Top 5 nitpicky mistakes made by new entrepreneurs that drive me crazy

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Frustrated_1One of the fun things about my work is that I get exposure to a lot of different marketing materials from emerging entrepreneurs.  Lately, I have seen a few annoying things that really undermine a professional image.  If you have committed these sins, please don’t feel judged … just fix them asap.

  1. Sharing an email address with your spouse. I don’t know about you, but I get very confused when I get a message from "Peggy Sue and Billy Bob Johnson."  Which one is sending it?  If I am doing business with Peggy Sue, what do I know about Billy Bob?  Do both read the email, or do they just have both names on it?  What if I have to divulge some information to Peggy Sue that I don’t feel comfortable sharing with Billy Bob? Who is Billy Bob?  The part that really drives me crazy is that in this day and age email addresses are free, so it doesn’t take more than 2 seconds to set up your own account.  Keep your joint email for personal correspondance and get yourself a dedicated email address for your business.
  2. Not having complete information on your "Contact Me" page of your website. I get really, really annoyed at contact pages that force me to fill out a form in order to get in touch with you.  What if I am a reporter from the Wall Street Journal looking for an expert quote for an article I am on deadline for?  What if I want to send you a gift or book or scented candle cause I think you are cool and you don’t have your address listed?  I realize that contact forms help with spam filters, but please include complete contact info — phone, fax, email, website, physical address on your contact page.  If you are too important to be bothered with pesky people like, I don’t know, potential customers, keep your contact page vague and incomplete.
  3. Not having your picture anywhere on your website or blog.  Mind you, I am not talking about your personal blog where you rant about your lame boss and discuss the exploits of your Chihuahua, I am talking about your business site or blog.  I get kind of suspect when someone is not willing to divulge their identity yet desires to do business with me.  I love all shapes and sizes of faces, so don’t think you have to be America’s Next Top Model or a Chippendale dancer to show your chops. When I see a picture of you, it breeds familiarity, and that is what you want your potential customers to feel about you.
  4. Not including an email signature with your contact info.  I harassed my friend John the other day (you know who you are!) because he was wanting to get the word out about his blog, but didn’t include the URL at the bottom of every email he sent or responded to.  You don’t have to include a huge long list of contact info, but please at least include your phone number and link to your website or blog (which by now is updated with complete contact info).  I get so annoyed when I am in a hurry to get things done and I want to call someone who emailed me.  Where is the phone number?  What if they are not at their desk?
  5. Not including enough information in the "About Us" page of a website.  Maybe this is just me, but I want to read something about the background of the founders of a company, not just what products or services they sell.  Often these "About Us" pages are just a sales pitch.  I like to see a picture of each of the management team with a personal bio that says where they came from and what they did in their work and life.  It can be very whimsical and fun, just make it an interesting story so that I get to know more about the people that work at the company, not just the nameless, faceless brand name.

Alright, tirade over, I just had to get this off my chest before I went into the weekend.

What drives you nuts?

18 Responses to “Top 5 nitpicky mistakes made by new entrepreneurs that drive me crazy”

  1. Shawna says:

    You stated that so well and didn’t skip a beat! I wish every company and web site in America could read this post.

    And oh, I hate those clickable Contact Us options that when you click are no longer good and open up about 60 windows on your computer!

  2. Pam – Great tips here, and obviously, I agree that a photo does not have to be professionally taken to be effective on your blog. In fact, I would argue that professionally taken photos make you look corporate and stuffy, not fun and interesting (my goal with my blog). Thanks for sharing my photo with your readers. Yours is a happy one too. I can just see you sitting in your backyard smiling intently on the conversation we’re having. Very cool!

  3. Tim says:

    Hi Pam, Do you think we should get the About Us photo done by an experienced and/or professional photographer? I really believe presentation is important and something we need to be deliberate about. Also – I hate having my photo taken … I don’t feel that I’m very photogenic. In spite of my own discomfort, I really do want to send the right message to potential customers. Any advice here?

    Hi Tim!

    Good question. If you are serious about building your business and interacting with customers, I do think it is a good idea to have a good quality photo. I totally understand your disomfort with having pictures taken. My Dad is a professonal photographer, so I grew up having my picture taken – but it still feels awkward sometimes. I suggest not doing the cheesy still posed photo in a studio shot, but rather take one somewhere in a natural setting. A good photographer will be more like a photojournalist and try to capture a natural moment, rather than make you smile stiffly.

    You might want to check with your local paper – many times they have freelance photojournalists that work for them that do portrait work on the side. The best thing is to find some portraits that you like, and ask people who took the photos.

    It really doesn’t have to be slick and professional – just show your personality. One of my favorite photos is on Phil Gerbyshak’s site. It might have been taken in his own office with his own camera, but his enthusiasm and personality really comes through.
    http://makeitgreat.typepad.com/

    Good luck and please share the photo when you are done!

    All the best,

    -Pam

  4. Sanjay Kumar says:

    All great point. We had better get with it, because right now, we fall somewhere between lame and really lame by this yardstick.

    Please don’t check us out:
    http://www.simplifythis.com

  5. IndianPad says:

    Top 5 nitpicky mistakes made by new entrepreneurs that drive me crazy

    Top 5 nitpicky mistakes made by new entrepreneurs that drive me crazy posted at IndianPad.com

  6. Too interesting… I made some changes based on this post, but didn’t abide by all of your peeves (or the comments). Here are my changes:

    1. Changed my signature to include my blog address (it already had the business address).

    2. Put my picture on my About Us page… its kind of wierd but I do agree with you 🙂

    3. Made sure that my About Us did have some okay information, but also linked to a very good blog write-up by someone else AND a podcast interview by an expert in this space so you can get more, third party info.

