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Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Making a Call

My new credit card processor required me to add my telephone number to my Contact page as a condition of approval. I’d previously hidden it on my About page. I’m not a telephone business. I'm personally averse to the telephone (especially my tinny-sounding, staticky cell phone), and I don’t want to be swamped with phone calls or to put that number in front of telemarketers. So I deliberately used less-than-welcoming language: “…leave a voice message at 555-555-5555...but we aren't a telephone business and that line is only occasionally staffed.” I intended to remove my number entirely after my account was approved.

The telephone calls did pick up, and I got a few more junk calls. But the volume isn’t overwhelming, and it's led to one or two sales. A good-sized minority of shoppers out there still don’t understand that encryption makes ordering online more secure than phoning in their credit card number. Instead of removing the number, I made the language less hostile. The page now says “You can call 555-555-5555 Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM Eastern time...but as we are a small company, our phone is not always staffed. Feel free to leave voice mail.” I’m trying to take a neutral position, neither encouraging nor discouraging phone calls.

Next, I’m going to study third-party Sunshop mods for ways to improve my site. Even though these mods are free, I need to be very careful. They are file modifications, not drop-in modules. They challenge my technical skills and complicate future upgrades by increasing the customization that needs to be carried forward manually. There is also a risk of unintended consequences. For example, one mod implements subcategory menu flyouts – a feature that I’ve wanted literally for years. But some users warn that the code (Flash?) makes the category list invisible to search engines. Improving navigation won’t help anything if I simultaneously harm my search engine rankings. And of course there is always a chance that the modified code will conflict with some other customization or become incompatible with a future upgrade.

I do have a couple of ideas for boosting sales with improvements that should cost little or nothing. Investing in the business is not an option until my wife is secure in a new job. Financially, Kraken Enterprises must carry its own weight until then.

The good news: It’s doing so. Business was good again last week. If next week didn’t contain one $600 sale from LY, I’d be anticipating very good February numbers. Given that the recession was not even recognized yet at this time last year, and that the economy’s in free fall right now, beating LY is impressive enough.

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