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.


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.

They 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!

 

SHARE THIS:

Building Websites on WordPress

A few short years ago we built most of our websites on pages that were more or less static. If a customer wanted to try something called blogging, we would add a piece of software into the site that allowed them to do this.

We had also been building sites on Content Management Software (CMS) like Joomla and Drupal. While the romance of users being able to update the content was consistently dangled before us, we found pretty consistently that users didn’t like or simply didn’t get how to use the backend interface.

In the meantime, this blogging software called WordPress was getting more and more powerful and users loved it. It had that elusive trait called “intuitiveness”. Users didn’t have to think. They could just put their content in and save or update it.

Before long we started building more and more of our sites completely on WordPress. It has grown to a very large user base (58.5 MILLION sites) and growing.

There are two great features of WordPress that fit very nicely with how EduCyber builds websites:

  1. EduCyber custom-designs every web site we build. Rather than starting with a template and shoving your content into it, we design the look and optimize it for conversion. Once we’ve got the look established, we create a template based on that look rather than vice-versa. WordPress has a flexible template system that allows us to approach design from this perspective.
  2. EduCyber develops powerful database-driven web sites. WordPress has great database features. We use those features and often add to it our own open-source software – onWord – to create web sites that have a variety of features – membership management, ecommerce, and more.

So if you are in the market for a custom-designed, database-driven website, why not give us a call?

SHARE THIS:

Web Site Development: A Case Study

In 2010 EduCyber began meeting with representatives from the Lariat Loop regarding a redesign of their web site. We sat down with them for a 90 minute discussion on what their goals were and how the web site could help them meet their goals.

During the discussion, as we brainstormed ways to make the web site more “sticky” – getting people to visit for longer periods of time and, more importantly, how to make the Loop itself more sticky, we realized that a trip planner would be useful.

Background – the Lariat Loop is a 46 mile scenic byway that winds through the communities of Golden, Evergreen and Morrison. Some of the coolest sites in Colorado can be found on the loop – Lookout Mountain, Coors Brewery, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Dinosaur Ridge, Evergreen Lake House, Boettcher Mansion and Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum to name just a few.

Each of these attractions has their own web site and we also want to drive visitors from the Lariat Loop web site to the various attractions. The thing that sets lariatloop.org apart from the rest though is the trip planner. You can visit the site, add as many different locations as you want to your trip, change the order you’ll visit them and then get turn by turn instructions on how to get to each location.

With sophisticated mapping, the opportunity for each location to have its own page and to link back to their site, along with ways to release press releases and showcase events, lariatloop.org has literally taken off.

In the last six months the site has experienced a 94% increase in unique visitors and more than 250% increase in visits from search engines.

SHARE THIS:

Web Site Bridge

I’ve been asked a lot lately what sets us apart from the competition. While we fill a distinct niche, it is often difficult to articulate how what we do is different from others.

Does this bridge go anywhere?Today I’ll use a bridge analogy. This bridge on the right gets me where I’m going. It is very functional. One side of the bridge looks much like the other side. Many web firms can give you a web site. But most of those firms will give you a site that looks both like most of the rest of their web sites and like most of the sites that are out there on the internet.

You’ll notice also that this bridge doesn’t give you much of a view. It just goes from point a to point b. No railings or other features to help you. Notice also that you could probably get by without this bridge. Just a little hop and you’d be across that ditch and on the other side. Other folks design web sites that don’t really help you get anywhere difficult. Those sites have few or no images, and little to spark the imagination. There are no “railings” that you can hold on to and grasp new meaning. And frankly if the site didn’t exist, it probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on business anyway because it isn’t generating leads, interest or new customers.

