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The World Wide Web is crucial to maintaining Freedom of Information while well designed websites encourages information to be read and spread
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word

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A website is the window into your company and service.

We want visitors to look into your window and say, this is what we need.

We use a number of skills, our business knowledge, our knowledge of users and design plus assorted technologies to help achieve that - see below.

If you would like more information then please contact us.

clicking a heading below will take you to the section. In places throughout the text you will see 'back to headings - click that to return here. The  hope is you will find some parts interesting enough to inspire you to try out ideas of your own.

Good luck with your enterprise and contact us should you have questions or need assistance with your website. Of course we are always happy to hear should you like one creating.

What makes a website business tick?

An informal opinion on the WHY's of marketing a business website - or a 34 minute wake up call.

We are happy to receive comments on these views.

The article was placed online 29th May 2012 by Raymond Howell of Rays Web Studio (RWS). There are no hidden costs to reading this and no adverts will jump out at you and no knock-on services are involved other than the placement of a phone number, which is 01472 852037 (just so you recognise it when you see it further down).

Where the article refers to an existing business - such as Argos - please note that the perception and opinion expressed are personal to this article - readers of course are free to form their own opinion based on their own observations. Marketing is about the creation of perceptions which of course influence customer opinions. Our opinion will probably differ from yours and of course from the company concerned. Such is the beauty of perceptions and opinions and long may it be so.

Our opinion of what marketing is about.

There are no RIGHT or WRONG opinions. Marketing attempts to create knowledge of and a good opinions about, a business. Just accept that opinions come in both ying and yang varieties so don't lose heart. Even family members may have differing opinions about your busines venture. At the heart of many opinions are personal motives or desires.

No two people really share the same opinion for the same reason(s) because their life experiences, wants and desires combine to form an opinion and no two lives have the same experiences and no two minds evaluate experiences in the same way. In simple words, every opinion formed is unique.

Marketing seeks to both create and control a generally good opinion of your business, slanted the way the business needs. Marketing therefore is about playing mind games with the general public.

Thoughts on marketing online Bingo sites.

Bingo site T.V adverts often contain an abundance of pink? Why? The answer is obvious; they are playing to the female audience. Tradionally the greater percentage of bingo players were and I believe still are, female. They show groups of females enjoying the game together. That is what happened in the Bingo halls of old. Bingo was a lone game but played together by groups of friends with breaks for a natter.

Playing online bingo is a lone thing but showing a lone person sat in a room playing bingo doesn't create a fun image. Some opinions - mine - would lean towards; thats sad? (which it could well be?) So they distract the viewer by showing interacting cheerful groups.

Obviously, the marketing people are attempting to alter a viewers perceptions about the actual reality of playing bingo alone at home?

Social Engineering

Marketing is social engineering. Is that too strong a phrase? No, because that is exactly what happens; by repeating say an advert regularly a societies collective conscience becomes changed - most of us are now aware of online Bingo and if questioned we have probably formed an opinion about it; some of those opinions will be based on the T.V adverts, others on the viewers own opinions about Bingo in general or a healthy mix of both.

All marketing involves social engineering to some degree. If you alter an individuals perceptions and opinions you are 'engineering' that persons thoughts, directly or sublimingly. Localised advertising and publicity does so on a lesser scale but it will still alter opinions or create knowledge about a business. Use it with considered care. Don't just bash out publicity, think about your target audience and with knowledge, direct it accordingly.

The effects of social engineering must be uppermost in your mind when you design fliers, compose adverts, create other types of publicity and so on. Even the fonts used will create an impression about your business. There is considerable science in the art of presentation. If read, or glimpsed, a flier or other bumph will affect the receiver and their perception of the issuer. It might only be momentary, but if it is a shop which they pass regularly, then it is highly likely that the impression received via the flier will colour how they view the store.

In the following ramblings the words marketing and publicity are frequently interchanged because for our purposes they are considered to be the samething. Academics might scream they are not, such is their entitlement. For our general discussion purposes consider them the same.

About the article. Within this article there are hidden sections - but NO Adverts

No apologies for it being a longish ramble, but to make it easier to scan down some sections are hidden just needing a click to show them. NO ADVERTS are buried on this page and we are not trying to sell you anything either. Neither, you might be pleased to know, are there any social media buttons to distract you. my personal slightly vitriolic view on social media buttons

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Social media buttons provide nothing for a site, they hinder site performance, they do not increase a sites publicity, they do not add credibility to a sites content. when carrying social media buttons a site acts as an unpaid advertiser for the media sites.

Designers include them on sites because they like to show that they are 'with it' but many are not thinking. The only sources suggesting any benefit to having these button are statements issued by the social media sites. Without freeloading off you the social medias visual online exposure would disappear.

I will not act as an unpaid agent to persaude my clients to add free advertising to their sites, nor to allow those buttons to slow down the loading of their sites. Neither will I want those buttons to interfere with the design integrity of my clients sites.

more info? informationarchitects...

My professional view is: BUT as a marketing exercise, didn't they do well. hide text

If you are new to the subject of marketing your website or marketing your business as they are the same thing, then a fair bit of ground needs exploring so lets get on.  This article  leans towards answering the  Why rather than being a How To but some of the ideas might trigger ideas of your own, so it is worth a scan down.

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Motive for publishing

This is a chained together collection of responses given in the past to clients questions. It has suprised me over the years just how many website owners believe that their website is the only type of marketing they need and literally refuse to market their site relying on the luck of a Google search. So this rambling article are extracts from some of the email responses I have made in an attempt to persuade clients otherwise. My only motive in publishing them here is to provide information that might be found useful and yes, maybe for the cynics, it might increase search engine traffic to this site too? I won't apologise for that.

My Experience

I have been designing websites for years, I have a strong customer service background and well versed in business systems. I have studied design, marketing, simple economics (if it can be simple) general business etc. I constantly tour technical sites and subscribe to many website design information sites that includes eMarketing, eCommence tutorials and information. Plus, and most important of all, I have a wealth of experience gained from both my own and my clients situations. I also have a large capacity of commonsense and an ability to think left field as well as right.

for anyone interested, I also have considerable experience with excel solutions, project costing a fair knowledge of account systems, database design and maintenance - to include Access - and other useful business skills. hide text

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Use this link to read a bit about my motives for publishing this.

Isn't my website my publicity so why do anything else?

Publicity is only publicity when others know about it. Printing 2,000 leaflets then throwing them into a bin straight away is not publicity.

Often my clients eyes glaze over when I start to explain how search engines work and what they need to do to make searches work for them. If a website is to be a successful addon to a business, or indeed, is the sole business, then an understanding of search engine optimisation is a must. Also, there are many companies out there desperate to lock you into their SEO service. If you don't know anything about the subject you could, like one of our clients, spend £800 per month for something you should be able to do for yourselves.

Yes, maybe you might need a hand, and yes in theory, a SEO site returns better on searches, but never in a million years should it cost £800 per month! They were suckered in because they didn't understand. Be prepared to learn because SEO is part of your marketing tool.

Sadly, because website owners fails to publicise their sites properly their dreams just disappear into the electronic ether. Disappointed, they turn to others and say it doesn't work or such and such design company didn't design it properly.

My website doesn't work - I am not getting hits.

For a website to fulfil an owners online business dreams people have to know it is there, then, once they do start to visit, it needs maintenance so they return again and again and of course you need to provide something, be it information, service, products or entertainment which users perceive as having value to them.

You wouldn't buy a store, fill it with goods and then board it up so no one can get inside? Equally, you don't build a website just to have it fester in the back reaches of the internet.

Every website needs marketing in some form

Marketing isn't a black science, at the end of the day when it is stripped bare, marketing is, the creative application of observation, commonsense and opportunism.

In the case of websites, swop the word marketing for publicity and it becomes easier to visualise what needs doing.

Why every business needs a website

My view of business is that all businesses need a website - it does not have to be an eCommerce site, it could be a means to demonstrate your business or your business skills. I think every hairdresser, florist, gardening service, accountancy service and so on should have a site and the site should form part of their publicity. Why print loads of brochures or leaflets when you can point people to your website which can hold far more interactive information.

I hope the article, or parts of it, demonstrate why a website can help to expand a business, or at the very least, help to inform their customers about their service in ways that other advertising cannot. However, users have to know that you are there. To acheive that you have to market your website.

No technical jargon to worry about here.

This is is not a technical article on marketing - promise - it is an illustration on why marketing and publicity and knowing your market and watching trends can be important and how even the humblest of businesses will benefit from putting in some effort. Caveat that and say Need to put in some effort.

Marketing a website is about driving people to your site and having a site which is interesting enough to keep them coming to you. Believe it or not in a lot of cases the look of a site is of less importance than the content. You can have the best looking site in the world but if it has no substance, or provides no benefit to the user you will get nowhere.

User Benefits?

Benefits are the responses your visitors have to your website. Buying from it is a benefit, reading the content is a benefit (hopefully), playing a game is a benefit.

Users expect a benefit, so the design and content of your site should provide immediate indications that the user will receive benefit from visiting you. It doesn't have to have all the bells and whistles of a modern site.

I used to visit the Catholic Historical site to read their historical articles. The site was very plain and mainly textual with minimal illustrations - if any - and a simple to understand navigation system. I visited it for the content. I didn't care about the look of the thing because it wasn't relevant. So the purpose of the site is the key to how it should look and function. In my opinion a travel site needs enticing images as well as good copy.

Thinking Travel

Personally I don't like travel agent sites which just list available holidays as if it is a printed brochure. But I do agree that 'selection criterias' make these type of sites really good.

If I were a local travel agent competing with the larger chains I would also include within the site a more personal approach to holidays. I would add articles on say adventure holidays along with images and comments where I can get them, preferably from people who have booked through you.

I would make the site somewhere for people to browse and to learn about other countries or types of holidays. A travelogue of a cruise along the Amazon River? Invaluable!

Add a travel blog to your website? It doesn't even have to be the same site, you can install wordpress in the same space as your website and link to it.

Got a hard working member of staff? Award them a City Break in Paris. Then add a write up to the site. Marketing is all about creating and using opportunities.

Driving visitors to you - some ideas

These ramblings are aimed at showing how business interelates with communities and considers that small businesses can beat the big boys. After all, all big boy businesses were once small businesses. People forget that.

Don't be jealous of someone elses success, use it as a model to create your own success. Creating success is exactly what happens. Your website can be successful because you create the circumstance to make it happen. Your website back ups your business message and your business message backs up your websites message. Marketing one helps to market the other.

Using grass root local businesses

The article suggests simple illustrations based on local small businesses - using as subjects a shoe shop, hairdressers, florists, a bakery and gardening services. We look at the effect social trends like the advent of mobile phones had and still have on businesses as well as the effect supermarkets might have on a locale. The object is to build up why a business, small or otherwise, needs to grab publicity where they can. There is no science here, only conjecture and ideas based on everyday thoughts and observations.

