Category Archives: General Strategies

Posts within this category typically are focused in the online world, however, because they apply to marketing in general, these posts required their own category.

My Conversation About Yellow Pages Transformation with Phoenix Group

Had the pleasure last week to spend 30-mins with David Bellerive and Kevin Hayes of the Phoenix Group chatting about local business challenges and the transformation that Yellow Pages Canada has been under going.

If you want to listen to the podcast, head over the Phoenix Group website and check it out.

EQ3 Calgary Sucks and 4 Customer Service Lessons for Small Businesses

If you have been reading my blog you know that I am not a negative person when it comes to talking about local businesses. In this post I will highlight some incredibly poor service from EQ3 Calgary in the hopes that other businesses can benefit from the lessons presented.

This post is broken into 2 sections. The first is my experience with EQ3 Calgary. The second is 4 lessons for local business.

I would also like to hear your feedback on our reaction to the situation (are we over reacting or unjustified in our approach) and/or your experiences with this organization (positive or negative), feel free to comment below.

Experience with EQ3 Calgary

My wife and I were in the market for a Platform Frame from our new King Size mattress. We decided to purchase the Magnolia Curved Slat Bed (King Size Frame). Like most furniture purchases there is always a waiting period for the product. From the time we purchased until the product came in was around 4-weeks. This seems to be a pretty standard waiting period. The only negative to this particular product was that it is manufactured in China. A little disappointing since EQ3 is proudly promotes themselves as a Canadian Manufacturer but I also understand that certain products are simply cheaper to manufacture overseas. Our purchase price was over $1100 and we opted not to have delivered, we would pick up at their warehouse location when it arrived.

After picking up the product, and coordinating with the Sleep Country on the delivery of the mattress, we were very disappointed to realize that the product had damage. Note – the box was completely sealed, so there was no way to know of the damage until it was opened. Here is a picture of the damage:

EQ3 Calgary - Damage to Bed Frame

Although disappointed to realize our product had damage, we understand that this happens in manufacturing and we were unfortunate to get a damaged one. This was no fault to EQ3 Calgary as the product was sealed, although disappointing that the manufacturing quality control did not catch prior to sealing for shipment. We contacted EQ3 regarding the issue and our specific request to rectify the situation and this where EQ3 Calgary failed in their response.

Our request was two-fold; 1) we wanted a replacement frame and 2) since this was a manufacturing defect, we also requested that EQ3 delivery the new frame when it came in. Here is a the string of conversations with their customer service department:

August 23, 2009 – request made to customer service department regarding the damage issue. This is a subset of the original email.

I recently spoke to a woman in your customer service department regarding damage to a bed we just purchased. We discovered the damage when we unpacked the box Friday night to assemble the bed. She requested we email pictures of the damage.

August 26, 2009 – email response back from EQ3 to us, again subset of email;

I am putting in an exchange for the damaged pieces. The Calgary warehouse will be in contact with you once everything is in. At which time you will able to bring back the pieces you do have for an exchange.

August 27, 2009 – email from us back to EQ3:

Thanks for the quick feedback.

Due to poor quality control at the supplier end it is our expectation that the replacement parts will be delivered and the damaged ones picked up at the same time as a courtesy for the inconvenience. Please confirm.

September 1, 2009 – another email from us to EQ3:

I am following up on the email below. I have not yet received a response.

September 1, 2009 – email back from EQ3:

Just following up with you, sorry for the delay. At this time I am unable to have your pieces deliveries to you, but I would like to offer you a $25 Gift Card to EQ3 to be used on any future purchases.

Why EQ3 Calgary Sucks

We were very disappointed that they would not delivery the product to us or give us an equivalent in compensation. Note: EQ3 Calgary charges $95 for delivery. Their view of compensation was a $25.

