Increase Your Non-Profit’s Donations

by Kevin Dees on June 15, 2017.

People who want to address problems like sickness, poverty, hopelessness, and confusion are champions. Your goal as an non-profit is to show champions how they can address the big problems by connecting to your mission (the solution to those problems). When you can do that donations will become a natural step.

The issue is that connecting champions to your mission is not as simple as asking for a donation. When you jump straight into asking people to help you, “you” become the focus and not the big problems. When “you” are the focus champions can not see why your mission is important because the problems are hidden from view.

To achieve your mission you need to speak about the problems and the solutions not your needs.

Tom’s Problem

Lets say Tom the non-profit advocate needs to raise money for affordable housing. He has been going to his friends and saying,

“Hey guys, I need your help. I’m are trying to help the homeless find affordable homes. Your gift would really help me. If you can give just $50 dollars you can have a cool teeshirt or inspirational book too.”

I do not think any of Tom’s friends are going to give. Here is where Tom has gone wrong:

  1. Tom is focusing on Tom’s problem. He says, “I need your help” and “I’m are trying”. Tom seems to be doing fine from what his friends can see. Tom started off all about Tom. It was not until later that he got to the point and said, “help the homeless find affordable homes.” But, Tom goofed again. He did not ask his friends to help the homeless he asked his friends to help “him”.
  2. Tom completely skips the how the affordable solve the homelessness problem. In fact he said, “Your gift would really help me.” I fact, it sounds like Tom is the solution.
  3. Tom is also missing how giving will make an impact. What will a gift even do?
  4. At the end Tom tries a gimmick to sweeten the deal. No free teeshirt or book is going to attract his friends. In fact if his friends are true champions a free teeshirt is unattractive. What is the purpose of the teeshirt?

No number of words are going to help Tom because he has made his message all about “Tom” and what Tom is doing. Tom needs to tell a different story. Tom needs to know “The Big 3”.

The Big 3

To communicate his mission effectively and rally champions Tom needs to communicate “The Big 3”.

  1. The problem your are solving with a champion. At deepest level this is “why” someone should care and “why” you care. The problem is anything a person wants to champion over: hunger, poverty, hopelessness, or confusion.
  2. The solution to that problem. I call the solutions the “wells” you are digging for the thirsty. The “wells” are the “tools” and “how” of your mission.
  3. The impact champions make. Impact is “what” change you are making when the solution is delivered. A solid impact is communicated through telling the story of the lives changed by the solution.

Here is the framework:

  1. Problem = Why care.
  2. Solution = Tools and how.
  3. Impact = What changes.

The simplest way for Tom to communicate “The Big 3” is by crafting a one paragraph message, or story, he can share with anyone. Once Tom has that message he can begin to use it anywhere. On his website, campaigns, social media, conversations, or emails.

Lets help Tom out and create a message we can share with him that uses “The Big 3”.

The Problem

The first part of your message should be focused on the problem you are solving. For Tom you need to focus on homelessness . To explain the problem effectively:

  1. You need to create a connection between the champion and the needy. Invoking empathy is the best tool to create that connection.
  2. Be clear about the actual problem. Make the problem practical. Do not get too fancy. Communicate the problem in tangible terms.

You might write,

“Life without a home is hard to imagine but many people do not have a place to call home.”

With this sentence you have created the feeling of “home” and invoked empathy by asking a champion to think about what not having a home is like.

The Solution

Next you need to focus on the solution to the problem. I call the solutions the “wells” you are digging for the thirsty. Here are some tips:

  1. Focus on the solution on the problem not yourself. You are involved in delivering the solution but do not get focused on that. You want the solution to be about “how” a champion uses a “tool” to solve the problem. If the goal is for a champion to get involved make it about them.
  2. Quickly explain the “tool” and “how” using it achieves the solution.

For Tom you can write,

“Affordable housing gives hope to those who need a place to call home. When you give you help build homes and change lives.”

Notice what is missing here. There is no “exclusive” statement. Then is no “you” and “us”. This statement includes the champions.

Do not be afraid of using words like “we” and “us” but be sure they are inclusive.

