Austin Distel

A piece by our Designer and Creative Director Rachel Cunliffe.

When things began shutting down across the country due to COVID, companies and organizations rushed to get their working remote and online operations in place.

What we loved about the whole process was people’s ingenuity.

Tupperware, which usually shows its product lines to women at home-based parties, moved them online.

To attend the online party, you were given a Facebook event invite by the party host, who got it from her rep. The online party featured live video demonstrations with questions from guests and interactive games through the Facebook event’s page.

While watching videos of the rep cooking wasn’t as much fun as attending a party with friends, food, and cocktails, we do applaud the company’s quick thinking.

Many women said they felt less pressured to buy, yet one rep said sales were bigger than in-person parties. Hosts said they didn’t have the stress of cleaning their homes and putting together the food. Win-win-win!

Along this line, we’ve seen lots of articles on many marketing websites with calls for companies to “move everything online!” or “update your dated technology,” etc.

However, it’s not always possible to do everything online, and people are growing fatigued from doing everything on their devices.

Small manufacturers like you need practical examples of how to move things online.

The following five examples are things we personally encountered. Not all are manufacturing related, but they are practical and easy-to-implement.

Example #1 — Make your forms glitch-free

Dianna refinanced her mortgage with a credit union. The entire process, except for closing, was conducted online because all branches were closed.

As part of the process, she had to set up an account with the credit union. That part went smoothly.

She was then instructed to add online banking to the account in order to transfer money.

Figure 1: Credit Union online banking form

No matter what she did, she kept receiving the “passwords don’t match” error message (Figure 1).

In frustration, she emailed the credit union contact; after waiting over 48 hours, she received an email from technical support with this instruction: “You need to click outside the box, then click inside the box. It’s a glitch.” 😮

DO: Double and triple check all of your forms!

Nothing is more frustrating than forms that don’t work. You can eliminate your customers’ frustration by checking all of your online forms.

  • Ads landing page forms
  • RFQ forms
  • Contact us forms
  • Login forms
  • Shopping cart forms
  • Application forms

Check them using your company VPN (if applicable) and without. Ask someone in your family to complete the forms. And, have someone within your company check as well.

Example #2 — Streamline your sales process

An online educational software company I’m working with has a “Contact us” button on its website for users to learn more about what the company offers to schools.

I asked the manager what happens when someone clicks on the button and then fills in the standard contact form.

The manager explained they email back and arrange a time for a call to talk through the person’s specific needs.

They also do a screen share walkthrough demo, which is customized to the prospect’s requirements.

I suggested changing the call-to-action button to “Get a demo” (but still keeping a standard Contact page for general inquiries).

This change would more quickly move the prospective clients to becoming a sale.

The manager agreed.

The “Get a demo now” button links directly to a Calendly call booking page; form questions ask the information needed for the salesperson to create the custom demo.

Now, more of their sales process is being done in one step, with less time and hassle for the prospective client.

Example #3 — Move paper processes online to save time for you and your customers

Our client, Appli-Tec, used to provide customers with paper copies of Safety Data Sheets (SDS). According to CEO Tim Walsh, the front office staff would often have to stop what they were doing to put together an SDS – a process that could sometimes take several hours.

When the company launched its new website in 2015, it moved the SDS process online. Now, customers simply type their adhesive product code into a very brief form.

The SDS backend database provides the correct document for printing or downloading.

The Appli-Tec team measures the number of SDS searches and downloads each month and has determined they’ve saved thousands of hours since implementing this process. They’ve also made their customers happy with instant “self-serve.”

Example #4 — Add FAQs to your website

While on a conference call recently about a website redesign project, Dianna and I were asked two questions: “How much will this cost?” and “How much time will it take?”

Once the call ended, I said to Dianna, “We hear those questions all the time. How come we don’t have them on the FAQ section?” We had them live within 24 hours (Figure 3).

Figure 3: FAQs we hear regularly about website redesign projects.

FAQs are very easy to create. Simply listen to the questions people ask, then create web pages around them. Some FAQs to consider:

  • Information needed to place a custom order or to set up credit
  • Questions about your products or services
  • Questions about your sales process or how you work
  • Answers to technical questions
  • If you offer e-commerce, questions about returns, shipping, etc.

FAQs save you and your customers and prospects time. The other advantage, especially with regard to technical information, is that FAQs get picked up by Google and help generate traffic and leads.

Example #5 — Don’t underestimate voice calls

The New York Times reported in April 2020 that Verizon was handling 800 million wireless calls a day during the week, more than double the calls on Mother’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year.

AT&T also reported a significant rise in voice traffic — 35 percent — with call length increasing 33 percent.

“We’re craving the human voice,” the Times quoted Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission. Read the full piece.

Our clients’ lead conversion data backs up the telecoms’ data, with more calls coming in as people work from home and have time to pursue projects.

We’ve also heard anecdotally that people are “Zoomed out.” Everyone from religious leaders to event organizers have created video conferencing events to help keep members / groups connected.

Multiple Zoom calls a day, whether for business or to family and friends, can become exhausting.

A significant proportion of people also hate chatbots, those ubiquitous pop-ups on websites that cheerily ask if they can help you.

To take advantage of this current voice call reality, we added this cheeky notice to the top of the Huff Industrial Marketing website — “Talk marketing with a human, not a chatbot 🤖.”

Bottom line — Make it simple to do business with you

While talking through this piece, Dianna mentioned she prefers dealing with people in person, and cited the credit union banking form. She had to wait over two days to get it resolved. Pre-COVID, she would have driven to the branch located in her town to get it resolved quickly.

My experience, however is a different take. The best way for me to get something accomplished with my bank is online, then phone, then in-person – because I have to drive 35 minutes to the nearest branch after making an appointment a few days in advance.

Instead of thinking about either/or, provide people with multiple ways to do business with you. Let them choose their preferred method. That way, everyone is happy.

Tom Fishburne of The Marketoonist created a cartoon showing how COVID has put a wrecking ball to business. We think some of the changes are good.

But, old ways of doing business, especially personal interactions, whether by phone or face-to-face, are still viable and necessary.

When deciding which processes to put online, and which to keep as is, first consider your customers, your own internal resources, and your business. Then, implement, test, and revise as needed.

Contributing Author: Dianna Huff