Since I run a web marketing company, I get the opportunity to work on lots of websites and spend time learning how to tweak and improve them. After doing this for years now, I’ve learned there are just some trends that need pointed out.
By all means, this is not a comprehensive list. But if you want your website to get more leads and sales, it’s definitely worth taking note of this short list. These are the 3 biggest mistakes I see small business owners making with their websites every day:
Mistaking SEO for Lead Generation
There seems to be an idea out there that the main thing we should all focus on is SEO. Well, I’d have to agree that search engine optimization is important. Especially for small businesses. But if lead generation is your goal, it’s most definitely only part of the equation.
I’ve often asked clients “if you’re not getting any leads from the traffic you have now, what makes you think twice as much traffic is gonna help that much?”
Bottom line, you need visitors. Of course. But your website also needs to convert. If you are not getting a high conversion rate (20%+) from your landing pages, then you’re wasting any additional money you spend on SEO or advertising.
Just do the math. If you’re a business owner, do you really want twice as much traffic? Or is your REAL goal twice as many leads? If lead generation is the goal, then you can do that two ways…
- Double the amount of traffic you get, while keeping conversions the same
- Double the conversions you get, while keeping traffic the same
Just so you know, #2 is usually significantly less expensive, quicker and offers a much more sustainable return on investment. So instead of hiring an SEO firm to drive more traffic, simply optimize your site’s landing pages. Something to consider 🙂
Adding More and More Features and Tools
One thing I seem small business owners doing with their websites is adding more and more little widgets and tools. Common choices are:
- Automated blogging tools
- Tag clouds (eeckkk!)
Everyone likes the idea of a feature-rich website. So what the heck could be wrong with adding more features? Nothing at all is wrong with it. It’s just that when it comes to lead generation, it’s not gonna help much.
This is one of the profound ways the internet has changed. Visitors just aren’t impressed with little gadgets and tools anymore. What works better? Provide content that solves their problems, and give them a compelling reason to sign up for your email list. This is the brutally simple fundamental that most people still seem to be missing. It really is that easy.
By installing fancy tools, you’re just making your website look more and more like everyone else’s. When it comes to lead generation, this is the opposite effect than what you’re going for.
Failure to Use Lots (and lots) of Landing Pages
The fact is that landing pages work. I would not be able to claim the conversion rates I do if it weren’t for the use of landing pages. Even though the concept is not new by any means, it seems to be a concept that has still failed to proliferate into the small business world.
A landing page is simply a single page on your website built for one single purpose…conversion. You can build a page to generate phone calls, email signups, purchases, whatever you want. But a landing page has a single focus. No distractions. It’s optimized to do just one single thing…get the conversion.
Small business websites typically have one or two calls to action. Most commonly a small box in their sidebar that says something like “sign up for our newsletter”. Not very compelling. Would YOU sign up for a newsletter like that? Probably not. So it’s not too big a surprise that no one else is signing up either.
So as it happens, landing pages are a crucial element to any lead generation strategy. Offer your visitors compelling reasons to buy from you, sign up for your newsletter, get a free report or video, call your office for a free consult, etc. The possibilities are endless, but the point is that landing pages are the primary vehicle for generating leads and sales from your website.
So if you want more leads from your website, make sure you focus on these three things first:
- Forget SEO for a little while. Get focused on optimizing your website for lead gen. Make sure you’re converting an impressive number of visitors into leads first. From there, increasing traffic to your site is gold. Until you have your site optimized for lead generation, everything else is a waste of time.
- Drop the idea of adding any more features or tools to your website. Focus on creating content that solves your prospects’ problems. And come up with compelling reasons they should sign up for your newsletter, contact you and buy from you.
- Take the ideas you come up with from #2, and create landing pages on your website. Each landing page offers one simple, compelling reason to sign up for your email list (or whatever your call to action is). It’s not uncommon for a successful small business website to have 20, 30, 40 or more landing pages, all generating leads consistently every day.
After you learn the basics of how to generate leads from your website, everything else about marketing your business on the web gets a lot easier.
