Transition Points

This morning our little part of the world was recovering from a brief snowstorm. As I left the building for a client meeting and again as I returned to my office, there were people (different folks each time) standing at the door talking. I noticed it because the atrium was getting cold as they stood there, door ajar, discussing whatever it was they were discussing.Transition to a new website!

But it got me thinking about transition points. When you leave a room or a building, it is a transition point. And something catches your attention which is why folks often stop to talk right then. Visiting a web site is a transition point. For most of us, we’ve been engaged in a different activity but now we are suddenly looking at a web site – perhaps it is your web site.

This is the opportunity for us, as web site owners, to have a conversation with the visitor. To engage them and help them understand what is in store for them as they move deeper into the site. In my experience above, the change in temperature was something that caught the attention of folks and made them stop to talk.  What is your site doing or what should it be doing at this key Transition Point?

One mistake that many website owners make at this point is to show lots of pretty pictures without asking the visitor to step deeper into the site. These are the “sliders” or rotating images that make up the top part of so many web sites. Site owners love them because it is such a great way to showcase all the great features of their product or service. The only problem is visitors are usually not looking for features, they’re looking for benefits.

Transitions present opportunities. To take full advantage of the opportunities presented, we, as website owners, need to carefully consider what our visitors want. No matter what your business is, a great way to understand what your web site visitors are looking for is to ask your existing customers. What benefit do you get from our service / our product / working with us? Use what you learn to redo your front page and possibly to redo your site structure.

The conversation need to continue to change (your front page needs to change over time) in order to keep engaging people as they come through your door (enter your site). We have a customer whose site brought in 45% more revenue the first year we redid it. But as we have continued to make changes, it has averaged more than 20% increase in revenue each year. The key to success is to grab the visitor at the transition point and engage them. Then just keep moving them along until you’ve successfully won their business.

Custom Development? What Does That Mean?

I often tell folks that EduCyber does custom web development. They nod their heads but I can tell they walk away wondering what exactly that means.

So let me give you an example of a project we just finished:

Denver Tux, a local tuxedo rental company had a software package that managed all its rentals and sales but the vendor was looking to get out the business and the software was no longer meeting their needs or being updated regularly.

Working very closely with the owner, we created a web-based system that lets Denver Tux manage all the complexities of tuxedo rentals. While the system is essentially a Point of Sale (POS) system dealing with rentals is far more complex. Once an order leaves the system – and remember an order can be very complex with pants, shoes, shirt, jacket, tie, cuffs, vest and more – that same order has to be able to be checked back into the system. Larger items like pants, vests and coats, are all tagged so it is important to know not that “a black vest” was returned but that the same vest that was rented to Groomsman A has just been returned.

We created the processes to manage all that and to also create all the reports desired. From a financial perspective, you can view daily sales, monthly sales and other customizable reports. You can also pull up and see who in wedding party hasn’t come in to be measured yet, or which tuxes haven’t been returned afterward.

I could go on, explaining how we’ve created solutions to handle tax, rentals and retail sales, employee clock in and clock out and much more. But suffice to say that if you need custom web development – or even custom development that might not be on the web – we can get you the solution that meets your specific needs.

You’ve Got to be Kidding Me! Privacy on the Internet

Privacy is something no one should assume while surfing the Internet. EVERY SINGLE move you make on the Internet is recorded on numerous server logs around the world. The only expectation of anonymity comes from the fact that the sheer volume of data is so overwhelming that honing in on your data is unlikely.

Unless . . .

Unless you are on someone’s radar. Then following you is as easy as putting a “Follow me” sign on your back and having someone follow you.

Yet even knowing this I have been astonished lately. On February 1st my tablet – which doesn’t have a cellular service plan on it – notified me through Google that I had only walked four miles in January but eight in December. No, I don’t have a pedometer app installed. No I didn’t ask for Google to tell me this information. No I have no idea why they decided to tell me this. They did tell me that they collected this information through location information that Google uploads from time. But of course with no cell information I’m still baffled. I’m guessing that it tracks me until I drop off of wifi on my way to and from the car.

Over a month ago the facebook app on my tablet told me I needed to agree to new permissions for it to update itself. I looked at a few of the permissions and balked. Yesterday I tried to open FB and it informed me it wouldn’t work until I updated it.

