Our small business community can beat this!

illustration of the words small business punching with a boxing gloveThe coronavirus has impacted how we live and work.

Schools are closed. Restaurants and bars, too, except for delivery or pickup (at least in Illinois). Appointments that aren’t critical are being postponed. Our world is getting much smaller.

It seems the entire country is working from home for the next few weeks. Savvy companies like Google and Zoho are making that easier to do with free productivity tools. Remotely from Zoho was developed in just one week. Google is offering access to their advanced Hangouts Meet feature to all Education and G Suite customers until July 1st. 

Since it’s  not going to be business as usual for a while, we’ve been thinking about how companies can put this quarantine to good use. Cause we’re going to beat this!

 If you’re a small business owner or a solopreneur, this might be the perfect time to catch up on your marketing. Updating email lists. Creating an inventory of blog posts. Checking in with customers to see how they’re managing. And updating your website, which seems to be a stumbling block for many overwhelmed small business owners who never seem to be able to catch up. Here’s your chance. 

A Robust Marketing Tool
Your website should be your most robust marketing tool. According to Blue Corona, here are two reason why:   

  1.  97% of consumers go online to find a local business or local services.
  2.  Studies show that between 70-80% of people research a company online BEFORE visiting the small business or making a purchase with them.

Think about it. If your website hasn’t been updated with fresh content, new products and security fixes, you’re probably giving away business at a time when more and more people are online working remotely. Especially when we’re quarantined and looking for things to buy.

Amazon just announced that they’re hiring 100,000 workers to keep up with online deliveries. Give you any ideas?

What can you do?

Keeping a website fresh is actually not very difficult if you know what to do. It’s time consuming, however. So why not use this forced stay-at-home time to work on it.

Here’s a checklist of four things you need to do keep your website working for you:

  1.  Add new content regularly.
    Blogging is a great way to keep content fresh. A regular blogging schedule lets Google know to crawl your site on an ongoing basis.
  2.  Keep your site secure.
    Think only large companies fall prey to cyberattacks? Think again.According to Accenture, 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses. And of that number, only 14% are prepared to defend themselves.Cyberattacks now cost companies $200,000 on average, putting many out of business. Make sure you install ongoing security updates. It’s not enough to just do it when your site is new. Hackers are constantly finding new ways to break in. So it’s critical that your site is protected with the latest technology.
  3. Keep your site optimized.
    Much like the security issues, algorithm changes affect search functionality.  So your keywords and phrases should be refreshed regularly. Don’t let your competition push you to the bottom of a search page.
  4. Never assume.
    As a business owner, you can’t afford to take things for granted. Periodically check your website to see how it appears on different size screens. A site that looks great on a desktop may look wonky on a cell phone.If there’s a problem with responsiveness, you want to be the first one to find it. You don’t want to hear it from  a client.

If you’re reading this and feeling that bringing your website up-to-speed is still not something you have time (or the interest) to do, contact us. We can handle your website management so you can spend your time doing something else to drive business. 

Because as scary as the current business outlook appears at the moment, eventually the coronavirus will be knocked out and life will resume. 

Hopefully, we will all come out of this experience safe and sound…… and wiser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Top Tips to Better Content

Today’s small business owner faces a big challenge. Digital noise surrounds us online — offers, freebies, surveys, endless articles. Getting your content read is more and more difficult. What can you do to make sure people see and share your content?