If the website is your sole business

A different path will have to be trod prior to launching. You are advised to look at the market, assess to see what you can bring to the market that someone else hasn't - e.g. the way Facebook pulled the social networking ideas together (there was nothing really new in the idea but how it was pulled together created the idea of newness and they used the idea of viral marketing well reaping full benefits).

You will have to answer the need and want questions pertaining to your website business in a way that for example, a hairdresser doesn't have to, because their business already exists. Generally though most of the comments here will be relevant to your website once it is launched.

Will this help me beat my competitors

If this article raises more questions about your own website and situation than it answers that is a good outcome. Marketing is all about asking questions and finding creative solutions to them and keeping well ahead of your competitors. Marketing makes sure that your customers are fully conversant in a positive way with your message, your products or your service.

You have ideas which people criticise?

When you start to market a business you are putting yourself out there just as I have done with this article. I am not an author so I doubted my ability. The choice for me then was either to write it and be dammed or skuttle away and hide while wishing I had written it and of course cursing when someone else writes this sort of thing first? Sound familiar? Putting thoughts up on the web does leave the writer open to 'attack', it is the nature of many people to criticise rather than look at the positives. Ignore them as they are worthless. Your message counts so get it out there!

Like me, putting yourself 'out there' leaves you liable to receive both welcome and unwelcome attention. The objective for you will be to turn all attention to your advantage while retaining your original conception and drive. It can be daunting but if you have committment then you are halfway along the road to success.

Criticism from peers or competitors does not mean you are failing or that you are wrong - you may be doing things so right that you have left them way behind and they simply don't like it. When marketing yourself - which you are when you market your business - put away self doubt and shyness and never forget why you are doing it.

Criticism is not always levied for the right motive - if you believe in your approach and it is working for you then carry on with it but question your methods now and then; do listen to opinions as they can sometimes open the door to other ideas but remember your instinct for your market. Those instincts can far outweight any generalised academic tips too.

Read Marketing Books - Tips also

Do consider reading a few marketing books as they can help to explain what you know by instinct (you will be surprised at how much you know already) and help you use it in a more structured and focused way.

Every marketing expert has a different focus so it doesn't hurt to look at several sources. Equally, you don't have to study the books, you will be surprised by how much information can be gleamed while browsing through them and commonsense is often a good companion. If you find the subject idea daunting then buy beg or borrow the most basic book available to you. When I want to learn about a completly new subject I look first for a children's 'how to' or 'about' book explaining the principles in a beautifully simplistic way. Having grasped the concepts I then move up a level and so on. I'm not ashamed to admit it or do it. Any routes which open the doors to enlightenment are fair game.

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Marketing your website business

I am going to try to express in around 1200 or so picture painting words, why marketing is such an important need for the survival of your business.  Then after that, provide illustrations and examples to reinforce points made. You can pick and mix as you see fit.

Hate the notion of marketing or love it, whatever your view is, you need it. Marketing has shaped your life so far, so like it or not you are part of the process so be prepared to learn about it so you can use it to your own good.

Hopefully from browsing the whole article you will gleam why adding a website to your business is probably one of the most important marketing step you will ever take and why it is also easy to get it wrong. Marketting doesn't end by adding a website to a business, it is just a start.

Here goes - lets get on with it
Are there any businesses which creates absolute wealth without taking revenue from another business or another business sector? No!

Mobile phones burst onto the market, they were a new concept so the market was new, but the revenue generated by the market was not new. As an example, payphones disappeared and standard land line call revenue reduced. BT read the future and invested heavily in the new technology.

In order to buy a phone buyers reduced spending in other business sectors. Maybe they went out less, spent less on clothing, bought cheaper food, took less holidays and so on.

(not related I'm sure (actually I'm not so sure), but it is interesting to consider that the demise of public house attendance closely follows the rise of mobile phone use)

The revenue earned by the mobile phone companies was not 'new money' it was existing money spend by consumers in a different markets.

So, when a new service or product appears, consumers don't suddenly gain piles of wealth and decide to spend it on that product or service; they do buy that product or service but at the expense of their previous spending habits. Something therefore has to give way for the new.

Your business could be one of those who are in the 'at the expense of', casualty list. Marketing your business therefore helps keep you in the vogue; it helps to suggest to the consumer that you are needed, that you are part of their must have spending patterns and so continue to use your service.

Every business chases the dollar

Every business in existence is chasing the same consumer £ / dollar although not necessarily from the same particular consumer but every consumer contributes to the economy as a whole, both locally and nationally.

Buying bread from a local baker keeps that baker trading. The money earned by that business pays wages directly or indirectly.

Whilst the people behind the counter might not use your hairdressing salon, they might supply the money to a daughter / son / husband / wife / mother who do use your salon.

So, if one business suffers, so might yours

So, if a bakery business suffers because a supermarkets bread is a few pence cheaper then odds on your business is going to suffer to because all trade inter-relates.

Who's to blame for the move from buying bakery bread to buying supermarket bread? Is it the baker for failing to compete? Social Trends? Consumer ignorance about quality bread? What makes them prefer bread made with inferior wheat and too much water?

Social trend marketing

Social trend can have much to do with changing spending patterns. Let's be honest mobile phones are not a necessity, we survived for hundred of thousands of years without them, but suddenly they become this massive must have can't do without them item that rapidly drains money from other spending streams.

That said, social trend needs are created by something. That something is usually a perceived need instilled into us by well thought out social marketing.

Social trends like mobile phones take revenue from all business sectors including your local hairdresser, florist, butcher, baker and candle stick maker. Everyone is affected and no one escapes.

That is true of all social trend marketing, in fact all marketing regardless.

Take note of changing patterns

Be aware therefore of changing market patterns and how it might affect you, both positively and negatively.

The demise of bakeries

So what else is to blame for bread shop demise? Bread marketing methods - to include the bakers own marketing - were not sufficient to explain the benefits of eating wholesome bread.

So inadequate was the bakers message that it could not overcome the pull of the cheaper bread which gave the consumer an added bonus. Buying cheaper bread meant the consumer had spare cash to buy phone credit or to spend on the latest bingo site and so on.

A Cynical aside

Another reason for many small business demise can be traced to squeezed profits partly due to increased high street costs. Rents increase, business rates increase because revenues to the landlords and councils reduce as businesses close but the Councils and the Landlords want to maintain a level of income so prices are increased.

Why the decrease in businesses rates revenue? Because less business are active along a high street. Part of the reason is due to the increased property costs squeezing profits to an intolerable level. Short term many organisations increase costs to try to take up the slack. It is a spiral which all money generating organisation experience through one reason or another. Councils to a degree can get a way with it because they preach to a captured audience. Business on the other hand has to change and adapt. That can't happen if a business has not embraced their market fully.

Simplyfying the principle of Spiralling

A simple gardening service has to raise say, a minimum of £400 per week which equates to £10 per hour but to make a profit so that tools can be replaced they need to earn £500 per week.
From being fully booked and hitting minimal target suddenly they lose 4 clients which costs them £80.00 per week.
They are below target and they have to raise revenue immediately. So, they decide to increase prices by £2.00 per hour.
They failed to consider their clients properly; £10 per hour was squeezing a few of them (they are pensioners, it is obvious that income could be tight), so, £12.00 per hour becomes too much for them and so they stop using the Gardeners service which of course spirals the businesses demise.

Explained this way the reaction is, stupid, who would do that! Sadly most business at some point will take the same path. The better path, if time allows, is to seek new markets.

Railway Company or transport Company

A train company sees revenue drop and costs increase - they can't raise passenger prices as they are fixed and just cannot find ways to increase passenger numbers. They wanted to save their business and called in the experts for advice.
The solution was actually quite simple. The expert noticed that the companies articles stated that they were a TRANSPORT company. That meant they could happily move into any business area which concerned transport, from manufactoring cycles, road haulage, to flying aeroplanes. All the expert had to do was encourage them to alter their thinking from being a railroad company to being a transport company.

Marketing creates flexibility

Being open in your thinking and understanding your market can save a business from spiralling woes. The web has arguably saved many business who have been able to transfer to an on-line presense because it can help to expand their marketplace.

Social Trends

Never ignore new social trends because somehow they WILL affect your business. The trick for you is working out how it might affect you and put 'things in place' before your competitors do. Ok? So the competitors follow your lead? Think about that, you have gone from being the follower to being followed. That can only enhance your reputation.

Businesses need to keep consumer focus

All businesses need to market or create publicity. Not only do they need to keep competitors at bay, businesses need to keep the consumer focused on why they should be buying a service or product, in particular, yours.

If the message is lost then so to are those products or services least in the mind of the consumer because consumers don't have unlimited income. Consumers switch the use of their income between different products and services as their needs dictate. Tailored handmade suits today, off the peg Taiwan imported suits tomorrow. You make specialised handcrafted suit buttons and you didn't see that coming? Opps.

Another new supermarket - bad news for all?

I am using Supermarkets as the generic pariah but it could be any large concern moving in which will effect your business.

Lets be honest, another new supermarket arriving in town does not create income - or jobs actually - they suck the income away from existing services and products, which means other businesses suffer. Consumers don't suddenly find an extra £400 per month and say, hey, lets spend that in the new store but we'll keep spending elsewhere as before.

As we know, many businesses close resulting in unemployment so the jobs created by the supermarket actually were stolen jobs. Ignore what the politican tell you. Supermarkets DO NOT CREATE JOBS, because they take them away from other sectors. Planners can love the idea of supermarkets because it make social amenities planning easier for them. Rates are collected more cheaply too so Councils will, in the end, usually back a supermarkets application. So instead of thinking how can we stop them (try of course, it could be good publicity for your business?) start thinking also, how can I minimise the effect on my business.

Regardless of the blurb, supermarkets don't create wealth by way of providing well paid jobs either because the pay is often at the minimal rate.

The benefit of the supermarket to the local economy is actually rather negative which knocks through to all consumer reliant businesses within the locale one way or another. That could mean yours. Did you see it coming?

Supermarkets are seen as the bad boys but whatever your view, a supermarkets quick encroachment shows how other trends or competitors can encroach on another business, unless that business is focused on their market and can respond accordingly.

Why do we shop in supermarkets: the benefit of shopping that way satisfies an immediate need which overcomes other objections. Conversely those opposed to supermarkets can often be found lurking around the shelves too. For whatever reason at some point we all use them. That could be revenue taken from your business. But to my mind you don't count because I haven't heard about you so why should I care? Baked Beans are cheaper there that is all that concerns me. Your marketing should be telling me otherwise!

So businesses have to learn to live with them but better, learn how to beat them. How? By marketing better, finding new trading avenues or moving into niche markets. Businesses can beat a supermarkets intrusion into their revenue stream but not if they refuse to market themselves, or do so without first considering properly what it is that their customers want, or rather, made to perceive a 'want', satisfied by your business.

