Monday, April 7, 2008

Promote Your Business

12 Months of Holiday Promotions

Year-round, holidays are great hooks for all types of marketing promotions, provided you think outside the box.

By Kim T. Gordon | February 14, 2007

If you think holiday marketing begins just after Halloween and ends on New Year's Day, think again. For most small businesses, holidays from Father's Day to Administrative Professionals' Day provide terrific hooks on which to hang marketing promotions.

To get you thinking outside the gift box, here are 12 months of holidays to consider--plus creative ideas for using less traditional holidays to grab your customers' attention.

Valentine's Day is a bonanza for restaurateurs and jewelers, but other entrepreneurs also can use the day to tell customers they're appreciated. Show your company's love by sending letters with special rewards, such as money off a purchase, to your best customers or clients. Rewards at this holiday, rather than just at the more traditional times of year, will grab attention and be appreciated.

Also in February are Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras and Presidents Day. Want to be inventive? A professional services firm could enhance its client relations (and loosen an otherwise stiff image) by throwing a Mardi Gras-themed party, while an air conditioning and heating contractor could send a direct mail piece using Groundhog Day as a hook, offering customers a special discount on heating maintenance services to help them get through six more weeks of winter.

The two biggest holidays on my calendar in March are St. Patrick's Day and my birthday. Granted, my birthday may not be of any interest to your customers, but they'll definitely enjoy being appreciated on their own birthdays. Include a field in your customer database for birth dates, and depending on your type of business, send a gift, card or reward.

As for St. Patrick's Day, there are many fun tie-ins--from the color green to the luck of the Irish--you can develop into marketing hooks. And the first day of spring is March 21. Traditionally, this is the kick-off for major spring retail promotions.

Ah, April Fools' Day. Businesses large and small have used this day as an opportunity to draw public attention. In one well-publicized April Fools' hoax, Taco Bell placed ads in major newspapers announcing it had purchased the Liberty Bell to help reduce the federal deficit and was planning to move it to Irvine, California. Americans were furious. There were more than 400 TV mentions and thousands of newspaper and radio mentions worth millions in media coverage, though Taco Bell sent out a news release announcing the hoax just a few hours later. The smart promotional gambit resulted in a $500,000 sales increase for the company on April 1 and a $600,000 increase on April 2.

Easter will be celebrated on April 8 this year with traditional spring sales at most retailers. Earth Day is on April 22, and you don't have to be a green company to take on an environmentally friendly promotion, such as planting trees and letting your customers know about it. And let's not overlook Administrative Professionals’ Day (formerly known as Secretaries' Day) on April 25. This holiday is prompting small businesses to take action: The Vermont Teddy Bear Co., for instance, has added a page to its website to sell gifts for the occasion.

The two biggest holidays in May are Mother's Day on May 13 and Memorial Day on May 28. Small businesses in the hospitality, consumer services and retail categories typically realize the greatest gains from Mother's Day promotions. Husbands and daughters make the bulk of all Mother's Day purchases, and consumers spend more on this holiday than most others, including Father's Day. The most popular service given as a Mother's Day gift is a half-day spa treatment. To promote your Mother's Day offerings this year, consider using e-mail as a low-cost, high-return tactic to promote everything from jewelry to flowers.

June through September
While not the big spending holiday Mother's Day has become, Father's Day on June 17 is still a terrific hook for small businesses looking for an early summer boost. Since women make the most purchases for fathers and husbands, create promotions that appeal to their desire for convenient, easy shopping and cost savings.

Summer officially begins on June 21, but long before that, the season can provide a wonderful hook for specials or promotions that tie in to warm-weather vacations and fun. Campground owners, for example, can ramp up marketing campaigns that target families with RVs looking for affordable vacations.

Since the Fourth of July is a major retail marketing holiday, smaller businesses may want to stay out of the fray and concentrate promotional dollars on less-crowded holidays. If you offer products related to back-to-school promotions, August is your month. And retailers should plan a marketing push for Labor Day sales on September 3.

Trick or treat! Halloween is more popular than ever, with many adults attending costume parties and even sales of pet costumes seeing a dramatic upswing. For small nonprofits and fundraising organizations, Halloween provides a wonderful marketing opportunity. You can create a haunted event, get other local businesses involved as sponsors or partners, and sell tickets in multiple locations.

