Oct 27

Can you name the 3.5 thinks your web customers want? Have you strategically designed your web site to give it to them? Here are the three things your customers want:

1. Trust. If your user doesn’t know you from Adam, then they’re looking for something to establish some level of trust. Whether it’s a client list, your 50 years of experience or a highly professional design, they want to know that they can trust you. Hint: Trust can and should be built from many facets. Of the examples above, communicating all three would be helpful in this regard.

2. Value. It’s called the law of reciprocity. Your web prospect is looking for some value before they contact you. Give them some important content (in the form of a blog, newsletter, webinar, white paper, power point presentation, etc.) that is, well, valuable. Don’t just ask them to “contact us.” Give them something first, so they’re compelled to contact you.

3. Solutions. Your prospect is visiting your web site because they either have a problem or a perceived problem. They want you to solve that problem! But unfortunately, they couldn’t find any hint to a solution on your web site. Identify what problems your company can solve, and then build your web site and content around those solutions. You’ll find a higher response rate if you do so.

And the last 1/2 your customers want:

3.5 Personality. They want to do business with a company they like. Not some sterile, clean, professional no-name, stand-for-nothing, boring company. They want a company with a personality. Panache. Attitude. Something other than corporate. Think Starbucks, Nike, Apple. Inject your personality into your web site and you’ll start doing business with people who like you!

Bottomline: Customers want 3.5 things: They’ve gotta trust you. They want some sort of value upfront. They need to know you can provide the solution and lastly…they’ve gotta like you. How’s your web site doing?

Image Credit: http://flickr.com/photos/webchicken/1352009526/

Oct 22

The user of your web site is not regulated to that of a hot prospect. You may have “strangers,” window shoppers, vendors, customers, the media, etc. as a potential user.

The question is, how do you speak to such a diverse user group that has different wants and needs?

Here are three suggestions:

-Offer Different Content. A “stranger” probably wants different information than a hot prospect. A stranger wants to know: Who are you? A hot prospect may be more interested in your process. As such, offer a fact sheet (PDF download) about your company for the stranger, and offer a “Our Process” download for the hot prospect.

-Blog. A blog is simply a conversation between you and your web site’s users. Strategically write posts that speak to each of the different users, and start the conversation.

-FAQ Section. An oldy but goody. Have an FAQ (”frequently asked questions) section on your site that addresses the questions of each user group.

Remember, the user is coming to your web site with a problem. Help them solve that problem, and a stranger or hot prospect will become a customer. But you’ll need to speak to each of their specific needs in order to give them the answers they’re looking for.

Bottomline: Web sites shouldn’t be one-dimensional. Make your web site multi-dimensional to effectively meet the different needs of different users.

Oct 20

My last three business correspondences / communication tools went like this:

Facebook -> Twitter -> Facebook.

-The first Facebook correspondence was used to setup a meeting.

-The Twitter communication was used to get introduced to a potential employee, and

-The last Facebook message I RSVP’d for a networking event.

Could each of these three correspondences happen outside of social media? Sure. But the real question is would they have happened outside of a social media network?

Knowing where to begin in the social media game can be a daunting task for your business. How do I take my business there? Where do I start? Which sites do I use?

Before you answer any of those questions, start participating. Get a Facebook account and load up Twitter. Do it for a month or so and get acquainted. You might not have to do anything for your business but simply participate.

Business is happening in these online networks. By simply being there will be benefit enough for you company.

Bottomline: You don’t have to be overwhelmed by what, where and how to join the Social Media fray. Simply start participating by getting a Facebook and Twitter account.

Image credit: http://flickr.com/photos/fredcavazza/

Oct 13

Because technology moves so fast, sometimes we have to rely on known conventions and best-practices to make decisions. For instance, you may have heard of these three conventional measures:

-Home Pages Shouldn’t Scroll.

-Pay-per-click ads are fraught with click-fraud.

-Search Engine Optimization requires continual ongoing maintenance because algorithms change.

The danger with conventions or “best-practices” is that we follow them blindly, but never challenge the underlying assumptions. You’ll hear web design firms, employees and maybe even yourself espousing such truths. But if you stop and challenge them, you might find that, although there is wisdom behind these conventions, they should be treated as guidelines and not hard-fast rules. You may also find that they just aren’t true.

