Originally I wanted to title this post, “When Sales and SEO Don’t Communicate” but realized it was more about an all too common marketing failure – not ensuring Searcher’s can accomplish what they came to the site to do. Many companies fail to grasp the fairly simple concept of connecting keyword phrases they want to rank for to why a searcher uses them in the first place. Even more importantly, task completion – when the searcher gets to the page, can they do what they expected they could?
In the article below it was fairly simple what I wanted to do but not asking that simple question, ensuring I could complete the task they lost a customer. How many customers are you loosing since you did not connect the dots?
My wife loves her point and shoot Panasonic camera. It is compact, super zoom and takes great pictures. Unfortunately, looking at our Cuba pictures she found dust had somehow gotten on the sensor and she had dark spots on all of her photos. I assume many would just buy a new camera and call it a day. Since I send in my pro-level camera every other year for cleaning and tuning I assumed that might be possible for hers. So I did what most would do – I did a Google search for “Panasonic Camera Repair” to see if there was a repair center near me. Here is what came up.
Skipping over the paid results, the Panasonic Support site comes up first so I go in and try to find where and the estimate to get it services on the Panasonic site and had a horrible experience, which will be my next article on how poor service can hurt an already damaged brand.
For the purpose of this article, lets focus on the 2nd organic listing for Precision Camera. A few things catch my attention, first, the exact match title in the search result and of course the exact match URL. The snippet is not great but I am sucked in by the title and that they are an authorized service center.
Going into the page, I see more SEO handiwork. Everything is about Panasonic camera repair, heading, images, multiple references in the page so the SEO has done a great job of actually over optimizing this page but it is ranking #2 after the brand so we will take it.
1. Exact Match URL
2. Exact Match H1
3. Branded images
4. Multiple references to the phrase in the body
Given all these signals I am clearly on a page that can help. Since they have repaired 4 million cameras – that is another good sign. So I start the process to make sure they can repair my model and maybe get some idea of the cost to do it. I click the pull down to select my make, which by now you know is Panasonic and it is not there.
Come on now…How can a page that ranks #2 in Google and be expertly tuned to Panasonic camera not have Panasonic on the pull down? This company too k the time, effort, and cost to create a page and optimize the page for a very specific make of camera yet did not list it on the page. One could argue that it should default to Panasonic so the user would just pick the model number but at the very least ensure you have it listed on the page you have optimized for it.
In most cases when I have encountered this type of disconnect it is due to the sales and marketing side not talking to the SEO. Most companies will give a list of words they want to rank for to and SEO or agency and not have any consideration for what people do when they get to the page. Unfortunately, many SEO’s will blindly do a great job of optimizing the page to meet the clients demands but themselves not connect the dots.
This goes back to the currently popular discussion on Searcher Intent which is a whole other rant in itself. But what did you expect a person searching for “Panasonic Camera Repair” to do once they got to the page? Did anyone check to see that they could actually do it? Do you even support the brand?
Ok, so there is the option to choose “My make is not listed” and since mine is not listed, I clicked it. It pulls up a form. The form is the standard contact us form form and does not even ask me my model and some things that are not relevant.
Company – why is my company necessary? Do you get a lot of company requests?
Serial number – maybe you can find the make/model from the serial number but would it not be easier to just ask me the make and model of the camera and the serial number to idiot proof it?
The comments – maybe suggest I tell you what is wrong with the camera?
I would be curious how many people just backed out of the page never communicating with them? There is at least one, me, as it was not worth the effort to try and contact them. They are using Google Analytics so a simple test would be how many people clicked the missing model and yes, if I find a pattern for a model I might add it to the pull down.
So I wondered… what happens if choose Canon and then a model on the list? I get a quote form telling me they they will apparently do something to my camera for $130.95. Of course I have questions with this page. I did check and they rank #4 for “Canon Camera Repair” so that is great but we have the new experience detailed below.
What do I get for this service? I could not find anything on the site, even in the FAQ area that indicates what will be done to my camera for $130. No where on the site did it tell me what is to be done. There is a link to the service estimation tool but that is the page I selected for the camera make and model. So, is the $130 the estimate to do the estimate?
My favorite is the promo code box so of course, I searched for a promo code.
