When to value numbers and when to ignore them

I’ve been reading this great book on how to turn your passion into a successful business. Sorry, the book doesn’t contain any quick get rich schemes but it does give some very sound advice.

One that particularly stuck out in my mind was “Pay attention to the numbers, but don’t become consumed with chasing them.”

What numbers am I talking about?

Whether you’re advertising online or not, you should be monitoring to see how well your different marketing strategies are working. How many new customers contact you because they saw your ad at the bus stop? How about that ad you placed in the free daily newspaper?

If you’re advertising through social media, the numbers are easy to see. How many people follow your Twitter account, how many contacts do you have on Linkedin and how many people read your blog. But you have to take this a step further and analyze those numbers.

Don’t waste your time trying to artificially grow your audience.

There are all sorts of programs out there to magically increase the number of people on your friend or contact list. Sure it looks pretty, but is it really useful. Are these real people? Can you interact with them and most importantly, are they reading your tweets or blog and are they contacting you to buy your product or services. If they’re not, what is the point of having them.

In this book, Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk, he tells us that yes, numbers are important but they are not the answer in themselves. He says, and I fully agree, that it’s better to have 10 followers who interact with you and are genuinely interested in what you have to say/sell that 1000 who don’t read your tweets or blog and have no idea what your business is about.

Don’t go for the quick numbers. Look at where the numbers are coming from and how they convert to sales. Build your business slowly and with care.

How I do it

I follow people who are interested in the same topics I am. I look for folks who have something relevant to say and look at the people who are following them. If they like what I have to say, they’ll follow me back.

I join groups, fan pages and comment on blogs to become a recognized part of the community. The key in interaction – if I don’t communicate back to the people who communicate with me I’ll lose their interest.

Like most things quality means more than quantity
.

I know this sounds boring, but this slow and steady stuff is paying off big time. I’m doing a radio interview with CBC tomorrow morning and have been invited to submit proposals for teaching seminars about Internet Marketing.

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Are you Linked In?

This past week it was brought home to me just how powerful networking can be, regardless whether you are doing it in person or online.

After the final day of the course I’ve been taking over the past few weeks, I was asked to give an impromptu lesson on how to use LinkedIn. If you’re not familiar with this online network I highly recommend it. But like any networking it takes more than just being there to make any connections and have things happen.

Just the same as you don’t walk into a networking event and stand in the corner you can’t just sign up and expect people to talk to you.

One of my classmates was looking to expand her knowledge while she searched for work and another was hoping to switch to an entirely new industry. I guided them through the layout of the LinkedIn home page and showed them where the tools were located and how to edit their profiles and add contacts.

Then, I showed them how to search for the groups who matched their interests and how to join them. While we spoke I gave them tips on how to participant in the groups, use them for research and build their own validity while participating in discussions.

A few days later, I spoke to one of the people I’d trained. She was ecstatic. She’d added all her old co-workers as contacts. Then, people she’d met over the years, recognized her name and photo from her contact’s lists of new connections and suddenly her contact list doubled. (therein lies the strength of LinkedIn)

Better still, two of those contacts forwarded job postings they thought she’d find suitable.

This all happened within a week. While I freely admit there are some industries better suited to programs such as LinkedIn for connecting with peers online, there are ways to work around it. If you can’t find peers, you may be able to find a goldmine of customers if you’re the only one from your industry online and answering questions.

Vital Information
The most important thing for any of these networking sites is to fill out your profile. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t it’s like walking into an event wearing a mask. People are wary about communicating with peolpe who feel the need to hide themselves.

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Perseverance and Resiliency

When all is said and done, it is the people who are resilient and persevere who win the day.

That’s not to say the people who doggedly do the same thing over and over will succeed. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Being resilient is pausing to take a look at what didn’t work, adjusting, and trying again.

I’ve been adjusting over the past three weeks. I took some time to participate in a Transitions Program. I highly recommend it to anyone at a crossroads, whether in life or in your career. It’s more than just a bunch of tests to see what you want to be when you grow up. The synergy you share with other people is incredible. I was not expecting this when I started. I have been validated in my choices and have discovered new options about how I will move forward. Powerful stuff that.

After resilience, persistence is probably the most important piece of equipment in your entrepreneur toolkit. If you drop off even a little it can cost you dearly. When you have a small business, most everything you do will be geared toward helping it grow. Especially in the beginning.

Helpful hints:

Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and keep you motivated. Affiliate yourself with people who can help you. Whether it be suppliersand people in related businesses or people in occupations that have nothing whatsoever to do with your business. Always remember, it’s usually not the people you know who do you the most good, it’s the people who know them.

Keep your eyes open – opportunities come in the strangest packaging. Over the past week I’ve been invited to submit two proposals in for speaking at seminars through chance conversations. Whodathunkit!

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Getting Help

Why is it we’re so quick to help others but have a difficult time to ask for help ourselves?

