Remaining Relevant

There is a lot of news noise right now. Rioting around the world. Recovering from a virus. Murder hornets. How to reopen. Will there be a second wave causing another shutdown? Oh, and the US has now returned to space!

How do you remain relevant with your customers and potential customers amidst all the calamity sucking up everyone’s attention?

Here are five keys to remaining relevant and continuing to flourish:

  1. Do not panic. If you make important decisions while panicking, you will regret it. Stay calm. Reach out to key vendors, customers and staff if you are in a difficult spot. But do not panic.
  2. Following closely on the previous point, stay the course. On March 9th, our outlook was rosy. The pipeline was filling up nicely and existing customers were ready to add new services. There was a two week period after that when things looked bleak as the pipeline emptied out and uncertainty ruled. But the spirit of free enterprise is strong in this country and our pipeline of new and existing customers began to fill again. You are not alone. Even businesses that are busier than ever understand that others are suffering. Stay the course.
  3. Communicate. Communicate to your customers what steps you have taken and are taking to ensure the safety of your customers and your staff. Communicate what is different. Our Church shot a series of short videos showing how things would work before, during, and after the service so folks can understand before they even go in the door.
  4. Leverage. You are not isolated and you have not been operating in a vacuum. Look through your contacts. Email or call people. I have received several very nice messages from my connections – messages just to connect and show concern. These are delightful and stick with you. Think about ALL of your contacts. Reach out to your LinkedIn connections. Try your Facebook friends. Of course go through your “rolodex” of contacts. Ask if you can help or if they need help that you might be able to do an introduction for.
  5. Get creative. My friend Mike Larkin started making videos. In a recent video he “introduced” his friends. He had printed off, for example, my picture from LinkedIn and my logo and had put them on a paddle board – showing my picture on one side and my business on the other. He proceeded to introduce several of his vendors and colleagues in the same way.  It is a delightful video that both shows he cares about folks and endears those of us mentioned to him.  Think about how you can do something similar – to both help others and draw your network closer to you.
  6. And of course there is a sixth key – use your website for each of these keys. Set it as the hub so that as the business climate, your people and your network know to come to your site for the latest and greatest.

You can remain relevant. It takes a bit of focus. Don’t be distracted by whatever the news is pushing as the latest thing to fear. Keeping your eye on your goals will help and of course, if there is anything EduCyber can do to help, let us know.

Between Maki and Brian, we know a lot of people. And we want to help. So whether it is something for your website or some other business need, let me know. Hiring? We know people. Downsizing? We know people. Need help with a local government? We know people. We want to help so let Maki or Brian know if there is anything we can do for you.

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The Road Ahead: Reopening

It doesn’t matter whether you are chomping at the bit to reopen or wish the government would keep things shut down until it is deemed safe, people are getting anxious. Even those wanting to stay in are getting cabin fever.

It is spring. The weather is getting nicer. People ARE going out. And every day more people are wanting to go out.

And that means that more and more businesses will be opening. How are you preparing, both personally and professionally for getting to what many are calling the new normal?

It is prudent, none of us wants people to die, it is just that some of us see the risks differently, to be prepared for the new normal. I’m not a fan of masks – the science, where it exists suggests that anything less than an N95 mask is more for show than for actual protection. But there ARE steps you can take to minimize the risk as you venture out:

  1. Wash your hands frequently. (I can’t believe that has to be mentioned but, as it turns out, washing your hands protects you from bad germs.)
  2. When you’ve been near or in contact with others, avoid touching your face until you have washed your hands.
  3. Wash your hands frequently (see a trend here?) and when soap is not available, use hand sanitizer.
  4. Be extra sensitive to the senior population. Most of the deaths are in this population – protect your Mom and Dad – or grandparents, or whomever you have in your life that is older.

And for your business there are also several steps you should take to prepare to reopen:

  1. Move your communications, data, and email into the cloud. This will help for any work-from-home people you have as well as distributing your touch points – you don’t have to have multiple sets of hands touching your inhouse server if you don’t have an inhouse server.
  2. Update your policies – whether you interface with the public or just have staff that you want to provide a safe environment for, update your policies – in writing and make sure your staff and employees all understand them.
  3. Celebrate Your Uniqueness – Take the updated policy from step two and consider what is different from your old normal. Highlight the differences. Consider if there are steps you are taking that might be different or better than the competition.
  4. Tell the World – Now that you have a clear policy and understand what sets you apart, tell the world! One of the first things people are looking for right now, is what is your COVID-19 policy – are you open and what steps are you taking so tell the world. Post it on your website. Link to your post in your social media, update your profiles in social media and in search engines.
  5. Turn a negative into a positive. What  do we think about the current pandemic? It sucks. But instead of dwelling on the negative aspects, look at the positives. First of all, listen to your self-talk. If it is negative, shout it down. You got this. We can make it through. And we can get back to prosperity, where we were just a few short months ago.