The Impact

Finally, express the impact. The impact is all about the change the solution has made in a tangible way. In the solution statement you kept the impact general. With the “impact” statement you want to:

  1. Bring the impact down to earth and make it feel real.
  2. Quantify the change that is made and the lives it effects. Make it concrete.

You write,

“With each home that is built fathers, mothers, and their children have a place to call home. With an affordable home families in need can grow the economy and impact the community themselves.”

Your Impact

You like Tom and want to help him out.

You say, “Tom, you have a problem. Rejection is difficult when you pour your heart into helping the homeless. I have a solution, made of three parts, that connects givers with those in need. I just learned them myself and they have helped us reach more people. If you like…”

Tom excitedly interrupts you, “What are they?!”.

You explain “The Big 3” and walk Tom through your approach. Tom smiles as you share your idea,

“Life without a home is hard to imagine but many people do not have a place to call home. Affordable housing gives hope to those who need a place to call home. When you give, you help build homes and change lives. With each home that is built fathers, mothers, and their children have a place to call home. With an affordable home families in need can grow the economy and impact the community themselves.”

Tom pauses to let the messages sink in. Then, after a moment, Tom delivers the ask, “Join the mission. Give today.”

Asking for the Donation

Once Tom has a compelling message he was able to take the leap and ask champions to join the mission by giving, “Join the mission. Give today.” When Tom asks for a gift he is calling for action.

When you use “The Big 3” a call to action becomes more than the punchline at the of your message. It becomes the entire message.

In the Real World

One non-profit that does an excellent job of telling the story of their champions is Charity Water.  You can see them using this framework on their website, marketing campaigns, and in video. Here is a video they created sharing the message of their mission and how clean water changes everything.

There is a lot more to creating a more refined message:

  1. First, you should overcome at least one objection to your mission. Charity Water does this by clarifying 100% of their funds go to the mission not their pockets.
  2. Second, you should ask people to give in specific ways. Charity Water does they by asking you to give in multiple ways, “A little, a lot, or everything you’ve got.” Which takes us to refinement three.
  3. Don’t be afraid to encourage extravagant giving. Some champions want to know its ok to give extravagantly.

However, what is most important is that you use “The Big 3”. Address the problem, the solution, and the impact.

4 Principles for Making Your Home Page Work

by Kevin Dees on June 13, 2017.

Every business is unique. When it comes to crafting a powerful homepage you need a solution works with your unique business objectives. There is a lot of marketing advice out there. Much of it is really good too. This makes it incredibly hard to know what advice will work for your business and what advice will not.

So, what advice will help you make a great homepage and what advice will not base on your unique objectives?

To uncover what advice will work and what advice will not all you need to know are four primary principles in digital marketing.

  1. Be clear with your messaging so someone can understand you quickly.
  2. Create fewer questions from customers and ask them at the right time.
  3. Put the customer first.
  4. Save your customers time.

Be Clear

First, every home page needs to be clear. If a customer is confused about the products you offer they will not buy from you. A clear message needs to come alongside a quality product, service, or idea. People buy products they understand the most.

To find out if someone can understand your products show them your home page for 3 seconds. If they do not understand what you are selling within 3-5 seconds it is not clear enough.

You might be surprised but Facebook does a great job at being clear. There is a lot they do and it might be tempting to talk about all of their features. Instead they focus on being clear and highlight what is most important.

Clarity is powerful but it is not the only factor. There is no silver bullet when it comes to making a great home page.

Fewest Questions, Impeccable Timing

When you cause someone to think you are losing ground. For a custom car products site, you might be tempted to ask for their vehicles make model and year right away. If you are a delivery service or sell insurance you might want a zip code. If you are a personal injury lawyer you might want to know the cause.

For example, Michelin Tires asks right away for your vehicle make, model, and year. It is not to say they are doing anything wrong. However, they are asking a lot of questions right when you get on the site.

Your home page must create the fewest questions possible. An unwanted question is a barrier to a sell. The goal is not to eliminate questions entirely. The goal is to remove the questions that are not needed. For Michelin Tires it might be that asking for your vehicle information is a question that must ask.

