Looking Back or Looking Forward

Imagine starting a marketing campaign with the thought of “We don’t intend to get any business out of this.” Ludicrous, right? Yet nearly every time I sit down with a potential client, especially if they offer services instead of products, I hear “Our web site is more about closing the deal instead of getting leads.”

Which makes sense.

If you’re just looking backward.

If you have a web site that was not built with the specific intent of generating leads for your business, it is no surprise at all that your web site is not generating leads for your business.  But why on earth would you want to continue like that?

Every single business with a web site should be able to generate new business leads via their website. Every single one. Without any “excepts” or “but you see”s. I used to let folks get away with this. Inevitably a couple of months after launching their new site they would call us up exclaiming “We got a new customer through our web site!” I would congratulate them and wait and sure enough the next question would be, “How can I get more leads through my web site?”

So now, every time, without fail, we ask the question that you should be answering as you prepare for a new web site. “How does your web site fit into your marketing plan AND how can we make it work better?”

Some simple things to ponder:

  • How does your business typically generate leads?
  • How does your web site fit into that process? (or “How should the web site fit into the process?”)
  • What are two or three actions that visitors could take that will help them move through the lead generation process?
  • What information / response do you want? Phone to ring? White paper downloaded? Contact Form filled out and emailed to you? Order form filled out? Newsletter subscribed to? Online chat request?

Whatever answers you arrive at, put behind you the thought process that says, “We have not received any leads from our website until now, therefore we will not in the future.” Instead, ask yourself how you can begin to generate leads.

What is Your Focus?

“Brian, I just learned that a competitor is getting 60% of their business through their website. How come my site isn’t?” This question and many with a very similar tack gets asked a lot in my business. That along with customers new or existing asking about all the spam emails promising great results in the search engines or a huge number of leads coming in.

How does a company get a website that generates qualified leads consistently?

The simple one-word answer is focus.

This site http://arngren.net/ is a great example of a site without focus.

Unfocused Website
There are so many choices, so many things to look at, to click on, to decide on, that most people simply click the only button they know for sure will help them – the back button. This site is trying to sell you everything from the front page. Everything.

Now take a look at http://www.converse.com.

Focused website designThey too have a lot of different products from shoes to clothing and within shoes a wide range from Men’s to Women’s and Children. And yet their site is focused on what they do best, what they sell most: shoes. If you’re looking for an athletic shoe, you can quickly figure out whether this site can help you or not. You see three very different styles beneath the picture.

Giving folks THREE choices is just right. More than that and they have to think too much. If they pause to think, they’ll likely remember that they were really interested in Nike shoes, not Converse. Or that Zappos has all kinds of shoes and all kinds of deals. But by showing three clear choices, Converse draws us deeper into the site. This pulls us deeper into the sales funnel and makes it more likely we’ll click the checkout button and pay.

One click further in you can give a few more choices if needed but the key still is focus. We recently started working with a new customer that handles residential and commercial flooring. The owner clearly recognizes that most of his web business will be residential. So there will be a small link on his home page to commercial flooring but the main choices will be residential choices. Notice, he is NOT saying “We don’t do commercial flooring” and he is not hiding it. But the FOCUS on the home page will be the residential choices because that is where the web leads will come from.

The biggest pushback we get from business owners is that by focusing on a niche, they exclude their broader market. I say that is nonsense.  In fact, the more focused you are on a niche, the better you present your company and the MORE folks outside of your target want to use your services.  Disagree? Let me know!

 

Artistic Design

Today I was asked to describe visually what I do. The other participants in this exercise came up with interesting depictions of what they do. The estate planner started with a tombstone, for example.

Me? I was terrified. We design such beautiful websites but since I am not the designer, I was at a loss on how to depict what we do. How can I show, with a color marker, how awesome our work is? And when I fall short, how bad will my company look (even though it was just a small group exercise with people I know and trust).

Then I paused to think about what we do. And it hit me.

My drawing, though crude, was about like this:

conversion-optimization

We take web sites that look like the one done in red and make them more like the one in green. Yes it is a gross oversimplification but it conveys the message.

We take web sites that have too much happening and work with the company or organization to clarify their goals. In many ways, having a good website is akin to having a good strategic plan. If your plan is to go where the wind blows today and then go in a different direction tomorrow because the wind has shifted, your business and your web site will likely be like the image on the left. Lots and lots of things are happening – many calls to action – but there are so many that it isn’t clear which one is for me.

When you have a clear goal (or two or three) instead of 9 or more, then your business can move forward better and your web site can be more effective. Think about it. If you have two or three things to do today, you can do them and you’ll know when they’re done. If you have nine or ten, you might get most of them done but will it be the important ones? Or will you do the easy ones and say to yourself “I got most of my list done!”? The same thing happens with your web site. You give lots of actions for people take and they may very well take some of them. But are they the ones that will help your business grow? Will they be the kind of lead that makes someone call you or click the buy button?

At first blush it may seem counter-intuitive but actually removing items from your web site, removing calls to action that aren’t central to its purpose, can help you get more customers. They have fewer choices so it is easier for them to take the right one.

Really it boils down to two related questions:

  1. What are your goals for your website?
  2. What do you want people to do on your website?

A good example of an answer is: I want 10 new customers a year through my website. On the site I want prospective customers to fill out an information form telling me what their pain is – what problem they are trying to solve – and submit it.

Oh, and just to be clear, there would be more on the redesigned page than one button. Although there needn’t be. Have you checked out Google’s landing page lately?

Unanticipated Events and Internet Marketing

It is the middle of May and outside it is snowing. Like many here in Colorado I can only shrug and say “Colorado weather!” although I suspect many folks across this country could say “<insert_your_state> weather!”

But as I ponder this unanticipated weather event, it reminds me how so often, in Internet marketing, we face unanticipated events. It may be that a FaceBook update cancels out all of the marketing you have been doing on FB. It may be that a new Google search algorithm update pushes your site down in the rankings or removes you from their rankings altogether.  These events can and do happen.

You have no control over what decisions social media or search engine companies make. They have millions of customers and make decisions they believe are in their best interests. You need to make decisions that are in your best interest as well.

And that means that the centerpiece of your internet marketing should always be your website. You own it. You can control what appears on it. You control the content. The layout. In the Internet marketing realm, it is (or should be) the one thing you have complete control over.

So what should you do with your site? Two simple things:

  1. Make your site search-friendly. The number one thing search engines in general and Google in particular look for is content. Often I have been told by a client or potential client they want to be ranked number one for their key phrase – something like “Denver website design”. Basically the formula is <geographic_identifier> followed by <industry_keyword_or_keyword_phrase>. And I ask, “Where on your site do you use that phrase?”
    That is usually followed by an uncomfortable silence.
    Create content – lots of content and yes, it has to be original content – and make sure that your content uses your keyword phrases. Then post it regularly to your web site. Hate blogging? That is fine. Post news and industry updates to your site instead. Post case studies. Post testimonials from happy clients. There are lots of ways to get good, keyword-laden content on your site that the search engines will love.
  2. Make your site social-friendly. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you have some kind of social-sharing link on all or most of your pages.  If you have a content management system web site, you should be able to do this in a few minutes.  You can also connect your site into your chosen social platforms – Facebook and Twitter are the easiest as they’re the most well-known.
    Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little though. If your business is very visual, consider how Pinterest and / or YouTube could bring value. In any case, make your site social-friendly so it is easier to plugin to your larger marketing plan.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to take control of your Internet Marketing by making your web site the core. Add social. Add search. They are great ways to enhance your image, attract customers, and get into new markets. But make sure you understand what your goals are and how you need to get there.

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.