The achilles heel of the 'big boys' is their size. You can compete against them because they cannot respond to local circumstances as quick as a small, focused local business can. You just have to find the 'way' to achieve that position.

Not only do local business compete against the giants, they compete against each other too. Those are the conditions under which many local businesses have to survive and succeed. Shyness doesn't enter into it.

Will the last one standing please switch off the lights

A town has 5 hairdressers but due to an economic downturn only 3 can survive. Who decides which 2 are to close?

So, who is the last one standing?

The business who manages to instil their name and therefore their services into the local community - in a positive way - (and run it efficiently) is the business left standing.

Beating big business

Beating big business is why smaller business and services need to understand how important marketing is even to the humblest of enterprises and learn how to utilise every form of publicity there is available to them. Better still learn how to generate positive publicity or grab it when you can (which incidentally is the underlying message of a number of illustrations included much further down in this article)

If you are a local service, publicity very much includes word of mouth reputation. BUT, word of mouth shouldn't be left to the customers, the businesses own publicity should create, direct and maintain word of mouth.

Word of mouth

Word of mouth, or put another way, the public perception of your business is a form of social marketing.

In a nutshell, use publicity to create your brand - your name will be your brand - and then keep using it to maintain the brand.

Branding

A brand is not a label, it is an idea and a branded name is the first name that pops into someone's head when they are thinking about that subject or product. It works locally as well as nationally. In my opinion branding in not the sole property of large mega-companies - although academically they might argue otherwise. To my mind a brand is a concept which can be applied at all business levels.

If you want your garden tidying and you automatically think of John's Gardening Service from up the road then that is a type of branding; local yes, small yes, but still a brand because you associated your garden needs along with John's Garden Services. It was quite simply an instinctive connection caused by whatever influences you have received in the past.

You might not even be aware as to why you thought that way, but the fact remains that you did - or do - and so long as the association is a positive one, you will give him a call without him doing a thing? (he may well have been marketing himself for years, you sublimingly soaked up his messages)

Commonsense as a marketing tool

Wearing a chicken suit to grab attention for your take-away might be an idea - but maybe not at a vegons convention?

Everything illustrated here so far is pure commonsense, most of the habits mentioned you probably action everyday too. So there you have the beginnings of how to market your business.

Ask yourself as a consumer, what is it you do, and why do you do it or what would you do if things changed or what would you like to see a business do? Then compare your answers with your business service and build on that.

Expressed academically it is more complex than that but we are talking about a small business website, not launching  an Amazon or an Ebay. Incidently, viral word of mouth grew those giants rapidly.

A website is a fantastic advertsing tool but it will only work if you market your website in the same way as you should market your business.

The why's over with - Let's get down to work. Website specifics

You own a website - now you can just lay back and watch the sales flood in. If only. Even viral videos have a zero watched start point.

At launch your site is at the zero viewed stage and it will stay like that until you tell someone it is there and that someone tells someone else.

At launch your worry might be: Will my website attract visitors?

(In theory that question should have been asked way back at the planning stage). Consider:
Who knows you have a website?
What makes you think people will want to visit your site?
Is the content of your site informative / interesting and does it answer a need.

No publicity, No sales

If you did not publicise your website don't be disappointed if business fails to roll in.

Websites as sole marketing tool

Websites are a tool to help your business marketing. If your only form of business marketing is your website then please accept that in the UK alone there are probably over 3 million websites alive at any one time. What makes yours so special?

Businesses need to shout loudly

To get a business noticed that business needs to make a very loud noise but as we know, websites are dumb, they cannot shout hey type in my address and I'll give you this, or that. Publicity noise has to be made by the website owner.

Failing to publicise. A real example

A true story that illustrates this perfectly: A business paid to have a website written that would enable companies to speak with the tele sales staff and to place their orders online. (sacking the on road Reps) On the face of it, it seemed a good idea and made economical sense because One Sales Rep cost as much as 3 tele-sales staff. So the idea was good but it failed miserably. Why? quite simply because they didn't tell anyone about the website and the new system, that ommission included their current customers.

The outcome: because their customers failed to hear from the usual reps they found new suppliers and placed orders elsewhere. Website do not market themselves but if used right they are a powerful marketing tool. Used wrong and its a failure in the making!

(We actually got told off once because after launching a new website for a client, their business grew 300% in a month and they couldn't handle the increase. :) )

It takes up to 3mths to get listed on Google?

It can take up to 3 months (but often only a week - it all depends!) for Google and or other search engines - Yahoo for example - to add your domain name to their lists and to visit your site for the first time to rank it. Without that 'indexing' your site will not be ranked so it will only appear if someone types in your full www address.

You're no. 3,999,999 in the ranking charts

So far we have learnt not to employ the business manager mentioned above, also, at this stage in your websites evolution it's sat at number 3,999,999 in the ranking charts. We need to improve that a bit.

So far we have talked a bit about search engines and ranking, let's explore it in a bit more detail.

Our business is to sell shoes

Okay let's pretend we are thinking of selling shoes from a store in Lincoln, UK. (why shoes - they are guaranteed to grab the attention of at least 50% of adults - and of course, relevant to everyone)

Searching shoes Lincoln - 865,000 hits

As we do not know any shoe stores in Lincoln we try typing shoe retailer uk lincolnshire into Google - that returns 856,000* 'hits'. That is a lot of websites, it's Not looking good.

So, we want to sell shoes in Lincolnshire and we want to rank number 1? Based on what we have discovered this seller is going to have a tough fight because the other 855,999 hits are clambering for the number 1 spot as well.

So what do you need to do? Where do you start?

One off the cuff suggestion you will hear often is that to get your site to number one you need to have it fully SEO'd. SEO = Search Engine Optimisation. These SEO companies - for a large fee - claim they will optimize your site so that it reaches Google's number 1 spot. That is a very big IF so be wary and keep your hands in your pockets.

Every business wants to be No.1

Let's take a moment to consider the logic of SEO companies claims. These companies will approach you and say, hey, do you want to be number 1, pay us £800+ and we will make it happen. Really? What happens when they approach the other 855,999 in your 'hit' list, which of course they will do.

Can every website get a number 1 Google hit?

The answer of course is no.

errrrmmm hold on, but could they?

It becomes a yes if each one of those businesses has a unique slant to their service. If a user hones in on the unique service in their entered keyword then each one of those sites in a specific targeted search could come out at number 1, but NOT if general searches are used.
read a bit more about SEO.

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In simplistic terms "to SEO a site" is simply making sure that everything is fully presented - both content wise and background coding - in such a way as to please the Google ranking engine so that they rank your site as high as possible.

The algorithms used by Google and the other engines are secret, known only to them and they also change regularly too.

Whilst we have a firm understanding of the main contributors to a ranking calculation we cannot know them all, not even the loudest shouting SEO company can boast that. Things do get leaked and we add the information from those leaks to our lists of what to do to help ranking when we design our next website. Also. if other designers are like us, if something 'huge' changes that affects our clients we will revisit their sites and do what we can to bring them up to date.

Obviously a good website designer will have done their upmost to produce a design that maximises SEO principles.

Consider also that possibly another 427,000 of the 856,000 hits in our list used web designers who optimised those sites.

Competitive wise 427,000 is less than 856,000 but these are still large numbers for your site to get lost amongst.

SEO is important of course, but it is not the sole answer and before laying out £800+ please speak with your website designer to see what they think?

They may well be able to add SEO optimisation (if your previous designer didn't SEO the site) for far less than £800 and while they are tinkering they might do a few updates for you too AND you would still have a bundle of free change to play bingo with - there's a site idea that I wished I'd designed and marketed.
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(incidentally, you can talk to us about SEO, we are happy to look over your site and provide a few tips where we can - it's a donate us service so no hassle)

Back to Shoes. Example of unique search

All stores sell shoes and all some how have lincoln as a keyword but 5 stores have focused on specific colours.

1. Red, 2. Blue, 3. Yellow, 4. Green and 5. Purple

Typing Red Shoes Lincoln may well return number 1 near to the top of your hit list. Blue Shoes Lincoln may well return shop 2 near the top of your hit list and so on.

Uniqueness of service or product helps you climb the ranks. It is your task to get the uniqueness of your product or service known.

Back to the Google searches:

*changing Lincolnshire to Lincoln the hits increased to 877,000 (USA Lincoln gets added)

** shoe shop uk lincoln returned 1,320,000 hits.

*** childrens shoe shop uk lincoln returned 1,440,000 hits.

of course not all hits relate to shoe shops in uk lincoln - wow that would be 3 shoe shops for every Lincoln resident, frightening! Probably only the equivalent of 10 to 20 pages - 100 to 200 hits - would be relevant to our particular search but that is still a lot of competition and they have to be 'isolated' from the 865,000 hits.

Most of the remaining returned hits are the flotsam through which your site needs to swim to reach the top spot.

Making the list 'smaller'

So how do we snap down the hit list so that you appear within the first page or second?

The simple answer is: Through publicising your website.

Your website is of course an advert, but it is one amongst many.

Imagine every UK business appearing within one business listing, how would you stand out?

Add a name to our search

Continuing the idea of a shoe shop, lets call it Lynns Shoe Shop; search for Lynns Shoes Lincoln and it may appear within page 1 of a Google search.

So the question then is, "how do you get people to type the words needed to zoom in on your site". In this example the needed words are the name (a distinctive BUT EASY TO TYPE name is ideal but not everyone will type your name because they don't know you)

Getting users to type a name

So how do you get people to type your name or search words that will locate your site

1. By advertising
2. Seeking unabashed publicity
3. By selling unique services / goods / brands.
4. Building a reputation.

Thoughts on promoting Brands

For brand names to work then obviously the brands must be known. That means many businesses might stock it which is why for example you may see Designer Jeans as a sites 'keyword tag' instead of relying just on a brand name to fetch in customers.

Homer Choo Shoes - and why not?

If you were the only stockist in Lincoln of Homer Choo shoes and the buyer wanted Homer Choo shoes and they typed Homer Choo Shoes Lincoln into the search engine then you stand a very large chance of returning in the coveted number one spot. Job done as they say, well sort of. But not everyone will type Homer etc.

The objective is to get customers to type in your name

Doing so guarantees you a high ranking hit. If you want to buy a new phone you type in the name that occurs to you. BT, Argos Lincoln and so on. They occur to you because they are a brand. It is a similar reaction to why we often say that we are hoovering a carpet, as opposed to correctly saying, vacuum cleaning a carpet - Hoover is one of the early vacuum brand names us oldies grew up with we so associate vacuuming with hoover.

Looking for a phone - would you type Rays Phones?

You might if you knew that the store Rays phones holds what you need and it is easy to get to or buy from them.

