Business in Montana: Here’s Your Sign

By MARK RIFFEY, for the Flathead Beacon.

While it is a well-known “redneck” comedian punch line, it’s also something you should be looking for business-wise.

Some signs you must seek out, while others have been right in front of you all year long.

Many of those signs are buried in your existing business data.

Habits

Your business data illustrates your customers’ behavior, including buying and service calls. Some companies use it, some don’t.

For example, I realized today that I hadn’t sent out thank-yous to a few clients. It’s been a very hectic, deadline-filled November and December and this is something I usually do right after Thanksgiving.

Not this year. And no, it wasn’t on my calendar because it’s just ingrained behavior. Bad Mark. Bad.

When I do remember this (and now, when it pops up on my calendar), I use high-end vendors to ship items like fresh or smoked salmon to a short list of folks that I do business with year-in andyear-out.

One of the reasons I forgot? I didn’t get a catalog from either of the two vendors that I usually use. Well, sort of. I got a catalog two months ago, but that isn’t prime ordering season for “corporate gifts.”

The problem with this is that these businesses know when I order. If they look at the data from prior orders, they could predict when I place an order and what I might buy, much less where I’d send it.

Predictable Male Behavior

If I bought smoked salmon for the last five years, they know this because the “ship to” isn’t my name or address (not to mention the “it’s a gift” checkbox on the order form).

Given typical male shopping predictability (“Get in, get out, move on”), they could have won the order by simply dropping a card in the mail or sending me an email saying, “Hey Mark, we appreciate that you’ve ordered our delicious smoked salmon as a gift for the last five years, would you like us to send Joe another two pounds of smoked salmon? Or would you prefer something different but in the same price range, like our crab sampler?”

Or something like that. How tough would that be? No cold call. No catalog. Just an email from data that already tells them how I behave.

Do you want to do this for everyone? Probably not, but it would be of use in concept at the very least. Look at your order and sales data. Not just across the board, but for your best customers, however you define that. When do they buy? Might be a good time to place a reminder in front of them.

Look for the heat

Have you ever looked at a heat map? On a heat map, the “hotter” looking places are either the locations where most people click or they indicate where eye-tracking tools determined that people are looking most of the time when they view a page.

Like any other measurement device, tools such as the heat map help you understand if your site is well-designed for your user community (they are not alike from niche to niche) and can indicate usability issues, copywriting problems (and wins), and design strengths and weaknesses.

Your sales and order data is full of behavioral information.

People tend to be visual learners. What if we stirred these two together?

What would you learn if you looked at your calendar overlaid with a heat map based on your lead, sales, order, and service data?

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Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations, or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him atmriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

Check out the Flathead Beacon archive of all of Mark’s blogs.