Halloween is also a smart hook for businesses promoting child safety products and services. You can win media coverage, including newspaper and radio interviews, by producing a fact sheet with safety tips along with a pitch letter to send to targeted editors and journalists.

November through January
November 1 officially marks the start of the holiday selling season, so why not put a new spin on Thanksgiving promotions? Instead of focusing on holiday decorations or falling retail prices, make an effort to help others while enhancing your company's image in the process. You can sponsor meals for the homeless. Or you and your staff can engage in a visible community improvement project. Work to enlist other businesses in your area, and share your story with the local media to aid your cause. Then you can proceed with your company's traditional winter sales promotions with a strong PR lift and community goodwill. And retailers can keep the momentum rolling into January with New Year's Day sales, followed by special promotions tied to the chilly weather.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Building the Paperless Office

Building the Paperless Office

Joe Kissell, Macworld

Sunday, October 14, 2007 12:00 PM PDT

Computers were supposed to make paperless offices possible, but most of us are surrounded by more pages than ever. It's possible to break free from paper's grip, however.

I've developed a system that has allowed me to eliminate all but a slim handful of papers from my formerly bulging filing cabinets. I scan my documents and convert them to PDF files that include both high-resolution images of the originals (for reference and later printing) and -- using optical character recognition (OCR) software -- digitized copies of document text (so I can search, select, or copy it).

As a result, I have more free space on my desk and in my file cabinets, and almost every piece of paper in my erstwhile files -- old tax forms, letters from my bank, and more, as well as new stuff that still comes in -- is now searchable, easy to back up, and accessible from just about anywhere.

Get the Right Hardware

The first key is a good scanner. Fujitsu's ScanSnap is my tool of choice (and the one for which I'll provide specific instructions below). It's speedy (it can scan up to 18 pages per minute), it can scan both sides of the page at once, it automatically detects page size and type (color or black and white), and it includes a copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard.

While the ScanSnap is my favorite, you can find less-expensive sheet-fed scanners. Just be sure the model you choose has an automatic document feeder, bundled OCR software, a USB 2.0 interface, and a high page-per-minute rating.

As for hard-drive space, don't worry: With the settings recommended below, expect scanned PDFs to occupy about 250KB per page (or side) for black-and-white documents, 500KB for color. In other words, you should be able to store up to 4,000 pages in 1GB of disk space.

Get the Right Software

You'll also need two pieces of software. First, your scanner should come with some basic software, including OS X drivers and an application that lets you configure resolution, color bit depth, file type, default folders, and other settings; if you don't have that, check the vendor's Web site.

You'll also need an application that can perform OCR on your scanned documents and then combine the text with the original image of the page in a PDF file. The best candidates are Acrobat 8 Professional Acrobat Standard (version 7 should work), DevonThink Pro Office Office (US$150), or ReadIris Pro 9.

Most of the free or less-expensive versions of these programs won't work. Adobe Reader won't work, and neither will DevonThink or DevonThink Pro (the less-expensive versions of DevonThink Pro Office). Bundled versions of ReadIris should be OK. Your scanner may have come with all the software you need; the ScanSnap, for example, includes a copy of Acrobat Standard, and many other scanners come with ReadIris Pro. If your scanner comes with driver software but not a suitable OCR program, I recommend DevonThink Pro Office. It produces fast, accurate OCR results, imports scanned files automatically with minimal configuration, and provides a convenient interface for storing and searching scanned PDFs. Because Adobe Acrobat is so common, I'll provide specific instructions for it below.

Configure the Software

You then need to tweak the software to get the best results. Again, consult your scanner's documentation to find out how to change these settings.

Resolution I've found that 300 dpi yields the best trade-off between quality and convenience. In ScanSnap Manager, go to the Scanning tab and choose Better (Faster) from the Image Quality pop-up menu to get 300-dpi scans.

File type Since documents ultimately end up as PDFs in this system, I save scans as PDFs from the outset. In ScanSnap Manager, go to the File Option tab and choose PDF (*.pdf) from the File Format pop-up menu. If PDF isn't available in your scanning software, choose TIFF.