Timing is also important. Some questions must be asked. When they are asked is what is important. The goal is not to ask all the questions at the end. It is to ask them at the perfect time.

For example, a delivery service needs a zip code to account for pricing in many cases. However, that question needs to come the right time. To ask fewer questions and get the timing right requires critical thinking and creativity. There are no cookie-cutter solutions here only the principle.

One of the things we like to say at Robojuice is this, “We want to create fewer question marks (?) over a customer’s head and more excitement marks (!).” If we can convert questions to excitement then we are talking.

To find out if your questions are right, have someone use your site and watch their facial expressions. You want smiles not confused or overly focused looks.

Focus on the Customer

This is perhaps the biggest rule in the design world and it is true in the marketing world as well. The user or customer comes before the business. This is not to say the business is not important. It is to say that the customer comes first.

To put the focus on the customer. Focus on the problems they are trying to solve. Come along side then in their time of need and guide them through solving their problem. Frame your marketing round them not your business.

It is can be say to say on your home page, “At our business. We see your problems. We solve those problems.” Do not do this. Focus on the customer. Say, “You have a problem. You want a solutions. Our business has the answer for you.”.

MoonClerk does a great job at focusing on the customer with their words but also demonstrate who their are through the images they use.

It is not about taking yourself out of the equation it is about making the customer the hero of the story. It is about helping the customer accomplish their goals first.

Save Time

Saving time is another principle. Saving time is not just about a site loading fast it is also about customers understand what is going on quickly. The words and design you use are the greatest factors in the time arena.

Your home page needs to be clear and concise with its words and design.

A home page that sales needs to be designed in a way that gives direction not options. Providing direction points a customer to a solution. Options causes a customer to slow down and question what it is they want.

Remember, you want to ask questions at the right time and it is probably when their first arrive on the home page.

Also, using the right words in just as important as creating the right design. Lengthy copy is not helpful if you are trying to save time.

Apple has been one of my favorite sites when it comes to being clear and concise. With their powerful brand string product photography and right words they can cut directly what matters most and convert the question they create into excitement. Plus, the message is about the customer.


Dealers and Retailers Care About Time Over Products

by Kevin Dees on June 9, 2017.

As a Manufacturer, when it comes to dealer and retailer relationships you are not selling them your products you are selling them time.

Because you are a manufacturer you have unique problems. This is very true if you do not sell direct. You need to create products consumers demand.  And, you need to provide time-saving assistance to dealers and retailers so they sell your products over the competition.

Yes, your products are important to your customer. Your customer being dealers and retailers. But, a quality product that is hard to sell and wastes your customers time is not going to get the shelf space you want on merit alone.

If saving your customer time is the game then you need to think of ways to help them do just that. However, while there are many tactics for doing this, simply executing tactics will diminish your impact, relationship, and growth. You need to work a plan to focus your efforts and deliver a powerful bang.

So, what does working a dealer and retailer time-saving plan look like?

At the simplest level, a plan is a set or group of tactics that are scheduled, measurable, and executable and lead you to the desired result. The desired result is to save time for your dealers and retailers. A set of tactics to get you there might be planned out like this:

  1. One: Craft digital PDFs that clearly communicate how your product solves the consumer’s problem and adds more value to their life than they spend and still produce a profit for your dealer and your business. Saving the dealer and retailer time on explaining what your product does and how to use it.
  2. Two: Program a Digital pricing guide that can be accessed through a wizard on a phone for the large number of customizations your products have. Saving dealers and retailers the cumbersome process of making a quote.
  3. Three: Invest in quality product images that engage and connect with consumer’s emotional and irrational behaviors so that dealers and retailers have the resources to demonstrate the glamor of your product and save time explaining what it might be like to own.
  4. Four: Create videos that explain how to maximize the consumer’s enjoyment of your products. These can be on topics like support or glamor. This will further maximize the easy of the sale and speed along the sales process for dealers and retailers.

If the design of your product is reliable and customers do not have to deal with needless returns you will be well on your way. However, this plan will not work if it does not align with your Vision. When Vision is missing the plan will ultimately fail because the plan lacks direction.

