Omaha Stylee

I have decided to resurrect an old topic, because it is so important to drawing immediate attention to your directory. Style Customization! Having a unique look and feel to the directory can help separate you from the competition. One of the most important things to supply to the design team when beginning a style customization to the eDirectory is a quality mockup. A mockup is a layout model of what you would like the final look of the site; it provides a visual presentation of the website structure.

When beginning to create a mockup or when you are searching the internet for a premade template it is important to consider the following list of questions:

  1. What is your business area? (Look for a mockup that fits well in your industry)
  2. Which basic modules do you want customized?
  3. Describe the content you want in the following area: Left Column, Right Column, Middle Column
  4. What are the items you want in the top and bottom navigation bar.
  5. What are your color preferences?

When providing a mockup for the application of a design to the eDirectory we look for the following file types:

  • Photoshop (PSD)
  • PNG Files
  • Zip Files containing the .html / .css files

It is best to include a mockup of the Homepage of the Directory; Front, Results and Detail pages for each module you wish to have customized, as well as pages illustrating the layout of the Advertise with Us page and the Contact Us page. To accompany the specified files, it can help to have a detailed word document further outlining what is in the files.

If you are unsure of the final design of your site there are many reference areas you can use to help you come to a conclusion regarding your design. You can do the following:

  1. Create several rough drafts and compile them into a final solution
  2. Review current websites to help you gather ideas for your own
  3. Review and purchase pre-made templates from sites such as Template Monster, Dream Template, or Theme Forest.
  4. Consult a website designer to discuss your needs and design a completely custom template

Designing the look and feel of your site can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of beginning a new online business and directory because it allows your inner creativity to come out. It also helps you to create a look and feel that you think will draw visitors to your site and take you ahead of the competition.

What is Customer Service?

Simple Question RIGHT?

Wikipedia defines customer service as:
“Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”

In the marketplace today it seems that more and more companies are abandoning the idea of good old fashioned customer service. I will try and related a couple of personal stories that will contrast the two ways I see service.

Bad Customer Services: (true story)

Recently a co-worker and I went to a major fast food chain with a local advert that was sent to me in the mail. Upon arriving we placed our order and things went horribly wrong. To keep the story short, it took over 10 minutes to PLACE the order. During this time the manager berated her employees in front of us, and made zero attempts to make the situation right for me the customer that had been standing here for over 10 minutes trying to order food, and pay them. We left quite upset over the lack of any customer service.

I then went the extra mile to help the company and reported the incident to the head office. This proved to only show the reason that their was no customer service in the local stores. I was bounced around on the corporate phone system, and when I got a person who said they would help, they took my story and said she will tell someone. Never once did she offer to make the problem whole with me the client. Furthermore she never even asked for my contact details so she could try and followup.

Good Customer Service: (true story)

Just this past sunday, my wife and I were at our local mega pet store picking up some more cat supplies (food, litter, catnip etc). Now, I am a pet person, and so I would love to have a dog, but the apartment we live in only allows 2 pets and our two cats.  Well I was explaining to my wife my love of my previous fish tanks, and so now we are shopping for tanks.

While at the local store, I was looking at my options, and started talking to the local sales guy about the options etc they offered. He turned out to be a big fish guy, and even suggested that a sale at his store might not be the best option. He explained that there are a couple of local shops that would be able to offer me more of a selection and maybe a better price.

When we went to checkout, he was also there helping out on the registers as the lines got backed up, and it was a pleasure to see him going the extra mile for clients. He stopped the lines to go and get a client checking out a product that she forgot to pick up.

So we come back around to the question of the day “What is Customer Service”. If we go purely off the definition, then our first company did not perform any actions to enhance the level of customer satisfaction, where as the second went above and beyond and clearly met my expectations.

Here at eDirectory (ArcaSolutions), we strive to be the second and work hard to avoid the first of our examples. This is seen in our sales process with live chat, phone and email sales assistance. To our support team providing on/off hour support via email, phone, ticketing system. To our custom dev teams, where we assign a personal project manager to your project so you do not have to explain your customization to the next guy each time you call. We clearly are focused on the area of “enhancing the level of customer satisfaction” for each and every customer as part of our DNA.