Here are the permissions that I had to agree to for Facebook to update:

  1. Allow Facebook to read my text messages
  2. Add and modify calendar items – WITHOUT MY KNOWING about the changes
  3. Connect and disconnect from wifi
  4. Modify and delete items from USB media
  5. Record audio
  6. Get my location
  7. Take pictures and videos
  8. Add and remove accounts on my device, create accounts and set passwords
  9. Modify social media contacts, read my call log, read my contacts
  10. Download files without notification

Some of those are rather disturbing. Why on earth would Facebook want to change my calendar without me knowing? Why should Facebook delete files from USB media? I can see it now. I have my presentation all ready to deliver and Facebook decides it isn’t good enough and deletes it?

Why would Facebook need to control my camera? Are they going to surreptitiously take pictures and videos of me? I can’t wait to see the picture of me picking my nose posted for me.

I might even be willing to grant Facebook this access – they are a private company after all and they’ve promised to keep my information secure. But thanks to Edward Snowden we know that the government has access to pretty much all the data that large firms like Google and Facebook have access to. Which disturbs me. Does it disturb you?

What I Learned from a 75 Year Old

Yesterday I met a man who walks five miles a day. He does this every day and has walked 14,000 miles. If you do the math, he’s been at it for close to eight years. He is 75 years old. By the time he’s 80 he plans to have walked a distance equal to circumventing the globe.

What did I learn from this discussion?

  1. The importance of consistency. It has been extremely cold here lately. He didn’t let that stop him (though he did walk inside). Every day. For close to eight years. Five miles. What have you done every day for the last eight years besides get out of bed?
    I’ll bet that after doing that every day, if he skips a day now, he feels it in a bad way. One of the things I see in Internet marketing and in business in general is a lack of consistency.  People commit to updating their site every week and do it religiously for two weeks. And then get sidetracked. Business development people commit to holding five outside meetings every week. And they do it really well for a month. But not, apparently, long enough for it to become a habit. Yet this older gentleman sticks to his routine and now it is a habit for him. A healthy habit that will help him age like a fine wine instead of a ripe banana.
  2. The importance of variety. I asked him what route he takes on his walks and he said it depends on the day, on the weather, on how he’s feeling and on whatever the day brings. Doing the same thing exactly the same every time, unless you work on an assembly line, gets stale rather quickly which then leads to a lack of follow through. By mixing things up though, you get a fresh perspective on life and on the task before you. Trying a new path to walk down, even if it is parallel to your normal path, can open your eyes to new possibilities.
  3. The importance of goal setting. At 75 years old many of us would suggest he slow down. Take life easy. Get a recliner. He could very well have said “I’m 75 and I just walked 14,000 miles, I’m taking a rest.” But instead he has a five year goal. And he’s already contemplating what to set after that. As the year winds down many of us are setting goals for the year ahead. But what about three years from now? Five? Ten? And yet here’s someone that is 75 and has a five year goal! Talk about inspirational!

What do these learnings mean to me personally?

  1. I am responsible for growing my company. That won’t happen if I’m not out talking to people, meeting new people, and revisiting existing connections and customers. But with a clear plan – instead of five miles a day I’m working on four meetings a week – I can set a consistency to what I do that helps my company grow in a healthy manner.
  2. Meeting with different kinds of people. We work with and target some distinct niches, such as tourism-based non-profits. By meeting with people that serve on boards, people from companies that serve non-profits and staff from the non-profits, I get clearer perspectives on what the needs and challenges of these organizations are which in turn makes us more valuable of a partner / vendor to these organizations.
  3. Setting goals is easy. “I want to earn $1,000,000 a year”. There. I set it. But setting realistic goals based on past performance and current conditions is perhaps a better path. And setting goals not based on revenue are very important. There is so much more to life than money. Whatever the goal that is set, it is important to not only set it but then to track progress towards the goal. If you say you want 30 new customers next year but at the end of the first quarter you only have three, you need to either change your goal or change what you’re doing to work towards that goal.

So whether you’re 75 or 25 (or somewhere in between), remember to be consistent in what you do, add variety as able and always set (and measure) goals.

Six Reasons to be Thankful

We are thankful for:

  1. New connections. The first part of our tagline is “We PARTNER with our customers” and we are excited about all the new “partners” we have this year. EduCyber is delving further and further into innovating to help our customers get ahead and stay ahead.
  2. Strong relationships. EduCyber has a very high customer retention rate. We help our customers succeed over the long term. And they reward us by keeping their business with us. Very thankful!
  3. Our jobs. We love designing websites and developing websites. The challenge of determining a clear action step and then implementing it. Removing all the clutter and distraction so that visitors can move on to the next step. This takes great design and it takes great development.
  4. Our community. We are engaged in our business community through a wide variety of organizations but we are also engaged with our neighbors and friends through Sunday worship, Boy Scouts of America, Optimists International, and volunteering at different charities around town.
  5. Our health. There is a lot of confusion and unrest around healthcare in our nation. But we are thankful that we have our health.  Take each day as it comes – Carpe Diem!
  6. New challenges. One of the exciting things about being in the Internet Marketing realm is that what was true yesterday might not be true today. We love delighting our customers as we bring new technologies and new programming to bear to give them a site that helps them grow.

