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Why have a website for your business?

Today we’re going to talk about why a business should have a website. It sounds like a silly question but it’s really a very good one.

After 10 years of this Internet boom, 45% of businesses in the United States don’t have a website yet. I find that incredible. Fifty percent have websites that don’t do much for their business, and five percent have websites that are really performing for the business, and they’re wiping the floor with their competitors. Now let’s look at three reasons to have one; three simple reasons why every business should have a website.

First one is, Yellow Pages are dead and dying, they’re really not being used anymore. I ask people all the time, how they find things, and Google is the tool. Yellow Pages stay in the drawer and Google sits on their desktop at work, at home, and that’s how they find solutions for services, products, everything.

Number two: People judge a book by its cover, and websites are just that – it’s the new cover. So when someone goes searching for a solution for their wedding needs or for their hair, or massage needs, they want to go and do business with a place that has a good first impression at the very least. If they get to a website that looks amateurish, they’ll go away and go find some other business to work with.

Number three: Websites are like the new direct mail. Now direct mail’s great and still works, but it’s a one-way conversation. Your company sends mail out and it’s a lot of work, and it goes out to your customers and you hope for a one, two, three percent return.

Websites are a little bit different. People come in; they find you online through various sources, through other websites, business directories, through Google, on blogs, and they will link to your site. Not only do they come into your site, but you have the opportunity there to grab an email address and start a newsletter and mail out. So direct mail’s one way; websites are really a two-way communication.

Let’s talk about search a little bit. If you run a search for, let’s say your service or your product in your area – let’s say you’re looking for catering services in the Boston area or in Worcester or maybe out in the Berkshires. If you get junky results, in other words, you go to Google and you type in ‘catering Worcester’, ‘catering Worcester Massachusetts’, and the results you get just don’t look like catering companies, then you have a great opportunity there.

You really have an opportunity to get your website up to speed, get it optimized for Google, and then own that search when someone in Worcester is looking for a catering company. You’ll be there every time, and new people move to the area, they’re not connected; they’re going to go to Google to find a solution.

Now if you do a search and you get a list of your competitors, then you have some work to do. Just so you know, that’s where your customers are going, or your potential customers are going, they’re going to your competitors.

So, to wrap it up, the three reasons why you must have a website today: Number one: New people are finding your business via Google, or at least they should be. Number two: Once they find your website, they’re judging your business based on the impression they get on your website. Number three: People search and find links and get to your website, and you have the ability to promote via email, out from your website.

Questions, comments?

Website design: How to build a compelling home page
Your home page on your website is critical to the success of your website and your best stuff needs to be there. So how you build a great home page? Listen to the audio podcast to find out how to go about brainstorming and prioritizing the elements that need to be promoted 1st.

Audio transcript:
In today’s podcast we’re going to help you determine what to put on your home page. The problem is, is that the home page is the most important page in your website.

It is the one that gives the first impression to new visitors and the official amount of time that people browse your page is 10 seconds.

That means you only have 10 seconds, maybe less to grab someone’s attention about your products or services and get them to click into a sub page for more information. Otherwise, they are going to bounce from your home page and go look at a competitor’s site.

Now yesterday I had an interesting meeting with a client who was in frenzy. He had printed out every page of his website, spread it out on his conference table and was busily crossing out photo’s and buttons and rearranging pages and marking additions and truly having a stressful time out of trying to arrange his new home page.

He was taking the spilt bucket approach. Basically he spilt all the parts of his business out on the conference room table and was trying to rearrange it like a jigsaw puzzle so it all made sense. This is very inefficient and is really not a very good way to go about trying to figure out what is going to be on your home page.

So, how do we craft a successful and compelling home page? You have to start with a clean slate. You have to forget what you have on your website now. Turn off your computer; shut your laptop down because what you have probably isn’t working.

The approach to take is to review the parts of your business first. That is, the services and products that you sell, the bits and pieces of promotional items; you want to go through the foundation of what your business is about in order to trigger priorities that will float up to the home page.

Once you review how each product or service is doing for your business, how important it is for your business, you will naturally get a sense for whether or not it belongs on the first page of your website.

Now, our client sells kiosks. He sells them to universities and hospitals, churches and they get sold for different applications. So we had a conversation about all his kiosks, all his promotions and how he goes about selling to a new customer. That started triggering ideas that would eventually make them sales into the home page.

Now, I’m going to give you a plan on how to get the right information to your home page. The first thing you want to do is get out a blank piece of paper and just write home page on the top of it. Just put it down.

The second thing you want to do is you want to go wrangle a friend or hire some marketing person to be a sounding board. What’s going to happen here is you are going to have a conversation with this person about your business. You can do it over the phone or you can do it face to face. But you want to find somebody who is good at asking questions and digging deeper into your business.

So I’m going to give you seven questions that this person that you bring in will ask you so you can sit back and answer, to think about your business and answer them as best as you can. So here we go.

Question number one– Let’s talk about the history of your business. How did you get started? What was the motivation to start? What are some of the interesting things that happen along the way?

You want to start writing this down on paper. Have the person you hired or your friend write this down. If there is something particularly interesting that would be interesting to one of your customers and it jumps out. Write that thing down on that blank piece of paper called home page.

Number two–Talk about the services and products that you sell. Write them all down and talk about each individual service; each individual product. Who you sell that service or product to and how important that service or product is to the business.

Who is the customer and why are they a customer? Why do they buy your service or product? Now if there is anything in that part of the conversation that jumps out as important write that down on that blank piece of paper that says home page. Although it’s not blank anymore.

Number three– Competitors. Talk about your competitors. What are they doing? What are they not doing? What drives you crazy about them? Why do you do a better job? Why do you do it faster or why do you do it at a better price? If there is anything in that part of the conversation that jumps out, write it down. Write it down on that piece of paper?

Number four– Do you publish any news about your business? Do you publish a paper or email newsletters? Do you send out press releases? Do you do case studies? Do you write articles? Do you have a white paper or 10 to talk about?

Do you have any video or audio? Do you put any events together on premises? Or off-premises that might be worth talking about? If there is anything that you do that mumps out as important to you, write it down on that piece of paper that says home page.

Number five– How do you communicate with your customers? Here we talk about what you do on paper to communicate, what you do on the phone in sales to communicate. How you follow up with leads.

Do you do any direct mail? Do you produce any brochures or produce any articles that you submit? If there is anything here, again, that jumps out, write it down on that piece of paper. Things that you communicate that are really important to your business might want to be on the home page.

Number six: talk about promotions. How do you promote your product and services? Do you do specials? Are you telemarketing? Do you do regular annual, seasonal, holiday promotions of any kind? And just write a long list of everything you do to promote your business.

And then choose one or two that jump out and write them down on that piece of paper that says, “Home page.”

Number seven: Here’s the last one and here’s the trick. Call outs, calls to action, I say this word, it’s marketing gig speak but what it means is, when somebody comes to your website, you want to produce something that they will look at and say, “Wow! I need that” or “I want to learn more about that.

That looks really interesting.” And that’s called a “call out” or “call to action”. It calls the visitor to click on something or to fill out a form or to pick up the phone and call you. It makes them do something.

Now, you might have a newsletter, an email newsletter that you want them to sign up for, that’s a call to action. You might sell a practice service that you’re quoting, you’re always quoting out, and you would want perhaps to have a request for quote form on your website.

If you have a nice slick brochure that you hand out to people, well, get an email address and let them download that brochure. An interesting tit-bit here, a market research that I read recently says that 75% of people that are on the final stages of the buying process are willing to give their email address in order to download a sales brochure.

White papers, same thing, perhaps, you can capture an email address to have the visitor download a white paper. And of course, picking up the phone and emailing you.

These are calls to action and while you’re having this conversation with your friend, think about the things that you sell that might be a good call to action for that product or service or to find out more about that product or service.

Now, when you’re done, that original blank piece of paper that says “home page” is going to be filled with all sorts of things, company information, products and service information, promotional information, communication information and of course what’s you’ve written down here are the things that are really the most important to you.

You might have stars next to some of these things that says, “Geese these are really, really important.”

The idea here is you have now created a rough draft of what your home page says. You probably have too much information here to really successfully promote on a page. But this is your rough draft home page. And now the trick is to prioritize all the things that you thought were important to the business.

And I would recommend you choose one, two, three, maybe four things to talk about, about your business on the home page.

Once you start getting into 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, unless you’re CNN.com, you’re going to start confusing your customers. It can be too much to look at. So the challenge is just to pick just a few things to promote on your home page.

Now in the Kiosk Manufacture meeting that I had yesterday, what I found out is that they were setting out regular press releases. They sent out a quarterly newsletter, and that the owner was interested in publishing articles.