Now the question comes back around to you as a business owner or even shopper (online/offline). What is customer service to you? Do you really care when you are shopping for your ipod warmer that you may never talk to the store, and their website is kind of sparse with information, or do you need more. What is your customer service experience level needs, and what do you do when you feel your expectations are not met. I welcome you all to head over to our forums, and share your experiences either with your eDirectory product, or with some other company positive or negative. I am very interested about your stories.

We Don’t Need No Education

Content Management System (CMS): “is a computer application used to create, edit, manage, search and publish various kinds of digital media and electronic text. CMSs are frequently used for storing, controlling, versioning, and publishing industry-specific documentation such as news articles, operators’ manuals, technical manuals, sales guides, and marketing brochures.” (Wikipedia, 2009)

Some of the largest CMS systems available today are included in programs such as Joomla, Word Press, Ektron, Dolphin, and Light CMS etc. eDirectory’s CMS capabilities work in the same manor as these, but specializing in the directory website niche. The major advantage of a CMS though is not only the ease at which you can deploy or manage a website, you must also consider the ROI.  A CMS system such as WordPress, Joomla,eDirectory reduces the time to market, but also reduces the need for staff to update and manage the system.  This in turn lowers your development and maintenance costs creating a much higher ROI on the project.

When beginning the process of building a new website that contains an intricate CMS system it is important to be well versed on the ins and outs of the system and the aspects of the CMS that you can control and how those controls relate to the front of the website. The eDirectory system is built on a highly detailed and well organized CMS system called the sitemgr. This sitemgr area allows the directory owner to manage directory members, directory content, and add or remove any of their own unique content they wish to add into one of the site content areas.

One of the most important things a new directory owner can do it is to familiarize themselves with the eDirectory CMS system so once the directory is live to the public they will have been able to add unique content in the site content areas. This will also help you server your customer listing requests and questions much quicker as well. One unique thing the CMS system allows you to do is place your own unique content into certain areas within the directory. This unique content can help visitors to your site understand the meaning of you site and the benefits of adding a paid listing. The constant updates will help visitors see new text content as well as see new listings once they are approved by the sitemgr in the CMS system.

Sales Process Should Fit Buying Stage

For maximum efficiency, it is necessary to have a structured sales method. Yet, we see so many companies ignoring this. Unless a company has structure in their sales process, sales can easily be lost.

The first and most basic step is to take the time to develop a sales process. It doesn’t have to be too cumbersome and you don’t have to have your team fill out too many forms or jump through too many hoops. The only question that should drive the initial process is “What does the customer need in order to make the purchase.” The following questions can be asked:

[custom_list style="list-9"]

  • What will it take to make a purchase and who needs to be involved.
  • Where is the client in their buying process? Are they shopping around or are they a few days away from signing a contract?
  • What is the next step that they need to take? If they are shopping around, for example, this could be the time where you send them a discount.

Sales should operate with the knowledge that everything that they do is to get the prospect to the next stage. When sales takes on an action with the client that doesn’t get customers to the next step, the energy will prove to be futile.

This same logic should be used when you have a client meeting. By remembering what you want your prospect to do at the end of the meeting, you should have a plan and execute that plan during the meeting. The end result is to have your prospect take the next step in their buying decision.

By remembering where the prospect is in their buying process will allow you to make the right decisions in enabling them to take the next steps before a purchase.


Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

The vast majority of start-up companies do not make millions of dollars overnight. It can take a bit of time to reach the ultimate profitability goals and margins. A website based off the eDirectory software is no different than a brand new start-up company, it can take time to see monetary results.

There are several things a new directory owner can do to help monetize and grow the site in the early stages of the directory. These include:

1) Have a strong marketing plan
2) Pre-populate your directory with information
3) Continue adding new content and information to your directory

Have a Strong Marketing Plan

Marketing a new product or company to people is not a simple task. It involves lots of planning on who the target market is and how you plan on reaching that target market. A lot of the times, once a target market is identified, to reach that market one must go back to the basics of marketing. Direct mail, door to door, cold calling are all parts of the marketing basics that can help you get your name, products and services out to the target market it which you which to sell to.