File location Most scanning software lets you put scanned images wherever you want. I save them to a subfolder named Scans in my Pictures folder, so I can easily find scanned documents later. In ScanSnap Manager, go to the Save tab, click on the Browse button, locate the folder you want to use, and click on Choose.

Other settings Turn on automatic duplex scanning and color detection: In ScanSnap Manager, go to the Scanning tab, choose Auto Color Detection from the Color Mode pop-up menu and Duplex Scan (Double-Sided) from the Scanning Side pop-up menu. If you can, tell the software to remove blank pages from scans, adjust crooked images, and automatically rotate images that are upside down or in landscape mode. In ScanSnap Manager, go to the Scanning tab, click on Option, and select the Allow Automatic Blank Page Removal, Correct Skewed Character Strings Automatically, and Allow Automatic Image Rotation options.

Automate your scans

Next configure your scanning software so it will send scans directly to your OCR program, save the document with the new text layer, and close the file. Here's how to do that in Acrobat; you can follow similar procedures for whichever software you're using.

Start by configuring Acrobat's OCR settings. Open a PDF file and choose Document: Recognize Text Using OCR: Start. In the dialog box that appears, click on Edit, make sure English (US) is selected in the Primary OCR Language pop-up menu, and choose Searchable Image (Exact) from the PDF Output Style pop-up menu.

Next, set up an AppleScript Folder Action to automate the processing of new scans. You can download AppleScripts for Acrobat and ReadIris Pro from macworld .com/3048. (DevonThink Pro Office takes care of this process automatically. ScanSnap Manager can automatically open scanned files in any of these programs, but can't automate the rest of the process.)

Once you've downloaded the script you need, save it in /Library/ Scripts/Folder Action Scripts; I call mine OCR This. Control- or right-click on the folder you've designated to hold new scans and, from the contextual menu, choose Enable Folder Actions. Control- or right-click again and choose Attach A Folder Action. In the window that appears, navigate to your new AppleScript file, select it, and click on Choose.

Now try scanning a new document. If everything works correctly, Acrobat should open shortly after your scan finishes, recognize the text in the document, and close the document window when it's finished.

Set Up a Workflow

With the technology in place, you can start scanning. But if you have thousands of pages to digitize, you're looking at a long process. Before you begin, figure out a good strategy.

Narrow the field Consider culling documents you don't really need, rather than scanning everything blindly.

Play the name game Give each document a descriptive label as soon as possible, while the contents are still fresh in your memory.

Devise a filing system Make sure you know where you're going to store each document -- and move it there immediately after scanning.

Get rid of the paper After scanning your documents, decide which ones you need to shred, which you can recycle, and which you must keep safe (legal documents such as birth certificates and notarized contracts).

Don't overdo it If you've got zillions of papers, don't try to scan them all at once. Set a goal of, say, 50 sheets a day. Once you're caught up, get in the habit of regularly scanning and then disposing of (or filing) all new documents.

[Joe Kissell is the senior editor of TidBits and the author of Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups (Peachpit Press, 2006).]

Joe Kissell has no affiliation with Darrin Jackson either personally or professionally
this article is posted by Darrin Jackson for the sole purpose of educating small business

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Keeping more clients with better customer service

One thing we have to keep in the forefront of our minds as our business begins to grow is the power of customer service. After all, we are all in the business of fixing problems. Every client you have right now is your client because he or she had a problem and you fixed it, simply put.

Never thought of it that way, this fact is true, and the reason you are reading this right now is, there is something you want to do better, or want to begin doing so in essence you are looking for a solution as all your clients are, when they call you. If we can remember this from the company level then we will look at customer complaints from a different perspective.

When a customer complains, about a service or product, he/she does not really care about your product or service, what they care about is the problem they were, having in the first place that is as of yet unresolved. Your client has made a purchase from you, for you to fix there particular problem and your solution has come up short. The only thing that the client is looking for is to have his original problem fixed.

Below is and example of customer service explained and how it has saved one client and created an onslaught of referrals from this client.