    4. Made sure that my Contact Us page had links/text of the e-mail address in case someone didn’t want to use the form.

    I still don’t want to put my phone number up… I’m “in business” (read the other comments and this will make sense) but my website is a self-serve thing. I get e-mails from users, and my user-base is okay to communicate on-line, not call me. I don’t have a separate business line and don’t feel that I need one. If I want you to have my cell number I’ll give it to you, but not everyone… long story short, I think it is okay to not put the phone number up.

    So great post, great comments, I just had to think about it for a few days 😉

  7. The one thing (two things, actually) that drives me nuts is when you actually contact the people behind these blunders. You call and they answer the phone by just saying “hello” because they don’t have a phone line dedicated to their business (they’re sharing their business phone with their home phone) or their voice mail says, “Hi, leave a message.”

    OK… You’re either in business or you are not. Which is it?

  8. Leo Archer says:

    Drives me nuts!

    Pamela Slim has a post titled Top 5 nitpicky mistakes made by new entrepreneurs that drive me crazy which I found quite entertaining.  I also found myself going through my sites in my mind as I read her post to

  9. Joel says:

    Number #4 is my personal…uh… favorite.

  10. Excellent points all, but particularly the one about the contact page and phone number!

    I had an artist client who, for the longest time, did not include her phone number on her site because she worked from home. I encouraged her to provide her contact info on the page IN A GRAPHIC. (Spammers’ search tools can’t get the info, but clients/media can.) She did this and within a week had 3 calls from potential clients and 1 new job.

    Services like Ureach.com are useful, too, in that they offer a toll-free # with voicemail that you can configure to forward calls during particular hours of the day, useful for homebased workers who don’t want to be bothered at the wrong time.

  11. stereoroid says:

    #2 and #4 give me a little cause for concern: when you talk about contact information, I’m assuming you mean “the office”, but what if you’re a small business person working from home? In that case it would have to be a home office number, for use during specific hours, and no-one but friends get my home address! It’s not about being “too good for customers”, it’s about privacy, and separating your work from your life. (Or are you saying a small business owner should not have a life?)

    Cellphones are great, but they seem to be leading to the expectation that, if you publish a number, you are available to take random calls, at any time of the day or night. Uh-uh: being on standby, ready to answer the phone, is a job, something you can’t be expected to do 24/7 if you want to stay sane. Customers who demand that are not the customers I want, to be blunt – they are usually not worth the trouble they cause.

    ___

    Hi Stereoroid:

    Yes, by contact info I mean your business address. If you are solely home-based and concerned about releasing your home address, I suggest getting a small business mailbox that you use as an address. I did that when I lived in San Francisco and it had the added benefit of providing a stable business address (for business cards, etc.) while I moved residences. Besides your local post office, there are now lots of convenient stores like Mailboxes, Etc. that can provide you an address.

    As for life/work balance with a cellphone, I totally agree with you. You have to set very clear boundaries with your time. My clients know that they are welcome to call after business hours or on the weekend, but I may not answer. If I have the time and inclination, or I am working on an important project where more contact is appropriate and we have discussed it, they can call. As long as I have done a good job at making sure that they have the amount of response that they need and feel comfortable with, I don’t worry about being “on” 24/7.

    Thanks for your clarifying thoughts – they are very good points.

    -Pam

  12. sapphirecat says:

    Not including enough information on the product info page! GAH.

    Quick example: last year, when we were looking into better security for our Web server, we checked out the Tripwire host-based IDS. It promises more features if you pay for the commercial version, but doesn’t say _anything_ about what those features might be.

    Another sure way to kill the sale is to not include price. Maybe companies think it has the air of a ‘premium’ product to put together a site like that, but it also says “We don’t care about your time.” It forces me to dig around to see if there’s pricing information anywhere else. By the time it’s clear that it’s not there, I’m thoroughly annoyed at the company for this – and there’s typically plenty of alternatives. So they lose.

  13. Denise Aday says:

    Here’s an annoying one from just this week: My husband brought home a postcard that someone on the street in downtown Dallas handed him on his lunch break. It was from a personal assistance service that offered a wide array of services, including web development. But guess what? No web address for the business was to be found on that postcard. Good grief!

  14. MyNameIsMatt says:

    I agree wholly with every point, although, I have one exception for #2. I read recently about a study on contact pages. Surprisingly, the study found that there are actually people who prefer contact forms.

    Personally, I just want the email (feels more personal) and so do the majority of people, however there is a minority of people who prefer forms. For those people, having to open their email program and open a new message is just more work than they like doing. The form on the other hand is there and ready to use.

    My advice for any businesses is provide both options. Put the email at the top for those who prefer direct email, and a form below for those who prefer form email. The typical age of persons who prefer the forms tended toward the retirement age, so if you have older clientele, then you might take a second to think about this.

  15. John says:

    The “no contact info” problem is, I think, a bigger problem for bigger companies. I just had a frustrating experience on the AT&T web site – you can’t find a corporate HQ address or even the names of the people on their management team. Appalling. Entrepreneurs are usually better about this, I find.

  16. How about simply having a busy card! I just attended a VC conference and met a lot of very nice people who are “launching businesses” but didn’t want to spend the $30 for 1k cards at your office supply store.

    Also, using @hotmail or @yahoo for your business. Come on, it’s less than $10 for a domain and free email.

  17. John Dodds says:

    You could have told me this yesterday before I was invaded!

  18. Lauren says:

    You nailed the subjects…even the part about “Not enough information on the About Us page”. I’m just ‘the little guy’, but I will bypass any website who doesn’t explain who their management is and why they started the company. Any website which says, “XYZ Company fulfills its customers’ needs” as its “About us” deserves me to change the channel, as I’d like to do business with a real company, not an ad for a company.

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