How do you design an effective landing page? How do you get traffic to your landing pages? How do you measure results? All good ideas for future posts, no? Maybe not? Let me know what you think. For realz…use the contact form on this page and let me know what you think, yo. Or else I may end up covering stuff that’s helpful for other people but not you. Speak up and let me know what questions you have, and we’ll see about getting you some answers. Peace.
The best marketing tools in the world do you no good…if you don’t use them. There’s such a thing as getting better tools and furthering your education. There’s also such a thing as procrastination. Become intimately familiar with the difference.
It pays to work on yourself. And it pays to use the right tools for the job. But it also pays to just roll up your sleeves and get to work. I’ve been doing this long enough to see clients come and go over the years. They move from one “marketing system” to the next, trying to find the one that “works”. I’ve even had some go full circle. They’ll try 10 different website providers, come to me for a year or so and leave, off on their continued search for the holy grail. Then a couple years later, they’re back. Still searching. It’s such a shame.
Here’s the deal guys. What you have now…works. The stuff I sell also works. I honestly believe what I do is better, and I’m happy to give you my spiel any time. You know that. But it’s only better in certain ways. And it only works if you use it. Suffice to say there are pros and cons to everything.
Marketing has been around for as long as commerce has existed. And for as long as marketing has been around, there have been people getting rich and others trying to figure out the “secret” to what works. Guess what. The most successful marketers aren’t trying to find the secret. They know there isn’t one. They use a simple formula. If you want to call it a damn secret, then fine 🙂 Bottom line, here it is:
Learn Shit → Do Shit → Rinse and Repeat
In other words, successful marketers do these things:
- They don’t forget about STEP TWO (do shit)
- They put things into action.
- They get in gear.
- They don’t stay locked in learning mode.
- They know that no system works if you don’t work the system.
- They don’t buy stuff and let it sit on the shelf. They put it to work.
- When stuff doesn’t work out or when they make mistakes, they just pick the pieces up and keep going. That’s the ultimate learning process.
- They’re not afraid to make mistakes.
- They don’t LIKE making mistakes, but they’re willing to do so.
- They know the alternative to making mistakes and experiencing failures is a process of always nitpicking things, mitigating in a futile attempt to keep themselves from failing. Failure is in reality, the best teacher of all.
A bit of a rant today? Possibly 🙂 It’s something that has been coming up a lot in consulting lately, and anytime I see a trend I want to address it on the blog. No consultant, no marketing strategy or magic silver bullet shiny tool-of-the-month can ever work for us if we’re not willing to roll our sleeves up and get to work.
Thx Ben Garney for the rocking picture today 🙂
My company launched a managed web hosting service in 2011. When clients see what we charge for web hosting, I’m often asked why we charge so much. For the record, the pricing (although this is subject to change in the future of course…this is just a blog post), is as follows:
- $50/mo for the first website
- $27/mo for the second
- $17/mo for every website after that
I’m often reminded that companies like GoDaddy and Bluehost offer hosting for a much lower price tag. This is true.
And it’s not so much an issue of one solution being better than another. It’s simply a matter of finding the solution that’s the best fit for you. We didn’t launch our website hosting service to compete with the likes of Bluehost. That would be foolish. The reason we launched a hosting service at all was in response to client needs.
Clients were hosting their websites on inexpensive servers, and this is what we were running into:
- Most clients weren’t maintaining regular backups of their websites. This means if anything ever breaks or gets hacked, there’s a high probability that your website can, literally, be gone for good. As in, straight up gone. Unrecoverable. No way to get it back. Gotta start all over from scratch. Backups are very important, and very few clients were keeping up on that.
- Databases were not being optimized. This causes websites to run slowly, which causes visitors to get impatient and leave.
- When something needed tweaked or when something was broken, clients were getting frustrated that their web host kept telling them they didn’t support their website. They were being told that the server their website was on was working fine (which it was), and that’s all they covered. If there’s something going on with your website, it’s up to you to figure out how to fix it. Bottom line, cheap web hosts cover hosting. That’s it. Anything you install on that hosting account is up to you to maintain.
- Clients wanted to grow their business. They wanted to get more traffic to their website. They wanted to get more leads and better conversions. They wanted to make their websites work better and get better results, and their web host left them hanging on all that. Go figure it out on your own.