Let us assume one of our clients calls in and begins to complain about how long it took our company to repair his pc. He also tells us there is another company online that does remote support and they have a 24x7 30 sec response time. In addition, it took us 1 hour to respond and 15 minutes for repair. So what do we do, the product he purchased (DirectTek core) clearly states response time to calls are 2-4 hours and our (DirectTek pro) has a 30 second response time and repairs average 8 minutes.

Clearly, our client has purchased the wrong product and what he is upset about is the solution we presented does not fit his needs. The biggest mistake we could make at this point is putting the blame on the client. We could tell him that when we presented our solution to you, it was your company that chose the core product; furthermore, our response times are clearly indicated.

We would be right in telling him that but we would probably be with one less client. Instead, we choose to use the opportunity as an up sell versus a loss of a client. we would tell the client in this example, “Sir we are sorry we did not live up to your expectations, but we do have a product that is better suited to you needs and at this time we would like to offer you our DirectTek pro. This solution will resolve your downtime issues and due to you being unsatisfied with our other product we will offer it to you at a 10% discount rate with one month free”.

For us to do this our profit margin on that sale will be less then usual. We also have to give him a month free (more loss) but remember the client has already purchased the first product(profit) now he purchases a second product (profit) and he will tell his colleagues about how great our company is, (word of mouth) all in all I think the customer service went a long way.

Good customer service does not have to be performed only in the face of problems though. One of the most profitable forms of customer service comes in the form of cross selling. Let’s use our insurance broker as an example.

One of our clients (Associated Management) implemented a cross sale, customer service plan here’s how it works. They specialize in worker’s compensation they also carry automobile, fleet, and life insurance. They implemented a customer service call center which would call there existing customer to make sure they were happy with there current insurance solutions. They then began the up sell process of explaining to them the discount they would receive by converting there fleet, life and automobile insurance over to them. As well as making it more convenient to the client by having to only, keep track of one company instead of dealing with multiple companies. It lead to an 11.3% increase in revenue (recently implemented give us some time)

Conclusion: Stay in the business of fixing problems and you will stand a better chance of staying in business.

As always we at Voltage Pc hope you have found this article educational and would like you to become a subscriber to our blog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Grow your small business with Information Technology

You Can Grow Your Small Business Using The Right Technology

Dan Katz of PSK Supermarkets, a Mount Vernon, N. Y. based chain of Foodtown grocery stores, knew he had a problem: His customers were making fewer trips to his stores and spending less money each time. Facing intense competition for customers from both traditional competitors and newcomers like FreshDirect and Whole Foods, he needed to increase customer loyalty fast. But how?

Dan started with his in-house point-of sale system. The system stores records of all purchases and ties the data back to the individual customer and the SKUs (shopkeeping units, or products) they buy. Using the shopping cards he issues to his customers, Dan created a targeted loyalty program focused on his best customers.

Here’s how it works: customers are divided into 12 loyalty levels, with 1 being the most loyal and 12the least loyal (measured in terms of dollars spent per month). The best customers are rewarded for their purchases with S&H Greenpoints which can be redeemed for merchandise. In the first six months of the program, Dan boosted the average purchase per visit more than 20%; a year later, Dan constantly monitors customers across the 12 loyalty levels. He offers incentives to retain his best customers and watches for “downward migration” if customers suddenly start shopping less so he can send out targeted promotions to bring them back into his stores.

PSK’s strategy is a dramatic example of how business is changing the way it interacts with and markets to customers and prospects. A few important trends make it easier than ever for any company, large or small, to catch this wave and reap tremendous rewards. Data storage costs are lower than ever, and Internet usage is widespread. Most importantly, there are now powerful software programs that can capture, track, manage and analyze customer data. Microsoft Office includes Excel, a spreadsheet program many small companies use to store data on their customers.

Users who upgrade to Microsoft Office Professional for a few hundred dollars more can take advantage of the power of Access, an expandable relational database that can store data on many thousands of customers. There is also software for rent available on the Web from that can keep track of sales interactions with customers for less than $100 per month per user. In short, a variety of powerful, easy to use, customizable tools are available that can help companies store and capitalize on their customer data.

