Thursday, July 31, 2008

How To Make Your Website Work For You, Part 3

Promote your website. Make sure everyone that you talk to knows about your site. Have it printed on your business cards and every other piece of printed material you give out. Have a stamp made so you can stamp in on other people's product literature. Print it on your shopping bags, on your front window, on your forehead. Well, not your forehead, but everywhere else is cool.

In the first year at least and even beyond that, you want everyone that you talk with to know about your site and have the address for it. Carry your cards with you everywhere you go and hand them out. Promote it in every way you can.

If you run ads on the radio, give out your site; ads in the paper, put your site there. Publish it everywhere and get the word out. Get other people promoting it for you.

This all assumes that you have a site that you think people will want to see that has a lot of content for them to look through and has a lot of pictures to see as well. You will also need to constantly improve your site every month or people will not come back to it. Keep it fresh and changing. Promote the changes to encourage people to come back again and again.

You can offer special deals that are only on the website and advertised nowhere else. Encourage people to check it out and see what special deals are there. Let them know that they change often so they will come back again and again. If you do that, I recommend that you stick to that and advertise those deals only there. If they find it, they get the deal.

Promote your site with other Internet tools such as a blog. This blog promotes our website and also gives out valuable information at no cost. This is a great tool for promoting your site. You can also become involved if you aren't already in some social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and others.

The more ways you can promote your site, the better. Make your site valuable so that people want to go to it and promote it on every level. This is the fast track to a successful website.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How To Make Your Website Work For You, Part 2

In part 1, I talked about search engines and how people want their website to show up on the first page. I may come back to this subject again, but this time, I want to talk about domain names.

There seems to be a good deal of concern over domain names and having it match your business name exactly. It is nice that a domain name may match your business name, but sometimes the business name is long. For example, we have We don't really use it, but we have it pointing to our site. Instead we bought a second name: This is the one we use. It is much shorter. It's not the name of the company, but it is close enough for us. So, length has something to do with how to decide on a domain name. Really, I wanted, but that was taken.

There are a good number of businesses that are using domain names with dashes. This is not easy to type in when someone might be looking for you and typing that domain name, but there are other advantages. First, it probably gets you the coveted .com extension. Second, when it comes to the search engines, the words are separated and can come up more easily. For example, maybe the business name of Del's Italian Restaurant which you might like to have as is taken, so you could do this: As you can see in looking at both of them, the second one stands out dramatically. You can actually see the words while the other one is just a bunch of letters strung together. For this business I might recommend dels-italian or delsitalian.

For customers to use your domain name easily, the shorter the name, the better. So, I recommend that you buy several domain names and you can have them all point to your site. Get the full business name one if you want like we did, but get some shorter ones as well and decide which you will use to promote your business.

One reason people want the full business name is to have email that looks very professional. I cannot imagine anyone actually typing my email with our long name. It would be a real drag for me as well. After all, I type it every day. So our email uses the shorter version. That makes it easy for everyone. We just have to make it a point to say the .org part clearly, otherwise they might assume .com. No big deal. It works for us. We have one client who has a four word business name and he bought the first letters with .com and uses it to promote his business and for his email as well. Works well for them.

Of course there are a lot of other domain name extensions to consider. There's a new one called So, you can choose the name you want, but perhaps you have to accept the different extension. If you're clear in your promoting, that shouldn't be a problem. Having the .org for us doesn't seem to slow us down any. Buy several and use them all.

Think about this. The domain name is going to be the most useful in getting your customers to use your website. Of less importance is the search engine aspect of this. So something that is memorable and easy to type can be very helpful. Decide which one to use for email and which one to use for promotions. You can also buy new ones later that you can use in special promotions and have them link to your site, or buy a new site, use the new domain name and link to it from the old site and back as well. There are so many possibilities and no reason to limit yourself.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How To Make Your Website Work For You, Part 1

The reason you have a website is for it to work for you. It has the capacity to do that 24/7 . . . or not. In this series, I will discuss ways your website can make a major difference in your business.

In this time, when many people think of a website and what it can do for them, the first thing that comes to their mind is search engines. Well, they don't usually use the phrase search engines, they usually use the phrase Google. So great is that word in this time that it has become not only a brand, but a phrase, a noun, a verb, an adjective. We find it on Google and look at the top of Google and of course, I am writing this message in a Google-owned tool called People want to know that they are on the first page of a Google search, they want to get found on Google. That is a marvelous goal, but what does it mean when they find you?

