You Might Be the Problem If…

By James Ellis

Sales sluggish? Traffic down? Conversion rates dipping? Boss seeming a little gruff with you lately? Fewer smiling customers? More customer comments than you’d like?

They all have a root problem and a root solution, but sadly, you’re not going to like it.

The problem is you.

Not the editorial you, the plural you, the groupthink you, or even the royal you. You. The person reading this. You’re the problem.

That’s not 100% true. You didn’t cause the housing crisis and the fiscal cliff. You didn’t create all the public uncertainty slowing economic growth. But you are still the problem.

Why? Because the only person you can control is you. If you claim it’s your boss’s fault, that means you get to pass the buck. If you decide lower conversion rates are because your customers are dumb, that’s an excuse to not try and fix it.

But you can’t just “fix it,” can you. Especially if you believe that the fault lies with someone else. Making it your fault and your problem means that you get to do something about it, not just blame and move on. Making it your fault means that power lays in the one place you can use it: within you.

And that’s not just some self-help/new age/zen-esque notion. The problems with your business and site are usually you, in that you haven’t figured out how to build a site for your customers. You built a site for you.

The joke among web designers and graphic artists is that the client always wants to logo bigger. Why? The logo doesn’t ever help the customer, it’s bigger to stroke the ego of the client. Every pixel of space added to the logo is a pixel taken away from something the customer might actually want. Every interstitial ad is ten seconds you stole from your user. Every home page that touts how much you appreciate your customer is a another click the customer has to slog through to get to their order status.

When you send marketing emails, do you fill it with junk that you want the customer to know, or do you fill it with what the customer actuality wants? Is your web site showing products that you want the customer to know about, or the products your customers came for?

Do you even know the difference?

Don’t you love it when two airlines merge and they tell you that they did it for your convenience. It wasn’t to lower operating costs and increase margins while bringing standards of customer service to ever-falling levels? This is what a company calls convenience?

Do you know the difference between “important customer emails” and “spam?” I bet the standard you have for your personal emails and those your company sends are different.

And that’s why you are the problem. Because you are the only person who can stand up for what your user wants and actually give it to them. They will reward you later with more sales and better word of mouth. But for right now, as the calendar changes over, the burden falls on you to fix your problem.

How will you become the solution?

Author’s Bio: James Ellis is a digital strategist, mad scientist, lover, fighter, drummer and blogger living in Chicago. You can reach out to him or just argue with his premise at

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