Any company now has the ability to track the behaviour of every customer and store enormous amounts of data on purchase history, transactions, demographics and interactions. The key to building revenue and profits, though, is to use that data to provide a more personalized, interactive and service-oriented customer experience. How can you get started right now to take advantage of these trends and keep up with your competitors?

Here’s one “big idea” you should come away with: Learn who your best customers are. You’ll maximize revenues and profits by paying attention to your most valuable customers and targeting your marketing and business development efforts toward satisfying their needs. Below are ideas for getting better acquainted with your clients.

Keep track of all your customers. You can start with a simple Excel spreadsheet, or move to a more sophisticated Access database. If you have a large number of customers and want to track transactions, interactions, purchase history, demographics and other data, you can move to an industrial-strength relationship database management system.

Use the Web to interact with and learn from your customers. Think of the Web as a two-way street to gather and transmit information — from your website, via e-mail or in a blog. Give customers a reason to register on your website (to receive a newsletter or take a quiz) so you can capture names, addresses and e-mail addresses. You can then use a program such as Constant Contact to send e-mail on a regular basis to customers. Another idea is allow customers to “chat” or instant message in real time with, for instance, a sales rep, during certain hours.

Calculate a monetary value for each of your customers and update it when additional purchases are made. This can be as simple as updating an Excel spreadsheet once a month with purchase data from your point-of-sale system. If you have it, update your customer history with data on your cost of goods sold, so that you can calculate a net profit per customer. Over time, you can get an idea of how much your best customers are spending with you and a sense of what the “customer lifetime value” is for each of them.

Keep track of how often your customers buy from you (frequency), when was the last time they purchased (recency), and how long they’ve been with you (longevity). Together with the monetary value you’ve calculated, these will help you refine your definition of “best customer” and allow you to concentrate on maximizing total value over the customer’s lifetime.

Ask your best customers how you can do better: If you ask, they’ll tell you. What new products or services can you develop? What changes can you make to your existing products or services to provide customers with a reason to stay with you and bring you more business? If you listen carefully, you’ll learn a lot about what it takes to keep and grow your best customers. One great resource for surveys is, which will conduct a survey and analyze the results for you. The company currently offers a small scale study for free.

Tailor your services and products directly to your customers’ expressed needs. Use the customer intelligence you gather to change the way you do business. Focus on the specific products, services and ways of doing business that matter most to your customers. For instance, say your survey showed that customers felt your product was too expensive. Perhaps you could consider manufacturing a version with fewer features and selling it for less money.

Concentrate your efforts first on your top-tier customers, then the next tier, and so on, until you reach your least profitable customers. You’ll be able to spend your product development, marketing and sales dollars on your best customers and not on the customers who aren’t making any money for you.

When you’re looking for new business, attract prospects who are similar to your best customers. This makes sense, doesn’t it? You already know how valuable your best customers can be, so try to tailor your new business development efforts to attract prospects who have the potential to become just like them. If you know where your best customers live, you can target new customers in the same zip code or an adjacent one. Consider purchasing demographic data from a vendor such as Donnelley Marketing or Experian.

Above all, just get started learning more about your customers. Start small, and do a little more each day. Soon you’ll be working with true customer intelligence to build your revenues and profits.

Brought to you by the Darrin Jackson

Written by Tony Correto

VoltagePc –we educate you, support you, protect you Call us and tell us what more we can do for you

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Microsoft Vista Upgrade?

Vista or not to vista that is the question?

Every time new software is released, we get plenty of calls on should we upgrade or not? This time I decided to right a quick column on the theory that is behind a software upgrade and what we usually will tell our clients regarding the topic of software upgrades.

Software's are constantly being upgraded usually for one of two reasons, one is for the software to increase its functionality, and the other is for the software companies to make more money. As the software company receives complaints on specific functions that is does not do well or does not do at all, they will either, a) create a patch or, b) get the programmers to rewrite the software to include the missing functions.(and of course give us a new version) That handles the first reason for upgrades, now as to the second, making more money.