Pre-populate your Directory with Information

Having information in your directory before you begin marketing your new products can be an important factor in your early success. It can be difficult for a potential customer to purchase an item within your directory if they come to your directory and only see blank pages. Your directory needs to be populated with listings, events, articles, banners, etc. to help illustrate to potential customers that you have a populated website that could help bring them new business.

One way to help populate your website is by purchasing a database of listings through a 3rd party that relate to your business model. This allows you to, not only, populate your directory but it allows you to market to the businesses you purchased that are already in your target market through one of the basic market tactics.

Continue Adding New Content and Information to your Directory

It is important to keep adding new information and content to your directory. A good method of adding new content to your directory is through a forum or blog or by adding new articles for individuals to read. This new information will not only keep bringing visitors back to your site but it will also help with your SEO rankings, as search engines are constantly looking for new content on websites.

GeoDomains – Popularity is Increasing More Than Before

Owning a domain name that is geographically based is a hot commodity right now. This will be, especially true this year, with Google moving towards a localized search model. In other words, when someone places a search, Google will come back with local companies based on your keywords.

If you’re a savvy Marketer, you know that the value of a geo domain is based on what is built on it and how much revenue is coming from the site. You can use your geo domain for local business directories, advertising listings and sales in the same way that the print copy of yellow pages works.

There are many resources for you to learn more about the art of owning a high priced domain name. Elliotsblog is a great resource to learn more about what is going on in this industry. Elliot owns a portfolio of domain names and was honored with the Domainers Choice Award for his blog. Here you can keep on top of the latest news and get to know many of the players in the field.

Some of the things that I’ve been learning by reading what the experts have to say is that there are two types of GeoDomains:

· Pure GeoDomains (ex.,

· Geo Generic Domains (ex.,

While the pure GeoDomains are very expensive, the Geo Generics are more readily available. Should you have one, the development of these domains can vary.Many people prefer to create a guide with advertisements, business listings, coupons, event postings and content which appeals to the local audience. Others create a visitor guide which is aimed to tourists and business visitors. Another growing trend is that GeoDomains are being used as social networking sites to connect people in the local community.

Speak Easy

A well designed website can definitely grab the eye of a visitor and keep them navigating your site for some time; however, to keep a visitor on your site for a good length of time requires strong content.

There are several steps to take in order to keep the content on your site relevant and fresh:

1. Be diligent about content

2. Perform regular updates

3. Create your own unique content

Be Diligent About Content

To create a content-rich website, you need to keep a clear focus. In other words, be disciplined. Creating content for a site is not a simple thing to do; it takes days to weeks of research before you get to the planning and development of content for your site. One way to stay on track is to use your time management skills to develop a schedule for research, writing, editing, and deployment. Be sure to remember that the content on your site is ever changing, so what you write up during the initial phases of your site can be updated in the future.

Perform Regular Content Updates

Content on a website is not a fixed item. The content is always evolving and changing to meet the needs of your customers and the needs of your visitors. A returning visitor to your site is more likely to spend time on your site again if they are reading new information, new articles, etc. One way to keep new and fresh information on your site is by adding a blog or a forum. The blog / forum is constantly updated by those members using those tools and keeps the information fresh for both the visitor and Search Engine Spiders looking through your site.

Create Your Own Content

When using the eDirectory it is important to ensure you have fresh content within your directory. It can be discouraging for a visitor to come to your site looking to purchase a listing when they see an empty directory. Due to the fact that you are selling business listing options it is important to show examples of each business listing option, even if the listing information is false. This will show to visitors and potential visitors what exactly they will receive from their purchase. For example, it is beneficial to have a fully detailed Showcase business listing in the directory which includes photos, Google map, video, slide show, etc. This can provide a great illustration of what the potential purchaser will be getting for the money spent with you.