Once your site is on the first page of the search, when then? I can assure you of this: you won't be the only one on the page. Think of it this way: You look in the Yellow Pages for a plumber and you heard of this one called Down the Drain Plumbing. You scroll the list and find the name and phone number, but they don't have an ad on the page and on the two pages that are open, there are 15 or 20 ads for plumbers with photos and hours of operation, website info, things they specialize in and so on. Maybe there's even a discount offer in the ad or some other incentive to try them. You can't help yourself and you look around and read each one. By now, you've probably forgotten about that other company. . . what was their name?

What's the point? Content. The ads are all about content. Of course, in the ad, the content costs money every month. The good news about the website is that content is cheap! However, content is king. I know that when I am looking at the ads, I find one that works for me, but the ones who don't have an ad do not get the business. I'm looking for information that I can relate to. When I need a plumber, I want the information. Who cares about all those with just a name and a phone number? They might as well be music stores. Since I don't know any of them, I use the best information I have to make a decision--the content in their ads.

This is the same kind of thing that happens on the search engines. People will type in plumber, city and see what comes up and then they could look at many of those on the first page and will most likely make their decision from the information on that page.

So, what will the information say about your business when they search and find you? Will they find a name and a number or will they find a story, testimonials of satisfied customers, information about your services and how you perform them, why you started this business, how long you've been doing this business, your passion for this business, your great rates, your guarantee of satisfaction, your incentive offers, your highly mobile fleet, your 6 hour turnaround, your clean and respectful employees with their names and photos that back up that statement. Will they find things that will help them make a good decision and buy from you? It will depend almost entirely on your content.

Remember this: the search engine is searching words. That is the content. Prospects type in a word or a phrase that we might call keywords. The search engine then looks for those words. If those words are not on your site, there is no way the search could bring up your site. How could it?

A website can be a very powerful tool for your business. . . or not. You can have a small site with 1-5 pages that is pretty much just a business card--a line listing in the yellow pages. The website just gets you into the Yellow Pages, but it won't get you found. But, you can have a website that has 50, 60, 200, or 2,000 pages of valuable information. The odds are with you there, aren't they? You don't do that in a week, you do that as a process over time. Growing your website will be one of the most important things you can do in your business. It will also help you get found on the first page. You can also have a smaller site and get found by combining your website with a blog and a number of other Internet tools that can work together to get you found.

The search engine is really a beneficial thing, but it is only one aspect of the value of your website. There are many ways to make your website work for you. See our next installment for more ideas.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Add eBay To Your Marketing Plans

You can add income to your business by extending your marketing plan to include eBay. We have a little eBay business and have brought in close to a quarter of a million dollars in the last four years. Here is a link to our eBay store: Del's Outlet along with a similar store on eBay's Del's Books. Primarily we sell used books, music and video, but we have sold many different things as well, including musical instruments, collectibles, and others.

If you think of eBay as a separate business as is, it can be a good deal of work with small items, but if you think of it as an additional income stream for your existing business, it can be fun and very profitable. Who doesn't want another income stream?

An eBay store is a great way to get started and it is very inexpensive to start. From that store, you can list items as buy it now or best offer. It is recommended that you put a number of things on auction and keep working a few at a time in the auction venue while maintaining the store. It really is simple to do. I won't say that it is not work, because it does require effort, but anyone can learn to do it quickly. We can also help you with that if you like or there are quite a number of books available to give you advice. If you would like us to help you, we will come in an help you get online and functioning in very short order and use our experience on eBay to get you up to speed and making income quickly. You could be selling things today.

Do you have some things in your store that have been sitting for a long time that you wish would go away? Then the eBay store and auctions is a perfect venue to move that old merchandise. Do you have some unique items that could use some attention? Then eBay is a perfect place to show them off. Matter of fact, the more unique it is, the better it works.

Here's one of the best things that getting on eBay does for your business: You will become a worldwide business. We have shipped items to over 70 different countries all over the world. The world is our marketplace. Matter of fact, I get higher prices for items overseas than in the US market! That works for me. You will have to set up shipping, but we can help with that as well. It is very easy to do. We use as shown on the left bar of this blog and I highly recommend them. We print out shipping labels and the Post Office takes care of the rest. You can also do UPS or FedEx if you prefer. The US Postal Service does an awesome job for me and it is generally much less expensive.

