Solution Ram Rod

Today I want to share with you something that happened recently, that quite frankly has left me angered. It is a practice that my team coined the “Solution Ram Rod”. It is the practice many underhanded technology companies use when they want to sell their client on a specific solution, regardless of the viability for their needs.

To give you some background, last week I was contacted by a technology company, asking if I was available to help them with a short term eCommerce project. As you know, we often do work for other technology companies, so I set up a call to discuss their needs. They have a client here in Delaware that is looking at eCommerce solutions, and retained the services of this group to help them complete their business analysis, prepare solution reviews, make a solid recommendation based upon their needs, and help with the implementation.

Since my company has worked with numerous eCommerce solutions, this was a project that was right up our alley. After a lengthy discussion, they asked if they could schedule a call with their “evaluator” to make sure this would be a good fit for the project. So, later on that day, this lady calls me from India to conduct her “evaluation”. Well, after 10 minutes on the phone with her, and all of the questions she was asking with regards to Magento Enterprise, I stopped her and asked if she was going to discuss other solutions. Her response was “I understand there are other solutions, though we want to recommend Magento Enterprise for this client, and want to make sure you know enough about the platform to make it stand out.”

I was stunned. Here is a company with a new client that has not conducted business on the internet before, and they want to recommend a solution that will cost the client a minimum of $15,550 in licensing fees right out of the gate.

I got off the phone with her, immediately called the project manager, and asked him if he could disclose some information, just to make sure we were on the same page. He said it depended on the questions, so I told him the primary one was “How many products does the client have?” He said “I believe a few hundred, though we haven’t gotten that far in the analysis.” So next came the obvious question: “Then why are you pushing Magento Enterprise?” His response was “They have both client and business facing needs, and Magento is what our people know.” At this point I was a little dumbfounded, so I asked the question that stood out in my head “If you have a staff that knows the system, why do you need me?”

Readers, the answer he gave me is one that drove home what I have preached about with regards to working with a company half a world away. He said “To be blunt, they are hesitant to work with an India based company, so we wanted a local American face there to work with them, and set their mind at ease about buying the solution we want to offer them.”

I said thanks for the info and hung up. The realization burning in my mind that all they cared about was selling the client exactly what they wanted to sell them at any cost, and in the process take more jobs away from Americans. It made me sick thinking about it.

If your company is getting ready to become a victim of these type of ram rod practices, stop before it is to late. I have seen way to many companies get sucked into this type of situation, and in the end it winds up costing them more than they ever imagined or budgeted for.

If you need help making a decision on a solution that is right for your business, we here at Delaware 302 can help. We will offer you honest unbiased advice, and help you choose the right solution that will not only fit your needs now, but one that can grow with your business.

Let’s build the future together.

 

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When Free Doesn’t Mean Free

Today I wanted to relay a story to you of a recent interaction I had with the owner of a young and growing business. He asked me to come in and do a discovery session with him, to find out how he could better utilize social media for his business, and to look at his site to see how it could be optimized better for the search engines.

Now as you all probably know, these are 2 separate pieces to doing business, and usually fall at the opposite ends of the discussion board. I was up for the challenge though, since it showed that he had isolated these areas as “needs” for his business. Yes, I referred to it as a challenge, since it can be difficult at times to keep these specific topics separated, and blocked into their own discussion. I have found from years of experience, that most business owners have been told by other companies that SEO and Social Media are almost the same.

The truth of the matter is that they work hand in hand, yet only to a point. Your social media outlets are the extension of your reach to your intended audience (customers) that would find your products and services beneficial to their needs. SEO is the optimization of your web site to “qualify” and “validate” it with the search engines, and there are necessary steps that need to be taken with regards to this. I will be posting on both of these topics in-depth in the very near future.

So, back to our business owner. I sat down with him and one of the ladies from his staff, and told him I had a few questions to ask up front to get a better understanding of his business, the day to day processes, his audience, and where he saw his business evolving and going. I will tell you right now, that if you are a business without a business plan, some of these questions are probably some of the hardest ones to answer.

About 30 minutes into our discussion one thing became very evident and clear. This business was struggling with a time management problem, and was spending an enormous amount of time on their web site. So, I stopped the discussion, and said I wanted to switch gears for a few minutes. He was very agreeable, so I asked him to walk me through their web site updating process. What ensued was a mesmerizing experience as I watched him click on all of these favorite tabs at the top of his browser, and log into site after site. After about 5 minutes he was logged into 7 different sites and sitting on the control panel pages of these site.

So I asked the obvious question: What are all of these?

The response was: This is a free tool that does this for our site. This one is a free tool that manages this part of our site. This is a free platform that we got for our web site. This went on for all 7 sites: “This is a free…”.

So I asked the next question that came to mind: Do you log into these every day to manage all of your site processes, and how long do you spend?

His response made it hard for me not to let loose a low whistle. He said “Yes, we log into these every day and spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on how much we need to do. Probably about 6 to 7 hours a week.”

As you can probably guess the next question that came was: Why not purchase a bundled solution that does all of this for you from 1 interface?

He told me: “Why pay for something that I can get free?”