Here are 4 easy tips to make that happen:

  1. Focus on the benefit. How does your company help your target market? Think about the problem your products or services solve. Then tell visitors to your site exactly how that works. Don’t assume they’ll “figure it out” by reading your copy all the way through. That’s a crap shoot. In a noisy online world, you need to cut to the chase and tell people exactly what you want them to know.
  2. Identify your target market. Far too often we see business owners with wildly disparate target markets. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. The tighter you can define your market, the more you become a specialist. If you break your arm, would you want your internist to operate on you? Hell no! The same goes for selling your products and/or services. Focus on a particular segment of the market and target your copy to reach that segment in language they can relate to.
  3. Make it easy (or better yet, fun) for visitors to absorb your content. Is your product one that can be marketed with humor? Create a short clever video to get your point across. Or use images that convey humor. Cute fuzzy animals always seem to engage people. Cartoons haven’t been overused yet so that’s another option. If you offer services for a serious issue, like one that’s health-related, present content that’s easy to understand. Charts, infographics, copy with clear steps or bullet points and explainer videos are all good ways to share important or sensitive information.
  4. Make it easy for visitors to share your content. If you’ve succeeded in bullet point 3, this should be a piece of cake. People share what they think others in their world will like — content that’s interesting, amusing, informative, exciting or unusual. But be sure to tell your visitors to share your content. Share icons are important but saying “be sure to share this” or “don’t forget to share this with your friends” is just smart!

Your website may rank high in search, but if visitors aren’t engaged once they land there, you’ve got a lousy site. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

Need help with your content? Work with us.

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Why WordPress?

At least once a month, we get a frantic query from someone with a website they can’t update. Their web designer or developer is AWOL They don’t know how…. can’t remember…never learned how to manage their site. So it’s basically useless.

Can we help?

Unfortunately, the answer is almost always no. We can’t do anything with a proprietary program. All we can do is offer to build a new site on an open source platform (like WordPress) so they don’t ever have this issue again.

why we build WordPress websites

According to WordPress, there are currently 51,494 WordPress plugins.

There are plugins for every functionality your website requires — content management, link checkers, SEO, blogs, calendars, memberships, forms, image compression, spam, and security…to name a few. Lots are free; others are very inexpensive.

That alone might be reason enough for us to be huge WordPress fans. But there’s more.

Robust. Secure. Powerful.

We love that WordPress is an industry-standard, powerful open source platform that offers frequent feature-rich updates and expandability. And that it’s robust and secure in a hack-and-spam-crazy world. And that it’s supported by a huge and active developer community that help one another troubleshoot issues. So if you have a problem with something special you’re trying to do, there are plenty of people to help you solve it.

But the A Number 1 reason?

WordPress meets a huge criteria of ours – usability. Quite simply, WordPress makes our clients’ lives easier.

Not Just A Website

Almost all the websites we build are on the WordPress platform. Because we’re not just building a website for your business — we’re developing what is probably the most important tool in your marketing toolbox. The face of your business. Open to the world round-the-clock. Accessible to anyone looking for the type of products or services you offer.

When you’re busy running a business, keeping your website current may not be high on your list of “must do’s”. But it might be the difference between making a sale or losing out to a competitor whose website is fresh and compelling.

No Techie – No Problem

With WordPress, you don’t need to be a techie to make updates and add new content. Got a hot new product you need to feature on a new page? Simple. Need to add some sweet testimonials to drive new business? Couple of minutes.

WordPress offers an intuitive CMS (content management system) with a short, sweet learning curve. Unabashed sales pitch: training is always included as part of our website development packages.

Generally, an hour of one-on-one is all that’s needed to get you up and running. It’s THAT user-friendly. But we stick around to help you out if you need a little extra support.

WordPress Around the World

Think it’s just smaller companies using WordPress? Think again. A few of the big brands with WordPress sites:

  • Facebook
  • Disney
  • Sony
  • Bloomberg
  • The New Yorker
  • TechCrunch
  • CNN
  • BBC America
  • The New York Times
  • Microsoft News Center
  • Beyonce
  • Star Wars
  • TED

So next time you’re in the market for a new website, find a developer who builds on WordPress. We promise it will make your life a whole lot easier.

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Why Marketing Matters More Than Ever

It happens often. We meet with a business owner who’s struggling to build sales but won’t commit….or hasn’t set aside…. any money for marketing.

How does that work, you ask? Well, it doesn’t.

