Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gone Fishing

I always like those bumper stickers that say things about the owner has gone fishing or would rather fish than work and all the derivations of each of these. While stuck in a traffic jam one day and wishing I was actually fishing instead of looking at orange barrels I started calculating how much money I was losing because I was in the middle of a traffic jam and not at my laptop, phone, or in front of a client selling something or billing out my time to a project.

just for the record, I would not recommend you start calculating how much money a traffic jam is costing you, it could be hazardous to your mental health and possibly the physical health of the next construction worker you see stacking another orange barrel right in the middle of the only lane that isn't already blocked and jammed up!

Ah, but alas I am on a tangent. My point is that too many business owners (of all sizes) waste time or have their time wasted by other activities, like orange barrels and hence are not able to do activities that help make them money. Question, is your web site in this category? Does it help you make money or simply waste your time and hence cost you money?

Simple question for some, more complex for others. A recent statistic I read said that most white papers (those prolific 7-12 page marketing pieces that are rarely printed on white paper) are delivered electronically more than in any other format.

This little nugget of information combined with the rage at the orange barrels created the fishing model in my head. If my web site had a great, well written bait piece, call it a white paper, booklet, tip sheet, etc. on it and people were finding it and downloading it while I was stuck in traffic doing absolutely nothing than I would be making money and gathering leads for when I got back to the office.

Ok, some of you are saying "hey genius, people have been doing this for years on the Internet, where have you been". I would respond I didn't realize it because I have been in this stupid traffic jam for the last several years! No seriously I realize this is not rocket surgery, but I am still amazed at the number of web sites that doesn't have this material on it and don't create fresh versions of these materials to continually gather leads while they are doing other things. I still come across tons of sites that have the typical about us, services, products, pictures of our employees (including pets) and many other things that couldn't interest the prospect less. So while the model is not actually mine nor is it completely new and innovative it also is not being followed by a large amount of buisnesses.

However imagine a prospect that comes to your web site and instead of being put to sleep by reading about your latest "about us" overhaul he/she finds some well written copy talking about a new booklet you have made available called "How to Create a Profit Centered Web Site" (one of my own creations) do you think they might be enticed to download it? I am guessing if they don't know the last person that called them because of their web site they might want to.

Now you don't just include a simple link where they can download this document, you ask them to give you their email address, name, and maybe phone number and then once they submit this information then you roll them over to another page where they can't download the document...yes you read that correctly I don't give them the bait at the rollover page. Why? Because years of driving around orange barrels has made me a cruel and insensitive human being. No, because if you are a fisherman like me the fish come up and take your bait and at the end of the day your net is still empty.

I recommend that you roll them over to a page that offers your newsletter sign up, information about your downloadable products, the ability to refer a friend to your site for another free download that was even better than the last and of course a note that tells them that an email will be arriving shortly with a download link. By doing it this way you will be assured that whatever email address they gave is actually real and you can actually deliver a message to.

In addition, you should have this email message go out automatically. Don't make the person wait until you get the message and respond because if you do they will get upset and may even forget 10 minutes later they visited your site and asked for it. You want them to have it right now, after all it is a bait piece and designed to move them one more step into your sales process. Here are the items I think this strategy must have to be successful...

  • A way to make your prospects aware this document exists on your web site and why they want to get it. This can be done with an email blast, radio ad, direct mail postcard, or any other vehicle designed to alert people.
  • Fantastic copy that gets the reader's attention as soon as they land on your site letting them reinforcing and expanding on the message in your step above as to why they want this and how to get it.
  • A truly well written and (important point) educational document that is not just an oversized brochure for your company. People want information, not just sales crap.

  • A web site processing system that collects their contact information and attempts to alert them to other things you might have available they might find interesting.

  • An automated way to send them the document they just asked for.

  • A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to put the lead into and track it to the successful close of the sale (a story for another day).

  • A catalog or other sales piece that is built right into the white paper or email message that tells them about all the products and services you offer. If they find your bait piece valuable and informative you want to make it very easy for them to buy your additional items.
If you follow this simple, but proven model on your web site the next time you are in a situation where your time is being wasted you can be confident that your web site is constantly fishing and delivering new leads and prospects to you.

This little bit of information may keep you safely within the little white lines on the road when you are stuck in the next traffic jam. You won't necessarily be making piles of new money, but you also won't be wasting all your time will be fishing.

Michael Temple

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Internet Killed the Video

In the early 80s when M-TV launched the very first song they played was video killed the radio. This was their idea of saying a revolution had occured and radio lost. Now music would be delivered with video and music and change the way people enjoyed both. Now this trend is continuing yet again only it is our old friend the Internet doing the killing.

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal (June 12th, 2006) talks about how local TV stations are struggling to stay alive as the consumer finds new sources of entertainment and ways to get that entertainment delivered to them. The article discusses how local TV stations used to be some of the most profitable businesses in the country, but now that people are using the Internet more and content is also being delivered via through cable companies they are hurting. The article goes on to say that advertisers are not putting as much money into these stations as it did in the past because the viewers just aren't there.

In MBA lingo this is known as a paradigm shift which is a fancy way of saying the ground rules are changing for these guys and is fundamentally changing the industry. Industries that have this happen to them either adapt and find new ways to exist or fade away.

Now enough about the downside, what is the upside here. Well quite simply it is opportunity! The advertisers that are no longer spending money with local TV stations are going to be spending that money somewhere and since the Internet is the thing stealing viewers attention away I am willing to bet that a large chunk of that cash will be diverted to the Internet.

The next question is where on the Internet are all these stacks of dead presidents headed? Of course it will be with those web sites that attract and retain visitors or as the Ad industry calls them "impressions". Is your web site in a position to get some of these ad dollars? Well if you have visitors coming to your site and those people read, download, and spend time on your site doing stuff and (key point here) you know who that group is then you can bet your bottom dollar that advertisers will be willing to spend some cash with you.

I am going to start a new thing here called TIR which is going to be my own acroynm that stands for "Temple's Internet Rules" since my name is the front of that acryonm I get to make the rules up. My first rule is going to be...

TIR #1: Create compelling, fresh, and innovative content and visitors will come and return to your site.

It doesn't matter what your site is about as long as it attracts an audience. On any given day I browse the web for news, politics, economics, finance, hobbies, etc. You name it I have probably browsed a site about it. The good sites I put in my favorites menu, the crummy sites I have totally forgotten the name of... bad news if you want to attract advertising dollars.

With the continuing spread of high speed access to the Internet video will play an increasingly larger role in dynamic content as well as the old standby of text, photos, audio and dynamic content like database driven information. The web site owners that create this content and get larger and larger shares of viewers the more likely they have ad space to sell.

Once this content is created you can sell ad space, sell memberships to premium content, sell information products and many other methods of making money off of this content. You can deliver this content with video, podcast, audio, text, ebooks, etc. To those that can generate this content you are on the verge of a new world of opportunity.

Now I don't know about you, but I think buying a radio or TV station is a little bit more expensive than starting a web site so the future will be in the content itself not the capital it takes to broadcast this content. Local TV stations 10 years ago probably thought they were indestructible, today they are wondering if anyone got the license plate number of the truck that just hit them.

Question, are you driving the truck or laying under it?

Michael Temple

Monday, June 05, 2006

Are You Getting Fresh!

It has been a little while since my last post. I have been working with several clients recently on completing new web sites. On a few of the projects I am getting a distinct impression they want me to go away and so they can actually pay for their kids to go to college instead of paying me so my kids can go to college! Building and designing an effective web site can be a large undertaking for any business, but especially a small business.

It is expensive and time consuming and many clients just want to take a deep breath once "it is done" and throw my business card in the garbage and be glad that they are done paying me. Not so fast, unfortunately you have only paid enough for my kids to get through their Freshman year, so we need to find something else to spend your money on! Fortunately for me I have just the thing... Maintenance!

I am obviously being coy here, but the point is an accurate one. Too many individuals want to just forget about their web site once they get it finished, but unfortunately you can't do that or your investment in a new site will be quickly lost.To get the most value from your site you need to keep working it like a farm. Most farmers wouldn't last long if they just planted some seeds and stopped working.

Your web site needs to grow and mature and that is where the work comes in. Fresh content is the only thing that keeps people coming back over and over again and brings in new people from word of mouth and/or better rankings in the search engines.

Here is just a partial list of things I have found to add to a company's web site after they were created...

  • Articles
  • Discussion boards
  • Reviews of new products
  • Technical support docs and forums
  • Calendar of events
  • Product/service manuals
  • Tip sheets
  • Booklets of new functionality, services, information
  • Videos
  • Audio files of shows, events, and other content
  • Free reports
  • Newsletter archives
  • Links to stories/info your customers would find interesting
  • eBooks
  • Podcasts
  • Blogs
As you can see the list is basically a long one and with a little thought I am sure you can come up with items I didn't add to the list. Now you obviously don't have to add all of these, but if you did imagine the visitors you would have!

The point is that once your perfectly crafted text about who you are and what you sell are done you have a lot of work ahead of you to keep the leads and customers coming back. Your web site is a lead generating and tireless salesperson for your organization, but it needs one thing to keep fresh information and content.

Now how do I create all this "stuff" you may be saying. Good question, a lot of it you can find from other sources and just post the content on your site (with the author's permission of course), some of it can be developed by research and in some cases you will need to hire a professional copywriter to help develop certain things like white papers. Did I mention I also am a copywriter... hey my kids want to be doctors, you know how expensive medical school is :)

Seriously, you don't have to create all of it at once, it is done little by little each month or quarter and you will update old stuff while adding new things, eventually before you know it you have a kick butt web site that gets tons of visitors and lots of kudos for the great content you have developed. Remember growing content and your web site is a marathon, not a sprint.

So once that project is finished don't just forget about your site and hope the leads and sales will start pouring in, because they won't.

Michael Temple