It’s an odd phenomenon and it seems to be prevasive across cultures. I don’t know whether it’s that we don’t want to appear weak or admit that we don’t know, but there seems to be something inate in those who are self employed to believe (whether consciously or unconsciously) that we must do it all ourselves.

According to those experts I’ve talked to through my networking and research, this is one of the key reasons why many small businesses fail. We don’t ask for help when we need it.

My Solution:

When you’re creating your network. Make sure you include not only people who might purchase your product or services, but also people with similar and complementary businesses. Keep up to date with them and offer advice and help when they’re in a tight spot. This makes it much easier on the ego when it comes time to request a bit of aid or advice yourself.

Join groups on LinkedIn.com and other networking sites and join in conversations. This way people will get to know you so if you do run into issues, it seems less like approaching complete strangers.

Added bonus:

Interacting with others helps you keep tuned to your industry without having to do hours of research. You can hear what new and what’s passe in a few conversations.

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How to choose the layout that works for you

Cruise the internet and take a look at different websites. Most look really different but take a closer look. Once you ignore the colours and graphics you’re notice that the actual layout of the website is very similar from one website to another.

There is no hard and fast rule to say where the navigation, logo and content need to be, but there are a few generally expected places for each component. The last thing you want is your potential client to leave your website because they can’t find anything.

What makes a good layout?

A lot of what makes a layout good is how appropriate it is for your audience. If you are targeting web savvy people you can get away with more intricate and unusual placements. Keeping to the more usual placements are better if you are targeting business people who may not have the time or inclination to go searching or folks who don’t spend a lot of time on the computer and don’t know what to look.

The number of columns also can affect how your website looks. Too many columns can make your content look cluttered and inefficient while too few can make it difficult to read from one side of your website to another.

Graphics can be a great addition to your website to make it more interesting and easier to read, but make sure you use relevant images the make sense within the content of the page.

While there is no right or wrong format for a website some are definitely more effective than others. You’ll notice I didn’t say which ones are which, that’s because what’s right for your company and audience won’t necessarily be suitable for someone else.

To decide what’s best for your business take a look at your competition. Not just your direct competitors, but also websites for similar and alternative services both in your own local area and in different cities. Note what you like and what you don’t like and, if you can, ask your customers for their opinions. Once you’ve done this you’re ready to start designing your own website.

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Recap & Reasoning

I know over the past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time talking about things that aren’t driectly associated with web design. I’ve done this on purpose because web design has become only a small part of what I do and your website is only a single tool in your businesses online presence.

Over the past few months, much of my role has morphed into a coaching position. Remember all that talk about not being afraid to tweak your goals and your target audience. This is what I meant. This isn’t to say I’m no longer doing web design. I am, but I’m doing so much more as I move forward.

Many of my clients are consultants new to the concept of working for themselves. Most are coming from a non-marketing background and even more are coming from a non-technical background. I help guide them through the maze of possibilities to decide which options are best suited to their company’s style and structure.

To me this is more important that simply building a website. Truly, anyone can build a website. There are enough do-it-yourself software programs out there to help you out. The difference is and always will be quality.

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Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

What do you offer that makes you unique?

You’ve done your research you know your product or service inside out and backwards. You know who your ideal client will be and how you’re going to position yourself in the market place but….

How are you going to communicate all this to your customers to ensure you attract the right ones?

Your unique selling proposition is often as simple and as complicated as choosing your tag line. That one little sentence or phrase that instantly sets you apart from everyone else.

I’ve read a lot on the subject and listened to a few webinars and attended a few seminars and they all seem to say the same thing:

  • Define what makes you special as a service, as a company or the products you offer.
  • What do you offer that no one else does?
  • What do your customers value, how can you impart your own similar values.

This is part of building your brand.

It’s not an easy task. Even in my own businesses I’ve had to re-evaluate my ideas. For SNB Consulting Services, my first tag line was ‘Simple, Effective Web Design’. It wasn’t until after my business cards were ordered that I realized I had missed a major part of identifying my business and market. My tag line now reads’ Simple, Effective Web Design for New and Small Business’. Those extra few words tell people immediately what type of web design I do, who I want as customers and my philosophy regarding what I think is a good design.

If a potential customer wants a flashy, flash design, they’ll pass me by. This is good because it will allow me more time to spend with the customers I really want to have. It’s a win/win.

Added hint:

If you can find a way to connect to your customers emotions or their ‘pain point’ (why they’re looking for your service to begin with) you’ll have an even more effective Unique Selling Proposition to attract the customer you want.

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Identify Your Ideal Client or customer

This is an interesting concept. When I first heard the question, I laughed. “Someone who will pay me lots of money of course.”

It is much more complicated. Following on last week’s blog (and leading in to next week’s), knowing your ideal customer helps you identify your niche and really target your products, services and marketing plan.

Knowing what product to sell is only half of the equation. Who you sell to, is the other. Back in the beginning I wrote a bit about using personas to help target your marketing. But how do you choose which persona to use?

