Tuesday, 11 September 2012

5 Easy Fixes to Increase Sales on Your Website

Technology is both “boon” and “bane”, because, though, on one hand it makes our lives easier by providing those tools and techniques that enable us to economize on both time and effort, thereby, increasing our efficiency, however, on the other hand, its unrestricted and equal access to everyone is not a sure-shot success mantra, else, there would be many Apples or Googles around us. In reality, technology just increases our resourcefulness. Real success necessitates capitalizing on those resources using our own personal capabilities and competencies. One such widely popular technology that has been around for quite some time now is Internet Marketing which makes use of the World Wide Web to promote a company’s products and services on its website, available both on PCs and smartphones that in the past mostly involved listing down the prospective customers and then approaching them either physically or through cold calling. Consequently, the amount of traffic the website attracts in terms of the number of virtual footfalls experienced by it in the form of the number of hits it receives, actually determines its popularity and brand visibility, which in turn translates into sales revenue, the quantification of which is done nowadays, using highly advanced tools like Google Analytics, Pay-per Click etc. But ironically, as I mentioned earlier that, though, every organization both big and small knows about this technologically-driven business trend, making it invest a good amount in building its company website, still, ensuring that your website brings in more revenue requires some strategic thinking which not everyone possesses. Unfortunately, for most businesses, internet marketing is all about getting a swanky website built full of “love at first sight” User Interface and engrossingly innovative and fresh content. These are no doubt important in creating that first impression, but what to do in order to sustain it till eternity. The truth is that website design and development just represents the first step of entering into the virtual market and won’t result in any miraculous commercial accomplishments for your organization unless you keep in mind this list of “easy to follow” 5 golden rules that every company should abide by in order to increase conversion rate of its company website by turning visitors into customers, that would eventually translate into increased sales figures:

        i.            Use Google Analytics - With the arrival of Google, doing business is never the same, considering its vast weaponry like Google Ad Sense and Google Ad Words, all part of a bigger artillery of Google Analytics that provides you with an insight as to how visitors interact with not only your complete website, but also its different pages, prompting you to introduce the necessary permutations and combinations in them that would increase their appeal, thus, bringing the same visitors back, but this time as customers. To cater to a wide spectrum of different dimensions of internet marketing, there are separate reports generated for the content, mobile performance, social media platform, and advertising aspects of the website, enabling you to get a macro-view of how the website is performing.

      ii.            Direct Contact Number on the Header - It might sound funny and weird, but making this simple addition of including your direct contact number to your website’s header can increase both conversion and sales significantly through increased interest from prospective clients and phone-related enquiries and sales. This is because research suggests that when reading something, the human eye starts scanning stuff from top right corner, and when it comes to accessing a web page, most of us have this habit of automatically looking for the different number of tabs located on top just below the header. 

    iii.            No Complicated Product Order Forms/RFP Forms - Avoid using confusing multiple fields in your product order forms/RFP forms, which for the most part are responsible for lost sales of a visitor by not only sapping him of his patience and bogging him down the moment he encounters one on your site, but also annoying him tremendously when due to a technical glitch that causes the server to go down and hence the web page to evaporate, making his entire effort to go down the drain mid-way. You are not seeking students to join a school or college that asks them to fill up a long admission form. If you don’t mend your ways then be assured that neither will he come back nor recommend your site to anyone else. 

     iv.            Image-Based Testimonials - It is imperative to use them on your website, for not only adding a personal touch that would increase the site’s appeal. Further, unlike plain text-based ones, the images-based testimonials are also difficult to copy by someone else.  

       v.            Spike up Your Credibility Factor - The only way to rule the digital world is to build your reputation as a trustworthy and credible business by expanding the diameter of your presence through your footprints as trails for prospects to follow you. This is done by adding your complete contact details including e-mail address on every web page and product order form/enquiry forms, adding social media handles and also URLs directing the user to the earlier mentioned testimonials page.



What do you think it means to be well-informed?