What I told him next is a lesson that I learned through trial and error over the years, and something all business owners need to consider when it comes to doing business. The lesson is the valuation of your time. If you are spending hours of your time each week managing an aspect of your business that could be done fairly quickly and easily with the right tools and solutions, then these are hours that you are not dedicating to your customers, building your brand, or dedicating to helping your business grow. Your time as a business owner has a price tag attached to it, and it is not free.

We here at Delaware 302 understand this, and are here to help our clients not only with our technology and social media solutions, but also with helping them better understand and use the tools available to them, thus saving them time that can be used to build their business.

How much is your time worth?

Vertical Markets

I was recently at a power breakfast that was hosted by Delaware’s Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, of which we are a member. Following a great presentation on Social Networking held by Dale Carnegie Training, we had the opportunity to network and socialize. I was discussing my business with a few people, and talked about our launch of services into targeted vertical markets. I could see that some people were confused, and the reason why didn’t quite click until later when I was talking to my business partner. I was gently reminded that most people don’t live in my world of technology and marketing, and chances are they really don’t understand what a vertical market is, or how it can help them, as a business, grow their sales or build their client base.

It was a point that made me realize that it is our choice of words when we are talking to others, that is just as important as what we are talking about, how we relate it to their business, and how we interact with them. The language we use in our jobs is sometimes very unique to our industry, and sounds like a foreign language to anyone outside.

So what exactly is a vertical market? In the simplest of terms, it is a product or service that meets the needs of a specific group, industry, or business sector. Banks are one form of a vertical market, they meet the financial and banking needs on two levels, both personal and business. Basically any target specific industry is considered a vertical, such as: restaurants, clothing stores, auto repair shops, jewelry stores, etc…

The difficulty for many small businesses comes in defining exactly what their vertical markets are when they are targeting their products and services, and trying to figure out the best approach to market to their potential clients, and what language to use. There was a tutorial on a yellow pages sales training site that I recently worked on that makes a great example for this:

The sales person from this publisher was in contact with a plumber. The plumber had a prominent ad under the plumbing heading in their directory. The sales person also asked if the plumber did work with heating and air conditioning. The plumber said “Of course I do, it is part of what a plumber does”. To which the sales person responded “Your ad isn’t under the air conditioning or heating headings. Most people flip to these when they have an emergency or need service. The average consumer doesn’t realize that this is what a plumber can also do.”

For this plumber, he had three potential vertical markets that he could target with his services.

For my business, we recently launched a new vertical of our own. We are now offering technology and social media business services to other small businesses in Delaware. When it comes to defining your market, and building a solution to help you target that market, the one size fits all approach that many companies offer doesn’t work. Like with the example of the plumber, it comes down to understanding their business, and helping them to reach the market where their services would be the most beneficial. You would not offer them the same type of solution as you would a florist or a restaurant, because the businesses are far different.

If you are struggling to reach your target market, tired of the lack of response from your solutions provider, or paying for something that just doesn’t work for your business, we are here to help.

Helping your business grow is our vertical market.

Delaware 302 Business Services

Are you a small business or non-profit organization struggling with your web site, or trying to understand how to use social media? Let Delaware 302 help! The company which just announced the start of its online only store of merchandise branded with the State’s singular area code in November 2011 is now launching 302 Business Solutions.

302 Business Solutions is focused on assisting First State small businesses and non-profit organizations with the web site, graphic design, social media, and public relations challenges that they face. The web site/technology side of the offshoot business will be handled by Delaware 302 owner Phil Wojcik, who has 15 years of experience in website design, hosting, computer programming, and integrated data solutions.

“I’ve found that many small businesses are struggling with technology challenges. They either want to put together a website or online store, but don’t have the technical or design know how- or they have a site and are having issues with their current website hosting provider not providing the personalized level of customer support that they need,” says Wojcik. “I’ve got the experience to be able to help them with all of these issues and more. We believe in providing individualized service to customers, not try to sell them with a one-size-fits-all product.”

Wojcik says that many small businesses and non-profits also struggle with the affordability of technology solutions. As a small business itself, Delaware 302 can offer its services at a fraction of the price the larger design houses charges. Services that 302 Business Solutions will offer on the technology side include: web site design/redesign, ecommerce solutions, website hosting options, data migration, graphic design and branding.

Social media and public relations/public information will be handled by Andrea Summers, the company’s Director of Media relations. Summers also has 15 years of experience in the media, and public information field. Starting out as a local TV news reporter in the mid-1990s, she then spent the next 12 years as a Public Information Officer, specializing in gaining positive exposure for her agency. She is in charge of all of Delaware 302’s social media outlets.

“I’ve seen many small businesses and non-profit organizations that could expand and grow their business through the use of social media, be completely confused or overwhelmed by it,” says Summers. “If you know how to use it correctly you can reach many more potential or current clients/customers than ever before. I can help these groups set up their social media tools and provide training and guidance on how to best use them. We’ve also got options for those who want to use social media but be completely hands off.”

In addition to supporting businesses with social media tactics, 302 Business solutions also offers services including press release writing and dissemination, analyzing and creating advertising buys, press event coordination and media training.

More information on 302 Business Solutions can be found on Delaware 302’s website at www.DE302.com. Or contact us at info@delaware302.com. You can also friend us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DE302, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Delaware_302, connect with us on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/delaware302, or follow our blog at https://delaware302.wordpress.com. Delaware302.com is the online presence of Delaware302 LLC.