Let’s look at coffee companies.

Their obvious personas would be adults and older teens who like to drink coffee. Coffee appeals to a large demographic so how do you avoid spreading yourself too thin by trying to appeal to everyone? How do you really target your business toward the people who you want to see come in your door?

Tim Horton’s has targeted the ‘regular’ & ‘family’ coffee crowd. They offer medium prices, food and treats and heavy involvement in charity with their Children’s Camps. Starbucks is going for the higher end of the market by selling expensive and exotic coffees with a push toward organic and free-trade coffees to show their corporate responsibility. They’ve each identified their ‘ideal’ customers and built their marketing around them.

Knowing who your ideal customer can help you better identify the niche you want to fill and specialize, thus edging out the competition who is still trying to be all things to all people.

I had this brought home to me this past weekend at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. If you write or have ever thought about writing, I can’t recommend this conference nearly enough. It’s fantastic.

I’m owner/partner in PaperBox Books, an e-publishing company. During a session with several publishers and agents I sought the panel’s reaction to our venture.

At first they were skeptical, Selling e-books? Yeah, you and umpteen others. But, as I discussed how our market was not the book buyers but instead first time authors who had excellent books rejected because of market trends. I talked about our strategy to synergize their individual fan bases. The panel’s attention was caught. By the end, they were all nodding their heads and told us we were on to something.

Knowing who your ideal clients is vitally important. Next week, I’ll talk a bit about Unique Selling Propositions and how knowing your products and clients can put you far ahead of the competition.

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What products and services should you offer?

This subject has come up quite often at small business, marketing and entrepreneur networking events lately. As small business owners, especially when we’re just starting out, we tend to feel obligated to accept every bit of business that comes our way.

Sometimes, this ends up being more detrimental than we can ever imagine. By not having a clear plan and growing our business according to our strengths, we’ll get stressed out because we’re doing things we’d rather not, selling items we don’t believe in, and wasting time with clients who sense our newness and take advantage.

I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing coaches along the way. Here is some of their wisdom I’ve used and found extremely helpful along my own journey.

While you’re developing your business plan, consider all the things you can offer your clients. Then take time to prioritize them. Make one priority list based on which products and services will be the most profitable for you. The re-prioritize them on a second list according to which services you will enjoy providing the most or which products you believe in and will find the easiest to sell.

If you’re one of the lucky few, the same item will top both lists. But, If you’re like the rest of us, you have some tough choices to make. Which services should you offer to be profitable, yet still enable you to enjoy what you’re doing. A sad fact about the cause of entrepreneur failure is that if people don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will not provide the proper care and feeding to grow their business to a point where it is sustainable.

Don’t be afraid to change your original business plan if you find it’s just not going to work for you. Struggling to make it work as is might not be the best use of your time and energy.

Right now I have two small businesses. I am owner of SNB Consulting Services, Simple Effective Web Design for New and Small Business, and I’m also a partner in the about to launch, PaperBox Books Publishing. In both cases, the original business plans have been tweaked several times as the businesses developed. I’m sure they will change several more time during this next year as I learn more, the businesses grow and the market changes.

Helpful Hint:

If you are already in business and have existing customers don’t forget about them if you need to make changes. They can be your best ally… or your worst enemy if you don’t manage them through the transition.

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Landing Pages

This past week I attended a couple of really interesting seminars. One session that really stood out for me was about the importance of landing pages. The speaker was Raquel Hirsch from Wider Funnel marketing Optimization.

What are landing pages?

Landing pages are the pages where potential customers arrive at your website. This is not always your homepage. In fact, usually it isn’t.

Your homepage must be an effective landing page for your entire business. People must immediately see what you provide and how to get those services. However, if you are advertising certain aspects of your business, say a free download or special event, linking to your company’s home page can actually reduce the number of sales you make.

For example, an ad for a free download should link to a page that has ‘Free Download’ in the heading with an easy-to-see button to get that download. The ad should never link to a page that shows several things to read or other pages to visit. The last thing you want to do is divert your customer’s attention from getting that download. It is why they came.

If you want to offer your customers an additional item, follow Amazon’s example. They do a spectacular job off prompting additional sales.

At Amazon when you click on a book to add to your shopping cart, they tell about what other people who have bought that book also purchased AND if you’ve purchased through them before, they will suggest other books based on your own preferences. Note – they don’t interfere with your path to purchase.

If Amazon displays other selections on the same page, the cover-art images are smaller and shown near the bottom. The top of the page is devoted to the item you clicked.

When you advertise an event, it’s the same principle. Link to a page that gives details about the event: date, time, location cost, speakers, entertainment etc. Then provide a clear path to register. Do not just link your advertisement to your homepage and hope the potential customer has patience to sift through your navigation to find event information.

The numbers speak for themselves. A good landing page can increase the conversion rate of clickers to customers. They’re definitely worth the time and effort to do well.

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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