“Knowledge” or “information”, though universally recognized and frequently used in the English vocabulary, has no consensual meaning and definition, with a number of schools of thought prevalent on the topic. Some consider it is a coherent collection of facts, pertaining to a particular field of study, whereas, others are flexible enough to include any new data or evidence, regardless of its nature, that continually augments one’s intellect developed since birth. Likewise, being/not being “well-informed” is also a debatable issue, with some referring it as a specialized, discipline-oriented understanding that takes an academic angle, as in case of a professional doctor, engineer etc., whereas, others give it a more universally appealing structure, by asserting the retention of core micro-level specialized knowledge gathered through academic credentials that sculpt a person into a professional, along with a mandatory macro-level awareness of functioning of things in the environment that help a person function effectively in his/her daily life. I strongly feel that true knowledge should finely demarcate “literacy” from “education”, by highlighting a person’s ability to clairvoyantly analyze problems and successfully solve them, instead of just relying on the apparent, and therefore, support the latter school of thought. I am frequently reminded of my father, who passed away recently. Though a lawyer by profession, he had a great deal of knowledge of almost anything in this world. He was an outstanding orator and a great communicator, highly capable of discussing anything from Shakespeare & Freud to Obama & Socrates, almost always leaving the listener impressed with some eye-openers. All this, because of his passion to remain updated 24*7, through print & electronic media. This makes me add further, that being “well-informed” is more of an attitude that manifests itself as an intrinsic desire to grow and develop continuously, and using it to take informed decisions and calculated risks throughout life, rather than something that can be developed overnight. Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that if an interaction leaves you with a new and a helpful lesson learnt, making your own knowledge pool grow from A to B, then you have met someone “well-informed”. This feeling itself is very personal and individualistic, making the decision ultimately lie with the public. Any thoughts??

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Interviewer - A Devil’s Advocate!!

Come on man!!....you face it every time….admit it. A job consultant called you up two days back for a telephonic round for one of his Fortune 2000 clients. The dyadic professionalism in your voice and an impressive list of credentials won you an invite straight to the corporate headquarters of the MNC giant for a face-to-face conversation with the HR team (it is the final interviewer most of the time).

On the D-day, with an unshaken belief in your academic and professional caliber, you walked into the interview chamber with a steely confidence exuberating from your shining eyes, manifesting itself in a firm handshake with the Hiring Manager. After the initial exchange of pleasantries and a brief introduction about your past and present, the interviewer slowly started showing interest in you, with questions like “why should we hire you” or the more direct one, “why do you think yourself as a best fit for this position”? Each of which, you smartly dodged, finally bringing the talks to the financial discussions, thus, signaling only one strong thought frequently crossing his head that you could clearly read, “I think we’ve found our man”.
However, ironically, this unspoken verdict instead of easing your burden, increased it tremendously, mostly because of its one-sidedness, since you were yet to decide “whether or not, you too have found your organization”?

Usually, this last leg of dialogue centered around the compensation issues, provides the answer, and unfortunately in most of the cases, is responsible for forcing the candidate deliberately to lose out on an otherwise dazzling opportunity, as drawn from the interactions I have had with my friends over the years, ever since we all started working. Most of them admitted taking a conscious decision of not joining a particular company, despite its globally high brand equity, only because of the disappointing final salary figure being offered by them, thus, gloomily ending a happily started interview round.

So, what exactly is the issue surrounding the negotiation of the salary structure that most of the people voice their grievances about? 

Technically speaking, the industry warrants a normal hike of 10-15% which can touch a maximum figure of 20-25% depending on the company, and of course, the bargaining power of the candidate. However, most of us are ignorant about the fact that HR department in an organization is so strong, as evident from its final say in the hiring for both technical and non-technical profiles, thereby, giving it the authority to even sanction a hike in the range of 45-50%, which sometimes even ends up touching the 60-65% mark in case of exceptionally bright candidates. But these juicy margins are often hidden by the recruitment team, in strict obedience of the organization’s cost-cutting instructions. Thus, making even the most talented hire grab at the most 30-40% of the cut he/she actually deserves. Given such a scenario, who would want to get interviewed by even the most sought after brand in the market?