What I found was a bunch of promos for a similar named retail camera store in Austin Texas and one listing for this Precision Camera.
Since I knew the domain I clicked on the correct site and this opened up another basket of goodies.
The latest code is from 2008
The text says to enter the promo code but there is not one to add
The offer is for inbound shipping only – do you discount the offer based on what the postage on my box has? What if I send overnight?
While supplies last… yes you might run out of budget for free shipping rebates
As I tell people, if you use the box then you should have a code. Either remove the box from the form when you don’t have them or have a page like those mentioned in the article above. You can also use it to capture social media follow/likes or an email address by offering some incentive to give your contact info.
In the end, not being able to get service easily, and seeing that most service centers charge $150 to clean a sensor, I found a YouTube video that walked me through the process. It was relatively painless process showing step by step how to take the camera apart and cleaning the sensor which I did in about 30 minutes.
I apologize for outing this company for these missteps but if it helps them or another company to make these changes that is great. This was more a stream of conscious article than one well researches. For the haters, this will clearly be a “do as I say not as I do” article as I assume that some will go to my sites and rip them up. I welcome that as I already have a list of 217 items I need to change and if you can find more they will be added to the list. As I am sure with most sites, I am focused on client deliverables and don’t have time to get to them.
So what should this experience have been like – I was expecting something like Canon’s support process. They are ranking #1 for Canon Camera Repair with a couple of site link and I click the one for “Repair Request.” The form starts out telling me to type my Model – to be fair, this is Canon, and they only service Canon.
This then brings up a page that lets me choose what I want done to the camera. If I don’t know I choose the first repair option. Since it could be many things they need to see the camera to determine the problem and then give me a quite. The other two options are a sensor cleaning, which is what I needed for Motoko’s camera or to get a full cleaning and tune up. This is what I typically have them do. I don’t have to guess what is going to be done. I don’t have to pay $130 to just have the sensor checked if there is a one price fits most option. This allows the searcher to be informed and make the decision that is best for them. I would suspect the effort to box the camera and send it it might as well go with the full service since they have it.
Again, if you simply think about why the searcher did the query, when they come to the page what do THEY want to do and what do you want them to do next you can move people through a more informed process and increase conversions. Just to fully disclose, I don’t work with Canon or Precision Camera and had no reason to write this other than to help business do a better job of leveraging their high ranking pages. I have a Canon Camera and have used their repair service for a couple of cameras in the past and it was totally painless and am a total Canon fan boy.
–Edit– Damn… people are quick…. I just had someone ping me mention that Rand Fiskin had recently introduced this ground breaking concept as a critical ranking factor on last weeks White Board Friday . I love that post and it helps solidify that this is a problem that needs to be solved. And no, I did not rip off Rand, Mike Moran and I actually dedicated nearly a whole chapter to this topic in all three editions of Search Engine Marketing Inc. The first edition went to print in 2004 and Chapter 4 goes into great detail about how searcher’s search, Searcher Intent and specifically Searcher Task Completion – how to move them to conversion based on the query, query intent, and phase of the buy cycle. In the current Edition of Search Engine Marketing Inc, in Chapter 2 we go deeper into this process but also introduce location and device into the equation as they also have significant impact on the completion.
In the past year I have noticed I am less likely to be loyal to a brand and I find that they really don’t care. Maybe they are jumping on the “How Brands Grow” bandwagon and going after new customers rather than trying to maintain those they all ready have.
Some of the brands I have defected I have used without question for 20, 30 and a couple cases, 50 years. What I find interesting is that every marketing book I have read preaches “lifetime value” and we must keep our most loyal customers. However, more and more it seems brands are giving up on the most loyal and spending lots of money chasing new customers. In every case when someone uses one of my tools and does not sign up or cancels I ask them why they did. Most of the time they don’t need it for on ongoing project or it did not meet heir needs in some way. That is great feedback especially if there are any patterns of why they left. I find that more and more, especially high ticket items don’t follow up and is it they actually don’t care?
