May 01

A web site’s main role for most companies is to market. Small to medium sized business want to get the phone ringing, get people in the door, etc.

Be careful of what you ask for.

Merge went on a small shopping-spree last night for our new office. I diligently found, online, all of the equipment that we needed to buy. The stores’ web site got me in the door.

First stop: Staples. The printer that I had found on their web site was out-of-stock. “And the other stores won’t have it either as we all carry the same thing.” What?! Then why was it advertised on your site? Frustrating, okay, but I can adapt.

Next stop: Lowes. After waiting 10 minutes for an “associate” to come to the appliance center, the refrigerator we had identified was…out of stock. I quote, “Yeah, we run really thin here. Most things are out-of-stock these days. We’re under inventoried.” I had him check another item that I printed off from the web site, “Out of stock.” I asked about a stool they had advertised on their web site. “Oh, we don’t have those either. Lowes got out of the furniture business awhile back.” Then why do you advertise them on your web site?!

Staples and Lowes just trained me: “Don’t trust our web site; don’t trust us. We’ll just put every product we can think of on it, and we probably WON’T have it in the store.”

If your web site is so effective it gets people in the door and then you can’t deliver, your web site is actually hurting you instead of helping you. So be careful what you ask for and make sure you can deliver on the promise your web site is making.

Apr 10

My wife bought a new Dyson vacuum to replace our 10-year old Hoover which was no longer cutting it.

Dyson’s strategy: Make the product look cool (so it doesn’t “domesticate”) and show all of the dirt the vacuum cleans up. The result: You feel cool vacuuming and you see it working right before your eyes.

I couldn’t help but make the correlation with selling services, whether it’s consulting, branding or web design. Show the prospect your super-cool process (Dyson’s cool design, the engineering). Then show them as much visually as possible (Dyson’s see through “results chamber,” where the dirt goes).

Too often (maybe I’m just speaking for Merge) we are selling concepts and what could be, but we try to paint the picture using words. Instead, use as many images as possible so the prospect can see the vision instead of trying to “get” the vision.

PS, by the way, I’m still learning. I realized after I wrote this blog, that maybe I should show a Dyson? Brother. By the way, my wife recommends Dyson.

Apr 07

Merge is talking to several prospects right now, and for a couple of them, there’s a clear advantage to be had if they’ll take the time to create content and position themselves as their industry’s expert.


The web site isn’t the most expensive part of the solution. It’s the time the business needs to take to create the content.

“They” say content is king. Web sites aren’t magical-they need the content mojo that makes the web site valuable. Your prospects want value. Invest in content and give the prospects what they want.

Apr 04

Merge is proud to announce the launch of a new brand and web site for Carruth Homes.

Merge provided the brand positioning “Mountain Homes Crafted by Carruth,” the logo, copy, web site design and programming.

Feb 28

Yesterday I had a low tire. It needed to be plugged (not patched, as I had requested and was corrected). I pulled into a Goodyear store. It was 5 pm, and I didn’t want to sit there for an hour for them to fix my tire, so I asked if they could do it quickly. “Nope, it would take us about 45 minutes.” I couldn’t wait that long (or rather, I wasn’t willing to wait that long) so I asked if they knew of any one else who could fix it. Their reply, “Probably not anyone this late in the day.”

I thanked him and turned around to leave the store. From the lobby of their store, I could see three other tire shops. I didn’t know they were there until I was looking for them (that’s a whole different blog altogether). I ignored his advice and drove to Bridgestone. Guess what? They fixed my tire in about 3 minutes, looked up pricing to replace my tires so I knew the price when I needed new wheels and they were extremely friendly and hoped that I could come back to visit them soon.

One company won a customer that day and an other lost a customer. Goodyear failed to notice that I had choices. They failed to notice that there were 3 other competitors within site of their lobby that would offer the same service, only 15 times faster.

It’s no different-actually it’s worse-on the web. If your web site doesn’t provide a solution to your potential customer NOW, they are one search or one back button away from being your competitor’s customer.

Don’t pull a Goodyear. Make sure your site is offering everything it should be offering and don’t assume your customer’s going to wait for you to get your act together. They have choices. Plenty of choices.

Feb 12

Yeah. The gizmo. Call it a CMS, integrated video, a blog, or a talking person that comes out (have you seen that one? God-awful annoying).

Whatever it is, it’s the latest gizmo. The media pushes it. The cheesy salesman pushes it. Why? Because we love it. We’re still enthralled with the get rich scheme, the magic bullet or as some would call it, the internet.