Before you know it, we will be looking back on the beginning of 2020 as an aberration. But, much like the oxygen masks on planes, we have to first take care of ourselves before we can help others. So take care of yourself. And of your business.

And if EduCyber can be of any assistance, give us a call at 303-268-2245.

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Doing Business from Home

On a cold and snowy spring morning, while you are likely stuck in your “home office”, what can you do to advance your business? What can you do to grow when the whole world seems to have ground to a halt?

  • Pick up the phone. Call customers. Ask them if there is anything they

    Working from my basement office
    Working from my basement office

    need. When they say no, probe a bit. Just because they don’t need help with what you do or offer, let them know of your network. See if they have a need you might be able to help them meet through someone else.

  • Revisit your prospect list. Take some time with each person or company on the list. Think about what they do. Think about what they might need during this shutdown. Reach out to them, by phone whenever possible and appropriate, but by email or even snail mail where not, and offer something useful. Tips. Links to resources. Something that you can share that will add value.
  • Host an online gathering. Select several contacts whether it be customers, vendors, colleagues, partners or prospects. Set a time and host a gathering whether it be to address a specific topic or simply to share with each other about how you are coping and what is happening locally.

There is a lot happening. Every level of government seems to be rolling out programs, grants and loans to assist businesses large and small. Keep up with the current status – the grant and loan programs at the federal level are literally changing on a daily basis right now – and be prepared to share with your network.

And for you personally?

Breathe. My mother is in a memory care unit in another state. They are on lockdown, meaning my brothers can no longer visit her physically. When I call her now, she is usually breathless and has a high level of anxiety. Some of the time I can help her with the same advice I give to you. Breathe. Take a deep breath. All the way in. A bit more. Now exhale. Don’t stop. All the way out. Now do it again. I’ll wait. Now try it once more.

You got this. We got this. You are not alone.

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Leveraging Your Web Site During the COVID-19 Crisis

So you are unexpectedly forced into downtime. Can’t go to the office. Can’t go to the restaurant. Can’t go to the theater. Set aside the frustration for a moment. What can you do?

Remember way back when you were too busy to take the time to work on your site (last week)?

Now you have the time for you and your staff to revisit your website. You might be surprised. Earlier today we met with a businessman who had recently changed to a whole new website with a new URL. As we went through his site and his listings, we discovered that many of his social media and external sites linked to the previous site or to the previous email.

What things should you look for?

Basic five

  1. Is your logo and tag line current and up-to-date across all media?
  2. Is your name consistent on every page and on all your social media?
  3. Check your physical address. One thing search engines need is the same address where even “Ave.” and “Ave” can be seen differently. Make sure your address is absolutely identical. If you belong to any trade associations or chambers, check them as well.
  4. Look at your site on a phone. Does it look right on every page? Does the mobile responsive part work as expected?
  5. Review your color scheme. Does your site follow the scheme properly? Are all the colors matching your approved standards?

Intermediate five

  1. Request testimonials
  2. Request reviews
  3. Are your forms all working? Is there a next step after a form is filled out?
  4. Is the contact information accurate and up-to-date?
  5. Check for bad reviews on social – Facebook, Yelp, Google, etc.

Advanced five

  1. Are there any pages or content on your site that no longer applies to what you do?
  2. Are all of the images appearing properly? Do you need any new or different photos?
  3. Have you added any new services or products that are not yet on the site?
  4. Are your blog and social media profiles current and accurate?
  5. Is there a clear path or next step on each page?

Need help? We are available for phone or online support. Contact Brian at 303-268-2245 ext 4 or visit https://www.educyber.com/contact-us/.

We are the power behind your website.

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Misguided Marketing

Over the course of the last several years, we have had many customers come to us asking for Search Engine Optimization. We do SEO (and we do it well) so we are happy to accommodate.

Are your marketing goals misguided?But as a part of our marketing assistance, we seek to understand the goals of the SEO program. On a few occasions the customer’s goal has not been to get a higher ranking with the search engines. Those conversations go something like this:

Customer: I would like you to do SEO for my site.
EduCyber: Sure thing, let’s take a look at your numbers. First, what is your conversion rate for your web site?
C:            ???
E:            How many leads are you generating from your site on a daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly basis?
C:            I’m not.
E:            So if we get you ranked in the top ten for all of your keywords and you are still at a conversion rate of zero, will you be happy?
C:            Of course not!
E:            So let’s look at what you want to accomplish.
C:            I want the phone to ring!
E:            Ah, we can help with that.