To make a solid plan you need to understand the importance of Vision, Message, and Strategy:

  1. Your Vision and Mission, the north star toward which your company is aiming and how to get there.
  2. Your Message, the story you are trying to tell.
  3. Your Strategy, the way you are different than other companies.

When you understand what these component are and can write them out you can execute a plan that works. The formula works like this:

  1. Vision and Mission direct your Message.
  2. Message directs Strategy.
  3. Strategy directs Planning.
  4. Planning directs Tactics.
  5. Tactics create Results.

Too many times we do the reverse. We have all started with tactics and wondered why the results stopped coming in. And, when the results stop coming it’s easy to worry and feel lost.

At Robojuice we have found this formula to work time and time again. It is our mission to take the worry out of the web by making and working plans that start with vision and end with results. Making a great plan requires critical thinking and an understanding of the digital landscape. If you need help making and working a digital plan contact us. We want to help you win online.

Why Businesses Need a Website with SSL

by Kevin Dees on June 6, 2017.

To win online you need to stay on top of the web and your website. This is why you need EV SSL for your website. When your site uses EV SSL you get a boost in all four of these areas:

  1. Your site’s findability on Google.
  2. Your site’s security.
  3. Your site’s loading speed.
  4. Your site’s branding.

What is EV SSL

Extended Validation (EV) SSL is the highest level of SSL security available. It protects the information you send and receive on your website and blocks hackers. It improves your SEO on Google in multiple ways. It increases your website’s speed by enabling you to take advantage of HTTP2 (HTTP2 is the new version of the internet in a way). EV SSL also adds a green bar and your legal business name to the browser which enhances branding and customer perception.

For eCommerce EV SSL is very helpful and a must have. It is very inexpensive for the value you receive and prices can start as low as $89 a year.

Getting EV SSL

You can obtain an EV SSL Certificate for your site on GoDaddy. At Robojuice we have used a number of providers and GoDaddy has given us the best support when it comes to installing SSL on a website. However, NameCheap is another great provider we use for SSL as well.

When you purchase an EV SSL certificate you will need to send in documents validating your business exists. This is why EV SSL is so trusted. However, be sure the documents you send include the branded name you want to use in the browser’s green address bar. If you run into issues getting the right name work with your web team to get the name right before you install your EV SSL certificate.

Installing SSL Certificates

The installation process of an SSL certificate is not simple but the return on investment is well worth it. When you purchase an EV SSL certificate have your development team do the installation work.

All SSL certificates must be installed on your web server and not every website server is the same. You might hear terms like NGINX, Apache, or cPanel when it comes to your server but do not let that concern you. Having someone who understands how each server system works is key to installing your SSL certificate. You need the right team.

Finding the Right Team

Almost every web solutions team will know how to install an SSL certificate on your server. SSL is a fundamental part of the web today and will be the standard for every site in the near future. Ask your web team to help you and you will be on your way to improved Google ranking, better security, and more. As a business, you understand that staying proactive on the web is important. An EV SSL is just one solution in the mix, but it goes a long way to improving your opportunities online.

At Robojuice we continually push the important message that working a plan is the key to success. While EV SSL can improve your website in many ways working a plan leads success online.

Dividing Your Marketing Time

by Kevin Dees on May 25, 2017.

If you are having a hard time executing or if you are executing a lot without getting results, you need a plan. A plan gives you the direction and steps needed to start moving your business forward.

Herb Jenkins is one of the executive board members at Ramsey Solutions. Herb speaks to small business owners with 50 employees and less all the time. One of the biggest problems he sees is that too much of the small business marketing team’s time goes into tactical work.

This resonates deeply with how we see digital marketing. We all have a lot to get done but executing random tactics leads to random results. To win online you need to take the time to plan well.

Herb talks about how he is successful in marketing Ramsey Solutions which has over 600 employees and is growing quickly in the digital arena. Some of his keys points are:

  1. Marketing directors need to spend much more time on planning and analysis.
  2. Churning and burning on the tactical can prevent you from hitting your marketing goals.
  3. Get out of the business of just executing.