So let’s take a look at the three examples above:

No scrolling. Whether it’s home pages or even internal pages, it’s been a theory that 50% of users don’t scroll. That may have been true in 1997, but I think we’re all use to scrolling now. At Merge, we have technology that allows us to record and watch live users using your web site. We noted one site that had scrolling and noted almost 100% of users scrolled. Here’s a great article that both challenges and disproves this convention.

Click Fraud. This causes many business not to use Pay-per-click advertising as a viable mean for driving traffic to their web site. Although I’m sure click fraud occurs and I don’t trust that “Google has click fraud measures in place” (or if they do, I’ve never seen them do anything about it), the fact is, fraud is a risk of every other business, so why does it stop people cold in their tracks when it comes to Pay-per-click?

Would you not open a clothing store because there’s a chance somebody might steal a pair of pants? I’ve got news for you: Over the course of your business, 100’s of pairs of pants will be stolen. It’s called shrinkage (not the Seinfeld kind) and it’s a cost of doing business.

Sure, there may be click fraud. But it’s a cost of doing business. At the end of the day you can still see the results of a Pay-per-click campaign and decide if the ROI is there-whether click fraud is happening or not.

Changing Algorithms. Doesn’t this sound both sexy and scary at the same time? I admit, I’ve heard this stupid saying come out of my mouth before. And again, this may be true for super-highly competitive search terms, changing algorithms may alter the position of your ranking. But Merge’s experience is that once we get a web site to a ranking that is sufficient, we typically don’t have to do much more to keep it. What’s been done is done. We recently had a client move from #1 to #2 in Google, and we spent about an hour and got them back to #1 in a week or two. They’ve held the #1 spot for over 5 years. If you’re paying a lot of money for SEO maintenance, I challenge you to stop paying that money and watch what happens. I bet you’ll see you’ll probably stay just where you are.

Bottomline: Challenge conventions and treat them more as guidelines versus hard-fast rules.

Oct 02

This week Merge was one of the sponsors at the Greenville Chamber’s CEO Connection. The keynote was given by Terry Bowden. Here’s what he says on Creating a Winning Business:

1. Want to be the best. It all starts here. The desire to be the best instills excellence across the organization. If you aren’t the best, don’t want to be the best or don’t believe you can be the best, then why are you in business? Winners, whether that’s a CEO, company or team strive to be the best.

2. Willing to pay the price. If you’re in business long enough, you know the piper will come calling eventually. Adversity, obstacles, crisis, etc. will come down the pike sooner are later. Are you going to fold or pay the price? Will your company do what it takes to be the best? There will be a price to pay.

One price to pay is the ever changing business landscape. Does your company change and adapt? Being in the web business, I get to see this every day. There are companies that are willing to adapt, and so they invest in their web site (they’re our clients). There are other companies that aren’t willing to pay the price-they want a cheap web site or the price is too high. They end up not adapting.

3. Work together as a team. It’s an abused quote, but Jim Collins says “Get the right people on the bus and in the right seats.” You can have the right people, but if they aren’t working as a team, forget about it. Remember the Dream Team that got blown out in the Olympics? You can want to be the best, you can be willing to pay the price, but if your company isn’t playing as a team, it’s all over.

4. Each member of the team must take responsibility. Terry told a great story about his offensive secretary at Auburn when they went undefeated. She meticulously prepared the playbook every Friday. When Auburn beat Alabama that year, she knew it was because of how she so neatly put that book together.

Terry says we have to use the “but for” logical approach, on an individual basis. But for my effort but for my ability but for my responsibility we succeed. Everyone’s participation-from the janitor to the secretary to the controller to the CEO is crucial to a company’s success. What if the offensive secretary decided to slack off that week? What if she decided the playbook could wait until Monday or that surely Terry didn’t want all of the plays in the playbook? But for…her effort, ability and responsibility, Auburn won.

Bottom Line: To succeed, you have to want to be the best, be willing to pay the price, work as a team and have each person do their part (take responsibility).

Thanks Terry. To have Terry Bowden speak at your event: http://www.terrybowden.com/public_speaking.html