Now consider the bridge below. This bridge practically invites you to come and stand on it. The path is wide, there’s a pleasant arch to it there are railings. We make web sites like this. First they are visually appealing. They let the visitor know they are welcome to step onboard. Next, and this is the most important part of any bridge, they actually go somewhere. The bridge in the picture crosses a babbling brook that turns into a torrent every spring. Without the bridge, you’d be stuck on your side of the river. With our sites, we help you get where you’re going – each site is designed to help your business grow. We build powerful, data-driven web sites that can streamline processes, attract and retain more customers and offer opportunities to stay connected and build on the relationship.

And just like every bridge has many of the same parts but a good bridge fits in and enhances its surroundings, that is what our websites do. Some firms ask you what template you like best. We never start with a template, instead we spend time listening to you to determine what you need. Then we bring our expertise to bear to build a custom look that not only carries your brand forward but also draws the visitor in.

So the choice, dear reader, is yours. You can choose the plain old bridge (web site) that draws no attention or you can choose a beautifully designed bridge that helps move your company forward. And that is what sets us apart.

SHARE THIS:

Change Your Perspective

I just took a look at my schedule. Next week I have lunch with Brian DeLaet twice. The problem you see is that I am Brian DeLaet.  Two different colleagues have sent me calendar invitations to have lunch with them. The problem is they didn’t think about it from my perspective.

So my calendar now says I’m having lunch with Brian. Not as helpful as I’d like. Now I have to open up the invitation to see who it is that Brian is dining with.

And a lot of businesses treat their customers the same way. They start off with the perspective that if you’ve arrived – either in person or online – then you’re “in” and they skip over foundational parts of the relationship. It becomes all about “us” – the company, rather than being all about “me” – the customer.

We experienced that today with a software company. We received a username and a password for the software we purchased. There was no mention of how or where to use this information. Just the codes. After some not insignificant searching, we discovered that once we had created an account on vendors site, we could use the codes to get access to the software and registration keys. Ooops. No one told us that.

So what is a business to do? Review your process from beginning to end and test it. Make sure it is customer friendly every step of the way. And a lot of businesses take this step. But this is only the first step. Every process gets changed over time. It gets “improved” when a new manager changes one part of the process but when another manager changes a different part of the process, bad things can happen.

What you need to do is build in a continuous review of your process. For example, if you sign up for EduNotes (our newsletter) you’ll likely be told to expect it weekly when in fact it is now only twice a month. Oops. That is a process that we are reviewing (should be fixed by the time you receive this) so that we are creating the correct expectations for people.

Obviously this applies in every aspect of business but here are just a few of the processes you should check on your web site:

  • First and foremost, the sales funnel – are you guiding visitors down the best path for them to do business with you? Are calls to action clear and prominent?
  • Is the sign up for your email newsletter smooth, clear, and setting the right expectations?
  • How can I find your contact information?
  • How can I find your physical location?
  • If your site is set up for ecommerce, is it easy to put things in my shopping cart?
  • Is it easy to check out?
  • If your site is generating leads, are the forms easy to fill out? Are you asking for too much information?
  • Are the images on your site appropriate and do they facilitate your processes?
  • If you have complex activity (users in forums, members interacting, data being shared) are the instructions clear?
  • If you want people to engage with you via social media, are the links prominent and working? (I clicked a Twitter link last week that took me to twitter.com instead of to a user’s page)

Let me close with one last example illustrating the need to review and streamline your processes.

  1. I received an email from a vendor saying I need to renew a service for a client.
  2. I clicked the link they provided in the email and filled out the form.
  3. I received an email saying I filled out the wrong form and directing me to the right form.
  4. The next time I got a similar email, I remembered the link was wrong but couldn’t find the correct link.
  5. I started a chat with the vendor and was directed yet a different form.
  6. Suspecting something was amiss, I did a Google search, and found the form I’d used previously.
  7. I asked the support person about this other form and was told either one would work!
  8. I requested that the correct link be put in my emails moving forward so that I wouldn’t have to go through this again.
  9. I was told that would happen. Stay tuned to find out if it does.
SHARE THIS:

Radical Refresh

Is your brand / web site / logo old? Afraid it is getting boring? Sometimes it can be a good thing to radically refresh who you are so a new crop of customers can find you. Take your favorite old comic book characters, for example.  DC Comics has radically refreshed their lineup  of comics, not tossing the colors but making them more relevant to a new generation.