My issue with this approach – they charge $95 for delivery, so in sending this message what they are saying is that their time is worth more than my time. At the very minimum, one should expect a $95 gift card to match their delivery charge. The value of their solution seemed like a token response. One could argue this approach ensures that EQ3 Calgary gets more money from the customer since you cannot purchase anything for this dollar amount and by default means you would spend more with them. Personally this sends me the wrong message that it is about them and not me.

Final note on this front – as of this posting, October 31, 2009 – we have not received our $25 gift card.

4 Customer Service Lessons for Local Businesses

1) Take Responsibility For Your Product

In manufacturing defects happen. Take responsibility and be proactive in your approach to dealing with customers. Think about it, your customer has chosen your business. They are putting their trust into your company and your product. When it does happen (if you are a quality company, likely the % of defects will be marginal) be aggressive in solving it for the customer and honor reasonable requests.

2) Don’t Insult Customers With Token Offers

Put yourself in the customers shoes and ask yourself, would you be happy with your company’s response? If you can’t answer a resounding yes, then likely you have not gone far enough. You also don’t have to go to extremes on unreasonable requests (I don’t agree with the philosophy that the customer is always right, in some cases the customer is just an asshole, every business has these) but if its a reasonable request make it happen for your customer. In the above case – the right solution would have been a) deliver the defective product or b) offer a $95 gift card, which is the value of the delivery.

3) Say What You are Going to Do and Actually Do It

If you tell a customer that you will do something, make damn sure you do it. Nothing is worse than saying you will do something and then not follow though.

4) Consider Your Customer Service as a One to Many Relationship

Customer service use to be a one-to-one relationship between the company and the customer. However, with today’s communication platforms, company’s need to consider that customer service issues are one-to-many. Good or bad customer service will get broadcasted. When building out your customer service policies build then with the view that they will be distributed to a much larger audience. Your customer service department is a marketing tool for your organization that will either propel your organization forward or slowly erode your customer base.

Tell me what you think? Was our request unreasonable? What should EQ3 have done? Do you agree that Customer Service departments are an extension of Marketing?

The 8 Most Unusual or Out of the Ordinary Local Business Questions on

The Answer Service has been running for over 1-month now and the numbers of local questions being asked and answered is increasing steadily. There are a lot of questions around plumbers, mechanics, electricians, restaurants, etc, however, I wanted to highlight some questions that don’t really fall into the traditional categories of what people are looking for.

Here is my list of the 8 most usual or out of the ordinary local business questions asked by users:

I will continue to monitor and update this list later in the year with more unique questions that are being asked.

From a business perspective the Answer service can be used to increase sales and leads to your business. Here are 3-Steps on how a local businesses can take advantage of this service?

1) Create an account and if your business uses Twitter, connect it to your twitter feed
2) Monitor the questions
3) If a user is asking for a recommendation on your business category or you think you can help them out, provide a recommendation. I suggest that you disclose that you are recommending your own business. In the comments field give some insight into why that person should do business with you.

What this does for a local business is gives them direct access to users who might be interested in their products or services and opens a dialogue with users.

NakedPizza Anyone?

Would you follow your favorite healthy pizza place on Twitter? Through the power of Twitter, originally posted by @perryevans, which I found through a ReTweet by @sebprovencher – I am now following NakedPizza, a New Orleans super-health conscious pizza joint. The article that my twitter friends were talking about is “A Sign Of Things To Come: Naked Pizza Erects Twitter Billboard” from TechCrunch.

So, what did NakedPizza do that deserves such mention? Simple. They are using traditional media combined with social media to stay connected with their customers. Check out the picture below from TechCrunch.

TechCrunch - NakedPizza and Twitter Billboard

From the article – “But if a business can get a customer to add their Twitter handle, it gets a free channel to constantly remind them that they exist. By tweeting out promotions a few times a week, Naked Pizza will maintain a presence in the customer’s consciousness, and the customer gets a chance to score some cheap pizza.