If you haven't already, you will need to become familiar with PayPal with your eBay business. Over 200 million people have a PayPal account worldwide, so it is ever more popular as a payment method. If you have a store and a merchant account, you can take credit cards through your offline business. You will find PayPal to be very effective and easy for customers throughout the world and their rates are very reasonable.

The competition is fierce on eBay and that stops a lot of people from getting involved. Frankly, I just ignore it pretty much. I don't try to compete for the lowest price. There's no profit in that strategy. Better photographs, better descriptions, and patience will be your edge. I frequently sell items that are easily found for $1 and I sell them for $10. It is how you go about it that makes that difference. Then there are many on eBay who limit themselves by stating that they only ship to the contiguous 48 states, don't take PayPal, don't this, don't that and on and on. Each one of those items is limiting your sales. Take them all away and you are wide open to much opportunity! Remember, I make more on overseas sales in general mainly because I have no problem shipping there. I've shipped items as expensive as $1500 with no problems. Don't create unnecessary limits on your business. Be bold and unafraid. Two great questions to ask: 1. What am I really afraid of? and, 2. What's the worst thing that could happen? I have lots of customers in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain and many other countries.

Want to get started on your own? Click the icon on the left bar to start an eBay store. It costs about $9.95 per month for a basic store. Download Turbo Lister so you can list your items and keep a database as well. It's free. Get some information. eBay has loads of information and guides on their site. There are a number of books available as well and the most popular is called the The Official eBay Bible. With this method, you have a good learning curve. The other alternative is to hire us or someone else you may know who has a good deal of experience on eBay to guide you through and help you get up to speed quickly and save all the trial and error that we have already been through. This method will have superior results, but for a fee. You choose. Either way, adding eBay to your marketing plans can not only give you another income stream, but may turn out to be a very large one!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pretend You're A Customer.

Look at your website as a customer. I think a lot of websites are thinking of the website as the site or site builder rather than the customer. Look at your site and think, "Now, I am a customer and what would I like about this site and what would not be so cool." Then, ask some friends to look at it in the same way. Get the most honest feedback you can get.

Here are some examples of things that I saw at a site I just looked at for the first time of a small business in a small town. I have been inside this store. This is an e-commerce site in that they have an online store with a shopping cart and they sell clothing products that are unique. These were my impressions:

  • There is no phone number except on the contact us page. The email address is at Yahoo, so that tells me they are very small or haven't considered it. Worst case it should be customer service @ domain name. This is a store that doesn't actually sell online, but see if you can find their phone number and address: Wine & Spirits World. Here's a clue: It's on every page of the site!
  • There is no person related to this store, no photographs of personnel. There is no personality. It's just a store. Here is a multi-million dollar store with lots of personality: Threadless. Personality is a good thing for business. Strike that--it is a great thing for business!
  • There are no store hours anywhere on the site. There are no store photographs. There is no local customer interest on this site. It appears they want to be a large Internet store. Both can be done effectively.
  • This is a site that begs for a good deal of information due to its unique products, but the information is very slim. There could be history, how these products perform, what they do for the customer, how they relate to the environment, why this product is superior, and on and on. Give people a good reason to come back to your website. Keep adding information all the time, so there is something new all the time. Add a blog for the fun and information of it. I know it is work, but it is very important work!
  • They specify 7-10 working days to ship the product. That is a very long time to wait for the shipping to start and then wait for the shipping in order to finally receive the product. People (me) expect better. The 7-10 working days suggests to me that they are drop shipping the product and that they do not actually have it in stock. Most effective online stores ship in less than 48 hours! Many in 24 or less. E-commerce cannot be very effective on 7-10 days plus shipping. It also specifies $25 for expedited shipping, but doesn't specify what that means. Does it mean overnight? Two day? What? Priority Mail is cheap and fast. There is also an upcharge for Alaska and Hawaii. Well, that's what you get for living in paradise!
  • All of the products appear to have a photo, but the photo is about 1" square. It says click to enlarge, but it opens a new window with the same size photo. If I were to buy something on this site, I would want to get a better photo that I can actually see and relate to the product and would even prefer to have more than one photo. I hate to return things, so I want to see what I am buying to reduce that possibility. There is no detail in the photographs to indicate the weave, texture. Colors are not representative of what they would look like on the item. All in all, I would have a tough time buying anything off this site based on the photos.
  • Pricing includes shipping, but that isn't really promoted. It should be. It should say FREE Shipping!* with the asterisk for the details of where that is free and it should be on each item, so that it cannot be missed. Free shipping is cool. I see it on the home page and on the shipping page only.
  • Pricing strategy. I'm a marketer and merchandiser, so I have strong feelings about this. Whenever I see a price of $10.04, I say that price is $1.00 higher than $9.95. People don't look at the change (the numbers on the right of the decimal), they look at the largest dollars (the leftmost numbers). Believe it. It is true. You might as well take advantage of that and offer this product for .09 less at $9.95. Next, don't let "9" be the last number. It is too close to 10. Silly, but true. I recommend $.95, but it could be .94, .96, etc. I want it close to 10, but just far enough away that it is not 9. On the other side, stay in the 9's. Don't go $9.74. I mean, you can, but I think you are throwing away .21 for no good reason. Almost nobody will recognize the difference between $9.74 and $9.95. Since these things are generally true regardless how how inexpensive or expensive the product is, go with it and keep the change!
  • The site is clean and pretty, but it has no life. It needs some draw. Something that draws you in right on the home page and then goes on forever.

