, could you better position your company to serve their needs? If you could track details about your employee productivity, would it help you to improve your profits through process enhancements? If you were able to increase or decrease N, would your business be more successful?

If you are an established business (not a start-up) and have not been tracking or collecting this desired information, I have one very important question for you: What is driving your business decisions? What has driven you to hire more employees, layoff staff, raise or lower your prices, expand or reduce your service or product offering, invest in new technology, change locations, work more hours, or outsource certain tasks? If you just responded with "Good Question," "My gut," "It wasn't working so we tried something new," or "I'm not sure" then I have two things to say.

It's OK. You are not alone as most people are running their lives and businesses in this same way.
Are you ready to start using data to help drive these decisions?
If you answered yes to #2 then keep reading. If you answered no, I recommend you also keep reading as your mind might change. Let's explore some possible reasons behind this type of behavior that so many fall victim to.

When a business is first starting up, many owners frankly are "winging it." This isn't necessarily a bad thing as there may not be data available that is 100% applicable to this new business. Perhaps the product or service is new or the market hasn't seen it before. It might be possible to gather some data, but at a point educated and logical guesses or assumptions have to be made. At this stage it's important to keep a pulse on results and remain flexible when reality strikes. I strongly feel this is the reason many companies go under within their first year. They have a business plan that defines a clear path from A – Z for a fixed time period and often times with a fixed budget. What if F doesn't happen like you planned? Are you flexible enough to react to get back on track to G or H with reasonable loss of time or money? Many are not prepared or tracking progress close enough to react and often times a relatively small wrong turn or bump in the road can shred such a fixed plan.

So, getting back to the startup business…these "guesses" that drive business decisions are somewhat unavoidable in the beginning as we've just determined. However, how long does this strategy last? At what point does a company stop guessing and reacting and start proactively planning based on real data? Well, ideally sooner than later but there is a critical step that is required for this to occur. THEY NEED TO SETUP THE SYSTEM TO COLLECT AND REPORT ON THIS DATA. Most businesses completely skip this step and continue to make guesses "startup style" for the remainder of their business' existence. Can't you just use financial numbers? Can't you just use sales numbers? Can't you just use customer satisfaction scores? Well, this data is also important to the business-decision process but only tells a part of the story. Let's consider the following example of how baseline data although critical cannot alone drive educated business decisions.

Think of a professional baseball team. Let's say that there is no ESPN or other statistical resource tracking specific data for us (since in the case of our businesses we are on our own). Instead, all we have is the standard Win/Loss record, total fan attendance, and individual player stats to base our management decisions on. At the end of a season, we need to make some big decisions: there are players up for free agency, others looking for contract extensions, we are considering some stadium enhancements, should we keep our coaching staff tact, what players should we try to trade, what type of positions do we need to fill, etc. (as a business owner, we face similar decisions)? Now, we won half of our games which was a ten-game improvement over last year, but attendance was down by an average of 20% per game, and we had the league MVP on our team with amazing stats but the other players were below league average stats-wise. So, do you think we're ready to make our business decisions now?

If you said yes, please contact me as I want to offer you a job. For the rest of us, we'd probably say something like "we need more data." In this example it might seem more obvious. Let's say we didn't have any more hard data but we did watch every game, spend time in the locker room, and feel pretty good in our gut what types of decisions we need to make. Feel better? This might give you more confidence but are you really more prepared? Most people feel they are prepared with this type of daily exposure to the business. However, let's evaluate some key components.

Why was attendance down even though our record was improved? If I was setting up a reporting system for attendance I would want to track attendance based on days of week, opposing teams, who was playing or pitching, weather conditions, division standings, national holidays, local event schedule, our Win/Loss record and games within playoff contention at various points in the season, and much more. Why is this type of detailed information important? Well, a pure number like attendance is only as good to me as this other relative data. The entire picture needs to be painted to really come up with data that can be used to determine our lack of success at the box office.

What about the decision to keep players, the coach, etc.? Are stats enough? Maybe in fantasy baseball they are enough but the actual game of Major League Baseball is not that simple. I assume your business isn't that simple either. Don't assume that because you're not running a million or billion dollar business that your gut is good enough. It's not – you need detailed and accurate data to make strong business decisions just like the management of a baseball team needs data. Do you know that large companies were small at some point? If there is one thing I cannot stand hearing from business owners it's "We're just a small company." Years ago I had a boss that said this constantly – usually right after he was approached with an innovative and scalable way to improve a process. What is the logic behind this statement? Good business is good business regardless of the company's size.