So from all of us at EduCyber to all of you – Happy Thanksgiving!

Staying a Step Ahead

Not long ago I wrote about the 10 Reasons You Don’t Need a New Website. That list was formed from conversations, perhaps I should say excuses – I have had over the years.  As we approach the end of the year, the time of reflecting on the year gone by and planning for the year ahead, I’d like to share with you the secret to staying ahead of the competition with your Internet presence:

The secret to staying a step ahead is one that, if you take the time to look, is obvious. Review your competitors. Who is growing? Who is staying busier than the rest of the crowd? Who is reaping the rewards of clients / sales / leads through their web site?

The secret is simple. It is, in a nutshell, applying enough of the right resources to succeed. When it comes to your website, the resources you have at your disposal are time, money, and expertise.

  1. Timetime
    Spending the time to understand what your website needs is essential. There are ads out there, we’ve all seen them, touting a fantastic web presence for only $100 / month. Sound too good to be true? Yeah, it is. As simple as it sounds, the best use of your time is to spend it figuring out how your web site fits into your business flow. Set website goals based on getting more business. Then you’re ready to determine next steps.
  2. Money
    Speaking with a non-profit client last week, I explained that if the goal of their site redesign is to raise an additional $100,000 / year then they should be prepared to spend up to $25,000 the first year. But that wouldn’t be a bad return on investment and the second and third years would be even better. Set your budget based on the value you’ll get from the site. If you see it as an expense, your website will fail. But if you see your website as an investment, understanding that a good web site can generate leads or conduct more ecommerce, you will be on the right track.
  3. expertiseExpertise
    Tied very closely to the first two, website expertise can be in house expertise or it could be turning to an outside web development agency. They key is that you understand the expertise required based on the time you spent setting your goals. Then you can make an informed decision. If you have staff that understands conversion optimization (getting more from your web site) then that is the way to go. If not, then you can find expertise in an outside agency.

For most business owners it means taking the time to make sure they are spending their money on the right expertise. If you determine an outside agency is the best route for your organization, contact us for help.

 

10 Reasons You Don’t Need a New Website

Top Ten ListThat’s right. I’m not here to talk you INTO buying a new web site. I’m here to tell you why you don’t really need one:

  1. You paid for a whole new web site five years ago
  2. Websites don’t generate new customers, good salespeople do that
  3. Somebody told me I’d have to write something called a blog. Regularly. Not going to happen. Don’t need it.
  4. You’re not Amazon or eBay – you’re not selling products, you offer a service
  5. I had someone give me a quote for a site. $20,000 sounds like an awful lot. Especially when I get emails everyday telling me I can get a site for $100.
  6. You’ve been in business for more than 10 years and you haven’t needed one yet, why should you get one now?
  7. Your competitors have all had web sites for many years. You’d just be spending time and money trying to catch up to them.
  8. You’re only open 40 hours a week. If you had a web site it could give the appearance that you’re open 24/7.
  9. You’re too small for a brand. You don’t really have a brand so there is nothing to “put out there” for the world to see.
  10. People in your area need your product, not people far away so why give them an opportunity to buy it online?
  11. BONUS: Everyone else has a web site – you can stand out by not having one.

Have you heard these? Have you heard them coming out of your own mouth? If one or more of these reasons belongs to you, then I say, “Welcome to 1995”.

The reality is you do need a web site. A good one. One that is less than five years old, reflects who you are as a company or business, shows to all visitors that you are legitimate, builds up your brand – whatever your brand is, and what about those $100 websites or even the free ones? You’ll end up looking cheap. Is that your brand? 

So if after reading this you decide you really do want a web site despite all these great reasons to the contrary, give us a call at 303 268-2245.

 

 

Economics of Conversion Optimization

I spend a lot of time every day explaining Conversion Optimization because it is such an important part of what we do.

The general idea is to get more of your visitors to perform a specific task – a task that will help your company grow. It may be as simple as signing up for your newsletter or sharing on Facebook something about your site. Or it could be as significant as buying something online or calling you up, ready to do business.

First you have to determine what you want visitors to do, then start working on the process. But why? Is it really useful?

