Behind the Curtain Pic
Ten years ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of revealing what’s ‘behind the curtain’ in our businesses.

Did Walt show us Mickey without his pants on? No!

Point made.

Funny thing’s happened on the road to (and through) 2011: Between the 9/11 tragedy forcing all of us to figuratively (if not literally) get naked for the TSA if we want to fly anywhere and the 2008 Economic Tragedy (at least it is for 99% of Americans – temporarily leaving out the rest of the residents of the world) forcing all of us to rebuild trust and credibility with our clients to stay in business, it became necessary to reveal what’s ‘behind the curtain’ that serves as the ‘stage front’ of our businesses.

To prove to prospects and clients we’re not actually pulling the wool over their eyes (unlike Wall Streeters) with our products, services and pricing, we’ve had to show our audiences a bit about how the fly loft works during those magical scene changes.

We used to just offer our stuff; have people buy it; and everyone was happy. (That would be the Disney version again.) Now we have to do a whole lot more to garner our prospects’ trust and convince them we’ve got the right products and services to meet their needs before they’ll buy our stuff:

  1. We use simpler, less-formal English to convey our ideas.
  2. We spend much more time educating our target market about how we can help them, our knowledge base, tips and tricks and how to manage business with a host of new technical tools available, such as blogs, social media, video, audio, smart phones, etc.
  3. We discuss both personal and business issues on social media sites so that folks can see we’re plain-dealin’ people and not snake oil salesmen.
  4. We don’t wait until the very end to reveal the finished product; we show them how we’re progressing with beta versions in-the-works via blog posts, YouTube videos and podcasts.
  5. We show folks through the proverbial ‘back door’ of our business (via social media and YouTube) to see what’s really going on in the crazy scramble to bring them the Perfect Product at the front door.
  6. We send out newsletters to clients and interested parties to let them know how our businesses is growing and developing so that they can choose for themselves when it’s the right time to ask for our help with their own business problems.
  7. We actually acknowledge that we have problems from time to time, without sweeping it (or hiding it) under the rug!

That brings me to today’s missive. As you may (or may not) have seen, I’ve been moving my website around. Today it looks like half the stage is empty. Oops! Technical glitch. As I’ve been writing this newsletter today between client projects, I’ve also been feverishly posting in my website help forum to find out what happened to my Contact and Subscribe widgets, which have both vanished from the ether.

Why move my website? It wasn’t nearly as flexible as I needed. I want to have all my past newsletters available in the blog archives on the site instead of spread out on multiple sites and platforms. I had it working beautifully yesterday, humming along adding archived material in smoothly one post at a time. Then I started tinkering to offer other features on the home page. That led to a series of technical mishaps, the nature of which has yet to be understood. In the meantime, my site looks like a mess. (Sigh.)

I’m willing to reveal a bit of the inner-workings, the ‘behind-the-curtains’ mishaps to my clients and friends because it’s a new day and age. (That isn’t to say I’m not a bit nervous about bringing my own website gaffes to your attention.) But five years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of pulling back the curtain for one and all to see works-in-progress. Letting customers know you make mistakes just wasn’t done!

Today, things have changed. We (still) all make mistakes (particularly the 1% on Wall Street); it’s how we handle them that counts, right?

Now…  I won’t experiment on client websites – only on my own. That’s what mine is there for: the petri dish of website production! (You’d rather I test drive new features on my own site, right?) I can make my mistakes there and learn from them so I don’t make them on yours!

In some businesses it’s useful for clients to see some of the steps we go through to solve their problems when they’re interested. Many would like to know how to solve their business problems themselves and are looking for advice and the steps to take to do so. This is one of the bigger changes in the last few years.

(On the other hand, I’m not interested in seeing how my dinner in a restaurant started back on the farm. I want the food safe and as organic as possible, but — there’s a limit to the details I want to know about my food.)

There is a greater demand than a few years ago to learn how to solve more problems on our own, and the internet certainly provides a wide array of tools for us to learn how to do it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about how the new way of doing business affects your company:

  1. Do your customers appreciate greater transparency in your services?
  2. Does educating your clients improve their experience with you?
  3. What do you think (and feel) about letting your customers see what’s behind your curtain?
  4. How much ‘behind the curtain’ stuff is appropriate to reveal to clients in your type of business?
  5. Does showing your customers some of your work-in-progress or project development (and problems) help or hinder your ability to grow your client base?

I’ll be making lots of changes to my website over the next few weeks. I expect that some days it will look finished, and on other days it may look like I’ve thrown my laundry all over the room. Please excuse the mess during construction! Time for me to get this show underway!

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