It’s Great to be Trendy

The head of Women in Technology , a 14 year old D.C. organization, invited me to speak about about Arca Solutions’ product and services.   The thing that really struck me once I got to the event was how hard the economic conditions have hit our area – a city which is usually resilient against tough times.  Many people there had lost their jobs from heavy hitters such as AT&T, Sprint-Nextel and Microsoft.

While the second speaker was in front of the audience, I quickly thought about how to add to my talk how there were 20% more jobs last year than there was in 2007 in the SEO industry.  I decided that the latter half of my talk should focus on having the ability to reinvent yourself  when the job market is weak.

I went in front of the audience and highlighted the fact that there are jobs out there that are recession-proof – specifically Search Engine Optimization.  For those with Web Design experience, learning how to optimize a site can open up their market.  Also, for the people with a Marketing background, they can enter a different field where they work with web developers to create the right content, links and tags in order to foster increased revenue.

I was surprised at how many people wanted to learn more and asked how to get in touch with me after the presentation.  One woman who had been thinking about migrating into the crowded Project Management field mentioned that this may be something else for her to think about.  The bad news is that 2009 is going to be a tough year; the good news could be that you come out on the other end of it with a brand new profession.

Large in the Margin

Websites designed for eCommerce use have their own unique look and feel which attracts a visitor to do one thing, and one thing only, on the site – purchase something. The individual whom is designing the website needs to consider several factors of online selling during the design process.

Below are a few principals an eCommerce website design should include:

1. Be sure to give the user a pleasant experience when visiting your site and doing online shopping

2. Be sure to provide sufficient contact information, so visitors can contact the site owner with questions or concerns.

3. Make sure the website is easy to use and navigate.

4. Provide many examples of the items that are for sale

The principals of a good eCommerce website design are not new to anyone. Our every day to day experiences shopping either on or off line are still required to follow the same basic principles, however, with online sales it can get a bit trickier because all contact is visual and not verbal.

Be sure to give the user a pleasant experience when visiting your site and doing online shopping

When designing a site be sure it simple for individuals to find the items they want and the checkout process is not overly lengthy. It is important to have all items easily navigated to by one to two clicks of the mouse and plenty of ‘order now’ and ‘checkout’ buttons in front of the user. When users have to click back and forth multiple times to checkout, it can be a frustrating experience.

Be sure to provide sufficient contact information, so visitors can contact the site owner with questions or concerns.

Unlike a regular store, when purchasing items through an online eCommerce platform, it can be difficult to talk to a representative if questions arise. Be sure to make your contact information readily available to anyone who visits your site, either with a dedicated ‘Contact Us’ page or simple contact us text. It is beneficial, but not necessary, to have a contact us form dedicated to contacting the site owner directly.

Make sure the website is easy to use and navigate.

Similar to giving your user a pleasant experience on your site, you need to create a site that is easy to use and navigate. A website can become overbearing when there is a lot of content on the site, tons of pictures, pop-ups, and rollover text. When visitors come to your site to purchase something, they want to see what they are purchasing, and may not be interested in all the other fluff (however cool it may be). One of the best methods to follow is the KISS method: Keep it Short and Simple


Provide many examples of the items that are for sale

It is important to provide users to your site live examples of the items in which they are purchasing. The more examples you can have on the site, the more informed of a decision the user will be making on what they are purchasing. This can help alleviate questions and issues in the future that it was not fully understood what was being purchased.

How Expensive Is Good Customer Service?

Ok, so I would like to relate a story that happened to me just this past week. But before I do, I would like to post a simple question. Be thinking about this question as you read this post (rant).

Q. How much is customer service worth to your organization?

This a true story: (company names changed to protect the innocent)

Today 2/3/09 I went to store #11814 to use a 2 for $5.00 (sourdough bacon-cheesburger) coupon that I had gotten in a flyer in the mail. I will say that the experience was one of the worst, most unproffesional experiences that is POSSIBLE at a fast food location. The worst part was the follow-up with your corporate center by contacting Consumer Relations department at 555-1212

So here is the story.
At 1:43pm (actually started at 1:36pm) my friend and I entered the store and started the process of ringing up a simple order for a sandwich and fries (nothing more). I presented the coupon to the attendant (manager called him Mohamed, but I did not read his tag), and asked for that with a Large Fry. The coupon was for two sourgough bacon cheeseburgers for $5.00. This is where everything went downhill.