Get real. Seth Godin, author of Meatball Sundae, says:

“Gotta get me some of that New Marketing. Bring me blogs, e-mail, YouTube videos, MySpace pages, Google AdWords . . . I don’t care, as long as it’s shiny and new.”

But wait:

“All these tactics are like the toppings at an ice cream parlor. If you start with ice cream, adding cherries and hot fudge and whipped cream will make it taste great. But if you start with a bowl of meatballs . . . yuck!

As traditional marketing fades away, the new tools seem irresistible. But they don’t work as well for boring brands (“meatballs”) that might still be profitable but don’t attract word of mouth, such as Cheerios, Ford trucks, Barbie dolls, or Budweiser. When Anheuser-Busch spends $40 million on an online network called BudTV, that’s a meatball sundae. It leads to no new Bud drinkers, just a bad case of indigestion.”

Well said, Seth. The new gizmo isn’t going to revolutionize your marketing. Slapping a new gizmo on top of a poorly branded and poorly constructed web site may provide short term results. Just be warned, you’ll be looking for the next new gizmo in about three months.

Instead, may I suggest you build a foundation: your brand and your digital strategy? I don’t care if you use Merge or you use another web firm or an advertising agency. Just don’t fall for the “We have the new shiny tool” approach. You’ll be much, much happier in the long run.

Feb 11

Most web sites are created to have a nice, high-impacting home page. The home page gets the user to the next section. But the site usually stops directing traffic at this point.

Don’t do that. Keep the momentum going.

Web sites are not linear. They aren’t a book or a brochure that the user will take an A-B-C-D-E path. It’s more like, A-E-C-B (yep, they never even see ‘d’). So the remedy?


Keep offering the user the choice to go to another section of the site. Always include the ultimate call-to-action (i.e. the famous “contact us”) with the momentum creating calls-to-action. The user is going to click, click, click as long as you keep them interested and offer them the opportunity. You never know when they’re going to be ready for the “ultimate click.” Keep them going throughout your site, and you will greatly increase the probability that A) they’ll get the information they were looking for and B) they’ll become a converted visitor instead of just another visitor.

Feb 02

This morning I ran the Tybee Island half marathon. Beautiful day. As I was on mile 3 or 4, I thought to myself, “I wonder how this could apply to web development?”

Believe it or not, on mile 5 -6, I came up with something (you’ve got to keep your mind occupied on something during the race).

So here goes:

Most novices (of which I am one) go out of the gates of a race too quickly. They’re excited, they’re grooving with the energy of the anticipation to start and they may have even have a little adrenaline.

You see where this is going, right? There are companies who decide to embrace the web finally, they get all excited, and shoot out of the gates with the intention of running a well run race. The problem is, they ultimately lose the excitement, focus on business as usual and the web initiative gets the back seat.

The problem in both cases is that they end up petering out. The intention is good, but the execution is counter-intuitive. Yes, the runner entered the race, but didn’t run it like they wanted it. Yes, the company put up a new web site, but it didn’t end up getting the results they were looking for.

Advice for runner and company alike: Know your limits, come out of the gates at a smooth comfortable pace, get someone to run the race with you (accountability and/or a coach will significantly increase your chances of succeeding), and finish the race.

Today I had the chance to execute all three from a runners perspective. It was a smooth start. I was running with my brother, so the thought of ever walking was not acceptable, and low and behold, I finished the race (at a faster pace than if I were doing it alone). May your web project have the same success!

Jan 29

Google Local, which used to list only 3 companies in its local search results, has decided to make room for more. This should be a relief to companies who wanted to fairly share the lime light. We’ve been battling other local firms to get the one of the coveted three spots. But now, Google has opened it to ten companies, looking now like:

The downside? Now sponsored links and Google Local results take up the majority of the screen real estate. Those hard earned organic listings are being pushed even further down the page, making them less valuable. Ah, the Lord giveth and he taketh away.

Jan 28

We said it back in October 4 of 2007:

“Progressive companies are going to embrace web sites as commercials instead of brochures. You’re going to see much less content, and much more video…”
Post: The new web

Take a look at Nintendo Wii’s site. They don’t only use video on the home page or as a flash introduction, they use video throughout their WHOLE site. There is no copy. All of their content is video. They want to show their “customers” (okay, models) using their product. They are showing the user experience. Anything a company can do to get you to experience the product online, that much closer they have you to buying their product.

Words alone aren’t going to work any more. Just pictures? Nope. Video. And when “they” can figure out how to deliver touch and smell, then it will be a wrap. And those might be here sooner than you think.