Your comfort zone. It’s where nothing really happens.

I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone quite a few times. It’s where things are scary and exciting. Let me tell you about my most recent experience.

As you know, I run a web design company by day and I run an online record store. It’s what I enjoy doing and (I think) something I’m good at. However, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you’re doing something for a long time. Sure, my record store is less than a year old, but it has a lot to do with web design, marketing and sales, something my web design company does, so it’s basically the same job, but with different products.

Getting stuck in a rut is one of the worst things that can happen when you’re a business owner. You stop caring about your customers and start focusing on money over joy.

My wife and a few friends work at the only school in town here. One of my friends is a janitor.
When the janitor was planned for surgery, she was going to push herself to get back to work as soon as possible, so that the school wouldn’t have to worry about hiring a replacement, or if they would, she would come back to work to sub-standard cleanliness.
“Maybe we can hire Mark!”. Uh-oh. Me as the janitor at a school? Did I mention it’s an all-French school and I don’t speak French?
Not only is janitorial work not exactly something I went to school for but it’s also a far cry from web design, marketing and sales.
I decided to take the job anyway. One of the reasons was so I could make some extra cash, so my wife could take the summer off. Another was to help out a friend (the janitor) and a third, which I only realized when I was actually working at the school, was to get the hell out of my comfort zone and jump over the rut that was waiting for me.

It shook things up in my head. It pressed me for time in my own business, which made me cram lots of work into the limited time I had. It made me appreciate the web design business and record store again. Not that I ever really lost appreciation, but still. It also boosted my French. I still don’t speak it, simply because I don’t know where to start a sentence, but I’ll be able to understand my daughter better when she rambles complete sentences in French to me.

My friend is back on the job after this weekend, and I’ll be able to catch up on some of the todo-list items that got put aside during the past few weeks.

It’ll be a coffee fuelled week, I’ll tell you that. I believe that if you want to be successful in your business (and personal life!), do good things that you’re not comfortable with. It’ll make you a better business owner and a better person in general.

Connect with site visitors, use live chat

As a business owner, you’re probably always trying to connect with (potential) customers in one way or another. Social media, email newsletters, sometimes even cold calling them. But have you ever considered putting a live chat widget on your website?

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I run a side-business, an online record store called Funky Moose Records. Especially when you’re dealing with end-user customers, having a direct channel to reach you is invaluable.

There are a bunch of ways customers can contact you: Through email, through a phone call or even through social media messaging, but all of those are passive. You’re essentially waiting for people to take action, so you can talk to them.

Email: Great for longer, in-depth conversations, but if your inbox is anything like mine, it can become crowded very quickly, so the response is not always quick.
Phone calls: Getting an immediate response from the store owner is great for customers but in my experience a bit of a hassle. If I promise something over the phone, I better have a system in place to make those promises come true. And if I happen to be on the road, I often request the customer to send me an email. Paper trail.
Social media: Although a lot of people are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, their messaging systems are rather clunky. You’ll always have to be on Facebook to get your messages, which leads to (a lot of) distractions (I just saw that Kylie Jenner scratched her legs on her MET gala dress, OMG!).

It might not be for every business, but for my record store, it’s perfect: Live Chat. I have an instant connection with my customers, I have a paper trail and, best of all, it can be pro-active.

My weapon of choice is Tidio Chat. I’ll give you a few examples of why it’s awesome:

  • It’s pro-active. There are “automation settings”, which allow you to trigger a certain response when people are on your site. For example, if you’ve never been on my site, you’ll get a friendly welcome message. When you reply (and only then!), a chat will open on my computer, and we’re instantly connected. You can do the same for returning visitors (“Welcome back!”).
    Another option is to pop up the chat when people visit a certain page. e.g., when you visit my contact page, a chat will appear asking if I can help you immediately, instead of waiting for an email.
  • You can fine-tune the appearance of the widget on your site, so it looks like it’s actually part of your site.
  • They have an incredible customer support team. They’re in London, UK, and they shut down the chat at 11pm their time (4pm Saskatchewan time), but when they’re there, their response is great!
  • They have apps for mobile devices, so even if you’re on the go, people can still message you, as if you’re texting with them. They also have a Chrome extension, Desktop apps and of course, the browser window.
  • Best of all, it’s FREE to use. They have premium features that are absolutely worth paying for, but it never hurts to try something for free.
    Especially for businesses that have a receptionist/assistant or are at their desk most of the work-day, Live Chat is a great solution.

Contact me if you need any help installing the chat on your site. I’d be glad to help.