The attendant tried to charge me $10.01 for the order (most expensive fries I would have had). I told him it was wrong, so then he voided my order and tried to get the managers attention. She was irratated that she had to help him. She gave him her manager pass to override anything that he wanted with no oversight at all (that cannot be right). Next he attempted to try again, and even with the managers key he could not figure it out. He again voided a transaction, and this engraged the manager who made the statement “You need to know what your doing, you keep voiding this and that…. Talk to your brother”. I felt bad for the person at the register and he clearly was hurt by this public degration.

So, now the manager comes over and makes an attempt to try and get the order to work. She fails, and starts muttering to herself (including explicit words). She continues to bash the person that started to take my order as she let our her frustration with the computer system. Both of them continued to blame the computers for having bad data, and such. This should not be any of my concern, or should you be telling me the consumer that your computers are untrustworthy and yet you still want my CC if that is how I am paying.

Let me remind you now, that we have had 3 people (mohamed, his brother and the manager) try and ring this order up. I have been holding the line up for over 5 minutes as I stood and watched this comedy show and just praying that my order comes out right.

Finally the manager figures out how to make a special order, and charges me $7.51 for the sandwich and fries (at this point I would have paid the $10.01 just to get out of the store). I pay cash, get my change and wait for food.

As this all going on, the client in front of my had STILL not gotten his food, as there were 3 people trying to ring up my order and he says something about it. The manager, tells the client “Sir, I know you do not have all day, but I am working on something over here” and proceeds to ignore the client for a short period, but finally gets him his food.

So, finally I get my food, and am out the door. I will not recount the ordeal my friend went thorugh behind me (repeat) as he had a coupon for two whopping burgers for $5.00.

So, fast forward 15 minutes when I am back at the office and start to eat my burgers only to found that I got two sourdough hamburgers (no cheese or bacon). So that was the last straw. I decided to call the consumer relations line and report the worst experience in my life at a Burger Place. This is where the story gets even more fun.

I ring the line, press option #3, then #1 (of course I have to hit a button to continue in english).   This nice (indifferent) lady gets on the phone and I explain the situation to her. She asks me if I would like to leave a name, and I do. She tells me she will email the district manager about the problem…. Thats it!

As you can see from my story not ONCE did anyone offer to make things right. Not once did they even ask what they can do to try and help keep me as a customer. Not once did anyone even care that this horrible experience happened, let alone shared by more then one person. I can say with ease that I am tossing out the remaining coupons and going to McBurger Place, Pigtail Girl Burgers or any other place that actually cares.

The biggest kicker is that I start to recall this story to my co-workers (the Burger Place is 6 blocks from our office) and one of my co-workers says thatshe will ONLY go there for Coffee now as they screw up the orders so much it is impossible for them to mess that up. That is such a telling statement I do not know what is.

As you can see from the post not only did they loose a client, but they lost 3 (me, my co-worker). So how expensive is that?

Lets run some simple math. If you assume the average cost of eating out at a fast food place is $6.00, and many people in the office world eat out 3X a week, that is $18.00 a per person per week or $54.00 a week in our little example (3 people). That is $216.00 a month, and $2592.00 a year for those three people.

This simple math is not taking into effect that each of those people will on a average tell 10 other people about the bad experience and those people will tell 3 others. So each person is equal really to 14 peoples says lost. That is $294.00 a week, $1176.00 a month and $14,112.00 per year per person in our equation ($42.336.00 a year for our three people in the office.) Lets not even take into effect the blog effect that happens everyday when things like this happen.

That is an EXPENSIVE mistake in my opinion.

So, we go back to the simple question that I asked earlier: How much is customer service worth to your organization? Would you be willing to give a single client $5.00 to make them happy (in our fast food scenario) or do as we saw and let them go (remember the math!).