Sunday, April 30, 2006

Added Web Site Value

No matter what size your company is or how big your web site the question of creating added value with your web site for your prospects and clients is a critical one. All too many companies decide that the web site is about them and their company, but it is not, at least not in the way most companies think.

Ask yourself what can you do to your site that will get people to come back and visit if they are not a customer? Is it articles, free resources such as software, eBooks or bulletin boards that add value to the user's life and create a positive experience for them. Creating a community of some type around your site is a way of building a base of visitors that come and visit; even if they don't buy something or call right now, if they keep coming and learning about you eventually they will want to do business with you.

I know a web site that I visit regularly because the owner posts an MP3 of his talk radio show he does each week. Plus he puts articles and other great resources up there. Over time I have really come to appreciate his philosophy on life and business. His offering is seminars that he teaches, which are pretty expensive.

Had this guy emailed me, sent direct mail, advertised on TV or radio or heck even called me I probably wouldn't have been interested. Instead I found his site on the Internet while searching for something because he did the right things to give exposure in the search engines. Once I was on the site I started looking around and it wasn't long at all before I could see all the value this guy was offering.

The more I listen and read his "free" stuff the more intrigued I become with him. I am sure eventually he and I will meet and I will be forking over the hefty sum of cash for his seminar because I already have a good idea what I am going to get from it and I want more. He has taken the time to build a relationship with me through the offering of his resources and ultimately that is what every owner of a site that hopes to sell something, anything has to do.

Now for people that are already a customer for this guy his site continues to add value on topics of information they may not have taken from him. They will learn and grow because of listening to his additional programs and reading the articles. Because they have already had at least one class from him they now have even a better appreciation for his philosophy and I have no doubt over time will be repeat customers over and over again.

If your web site is simply an overview of your company and services/products with a contact page and it only gets updated once a year weather it needs it or not (sarcasm intended) then it is doubtful you will ever win as many customers or get repeat ones from your web strategy.

Remember your site is about the prospect and customer. If you spend time giving them value they will in turn provide your business with value. Help them get something more from your site besides a list of your services and a phone number and you will be surprised how many new customers come from your web site, but you will also be developing stronger loyalty to your existing ones.

Now this strategy can go much deeper with online communities that people sign up for with newsletters and forums as well as web casts and "member only" types of information and account information, but that is only the same strategy I am already talking about taken to a higher and more refined level.

It is all about added value and if you give it you will get it back many times over. If you choose to keep a simple "brochureware" site, save yourself the hosting and development money and mail them a brochure instead it is cheaper and will get about the same pathetic response.

Michael Temple

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Clean Web Site

The old saying that cleanliness is next to godliness should be applied to many web sites today. There are tons of sites on the Internet that can't decide if they are promoting their company or trying to attract gamblers from Las Vegas with the banners, animation, blinking and flashing ads, scrolling text and other distracting elements. These sites look like a bill board on the Vegas strip! Unfortunately these companies are trashing their web site with elements that probably have very little to do with the stated purpose of their site (see post below) and as a result all the junk on their site is just a distraction to visitors.

Research has proven over and over again that adding the newest and most "glittery" technology and animation you can find won't increase your conversions of prospects to customers. It may look cool and cost you a bunch of cash as your webmaster tells you how complex it was to create so he/she can keep their job, but at the end of the day it probably won't have any marginal effect on your bottom line.

Web sites should be kept lean and mean, which means minimal outside elements that aren't directly tied to the key purpose of your site. Create logical and intuitive navigation, plenty of white space, clean tasteful graphics that DON'T blink and flash to get attention. If they are designed well they will create a positive image without all the animation. However the most important element on the site is always and will always be the copy (text). People visit a site to learn things and the copy on the site needs to get their attention, be easy to read, and most important get them to take some type of action. Flashing graphics and spinning logos aren't going to do that, but powerful and well written copy will. Creating a site with these elements will always be more effective than the site that has too much junk on them and contains poorly written copy.