I cannot be critical that it is a website, but I ask "what is the strategy here? What is the overall plan of what the site is supposed to achieve? How will this grow the business? What other things will work with this site to promote the business effectively? I think sales, marketing and merchandising. Pretty is nice, but sales are better. My partner says that people get their website done the first time, then they say, "Check. That's done." I know this is true, but if Amazon did that, they would have died the first month. Their site has thousands and thousands of pages and it changing minute by minute. It has to or die.

Pretend you're a customer. Why should I want to buy from you? If I bought, what kind of service can I expect? Why would I want to come back?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's Amazing How Much I Learn When I Open My Mind

It's amazing how much I learn when I open my mind. It is like there was a flood of things waiting to come in and help me, but I just didn't see any of it because my mind was not open to it.

It seems that I have been consistently behind the curve on technology. Learning to use computers was one. I finally opened my mind up to learn them a bit and I learned a lot very quickly. Pretty soon people came to me for answers. That's amazing! Not an expert or anything, but I got fairly good at moving around in DOS creating batch files and making things easier for me. I grew comfortable with it and when Windows came out, I rejected it for DOS. Silly me. Mind closed. I think finally version 3.1 I decided to get the hang of it. Open mind, the rush is on.

The Internet. No interest. Just a fad. A bunch of silliness. Mind closed. No vision. Darkness surrounds me. Out of touch, out of focus. I didn't even get email until long after MSN was in the game. But, once the mind opened up, the flow came with power. Now I pretty much live on the Internet. Fascinating. And on it goes. Every time my mind is closed, something happens that causes it to open and all of a sudden I see why people liked the Internet, email and many more things like that.

I can see now that I have always been opening and closing my mind throughout my life on every kind of issue. I can also see now that it is only when it is open that learning and growth take place. I think of it as flowing with the river instead of swimming against it. It is more effective to say the least.

Friday, July 25, 2008

How's That Working For You?

On purpose is good, by accident is lousy, but either way, measure the results. See what is working and see what is not working. Either way it is good information. When you have the information you can do more of what is working and less of what is not working. Many would call that progress--if you are keeping track and trying a number of things.

It fascinates me how some business people think about marketing. Running a newspaper ad for $800 is a good chunk to spend. I would expect a specific result from that investment. Many we find wouldn't know the value because they have no method in place with which to measure the results.

If you advertise products and do not keep track of the sale of those products why would you continue to spend the advertising money? Hope is not a strategy. It would be much better to have a plan of action and the advertising be a portion of the strategy--a tool. This is especially true with products. If you were doing institutional advertising, it is much more difficult to measure results, particularly short term results. But, if I am advertising products or services, I want to see some results. I want to plan the ads to fit my strategic plan of moving merchandise in a specific time frame and in a specific quantity.