Our main business is building websites. But we approach web design and development with a marketing mindset because our team has a marketing background.

So before we start building anything, we sit down and talk to you about goals for your business and what you want your new site to accomplish. We’re building a big beautiful online marketing tool for you. It just happens to be called a website.

For people to find your website, a few things need to happen:

  1. It needs to be optimized for search (SEO) so that Google brings your site up when someone searches for your product or service.
  2. You also need to send people to your site.
    You can do this through social media, advertising (print or digital or both), PR, flyers, brochures or handouts, newsletters, emails, direct mail (like postcards), signage, premiums, business cards that you pass out at networking events, etc.

All of the suggestions in item #2 fall under the marketing umbrella. It’s what drives your business and builds your sales. No marketing = not much business.

why you need to market your business
marketing matters

So back to the “no money for marketing” scenarios.

A few examples stand out. One was a man who hired us to build a website for a small gym he had purchased and was renovating. His target market was personal trainers who would use the gym to work with private clients or people who weren’t comfortable at a big gym but needed some sort of coaching. That idea sounded solid and well thought out.

We built a drop dead gorgeous site (OK, so we’re a little biased). But it was sleek and sexy and did everything it was supposed to do. It was easy for visitors to get the info they needed and the messaging was clear and concise.

This was not your one-size-fits-all super gym. It was a small facility — a former house with a beautiful river view, where you could train relatively privately, and then go out in the back yard to relax after your workout. We loved the whole concept. This gym was a little gem.

Until the business model changed.

Classes were added, a few at first, then a lot. Yoga and bar work and meditation. Then floor work and Zumba. Now the “small gym for serious workouts” took on a “me too” slant. Fearing he was missing out on another market (women), the owner modified the original positioning.

Bad move.

Not only were there a bunch of hot new boutique-y gyms in the area, but the larger gyms like FFC, CrossTown Fitness and Equinox were doing great marketing and had huge name recognition. Not to mention swimming pools, running tracks and lots of classes at convenient times.

Our client had not allocated any money for marketing. There was no money for signage which made it difficult to find the place. There was no money for social media (he attempted to do some himself but since he had no idea about how social media worked, that never went anywhere). There was no money for publicity or promotions of any kind. 7 months after we completed the website, he sold the business.

We were bummed because we couldn’t show this gorgeous site in our portfolio. But the client was happy to get out without losing his total investment.

We hate to see this happen. Our goal with each project is to give clients a solid marketing tool that will help grow their business. Seeing a client fail makes us sad.

We use examples like this when talking to new business owners to make sure they’re budgeting wisely and not putting the proverbial “all their eggs in one basket”. Your website can be the most important marketing tool in your arsenal. But don’t let it be the only one.

SEO competition gets tougher every day. Unless you’re able to do considerable digital advertising (as in spending big bucks), you need to stand out any way you can. Good marketing can always help you stand out.

If you’ve got marketing chops and can handle it on your own, run with it. If not, make sure there’s money set aside to hire the experts you need.

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How do you know when it’s time to update your website?

If you’ve ever gone house hunting, you know how important curb appeal is. It’s the “drive by factor. Even if the interior is absolutely smashing,  if a house doesn’t look appealing from the outside, few potential buyers will make it inside.

 

Gable end of home addition, Marvin windows

Photo Credit: Brock Builders

That same visual appeal applies to websites. Those that haven’t been updated are “drive by’s”. One look and the (potential) visitor is gone. No matter that what you’re selling is exactly what that visitor is looking for….they won’t ever see it!

Some people are vigilant about keeping their websites fresh. Generally, they’re web designers, developers or content marketers who do this for clients on a daily basis.

But let’s say you’re not a web designer or developer. No doubt, you’re busy with projects, proposals, meetings and keeping clients and customers happy. Days are full and time is tight. Marketing can often fall by the wayside. We get it. We’ve been there!
Continue reading “How do you know when it’s time to update your website?”

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