Let’s be honest…how much support can you expect for $5-10 a month? Would you work for your boss, take all their calls, help them with anything they asked for and be at their beck and call 24 hours a day for a month straight, for $10? Of course you wouldn’t. Neither will your web hosting company. It’s just not a business model that works.
How Web Hosts Make their Dinero
So what’s the solution? What these cheap web hosts do is they set up one server, and they sell 1,000-2,000 websites. And they host all of them on that one server. Seriously…that’s not an exaggeration. That way they can maintain one server and make $5-10k a month off that one server. You would work full time for $5-10k a month, wouldn’t you? So would your web host. And that’s what they do. And they can even afford to hire some help with all that money coming in. But keep in mind, they still need to field support calls from a lot of people now. Not one, not two…but TWO THOUSAND. Two thousand people now want their websites to be working well, and your cheap web host has to take all those calls, answer all those questions and provide all that support. Two thousand people is a lot of people.
By the way, how does your computer run when you open up a program and try to use it? Probably works just fine, right? How does it work when you try to run 50 programs all at the same time? It starts to run a little slower, doesn’t it? Imagine what your computer would look like if you tried to run 2,000 programs…all at the same time, 24 hours a day. That’s what these servers at your cheap web host are doing. So when things run slowly, that’s why.
So…Dang! What’s the Solution?
Again, it’s not about what solution is better or worse. It’s just about finding the solution that’s right for you. Let’s be honest. $5-10 a month for web hosting is a damn good deal. It’s just that you also get what you pay for. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? You get what you pay for. Dammit! I was trying not to say it, and then I went and said it twice in one paragraph.
Let’s get straight to it. What did R World Properties (that’s the name of my company, if you didn’t already know) come up with? And why do we charge so damn much for web hosting? Well, here’s the deal. This is what we do that the cheap web hosts don’t do:
- We maintain daily database backups of your website. This means your content, your main website settings, your search engine optimization settings and all the main data on your website is backed up every day, automatically.
- We maintain weekly complete backups of your website. This means all your pictures, your theme files and all the big stuff (video files, images, photo galleries, etc) are all backed up regularly also, automatically.
- We keep three copies of your website in the cloud and three copies of your website locally on two different servers. This means at any given time there are 9 copies of your website in existence on multiple different drives. This means that multiple computers in different locations would all have to fail…simultaneously…in order for you to lose an ounce of data. Your website is secure.
- We protect your website with the latest security protocols. While other websites on the internet are being hacked and attacked on a regular basis, yours is secure. No doubt you’ve heard how common it is for people’s facebook and email accounts to get hacked. Hackers use access to your accounts to send spam and various other illegal activities. Websites these days are hacked just the same way, with the same technology. We protect your site against this common activity.
- Internet browsers regularly come out with updates and security patches. Google is constantly updating it’s criteria. Is your website keeping up with the changes? Is your sitemap up to date? Is your robots.txt file properly configured? In other words…is your website properly optimized for search engines and keeping up with the constantly changing web? We manage all of this for you.
- When your website isn’t doing what you expect, you have a single point of contact. You can contact my company for marketing advice, lead generation help, search engine optimization tips, traffic generation tips, help with changing or tweaking anything on your website…all in one place.
- We watch over your website vigilantly to ensure it’s up and running, loading quickly and working as expected.
- I’ve personally created nearly 200 training videos to answer client questions and provide high level support for every client inquiry we receive, and the inventory of documentation is growing every day. As a client you have access to every help tutorial video we create, and if there’s something you need covered that I haven’t already addressed, I’ll make a video just for you. My philosophy is that if one client has a question, it’s likely that many others do as well. So it’s to all our benefit to continue to improve and grow our support tutorial archive.
All of this is included with our managed web hosting. Additionally, we load your website up right alongside our own. That is to say, if you’re website is having issues it literally means that ours is too. We run on the EXACT same gear as you, so it’s in our own interest to keep things running smoothly, because our business depends on things working well.
So bottom line…what type of web hosting is right for your small business? It’s totally your call. We do what we do very well. It’s not a solution for everyone, but it’s a solution I invite you to try out. If you like the idea of having all the tech stuff handled for you, so you can focus on running your business, give me a shout.