Beating the likes of Argos

Beating the likes of Argos in the "uppermost in the mind" stakes takes a lot of doing but I don't think it is impossible. It is a matter of approach. Consider their weakeness, then attack the strengths. How many large retailers have we seen fall in the last 15 years - many of them household names. No one is untouchable.Consider HMV's difficulties.

As the Owner of Ray's Phones..

Surely Rays phones provides a compariable service to Argos and we have a car park and will carry out goods for the customers. Plus, Rays staff are on hand to help with any questions a customer has? well, it's a start to beating Argos maybe?

Others compete and so can you

If you think about it, all the major electrical retailers compete with Argos so why not you? Argos specialise in selling goods where other companies have done the publicity spade work. Think about it. the like of Argos sell products which the consumer cannot see to assess the quality; Conversly, because Argos type emporiums offer little advise it is easy for the consumer to buy the wrong thing? Is that why Argos type businesses must have such an 'open' returns policy? But isn't that actually an admitance of a negative in their service?

Argos buyers beware? (An Opinion)

Buying from Argos is very much buyer beware? Do you really know what you are buying? Plus; can you park there, will they carryout to your car?

Argos: leaching off other retailers work?

One way of looking at them is that they leach off the backs of other retailers because they use the efforts of other retailers to sell a product. You buy a camera from them because you have seen it advertised elsewhere, demonstrated elsewhere and maybe handled it elsewhere. They use the efforts of other businesses to provide your  product. The buyer and the 'other businesses' do Argos's work for them and save them considerable expence.

Did you think of them like that? No? See, it isn't that difficult to change perceptions. Now all we have to do is deal with the price issue (if indeed there is one worth talking about - perceptions) and other reasons why people might prefer Argos to Rays Phones. Personally, I like tangible goods, demonstrations and assistance.

Research your own industry

When thinking about your competitors consider reading up on your industry and look to find online comments about it. You might have to search a bit but you may find something that will help you focus your marketing.

For example, this link discussing the pros and cons of Argos entering the pet supplies market. external link is food for thought if that is your industry?

Achieving local brand status needs a long term strategy.

Firstly, people need to know that your website and business exists. Then to ensure there are regular visitors, those visitors need to know what to expect from your business and be happy that returning to your website they will gain benefit.  The benefit needs to be reliable and delivered and publicised in such a way that they remember you.

Benefit could be information, a service, a product or being entertained.

Publicity to include advertising, marketing and word of mouth association - back to shoes.

We discussed earlier about specific searching. Through publicity some of these visitors know that you sell Homer Simpson Dance shoes, so that is a search phrase  users might use which sees you returned well in Google. Obviously they need to know about Homer shoes and you.

So, the key is using publicity to persuade people to type the phrases needed to return your site.

Users can be very lazy so don't rely on them typing the exact words needed.

Homer Simpson Dance shoes lincoln might return 3 suppliers, while typing Homer Simpson Dance shoes might return 200 suppliers. OK?

You may appear near the top, there again you might not.

At this stage a well SEO'd site might gain the edge but as we discussed before if all the 200 returned hits are fully SEO'd (these days they probably are) then it's back to the drawing board.

No one said this was easy.

So now you have to ask yourself:

if I were that user, what would make me pick out my site from the 200 shown? Obviously if the shoes can only be bought from an actual bricks and mortar store then the user is going to look down the list for a store that seems to be near them - but if they are being sold through all those websites, then that advantage has gone.

As I said no one said this was going to be easy.

Small window of text

In a Google list there is a bit of site text shown - you don't have direct control over what Google shows here because you can't be 100% sure which part of a page - or even which page if Homer appears on a number of pages - that Google will deem relevant to the search in question.

That little bit of text returned in a search is your window, so of course if lincoln is prominent within that window and you are on page one then the chances are the user will see that and choose you because you are near to where they are.

You are recognised

Or, more brilliantly, your previous publicity means that when the user sees your name listed they recognise it, associate it as a good thing and click it.

Also, using our example, if the little bit of text suggests available in our store and through our website then you have probably increased the chances of that person choosing your link.

Recognising visitor preferences

Personally, I would never buy shoes online but if the site suggested they had a store and a website my inner feelings would be, this is a serious and so hopefully a reliable business and I would chose them over a site that sold just through a website.

All consumers have personal preferences - your business needs to assess what they might be and build on them or persuade against them.

You have to be found

So, like I said previously, a users perception of your business is important. A well designed website can heighten those perceptions immensely but first they have to find you.

Website keywords - they are good if users use them.

We can design a site so that certain keywords act as a trigger to Google, but you have to persuade consumers to type those keywords.

Perceptions. Use many approaches.

We could talk all day about perceptions - the wonderful and difficult thing about perceptions is that these differ in every individual. Simply put, what works for one person doesn't always work for another.

Stealth bomber publicity

Your drumming up business armoury needs to contain a number of weapons and a few specifically designed stealth bombers that will target both the general populace and specific groups.

Even then you have a number of choices - target only the general populace, target only the groups, target the general populace and hope that the groups fall into line or target the groups and hope the general populace falls into line.

Simple example of Stealth Marketing

Using a Florist as our subject - we will meet her a few times

She sells flowers to everybody so the marketing focus of her business is general populace. But, she further instils a need by targeting specific areas. Anniversaries, weddings, functions, flower hobbiests, birthdays, mothers day, and to get people talking, happy divorce days. So the website layout and business focus can appeal to a general market but with specific areas targeted.

The more you read the more daunting I have made it sound - or put another way, oh hell, why did I start a business and add a website?

You started it to succeed, to grow your business, to stand on your own two feet, to inform your customers (my reason for this page) and so on. If you want to make a living? then be prepared to work for it.

Alan Titchmarsh provides a sound approach.

Yes I do mean him and yes he does.

We can make the fear of publicity easier to handle if we take a leaf (no pun intended) out of Alan Titchmarsh's book.

Alan was asked a question by a viewer about where best to start working on a 2 acre plot. His response (from memory).
"Looking at the full 2 acre's all at once and thinking where do I start makes the task seem daunting.

Instead break it down into manageable bits. Dig out a 2 metre section and work on that until it is finished and you have something there to enjoy and inspire as you start on the next bit.

As you progress, bit by bit, you can look back and see how it all pulls together, adding the odd tweak as you go.

It doesn't seem half so daunting when you look back and see what you have achieved".

Personally I think that says it all

Taking that idea further, what you learn from your first step can be refined and used for the next step, which in turn will make the 3rd step less daunting and slowly the experiences gained or ideas that evolve from each step will build into an overall plan that will guide you for the rest.

If you look back at what you have achieved, yes it might need a little tweak here and there and to continue with the gardening analogy; one or two plants might be over shadowed by their neighbours or one or two colours might clash but that can all be easily fixed.

To paraphrase Mr AT, Looking back to a job well done will inspire you for the rest.

Marketing Skills

Yes marketing is a skill but it is born out of commonsense and the utilisation of experience and if you know your business well then you already have much of the knowledge needed. It is just then a case of having the nerve to pitch yourself forward in such a way that people believe you or are inspired by your message or know that you will have what it is they seek and so will to come to you.

One shop becomes 10 shops

The sole sweet shop in a small town doesn't have to create a lot of publicity to say we are here, but if they are one of ten, then that becomes a different matter. Online your business might appear to be one amongst thousands and what we want is for you to be number one, two or three amongst thousands.

So, back to Advertising and Publicity

And back to our shoe store. To get people to type in Lynns Shoes Lincoln, or Homer Simpson Dance shoes lincoln then your potential customers need to be persuaded to do that. The question is how do you achieve it?

Aim high but start small

If you start off aiming high but recognise you have to start small (thanks Alan T), say in this instance, aiming locally, then start by listing all those associations, clubs, traders etc who might benefit from your service either by using it or knowing about it or spreading the word about it (inducements?) and target them.

Use local advertising - trade listings

Look at local advertising avenues - maybe local newspapers, the local bi-yearly or quarterly handout mags, the parish magazine. Subscribe to online trade listings - I know, it costs money, but your name gets out there and some are free. Just do your homework and don't always believe their hype.

Give Demonstrations

Dependent on your service or product, speak or give demonstrations at local events. A butcher could give a demonstration at a food fair on how to de-done a chicken? There isn't a local food fare? Why not start one?

Use family members to spread the word

Persuade family members and your close friends to talk to their friends about your business, maybe by offering (keep it legal and moral) inducements - suggest to 'your local college daughter' that if she can persuade her friends to buy shoes from your website that you will give her £2.50 a lead?

Build local support

Build your support locally, then consider the slightly wider local farm fairs, or trade shows or whatever else they do in your area.

Using well designed fliers

If fliers suit your message and service then deliver them - but make the fliers well designed as most end up in the bin and even more so if they look cheap and ill thought out.

Don't just shove fliers through a door - assess the situation first.

A gardening service might be ill advised posting fliers in a block of flats? Think about where you are putting them; some houses might benefit from an alternative approach.

A specific alternative approach.

In this approach you are a gardener. The garden belonging to that big house around the corner has been left to go to ruin.

There might be a good opportunity here.

Don't just moan about them (after all they might be old or ill) and don't just shove a flier through their door.

Maybe the occupants are upset about the state of the garden but can't do anything about it. A crass approach may alienate them against you.

Find out the name of the person / people who live there.

Take the time to emphasis with their situation and then work out a remedy that might help all of you.

Maybe your family can help with the work so reduce your costs a bit?

Once you have a plan write then a gentle, courteous letter explaining who you are and asking them if you can help in anyway and suggest how? Maybe they would like you to call on them? Enclose an S.A.E and a flyer too. Don't be condescending and don't sound like you will charge a fortune.

Turning an eye sore into a smart garden right on your own door step could be the local advert you need. Conversely, not doing anything might have an adverse effect on our gardeners reputation.

Why word of mouth can be damaging?

Imagine a conversation: Look at the mess of that garden and that bloke there's a gardener and he's got sons, why are they not helping poor Mrs XXX. Selfish I call it.

Do people think like that?

Yes sadly some do and they are often the most vocal. Local reputations can be made and lost for many reasons; attitudes towards your business could be governed by incorrect word of mouth observations. The word perception occurs to me again.

Ok the work was done - what now?

Maybe it was done at a cost to the gardener but, speculate to accumulate. The Gardener might even get a write up in the local rag - tipped off? I'm not telling.

To his own ends the Gardener took the time to photograph every step of the renovation so the images can be placed on his website along with an article.

That story can remain there for years because it will always be relative to his business and if worded correctly, it may help with Google searches.

Always mention your website

Whatever publicity you create always make sure that you mention your website address and always make sure that your website reflects your current message both in terms of general content and specific key words.

Lets take a business and add a website
I've chosen a Florist Shop

After building her website she has her window sign written with her www address. Inside the store is another sign which reads - to view more of our flower displays please visit our website @ wwww.