In Ayn Rand's famous book The Fountainhead the main character is an architect named Howard Roark. He is practicing his trade at a time when creating ornate buildings was the standard practice. The architects that are his competition believe all buildings need to have ornate carvings, pillars, and other dramatic designs more like a Greek temple than a modern office building. Roark stands alone among the men of his day that believe buildings should be clean and modern without all the excess of classical design. His ideas are attacked, but in the end we see today they are the standard rather than the exception. I know some of my ideas of minimal sites are also not shared by others in the industry. How could they be with all that cool Flash that let's you create the "classical" look to the site, but there are some, and the number is growing, that know the future of the web is well designed, clean, minimal sites with sharp copy.

If your site is one of those that looks like it belongs in Vegas then bust out the Mister Clean and get to work making a site that has a stated purpose and is minimally designed for that purpose with sharp and effective copy. Your business will thank you for it and so will your customers!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Purpose Creates Success

In my consulting practice I often come across many small and even medium sized businesses that can't really answer the question of what the purpose of their web site is, why does it exist? What do they hope to gain from having it? They often give some vague answer that it was created to promote the company. Promotion is a worthy goal for a web site, but it is also an indirect benefit of your web strategy. In other words having a successful Internet marketing strategy will promote your company, but will also accomplish much more if it is designed and executed well.

For example, does your company have an eCommerce site? If yes, is the goal to create a new channel to sell your products or is it to "promote" your company. The obvious answer is it is created to boost sales. That is an easy one, but if you don't have an eCommerce site is the purpose of your site to get people to sign up for your newsletter (building your list), to call your sales department (increase sales through direct response), or is the purpose to provide information to your customers that improves their position and creates loyalty with your company and site?

Your purpose could be one of these or it could be all of them in different degrees of importance. It could be another reason like pre-qualifying customers, or creating online customer or vendor service channels to reduce costs. No matter what the primary goal of a web site is you need to know that purpose and have all of your online marketing goals prioritized.

If you don't know what your primary goals are how do you expect your customers that visit the site to know them? Once you know what your all your goals are for your web site then you can start the process of ranking them and organizing your site, navigation, information architecture, copy, and other elements of your site to channel or "push" your customers to that purpose.

However if you don't know what those goals are and have made no effort to channel your visitors to meeting that goal or purpose then your web strategy is most likely missing the mark. If you are one of the countless sites out that has an about us page, our services, and a few other "canned" elements that may entice a visitor one time to look at them, but give them no reason to stick around or come back you have what is known in the industry as a "brochureware" site. These sites will always fail to accomplish much accept take up server space.

To have a successful Internet marketing strategy know what the purpose of your site is and what all your goals in order of importance are. Work with your marketing and web departments to organize your site around these goals and give your customers a reason to spend some time on your site and come back.

I have a new article on my site on this very topic and I invite you to take a moment to visit my site and download/read the article. Pass it along to your friends in business and hopefully you will gain something from it. To access the article click on this link:

P.S. I also have other articles that you may find interesting and have an awesome free eNewsletter that you can sign up for.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Spinning Straw Into Gold

I have been asked many times why I continue to use the brand "spinning the web into gold". This tag line appears on my web site and in my articles. I have decided to end the mystery with my first post.

The Original

The Grimm Brothers published a story almost 200 years ago called Rumpelstiltskin.
If you have read this story you know that a Miller who wanted to improve his station in life lied to the King and said that his daughter could spin ordinary straw into gold. The greedy King immediately takes the daughter and locks her in a tower with a bunch of straw and an ordinary spinning wheel. She is given the command to spin all of the straw into gold by morning or she will be executed.

Of course she can't do this and gives up all hope. Eventually Rumpelstilskin arrives and agrees to spin the straw into gold for her necklace. She readily agrees, but this doesn't satisfy the greedy king. Again on the second night she is given the same command and again Rumplestilskin comes to her aid. On the third night she has nothing left to offer and Rumpelstilskin agrees to do it if she will give up her first born child to him. In despair for her situation she agrees.

The King thinking he has a great thing going here marries the Miller's daughter. She eventually has a child and Rumpelstilskin comes for his payment. He agrees to let her out of the bargain if she can guess his name. Through some stupid actions on his part the daughter hears him by the fire one night shouting out his name. When he returns to claim the child she guesses his name and the deal is foiled.

By now many of you are saying I need to put down the fairy tales and tell you why I developed the tag line. I couldn't help but see as I read this story to my kids the modern translation it had, so let me tell you another version of the story...a modern version.

A Fairy Tale For Modern Times

Once upon a time there was a CEO of a company who was perplexed about how to raise profits for his company. Try as he might he couldn't come up with a way to boost sales. The board of directors was about to throw his sorry butt out of his job when in a desparate attempt to boost his credibility with the board he promised that the Internet would be the gold the company was seeking.

He could turn their ordinary web site into gold. The board of directors being shrewd managers took him up on his offer and locked him away with the ordinary web site and orders to spin this site into gold. Naturally he doesn't know how to do this and despair quickly sets in.

Then our hero arrives. He a is dashing and handsome non dwarfish Internet consultant
(hey, this is my story, I will tell it my way). He agrees to spin this ordinary site into gold for a fee to which our CEO agrees.

Our skilled consultant quickly spins this ordinary site into gold for the company. The board rejoices, but being greedy they demand more. The CEO eventually pays up and our consultant again spins more straw (our ordinary boring web strategy) into yet more gold.

Unfortunately for our CEO his budget runs out and he is forced to face the fact that he must admit to the board he can't really spin straw into gold unless he can find something else to pay with.

Our dashing and handsome consultant has two children and is not interested in taking the CEO's kids and besides his name is on the contract so it really wouldn't be fair to ask the CEO to guess it.

To give our story a happy ending the CEO finds more money in his budget because he pays for actual results and realizing he is getting them pays our dashing and handsome consultant to continue doing what he does best, spinning the ordinary straw of the Internet (badly outdated and poor Internet strategy) into gold for its owners. The CEO and company live happily ever after.

The Actual Point of All This

Ok, I know many of you think I need to get out more, so let me explain in plain terms. Many companies and investors were sold a bill of goods back in the 90s that the Internet would totally change the way we did business. In many ways it has. However the problem as with most business problems is that it still relies on solid business principles to work and requires good old fashion work and innovation to realize the true gains.

Looking around the technology landscape one can see all the "straw" that abounds. Straw fills up a lot of space and is expensive to keep and grow, but unless your a horse it doesn't have much value. Many web sites and Internet strategies of today are not unlike this. They are poorly conceived and executed. They become expensive to keep and in the end don't produce much value.

Along comes the army of fake consultants who promise to turn this straw into gold, but alas all they do is make it shiny with lots of fancy flash, floating graphics, little movies, poor copy and charge piles of money to do this. At the end of the day the strategy is still poor and fails to produce true value.

I figured out what was missing. It is not always the technology stupid. It is the strategy behind the technology that creates the value. It is the tactics and techniques of marketing, management, sales, and business that creates the value. I founded my company on this principle.

Like the original Rumpelstiltskin I come along and use this "magic" to transform the straw into real gold. In short I create value using the things that has been producing value since the beginning of time. Giving customers what they need to make their lives and jobs easier. Producing value where there was only straw before. It only seemed fitting to use such a tag line.

Before you hire the next consultant who starts talking about how cool this new technology or technique is start asking yourself the simple questions...

  • How does it improve the business?
  • How does it add value to our customers?
  • How much value does it add?
  • Will it improve our bottomline and can we track that?
Simple questions, but certainly ones that still elude many companies both big and small today. Until my next edition of fairy tales...sleep tight.

Michael Temple