State Farm Insurance
The first big defection was State Farm insurance. They were my parent’s home and car insurance company and when I came back to the US from Japan and bought a car I went to their agent have never even shopped around for another company in over 20 years. While I have changed agents due to various relocations, I always kept State Farm manly because if I had a problem they took care of it. I never had a problem with a claim or getting service. I also felt the price was fair as we got a bunch of multi-product and loyalty discounts. I had a variety of problems with them last year and a few things came down to simple account frustration and billing issues. This is a case where the customer service person at the local agent really did not care. I had previously escalated issues to the main agent, they were fixed for a wile then back to problems – all because of the junior people who really did not see to care. When I shopped around the Liberty Mutual agent got back to me immediately, gave me a great price, bundled everything, rather than making me pay everything up front set up auto pay to deduct from the various bank accounts all things that helped me.
To date the agent, nor State Farm have called me to ask why I left. A nearly 30 year relationship with a house, rental properties and multiple cars all gone and no one seems to care that I was gone.
Credit Card Companies
When Motoko and I sat down one day and looked at what we had between ourselves and the various business we felt we had to many cards and wanted to consolidate them to get the best deals, benefits and of course miles. In the end we settled on a just a couple of cards, the Starwood American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve case which offered the same benefits, except the lounge as my Platinum American Express.
I waited until last to cancel my Platinum American Express. This was the card that had special meaning to me. Growing up poor, and in a family that did not believe in credit, this was the card I wanted after seeing a TV show where a person bought a car using their Amex. The unfortunate part was, once I had the money to get an Amex and the credit limit to buy a car with it, I found out that you cannot do it. Sure, Amex will allow it but the car dealers did not want to pay the Amex fee… but I digress.
When I called American Express after 20 years of having the card they did try to talk me out of it but offered no real reason to stay other than the benefits of the card that I replaced with the Chase Sapphire card. They did remind me that there would be giving me $15 credit for Uber each month and raising the monthly fee by $150. The sad thing is since I cancelled my card I have received 50+ mailings and I get stalked on social media to sign up for the card that I had. They had me and any effort most likely could have kept me but now will spend a fortune to try to get me back.
My United card which is have had for over 25 years and spent at least $200k a year in business expenses was not a great deal. The only real benefit was I bought United tickets I got 2 for 1points and as much as I fly the was a good deal but otherwise no benefits at all and a $97 charge for the card. When I called them they did try to get me to convert to another card that was 3x the annual fee with a benefit I already had with my Club Membership, which I get $200 savings from my “airlines fee” rebate from Chase. They did offer to waive the annual fee for a year to stay – I guess if I kept a balance instead of paying it off I would have been more valuable to them.
Along the same line, I had been a Hilton Diamond loyalty member for a number of years due to many conferences and clients that have deals with Hilton. Due to poor treatment and crappy hotels I did a status match with Hyatt and shifted as many nights as I could to Starwood to also keep my Platinum there. For Diamond you need to stay 60 nights and with an average of $200 per night that was easy $12k worth of loyalty. BTW, that is 10 more nights than Starwood requires. I just stopped staying with them and no email why or letter or anything. Companies spend so much money to acquire a new customer only to just let them go later. Any sort of contact from them asking why I have not been staying with them might have brought me back.
Shifting loyalties for consumer goods happens all of the time and there is not much they can do about it as they are not really tracking your direct use of the product so I don’t expect any outreach from them. The following are just to illustrate how a single influencer or new product can shift someones loyalties away from your products. But it also shows a great element of why a product needs to work and be rock solid to the users. While I know that Crest is not the sole reason I have no cavities I did believe in the product enough to need need to look at anything else. This is where the concepts of “How Brands Grow” apply that you always need to be churning for new opportunities.
Jif Peanut Butter – I have ONLY ever bought Jif peanut butter except for my time in Japan when “peanut cream” was the only option. Jif is what my mother bought, as she was a “choosy mother” and “choosy mothers choose Jif.” About a year ago, my wife, wanted a more natural product, bought Skippy’s new Natural Peanut butter. While I did protest a bit more than a grown adult should, I did try it and it was pretty good, all natural and bigger peanut chunks than Jif so we converted. In this case there was nothing Jif could do, I am sure they did not miss me when I converted it was for a new superior product. I do have to note, that I am back to Jif since they now have an “all natural” product but it is not in all stores so we tend to stock up when we find it. Yes, unfortunately, the peanut chunks are still smaller.