If a company with such well known characters as Superman, Batman, Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman can do it, so can you.

Here is what DC seems to be doing right:

  • They are keeping the familiar characters
  • They are delivering their content old style (in comic books in stores) and new style (digital delivery)
  • They’re bringing the stories that were started in the early to mid 1900’s up to date.
  • They’re introducing some new characters along with “refreshing” the old characters.

What does this mean for you? Take a look at your brand. How is it evidenced in your logo? In your print materials? In your web site? In your interactions with customers?

How have your customers’ needs changed? What do they need now that they didn’t when you started your brand / business? How can you meet this new need?

Keep this discussion at a high level and paint in broad brush strokes. Consider how you want people to interact with your brand – should they be buying branded clothing? Downloading your app? Friending you on Facebook? Commenting on your blog?

Take this information and carefully consider whether you can meet the needs of your current consumer by: making small changes, doing a remodel, or doing a radical refresh that will bring out a new vision of what you company does and how it responds to customers.иконииконописikoni

SHARE THIS:

Wheat Ridge Fire Department Web Site

икони на светциThe newer, friendlier Wheat Ridge Fire Department web site is live! The crisp, clean look fits nicely with the way Wheat Ridge citizen’s view the fire department.

New features include an automated ticker showing recent calls so die-hard fans of the fire department can stay up with what is happening and where; instead of having to hunt for key documents from the fire marshall’s office they are now available on the bottom of every page. Also, if you’re trying to find one of the stations, use your smart phone to capture one of the QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) at the bottom and you can get there easily.

Check it out at www.wrfire.org.

SHARE THIS:

Is Groupon Right for Your Business?

иконографияикониI’ve spoken with a couple of different businesses that have used Groupon, with mixed results. As a consultant that businesses to turn for advice on Internet marketing, in most cases I would NOT recommend using Groupon.

A recent imedia article only served to confirm my thoughts that Groupon can cause more harm than good. Most business owners understand the value of incentivizing customers with a coupon or discount. Frequently something like $10 off or even 5% off are the incentives.

But when you use Groupon you are offering a STEEP discount usually 50% or more. And then Groupon gets ½ of that! So instead of giving a small discount to perhaps introduce new customers to your business, you are practically giving away your goods or services. And this is available to your existing customers. As the writer from imedia explains, you are showing your customers, new or old, that what you are selling isn’t really worth as much as you were saying previously.

So what happens after a customer gets your goods or services for 50% off the normal value? They likely enjoyed it and especially at that price. But now they know they can have it at that price, why would they pay twice as much for it? I’ve noticed, for example, that a local paintball place seems to do two to three Groupon specials a year. In their case, they still make money  at a 50% discount so they just keep doing them – which shows that you’re not getting and keeping new customers. It shows that the only way to get those people to come back is to once again go ½ off the price.

Our conclusion: If you are trying to grow your business and set an expectation of high service or high quality, avoid Groupon and look instead towards marketing that accentuates quality.

SHARE THIS:

Top Five Mistakes in Web Design

With the explosion of the web – from new sites to new friends / pages on Facebook to new followers on Twitter and new connections on LinkedIn, there are distractions and sites screaming out for our attention all over the place. So how does a professional website design agency do it right? Well here are five mistakes we avoid:

  1. Not having a call to action
    The biggest problem we see is web sites that don’t have a clear call to action. Without a next step, people will visit, view and leave. Without contacting you, buying from you, becoming your customer. Sometimes the next step is to click to the next page – that’s ok. The key is to have a next step and many very reputable sites don’t have this crucial feature.
  2. Having too many calls to action
    Having too many calls is just as bad as not having any call to action. Two to four choices is best. If you cram 32 calls to action (I know a site that has that many), you lose people. Divide those 32 calls into four groups of eight each and present four calls to action on the home page and then perhaps give them all eight on the next but you’ll also likely see that you can combine two or more of the items into one, giving your visitors fewer choices. Remember the key is to not make the visitor have to think.
  3. Making the site all graphics
    Print designers make beautiful web sites. But they are often all graphics or flash which might make the website less usable and will definitely leave it ranked lower in search engines. The dirty little secret is that search engines index content and the best content to index is text. Putting the text into the graphics give you (or your designer) complete control over the look of the site but also makes it highly likely that Google won’t index that text, thus hurting your search rankings.
  4. Not providing context – navigation or breadcrumbs
    Many web site owners envision their site as all visitors starting on the home page and navigating through from there to the next level and the next is a logical progression. However with search being what it is, visitors coming through search may end up deep into your web site as their first page. Therefore it is incumbent on website owners / developers to clearly show the context of what page you’re on. This can be done through navigation devices such as highlighting the page you’re on in the navigation or even through breadcrumbs – displaying towards the top of the page where you at and the way back “home”.
  5. Providing too much or duplicate information
    Just last week I was on a site that looked like it was a lot bigger than what it was. There were lots of different calls to action but they all took me to the same form – a basic contact form. Having all kinds of differently labeled links going to the same place is not useful. Providing a lot more information than is necessary is not useful. Cut down on the prose and shoot for bulleted or numbered lists to get your point across. In the same way that you don’t want lots of different links pointing to the same place, you don’t want to have the same information in more than one place on the site. We see businesses making this mistake frequently. It becomes embarrassing when one section of the site mentions a conference on Thursday and Friday and another refers to the same conference but says it is on Friday and Saturday. People don’t know which to believe and it ends up hurting your credibility. Remember to Keep It Straight & Simple (KISS).

If you can avoid these five mistakes on your web site, your visitors will be much more likely to have a productive and enjoyable experience and you will be much more likely to capture their business.

SHARE THIS:

Click

Sometimes that is all it takes. Click and all the pieces fall into place. In our case that is usually what happens. We intentionally go after those “Click!” moments as that is when we know that we’ll be working with a new customer / partner.

Click happens when your internet marketing goals converge perfectly with your web site design. For each industry and even for each business the click is something unique that occurs when we connect what they want to accomplish (more customers, bigger customers, “stickier” customers, etc.) and the plan we have for designing their site come together just so.

While usually the “Click” seems to be an intuitive thing, there are steps you can follow to help you focus on what will click for your web site.

  1. Determine what sets your business apart from the competition. NOTE: Superior service is not what sets you apart. EVERYBODY says that. Consider niches or vertical markets that you work particularly well with.
  2. Ponder or brainstorm with others how you can leverage your unique selling proposition (what sets you apart) be highlighted or leveraged through your site. We recently did this with a tourism related site and came up with a unique trip planner that fits very nicely with their business goals. When we came up with the idea, we could almost hear the “Click” as everyone realized that happened.
  3. Look at what the competition is doing on their sites. Look especially at what they’re doing well and brainstorm how you can do it even better.
  4. Consider every area of what your business does. Too often all the attention is placed on customer acquisition when customer retention or customer engagement may be a better use of web resources. For example if your existing customers can log in and check the status of their account, that frees up more man power to be out acquiring new customers.
  5. Look at what your web site does now. Is it clear? More importantly, is it easy for visitors to take the next step (whatever that next step is)? Obfuscation in the name of design is a common mistake we see in web sites. It doesn’t matter how pretty your site is if it drives people away. Consider how you can streamline it – thinking about what steps or pages can be eliminated or combined.

While sometimes “Click” happens while working on one of these steps, as mentioned in step 2, it is more often considering all of these steps together when it happens.

If Click hasn’t happened on your site yet, take some time to work through these steps and see what happens.

SHARE THIS: