Customer Quote of the Week
First an "Uh-Oh" from last week: Last week I said to quit advertising and really upset a few advertising friends! The day after I sent that e-mail, I met with Sheryl my favorite radio advertising rep, who was disgruntled with me and wondering why I called the meeting! What is great and different about Sheryl at Alpha Broadcasting is that she has a history and commitment to show her clients a tangible return on investment AND I have a decent Word-of-Mouth system in place!
This week I will be upsetting website developers! The good ones, like Sheryl among advertisers, will stick with me as we harshly challenge the status quo and re-examine the fundamentals. ; )
The first thing that comes to mind to many small businesses when they think marketing is their website. Let's rethink this a little?
A website is no more capable in doing marketing than your business brochures growing wings and selling themselves. Almost like a "get rich quick" scheme, new websites or updating old websites seem to be the first place business like to invest money to improve "marketing". Investments in a website, if not carefully thought through with a solid strategy in advance, can be as wasteful as the"shiny object" distractions we characterized last week with advertising (as a generality).
The value of websites has significantly changed in the past few years. Understanding these changes and the following considerations can save you a bundle:
1) Before investing more in a website, make sure you have and are actively using a GREAT system that keeps you in contact with all your past customers, your existing network, and all new leads effortlessly.
We all know that Word-of-Mouth advertising is the most effective form of marketing. Why do so many of us avoid being good at it? Your past customers are probably ok with your website as it is. I have never heard a client say that I didn't give you a referral or repeat business because your website was not updated. Furthermore, let's entertain the delusional notion that after you build a great website a mass of leads will follow. What good is it to generate more leads if you can't effectively process and keep up with them all?
You need to work through your "rolodex" continuously and thoroughly. A well implemented and managed CRM, or organized e-mail communication system, or best of all a Marketing Automation system like Infusionsoft is great technology to achieve this aim.
2) You, not your website, are responsible for generating and driving traffic to your website and your business. A website can not make sales calls, run direct mail campaigns, blog on Facebook or other social media, participate and network at networking events, post advertisements, generate niche content readable and relevant to your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), etc.. A website in it's most basic form is an address for where you send people to check out a more detailed electronic brochure about your organization. It's easy to make a pretty website. It's hard to do all that other stuff. A website is really nothing more than a sales tool and a customer service tool.
3) You no longer need a web developer to create and maintain a nice looking website. I know that statement is offensive to many in the field, but it is true. Web developers, let go of your cassette recorder and figure out how to embrace iTunes. Let me offend further. The templates found in online website building software like Weebly.com, Jimdo.com , yola.com , doodlekit.com , webnode.com , sitekreator.com look better than most custom made sites I have seen made for small business by web developers. You do not have to know how to program to build a really decent site. Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla is cool - but particularly from scratch - they are far beyond the implementation skills of the common Joe / Jane in business.
4) Some businesses may no longer need a traditional website. Some businesses may be able to promote and communicate with their customer base about their business via just Facebook. They could use a single page landing page website by crushpath.com or spinriot.com or even just a hosted landing page within their CRM or marketing automation software to capture interested leads.
I will dig out now before I have traditional web developer mobs crash my blog with an html attack ...
5) If your website is central in how you transact business, and if your customers access directly your business management systems and databases, your web developer and designer will be worth their weight in gold.
Some general guidelines: Customers have zero tolerance for clunky or difficult to use but highly functional websites. Simple is more. Also, design and aesthetics are likely more important than function. If it is stupid easy to use, looks super clean (not cluttered), looks awesome, and I feel "cool" using it, I can probably do without a few functional bells and whistles. In this light, go into a web development project accepting that it is rare if not impossible to find a developer who is also a designer. The templates in Wordpress have really helped non-designer web developers, but they also sometimes constrain functional goals. Remember it is your reputation and image at stake. The web developer will always blame the web designer for asking for too much capability for too little, and the web designer will complain that the developer lacks the capability to give them the simplicity they seek or that the "customer" has not given clear enough instructions or enough money. These are the partial truths turned excuses that ultimately hold hostage business leaders to accepting a mediocre site. Do not settle and be aware going into a website development project!
6) After you have established a systematic "stay-in'touch" communication system fueling a steady stream of word-of-mouth business, it then might be worthwhile to see how a properly wired and fed website can get you noticed on Google searches (and other search engines). After a solid keyword analysis exercise, to be refreshed at least bi-monthly, the back-end and front-end wiring to a website for best SEO "Search Engine Optimization" is often best left to an SEO knowledgeable web developer. An optimized website and it's "feeder sources" must be continually fed with new, relevant, and highly valuable content that feeds the niche and therein the ranking you wish to dominate. A good web developer or SEO specialist will train and provide a business with as much DIY (Do It Yourself) capability as possible. It should be the business leaders choice whether to DIY or contract out content development. A business should no longer be held hostage to a web developer for the bulk of their website maintenance.
Giancarlo Newsome is the founder of G-Force Accelerated Marketing.