Every one in business understands the need for repeat customers and new customers. Software companies have figured out a perfect solution for repeat customers and that is, yes, you guessed it upgrades. Allow me to spend a little time on giving you a history lesson on computers and software. This information will help you to understand how to choose wisely on when to upgrade because ultimately you will have to. In the beginning of the information age (sounds like the introduction to an episode on the history channel) computers were evolving quickly, so quickly in fact that software developers were making so much money that every investor in the world began dropping there money into anything and everything that had to do with a computer. Software, hardware, web applications, business applications, web based marketing and so on and so on and so on. During this phase of development, it seemed the sky was the limit but like any business market, no matter what it is, there is, and will always be a plateau. In the late 90’s that plateau become apparent with the dot com burst.

Thousand of companies began closing there doors issuing layoff notices, selling off stocks trying to raise money on the dead ideas of the information age. During this time only the real ideas, the real value of the information age remained, and these companies are still household names to this day. Names like Microsoft, Google, QuickBooks, and the like. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on which side of the market you were on, tried and true business principles came back into play, leading to a simple question. How does a billion dollar company continue making billions when the purchase of new machines begins to grind to a halt?

Microsoft’s Bill Gates had the answer long before every one else had, and he has been showing it to us since the beginning. Microsoft began its rise with its first OS, MS-DOS then came Windows 3.1,Windows 95, 98, NT, ME, 2000, XP and currently Vista. With the advent of each of these operating systems came new and improved software, but as we discussed earlier, all business does plateau, meaning if new hardware is not purchased neither is new software. Microsoft may have thought they had the answer to this problem but things didn’t work out quite as they had hoped.

Somewhere between windows 2000 and Microsoft Vista, our information age plateau arrived for Microsoft. For simple proof that this plateau exists all one has to do is look at all the business networks out there that are still running windows 2000. So many in fact, that there are two tracks to the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) one for Windows 2000 the other for Windows XP also known as Server 2003. What this means is that business applications did not change as quickly as home applications therefore leading to slower Microsoft sales.

As the sales for Microsoft began to slow down, so did sales for everyone else in the computer industry, hardware, and software,Alike. The reasons for this slow down are simple, saturation, and the associated cost of upgrades to large enterprise. How many people do you know today that do not own at least one computer?(saturation). How many businesses do you think will spend a million dollars to upgrade from Windows 2000 to Windows xp at a cost of a million dollars I’m sure not many?(cost). With the current market saturation and this is not to say people aren’t buying new computers but they are certainly not buying them at the rate of the early and mid 90’s, to compensate, rather quickly the new number 1 focus for software companies has become repeat sales. Don’t believe me? Ok then answer me this. How many versions of QuickBooks are there? Why the new Windows Vista version when xp works fine. Why does Act no longer support version 6.0? Answer, to force you, the computer users to purchase new products.

Actually, the software pushes the demand for greater hardware. Look at it this way if you write new software that demands greater hardware resources, you will then boost hardware and software sales together, and doesn’t that make sense from a business perspective. This is business 101 for goodness sake and we, all the computer users worldwide are subject to this law.
That rather long-winded explanation leads to this: do we need to upgrade to Microsoft Vista? NO or better said not at this time.

Although in the not so distant future your upgrade will come, trust me.

In Conclusion,

As was said earlier in this article you will eventually be forced to upgrade, In terms of the operating systems not as quickly as in applications software. Quite simply we are at the will of the software companies as they upgrade there software they simply stop supporting previous versions of the software therefore forcing us into the upgrade process. Here are some simple rules to consider when upgrading.

  1. Does the newer version have features that my company needs
  2. What is the company’s training time frame for this new application ( new features usually mean the change of the familiar interface and you have to learn where everything is all over again)
  3. Are they (the software company) supporting my current version and if so until when. (As long as they support you current application why upgrade?)
  4. How long has this new version been offered (whenever a new version is introduced to the population it will always have bugs. The trick is to wait a little while before you purchase the newer version 6-12 months after the release date so the patches can be written to fix the issues the software has. Otherwise your tech support bills can get quite hefty as well as your company downtime, buyer beware)
  5. What are the hardware requirements for the new software (new software may mean hardware upgrades make sure you evaluate the true cost of an upgrade)
  6. How many technicians are skilled enough to support us after we upgrade. ( A software takes a little time to master so although your technician may be highly skilled in windows 2000 has he been educating in Windows server 2003)
  7. What do your I.T. team or support personnel think about an upgrade? ( if you have an I.T. team or a technical support team get there input if not use a consultant it can save you tons of headaches)
  8. Don’t listen to the software sales person use your technical support team (anybody who gets paid a commission on your purchase is not necessarily the best person to guide your purchasing decision )
  9. If they offer a free trial use it ( a quick and easy way to determine the capabilities of the new software as well as the pitfalls in a controlled environment)