Think about it this way…you could always hire someone else to do all this stuff for you. Do you see anything on the list I just provided you that you think isn’t necessary? Feel free to omit whatever services you want to omit! It’s your business…clearly you can run it however you see fit 🙂 Regardless of what you decide to follow through on and what you decide to ignore, what would it cost you to have one of your admin people do this work for you? If you can find someone to cover this work for you for as little as $10 an hour, it would still cost you several hundred dollars per month. And the truth is, most $10/hr type admin assistants don’t know the difference between cpanel and plesk (a little web hosting geek humor for you, because I know you love it)!
If you hire a qualified web developer to fix your website even once, it’s likely going to cost more than managed web hosting…for an ENTIRE YEAR. That’s the criteria I laid down when we came up with the service. Clients were hiring me left and right, fixing stuff on their sites. I was running myself ragged fixed broken websites, and I was charging everyone a highly discounted rate because they were all clients. I was shooting for a win-win, because I wanted to make everyone happy, but I realized they HAD to be a better way of doing business. So I came up with our managed web hosting solution.
For the price of one single visit to a highly discounted web developer, you can have your website hosted for an entire year. All in. Everything included. Anything that ever goes wrong gets fixed for you. No headaches. Any question you ever have about how to change or improve your website gets a prompt and personal reply. In other words, the level of service you deserve and expect. Just my opinion. Our clients seem to love not having to deal with geeky tech stuff. They just want to run their business and not fool around with web stuff if they don’t have to. I totally sympathize 🙂
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this little manifesto of a blog post I just wrote for you. Hit me up 🙂
For the past several years, I’ve been doing an increasing amount of custom web design work. It seems there’s an insatiable appetite for custom design work. But there’s a problem. A big problem. And I’ve decided this needs to be addressed.
The problem is that everyone is approaching the internet the wrong way. YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG! Haha I’m laughing right now, because this stuff is so damn simple. But everyone is trying to make it really complicated.
Building a website and marketing yourself effectively on the interwebz is EASY. But if you buy into the line that your website needs to win some non-existant visual design award, then you’re in for a world of hurt. And allow me to be the first to admit…I’ve been part of the problem.
Here’s the Deal…
Bottom line…the goals small business owners have for their websites have changed dramatically over the past several years. We used to basically want an online brochure. Some basic info about our company. Oh yeah…and we wanted it to show up on the first page of Google.
Now, we want our websites to be interactive. We want to build email lists and generate sales. We want our websites to be an integral part of our MARKETING strategy. The website plays a completely different role in today’s small business marketing environment. Unfortunately, many of us still seem to be convinced that jaw-dropping graphic design is the path to internet riches. It isn’t. The truth is that simple, easy to navigate websites with a very clear message are the ones that win in today’s internet climate.
Guys…I’ve been testing this stuff for over 15 years. Simple works. Fooling around with finding the exact right color for your logo, moving that image 4 pixels to the right, importing that perfect font or getting a rockstar header design…it sure can be fun. But if you think it’s going to be what makes or breaks you on the interwebz, you got another thing coming.
What Works on the Internet
If what I’ve said so far resonates with you, you’re in the right place. Here’s a list of what to focus on if you want your small business web marketing strategy to work:
- Get a simple, easy to navigate design. Minimalism is key.
- Who is your ideal customer? What do you do better than anyone else to serve your ideal customer? These questions should be clearly answered within a few seconds of being on your website.
- Write a blog. I know…it’s a whole different approach to marketing. I’ve found the majority of small business owners who think blogging takes too much time are the same ones that happily drop big money on radio or newspaper advertising. Contact me at once for a spanking if you think radio ads offer a better ROI than blogging. The data is resoundingly on the side of blogging. And yes…it can be outsourced. There are a hundred ways to integrate blogging into your marketing strategy easily and effectively, many of which I’ll no doubt be sharing on this blog.
- Clear, compelling calls to action. If you want more people to sign up for your newsletter, ask yourself “why should they?” Give visitors a compelling reason to sign up. The most common, tried and true approach is by offering a bribe. Namely a free report or video…something of true value to them. This is a method marketers have been using as long as marketing has existed. It’s not a new idea. It’s a very old idea. And it works. If you haven’t already, now is a great time to get your first report put together. I’ve generated tens of thousands of leads this way, and so has every other marketer who uses this strategy well. Why reinvent the wheel?