What a brilliant strategy from a small business. Back in 2005, when I operated KS2 Solutions Inc., a Calgary based Internet Marketing firm, I did a lot of public speaking about small business marketing and how SMB’s could leverage the Internet. In February of that year I posted a blog titled, “Are You Letting Sales Slip Away” in which I discussed the importance of staying connected with your customers. At that time, the message in terms of doing this was through a eNewsletter, however, move ahead 4-years and now there is Twitter.

Twitter is likely one of the best tools, since eNewsletters, for constant communication with your customers. From a user perspective, I can follow my favorite local, regional or national brand players who will inform me through tiny 140 character updates about products, specials or whatever. When I compare Twitter to Email, I see 3 key advantages –

1) more viral, easier to share Tweets as opposed to forwarding emails
2) promotes two-way communication
3) small, short and focused messages, no more rambling newsletters about how great you are

I am still a fan of the eNewsletter but Twitter could be the next best thing to staying connected with your customers.

By the numbers, as of this posting:

1942 – the number of people following @NakedPizza
62 – the number of comments on the article posted on TechCrunch (note: was 60 when I started writing this blog post)
4 – the number of times my wife has asked me if I am done yet

[praized subtype=”big” name=”true” address=”true” phone=”true” pid=”2badfefe121645a307dc20956f9bcf7d” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]

Add Save and Share Functionality To Your Website – For Free – Thanks to

Just launched this weekend on is the ability for merchants in Canada to add Save and Share Functionality to their website. The company providing the service is Agendize. For information on the specific service from Agendize – visit their widget product page. You can also read a full article from a strategic perspective on this initiative on the Kelsey Blog titled “Agendize Brings Contact Widgets to Local Listings“.

So how does it work and what does it look like?

First thing a business owner should do is go to and do a search for their business listing. Once again – I am using my mom’s business, The Bra Lady as an example. Once you are on your business listing click on the ? beside the Add These Tools To your Website.

Save and Share Widget from

When you click on the ? mark – this will launch a new window with some Javascript code that you can copy.

Save and Share Widget Javascript Code

Take the Javascript code and add it to your website. In the case of – we decided to add this code into the header of the website so that it is available on every page.

The Bra Lady in Calgary

Finally – when a user selects this new button on your website – it launched a window that gives a user a multitude of ways in which they can share your business information.

Save and Share Widget in Action on

And that’s it. Now your business contact information can be shared via email, address book, desktop, social media, print and instant messenger.

Pretty cool eh.

Word of Mouth Needs Support – A Deeper Look at Web Referral Traffic

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
Tony Robbins

In discussions with small business owners, when asked, what method of tracking do you use to measure your new sales, the most common response is “I ask my consumers where they heard about me”. Usually the second part of the conversation goes this way – “word of mouth is my best form of advertising” and “I tried many forms of advertising, none have worked for me”.

For this particular post I want to focus on two areas:

1) How word-of-mouth (WOM) needs support
2) How to leverage in-store questions and online traffic


I am a very strong believer in WOM and the incredible growth it can generate. That being said, WOM often takes more credit away from supporting advertising vehicles, giving the impression to a SME that their advertising is not working.

A typical conversation with a new customer may go like this:

Bus Owner: Thanks for coming in. How did you happen to hear about our store?
Customer: A friend recommended you
Bus Owner: That’s great, if you liked the service today, please tell your friends

The above dialogue is good, however, what if the conversation was slightly changed:

Bus Owner: Thanks for coming in. Can I ask you two questions about how you come to our store today?
Customer: Sure
Bus Owner: How did you hear about out store?
Customer: From a friend
Bus Owner: Thanks, how did you get our address?
Customer: From your website? From my friend? From the Yellow Pages?
Bus Owner: That’s great, if you liked the service today, please tell your friends about us and have them visit my website, Yellow Pages ad, etc. for my store details.

