Lessons Learned from a Cheese Curd maker

This is not an article about technology.  This is an article about how to properly use technology, or at least how to not use it.  Wise words I learned from a wise man.

So, to be honest the guy was not a cheese curd maker.  He sold equipment used for that purpose.  But thats not an interesting title, is it?  Used Dairy Equipment.  Google it, and they are number one in the rankings, and had been for a long time.  So when they approached me about updating their site, I went full bore.

I developed a prototype website that kept all their existing keywords and metadata, and all the front page text and verbiage, but cleaned it up and modernized it.  And (and this is the salient part) I added a lot of new features by integrating their internal equipment database with their website so that visitors could search their inventory and find anything they had to offer.  A complete search engine, with keyword querying, sorting, filtering… everything.

I went back to them with my prototype.  It was beautiful.  It was functional.  It was exhaustive.

It was a disaster.

What I had done was technically cool.  It would allow anyone to determine if the company had in stock ANY item that they wanted. But it was business savvy lacking.  Why?

Let his words explain.  “I don’t want them to find out that I have what they need.  Because they could also find out that I do NOT have what they need.  I want to give them just enough information that they will think, ‘They have a lot of stuff’.  But not so much that they think ‘They don’t have what I need.’  If they think that, they won’t CALL ME.  And what I want is for them to call me.  If they don’t call me, I can’t sell them what they DO need if they don’t know what they need.  A lot of times, they think they need one thing when what they need is another.  I can’t help them if they don’t call.”

The goal with technology, in this guy’s case, was to give them just enough reason to CALL, not to BUY online.  Too much technology in this case works against him being able to actually help people.

I learned a lot about business from that guy.  In fact, I altered my own website taking into account what I had learned from him.  Ultimately, we did not implement my new site and they kept their existing site.  They did the right thing. 

Sometimes, the coolest technology and the best “features” are not what’s really needed.  It takes a good bit of business sense to know not if technology is worthwhile, but which technology, and specifically how much is worth while.

I think we could all learn a good bit from a guy named Gary Schier.  And hey, if you wanna learn how to make 500 gallons of cheese, visit www.schiercompany.com.  And no, I did not develop that site.  And a good thing, too. 

Thanks Gary.

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About combatdba

I'm a production DBA at a terabyte-class SQL Server Shop
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One Response to Lessons Learned from a Cheese Curd maker

  1. Nice story. I have found in my “travels” that this in entirely true. You can cause more issues by adding technical bells and whistles even if they work as intended in YOUR mind. Generally I will make a client give me at least a general idea of what they want first. example of a client conversation as it would go with me.
    “Do you want people to be able to see your stock online?”
    “No? Why?”
    “Oh so they call? This is the internet.”

    If they come to your website they probably don’t want to call for starters. If you don’t have what they want, let it be known that you can help them figure out what they NEED and provide guidance, that even offers a “mentor” incentive to use his company, if he offers it already why not advertise it?

    Too many businesses think “I make profit doing this, if I had a website it could only get better!”

    Know your audience, if you sell horseshoes I doubt you need a dot com. I’ve had arguments with clients before and sometimes you have to drag them kicking and screaming, assuring them that you know your business as well as they know theirs.

    I see what happened as being more laziness and bad business sense on the owner. Secrecy does not attract attention or praise. Not to mention if I were in the market for dairy equipment and saw that site I wouldn’t take it seriously. It looks like it was cobbled together by someone that bought up a bunch of junk and is now trying to sell it. Bottom line, lying to your customers is a stupid idea no matter the reasoning behind it. It’s building a consumer relationship based on a lie.

    There is also a point in which it’s not the technical consultant’s job to teach people proper marketing. Bottom line, always, always, always get a list of features that they WANT first and be sure to double check with them if you come up with an idea that you think would add to consumer traffic.

    Sharing information helps everyone work more efficiently whether it’s dairy equipment or requirements gathering.

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