Let’s say you have a web site that sells widgets. Each widget is $10. During a typical month you get 10,000 visitors to your website and you sell 100 widgets, one to a customer. You have a 1% conversion rate:

100 (customer)/10,000 (visitors) = 0.01 or 1%

So you set to work on improving the conversion process and after much work you go from a 1% conversion rate to a 1.5% conversion rate. What? Only a .5% increase?

No. Not a .5% increase. Look again. That is a 50% increase. Now instead of making $1000 for every 10,000 visitors, you make $1500.

50% IncreaseStop and think about that. If you had not conversion optimized your site, and instead run an SEO campaign to increase traffic to 100,000 visitors a month you would make $10,000. But if you first optimize your site for conversion and then do the SEO campaign, you are suddenly making $15,000 month.

Spend time optimizing your site before you optimize your search! If you spend the resources to improve your conversion rate from 1% to 2%, you will double the money you get from your site.

Well that makes sense for ecommerce but what about a lead generating site? The same principle applies. If you get 1000 visitors a month, ten of which call and one of which becomes a customer, you now have a formula. First look over your site and see what you can do to optimize the conversion process. Then make some changes. It is actually better to make small incremental changes so you can determine which changes are working.

On the web site itself you can’t change the conversion rate of 10 calls to 1 customer. That is an internal process you can (and should) work on. But you can work to get more people calling. Again, get 15 or 20 calls a month and you have a 50 – 100% increase in conversions, leading to more revenue for you.

So invest the time and resources to make your site better. It will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Check Your Eyesight

What a difference being able to see clearly makes! I have been busy lately. So busy that I didn’t take time to get my glasses polished up. They had several scratches on them and just never quite came clean. Then a few weeks ago I was horsing around with my kids and bent the left wing of the glasses.  Still too busy I dealt with the frustration of bent glasses I couldn’t see well out of for a couple of weeks until two days ago.

Then I took them in and asked if the store could rebend them into the proper angle. They not only did that, they replaced the nose rest pieces and polished the lenses. Needless to say I feel like I have a new pair of glasses. I can see clearly again!

And the same concept applies so clearly to your web site. Have you polished the lens through which you view it?eyeglasses

Here are a few tips that can help you:

  1. Go to a Internet Café or borrow a friends computer and look at your site
  2. Look at your website on a variety of devices: desktop, laptop, tablet, phone.
  3. Sign up for your newsletter
  4. Review your web site statistics (Google Analtyics or  server based program like AWSTATS)
  5. Ask three customers or vendors to use your site (note: I did not say look at it – give them a specific task)

By following one or more of these tips it will help to take you outside of your normal framework and see your web site from a fresh perspective. Ask yourself “how is the web site helping my business grow?” And if the answer is, “it isn’t”, give us a call at 303 268-2245. 

Take a Break from Technology

Step away from the technology

For a couple of years my email signature read “Go outside. The graphics are amazing.” Though it wasn’t original to me, I did have several people ask me if they could use it in their signature.

It’s important both for personal and professional reasons to step away from the technology. There are dozens of articles about why that is important for your personal well-being. I want to address the importance of stepping away for professional well-being.

  1. The Tyranny of Email. Us desk workers often have our email up on our computers all day long. The problem is with what I call the tyranny of email. Whenever a new message comes in, if you feel the need to stop whatever it is you’re doing and respond to the email, you have a problem. If getting away from your computer isn’t possible, close your email for a while. This morning I ignored email for more than an hour to work on a proposal. The proposal turned out well and I was still able to respond to the emails in a timely fashion, just not IMMEDIATELY.
  2. A Change of Pace. We are blessed to have offices on the north bank of Clear Creek. When we need a break, taking a walk along the creek is awesome. But you don’t need a creek to get away. Walk down the hall. Turn away from your computer and do a few stretches.  Close your office door and jump up and down. How does any of this contribute to your professional well-being? Often you can be much more productive by taking breaks throughout the day. I have to force some folks on staff to do this but when they do, they always come back refreshed and with a new perspective on the issue(s) they are addressing.
  3. A Different Medium. If you do all of your work on a computer, try using a different medium. Your brain actually thinks differently with different media. Use your white board instead of your keyboard. Try using a notepad (not a computer tablet! I’m talking about one of those yellow notepads with lines on them) to take notes or compose on. I’m not asking you to do this every time but by doing it from time to time it helps you use different parts of your brain and you might be surprised on the different kind of results you get.

You might be getting a raise sooner or landing more clients faster by trying one or more of these. The overall goal is to take steps to help you focus more or focus differently on what is really important. Technology is just a tool to help you do your job.

8/28/2013 update:

I just came across this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINa46HeWg8. It explains it best!