It is a part of the good plan to measure results from each effort to see what is working and what may not be working according to the plan. Advertising should be targeted for a definite result, not just for the heck of it. When you can see what the results are, you can modify the advertising as necessary to improve the results of it. Ask a few good questions like, what is the specific result I want from this ad or ad campaign? How will I know if I have hit that target? What other things can I try that may get positive results or improve existing results?

Try enough things that you know you have covered the best opportunities. Just because something doesn't work the first time, doesn't necessarily mean it won't work another time. Maybe it just needs a little twist that will cause it to change the results. Work it, measure it, modify it as necessary and try a number of things. Look for your advertising to achieve specific results.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Stop At Starbucks For the Bathroom

I have to admit it. When I am travelling, I purposely stop at Starbucks for the bathroom. I almost always buy something to pay them back for the privilege, but I didn't go there for the Latte and Maple Scone (I do love their Maple Scones!).

I go there for the consistency of their clean restrooms. I used to stop at McDonald's before I discovered Starbucks. McDonald's is okay, but not very consistent in comparison. If that's all there is for the next 20 miles, okay, but I prefer Starbucks hands down.

In the last few years I have traveled by vehicle extensively. As a result of discovering Starbucks (I was a late bloomer. . .) about three years ago or so, I have had the opportunity to stop at quite a number of them. I have found their consistency of clean inviting restrooms is second to none in quantity and quality. I feel totally comfortable stopping there and while I'm stretching my legs, I might as well have a latte and a snack. I even have ended up looking at their music CD collections while waiting for the bathroom and have really enjoyed buying many of their CD's.

They say at Starbucks that it is not the coffee, it is the experience. At first I didn't relate to that really well, but I get it. It is even more so when you relate it to stopping there as a first choice when coffee is the last thing on my mind.

You just never know why someone is doing business with you. Now Starbucks knows the biggest reason I go there. I do love the coffee, the maple scones, the sandwiches, the cold drink selection, the CD's, the newspapers, the decor, the comfortable atmosphere, the friendly people, the service oriented team, the fun they seem to have working there, the locations, the colors and the fancy gadgets for sale, the comfortable chairs, and the restrooms. Awesome company and strategy. Sold me and I wasn't an easy sale.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Are Your Employees Representing You?

I called a large retail store today. The employee answered the phone, "Hello." That was it. No business name, no friendly phrase, no friendly voice, just hello. Hello isn't too bad, I guess, but I think then it should be, "HELLLLOOO!!!!"

This is not a good way for a business to answer the phone and a little training and a little checking up would change this easily. How would you like your phone answered? Do you have a phrase you would like on each call? How about the tone of voice? Make sure what you want is being done. Call in once in a while and find out that it is being done.

Does it matter? I think it does. What impression of your company would you like the person on the phone to have in their mind? I don't think hello will impress them much. Everything matters. Everything matters.

Here's another phone item. I think it matters to know who you are talking to. It doesn't require the whole name, but a first name is good. Here is a great example I recommend highly: "Good morning, ABC Concrete, this is Sara." I do not recommend adding that crappy line, "may I help you" or "how may I direct your call" and tag lines like that. Nobody talks like that in real life and it sounds like it is from outer space. I like to know the name of the person I am talking to and it encourages me to give my name too. That is a good thing. Everyone likes hearing their name and saying it as well. It makes this less business on a pedestal and more like business I can feel good about.

I especially dislike those long, drawn out selling phrases that some business owners like to insist their phone answerers say. I want to gag. I know the person saying it doesn't mean a word of it. How could they? It's crap! Here's what I mean: "Good morning, it's a wonderful day to buy a car at Johnson Honda, Hyundai, Dodge, Chrysler, Mitsubishi of Wallingford. Please ask about our specials. How may I direct your call?" Gag me, throw me in the back and dump me in the woods. That is sickening. Can you imagine being the receptionist and having to say that 100 times a day? Get a life!

It's time we talk like a business, and at the same time be a person. It's okay to be a person! Be proud you are a person! Be alive! The people on the other end of the phone will be so glad you did. Really. They only want to talk to a real live person.

Speaking of real live people. How about those phone systems that save paying a receptionist? Not a good value in my opinion. Looks good on paper, but in reality, I think they are losing more than they think they are gaining. People do not like them and why should they? I detest them. I am forced to use them, but having a choice, I would avoid them entirely. You've heard it, "Jakes Brakes, home of the heart stopping deal. Please listen carefully as our menu has changed. . ." No! You listen carefully. I want to talk to a human being! A live human being! I'd rather have, "hello."

If a business were to actually have a good receptionist and measure the results of calls over a period of time with the real live person and the salary saving machine, I am confident of a receptionist revival!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blogs Are Cool, Fun and Productive

Depending on what a blog is used for it can be many things to many people. For a business, it can be a surprising help to promote your business, your image, your mission and your website. This blog is new, but I have another blog that has been going a bit longer. Even in this short time, the blog has been of great assistance by being noticed on the search engines and how it ties to our website Upward Trend. We also have another blog, Commercial Truck Success that ties to its website and email newsletter.

For our business, the blog serves several purposes. One is to promote the business by links and by site. Another is to promote the business through articles, video. That is done is a large way through sharing insights, thoughts, experiences. It is an opportunity to expose some of your philosophy and how you view business. I don't discuss personal views like politics, just ideas, things I've learned in my travels, observations of other businesses and so on. Some people really enjoy reading them and for that I am pleased. I really enjoy writing them and that pleases me as well. Being able to tie that all together into a package focused on my business is way cool.

Another huge benefit of blogs is that I am not alone. There are a lot of people who are doing just as I am. I subscribe to a number of blogs. Some are daily, others weekly. Here are two of my favorites: Seth Godin and Kirsty Dunphey. The benefit of this is that I learn something every day from them. Thank you Seth and thank you Kirsty for your efforts. It's not a matter of making money, it is sharing ideas and making everyone larger than they were before--including you and your business, we hope.

The blog essentially is an auxiliary website for your website. It's like adding an outfield to your infield. Since the web is focused on content, the blog can be of great help to you because the blog is all about content. You can then link your blog in countless ways through social networking sites, send it out through email via FeedBurner or FeedBlitz and others. Then, you can insert your blog into your website by using a widget or feed. It just goes on and on.

So, there you go. Add a blog and have some fun writing and creating content. Share some ideas. Don't be afraid. What goes here is public, but that's okay. Share because you want to and love to and it will work better. Enjoy the journey.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Expand Your Uniqueness

The best thing you have going for your business and your website is what is unique about you, your business, your people, your product, your methods, your clients. Expanding on that asset is of paramount importance.

The market is flooded with certain kinds of businesses, yet a few really flourish. I think what sets them apart is what sets them apart! It is their uniqueness. It can be your philosophy, your attitude, your vision of what you do and how you do it. It can be your unique approach to how you run your business and how you treat customers so special that they cannot imagine going anywhere else. This is something to celebrate and expand.

Many years ago when I was 30, I opened a musical instrument store in a town of about 30,000 people. There were three other stores in town and yet we did $100k our first year from scratch. Not bad in 1979. How we did this was our unique approach to our store. We had a stage right at the front window and it was set up with all the instruments, amps, mikes, wiring for a rock band (or any other band) to come in and pick up the instruments and begin playing. The instruments were tuned. Everything was ready. It made a great display and we had bands play there when we had special sales.

Another uniqueness was stocking guitar, bass and other strings in serious quantity on a huge display on our wall. We had a string club so each person had a card and received 10% off and every fourth set free. It was very successful. No one had a selection like that for 50 miles and this was long before the Internet. We also focused on students and thereby created regular traffic. With students we would sell them a starter guitar and then offer them a full price credit toward a better instrument if they cared for the one they had. Very few did not take advantage of that deal and we sold a lot of upgrades and then resold the trades. Win-win-win.

Another uniqueness is I became a fan of Ovation guitars and I concentrated on stocking a wide selection of Ovation guitars. I had a better selection that most any store in the state! Needless to say, we did very well with Ovation guitars while still selling several other brands. We did not try to stock a huge number of brands, but just a few good low end guitars and mainly Ovations as our upgrade. We had a couple of other upgrade brands, but not a large selection of them. Ovation had such a large number of models, so that helped a lot and they also made electric solid body guitars back then.

When you are a small store, you can do very well by focusing on a niche or a few niches. I've described a few niches that we focused on in our music store and you can do the same. There's no point trying to be everything to everyone. Even a music store the vast size of Musician's Friend cannot stock everything. The field is too large.

What is unique about you? Your organization? Your products or services? Your method of doing business? Your philosophy of treating customers? Those things will lead you to greater success by focusing on how to make those things known to your marketplace. These are questions we ask every client when we talk about building their website. Forget the competition. There is no competition when you focus on your uniqueness. Chart your own path and ignore the other people that are in your market. Go your own way. Expand on your uniqueness.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pictures Are Still Worth A Thousand Words

Putting lots of pictures on a website can be very helpful. They don't have to be works of art from the most professional of photographers, but they do have to be visible. I see so many websites where the photos are so small that I need a magnifying glass to view them. What is the point of that? If it needs to be a small size on the page, at least make it a thumbnail so it can expand at will to a visible size.

We do a lot of sites where photographs are of extreme importance. Some of our websites have as many as 750 photos on them. People want to see pictures. Having some nice photo slide shows is a good way. I recommend showing full size when possible for the best visibility and interest. When that is not possible or practical, a thumbnail will work well.

I am concerned how fast the page loads, but a few seconds is not a problem, so there is no need to make the photos so small that they are such a small file size. I have been very successful with file sizes under 400k and that will allow a nice size shot when expanded. Smaller files when possible is always good and will increase the speed at which the page opens. More than 400k is creating slower and slower page loads and that is not good. That kind of detail is unnecessary generally.

Bottom line: be generous with photos, crop them to show what you want to show, keep the file size as small as possible without compromising viewing. Generally more photos is better than less. Content is still king for the search engines, but photos are for the viewing pleasure of the user.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Make Communication With Your Company Easy

I get a little cranky when I am on a website and it is such a difficult thing to find a way to communicate with that company. The larger the company, the worse it is it seems. Then, being able to communicate directly with a human is a challenge. These little irritations are not good for customer retention, which is far more important than customer satisfaction.

The websites that we build all have easy communication. The phone number is large and it is on every page. We usually have a contact page also, and it will have more information and probably have photos of the humans as well.

Communication is something I think you would want to encourage rather than discourage. Even a complaint can be a powerful opportunity to solidify a relationship. People don't necessarily expect perfection, what they expect is that you are interested in them and the issue they may have in front of them and be interested in solving it quickly and effectively. Doing that will solidify the relationship in a big way.

There is a blessing in every problem. One blessing is that the customer gets to see what your service is really like. The sales team can sell the customer on your service and paint a fantastic picture of how well you would be taken care of, but when the problem actually occurs, now is the time the customer gets to see if all that talk is true. If it is, the relationship is solidified. If it is not, the relationship is weakened--they lose confidence and they lose trust.

I know this from experience for sure, so based on this, why would you not want to talk to a customer and especially if they have a problem. What an opportunity it can be. Make communication an easy thing and how the contact information is placed on your website is very important.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Have Fun! A Little Personality Is Cool.

The most interesting thing about websites to me is how much personality you can put into them. That makes it fun for almost everyone--especially the website owner.

A good website is long on content and that just screams for personality. Speak from your heart; your mind; your inner child. You get to choose. In fact, I think it is the personality that makes the site. We could call it flavor. You can be real or a little wild and crazy. It all works extremely well in the website. Here's a fun site (and very effective): Juggle Now. Here's one that is in need of a personality: Juggling. The difference should be obvious and dramatic. I choose fun.

Here's another fun place: Threadless, along with one owned by the same company: Extra Tasty. Here's a fun one that we built: Wine & Spirits World. It is perfectly okay that everyone on the planet may not like it. If you are being yourself and flowing with that, it will be good. You will have a better and more effective site.

Keep your objective in mind. What are you trying to achieve with your website? If you are selling things like an e-commerce site, personality is just fine while you keep your vision on the end result of making sales. If it is an informational site, you can have lots of fun with information.

You can also add a blog like this one and add some of your personal philosophy, thoughts and feelings. Some might keep there website more business-like and have their blog be the fun thing. That's cool. There is nothing wrong with making them both fun.

Your website needs to be constantly evolving and becoming more and more effective, useful and fun. Keep your site evolving and becoming.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Alive! It's Alive! And That Is Good!

We see a lot of small business websites. Many of them a not much more than a business card. Name, address, phone number, a little bit about the company, something about products or services, directions, done. We see one page websites that really are business cards, and we see multi-page sites as just described. They have one thing in common: They are dead. Lifeless. Deceased.

An effective website is ALIVE! It has information that people might want to know. It is updated constantly so it has the most current relevant information, product information, photographs, personnel. It is a living thing in that it is constantly evolving and becoming more--more valuable, more relevant, more productive. This one thing is the item that we see missing the most.

A website can be a great tool by itself and an extremely good tool when combined with other marketing tools such as a blog, links to social websites, email marketing to name just a few. It becomes alive with these additions and will be healthy and continue to grow as it is properly and regularly fed and managed. The amount of money that this need cost is extremely small compared to other forms of advertising that small businesses take for granted.

Don't build or have a website built and then just put it out there and think you will get much for the expense and trouble. The Internet is actively alive and dead sites just sink to the bottom. Think of it this way: Take your business card, go down the street and nail it to a telephone pole, then go back to your store and wait for the rush. That's what many expect from a website. Dream world. A better plan is needed. We can help with that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Five Reasons Websites Don't Work

1. You Don’t Have One - If you don’t have a website, it cannot be working for your business. Most businesses take three different stands on this topic:

They state they are interested in a website, and are waiting for business to pick up to pursue it.

Others state “there isn’t enough time for us to do that right now.”

Some state they have plenty of business and do not want any more of it.

At Upward Trend, we say: If business is slow, that’s the perfect time to open a new income source by creating more sales through the internet on your own website! The internet can help you through slower times and just think what it can do when business does pick up. Second, we do have the time to help you get your website up, running and maintained. We are here to help you so you don’t have to do it yourself. It will only take a very small amount of your time and you will have your own website that you have been thinking about for a long time. If you have plenty of business and don’t want any more of it, we congratulate you. We hope that it stays that way for you.

2. Current Information – On many websites, much information on the site is out of date. We see websites all the time that have outdated product information, show employees that have not worked there for a long time, missing information, incomplete information and much more. A website is only valuable to your business if it is up to date. Of course, the number one reason is, “there are not enough hours in the day. . .”

At Upward Trend, we say: Let us help you make your business as effective as possible on the internet. We provide an ongoing updating service so that all you have to do is tell us what has changed and we take care of the rest! No more out of date websites. You’ve got enough to do running your business. Our website updating service is very reasonable and makes you much more effective.

3. Star Struck - Have you ever been to a really intense website? It starts with a fancy introduction: fireworks, music, things moving around, and then--BOOM!. . . and you’re finally allowed into the actual website. Then the menu (to navigate on the site) shoots on to the screen one tab at a time, until all are aligned on the side, music in the background, the logo twirling in the corner, a video starts to play and the specials are streaming across the bottom like a NYSE tickertape. It looks really impressive and technically elaborate. You are just mesmerized and star struck by the awesomeness of this site. Some people think having this kind of a website is what they need.

At Upward Trend, we say: What does all that flash and show have to do with selling your product or service? The truth is the most efficient and successful websites in the world are clean, organized and to the point. The flash and show costs you a lot of money that will do nothing to build your business. . . which leads us to:

4. The Point - What is the point of having a website? What is it intended to do for my business? Is it intended to increase my sales or services? Provide information? Sell products? These are questions each website owner should ask themselves. We see websites that have very little information and frankly, don’t do anything to help build their businesses. Matter of fact, we see many that do the opposite. What is the point of your website?

At Upward Trend, we say: We think the point is to provide valuable information is a user-friendly way, to encourage prospects and customers to visit often to see updates and valuable things for them to respond to. We think your website should be a 24-hour tool for your business to help build your business every second of every day. We are a sales-related website design company and we are focused on helping you build your business on the internet.

5. Value – How many websites that you visit actually provide you any value? Is the information on the website of value to you? Does it help you want to buy from this company? Does it encourage you to return for something more? Is it easy to navigate and find what you are looking for? Another way to say that, is it helpful to you?

At Upward Trend, we say: We are focused on building value into your website. We make suggestions of ways that more value can be added. This requires keeping your website current and always looking for ways to make it more valuable to your business and to your prospects and customers. Think of us as being on your team, helping you with this part of your business, so you can take care of the rest. We’re not techno-website oriented; we are sales-oriented to help you grow your business. Let’s discuss how we can add value to your business and your customers today!