This post was originally written by CJ Moore.
What’s the worst attitude you can have about your web presence? Listen up, you hipster whiners who like your websites all pretty and user-interfacey. It’s time for you to meet Don Chernoff, the man behind a sweet little suitcase called SkyRoll.
Mr. Chernoff recently participated in the New York Times’ “You’re the Boss” blog for small businesses, in which Gabriel Shaoolian provides an honest and free appraisal of a business’ online presence and marketing efforts. Chernoff put his SkyRoll.com site up to the test, allowing Shaoolian, founder and chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, and his hipster whiner* readers to critique his site.
*His words, not mine. But if you don’t think I’m going to incorporate “hipster whiners” into my everyday language, you would be wrong, you hipster whiner.
“There was a lot of hipster whining about our website, but very little actionable advice. I disagree with the many comments that say I need a ‘call to action’ and that the site isn’t ‘sales oriented.’ The site is designed to explain a product that is unique and benefits from explanation. It is easy to buy one. There is a ‘Where to buy’ link on the home page and a ‘buy now’ button on each product page.”
SkyRoll sells carry-on luggage that fits easily in an overhead bin. The company averages 2,000 to 3,000 suitcases sold per month in the brick and mortar world but just 20 to 40 per month through the website. Chernoff spent nearly $2,000 a year ago for a redesign and has also tried Google Adwords to increase his traffic, but nothing has worked. In an effort to get people talking, he started aCrazy Carry-On Contest, asking people to send pictures or videos of the “biggest, funniest, craziest carry-ons people bring on your flight.” SkyRoll’s campaign states that if they really like your picture or video, you could win a free SkyRoll. No time requirement. No guarantee that they will actually give out a free SkyRoll. But, ya know, participate and someday we might hook you up with one of our sweet mini-suitcases.
Chernoff told Shaoolian: “We have not had much luck getting the word out. Travel writers have not picked it up. We are looking for a way to get bloggers and travel enthusiasts to start spreading the word via new media. This is the kind of idea that would benefit from word of mouth, especially among people who travel a lot and flight attendants — they see all kinds of crazy things.”
Here’s one of the biggest mistakes Chernoff made: He just assumes people will come across this and spread the word. “Having people write or blog about it is the goal.” That’s not how we hipster whiners work, my friend. You have to build your own audience and build relationships before anyone is going to pimp your site or your product. I’m guessing that when Chernoff says “new media,” he means social media, and a Twitter search for SkyRoll or Don Chernoff returns no results. And SkyRoll has a Facebook page, but its last post was May 2 and when fans of the product comment on the page, SkyRoll rarely responds.
Building relationships with fans and influencers is the key to spreading the word via social media, and that’s why SkyRoll’s Crazy Carry-On campaign has failed – SkyRoll has received one submission. Shaoolian summarizes it perfectly when he says, “Some influencers wield enormous power. The reason they enjoy huge audiences is because they provide information that is of real value to their audiences. They succeed because they do their homework and only endorse websites and products that they genuinely like and respect.”
Another area where SkyRoll fails, as Shaoolian and his readers point out, is in his website design. Shaoolian’s take:
“This is not a case of ‘build it and they will come.’ Mr. Chernoff needs to build it extremely well before anyone will come — and recommend that others follow. This will not be cheap and this will not be easy. A website and its marketing and promotion are a reflection of the brand behind the site. If a contest looks slapped together, it will all but guarantee that visitors will not come back — and they certainly won’t buy from your site.”
The challenges in self storage are similar to what SkyRoll faces. Many self storage websites are outdated and it’s impossible to find a call-to-action. Users want easy-to-find and immediate calls to action. Take a look at one of our WebWorks client’s facility pages.
If you’re ready to reserve a unit or want more information, it’s impossible to miss the “Reserve” button or the facility’s phone number.
The last lesson to pull from Chernoff and SkyRoll is to be willing to change. Chernoff scoffed at any criticism and suggestions to make his site better (not sure why he asked for an appraisal in the first place), and he will continue to get poor results from his online presence. It takes time and money to build a strong web presence, and you aren’t going to get immediate results. That’s what Chernoff wanted, but that’s not how those hipster interwebs work.