We've talked about how guesses continue to be made for years after a company is in business. The reason is that steps are not made to collect and report on the specific data that would be crucial for business decision making. However, the great thing about this major problem is that it's never too late to start making better decisions.

Where do I start?

First, figure out what information you would ideally like to know. There is a chance that some of the data you identify cannot be obtained through a web-based reporting system but it's a good place to start. This will help you and your web consultant identify the types of data you are seeking and from there you might be able to identify alternatives. Once the targeted data is identified, it's now time to figure out how and when data entry, capture, and extraction should occur in your process. Perhaps there is already data available inside of an existing system? It's possible that at this time a new step or process should established to help with data capture.

If you are working with a website consultant or web-systems specialist, remember that most of the time a solution should be specific to your exact needs. Be cautious of a quick recommendation for an off-the-shelf application as it might not provide you with the specific information you are seeking.

After the data identification and capture stage – Reporting

Now that you've identified and are capturing this data the next step is just as important – review it. I know, it sounds like a basic and obvious step but I would venture to guess that most reporting capabilities of online systems rarely get used. Maybe the management or business owners have never been shown how to properly access and review it? Maybe they are just "too busy" and procrastinate the task? Or is it possible that even if they had the data, they wouldn't be sure on how to use it to improve their business? Whatever the reason, don't let your data compile without review and appropriate action. If you don't have time, find a staff member or third-party individual to help you. If you aren't sure on how to properly access the data, schedule a 30-60 minute training session to figure it out – take notes or record the session if need be. If you are not sure what to do with the data, lean on a process specialist or your trusted business consultant to help you analyze it and come up with some possible business-enhancing solutions. Regardless of your situation, make the most of this data.

One more note on reporting – KISS (keep it simple Stupid!). How many reports do you need to see? How many options do you really need to access regularly? If you are the type of individual that gets slowed down by options (if it takes you 10 minutes to order ice cream at Baskin Robbins the answer is yes) be sure to go with a solution that can get you right to the data you're seeking. You can always setup a custom reporting page for Ad Hoc reports in the case that a non-standard view is needed at some point. However, if possible configure some quick-hitting views and queries that get you or your staff the data quickly and easily.

What are the benefits of a web-based data capture & reporting system?

There are many major advantages of utilizing a software application to capture and provide reporting for specific data critical to your business. Having one that is web-based provides additional advantages. The major one is simply anytime/anywhere access to the system. By allowing staff to enter the data from any device with Internet access, it will help keep data updated and accurate. Having this data available for management to pull reports day or night, in the office or on the road can be crucial to a project or sales process. Here are some other advantages to a "Cloud" application.

  • Maybe you want a report to be compiled and emailed to you at certain time intervals? Most web-based systems have this sort of functionality as a standard option.
  • Perhaps your business could truly benefit from this system sharing data with another web-based system (more difficult to accomplish with a local client or local server application)?
  • What if your system requires an upgrade or maintenance? If it is a web-based system, it can be accessed from anywhere without the need for additional remote-connection software.

Whether you are running a professional baseball team or a pest control company, you need the right data to help drive logical business decisions. Your staff is already doing the work, and your customers are providing you with opportunities to gather this data for future improvements. Don't waste any more time listening to your gut – it's not as accurate as you might think.

 

 

Multipurpose vs. Dedicated Business Tools


Written by Nick Kane

If you need to assemble a piece of office furniture, would you grab individual tools needed or a Leatherman? When it comes to considering, planning, developing, or purchasing a web-based system there are two approaches to take. You can either choose a system that meets the specific need you're after, or one that meets both that need and others. What is the best approach? The answer is both…and neither. In other words, it completely depends on the situation.

Step 1 – Know the Overall Pros and Cons

Before we can determine which method is best for your specific requirement, let's examine the pros and cons of a multipurpose system.

The Pros of a Multipurpose System

Staff, managers, and customers only have to work within one system = Can accomplish multiple job duties and tasks from one place.

  • No need for multiple logins = When there are multiple systems, in many cases this means there will be multiple login requirements when navigating from one system to another. There are ways to allow cross-system credential sharing, but this will require additional programming and customization.
  • Only one system to learn = Your staff and clients will only have to familiarize themselves with one system vs. multiple.
  • "Easier" to accomplish cross-activity reporting, data integration, and data sharing = If the system contains data from multiple activities (project status, open tasks, etc.) it would in many cases be easier to pull this data together. With separate systems, it could require extensive customization.
  • One system to maintain, update, and upgrade = In theory, this could mean less maintenance as there are fewer systems to manage. 

