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Forum topic by pashley posted 1655 days ago 948 views 2 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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pashley

1022 posts in 2349 days


1655 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: website

I thought I might take the opportunity to (hopefully) help out some of you that may want, or have already started, a website for their woodworking business – or really any type of user-driven informational site (such as for a club, zoo, hobby, etc). I have been doing websites on the side, and would like to believe I can help out someone else.

First Rule: Don’t Make Me Think.

I’m sure you want a little explanation with that one, LOL. What I mean to say is, don’t make me (the user of your website) hunt for what I’m looking for. If I can’t find what I’m looking for in less than a minute, chances are, I’ll move on.

Here’s an example. My wife and I were going to take the kids to the local zoo one day. Of course, you want to know what time the zoo opens, right? Long story short – it took me about 5 minutes to finally find those times on their website. That’s information that should have been right there on the front page, along with the address and phone number. As it was, I had to go a couple of pages deep to find that simple – and often sought – information that should have been on the front page. I should not have had to go the “About the zoo” page, then jump off to “hours of operation” – yes, it makes sense, but in the internet world, people aren’t thinking that much – you have to do that for them.


Second Rule: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

This one covers a lot of territory, but the bottom line is this – when I come to your website, I want to feel that your business (club, association, etc) has a professional appeal. I don’t care how good your stuff is, if your website looks like it was done by a 12 year old, I’m moving on. Put it this way – would you buy insurance from a 20 year old kid with a wild pink Mohawk and a bolt thru his nose? I would think not. Fair or not, appearances matter. Would you go into a local restaurant that had a hand-painted sign and the shingles falling off the roof? Probably not – though the food could be awesome. Am I making my point? Most guys like us aren’t going to know how to design a great website – I’m not even entirely satisfied with mine, though I think it’s decent. I can get into how to get a great looking website another time.

Third Rule: Don’t stand in the way of the customer trying to buy.

That is to say, give them every opportunity to pay you. Cash, check, money order, credit cards, blood – whatever it takes to make the transaction happen. I see so many places that say they don’t want to take credit cards (both on the web and in real life) because they don’t want to pay the 3.5% fee to Paypal, the bank, or whomever. My reply is, “Do you have any idea how much business you’re losing because you don’t want to take credit cards?” I can practically guarantee you it’s way over the 3.5% you’re complaining about. If you’re that worried about the 3.5%, you can always add that much to the bottom line of your price, and give cash (check, money order) customers a 3.5% discount. I just think it’s bad practice to throw up a road block to someone that wants to give you money.

Besides paying you, don’t make the customer guess as to what the cost of the product (or service) is, if it can be helped at all. In all likelihood, they are going to guess high, decide it’s too much, and walk away. Real life scenario: locally, I have two lumber yards I go to. One guy has your standard rough cut stuff – sometimes planed two sides, but usually just rough cut. The other guy has many of his boards planed four sides, with the name of the product, the amount of board feet, and the price right there on the end. Something like, “Curly maple, 5.4BF, $35.40” – personally, I like that. Not only can I see the board, it’s already dimensioned, and I know the price right away. I know some guys like to take that rough board down themselves, but I don’t know many that like a surprise at the register – and with the first guy, I’ve been surprised a few times, on the expensive side.

Well, there’s a few things that I hope will be helpful…..

-- Have a blessed day! http://newmissionworkshop.com


7 replies so far

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lwllms

542 posts in 1913 days


#1 posted 1655 days ago

I make every effort to stand in my customers’ way before they enter a credit card number. There’s this little thing called the Federal Trade Commission and they have serious rules about how long a merchant has to ship after accepting money. It’s a good idea to get everything understood up front before money changes hands. We never, as in NEVER, accept any payment in advance—it’s just bad business practice. We make sure we can deliver immediately before accepting any payment and, at the very least, I expect to have a product on the way or to have received some value before parting with my money.

View pashley's profile

pashley

1022 posts in 2349 days


#2 posted 1655 days ago

I don’t see where that could be a problem if you plainly state the product won’t ship for “X” days/weeks.

If you don’t accept payment in advance…surely that’s not to say you ship the item, and then have them pay you?!