On the website not only does she have images of past wedding flower she also places a few tips on how to care for the displays and a few idea for creating displays for the home. Next to those are some images of vases or quirky containers that she can get for you - maybe from a local pottery - commission for her??

For the wedding planners and caterers in the area she adds a chart showing by month the top 10 flowers usually available and colour range and maybe even the average flowerhead size. Linked to that are images of displays she has done using the flowers.

Add associated products - services

Of course she will list the tools needed to make displays which can be orderd through her, either through the website or from the store. She doesn't have to stock them all, she just needs to show that she can get them.

You don't need a full eCommerce site

Buying through the site doesn't have to involve an eCommerce site - a simpler ordering facility which can be built up just like a shopping cart but which sends an email at the end works just as well and will allow our florist to email back to ask pertinent questions and to confirm details and if necessary supply her paypal link so that payment can be made.

Add items of interest

Also on the website is a list of events that she will be showing at, or future weddings or events where her flowers will be used.

All this is backed up by her fliers? or speaking at schools, W.I meetings and so on.

Slowly she is building up the perception that she is serious about her art, she is reliable in business, she has a website full of useful information and so on.

Building positive perceptions

Finally, once firmly established she adds the ability to order flowers online which she will deliver up to a 30 mile radius. (The website keywords needed to make her appear top locally will grow with experience so slowly utilising her content and text she will attract visitors from further a field)

Future expansion

Now she has a choice, consolidate her business more but stay local or maybe open a second store 20/30 miles away or expand her online business.

Always thinking publicity

Always uppermost is her need to publicise her business but that does not mean just placing an ad in a local paper and sitting back.

Publicity means making your business a living part of the community so it enters the communities conscienceness. Simply put, they think of your service first.

And one way to do that is always having answers to questions which have yet to be asked.

You hear that a new supermarket is to open soon then get your online ordering, telephone ordering and local delivery system in place before it is built. Remove the "it is easy to pick up a bunch of flowers while I am in the supermarket" objection answered before the question even evolves.

Be proactive.

If parking in or around your shop is difficult (another reason why supermarkets can grab sales) then try to find a remedy, or consider moving around the corner where it is easier to park and push hard your local delivery service.

Make it as easy as possible to order from you, even down to your knowing what a customer wants from the first few words of the conversation. Learn to empathise with your customers every product need.

Mutual business publicity - services

One final consideration. Target a local business that supplies customers who are likely to buy flowers. Say, a delicatessen. See if they will allow a tastefully produced sign to be placed on their wall showing your name and phone number and www.address - the persuasion works better if you are willing to reciprocate.  Maybe our florist is allowed to place a simple flower display in the Deli which she tends and keeps fresh.

Do signs work?

Mrs customer rushing in after work to pick up her sun dried tomatoes spies your sign or she sees the display on the counter and thinks, dash it I forgot the flowers for tonight, I wonder if ....

Hi Mrs florist, it's me, Mrs customers, could you help me out, you can, oh you are an angel. Job done. You're an angel who will be remembered for a while and maybe spoken about in a positive way.

Your name sinks in

Each time Mrs Customers visits the Deli. she is reminded of you, also  you name sinks into the minds of others as they wait to be served. Why do you think billboards are still an important marketing tool and I'll include supermarket point of sale items here too.

Make yourself, therefore your business, indispensable.

Marketing and Customer Service walk hand in hand.

The principles behind everything illustrated here is Customer Service. If you sneer at the principle illustrated - sure the examples might be a bit waffy, but I have tried to make them 'real life', then ask yourself, should I be in business? If you do not believe in customer service then you should not be in business, least ways not a consumer related business.

Customer Service holds the door open

Marketing opens a door, but it is Customer Service which keeps that door open; a combination of the two is what helps keeps the profile of your business relevant.

By taking the time to Customer Service your visitors you are learning about their needs, information you can use to plan your next marketing foray or to direct how and where you place your publicity.

Expand on ideas.

If they read about you in the Deli. then why not at the local train station? Maybe provide a late Friday night delivery service?

Sure, you might not get hundreds of Friday night orders but if your sign is prominent then you are sinking into the local consciousnes where hopefully your name will be the first they think of when they do think flowers.

Generating future business - The long haul

So, indirectly such a move might help to generate future business. Don't expect everything you do to create immediate wealth. Business is about the long haul too, and the long haul is what your website is about as it helps consolidate and to expand on your business message.

Get them to think about your service

Things here are not instructions so don't say that won't work for me and ignore the principle, I can't provide specifics as you know your business better than I do - they are ideas on ways to think about your service and ways to get others to think about your services. Perception and Profile.

The principles behind the above ideas would work for Gardening Services, Local Builders, Garages, Solicitors, Function Rooms, Caterers, Restaurants, Hairdressers, Beauticians, Shoe Shops and so on.

What the above idea illustrates is use your website to explain your business but also take the time to make it provide something extra that is pertinent to your visitors so that they get a benefit from visiting you and make sure that the website and business work in tandem..

Don't always expect a £ return on an idea

That benefit provided doesn't always have to raise the website owner immediate revenue but because that benefit is there, I, the visitor, may well return when I need the product or services offered. Or, I just might tell a friend how I found whatever it was I found and pass on your website that way.

Looking in a butchers window

Gazing through the window at the slabs of meat and dreaming doesn't cost me money.

The butcher doesn't come out and say, hey, your getting receipe ideas by looking through my window, give me £10.00.

No, he hopes that I will either walk in that day or that I will walk in another day. He supplies the view to entice me and because I like what I see I will hopefully walk in at some point.

For now I'll go home take out my frozen mince and make spag bols and oh, thanks Mr Butcher for the idea.

Eating with a friend that evening I might say, next time I'll do you a steak because Mr butcher had some wonderful sirloin on display. Really? I'll go and have a look I'm giving a dinner party etc etc etc

It works that way for shops and it can work that way for websites
Providing associated benefits: Example.

That is so easy for a website to do.

A Solicitor could devise a pdf will form that allows people to download it, complete it and submit a copy back to the Solicitors, so that the Solicitor has notification of the persons intentions and advise upon them. A fee might or might not be relevant at that stage - the fee could be obtained from the estate at a later stage?

I'm not a Solicitor but locally that sort of arrangement might work?

The principle though is Something for free now could provide income for the future? Where necessary, if the PDF information is complicated and open to misinterpretation the Solicitor could then devise something more legally binding - obviously for a fee - and post it back for approval and signature?

Free now might create future wealth

So, something for free has been provided, which occasionally elicits an immediate fee, and occasionally provides a longer term fee. But, it has also ensured that the Solicitor firm is used and known by more people, directly or indirectly which raises their profile locally.

I don't know about the legal position / implications of the idea, but the principle of the benefit is sound and might work if marketed correctly.

The Florist again: Gave away trade?

She gave out tips on arrangements - some might argue that she has lost the financial benefit of the customer asking the florist to build a flower arrangement?

True, but that assumes the customer would have asked, that assumes the flowers were not bought from the shop? That assumes that the equipment for the display was not bought from the shop?

It also overlooks the possibility that as the customers flower display skills and interest in the hobby grows, she will buy most of what she needs from the florist - and because her interest has grown she may buy more flowers than she did before so she can practise her hobby.

Mugging your visitors

What I can't personally stand are supposed knock-on benefits - meaning the site sells flowers (the main service) but it is also illustrating how to display them - and the site shows you half of the article and then mugs you for money to see the rest.

I know of many website which do that and it annoys the hell out of me and I don't go back unless by accident.

If you are going to show someone how to create a flower display then show them, don't get halfway through and say, if you buy this I'll show you the rest of the article. If you are going to charge make it clear at the top of the article.

It's a different matter if you are selling a book, sure you show snippets but then in that case the visitor is aware that they are looking at a book for sale.

If you are offering advice, or illustrating a how to, then have the courtesy to finish the article.

To my mind, a benefit should be implicit and not implied.
Using this article as an example of my thinking.

If I am fortunate enough to get a few readers then I thank then for reading this far. This article could have been written in a number of parts, spaced weeks apart for example as a serial piece. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that I will get the sort of response where a serial publication would bring in readers so I didn't use that approach.

A lot of online articles do use that approach but I have yet to come across one who uses the following approach:

1. Date the article

2. Add Est. Date for subsequent parts

3. Ask readers if they would like to receive the next instalment sent as a pdf - Oh and download this instalment

When I see that the article is undated and there is no estimated date for the next part I know that they are not really committed to the article and that it has probably been added to appease a boss or to try to trick Google into directing a search to them, i.e. place their site near the top of a given search results so that the user believes that site is dedicated to the subject of the search.

you have to decide on your business attitude

You have to decide if that is a good idea or not. Personally I sway towards the not; attitudes are often what separates business providing similar services.

Being customer orientated is an attitude

So, because I am customer orientated and because I want my visitors to gain a benefit which hopefully will reflect on my service I made sure that the article is both dated (at the top) and complete. And, by way of this section and the opening few paragraphs, I have stated openly my intentions for the article.

Matching business and customer attitudes

You as the visitor hoping to learn more about marketing your website have to decide if these attitudes work for you or not? You can't satisfy everyone. From a business perspective, what could happen is I could solicit email addresses and some casual information from the reader. That would help provide an idea of visitor demographics so future articles can be more specific to their needs. It is an approach.

A Do and Might view on Marketing

This next section might seem a bit off the wall and can be easily skipped. Its purpose is to help consider the strength of the wording used to express the benefit(s) you offer - I use Do and Might as the strength indicators.

Marketing is all about recognising what your customers Might want and how to deliver your message so they Do want and they Do want it from you.

Might and Do are so very different - Might adds depth to a market by allowing for marketing persuasion and leaves the consumer an open door for multiple choice.

Do is to suggest an absolute.

People Might need deodorant, that was the early days of deodorant marketing. Now people Do need deodorant. Over the years marketing has changed peoples perceptions of what they need and like. The like in this case generates a Do response. B.O is now socially unacceptable.

So Might is the attitude to use for some markets sectors and products while Do is the attitude for others.

You Do need cereal in your diet, you Might prefer Bran over Porridge.

A slightly lame example but relevant here: you Might need the content of this article, or you Do need guidance. This article Might answer your needs.

Using this example, having established a Do market the Do statement could be followed with a list of articles, books, videos etc. Needing more guidance? These are good references to follow .....

The Do in this instance is implied but it is there; it is there because you are reading a how to type article so it does not need to be established. The list, the Might element, if I were selling you products becomes the important part.

The sales message is established and directed by the article which establishes a need for the Might articles. A subtle implied need or a more urgently expressed need; the choice of that message lays with the writer and adjusted to suit marketing demographics.

A Might need can provide multiple consumer choices. Do tends to be more absolute.

Are parts of your service or products Mights or Do's.

