Saturday, May 8, 2010
CREATING A CHESS BUSINESS HUB
I do have a website, www.thinkerspressinc.com, but nothing much is really on it. In fact it is mostly a place holder until I get my planned website for the Summer of 2010 up. Even using a template it is estimate to take 10-15 minutes for each listed item. Since I have several hundreds, that's a lot of hours.
What I am mulling, at the moment, is how to setup multiple prices because what I have examined doesn't seem to allow that. I just need one of those days (literally) where I can explore and investigate. In the meantime chess life goes on: doing books, putting out pricelists, publishing and printing DVDs, and ordering and receiving inventory... among whatever else.
I hear from "cheap" people who want a printed catalog and don't have a computer nor want one to access the web. If they had one they would be too cheap to even print a catalog out. (Don't think I am kidding, I've dealt with this.) Actually it's complicated. Some have no access to the web because they want it that way and prefer to save their money for something else.
So while this site I just mentioned is a placeholder it does serve a few useful functions. I am not likely to run into crooks who steal credit card numbers and other personal info because as of yet I have nothing like that stored on a server someplace in Timbuktu... just here on my accounting system, which is completely separate. So that eases the nervousness of those who have been bilked, scammed, screwed over, or whatever you want to call it (they call in their credit card info.)
On the other hand it doesn't make it "easier" ("good grief, how easy should life be?) for those casual purchasers who show up now and then and assume I have a functioning website because everyone else does! In other words, they take a minute of their very busy life to contact me about why I don't have a website to make their life easier to order something for which I would make $2 on the sale.
My good old friend, Bernie Ostrowsky, used to get after me and after me about getting a web presence back in the 90s because that would be the coming thing. Bernie was right except he wasn't right entirely. I started in 1997 (a long time ago) and what I learned was that building a website, updating it (we did, every day), paying the monthly maintenance fees, and all the collateral "etc.s" that go with that was turning into a zero-sum game! We didn't make any money at it! (People, yes, real people, have to pull this info off the web and give it to someone to pull inventory, pack and invoice!)
The web is a unique experience because in many instances it's hard to develop any personal relationships because... they aren't personal, they are just words! The web can't show me (easily) helping some guy with a problem, offering some extra care, or showing them how to deal with some issue because it's all electronic. It's almost as bad as texting. The web provides people with a way to do shopping comparisons which often mean nothing. How can someone compare my price for The Chess Reports with someone else's price for The Chess Reports. They can't! I am the publisher and I don't sublease this magazine.
Most databases are volatile and it's not a good idea to publish, online, how many copies one has of an item because that can be a DEAL killer too. If I have 25 copies of book ABC it's easy to think, "Hmmm. I'll get that book next week or next month, he has plenty of them." By then they have forgotten about it, that is, No Sale. If instead they see I have 1 or 2, it can cause a stampede and the confluence of many disappointed people. That's not good marketing either.
Most of this business is psychological in its ways of survival and dealing with common place problems. I get overjoyed people who write and are thrilled that I answer their emails so quickly. Web sites don't do that in most cases if they answer at all. Or, as has often happened to me, their answers are "go see our FAQ," or even worse, you get an unintelligible answer.
I've been on web sites that are so complicated no one can figure them out or want to. Skip city. My placeholder gives info on contacting me.
I still get regular mail orders! Can you imagine web sites handling "regular mail?" I can't because many of them have no provision for doing so (except the dating web sites!!) at all. That gets a personal touch response in most cases.
In summary, what I am saying is that my method of handling emails and orders, without a proper website, has worked to some degree. I will eventually get an automated system to help those who want to buy and fly, but first, I prefer to help the customers I already have.
Since forming the new company, G&L CHESS, in the past year I have really tightened inventory. Just the other day I was watching some world championship site (Anand-Topalov stuff) and I noticed an ad for a type of "blowout" chess sale. Tons of total crap were offered at 40% off. I think I had only ONE of those books, maybe two, in my inventory. And most of this stuff is from a well-known current or former publisher (I can never tell which). Years ago I had spotted those books and turned a thumbs down to stocking that inventory. Sure I probably lost a few sales, but apparently not much as a large percentage of items were on the block, uniformly because they were all around ineffective, boring, and useless stuff with designs that were even worse! Hard to believe but a decade (or more) was in the oven for producing shredded trees. In some ways I was glad to see others had the taste buds for avoiding them too.
Life's interesting. Today I attend a birthday party and don't have grass to mow for another week. I will be working on new things to tantalize you. And as usual, I will return to my cybernetic toy (this machine) and retrieve emails to fill your orders and give you some pleasure as life moves along. To me, you are valuable in many ways.