And in many cases what we do is first tweak or in some cases redo the site to clarify and simply the Call To Action (CTA). Once we’ve done that we can establish a conversion rate. Once the conversion rate is established, then we can look at whether SEO, Pay Per Click, Social Media or some combination of those is the appropriate solution in order to get more business.

Are you wondering if you might be practicing misguided marketing? Some of the comments we hear from folks include:

  • We tried social media, it didn’t work.
  • I don’t get any feedback from my SEO firm.
  • I get all kinds of reports from them but I don’t understand any of them.
  • We’re paying a lot of money but not getting any tangible results.
  • I’m told we rank high but the phone isn’t ringing
  • I’m paying for clicks and I see the reports but no one is contacting us.

If you find yourself saying or thinking these, give us a call at 303-268-2245 ext 4 or visit https://www.educyber.com/request-free-call/ to schedule your no pressure evaluation of your site and goals.

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The Ugly Baby

Ugly Website

You’ve probably seen this – a parent who is so proud of their beautiful baby that the rest of the world is afraid to tell them the truth.

The same thing often happens with web sites. Especially websites put together in house. “We ‘birthed’ this site and it is gorgeous” is the mentality that folks have.

That is why it is so important to have others try the site. If possible you want to have impartial 3rd party folks try the site. We have had numerous folks come to us wanting to help make their “beautiful baby” better by tweaking it.

When it comes to websites, it is sometimes possible to tweak a good site to make it great. But it is never possible to tweak an ugly site to make it good.

What do I mean by an ugly site? Here are the most common symptoms:

  1. No call to action – just a lot of information but no way to act on it.

  2. Too many calls to action – we’ve seen sites with dozens of calls to action – sort of like walking into a crowded room and having everyone calling your name at once – makes you turn around and leave.

  3. Graphics that distract visitors from the call to action. If your call to action is on the left and you have pictures of people in the middle, looking to the right, visitors won’t look left, they’ll look right.

  4. Too much movement. Having an engaging website is to be desired. If you endeavor to engage by several different sections having movement, it is just distracting and leaves visitors lost.

  5. Unchanged in ten or more years. Yes, we regularly have clients come to us who have not updated their site in that long. And yes, by 2019 standards, they are ugly.

  6. Not responsive. Not unresponsive, just not responding to mobile devices. If your site doesn’t conform to responsive standards, it will look ugly on a phone. Just today – in July of 2019 – I came across a site that is not responsive. It just shows a much smaller version of itself. Drop down menus don’t work, hard to click on links because they’re too close together – just a mess.

If you have an ugly site though, there is a cure. We can help. We make beautiful web sites. And you will love the Return on Investment you get because that is how we design every site – with ROI in mind. Call 303-268-2245 ext 4 to turn your ugly baby into an integral part of your business.

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10 Next Steps for Your Website

Every web site, and every page should have a next step. Why does your business have a website? What is the purpose? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself as you look at the pages on your site.

Sure it should look nice. Yes, it would be great to be optimized for search. But if you aren’t giving your visitors a next step, what do you think their next step will be? That’s right, they’re going to leave.

Many of the next steps are obvious. But some may not be. I click to a page called “Our Team” and see the profiles of key people in the organization. What is the next step I want visitors to take? Time to think  about what steps you want people to do.

  1. Call us. Well that was easy. But make it into a button. And put the code into the button so that when I visit the site on my phone and touch the button, it pulls up my dialer and all I have to do is push “call” to be talking to you.
  2. Email us. This is pretty simple too. Make a button with your email address. When someone clicks it, it should open a new email message to you in their email program.
  3. Request a call. If you have people requesting a call, make sure you set the expectation. Will you call right away? Next day? Don’t go longer than that. Within a few hours or next business day is ok. But in any case, set the expectation and then hold yourself to it.
  4. Download <our whitepaper>. But we don’t advocate for calling it a whitepaper. A lawn service or landscaping company might have “Download 10 tips to protect your yard during a bomb cyclone”
  5. View our services <or products>. Since every page should have a call to action, a simple next step like this is great on an About Us page or page that shows the staff.
  6. See what our customers have to say (video or written testimonials). This next step is good to help close the deal if the visitor is on your services or product page. They think it might be a good fit but they’d like to hear from people you’ve actually worked with.
  7. Learn how we have solved problems similar to yours (case studies). Story telling is a compelling sales method and a good next step from a variety of pages on your site. Move people to the page where you show you’ve actually helped real people solve real problems.
  8. Sign up for our newsletter. While email newsletters are kind of a pain – lots of folks sign up and then don’t read them – they are still a powerful sales and marketing tool. And once someone does sign up, even if they aren’t ready to buy, you now have a self-selected lead. That is as good as gold.
  9. View Details about our team. This is a particularly good next step if you are a service organization. Show your services and then the next step is to see who will be carrying out the service.
  10. Learn more about our process. Whether you are selling products and need to outline the process of completing and shipping the order, or selling services and want to help visitors feel more comfortable with the timeline and the next steps, having a next step be “View our Process” or something similar is very effective.