The Cons of a Multipurpose System

  • More moving parts (additional complexity) = The more complex and functionality that the system provides, chances are there are more moving parts (think of a 2010 model vehicle with all the options vs. a 1950 Chevy). The more moving parts, the more that can go wrong.
  • Can be slower = Often times the system may run slower due to complexity and size.
  • More training time for staff and customers = A larger system with multiple functions will mean more options, more buttons, more screens, etc.
  • More cost = Not always the case, but more often than not the more options, the higher the price to purchase or develop the system.
  • Additional options are often times already handled by another tool, process, or system = Except for the case of a start-up business, many times the other options a multipurpose system offers are already being addressed by another system or process.
  • Customization is more difficult = Because it will most likely have a more complex structure with interconnected parts, customization may often be more difficult.
  • Troubleshooting and fixing errors more difficult = More things can go wrong, more places to look, additional code to fix.
  • More difficult to maintain, update, and upgrade = Although you will only have to work with one system, maintenance will require more work due to complexity.
  • Employees having access/visibility into other areas of the system = Some systems have very specific user roles and access, but others do not. A more complex system might allow a staff member to access areas of the system or see data that you might not want them to see.

Although all of the pros and cons listed above may not be directly applicable to the system(s) you are considering, this will give you a general foundation in which to base your decision or drive the decision-making process.

Step 2 – Evaluate the entire activity process

When deciding on a web-based system for your business, there is a lot to consider. In today's world, people tend to lean towards multipurpose options in their personal life decisions. The fact that their mobile phone can run 870,000 apps on it is looked as a true benefit. However, more isn't always better when it comes to business process. The goal for profit-seeking companies is to net as much as possible. To net more, there typically needs to be an increase in production, efficiency, or both. Achieving these has little to do with a fancy tool that does a lot.

Years ago, I worked as a technician for a telecommunications company. We drove in two-man crews from city to city, state to state performing network installations. There was one technician in particular that I often think of when considering the type of system to choose for a business. He carried the least amount of tools than any of us. His small (and much lighter) tool bag was a joy to pack around as opposed to my multiple tool bags and boxes. I soon learned that the reason his bag was so much lighter was that it was full of multipurpose tools where I had very specific/dedicated tools. Before I went to assemble the equipment on the roof, I'd pull out various tools such as a flathead and phillips-head screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters, and a razor knife. He would pull out one tool – his Leatherman. Now, once we were in assembly mode I would greatly out-produce him with my dedicated tools…similar to how an auto mechanic has hundreds if not thousands of tools at their disposal for maximum productivity. If this was the working environment to base my tool purchase decision on it would be a no-brainer for dedicated tools. However, let's say rather than driving from city to city we were flying from country to country and instead of assembling on a roof we were assembling on a radio tower. Now, packing all of my tool bags and boxes don't seem to be as efficient as him grabbing his one bag.

Again, this is not an easy decision or one that should be made without careful evaluation. Even when the activities (equipment assembly in the story above) in the process are the same, you must evaluate all factors before, during, and after the process that might have an impact as well.

Step 3 – The Players

The two steps above are somewhat general in nature and could be used to derive a logical business decision. However, what might be logical from a general business sense does not necessarily mean it will be the right decision for your specific business, staff, or customers. It is also important to evaluate the following specific criteria as well.

What is your style as a manager? 

Do you like multipurpose tools? How easy can you learn and master a more complex system? Do you mind things like multiple logins, multiple windows open, or slower running web-based systems? Can you see the value in spending more to receive additional functionality?

What is the style of your staff?
How computer-literate are they? Do they have time to learn and get up to speed on a more complex system? How much turnover do you have assuming each new hire will have to be brought up to speed? Who do you have in place to support and train the staff on an ongoing basis? Who do you have on staff to keep the system(s) updated and maintained? How do you feel about them having access or visibility into data that you might not want them to under normal circumstances?

Other Questions to Ask
Are the extra options needed? What in my current process will need to change if we use this system for these other options? What are my short- and long-term budget restrictions? What is the risk for moving my data, clients, process, etc. to this new system? What is my contingency plan? How much customization will I need to make to the system for it to be an ideal fit for my business? What if it's the wrong choice – how will I revert, recover, or replace?

Easy decision, right?…not hardly. I hope this article has at least increased your awareness to the importance of choosing the proper web-based software for your business. Do your research, use the information here to help, and consult with a professional that not only knows the industry but will spend time to learn your business. The right system choice needs to be specific to your business and style so be careful of solution offerings that come before the most basic of consultation questions. With due diligence and proper planning, you will know whether to choose a multipurpose or dedicated solution. A professional web designer could help you come to a final decision or conclusion with proper evaluation and website consultation.

