Monthly Archives: September 2005

Test, test and test again…

Whatever type of online business you are running, one of the most vital things to remember is that you should test everything!

The beauty of the Internet is that you can test countless different ways of running your business without it costing you a small fortune (or indeed, anything at all).  This is a huge advantage over traditional ‘offline’ businesses and something that should be taken advantage of.  Think about it, let’s say you have an offline business and you want to take an advertisement in a local newspaper.  Once you have agreed the layout and text of the advert with the publisher, that’s it – you can’t change it once the newspaper has been printed if you don’t get the results you were hoping for.

In complete contrast, with an Internet business, you can change your sales page and online advertising at any time which means you can ‘tweak’ every little detail to ensure that you are making maximum sales and getting the very best value for money from your advertising.

In general, when making changes to any website/sales page/advert etc, it is best to make only minor alterations rather than a major overhaul.  The reason for this is that if you change everything on a page and it affects your sales, you won’t know EXACTLY what made the difference.  If you make one or two small changes at a time, you can see precisely which one made the difference to what your visitors/customers do when they get to your site.  Remember, even tiny changes can make a huge difference – seriously – just something as simple as changing a headline can increase or decrease sales significantly.

Having said that, from time to time, I do think it is a good idea to give any website or sales page a major transformation, just to see what happens. I have numerous sales pages and sites that haven’t been altered for years yet still produce sales everyday.  Though, in fairness, there is no reason why they shouldn’t since most visitors to the pages in question aren’t aware that they haven’t been changed for so long and as long as the product is up to date and of high quality it really shouldn’t matter.

With this in mind, I have recently set about re-writing some of my sales pages and if you have some pages that you haven’t touched for a while, you might want to consider doing the same thing.  One of the main things that occurred to me when I started re-writing my sales copy was that my own ability and experience has grown vastly since I first wrote the copy in question and like anything, the more you do something, the better you get at it.  I am sure that this is the same for many of my subscribers – they have a sales page that was written when they first started working online and it works – it makes sales BUT the person in question now has a lot more experience than they had when they first wrote the page and is therefore capable of doing the same job a lot better…

To give you some idea of the impact that re-writing a sales page or re-designing a website can have, I have noticed that some of my ‘new’ pages are generating 25% more sales than the old ones!!  This isn’t the case with all of the new pages and it is likely that I will revert back to the old pages in some cases but as I said at the start of this article, it is all about testing.

Even if it takes you a day to write some new sales copy, isn’t it worth taking the time to give it a go?  That one day of work could increase your income by 25% or more for the next year (or even longer)!

At the end of the day, even if you don’t want to completely change your website or sales pages (this also applies to your eBay auction sales pages etc), then I can’t stress strongly enough the point that you should be making regular minor changes to try and improve your sales ratio. 

Remember, it only takes a few minutes to make a small change to your site and it won’t cost you anything.  This is a luxury that offline businesses are not usually afforded so you really should ensure that you take maximum advantage of this ‘edge’.

More about customer support automation and killing spam…

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I had set up a Customer Support Helpdesk in an attempt to automate the handling of at least some of the emails that I receive from my customers.

Anyway, I have been monitoring the effectiveness of the helpdesk and although I knew it would make a big difference I have been absolutely amazed at how well this new system has worked.  So much so that I can’t stress strongly enough that if you have an online business and receive emails from your customers, I am now almost 100% certain that a similar helpdesk will save you a huge amount of time (and give your customers a much better service too).

Over the past few weeks I have gradually linked all of my websites to the helpdesk and I immediately noticed a drop off in the number of emails I was receiving.  The main reason for this is that the helpdesk incorporates a knowledgebase which has the answers to the most commonly asked questions so customers can find the answer to their query without the need to contact me.  Better for me, better for the customer. 

Let me share some numbers with you:

Before launching the helpdesk, I was receiving, on average, 20 customer support emails per day.  Not a huge amount but probably an hours work to answer them all.  Therefore, in a normal week I would answer in the region of 140 support emails – maybe 7 hours work – basically a full working day.

During the past month, I have received an average of just 9 customer support emails PER WEEK!!!  Barely more than 1 email per day!  It also means that the customers that would have sent me the other 130 emails have received an answer to their question instantly rather than having to wait for me to reply to them.  A great result all round.

Just to take the above figures a little further, if we assume that it takes one hour to answer 20 emails, then by cutting out 130 emails a week, I have saved myself around 6.5 hours of work a week.  Over a year that works out to 338 hours.  If an average working day has 8 hours, then this number of hours equates to 42 working days!!

Bottom line – installing the helpdesk may have just given me nearly a month and a half of extra time each year.

So with the above result under my belt I am now going to tackle one of the biggest timewasters on the Internet – spam/junk mail.  Even though my helpdesk has cut out the vast majority of support emails, I am still getting around 1000 junk emails everyday.  Despite the fact that I have filters in place to delete most of these emails, many still get through and even if I only spend 10 minutes a day deleting them, it is still a wasted ten minutes.

I have given a huge amount of thought as to how best to tackle the spam problem and whilst it would be easy to just ‘turn off’ my main email addresses and rely solely on the helpdesk, I know that many customers still use these addresses for contact and as such this is not an ideal solution.

Therefore I have decided to use a service called Spam Arrest to tackle my spam problem once and for all.

Spam Arrest works by automatically replying to all emails that are sent to you with a request that the sender visit a web page and type a word into a box on that page.  Once the sender has completed this task, their email is forwarded to you and their email address is added to an ‘accepted sender’ list so that they don’t have to complete this task again – all future emails will be directed straight to you.  Obviously a spammer or junk emailer is not going to go through the above process and therefore these emails are not forwarded to you so you don’t ever have to see them (although you can review them if you wish to ensure that nothing important has been overlooked).

I will be implementing Spam Arrest across my various email addresses over the next week or so and I am confident that my 1000 daily junk emails will be reduced to 0 overnight.