Online profile

19 March 2008

The old maxim ‘never judge a book by its cover’ might ring true in an ethical sense but unfortunately it does not apply when customers are looking to select the right supplier for their next important party or event.

Customers today are judging each potential supplier on many levels, and first impressions stick! Are you and your company making a great first impression on every level?

In the past it was enough to do so through a polite and efficient phone manner, well-presented and clean showroom premises, and immaculate products or delivery vehicles.

All those areas of first impressions still apply, but many companies are missing out on a great deal of work because they have failed to notice that customers are now obtaining their first impressions via your online profile.

The most obvious element of your online profile is of course your website, but it also relates to any correspondence over the electronic medium.

Your Website

The worldwide web has provided a platform whereby customers can research their needs on all levels. With the varied and visual nature of the party and event industry, this medium has become an incredible tool for companies who have mastered it.

Has your website been professionally constructed, offering lots of images and product detail? Or is it a couple of pages with generic pictures and your contact details?

When you are creating the perfect website you must be able to appeal to three different types of customers (see box story above left). It must serve your existing customers, it must appeal to the warm customers (those considering buying from you), and it must standout to your cold customers (those who are just browsing).

Your website is your online showroom. There are no excuses today not to have a full pictured inventory, with descriptions and uses available for customers. There are no excuses not to keep it updated and maintained, looking its best for the world to see (see box story below left).

It is also well worth the investment to have your website professionally created and designed consistent with the image you are wanting to portray.

Your online profile and customers' first impressions of your company carry on to how you interact with them through the online environment. They might be suitably impressed with your website and they might choose to email you with a further query or request.

How, when and if you answer that email is saying a great deal about your business. The online environment has created a society that expects information on demand.

If your company takes a day or two to answer email requests you are sending out a potential message of inefficiency. You company might run like clockwork and be very efficient, but the customer only is judging you on this aspect at that particular time.

How you answer the email also becomes a determining factor.

Written communication is tomorrow's ultimate sales skill. Your staff need to build rapport over short email correspondence or fall into the trap of being compared to on price and ultimately becoming a commodity product and service.

Three questions need to be posed: 1 What training are you giving your sales staff in written communication? How well do they express, sell and persuade prospective customers via written communication? Before you can even begin to speak to a customer you must generally reply via email. How is your company going to stand above your competitors - other than using price? 2 Are your sales staff aware of all the features of modern day correspondence, such as hyperlinks, uploads, templates, electronic mail merge, prescheduled messages, auto responders, tracking, or even spell check? 3 Have you provided the right tools for your staff to perform at their most professional?

Eg professional email system, a dynamic email format, good computer system, interactive pdf files, jpeg images? All these features add to the professionalism of the message.

People want to deal with those in whom they have confidence and trust. The initial building of trust is paramount, thus it is important your sales people develop the skill of rapport building over the electronic medium.

Building rapport quickly, establishing expertise and gaining trust, through written communication is tomorrow's ultimate sales skill set.

If you master your company's online profile, your competitors will still be only one click away, but you

• Terex has appointed Linda Mayer (pictured) as vice president and general manager, global marketing and product management for Terex Aerial Work Platforms (AWP), the division that includes Genie Industries, Terex Lift, Terex light construction products and Terex Load King.

She joins Terex from Rexnord Corp, a US$1,6 billion manufacturer of power transmission and industrial components, where she was vice president of corporate marketing. Other previous jobs include marketing, financial analysis and corporate planning and development roles for Kohler Company, a manufacturer of plumbing products, and she has also worked at John Deere Consumer Products and Moen, Inc.

Ms Mayer will report directly to Tim Ford, Terex AWP's president, and will relocate with her family to Genie's headquarters in Redmond.

“We are excited to have someone of her calibre and experience joining us as a key member of our executive team,” said Tim Ford. “Given Linda's proven track record, we look forward to her skills in establishing global practices, building customer relationships, and growing marketing initiatives through diverse channels. In this new role, Linda will have global responsibility to develop and lead marketing and product management strategy for Terex AWP.”

Ms Mayer has a degree in history from Stanford University, an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and an MA from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

• IronPlanet, the online auction company specialising in heavy construction equipment, has appointedGregory Owens as its new chairman and chief executive officer, effective from 1 August.

Mr Owens comes to IronPlanet from Red Zone Capital, a Washington, DC private equity form, where he was managing director. Before that he was chairman and CEO of Manugistics Group Inc, a supply chain management software company.

“IronPlanet is a profitable, rapidly growing marketplace, and it is the established leader in the online used heavy equipment category,” Mr Owens said. “This company is a game changer with tremendous growth opportunity in a space that is rapidly changing the way that buying and selling occurs in the capital equipment market.”

• Finning Group UK has promoted Annette Gann (below) to the newly created role of group communications manager and appointed Christine

Hardy as its UK training and development manager.

Both previously worked at Hewden's plant hire division, although their new roles will see them working across the Finning business, including Finning Construction, Finning Power and Hewden.

Ms Gann will continue to manage Hewden's external public relations but will take on the new responsibility of overseeing Hewden and Finning's internal communications. Christine Hardy's focus will be on progressing training for employees at all levels in Finning, and in particular for implementing apprenticeship programmes and management development.

Ken Silverman is the new vice president, customer support, for Volvo Construction Equipment North America, based in Asheville, North Carolina. Mr Silverman was previously vice president, global aftermarket, at Volvo's road machinery business line, the division acquired from Ingersoll Rand in April this year.

He succeeds Goran Lindgren who has been promoted to the position of global vice president, marketing and sales of the customer support business area for Volvo Construction Equipment in Eskilstuna, Sweden.

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