The biggest brand change for me was to move away from Crest Toothpaste – I have been a “Crest Kid” my entire life. I have never had a single cavity, even as a kind, which is more genetics than toothpaste, but I felt no need to change. Motoko and I often used different toothpaste since I refused to change. Our dentist gave us the “your old speech” and suggested we consider preserving our enamel. He suggested we switch to Sensodyne as an alternative to Crest since it had the protection he thought we needed. Since I did not find a similar product from Crest – currently every product is about whitening – and yes, the new Sensodyne even has a whitening version – I had to move away from Crest. Apparently Crest are not talking to Dentists who seem to be recommending this to people over 50. So in one recommendation from a trusted source, and no alternative from the incumbent, 52 years of brand loyalty are gone in an instant.
I guess in the end, as a Marketer that models Lifetime Value and creates strategies to target specific types of high value customers it seems odd to me that many companies are not doing anything at all to keep loyal customers. I am also finding it can be expensive to be loyal which will be my next rant.
On a recent dive trip to the Philippines I saw two different situations where service companies had upset and lost some of their best customers over something that could have been prevented by a bit of attention to detail. Too often companies do not understand the value of these low margin, loss leader tasks on their reputation and in the case of SCUBA diving, their potential liability. I see this problem everywhere from minimum wage check out staff, call centers and front line technicians that just slog away day to day not thinking about how their actions have a direct impact to the bottom line of the business.
Doing what is expected and Requested by Customers
The first problem was the quality of SCUBA gear maintenance. Most dive shops offer it to get people back into the store and hope they upgrade their gear, take a new course or sign up for a trip. Like filling tanks, one of the few things related to diving you cannot buy online. Since they don’t make much on the annual maintenance most treat it that way. Let me set up the situation from this trip in the Philippines. There were 25 divers that went with Backscatter to Anilo Philippines for a 10 day macro photo course. The trip is expensive so you can assume these customers have a bit of money. All had relatively new and higher end gear and since they use it a lot all take good care of it. On this trip we had at least 8 divers that had some sort of gear problem that is directly related to poor repair service by their local dive shop.
All regulator manufactures require you to service your breathing device annually. It is either a full rebuild of all moving parts and o-rings which is done every other year or a visual where they check everything out for defects and wear and if all looks good you are good for another year. The nice things is if you keep the maintenance current, the parts for the rebuild are free. This is a very small price to pay by the manufacture to minimize lawsuits from dive injuries from malfunctioning equipment. Unfortunately, since it is a low margin service, many dive shops relegate this to “support staff” who do this sort of work for discounted dive gear or free air or as part of the duties of the shop’s sales staff. It is not complicated work but does require attention to detail and time for the online certification course.
Lets start with my problem first, mine and Motoko’s gear was due for just for an inspection but since we were going on a long trip with an estimated 40 dives I asked for ours to be rebuilt and I would pay for the parts. When I picked up my gear a few days before the trip, I learned they did a visual inspection only. Since every thing looked good the tech felt there was no need to do a rebuild – not what I asked and was willing to pay for. I can accept that since it looked good but my concern was with our wireless air transmitters that send data to our wrist computers. These batteries are supposed to be replaced annually. The dive shop clerk did not have an explanation as to why it was not replaced. Since opening it requires a certified tech to keep the warranty, they were not able to change the batteries before we left on the trip. Also, they require a specific battery that is not readily available which is why I was looking for the parts bag in the first place. The previous year I had two transmitters fail during a dive and when checked the batteries upon return we learned the dive shop had used some cheap batteries from China they had bought online to save a few dollars.
There are 2 distinct problems in my case. First they did not do what the customer asked and was willing to pay for. Specific notes were added to the ticket to tell them to do a full overhaul. Second, the required service was not done. Had I not specifically checked I would not have known they did not replace the batteries. They had the gear for 45 days so should not have been a rush job. I have had two previous issues with techs doing a bad job including where they forgot to tighten the yolk value after repair and it flooded and another leaded transmitter when they had not tightened it correctly. In both cases the dive center covered the repairs but both caused me problems when I was out diving. There are not many dives shops near us so we are running out of alternatives.