-- Have a blessed day! http://newmissionworkshop.com

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lwllms

542 posts in 1913 days


#3 posted 1655 days ago

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt051.shtm

We do get payment before we ship. We always ship within 24 hours of processing a credit card. One thing to keep in mind is that other things happen you have no control over. Blizzards, overturned trucks on the highway or even another supplier who drops the ball. One of the few things we buy and resell created a problem for us just last month. We had placed an order at our reorder point but the supplier was out and they’d changed who produces that item for them. We do allow internet orders for these but suddenly we were being told by our supplier it would be three weeks before they could ship and then six days to get to us. We don’t have a notice on our web site about delays and suddenly we were watching deadlines coming where we were could be obligated to issue refunds. Let’s see 2.85% credit card charge on the original purchase and 4.5% on the refund which you must issue via the credit card processor. It’s considerably higher plus a fee if the customer issues a charge-back so it’s best to just do the refund. We were only looking at it costing us about $75 in credit card fees and I spent a lot of time e-mailing and calling customers to explain. I took a chance and paid for overnight shipping which allowed us to just slip under the wire and avoid all the refunds. It’s a good idea to know the laws before one starts accepting money for things that can’t ship immediately from inventory.

Even with all this, the most important thing is to keep generating return business. The overwhelming majority of our customers make multiple purchases. It’s important to treat these people right and give them a reason to business with us again.

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pashley

1022 posts in 2349 days


#4 posted 1654 days ago

I can certainly understand your concern – both for the law, and for the customer – on shipping items in a timely fashion. I can also understand the cost of credit card refunds, and how your suppliers can mess up your shipping schedule.

I can’t see how it can hurt though, to put on a lead time in your website for product delivery. Something to the effect of, “These widgets are handmade to order. Minimum shipping time is X weeks”. I think people are understanding of that, especially in this kind of line of work. Now for a major retailer like Wal-Mart or Amazon, not so much.

I can see also how it’s a good idea not to charge the customer for a purchase until it ships, lest they back out, or you’re way over your delivery time.

-- Have a blessed day! http://newmissionworkshop.com

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lwllms

542 posts in 1913 days


#5 posted 1654 days ago

I’m just saying that focusing on getting money in the door is the wrong approach. The focus should be on getting products that people want out the door. If the business plan is sound and one takes care of getting things out the door the money coming in will take care of itself.

I’m reminded of when Shepherd Tool Works went out of business several years ago. They took a lot of payments for things they couldn’t deliver and ended up leaving a lot of woodworkers holding empty bags and out a lot of money. If a business needs money for materials and supplies they should look to their banker, not their customers.

View daveintexas's profile

daveintexas

365 posts in 2508 days


#6 posted 1651 days ago

We never, as in NEVER, accept any payment in advance—it’s just bad business practice.

I am guessing that you are talking about items you currently have in inventory ???

If not, and you are refering to “custom made” orders, then I strongly disagree with you.
I have seen way too many craftsman get burned by taking orders without some form of deposit.
They build the item, the client changes their mind and the craftsman is left with an item that he has materials and labor tied up in, with a very slight chance he will recoup his costs.
And when building kitchen/bath cabinets you can really get the shaft if you do not get some form of deposit.

Of course if you are strictly talking about taking an order, getting a deposit or prepayment, and then not delivering on time, then I see where you are coming from.

View lwllms's profile

lwllms

542 posts in 1913 days


#7 posted 1651 days ago

No, I’m not talking about things we have in inventory. It’s a relatively fixed line of products we’re currently about two years behind on. We’ve suspended custom orders until we get our backlog of orders cleaned up. When we did take custom orders, we still didn’t take deposits but would contact the customer to make sure they still wanted the item before actual work began.

Back when we did architectural woodworking there were times we had to ask for material money at the start of a job. One time in particular a supplier wanted to be paid for more than $25,000 worth of mahogany before they delivered. We didn’t have the resources to cover that and had to get the customer to pay the actual cost of the mahogany. Other than a few instances like this one labor, shop time, materials and other things were billed monthly or on completion of the job. Those few times we had to get customers to pay for materials in advance we didn’t mark the materials up at all, the customer only paid for the actual cost.

The last time I did a workshop at Kelly Mehler’s school I had a discussion with Kelly about deposits. He agreed with me that the combination of underpricing and taking deposits cause the demise of more small woodworking businesses than anything I could think of. He told me about when taking deposits nearly took his business down.

I suppose if a person was very disciplined and willing to deal with another layer of complex bookkeeping they could set up a separate bank account to act as a kind of escrow account to handle deposits. I already spend a lot more time dealing with keeping current on our bookkeeping than I’d like. I don’t want even more to deal with.

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