If you follow these rules they will definitely help you gauge when to upgrade and why. As always, I hope this article is helpful to all small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Please post comment or ask your questions @ we are always here to help.

Our motto: If knowledge is power, then allow us to help you be king!

DarrinJackson The Go To Guy

Technorati Profile

Friday, August 10, 2007

Why your website is probably money wasted?

To begin this discussion we must first determine a website’s purpose. There are two types of a web presence the first is a presentational website. This type is to give information to prospects about what it is you do and what you can do to help them.

The second type is an e-commerce website this site is to sell products. There are the variants, those that do both, usually a service based business will go with the variants. Ultimately, no matter which website you use it is a marketing tool. If you cannot gauge its effectiveness and measure its results then you have wasted your money, period.

Let us take this conversation to marketing for a split second. Many of us drive down the multiple highways in beautiful America. On virtually every highway, there are more billboards then we can count. Occasionally you will look at one that will grab your interest. Well now, here is my question, have you ever stopped your car on one of these highways to write down the number of the company you just saw on that billboard? Probably not, but if by some slim chance you did, did you ever pick up the phone and call them again probably not.

Interestingly enough, companies spend millions on these billboards and ultimately they do not work. That is, if you are gauging the effectiveness of how well these billboards work, by how often they make your phone ring. This is because these billboards are for brand awareness not to increase immediate sales which is why only the large corporations with money to burn should even think about using this form of marketing

That story was to help you see what many of the SOHO websites are like. They are nothing more then billboards on the information highway. This problem is easily fixed once recognized, but our web designer is usually concerned with his Michelangelo masterpiece, not the effectiveness of your website. The SOHO owner understands the need for a web presence but usually does not stop to think about how his/her client will use the website.

A web site correctly designed, is designed from the client side first not from the business side first, allow me to explain. Client side first simple means what we want our client to do once the get to our site. Many sites show off the company, this is what was meant by business side first. When a client comes to you website they are listening to WIFM RADIO (what’s in it for me... radio). As business owners, we are usually very proud of our business, especially if it is profitable, so much, so that sometimes we forget we are to be of service to our clients. The point is, when you go to a website are you looking for a company or a product? Chances are your clients are looking for a product too. With that being said, spend more time showing off the products and trying to retain precious client information i.e. name, phone, and email. Then displaying the pretty pictures of the office building, the conference room, and your exquisite staff because ultimately your clients don’t really care. All they care about is getting the service that you offer as cheap as possible with as much quality as you present it to be.

Web Traffic- More then likely as a small business you will have to generate your own web traffic with all the information on the web and all your competition on the web, it will be difficult for you to get to the top 10 ranking without a sizable investment (don’t worry all is not lost keep reading ). So what do you do? You begin by redesigning your website to become a functional marketing tool not just a billboard. As an example if you were an insurance company give them the opportunity to request a quote by filling in there vehicle information (lead generation). If you were a real estate agent have a form for there information so you can call back with apartment availability. This will produce a functional website, one that you can capture prospects information and enhance your chance of turning a billboard into a functional marketing tool!

Drive Your Web Traffic – Chances are you are already engaged in some form of marketing for your companies’ product or service. What we do now is push our marketing efforts towards our web campaign. To drive web traffic, in our previous example of the real estate agent, all of his marketing pieces should now read “go to for free apartment availability search” now anybody looking for an apartment in his area will be able to put there information in and check availability while you, as the real estate agent will have generated a new lead.

In conclusion, if you are a small business you will need a web presence no question. The only question you should have is, what is the website for and how will it be used? Once you have answered those questions then you can have your web designer create his Michelangelo and your marketing tool.