I humbly submit this list for your consideration. Each and every one of the items on this list should be addressed before focusing on making your website pretty.
What I’m Changing
I’m no longer offering custom web design services to the general public. I work with clients in an ongoing capacity, providing assistance in tweaking and continually improving their marketing campaigns. I feel we’ve created some incredibly valuable services to help with this, and anyone who has a service agreement with us will continue to have my attention for any custom design work.
I know as a client in an ongoing capacity that my approach to marketing resonates with you. And I totally understand my approach is not a good fit for everyone. But the way I see it…if my approach to marketing doesn’t resonate with you, why the heck would you want my company to build your website? And if my approach to marketing DOES resonate with you, why heck aren’t you already a client?? 🙂
Don’t Get Me Wrong
Please don’t misunderstand me. A lot of times when I talk about this stuff, people think I don’t take design seriously. Actually, I take it VERY seriously. Your website should be beautiful. It should sing. And it should get you results. My focus is on providing you marketing strategies that WORK, not just stuff that will impress your friends.
I’ve had too many conversations with business owners who’ve spent way too much of their hard-earned cash on websites that look fantastic but fail to deliver results. They call me all confused. Their website looks awesome. Everyone they know tells them they love it, but it just sits there. It doesn’t generate any business. And then I have to explain to them that you can build a website for any reason you want. Some are built to impress people and others are built to generate business. It all comes down to priorities. What kind of website do you want? I build websites that convert. When it comes to the other kind, I’m retired.
As a business owner, you want to spend your time in the most valuable places. It’s called leverage. It’s not a new concept, but it’s a very important one. So does social media for small business make sense? No. And…yes. Well dammit, it depends on what your goal is, so let’s get straight to it and settle the matter once and for all, shall we?
Btw…why the heck is there a picture of me right after this morning’s workout on this blog post? Makes no sense at all does it? Well here’s the deal…there’s this rule in the blogosphere that blog posts do better when they have a picture. And I’m busy. I don’t have time to search for some uber-fantastic stock photo right now. And to be honest I’d rather look at a pile of dog crap then look at another blog post with stock photography. And that’s not an exaggeration. My last blog post featured a picture of a pile of dog crap. Look it up!
Sooo, anyway. The PROBLEM with social media in a small business context is two-fold:
- You can only talk to so many people one at a time. Bottom line, social doesn’t scale. It just doesn’t. You can try blasting all your friends with promotional stuff, in an effort to MAKE it scale. See how long you can do that before you’re banned from the network.
- As a small business owner, it’s likely you don’t have a budget set aside for a fancy company to manage all your social stuff. And besides, outsourcing your social media presence may make sense for Pepsi, but not for you or me. Very few people are going to take you seriously if you can’t be bothered to even show up for yourself.
So what gives? Where’s the win-win here?
Social media for small business makes sense when…
…you realize that OTHER PEOPLE are what makes social media scale. Social is the ultimate platform for facilitating word of mouth. There are myriad other benefits which I’ll be discussing in other posts, no doubt. But when it comes to whether or not social media scales, remember that it DOES scale. It just won’t be YOU that makes it happen.
You showing up to the table means a lot more than you think it does. Just show up, meet and greet. Yeah, there’s a learning curve. But since when do awesome new tools have no learning curve? Yeah, it’ll take a minute to get a hang of how twitter works. It’s worth your time.
You can’t talk to every single person in your target audience. And you don’t need to. This is the paradigm shift a lot of small business owners are missing. Old advertising meant you try to reach everybody. These days, just reach out and engage with everyone you can.
Do right by a few, and you’ll earn true advocates for your brand. And then they tell others…word of mouth has a beautiful simplicity to it. It also has a beautiful free-ness to it. I can tell you first hand that it works.
And you don’t need to buy any dang $2k strategy courses or any guru-endorsed “social media secrets” products either. Unless I’m the one who publishes it. Just so you know:) Peace and have fun with it!