 

 

Should You Have a Multi-Language Website?


Written by Nick Kane

We've all heard the famous expression "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Because of the fact that so much judgment is cast during the first impression, most of the world's premiere sales professionals are always "ON." They always look presentable in public, they come prepared for all meetings and sales presentations, and most of all they pay close attention to the smallest of details. This type of commitment to first-impression excellence is often what separates them from…well, the rest of us. Anyone want to guess on how many pictures exist of Howard Schultz at the neighborhood market in sweat pants?

Now, the rest of us have "off" days professionally.

  • Perhaps we're stressing about a personal issue at home?
  • Maybe we didn't get to bed as early as we would have liked for the past 3 nights and could easily be mistaken for a cast member of the Thriller video?
  • Possibly we waited until the last minute to prepare for a presentation and unless we've been learning the material subliminally at night, it's not looking good?

The biggest bummer about these "off" days is that more often than not they occur at the most inconvenient of times.

I am not always "ON" either. In fact, if you were to bump into me at a coffee place around the corner from my house there is a good chance the meeting would not be advantageous for me from a "first impression" perspective.

One reason is I'm not much of a coffee in the morning person, so if you see me there I'm in definite need of a pick-me-up. With this in mind, let's look at a not-too-unlikely scenario that may occur.

I was up most of the night finishing up a complex proposal that had been requested last-minute by an established client the day prior. I wrapped it up around 9am with an hour to spare before my virtual meeting at 10. In desperate need of some caffeine, I jump in my car and head to the local "Coffeebucks." At this moment I was far from having a professional or frankly a respectable appearance – hadn't showered or shaved, was wearing shorts and flip flops, and atop my "up all night" hair was an old baseball hat. In addition, I was wearing THE t-shirt. You know the one I'm talking about – it's the shirt you should have either burned or thrown away years ago. Possibly the shirt your significant other has already tried to throw away but you "rescued" it after catching a glimpse of it in the top of the can while taking out the garbage for weekly pickup. In my case it is a white shirt called 'The Kramer.' For those of you who aren't Seinfeld fans, I'm sure you can do a search for that string and learn about it. Let's just say this shirt looked a lot better 236 washes ago.

After arriving at "Coffebucks," I ordered and patiently waited for my drink. The anticipation of your drink order being called out by the barista behind the drink counter is big moment. I think of it as "Coffeebucks Bingo". All you need are those 5 identifiers that match your order card and you're all set: Venti; Triple-shot; Iced; Americano; With Room.

Bingo. I grabbed my drink, went to take a sip and as I did I dripped a good portion on 'The Kramer.' Oh well, just heading right back to the home office anyway so I turned around and headed towards the door. At that time I heard "Hey Nick," and sure enough it was a client of mine waiting in the order line. As I reluctantly walked over to say hello I noticed the client was not alone. He then said to the woman standing next to him "This is Nick Kane – the Seattle website consultant I was telling you about. Nick, this is Jane Smith (not actual name). She is in need of some professional website services and I was telling her about you and your organization." Now, you can probably imagine how unprofessional I must have looked at this point. Not only was my appearance not ideal for a first impression, I was not "ON" in my communications either. After a minute or so of awkward chat, she asked for my business card. I reached into my wallet and saw one lone card. It was dog-eared and looked like it had even gotten wet at one point. I regretfully handed it over, and headed out thinking to myself that the only thing that would have made that first impression worse is if I would have spilled my Americano on her shirt as well.

With all that had happened during the first impression, guess who contacted me for their website needs? You got it. Now, it could have been the recommendation of the client, the fact she didn't have anyone else in mind, or maybe she was a Seinfeld fan. Regardless of the reason, she did mention my Seattle website design site and how she liked reading about some of the key differentiators about the company. Now, in this scenario it sure paid off that the website listed on my business card was not lacking in professionalism to give me a chance at saving a botched first impression. Most individuals after visiting a professional website would consider the fact that the first in-person encounter may have been a fluke, and possibly even do some personal reflection to realize they too have been in similar situations. If they decided to still check out the site and it wasn't professional, it's like verification in their mind to the absence of professionalism.

This story is an extreme example of a botched first impression, but these types of things happen both personally and professionally to people all the time. Unless you are one of the few out there that are always "ON", take the steps to ensure that your website is setup to support the professional image you are trying to present or that truly matches the reality of the experience your clients will receive. If you don't show or prove this to them from their first visit to your site, you may never get another chance to try.

Check back soon to read about website first impressions. What steps do you need to take to ensure that your website is professional enough to not turn off a potential client?