Once you know, make the text reflect it. Don't suggest a Might product in a Do way - i.e.. you Do need our T-Shirts unless there is an absolute Do reason for it. You Must have this sweat shirt, You do need these jeans may well turn consumers off your message.

Listen to some T.V adverts they try that approach, household and personal hygiene and grooming products in particular. They don't say the Do word but all the verbal subtlety suggests a Do. That is how over the years deodorant turned from a Might to a Do.

Good brand marketing could almost say that you DO need their product because that is the creditability which the publicists have breed into the brand over the years.

Baked Beans

When you think Baked Beans, who's brand do you think of first? consider, you might actually make a conscience decision NOT to buy the top brand because your instinct is to buy it. In a supermarket while you might buy own brand as a product locator your eye searches for the known brand label. When it comes to own label Supermarkets are totally aware of that behaviour and fully exploit it.

Facebook - love it or hate it

Facebook has become so entwined in our daily lives that it is almost being suggested that socially you succeed better if you have a strong online social presence, so the use of Do can almost be applied to Facebook. Of course that is the attitude that Facebook wants consumers to have towards their site and much of the publicity and subliminal messaging has been directed to ensure that. Such is the power of marketing for good or bad.

So marketing is about instilling Might and Do attitudes towards your service or products - just don't overdo the Do attitude within your text and don't emphasis a Do when it is a Might situation.

Marketing Strength stems from your attitude.

Such is the power of marketing but the real strength of marketing stems from the belief the owners have in their product / service at the onset - or just to be controversial - an owners belief in the gullibility of the public.

Not all things are created and marketed with good hearted intentions. Again, how you perceive you service / products or business will dictate the marketing approach used.

Body Shop is an example of what I am tying to illustrate, but with a good slant. If you remember their message and their products you will understand what I mean. Anita Rodderick believed in her ideals and made her ideals her marketing message.

For those who don't recall Body Shops early message here's a summary.

Body Shop established an ethical - natural ingredients used and not tested on animals - message towards cosmetics. Consumers flocked to their stores. Whether it was directly due to the actual message or because of the general ethical feel toward the company or whether it was simply the products themselves is hard to pin point, I suspect a combination of all three.

What they did was create a Do need for ethical products - or a perception of ethical - and that movement infected other products and services in other business sectors which in turn added more strength to the Body Shop message because it validated the message.

Body Shop took a product range and a market that existed and added a Do element to it; not necessarily a use Do, but a Social Do. They created and responded to a social need.

Make the content reflect your attitudes

So as I said previously, if you believe in what you do then let it be reflected within the content of your website and how you go about 'selling' the notion that benefit can be fulfilled by visiting the site. The beauty of a website is that you have the space to convey any business message that you wish.

Just remember, half hearted attempts to sucker people in with half completed articles does not strengthen a message, it weakens it considerably. Articles are also an allogory. Don't over sell a service, dont give your customers something to be disappointed about.

Understand that your attitudes towards consumers can be gleamed from your content. Visitors can be very canny so spend time thinking about the content but a good web designer will help you with textual copy and they will help you better if they understand what it is that you are trying to achieve..

Sorry I digress

Back to store marketing

What if you don't have a store - your business is solely the website?

The principles are similar. What you don't have is the store window and people can't see you in person or mooch around your shelves and ask you questions direct.

A stores message can be subtly aimed toward the consumer because they have physical room to move around to take in the complete ambiance which include ads on walls, posters, colour schemes, layout, external ambience and so on.

Websites use direct visuals

To counter that, websites have to be more visually direct and instant in how they present an image of the business while at the same time convincing the consumer with their sales message in a very short window of time. So, again, publicity is key to this, unless of course visitors arrive 'cold' to the site then the original statement applies.

Hairdresser example: Shop V Travelling Hairdresser

Walking into a hairdressers a consumer forms an opinion about the business from they way they are greeted, the look of the salon, the smells, the sounds, the looks and attitudes of the staff, services provided, the price list and so on. As a travelling Hairdresser apart from a price list you have none of those selling tools online to persuade the consumer, but persuade them you must.

So, as a Travelling Hairdresser your wording must get to the salient consumers needs and concerns and satisfy them quickly. In order to do that you need to recognise what they are, prioritise them, snap them into quick readable headings which the visitors recognise immediately as answering their immediate concerns and needs. Then you present your style examples and any details you might care to add.

Above the fold

Refers to an old printing maxim that the important selling point of a newspaper was the part of the newspaper showing in the news stand. Newspapers were folded in half, hence the importance of being above the fold because that is the part which grabbed consumers interest.

Some web designers or more likely clients, envisage webpages as working that way. They don't, not really - website pages can be freely scrolled up and down and flicked through and there is no one jostling impatiently behind you in the queue as you try to read more.

Placing all the important detail above the fold - in this case the fold signifies within the immediate browser window visible on opening (who knows how large that is as many users keep their browser small) is really not necessary and is a silly approach to design because it cramps everything together. That can be visually confusing and it doesn't allow the message of the website to unfold gently as the visitor looks around.

What is important as the browser opens is that the visitor is able to see fairly easily, or feel that the site is going to answer their needs. It is an almost instant visual satisfaction.

There are a myriad ways for that idea to be delivered which I won't go into here but it has been partially suggested in our travelling hairdresser example.

The how that happens is what the design is about - the words needed to help express that part of your website form part of your marketing bumph and strategy.

Back to tips as I've just about killed the Marketing part.

Some tips (a few are light hearted but with a serious undertone - please return and read some of the hidden comments for as crass as some of them might be they do illustrate serious points).

Jordan as a Role Model - yep.

When thinking about publicity think about the Jordan's of this world. I'm not suggesting that you go and get your chest inflated or flamboyantly married half a dozen times each year but look at how unrelentingly those sort of people gain publicity.

Love em or hate em, publicity chasing works. All you have to do is to discover how to grab that publicity for yourself. I can't advise on that as it all depends on your business environment, your contacts but most of all, your nerve.

Example Grabbing Publicity. Tanning Studios

I have listened to argument after argument about the perils of using these studios. Ok, during a radio phone in about tanning what if the owner of a tanning studio called and said something like:

Actually, as owner of xxxxx tanning I have to agree with you in part. Over use can be dangerous and we do our best to make sure that our customers follow the safe guide line. Of course we can't stop them from hopping from studio to studio but if we think they look 'well tanned' we would say so. That said, tanning can be perfectly safe - we provide a body spray service which is as good as a natural tan, it is safe and if used once a month it will keep looking natural; our website contains lots of advice on this, maybe I can give your listeners our website address?

Maybe if he can't get on the phone in due to some programme bias or whatever - then he can write into the local rag - say that he wanted to speak but couldn't (?) word a letter well, agree with the negatives but build up the positives to where they should be and include his website address.

If they don't print that then phone a reporter direct to see if he can get them interested or phone the local radio outline his argument and ask for a right of reply. Again he might not get on, but if they keep a website containing details on the issues from past programmes he might get added to that? He might get on another list containing people they can contact for future programmes.

Publicity sought is publicity given, no matter how small it all builds momentum. If you fail or fall at your first few attempts try and learn from it, lick your wounds revise your approach and try again.

Back to the website

1. Consider what makes your business unique - make sure your website text reflects that.

2. Be aware of your competitors and learn from them: see hidden example - an economic truism

hide text How many times do we see a company publicising a new product only to have a competitor jump into the market and 'steal' the sales with far less advertising and therefore costs? The second company stands the chance of reaching 'profit' on that product way before the first company! The first company creates the market, the second adds credence to the market by branding a similar product - often a copy of the first - but the initial 'cold sell' / consumer resistance has already been overcome by the first company and the second company tweaks the sales message (having learnt what didn't work from the first company's ads) and then mops up the sales at far less cost.hide text

Examine the trading style and trading message and stock branding of a successful competitor and see which of their methods might work for you but always think WHY IS MY BUSINESS UNIQUE and if it isn't what can you do to make it appear unique. Maybe you can boast that you have the best range of red shoes in lincolnshire? Oh, red shoes lincolnshire is another search engine phrase!

3. Unashamedly publicise and then publicise some more and when you have done that publicise all over again. see hidden publicising example

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I don't know about you but I hate the fact that modern cooker hobs are so badly designed that pans can easily tip off the front 2 'grids' or the grids do not allow the safe use of small pans.

If that is a truism amongst the cooker trade then the production of a portable grid that can be placed over a grid to extend the prongs to prevent tipping and slipping could be a good idea?

Maybe not a winner in terms of 'turnover' but publicity wise it could well be a winner?

Why?
Safety in the home is an issue, safety within the kitchen is an even bigger issue. Submit a few samples to food magazines, trade magazines and so on and then pester the life out of them until they do a write up. You might even get invited onto local radio or even better onto an evening T.V affairs programme.

You have created publicity and if those inner grids can only be purchased through your website, la, you have potential traffic. All you have to do is keep the ideas flowing. hide text

4. don't pay for a website and then sit back and expect things to happen - it won't.

5. don't believe that your website is the only form of publicity your business needs, it isn't but it can become the key to any campaign which you run and for creating an image of your business.

6. Get out to trade shows, arrange your own shows, donate something to an old people's home making sure of course that the cameras are there and that they also focus on your shoes. (yep we are still selling shoes). Also, don't forget to mention that they can view your online brochure at www.xxx

Note about online brochures: some printed brochures are always necessary as handouts but back those up with an online brochure.
Online brochures are cheaper to produce, can be changed more easily and can contain much more information so potentially they reach a much larger audience and a pdf version can be downloaded too.
Oh, they can be interactive, supplying the visitor with extra information based on their viewing requirements and the text and images can add other search criteria for your site.

7. Back to shoes: get out to parties, wear outlandish but stylish shoes and tell the admirers that they 'are a limited design' and exclusive to your store - even better that they can only be bought online! Here's a discount coupon, get your friends to email me I'll send them a coupon too. Oh, and I'll give you £2.50 account credit for every person you send to the site who buys a pair of shoes. You may well end up with a pair of Homer Choos for free!

You can now start to build up an email register of potential customers.

8. Email adult customers when a new adult range is available
8a. email parents when a new Children's range is available.
See hidden email ideas and please heed the warning about bad email campaigns

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Don't just globally email everyone because you will p*** many off.

Always try to take the time to be selective where you can and unlike most major sites who use email campaigning - DONT OVER SEND THEM.

Periodic is far better in the long term than sending customers emails bi-weekly. Personally I bin all of those often without glancing at them - take note sitepoint and mighty deals - but an email which has been written specific to my needs from a company who doesn't hound me to hell, will get glanced at and if it seems interesting, read.

Consider what annoys you and what pleases you and adapt your email campaign to work that way, after all you are a consumer too and you are also the boss.

You set the tone of the business. A considered approach will certainly take more effort, maybe longer to establish 'reactions' but will result in a more positive response from your audience in the longer term.