The other 7 divers, 2 of them on our boat, had similar problems. They paid for the full service but did not happen. One diver had a serious leak on the first dive were her computer attached to the high pressure hose that had a serious leak. She came to the surface and found that they had not put the o-ring back on where it connects to the hose. She would miss out on that dive and we had to go back to the resort to get her another regulator. The second person had a problem on dive 2 when her high pressure hose had a rapid stream of bubbles coming from it. Back on the boat after the dive, she found that her hose was worn. That is one of the items that is supposed to be checked during the inspection. First to make sure the hose is not on a recall list and second for any sort of damage or excessive wear. A blown high pressure hose is not only a problem since that takes away your air supply it can also cause great injury as it is a higher pressure hose that is bouncing around your head violently until the air run out or is turned off.
The point of the story is that every one of these cases the diver did their part and took their gear in to get serviced before this important trip. They expected the professional to do their job and since they did not this resulted in undue stress and frustration and in all cases the divers indicated they would change dive shops. We have moved onto another dive shop to give them a try to see if their are any better. Checking with a few of the divers after the trip they have all changed costing that shop both revenue and most importantly, a hit to their reputation. Again these are people with money and at a time where more gear and travel is bought online, local dive shops need to excel at the small things that actually force people into their stores. Even if you relegate this to junior person or volunteer the owner must ensure that things are done correctly and that customers are satisfied. I had suggested that when people tell you they are going on a big trip contact them after and see how it went. If they had a problem with gear that is a potential to try and resolve it or maybe sell them something more specialized. I had been going to my local dive shop for 12 years and every few years replacing at least 2 if not 4 sets of gear so lets see if they miss me this year.
Expectations of High Value Advice and Service
This was the second set of problems people experienced on the trip. To be fair, no one can know all the bits that go into a custom camera package but when people are paying as much as a low end car for a camera set up they are expecting a certain level of experience and service. During the trip there were a few cases, myself included, where we bought a package of some sort and had problems. In my case they handled it great but did require a bit of effort that was more than necessary on my part.
Anilao is one of the ultimate places for underwater macro photography. The suggestion was to bring a extension diopter to help magnify some of the smaller critters. Now I did research between 3 or 4 different online stores but quickly realized there were too many moving parts and needed help. Trying to piece the adapter, a converter due to the housing mount being a different diameter and something to allow me to move the diopter out of the way when not using it was to time consuming so I called my favorite store Backscatter. They suggested a specific combination and strongly recommended one diopter over the other especially for this trip. Other review sites I read suggested the same product. They sent me everything a few days before departing and since I was testing everything I tried to assemble this set up as well. No matter what I tried the diopter would not fit the flip mount that they suggested for my camera. I spent a good amount of time trying to get it to fit – frontwards, backwards, even almost disassembling it thinking the mount was put together backwards in the factory. I sent a note to support and they replied to tell me they they had the same outcome when trying to replicate it on a similar set up – does not fit. They indicated this diopter was new and they had not tested it on this specific mount. They dropped the next best one in the mail overnight and I got it and all worked well. Would have sucked if I had blind trust and waited until I got to the Philippines to put it together as others on the trip did.
I had a similar problem with a prior wide angle/video trip. I called the sales team and told then what I wanted. They suggested a very specific package. I paid for it and it arrived and went on the trip assuming that I had all I needed. After the first day of diving all of my photos had a bright spot from the internal flash reflecting off the dome. One of the other divers heard me and told me I needed to block the internal flash from getting into the dome. He was surprised they had not sent a small felt ring that goes around the lens between the housing and camera to block the flash reflection. I made one out of cardboard for the next day and set an email to the sales team. They responded with yes, we sell that item for $10 but most people don’t want to pay $10 for a piece of felt. Again, why not at least suggest that I get it to solve a well known problem? Or better yet, why not add it as part of the package for that expensive dome/lens would have been better experience or at least add as an item on the invoice to trigger a conversation.
Some of the other divers did not fair well. They were missing whole components like sync cords to talk to strobes. IN every case the people felt that it should have been in the package or at least notified that they needed to make the set work. I am not a fan of nickel and dimeing people. In the end you pay the same price so why not just include it or at least list the additional items necessary. Seriously, if you are paying $15k for a new camera package the sync cords or fancy carry handle should be part of the package or at least a line item the user can tell you to remove.
In this case the photo pro that came to the event from this shop had a couple or cords knowing they fail.