The fact is that we all judge books by their cover. We know we oughtn’t, but we do it anyway. Especially when it comes to the web. Let’s get straight to the point, shall we?
- You’ve gone through the trouble of creating a kickass blog. Rock on!
- You’ve gone through the trouble of writing a kickass blog post. Rock on!
- You’ve got great thoughts to share, so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t make it look like this.
This blog post has great ideas and insights to share. But ain’t nobody gonna read it. Why? Because it’s a big, fat block of unending text. If your thoughts are worth sharing, they’re worth breaking up into bite-sized chunks. And please take no disrespect to the author of Rogerpod.com. Much awesomeness is shared there, and it’s clearly a labor of love.
If you want your blog content to get read, here are the tools of the trade:
- Catchy headlines
- Bullet points
- Numbered lists
Pretty simple, no? I know…the rules are silly. And if you can get away with breaking them, for the love of all that’s holy, please do so. But people’s brains work a certain way. And it’s helpful to know a few basic super secret ninja jedi tricks. This is how to get content on the web noticed. Break it up into bite-size chunks. Word.
Are you under the impression that you need a great product in order to get a lot of sales? Hogwash I say!
You don’t need a good product to get sales. You need good marketing. The world is full of crappy products that people buy in high volume.
Just visit your local Walmart. You’ll find shelf after shelf of thin, scraggly, scrawny, skeletal products, devoid of nearly any value whatsoever. Yet people buy this shit all day long. Why? Because we love it. Why do we love it? Because we’re slaves to our passions. And what directs our passions more than any other force in the universe? Marketing! None of us, including myself, like to admit this. But it’s just the way it is. Marketing works.
Some Finer Points on Making Money with Crappy Product…(or a great one…your choice)
- Marketing and product development are completely separate things. Treat them as such.
- Marketing is what sells stuff. Don’t pretend the quality of your product or service somehow overcomes the need to sell it.
- The quality of your product is your responsibility to your customers. It’s your ethical duty as a human being to over-deliver awesomeness to your customers. But it’s not a marketing tactic.
- Customers don’t buy your shit because it’s high quality. They don’t know any better until they’ve already bought it. They may believe it’s high quality, but that’s only because you or someone they trust has told them so. In other words, they’ve been sold.
- When you learn to sell stuff, that’s when your whole business changes. Selling is what makes you recession proof, and it’s what makes your business viable. You can sell a totally crappy product or a totally awesome one…that’s your choice. But if you know how to sell stuff, you’ll always be able to earn a great living. The reason most business owners struggle is because they flat out refuse to learn how to sell.
- When you deliver flat out epic value to your customers, that’s when they say positive things to their colleagues. That’s when they spread the word and send you referrals. That’s when they come back to buy from you again and again. When you take the approach of delivering high quality, it doesn’t help you to make that first sale. Instead, it leverages every sale you make into 20 more. But you still need to make that first sale. Learning to sell is what makes your business viable. Repeat and referral business…that’s what makes you wealthy.
So IN CONCLUSION…
Do you need an awesome product to have a viable, profitable business? No. You really don’t. All you need is to know how to sell stuff. When you know how to sell, you can sell anything to nearly anybody at any time. That’s the power of marketing.
Thing is, if you fail to deliver high value in return for the sales you earn, you’ll always have to hustle to earn more and more sales. You’ll never earn any advocates that way. You’ll never get repeat and referral sales. And it’s a really big missed opportunity. Some may argue it’s our ethical responsibility to deliver high value in exchange for the money our customers send us. I agree 100%. But regardless of any ethical issues, let’s get one thing straight:
It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do. It doesn’t matter how valuable your product or service is. If you don’t know how to sell, you’re dead in the water. But as soon as you learn how marketing works, everything changes. As soon as you learn how marketing works, getting those first sales and building your client base stops being this nebulous, intimidating monster problem. It becomes easy.
And if you follow up on those sales with ridiculously high value, then you’ve changed the entire outlook of your business forever. Learning that marketing is actually a good thing is the rarest and most important lesson any small business owner can learn. If you already know this, please share this idea with your colleagues. You and I both know at least 20 people you know could use a reminder 🙂