It’s Wednesday morning, 10:06 a.m. My husband and I are lost on the way to our first trapeze lesson. The address we’re aiming for has suddenly shifted, as I’ve entered the wrong one into the magical mappy app on my iPhone. We walk a block back to where we’ve parked the car, now quite late and reprogram our destination. We miss the destination twice.
That can’t be it, right? Let’s circle around and check again, see if we aren’t doing something wrong.
Nope. That’s it.
“That place looks like it didn’t have air conditioning,” Matt says.
“That place looks like it didn’t have FLOORS,” I retort.
We hightailed it out of there and didn’t look back, stunned that anyone had ever actually completed a trapeze lesson with this company. The company’s website is well-organized and lovely. There was no indication that we would be directed to a death trap for our lesson.
When people hire you, they are taking a leap of faith.
The leap of faith is usually not quite so literal as leaping from a trapeze platform, but it’s there nonetheless.
Faith that you’ll deliver, that you’ll do what you say you’re going to do, and that you’ll both end up satisfied by the experience. Falling down pieces and “No trespassing” signs make it much harder for your clients to leap. The red flags probably aren’t quite so obvious as a crooked house manned by a swarm of angry raccoons, but they’ll still keep people from hiring you.
Let’s make absolutely sure your virtual business presence is free of eyesores and red flags that have slipped under your entrepreneurial radar.
Red flag #1: unclear directions.
Unclear directions make it difficult to give money to your business or know the next steps to take toward working together. If hiring you is not easy or obvious, and a client doesn’t know exactly what to expect when she calls or e-mails you, she’s much less likely to do it. People like to know what’s going to happen next, and they’d prefer that it not be entering a falling-down building without floorboards.
Add a ‘process’ or ‘what to expect’ page to your website to let clients know exactly what they can expect from your time together. If you’re feeling tricky, make sure they’ll absolutely read it by putting this information on your pricing page — before the numbers.
Red flag #2: harshing the casual browser’s mellow.
Policies, rules, and HARSH WORDS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS — even in tiny print — are the internet equivalent of posting a “No Trespassing” sign. They’re huge turnoffs, particularly for casual browsers who are looking to find out more about you. Don’t get me wrong — policies and rules are great to have — but they deserve to be conveyed verbally and in writing with paying clients, not people who are hearing of your business for the first time.
Remove harsh words, policies, and other rules in the name of laying out a virtual Welcome mat. Save the policy reviews and rules for paying clients.
Red flag #3: abandoned bits.
An abandoned blog is much like an abandoned house. It’s just sitting there, static, when it’s supposed to be moving and lively with regular content. If you truly have no desire to blog or can’t seem to keep up with it, delete your blog. This is the internet equivalent of tearing down the neighborhood eyesore and investing in grass seed for the next iteration of building on that lot.
The other option for your abandoned blog? Spruce it up. Add some virtual flower pots and a fresh coat of paint via regular attention and weekly posts. (Yep, weekly. You can do it!)
Red flag #4: hoping your client won’t notice _______.
Acknowledge the wibbly bits of your business in writing or on the phone before clients encounter them. If the trapeze company had shown us images of the inside of the trapeze house, making it clear that we would not be sacrificing safety or falling to our death, perhaps we could have found the courage to enter the building and take our lesson. If you know something is unpleasant, let clients know up front!
For example: wedding albums take at least 4 weeks to arrive, even though I know you’d rather have your new treasure at your doorstep in a day or two. (Friendly and loving, but setting expectations, yes?)
Another example: your credit card payment will show up as AWESOME*POSSUM, not Rudy Dee Photography. I made a bad business name choice when incorporating my company. (Funny, and doesn’t result in returned credit card transactions, yes?)
If you’ve been inadvertently driving clients away with one or more of these red flags, go ahead and schedule an hour to take the first steps toward righting your flagging wrongs.
In the comments, tell me about any red flags I’m missing — bonus points for personal tales! — and as always, if you heart this post, please share it on the Facebooks.