Further, delving into the very nature of HR Management, both as a discipline and a profession reveals “staffing” as one of its core functions, which in common parlance means filling up various job positions with people who possess the right credentials and skill-sets. If this is true, then the very fact that an interviewer on a fine Monday morning is fortunate enough to interact with a potential hire who “just appears to be the best-fit”, automatically means that the HR department has done full justice to the organization by making it meet the right talent. But, what duty does the same department have towards the poor candidate who is stepping into the organization for the first time? A common perception and expectation from the HR department in a company is that of a complete philanthropist attitude promoting human welfare. In other words, HR is expected to come to the rescue of the internal employees in case of any troubles they face with respect to their jobs and overall workplace functioning. However, I’d like to extend this benevolence to include the “soon to join” tribe of prospective employees also, for whom this department represents the face of the company, by acting as the first brand ambassadors, who greatly influence their decision to join the organization. For this reason, the interviewer needs to facilitate an informed and a rewarding career decision for the interviewee sitting in the hot seat. This help, besides making him feel at ease during the interview also involves accurately assessing his true worth and consensually trying to arrive at a fair compensation figure by encouraging him to quote a desired figure, of course, keeping in mind the market pay standards, size of the company, candidate’s own skill sets & competencies etc., instead of trying to impose something and making him agree to it.

But unfortunately, what mostly happens during the conversation, when the time for compensation discussion arrives is that the interviewer soon after asking the interviewee about his salary expectations, immediately mouths the statement, “you know we are not amongst the best payers in the industry, but we do offer a really good working environment full of challenges and opportunities”, thus, actively attempting to keep his expectations at bay, which though is justified also to some extent, considering the highly opportunistic and ambitious side of today’s human psyche, but, it also thwarts the previously happening smooth communication. Since the candidate after listening to such a double-edged statement gets caught in a dilemmatic trap because on one hand he cannot complain that the company did not give him an opportunity to voice his financial needs openly, and on the other hand, he is forced to reconsider his initially thought out pay hike figure. My take on this is that a desired and fair compensation figure is an integral part of a good work culture, and CANNOT be devoid of it.

How open an honest would you rate such a communication on the part of the interviewer (read organization), where every discussion is allowed to take place in the most candid and unbiased manner till the sensitive issue of quantifying the “bread and butter” is raised.

And again, the winner in this negotiation process is mostly the interviewer, who, taking undue advantage of the grave global unemployment statistics is in a comfortable position rejecting countless number of candidates, because for him “it is always the next person”. However, the desperately hopeful applicant sitting on the other side of the table, regardless of his competencies and skillsets is a loser for the most part, forced to be courageously shameless enough to let the merciless interviewer, who has only known him for the last 15-20 minutes decide his fate, without fighting back.   

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to criticize the interviewers by saying that they should change their otherwise faulty screening methods, and let the candidates decide their salary figures. This is illogically impossible. I only want to reiterate the fact that “please stop bringing the top management’s cost cutting agenda into the interview room and trying to impose those figures indiscriminately on all candidates, both lousy and brilliant.” Instead, try visualizing the bigger picture of the benefits in terms of not only the business but also a positive value addition that a potential hire could bring to your organization, even if makes you shelve a few $100 extra to accommodate his legitimate needs. That’s no big deal. And being a part of the HR team, it is your responsibility to convince the top management and other departmental heads, to gradually start changing this attitude of theirs towards the recruitment & selection process.     

I would end this discussion with a request to all the interviewers to empathize with every walk-in entering into your office. Even you at some point of time were a graduate fresh out of college, waiting for your first big break or a working professional mid-way through your career wanting to grab that plum job in a big MNC. Try moving down the memory lane, and recollecting your thoughts about how you felt, when the person on the other side of the table, fully cognizant of your potential refused to compensate you fairly due to the fear of disobeying the top management. Maybe it would bring a lot more clarity in your thoughts and actions, henceforth.