Expressed, nay pictured in animal terms - your business could become a person's cat or dog - they love having them around and can't do without them, or using the global bang out email method, your business could become that annoying fly or wasp that just gets in the way of the picnic.

Whatever you feel about email campaigns could you be offended by the following example?

Hi Mandy, those shoes you purchased the other month designed by Homer Choo, great weren't they.

Well, I'm just letting you know that Homer has agreed to create another style for us, vivid red with 3" pointed heels, they promise to be astounding.

They should be with us next month.

There will only be a few pairs made in sizes 3,4,5 and 6, which, if I recall correctly, should be okay for you.

I will email you nearer the date so you can have a sneak preview and if you like what you see you will be able to place an order before someone else gets the chance to.

Bye for now.

The fact that the email could be sent to another 200, or a 1,000 people is totally irrelevant because it is worded 'in a non standard marketing email style' and the recipient has been selectively targeted. It might get a bit awkward reputation wise if a dozen wannabees turn up at the disco wearing the same red shoes .... hey ho as they say.

Due to pressure from shareholders and the need to drive 'revenue' to site companies have forgotten that sales need to be nurtured and helped along and should be as personally tailor as possible - with most email campaigns sales messages are blasted out to us constantly which turns many people off - take note companies - don't ever phone me shortly after you have blasted me with several ill considered emails - I can get angry.

Emails are great if compiled and sent using a considered, constructive and accurately selective approach. Such approach may well create an acceptance of the message far in excessive of the hoped for .03% to 1% maximum that can be expected from global non-personal campaigns.

Nurtured sales customers targeted adroitly using a considered message are more likely to achieve a sale in these times when finances are so tight.

Whatever method you use let it show your customers 'friendly respect' and if you need to build their need for your service or product slowly, so be it, that has to be better than a method that achieves outright rejection.

Good Emails.

I love receiving emails from my garage informing me that my M.O.T is due, what a wonderful act of customer service.

I always go back because they make it so easy for me.

Crikey, in the past they have even collected the car! Same process when a service is due, I love their emails (unless it turns out that the car is sick then its whoa).

By emailing me at the salient a little bit before due diary time they actually make it hard for me to look elsewhere for my M.O.T and it is so easy to say, ok, book me in. If they collect the car too then I don't even have to move from my terminal.

They have suckered me into using them but they provide a good service too so I'm consumer happy.

Would I feel the same if they were hounding me weekly with screen wash offers, or offers for spark plugs which wouldn't fit my car and a 30% off tyres offer received just days after forking out the full price for tyres? For me the answer would be No, No, NO.

Bad Emails

A good campaign ought to consider the recipients 'feelings'. I get hounded to buy a book from sitepoint.com weeks after I had already purchased the book!

That really angers me because their system should connect actual sales with email content, meaning he's bought that, remove him from this campaign.

Including me shows that I am merely a computer digit and that no human or no human logic was involved in the production of that email. I am not impressed and that makes me look more critically at their other services; do I really need these people?

It also shows me that they don't care about their consumers which for me changes our 'relationship'.

Conversely, that incident might have been a blip in their system and corrected now? BUT, the bad taste still remains and it will take a long while to reinstall my confidence in them.

In the meantime if I locate another company supplying a similar product or service I just might switch my allegiance? Consumers have long memories and little patience.

One final horror story that has done the mail campaign tutorial circuits for years. We all believe it to be very true but in its defence it was in the mid 80's when such systems and ideas were new although it's relevance remains true today.

A company employed a team of developers to write them a facility to run mail campaigns based on their subscriptions list.

The company was a high flying magazine selling yachts, St. Tropez apartments, matching sports cars and that sort of thing.

The system was written and tested by the programmers. The company took control of their system and started their first campaign, gleefully sending out thousands of mails world wise to hard won subscribers.

The campaign caused an outrage. Why?

To test the system the programmers had suspended the programme from importing the subscribers name from the database - but not the addresses - and replaced the proper name with a hard coded: Dear Rich Bast*** (it wasn't *** out).

On handover the programmers simply forgot to switch the insert name back on resulting in the every mail addressed as Dear Rich Bast***, bet the postman in Chelsea had a chuckle.

Based on the perceptions of the subscribers I imagine questions might have even been asked in the house! Bless...

By all means ask why no one bothered checking things before they were sent, but these sort of errors are not uncommon particularly if the junior, or your younger sister or your daughter is given the task of putting things into envelopes.

I knew one lass, bless her, who placed every letter of a 5,000 mail shot into the envelopes with the SENDING Company's name showing in the window. All were duly franked, taken to the post office and promptly received back in our offices the next day.

It was the first time in history where a mail shot has received a 100% response, try hiding that mistake hahahahahaha. Be very aware off and very careful using automated mail and email campaigns.
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Back to our list of things to do to drum up publicity for your website.

9. give out business cards and flyers - www address included - good discounts for www customers, even higher discounts for regular www customers. (make sure that the flyers match the quality of your website - so many flyers are produced badly using word or whatever that the finished look and layout can kill the message dead - take the time to learn your software so you can use it well and be honest about the results. If it look 'cheap' and that is not the image you want scrap it and start again or call me on 01472 852037 and let's see what can be done)

10. consider suggesting in the flyer / advert / publicity that new offers are available each month.

11. then make sure that the new monthly offers ARE available and that they are genuine and that suppliers are geared up to supply.

12. Add those offer to your site. Forgot? Go find a web designer who is willing to make 'urgent' same day changes to your site. 01472 852037 :)

13. Pay family members to talk incessantly about your business, in work, in school, down at the nursery, wherever, but get your business name mentioned. Make sure that you pack hubby's lunch box with cupcakes that you bake in your bakery and make sure that he tells people they can be ordered online. (I stopped the shoe analogy here because sending hubby to work in red patent shoes with 6" heels seemed a bit much - or is it?)

14. fire off emails complete with your www address to as many associations, forums as you can find and provide enlightening information. Join trade associations and make sure they list your email address - join some of the more successful local directories. Make people notice that you exist and that you are a business selling unique shoes - or whatever your service is.

15. Think left field, scan personal 'engagement ads' where if you can contact the couples, tell them about your special wedding shoe offer. If they want to mention you in their publicity then arrange a discount for them and their guests. Failing that, grab wedding planners and make your deals.

View a gardening services take on this.

You run a gardening service, you see an ad where someone is seeking a gardener, it might be someone you could add to your customer list?

Call them and introduce yourself and point them toward your well designed gardening services site. Hopefully, immediate objections to your credentials are placated, all that is left is whether they like your approach and can afford you.

Also, if they are impressed, they just might pass your name or site address along to their friends. Sure it might have cost you a few quid to set the site up and say £30 a year to have it hosted BUT, the outlay can pay dividends because in this example it shows that the service is genuine, hopefully reliable and could be just what this customer and their friends are looking for.

Also, consider adding an article or two on gardening - biased toward your service of course (we are happy to help with copy) - and you have increased your sites value and increased search engine returns.

16. Make friends with photographer's get your product used in the photographs with full credits back to your business. Don't be shy, shyness doesn't satisfy hunger or build a business.

17. Is it bad for your business when you get caught out on the town and photographed while drunk and disorderly? Not necessarily, because your comment could be; "yep, as a business owner of Lynns shoe store I should've known better but hey, I've worked so hard to build a wonderful bespoke shoe business that I just had to let off some steam BUT JUST LOOK AT HOW WELL MY SHOES have stood up to all that dancing pressure. They are so comfortable I almost forgot I had them on". The rest is history :)

18. When you have used all those tricks, go back, improve them and then use them all again - maybe not the blind drunk bit.

19. Ask yourself why do certain websites provide useful free information? What is in it for them? Answer - you visit their website. In their case, they might have products for sale or the site contain loads of advertising which the sponsors hope you will view.

20. Can you do something like that? Is there pertinent information which you can supply that will make people visit your site?

Example 1. Maybe provide a write up / a focus on a shoe designer? Then offer a discount on their shoes. Carefully consider that if you think SOME of your customers might enjoy reading the profile that you might email them to say you have added a profile on xxx person. see 2 other hidden examples

Example 2: Maybe you live in a small town, maybe the classified ads within the papers that are printed and edited miles away are rarely pertinent to your town - well consider adding a small ads and news section to the back of your site which is free to local towns people.

Publicise that and of course you are publicising your site too and hopefully encouraging people to visit your site who otherwise might not have done so?

Waffy? only if you want to think so and some local councils employ those ideas to get you to visit their site - oh and while you are here you can pay your rates, thank you.

Example 3. A florist has a simple 2 page site - which is fine - but she adds a third that shows people how to preserve cut flowers and then adds another page that illustrates some simple flower arrangement tricks. Her audience widens.

That sort of things can get you found on searches in ways you never dreamt of.

If the florist points out the tips to her customers - here is my website address, there you will find a few handy tips on cut flower care and arrangements.

Thank you says the customers and toddles off to use the tips to good effect. What then?

Maybe the customer gets praise from her friends for her flower display, and maybe she will spill the beans as to where they were purchased and how she learnt to arrange them. Walla!

Publicity by word of mouth due to a few hours taken to write an interesting site related article. At the very least you will have a customer who will return to you.

Once the site has the instructions installed then the florist could offer to do demonstrations to the local W.I? Then add photo's of that event to the site too - tagging W.I ! opps another search method and more work for the web designer :).

(again adding a simple gallery shouldn't be an expensive job and once it is there adding future images are a breeze.)

Are articles a good idea - I think so, don't you?

In the past I've received a lot of negatives about the article idea.

My point is this, it doesn't matter if they are read, it is the  fact that the time has been taken to provide information. If the article is prominently shown on the site that suggests to the visitor that the 'site' cares about them. A good perception is being created.

Providing soap and towel for your visitors to use provides an assurance of your care and concern. You hope they will use it but it doesn't matter if they don't. (well it does, but!) The perception of care has been created in your visitor.

Above we explored a florists business and possible uses for her website. Display associated stock.

This adds another dimension.

Our florist might not be able to display many vases within her shop plus she doesn't want loads of money tied up in dead stock? Taking the time to work deals with a few suppliers she can show hundreds more online.

Getting suppliers to endorse a site

If her site is well presented, it looks interesting and the suppliers are happy to be associated with it then it will make her task of working deals with them all that much easier.

Linking to other sites

Adding a links to other sites with associated information can raise her sites Google ranking as Google measures links in and out of a site and calculates 'a worthiness' which counts towards - or takes off from if they classify links as spam - a sites ranking status. Good links can also imply knowledge and a consideration towards customers.

Or.... she adds samples of a local potters work to her site, it is relative / related information (Google uses related - relevant links to data in their algorythms) so the combination will work and it is another reason for visitors to pull up her site.