There were other photographers that could not use their new camera rig since they were missing a key part that was simple to include or at least ensure they bought. They specifically told the sales person they were going on this long trip so a bit of extra attention should have been provided to make sure they had all of the items they needed to make their expensive toy usable. Imagine flying around the world to use your new expensive underwater camera only to find out that you were missing the gear to focus the lens, or the cords to fire your strobes or in one case the battery for the camera itself. Yes, that one was a user fault since it is on the checklist but a simple question by sales, do you have the battery for the brand new camera you are buying from us would have gone a long way.
So ask yourself, how much business am I loosing from poor performance on low margin services. In the end it is your responsibility to ensure that your front line teams are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. And remember it is had to expect owner level knowledge and passion from a minimum wage employee that has nothing to loose from providing poor service your clients. Ensure they are motivated, trained and passionate. Also ensure that the best of your clients are happy and getting the service they are willing and most importantly able to pay for.
In the past two days I have experienced the greed of hotels that are tying to exploit business travelers for events.
Last night a friend of mine was In NYC from India and he had a rate of over $400 a night for the same hotel I was staying at a rate of $199. I booked mine at the last minute the day before. When I checked to get him the rate it had jumped to over $500. That one is not too bad since there were two big events in town and I must have lucked upon a great rate.
Today however, I attempted to change my hotel for DMA in Chicago. I wanted to add an extra day since I am coming in a day earlier to participate in the Guru sessions. My original rate was $208 per night but when I added the extra day the day rate went from a reasonable $208 per night to an insane $1,299 per night for an Aloft hotel which is one of the budget line of Starwood.
There must clearly be some sort of data problem. I immediately cancelled the whole stay and booked at the Westin for slightly more than the original rate. But what if I were willing to pay that jacked up rate? Well clearly would not stay at the Aloft… for the price of the closet style room I could actually get a suite at the Four Seasons for about the same rate as the budget – would be a no brainer where I would stay.
These are the frustrating things that cost companies a lot of business.
Cleaning our my screen captures I found this grab that was good for a rant. Nearly 2 years ago I converted my Business Week subscription from print to digital for my iPad. Appearntly the non-digital side of Business Week was not aware of my transition.
In a single day I receivied 3 offers from them for the print version of the magazine.
Offer 1 – 26 Issues for $20
Offer 2 – 50 Issues for me and a gift 50 issues for $30.00
Offer 3 – 50 issues for $75.00
In all 3 offers in the codes at the top it had the expiration of my print subscription so they knew I was a previous subscriber. I assume they did not mine the database to know that I converted that account to digital – these were clearly to get me to come back to print.
The real part of my rant is getting these 3 offers on the same day. This is just silly. Typically I just throw them in the trash but I was curious. Looking at the 3 offers more closely. Had I received them on different days I would not be able to compare and if any of them seemed like a value I might have bought.
Clearly offer 3 is out since it is the most expensive of the three.
Offer 2 seems to be the best “deal” since it is 2x the issues of offer 1 and I get to make someone else happy by sending them 50 isses.
Unfortunatly most people I know all read it digitially so no one to give them to.
Offer 1 is not bad but not as good as #2.
I just thought in the age of big data and rising mailing costs that a a company like Business Week would be smarter about these offers. Stagger the days etc. The worst offender is American Express. I often get 10 of the same offers in the mail for my various jobs and companies over the years. A simple check of the company would show half of them are not active nor am I associated with them. Again, big data can help sort all of this out.
I recently traded in my tree hugger Prius for a Mini Cooper CountryMan which I love. I really liked my Prius but got tired or not being able to quickly pull out from a cold stop and wanted something a little more upscale. Anyways… since buying the car two months ago I have received 12 different surveys. The first one I did since it was from Mini Cooper. I had an amazing experience buying it from my dealer and have been very happy with the car. Maybe that was my first mistake – actually taking the survey.
Over this past weekend I received 4 more different survey packets in the mail all wanting to know about my new car buying experience, the features and one I would almost interpret as a “why did you not buy American” since that was the sort of questions. I just threw all of them in the recycle bin. I have never had this many requests for information after buying a car.
Nothing more specific other than they were all very long and none of then gave me any real incentive to complete them. All would enter me in some sweepstakes to win $50 or potentially an iPad.
Digital Marketing commentary from a global marketing road warrior.