Rob Z. Is Going to SXSW!

I will be here. I can not wait. You will come with me.

The totally awesome company I work for (who you should TOTALLY partner with to resell email marketing to your small business customers) is sending me back to Austin for a second year at the SXSW festival. I’ll be boots on […]

Why Your Web Site Sucks

Ship Wreck, Fraser Island by NeilsPhotography

Ship Wreck, Fraser Island by NeilsPhotography

A web site without a goal is like a rudderless ship. You have no idea how to improve the site, you have no clear vision of the site’s purpose and you wind up throwing money into a hole that adds no value to your business. Your small business website needs a goal – preferably one in line with your company’s goal. And, what is your company’s goal? I’ll go out on a limb and guess “to make money.”

Most small business websites don’t achieve this goal. In the rush to get a site live, make it attractive and fit the needs and desires of the business owner, the whole purpose of the site can get lost. When planning your small business website – whether you’re launching it for the first time or working through a redesign – you need to start with this goal, figure out how to measure it and plan all improvements and tweaks to your site with the purpose of achieving this goal. Being able to measure how well your site is achieving its goal is the most important indicator of the success of your site.

This measurement is called the “conversion rate”. You can calculate the conversion rate by dividing the number of people who have converted into customers because of your site by it’s total unique visitors.

But how can you tell if someone has converted?

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The Purpose Driven Website

The blank canvas by xinem

the blank canvas by xinem

Starting from zero with a website can be intimidating. Certainly, you can look at similar sites and competitors and get ideas for design, purpose, etc. Without experience, though, design seems so subjective.

What makes a web site’s design successful? For small business web sites, good design is never subjective. If the site achieves its goals, it’s a successful site. And a site can always be more successful in achieving its goals.

The fatal flaw in web site design is that too many sites are not designed with these goals in mind. In fact, you can break down most web site designs into three categories:

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Does Your Website Listen To Your Customers?

"Listen to ME!" by Jonathan Powell

"Listen to ME!" by Jonathan Powell

The best marketing asset I have is myself. Whenever I go to trade shows, I bring a fat stack of business cards (complete with my phone number, email address, website and – yes! – my Twitter account name) and freely hand them out. I engage directly with everyone I meet at the trade show booths, during sessions and at all of the mixers. I’m there to get more business, true, but I don’t thrust my hand at someone and immediately begin my pitch. The first words out of my mouth after an introduction are usually, “What do you do?”

Listening to someone talk about their job, their company, what they value and what their goals are is the best way to win them as a customer. You should be listening for their pain points and immediately develop strategies to fix them, preferably with the services or products you sell. The best sales people aren’t the ones who convince someone to buy a product, they’re the ones who actually solve a customer’s problem. If you gain a reputation as a problem solver, customers will not only keep coming back, they’ll send their friends and colleagues your way as well.

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Why Web Developers Flake

"Flaking Paint" by Bart Everson

Whenever I speak to small business people, I always hear the same story – they found a web developer or web designer, contracted with them to develop their business site, then quickly became disenchanted with the results. Either the site took too long to build and wound up nothing like they had imagined, or the web developer simply up and flaked on them, never to be found again. This tale is almost always followed up by a request to take on whatever work the previous developer left behind. Never one to turn down money, I almost always used to accept.

I soon understood that I could take on this work full time and start my own business. In the Fall of 2006, I quit my full time job to start TechKnowMe: designing, developing, marketing and maintaining web sites for small businesses. Getting work was easy – I simply hit all of the local Chamber of Commerce mixers, introduced myself as a web developer and waited for the inevitable stories to be told. I marketed TechKnowMe as the company that would stick around. I was dedicated to building web sites for small businesses – nothing else. It wasn’t something I did in my free time; it was my job.

I soon found myself with far more work than I could handle on my own, so I sought the help of other local developers and designers to ease the load. For a while, things looked fantastic, and business was booming. But soon, due to a number of personal and economic factors – along with a rash of first timer mistakes I made – things began to fall apart. Before I knew it, the freelancers I worked with were no longer available, and I found myself stuck with half a dozen unfinished projects and practically zero cash-flow. With a new baby in our house, I had to improve our financial situation fast. I finally had to face the fact that I would need to take a full time job outside of TechKnowMe in order for my small family to survive. I explained this to my remaining clients and, though extremely frustrated, most understood and agreed to allow me to finish the outstanding work in whatever free time I had.

It’s been a year since all this happened and I’ve either completed most of that outstanding work or simply had to let it go. For some of my clients, I became just another guy who flaked on them.

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Your Website is Your Hub

Your business website is your hub – the center of your online marketing universe.

When you’re spreading the word about your business online, all roads must lead back to your website. Tweeting all day, building a heavy Facebook following, even handing out business cards at a trade show – if they don’t lead […]