Finally, what use could local wedding planners or wedding caterers make of a chart that is housed on the florists site which shows month by month the top 10 cut flowers usually available? With an update showing current availability and other specials for that month, maybe a pic of example arrangements? and the average flower prices? Oh, and I wonder from whom the planner and caterers might order their flowers? Also, she can link to their sites and they can link to hers.

Having gained information will they then go off and scour the web for flowers? No, not if the florist agrees slightly above wholesale price on the condition that "flowers from XXX" dedication is included in the planners and caterers literature of course! Result. More publicity. (obviously she needs to make sure that the chart is useful and that the caterers and planners know it is there etc).

Also, even if they do not buy from her, if the supplied chart mentions caterers etc, then a casual visitor to the site might construe that she supplies caterers etc and so increase her profile in their eyes.

Personally, I like this florists website, I may well visit it again, but because I like the attitudes of the website I automatically translate that into a good opinion of the business. Just lets hope they are not rude or surly should I call on them in person!

Using the above example we can express it like this: Create a need for people to visit your site and make sure that your site answers their need.

Example: Facebook created a need because people are naturally nosy about other people while enjoying being noticed themselves. The 'created' need became self fuelling. It answered a need while also creating a need in those who didn't recognise they had a need but by joining in they in turn fuelled others to join in to - just in case they were missing something - another need answered. On the back of all that once established Facebook then 'sells' ads space which by using Facebook held information can target users almost on a one to one basis. (yuk! but it worked) Facebook became successful because the founders recognised a need and a trend and then set about exploiting it ruthlessly. If you don't like the word, ruthlessly, change it for completely. However you prefer it expressed, they succeeded. hide text

The key therefore to publicising your site is to work out what needs your business is satisfying, or could satisfy, hone in on it and where you can, match that need to consumer habits. Once you have your 'responders' demographics you can direct your marketing. Admittedly, that is easier said than done. Is it possible? Absolutely, it is done every day by successful businesses.

Beginning to conclude.

Using the broad unqualified statement "it is agreed that everybody needs your product" please go away and work out why they need yours and only yours, then think of all the ways and means by which you can convey your message, then go off and do it.

At the same time pass those words onto your website designer - 01472 852037 - so that he/she can include them within your sites text. The correct text can help drive Google searches and improve rankings - but understand adding "on offer for one week only" is unlikely to achieve anything search wise - for a start Google or other search engines have to pick that up which may not happen in the time span allotted to the offer. For it to work, you need regular visitors or you need to get out the flyers and drive people to your site.

Once you have tried your marketing campaign you can assess the outcome, then shake off any despondency and go off to do it all again, but, having learnt from the first marketing foray you can do it better the second time, then at the third attempt you will do it even better.

Through all these attempts make sure that your website backs up or consolidates or furthers whatever publicity you have created.

If you find that something works for you, consider why it works and then exploit it further. If something doesn't work, no matter how attached you are to an idea, drop it and start again.

Under those circumstances the only failure is refusing to drop an idea that from a business perspective, is a lead brick.

Due to all of your efforts if you can drive traffic to your website and keep visitors returning then the fact that in a Google search your site returns number 1 or number 50 becomes less urgent.

Of course position is still important and ranking will always require attention but it isn't the end of the world if you are ranking lower than you would like. After all, your business is working and it is growing.

The more visitors you can gain and the more informative your site content is and the more businesses who clamber to be 'linked' with you then, so long as your site has been properly designed, both visually and in the background code which search engines utilise, then you have done all you can to to get a good Google ranking.

That is conditional on your site content being up to date, accurate and 'fresh'. But remember, the unique points of your business should always be uppermost in your mind and should lead any campaigns and be reflected within your websites content.

Back to shoes - someone knows there is a business in lincoln selling handmade shoes - so typing leather handmade shoes lincoln into Google may well bring you to the top of the search hits until of course all the shoe businesses in lincoln start to sell leather handmade shoes. Keep an eye on your competitors at all times.

The final bit of our 2 acre renovation project:

Once established - Don't get complacent; once you have created a market, others will try to emulate you and by default, take away your business. (did you read the example explaining that, the example is a business economics truism)

One final point on website information. Ignoring consumers for one moment, the internet is about the exchange of mutually beneficial information. That is the history of the web and the original purpose for it. Businesses have highjacked it. Google and other search engines value information above eCommerce and it is reflected in rankings. A site that offers valued information with links to other sites that compliment and expand on the information are more valued by the search engines and also by many site visitors.

Do not be scared to combine information and commerce together. I'll just say this as a hint, fair trade coffee growers association; many of their associated sites contain blurb on how the coffee is grown along with a facility to buy the coffee. It works for me.

Good luck and of course contact me with questions or comments or better still, donate to me or pass on offers of work.

It's a success, it's running well but what about the future? click to see into the future

Website easily grow with you, adding pages and services as you evolve. But now and again don't forget to freshen the site up and keep the content relevant. 01472 852037.

The Business.

Should you reach the euphoric stage where you employ people, listen to them as new ideas can infuse new directions into the business, but always remember the energy and effort you took to start your business and pass that energy and ideals on to your staff. It is your attitudes and spirit and ethics and ideals that drove your business to succeed and the success of you new staff to. Hopefully the website design and maintenance and related advice played its part as well.

Things that might cause a business to lose direction.

That's it really, I added the following text to annoy accountants a bit partly because I am a Monty Python fan and also because hey, why not, they are fair game and have been the cause of many business successes and failures; the objective for us is to avoid the failures.

Is any of the following relevant to my website business? The answer, is both yes and no.

The following serve to illustrate what can happen when pressure is brought to change something that is successful. If your website works and it is bringing in business then take care over the changes you make, I don't mean necessarily with the website design, I am referring to the integrity of the products or the service provided. You might find the following of passing interest.

If an accountant starts to tell you that you can increase your profit - they all do that at some point - by buying cheaper quality goods or readymade products or whatever; take a step back and pause, the accountant may have ideas, but remember you built the business on the ethics and methods that you devised and employed and it is those ethics and methods that grew the business and created the resultant jobs and not the accountant.

If you sell your message short, then your business will suffer. Put another way, grabbing an extra 3% this year and 3% the next year might lose you much more over the coming years as customers react by not buying from you because you have betrayed the quality ethic that originally grew your business. To my mind that is important - never forget your business roots and always believe in what you know has made your business a success.

Your objective is how to keep your business profitable while retaining your original ethics and ideals.

Sure, changes have to be made, but personally I would look first at the business costs, and at the infrastructure and marketing, then lastly and only if all else fails would I consider altering a successful service or product, unless it is to make it better. I'd rather swop the jaguar car for a skoda than change the integrity of a successful product or service. you can always buy another jag when things pick up.

Going downhill.

How many of us have witnessed a products quality slowly go downhill so much so that we finally lose patience and switch allegiance? And no matter what subsequent campaigns might extol us to do, we rarely switch back unless the alternative product becomes even worse than the original. On the other hand if there are plenty of alternative choices around then a dropped product is rarely picked up again. That can happen with products supplied to you too, so watch the quality and keep an eye on the service.

Why does that happen?

Some causes of lost quality can be attributed to accountants showing how to short term maximise profits. At a particular stage in a products life cycle the producer, in order to extract more profit - or to maintain existing profit levels - modify or change the ingredients or the processes used to manufacture a product. (there are times when a product having contributed well to company profit appears to fail because it is no longer contributing by xxx increasing factors - which a successful product does at the mid term of its life cycle). Companies look always for growth, if a leading product stagnates then ways are considered to bring the product back to adding increased profit to the business. If a market is already saturated or over marketted then sadly, ingredients, or the service will be downgraded in an attempt to increase profit but that is only a short term fix. We all comment from time to time that such and such a product is no longer as good as it was, or it is smaller etc.

Supermarkets.

Incidentally buyers from large supermarket chains also employ methods to increase profit on a product. They calculate profit per square foot of shelving.

If a product sells a good number of units but the profit % is not to their desired average then they might 'offer' the supplier an alternative cheaper ingredients list - yep not only do they do that, they insist the supplier accepts the alternatives.

The supplier to keep selling - they have committed production to the product - impliments the changes - result: sales decline, so the supermarket provide another list of changes, maybe this time to do with packaging, again the supplier 'agrees' the changes and sales dip again.

Having destroyed the integrity of the product the supermarket buyers 'blame the product' for the failure to maximise their profit and toddle off to source another supplier / product.

Sadly that is a frequent occurrence and it serves as a good illustration. If you have a product or service which works be very careful over who you let loose to work on it. Their motives are not your motives and most employees think in the short term.

Back to the board room.

So, as illustrated,tinkering with a product can be a downward slope because what made the product great has been changed.

Those changes can reduce a products sales so to rescue the products contribution to the company's profit percentages, quality is compromised further and the downward spiral continues. Accounts are usually behind these type of suggestions.

Accountants are not really wrong in what they suggest, the company CEO's are wrong by allowing an accountants profit suggestions to override the marketing and sales ideals of the business.

To be fair, CEO's have to answer to the share holders who expect increased profits, not predictable stagnation; (Rowntrees were abandoned by Shareholders when they announced a 3 year freeze on dividend increases was needed in order to modernise the business). Investors want increased returns regardless of how safe and predictable a return on investment a product provides. Ho Hum to investors.

Is any of this relevant to my little website business? that's a good question

I think the principles hidden in the illustrated situations are good for any business no matter how humble it is. Understand what makes your business tick and be careful how you tinker with it or who you let lose to tinker with it and piuck your advise carefully. Always consider motive and effect, but first and foremost, consider your service and your customers and you know those better than anyone.

If part of your service is to wrap goods in pink paper and you become known for that, then don't change the paper to plain brown just to save .5%, but more importantly, don't allow someone else to persuade you to change to brown paper.

Instead, if changes have to be made, look at other areas of your business, can you save on postage costs? Can you cut better deals with suppliers without compromising quality? Maybe introduce a new product which compliments your range but which doesn't come wrapped in pink paper so percentage wise the cost of the pink paper to the overall business reduces.

You could introduce an alternative choice of yellow wrapping which thankfully is cheaper for you but still looks good and maintains your service ideal.

Maybe tighten your belts and accept a few percent less income. That gives you plenty of time to build your business in other ways without alienating those principles that made you a success.

By mouth publicity.

Recall that right at the beginning we explored word of mouth publicity - well of course it can have an adverse affect too. Supply bad products or service and it soon gets around. It is easy to lose good reputations but extremely difficult to shake off bad ones. That is true too of your website. If your website is out of date, or it presents your products poorly or visitors find it hard to navigate and use your site then all your hard fought for and won publicity will have counted for nothing.

Very finally, on the other hand if the steam does run out of your particular market, then of course change direction, but change for the right reason. And don't worry as you will have a huge advantage; your name will be known already, you have funds to explore new ideas, you have fantastic experience and you have found us to build you a new website 01472 852037.

Good luck and of course contact us with questions or comments or better still, donate or pass on offers of work.
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