Take a look at your site. You probably have some good content on there already but if you go back and add some solid next steps, your site will be ready to help your business grow.

And while most of these are obvious, if you have an ecommerce site, here are 10 calls to action you should check your site against:

  1. Add to Cart
  2. Checkout
  3. Compare products
  4. View specials
  5. Call for pricing
  6. Filter products
  7. See related products
  8. Read reviews
  9. Buy now
  10. Redeem coupon
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The Problem with Content

On the Internet, content is king.  If you want to be ranked in the search engines, the best thing you can do is put original content on your website.

We often have existing or potential customers get very enthusiastic about generating content for their site as we extoll the virtues of doing so. And they often follow their content generation plan very religiously . . .  for at least a week or two. But then other bright shiny objects grab their attention and they wander away from their schedule. Sometimes they never return.

Everyone can write, right? Sure we aren’t all the best spellers or best grammaticians. But who knows your business better than you? So it can’t be that hard to write a few lines of content. Or maybe you love to write. You can easily fill page after page about what you do.

But is your content web-ready? Is it optimized for search? Have you considered the placement of key words and key word phrases? There are a myriad of web specific things to understand and implement into your web site content.

  • Is it in a web-friendly font?
  • Is it broken up into digestible chunks?
  • Do longer paragraphs have visual cues to help readers quickly grasp the main points?
  • Have you used headings?
  • Have you used subheadings?
  • What is the call to action in your text?
  • How much information is too much?
  • Will your content look good on mobile devices?
  • How much information should you include so search engines can properly index your page?
  • Are there any visuals you can use along with your text to illustrate key points?
  • Did you actually use any of your key words or keyword phrases?
  • Does your keyword phrase appear in the first paragraph of content?
  • And the list goes on . . .

And what happens if you don’t consider any of these questions?

Most likely your site will be lower in the search rankings than you would like. Most likely you will attract fewer visitors. Most likely the visitors that you do attract will not be as meaningfully engaged as you would like. Most likely your site won’t perform for you. It won’t help you grow and attract new business. It won’t help you engage existing customers. And then you’ll blame your web design team for building a poor site.

Don’t get in trouble with your content. Instead, turn to someone who gets content and understands how the web works. If you choose not to have us do it, choose someone who is well-qualified. If you do choose to work with us, contact us today to get started.

 

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Building Your Brand Digitally

We work with a lot of smaller companies who tell us straight up that they are too small or below the radar to have a brand.

We say hogwash!

Every single organization – for profit or non-profit – has a brand. Included in the brand are tangible and intangible things like:

  • Reputation
  • Logo
  • Standing of the leaders of the organization
  • Iconic images
  • Presence on the internet (web site)
  • Presence on social media
  • A song or ditty that represents your organization
  • What your customers think of you
  • A particular phrase or tag line that people associate with you

You can control a lot of these aspects of your brand digitally and those that you can’t control, you can still influence.

If you hear of a company or meet someone interesting at an event and immediately do an internet search for them or their website, you can understand the power of your digital brand. Sure it is easy for the big brands. I actually rewrote the first sentence of this paragraph, changing “google” to “do an internet search for”.  We get the big brands, from Nike’s swoosh to McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” to the theme song for “Game of Thrones”. But for “little brands” like you and I, what are we to do?

First thing is to do a search for your name. Don’t add a “.com” or “.org” on the end. Just your name. And look at the results. Check beyond Google. At least add Bing into the mix. Do you like what you see? Here are some things to look for:

  • Does your company or organization dominate all the listings? It should.
  • Have you claimed your location on each site you search on?
  • Are the images the location associates with you appropriate to your brand?
  • Are there reviews of your business? If so, are they favorable?
  • Do any of your competitors appear in the results?

If you don’t like any of the answers to these questions, we can help. Want to do it yourself? Here are key things to do:

  1. Claim your location in search engines like Google and Bing (and any others that pertain to you)
  2. Upload photos and other images that are related to you in your location profile
  3. Encourage happy customers to provide favorable reviews on sites like Google and Yelp
  4. Make sure you have a social media presence. If for no other reason, do it so that your search listings will have more links to your brand.
  5. Make sure your website is optimized for search engine indexing so that all of your pages will appear in search results.
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