Of course the exact questions can be changed and tailored, but the main point is that in most cases WOM is supported by another medium that connects the buyer and the seller. People will refer people they like to people they trust, however, those same people will usually not know all the details about your business. WOM can accelerate your sales when you have a support mechanism behind it and you incorporate it into your WOM strategy.

In-Store Questions and Online Traffic

Continuing with the example above and examining customers who indicated they used the Internet to find your address, we need to examine our web analytics. The first question I usually get is, should I ask customers how they found me on the web? I advise against asking any questions about how people found you on the web. The reason is that there is a lot of confusion among web users – so the typical response is Google – even if they used MSN, Yahoo or something else. This gives the illusion that all web traffic is generated from Google – which is not the case. As a business owner, if you have a good analytics package – all you need to know from your customers is whether they saw your website. Once you have a in-store count you can cross-reference this with your web analytics to find out what is and is not working online.

As a side-note I want to share a quick story. I helped a auto dealer in Calgary with their tracking and customer acquisition strategies. Calgary has two major newspaper dailies – the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun. We started by creating a baseline, by spending one month asking customers how they came to stop by the dealership. Of the two newspaper dailies what we found was that 25% came from paper 1 and 15% came from paper 2. Here is where it gets interesting – this particular dealership had not advertised in paper 2 for a couple of years, yet 15% of new customers said they found the dealership there. Here is my take on this non-scientific survey – when asked, some customers will simply answer what comes to their mind first as opposed to what is actual. Not because they are dishonest, just that they most likely don’t care and will answer to shut you up. The same thing is happening on the web – I bet I could take 10 people who use Yahoo Search as their primary engine and half of them, when asked quickly, would probably say Google. My point is that only relying on asking people how they found you on the web can be misleading, whereas this potential misleading information does not exist with web analytics.

Here are some stats from my mom’s business, The Bra Lady. What we have learned over the past 4-years of tracking results is that WOM is by far her #1 way of generating new business with the Internet as her primary support mechanism to WOM. What we have also found is that many people are referred to her business, but use search engines and directories to find her web address. Probably 80% of her new clients indicate that Internet played a role. NOTE: this may be high and in her particular situation makes a lot of sense – because she is a home based business. However, when I worked with Auto Dealers – this number was about the same and dentists were up there as well.

On a monthly basis we compare the number of referrals who indicate the Internet was a source of them finding her to her actual analytics – we use Google Analytics to understand better exactly how these people ending up finding her.

Here is the aggregate view:


In the above you will notice that the top three referrers of traffic are Google,, and Direct. Examining just the top three referrers, typically I would examine further both the traffic from and Google.

For Google:


What I notice is the majority of keywords from Google are good quality. You will notice that keyword #20 – the one that references ebay is not considered a good keyword, however, this is the nature of search engines. It is important when examining search engine traffic to look at the keywords to get a accurate picture. The conclusion is that Google is generating good traffic.



What I notice is that the top referring URL from is the merchant page that was built for her business by YPG – this is good – it supports the decision to have the website URL located on this page. If I continue to examine further I see that users were searching using keywords we anticipated and specifically in Calgary. What I like about directory traffic is that people don’t surf directories. They go there for a purpose – usually to find something in particular – so the traffic generated here is high-quality.

For Direct:
This is pretty self-explanatory.

You will notice that we are also showing other top referrers in Facebook and I did a posting back in July of this year – Facebook – Can Local Business Florish in Social Networking? and its potential impact on local business – watch for this. For those of you interested – here is an article I posted back in 2005 on the strength of media companies and front-page placement – Power of Front Page Placement.

In conclusion – I would challenge any SME to dig a little deeper in 2008 in terms of their tracking and understanding of customers. Also I would encourage you to not presuppose answers as to where online traffic might come from. In Canada – we are continually bombarded with US news and information about the Internet, which sometimes gives us a US perspective on traffic as opposed to a CDN perspective on traffic. Build your measurement criteria, find the tools to track and examine them monthly – this will generate great results for your business in 2008.