And so we decided, “Hey, we are going to create a news blog for the business and we are going to feed some of the news items onto the home page.” So that would become an important element to a new visitor who came who would say, “Hey, there’s a lot of great stuff happening with this company. They are staying current and there’s helpful article information there as well.”

I also found out since they sell kiosks that there’s an interactivity component of the business. He wants people to see what the kiosk can do and hey why not create a video of a screen cast of a kiosk in action.

And it’s simple, could be a screen capture of a…let’s say it’s a student on a campus, so university campus that’s using a kiosk to find out when the next bus, shuttle bus arrives, how that would happen.

Or you do screen shots and you do a voice over to capture that and you put it on. And video today is becoming more and more compelling. You will likely have a short blur about the company on your page and I recommend writing 40 to 80 words no more that describes who you are and your experience, what you sell, and what’s the benefit to the customer.

And that’s a tough one to write but it’s a very important one which should be on the home page, should be a quick read for when a visitor comes to it.

And we also figured out that their kiosks break down by application and by industry. So, we’re breaking out as whole product segment into his top categories: hospitals and universities, information or check in, survey, etc. rather than lumping all the kiosks into one big product category.

So, there it is. There is some work involved in getting your home page correct but it’s worth it. It is the most important part of your business. It’s critical to keeping people interested in what you do on your site and it really boils down into breaking down your own business and having a review with someone is the best way to do it. Break down your business into its components and when you’re discussing all the parts of your business, your priority will naturally flow to the top and you grab those, and those superior things that have gone to your home page.

And that’s how you goal a successful home page. Hope you found that helpful and that’s it for today.

Why you must publish your company news on your website

Your 2 main challenges:

  1. Driving visitors to your website
  2. Building trust so your visitors will connect with your company

Publishing a company newsletter accomplishes both.

Comments welcome! Hey they might even get answered :)

Today we’re going to talk about why you have to publish a company newsletter on your website. There are two really great reasons to do this.

One, you have to draw visitors into your website, and doing that is a web marketing challenge. Number two, once visitors get to your website you have to create trust and that trust happens over time so that visitors will reach out and eventually connect with you. And publishing your news and publishing your articles on your website and sending them out via email is the way to solve both of those challenges.

Now, let me tell you a little story. Last Monday we published at 11 o’clock at night our latest company newsletter. It had to do with a new green, carbon neutral server that we just put online for our clients and at 1:47 A.M. Google picked up the news.

The next day I woke up and found an email in my box from the communication department at Rackspace, which is the company where we host this server. A Google alert had alerted them that I had published my news and they wanted to do an interview.

So I responded back, “Sure, hey that’d be great”. And on Wednesday we had a phone interview. That phone interview is going to translate into a case study which is going to go on their website, offering my company free publicity. Now you can’t beat that. And that doesn’t happen everyday but this is what’s happening online today, and you have to take advantage of it.

I have been publishing a company newsletter on the website and pushed out via email for ten years now. And I have to tell you that it has been responsible for a steady stream of new clients. It just works.

Let’s review. If you provide good information on your news website you will build trust over time. Publish what’s happening with your products and services, publish what’s happening with your company and give good, helpful information.

You can create a tips article. If you are in the carpet cleaning business talk about stain removal, talk about chemicals, talk about green products. All these things offer limitless conversation with your customers.

Number two, Google loves news. It just loves news on your website. What happens is, as you write the text that goes on your website Google will crawl it. And the more you write the more often Google will come back to your website and read through your text.

Your text will naturally be filled with keywords that people will type in to find your site. And what will happen is, say if you were a carpet cleaning company and you were publishing news, is if someone was looking for carpet cleaning in a certain geographic area, like Boston. And maybe they were looking for something about green, toxic free cleaning products and you had written an article about that, they might actually land right on your news page. They will bypass your home page all together and after searching on Google land on your news page.

Then you have a chance of them crawling through the rest of your site to see, hey, these guys know what they’re doing. They’re writing articles on all sorts of carpet cleaning topics, and you might have yourself a new customer.

So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to talk to your webmaster about adding a regular news feed to your site. Start by publishing once a month which I know you can do, and make sure that that newsletter also gets emailed out to your list. Now you have an email list, right?

Well, that’s it for now but I promise I’ll talk about building an email list another time.

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