This is why we always work a plan. Simply making a website, newsletter, or social media campaign is not going to create the results you need to grow your business well. This is not to say that tactical work is unimportant. Tactical work is very important. However, tactical work without a plan is the problem.

A Converting Call to Action Requires Empathy

by Kevin Dees on May 24, 2017.

If you want someone to buy a product, schedule a service, or share an idea you need a “call to action”. In marketing, a “call to action” is the action you are asking someone to take. The problem is that not everyone has a “call to action” that converts and some are outright terrible.

Think about newsletters. We all get newsletters but most have poor calls to action. You and I can both imagine a few newsletters that fit that bill.

It is typical for a newsletter to have a chunk of copy you have no interest in reading. At the bottom of that newsletter, it will have a link saying “Learn More”.

To find out what the “Learn More” link is referring too, you need to read the copy you just skipped because you DID NOT want to read it.

“Learn More” is not a great call to action. In fact, it is almost the worst. Along with “Click Here”, “Read On”, and “Find Out” you can be sure that the conversion rate will be low for any call to action that needs its own explanation.

What you need is a call to action that works in your newsletter, website, Facebook post, or Instagram share. If you want a call to action that converts people to customers you need to slow down, empathize, and engage.

Slow down.

Slowing down is hard. We are all busy and need to get our tasks done. But, that is the trick. Our task is not to post on Facebook or send out that newsletter. Our task is to convert and bring value. If we can not bring value to people they will never be customers.

If you are focused on more channels (Newsletters, YouTube, Facebook…) than you can handle you ran the chance of diminishing your value. Running yourself thin is the best way to evaporate your conversions.


When you are looking to take instead of help, you can not create a great call to action. A great call to action comes out of putting others needs first, not yours. Empathizing is huge because it means we are putting the relationship first. At Robojuice we will say it again and again, “relationships come first”. You need to ask questions like:

  1. What are people trying to do?
  2. What is the perspective of the person I want to reach?

By empathizing you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes. When you are in their shoes you will be in the frame of mind to create a great call to action.

When I was thinking about what to write for this blog I asked myself, “What would help our current clients grow the most?”. I was no thinking, “How can I write to get new customers”.


I need to remind you because it is very tempting for me too. I can not stress it enough. If you do not slow down and empathize no number of tips and tricks are going to turn out a call to action that converts. Once you have slowed down enough to empathize you will be in the right frame of mind and have the greatest potential to make a great call to action.

Now that is exciting!

To help create an engaging, powerful, converting call to action I have compiled the three most important tools to help you.

1. Be clear.

If you confuse someone you have lost. Your call to action needs to be clear. If people do not know what you are asking them to do and do not understand your product they will not convert.

This is not to say everyone needs to understand your product. Everyone is not your market. You just need to be 100% sure you are 100% clear to the people you want to help.

For example, at Robojuice we want to help companies who understand the significance of the web but do not know how best to grow their business online.

Not everyone understands the significance of the web. And, that is ok. Everyone is not our market and everyone is not your market.

But, you must be clear to your market. While you know your product better than anyone your prospects do not. You need to simplify what you offer in the plainest terms possible. Only then can someone know what you are asking them to do in your call to action.

Being clear is an art and requires a lot of thought. If you struggle with creating a clear message Donal Miller has some great material on the subject and Lee LeFever has a great book called The Art of Explanation both will help you start thinking more clearly about being clear.

2. Save time.

Time is our most limited resource and no one knows how much time they have. When you neglect the importance of time and waste someone’s you break trust. And, Trust is money.

To save time and show respect, get to the point. Your call to action needs to be precise and not waste anyone’s time. A good call to action values a person’s time.

  • On a website for a plumber, a good call to action might only be a short headline, phone number to call, and a button that says “I have an Emergency”.
  • In a newsletter about an event, a good call to action might be two short paragraphs, an image, and a button that says “Register For or Explore the Event”

The point here is that while it is good to clear it is also critical to be concise.

The key here is that your entry points and pathways can be walked through quickly. The destination can be more detailed but do not hang potential customers up by saying more than you need to up front.

3. Understand emotion.

Understanding the emotional state of a person requires the most empathy. Some people are in a position of fear and need help. Some people are happy and relaxed. Other are sad.

In our example of the plumber from before the call to action took into account the emotion of the person.

What is the person feeling when water shooting all over their home? Anger, fear, helplessness? What if you are in that position?

Just for fun lets elaborate on the plumber example. What would the right photo and copy be if a person is helpless? Let’s ask some empathetic questions to pick the right photo and copy:

  1. Do I want to boost my fear or eliminate it?
  2. Do I want to know how quickly help will come?
  3. Do I want to talk to a computer or a person?

If we have empathy we know the right answers:

  1. I want to eliminate fear so a photo needs to show me everything will be ok. A photo of resolution is what I need.
  2. I want the plumber here yesterday. Copy telling me you can be at my home in a specific number minutes makes me feel great.
  3. I want to talk to a person so I need a phone number, not a contact form.

To take thing further maybe you have a button that says “I have an Emergency” and when clicked it asks for a zip code and address. On completing the short form you get the exact amount of time needed to reach you and who the specific plumber is that will arrive.

To have a great call to action you need to understand the emotion of the person and empathize more than ever. The key to empathy is making the customer the hero. If you position yourself as the hero of the story your call to action will lack empathy and will not connect emotionally with the customer.

Get Started

Now that you understand the important pieces of making a call to action that converts think about how you can improve the material you already have in place. You can take these ideas to improve your conversions right now.

3 Mistakes to Avoid for Businesses Online

by Kevin Dees on May 22, 2017.

Everyone makes mistakes. Just today I was listening to Dave Ramsay, who was speaking at the 2017 EntreLeadership Summit, and he said something profound about success and failure. He said, “Success is not a gleaming shining mountain. It is a pile of failure… I’m a colossal failure. Only, I’m standing on all my failures instead of laying under them.”

Wow, how inspiring is that!

We all mess up. We all make mistakes. And, we can all stand on our failures.

However, there is no need to make blind mistakes. Sure we make mistakes on the way up but, we can all agree, fewer mistakes on the way to the top would be nice.

On the web, we need to act no differently. We need to be smart about what we do and how we do it online.

At Robojuice we have helped our clients stand upon their mistakes instead of laying under them. To do that we constantly push them to avoid doing three things:

  1. Executing goals without a vision.
  2. Putting attention before conversion.
  3. Focusing on weaknesses instead of strengths

Avoiding these three mistakes have worked for them and they can work for you too.

1: Executing goals without a vision

When you execute against a vision and are patient you win. It can be tempting to start setting goals when there is a business need. But, those goals must align with your vision and mission. If your goals are not tuned to your vision they become random tactics and produce random results.

Your goals must be stepping stones toward your greater vision. For your goals to lead you to into your vision you need a map. That map is a plan. Planning is simply mapping out what goals move you toward your vision.

The order that you do things matters.

You must have a vision before you have a plan and a plan before you have goals. Without a concrete and solid vision, you are in a race without a starting or finish line.

Working goals without a vision is one mistake that will suck the life out of your business relationships. You must put your vision first because relationship must be first. At Robojuice we have made this mistake enough times to learn that without a concert vision there can be no lasting relationship.

2: Putting attention before conversion

It is easy to drive customer attention. You can do a number of things: buy ads, use influencer marketing, send newsletters, offer discounts, and start social media campaigns. But, what happens when you have that attention? Will that attention convert to new customers?

To make the most of your digital products you need to convert. Yes, The Market decides what is valuable but when your product, idea, or service is valuable you need to convert on it before you drive more attention to it.

Like vision comes before goals so conversion comes before attention.

There is a lot you can do to build up your conversion but the key is to put conversion first.

Three tips to help you convert

Here are a few tips to help you convert better:

  1. Clarify your message. Ask, “Can people understand what my product is?” Features are great but if people do not “get it” you loose.
  2. Have a single call to action. Ask, “What am I asking people to do?” Do not paralyze your customers with choices. Be focused in your campaigns.
  3. Be authentic. Ask, “Am I telling a story that is real?”  If you are not authentic people will notice eventually. Authenticity is the long play in conversion.

3: Focusing on your weaknesses instead of your strengths

You will always have weaknesses. The goal is not to overcome your weakness necessarily as much as it is to grow your strengths. The people we want to be like are those with incredible strengths.

Growing your strengths is all about focus. With limited time and resources, it is better to focus on the few things we are truly great at verses the many things are a poor at.

In the online and brick world, you need to focus on the things you are best at. I’m not saying that if you are good at Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube you should focus on only those things. I’m saying you need to focus on doing the things you are best at like: building the product, working the numbers, or telling stories.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are only tools. The stuff that you are best at is where your energy needs to be the focus. Then fill in the gaps with the right relationships and the right people to help you do the rest.

Where you start matters.

That’s it. Where you start matters. It is the resounding song we sing: The beginning is just as important as the end.

1 Ecommerce Reality You Can Count On

by Kevin Dees on May 20, 2017.

No one can get around the fact that technology will eventually fail. In eCommerce, failure is one thing you can count on. Payment gateways, email systems, databases, and servers all have down time eventually. Plus hackers are very real and are always snooping around.

Minimizing failure is a big topic and there is a lot to think about. However, there are seven steps you can take to improve your eCommerce sites readiness. You do not need to implement everything here right away, as every site is unique and carries a different level of concern.

Step 1: Enhanced Verification SSL and PCI Compliance

Standard SSL Certificates secure the information your site sends and receives to visitors. This is what you want but there are other levels of SSL that have more benefits.

Moving from Standard SSL to Extended Verification SSL is a simple way to improve your site’s security, brand, and user experience in one shot. When you use EV SSL you make it clear to shoppers that they are in the right place and their credit card information is secure because it adds a green bar to the browser’s URL bar.

If you have an eCommerce site, PCI DSS Compliance is a must. If you want to avoid hefty fees related to credit card data breach you need to follow the 12 requirements of PCI DSS Compliance. Mainly, you need to keep records of all transactions, have a secure network, use SSL, have your site programmed securely, and scan for viruses monthly to name a few.

Becoming PCI Compliant and using EV SSL will help keep you in business and are the first steps you should take.

But what about when the worst does happen and your site is lost?

Step 2: Prepare for recovery

Eventually, every site goes offline. In many cases, sites do get backed up. Preferably your entire site and database are backed up, at the very least, each hour and sent to multiple locations. However, it is surprising how many sites have never tested their backup systems to see if they actually work.Before your site goes offline you need to have tested your recovery process. Technology is rarely straight forward with the diverse number of systems available so do not expect your backup to be different.

Before your site goes offline you need test your recovery process. Technology is rarely straight forward with the diverse number of systems available. Do not expect your backup and recovery process to be different.

Preparing for recovery is the second small step to preparing for failure.

Step 3: Enhance authorization

If you think your passwords are good you might need to think again. If you like details Computerphile made a video showing just how easy passwords can be cracked.

This is why step three is to enhance and enforce great passwords and authentication for your site administrators at login. You MUST have a secure system as an administrator.

Surprisingly, even a strong password might not be enough. To complete step three you need a strong password and two-factor authentication (2FA).

There is a lot that goes into 2FA, however, Duo Security has made a great 2-minute video so anyone can understand how it works.

Step 4: Optimize development processes

Step four is a lot more technical. It is about development processes.Whenever a developer upgrades to your site things can break because files and systems will be changes. Often during an upgrade, your site can go down for a few seconds. With eCommerce, you do not want that happening during a credit card transaction. Even just a few seconds of unneeded downtime can be a problem.

Whenever a developer upgrades to your site things can break because files and systems will be changes. Often during an upgrade, your site can go down for a few seconds. With eCommerce, you do not want that happening during a credit card transaction. Even just a few seconds of unneeded downtime can be a problem.

To counter this development problem there is a process of upgrading called zero downtime deployment. this process is designed to keep your site from going offline during an upgrade. To complete this step you need to have a great development team that understands how to deploy your site effectively.

Companies that understand zero downtime deployment strategies are the only companies to use for custom eCommerce sites.

Step 5: Eliminate single points of failure

Sometimes your order confirmation email and payment processing providers will fail to work. It will happen to everyone so do not feel alone. PayPal, Amazon, and Stripe all go offline from time to time. This is why you need secondary services for each critical service you use.

For example:

  • Have a secondary email service for sending order confirmation emails.
  • Have more than one payment option. Having both PayPal and a CC payment gateways are ideal.
  • Having multiple file storage locations.

This step too is more technical. However, as you grow your business you need to be aware of the best practices when it comes to keeping your online doors open and building customer trust.

Step 6: Block known attacks

There are all kinds of attacks that systems go through. We have to block thousands of them at Robojuice. However, we have an edge. We know the most common ways systems are compromised. Because we know what will likely happen we can prepare and build walls to reduce the number of breaches.

Commonly, sites will use IP banning, honeypots, and brute force attack blocking as walls to prevent failure and loss of service due to an attack.

When we launch a site we make sure the wall are high for the types of attacks sites can expect.

Step 7: Optimize for increasing traffic

The last step to take is the most complicated. Only a few companies really know how to develop systems that can handle a lot of traffic. There are many techniques for building sites that will continue working smoothly under heavy loads.

The easiest step is to use a CDN or service like CloudFlair. However, not every site will fit into these easy to setup systems. Some sites need more. Consider having some level of load balancing with high availability if you do not fit in a box.

Be Ready

Like with all things in life, it is best to be proactive as much as possible. Do not make your eCommerce site the exception to that rule. Work a plan and be ready for failure.

At Robojuice we make and work plans for eCommerce teams so they do not have to worry about the web and can simply put it to work. Connect with us today and we will guide you through the planning process.

12 eCommerce Requirements For Credit Cards

by Kevin Dees on May 19, 2017.

Because hackers are always trying to steal credit card information American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard, and Visa Inc. design Payment Card Industry Compliance or just PCI Compliance.

So, why do you need to be PCI Compliant?

First, when the credit card ecosystem is compromised everyone is affected.  Second, if you are not PCI Compliant you can potentially be blocked from accepting payment cards and that will get you in a bad position.

If you have a site running on service like Shopify, which is a great service, you do not need to worry. Hosted shopping services should already be PCI compliant. These services exist so you do not need to think about how all the technical pieces work.

However, if you run your own system or have a custom eCommerce platform you must make sure your site is PCI compliant. On top of this if you take credit card information in a physical location you need to be PCI compliant.

Here are the 12 PCI DSS requirements in short that are needed to protect cardholder information. To keep these requirements you will need a digital team to help you because any of them are technical. Taken from the PCI Quick Reference Guide:

Build and Maintain a Secure Network

1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
2. Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.

Protect Cardholder Data

3. Protect stored cardholder data.
4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.

Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program

5. Use and regularly update anti-virus software or programs.
6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.

Implement Strong Access Control Measures

7. Restrict access to cardholder data by business need to know.
8. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.

Regularly Monitor and Test Networks

10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
11. Regularly test security systems and processes Maintain an Information Security Policy.
12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel.

Excellence: Personal Development

by Kevin Dees on May 17, 2017.

We all want to be the best version of ourselves but we need the right relationships with the right people to help us.

The right relationships are formed from shared core values and beliefs. Opposites do not attract when it comes to core values. Only when we have right relationships can we truly begin to personally develop toward what is excellent.

The right people are those who push us in our thinking and encourage us to have other mentors and perspectives. The right people stand for something and know what we stand for. This is why relationships come first in everything we do at Robojuice. Without the right relationships, there is little chance of excellence.

To build the right relationships and build toward excellence we all need people near and far to help us. To connect with people far away we have access to books, podcasts, videos, webinars, and conferences. To connect with people near us we have meetups, seminars, lunches, and coworking spaces.

Here are a few resources and websites to connect to the right people in leadership, marketing, design, and business: