We will be at the CT Business Expo on June 9, 2011. This is an expo that The Hartford Business Journal holds each year. We did a walk through last year and were so impressed that we decided to exhibit this year. Come see us at booth #416. In addition, I’m on an educational panel called “Sales for Non-Sales People”. It’s a 45 minute interactive presentation to be held from 2:30-3:15. As many of you know, I enjoy selling – even the dreaded “cold call”. Stop by and see if we can inspire you to embrace your inner sales person.
I had a meeting last week with a potential client that sells to consumers. We spoke a little about social networking (ie: FaceBook, Linked-In, etc.) He made it very clear that he had no interest in doing anything in that realm. He then went on to tell me a story about a customer that would only purchase his product once they found someone they knew who was using it and happy with it. They had checked the company’s references, and although they were all very good, it wasn’t until they spoke with someone they knew that they decided the product was good for them.
This is an example of social networking, except that it was done over the phone instead of the computer. Now, imagine you could create this kind of referral that would go out to many people instead of just the person on the other end of the phone. That is what social networking can do for you.
I remember when I first started my own business and began attending networking events. I was so overwhelmed by the number of people who would tell me that I needed what they had for sale in spite of the fact that they hadn’t taken the time to find out anything about me and what my needs were. On occasion, I would meet someone who would ask me what I did, tell me about their company and talk about a way we could work together. They are the people who I still work with today after several years because we have a relationship.
The same problem occurs with on-line networking. Some people see it as another place to advertise their business. Too often, people use social networking groups to promote their business when they should be building relationships. It’s like any networking group. If people are genuinely interested in helping each other succeed, everyone wins. However, if everyone is just selling at each other, the group won’t last and no one will benefit.
Remember, no matter how you network, be it on-line or in-person, the important thing to remember is that people want to work with and buy from someone they trust and with whom they have a relationship. Approach it any other way and although you might get the initial sale, the chances of retaining the customer are poor.
For those of you not already Linked-In, this is a fantastic free networking site that is focused on professional networking as opposed to a more social focus such as Facebook. I have found it to be very helpful in keeping up with colleagues and associates. What I find most interesting, though are some of the people requesting that I link-in to them. You know, the people you barely remember meeting that seem to have hundreds of connections on their account.
This leads me to my question, who should I be linked-in to? At first, I was pretty exclusive, only friends and colleagues with whom I have a close professional relationship. Next, I expanded to the people I met at networking events and my best clients. Then I moved on to all prospects I meet. But do I really want to be linked-in to the person I worked with 15 years ago and never cared for?
There are two trains of thought on this. The first is, if you don’t care for the person, would you really want to network to their network as the people in their network could be similar in quality. On the other hand, if that person has a large number of contacts, over 500 in my case, should I link in to them? I don’t really have an answer; it’s just food for thought.
This is a common misconception about websites. Your website is like a store. If you build a store on a country road and don’t advertise, you’re not going to get much business. Oh sure, you’ll get the occasional passer-by but not much more than that. Similarly, if you create a website and put it on-line, you’ll get the occasional visitor but people won’t be coming in droves.
So how do you get people to your site? A combination of practices will increase the number of visitors. The first, of course is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I know I’ve mentioned this before (more than once) but it’s essential for driving traffic to your site. The key point here is that SEO is not a one time deal but a continuous process. You need to constantly review your site stats, determine what is and isn’t working and adjust accordingly.
Another method to get people to your site is simply let them know you’re there. When creating a new site, you should send out an announcement. This is something that we did in the 90’s but got away from. For some reason we began to believe that people would magically find us if we uploaded our site. We know this isn’t true, so by all means send out a notice to everyone in your address book once your site is on-line. This is something you should do every time you have a change to your site that the viewers may be interested, which will be every time because why make a change to a site if no one’s going to be interested?!
Finally don’t omit social media! It is probably the single most useful and cost-effective tool available today to spread the word about your business. Tweet about it, mention it on your Facebook page, post a YouTube video, and let everyone in your Linked-in account know about it. Your social media strategy may vary from business to business, but every type of business can use social media to communicate with their client base.
If I Build It They Will Come…But Only If They Know It’s There!
I know, I know, another blog about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Well it’s a hot topic with our clients and often an area of confusion. SEO is simply optimizing a site to ensure that it is found when doing a search on Google, Yahoo or other search engines. Now the term ensure may be too strong because although SEO is important, there’s no magic to guarantee placement. A site that ranks third on the first page on Google one day may be at the bottom of page two the next day due to changes in the way in which the search engine looks at the site. And it may also vary form person to person–but that’s another story.
Although this can be a bit frustrating we do know that there are a few things we can do to make sure a site improves its ranking. First and most important is content–making sure that the keywords used in a search are in the content of a website is essential. The more comprehensive the content of the site, the more likely it will rank well on search engines.
The second way to improve search engine rank is to make sure that the keywords used in a search and in the content are included the meta and title tags . The most important terms should be included in these 2 tags. This is also important because the title and meta description may be what the search results will show and you’ll want to make sure that it correctly conveys your message.
Also important to SEO are incoming links. The more links you have from other sites to yours, the higher you may rank. The key here, however, is QUALITY links. You’ll often see ads to get you 15,000 links. Most of these won’t be applicable to your site and can even hurt your ranking. Quality links would be regional, industry directories, etc.
The bottom line is…SEO is a continuous process. Since search engines constantly update their way of looking at sites, SEO is not a one time fix and although there are no guarantees, it’s not something you can ignore.
How is SEO like a college degree? With a degree you’re not guaranteed to get the good job, but without it, you’re not likely to get it. Similarly, SEO doesn’t guarantee a first place search engine rank, but without it, you’re not likely to be found.
I’ve been hearing more and more about people getting scammed by on-line companies when attempting to set up their own site. In fact, I recently spoke with a client that spent $4,700 plus $39.95 a month for a website and several months later has nothing to show for it. Now don’t get me wrong, there are many legitimate companies out there on the worldwide web, but if they’re talking large returns with little or no sales, marketing and effort – it’s not going to happen.
When it comes to creating or re-designing your website you’d be more productive if you focused on the planning of the site and hired someone else for the programming. Deciding before hand exactly what you want from your site and clearly communicating that with your web partner is the most effective way to build a website.
Too often people decide what they want their site to do for them after they’ve created it. For example a site that’s created to drive sales is much different than one that’s strictly for informational purposes. It’s imperative to determine the direction in advance so that you don’t end up having to re-design and re-program the site afterwards. In addition, what you want from your site will determine the type of tools used.
The bottom line is… If someone contacts you from an on-line company, look them up. A simple Google search can provide you with a lot of information. In addition, although these companies may promise incredible deals, nothing can replace the one-to-one relationship with an established, local company. It’s always nice to be able to speak to someone whose name you know.
There’s a website that I go to every couple of months for information and every time I do they’ve completely re-vamped the site. The problem is that every time they do, they make it harder and harder to find the information I’m searching for.
Now, I have no problem with ensuring a site is fresh, but in making changes you need to make certain that the navigation remains as clear as possible. Since we all have short attention spans, it only takes a few seconds to lose your viewer, so it’s all about providing the information needed in an easy-to-follow format.
Another thing to consider is the format that a user is accustomed to. I recently went to another site that was beautifully designed, but I couldn’t tell where to go from the home page. As a rule, people are used to left and to navigation bars. By adhering to this type of format, it makes it easier for the viewer to find what they need.
The bottom line is…you can make a site as creative and informative as possible, but if the viewer can’t find what they’re looking for, you’re going to lose them.
We all know that it takes more time, effort and money to get a new customer than it does to sell to an existing customer. So why don’t we do a better job of selling to our customers? I have a client that provides services to a very finite audience. He knows every possible customer and prospect in the markets he sells to. His company is very responsive to their needs and always creating new products for them, However, he never informs his customers about these new products unless they’re the one it’s created for. The idea of creating a superior product or service and keeping it a secret may seem crazy, but in fact, that’s exactly what so many of us do.
So the question is, what do we do about it? There are two immediate steps we can take. First and foremost, have a plan. We spend all sorts of time planning ways to get new customers but little time planning how to sell more to our existing customers. You need to understand why they buy from you to ensure they continue to do so.
Second, communicate! Talk to your customers. Find out what their needs are and you might find you can fill them. We often assume that our customers understand our business and know what we have to offer them. This is not the case. If you get your name in front of them on a regular basis, you will be the person they call when they have a need, even if they’re not sure you can fulfill it. A cost-effective way of doing this is through e-marketing. It will also drive customers to your website to remind them what you can do for them.
The bottom line is, the more you communicate and educate your customer, the easier it will be for them to turn to you when they need help.
This is a question that I’ve received on more than one occasion. Anyone who has a website should care about website optimization. If you have a website, odds are you’ve spent time and money to create it. So what is it doing for you? Too many people create a site and do nothing to drive traffic to their site, then, wonder why business hasn’t improved. In traditional terms, you can create the most beautiful advertisement, however, if you never place it where it can be seen, it’s useless. It’s the same for websites. That is where website optimization comes in. It’s the practice of driving traffic to your website. There are several ways to do this.
The first way to drive traffic to your site is to ensure that your site can be found. This is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. By including meta tags and descriptions as well as improving the content of your site, you can improve the organic search-ability of your site so that people can find you. This is a long-term investment that pays off in gradual increments. Over time, search engine optimization will help improve your search engine rank and make it easier for potential customers to find your site.
The second way to improve your website optimization is a traditional pay-per-click program. These are the ads that show up in the right hand column of a Google search. The nice thing about these ads, as the name says, you only pay for those searches that actually click through to your site. This program is intended to drive unknown prospects to your site.
A third method of website optimization is called e-marketing. This includes creating an e-newsletter campaign and/or blog to help educate your customers. It is a good way to ensure that you have a consistent presence with your existing customers and known prospects. It will remind them that you’re out there and in some cases, depending on the article, educate them about capabilities you have that they may not know about or have forgotten.
The final form of website optimization is inclusion of RSS feeds to your website to pull the latest news from a blog into your site. This can help to keep your site updated with little effort. This will also help your search engine optimization and gives users a reason to go back to your site more frequently as they’ll know that you have updated information.
Basically, website optimization is a means to get your site working for you. Years ago, when people created or changed their website, they would let everyone they knew know about it. We’ve gotten away from that practice. Website optimization takes the best of those practices and incorporates them into a program that will make your website work for you.