Indianapolis Web Content Management

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New Blog!

Posted 9:42 PM by
Sometimes you just need to put an old dog down. Check out my new blog on Technology Leadership


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Yellowbook

Posted 4:01 AM by
This past weekend was momentous. It was a fantastic father's day weekend with lakeside and pool side activities all weekend and we received the newest Yellowbook delivered right to our doorstep.

Yellow pages usageOn our way out of the driveway I noticed a yellow bag on our front doorstep. I should have been conditioned to know immediately what it was but we don't have phone service with our local phone company so I was curious why we received one - maybe it was some cool father's day present my wife ordered. Nope, it was definiitely  phone books. And then I sighed. My new yellow pages went straight to the recycle bin and I shed a quick tear for the tree that died to print the book.

Didn't they get my memo? I haven't used the phone book in years. And I'm guessing many others are ditching it as well. In my 20 minutes in the coffee shop this morning, I couldn't find any relevant data for phone book usage this year or even last. One report (from 2008) says that over 95% of homes have a Yellow pages directory and that 77% of US adults say they reference the yellow pages monthly. If by "adult" they mean individuals aged 65 and over then I might believe the numbers.

But I understand. Yellow pages directories sell ad spaced based on distribution, not usage. The actual measurement of usage is some fancy concept left to custom phone numbers and that Internet thingy. Actual usage of the directory is no doubt dwindling, so I guess my question is when will distribution start dropping as well?

In 2001, I paid $144 each month for a small 1inch by 2 inch ad in our local directory. I had to sign a year commitment and in that entire year I received one single phone call that originated from the phone book. And that guy was looking for an Internet service provider - not a web developer. Lesson learned.

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Keeping up with the Joneses

Posted 2:56 AM by

My last blog entry was June 12, 2009 - over nine months ago. Wow! Shame on me because I have a lot to write about and a lot to share.

One of the reasons I haven't written much is because I've planned to change the topic of my blog. I want to move from "Practical Internet Marketing Strategies" to something more general about technology leadership. I want to move towards a blog topic that covers the ups and downs of leading a technology company. Not because I am a phenomenal leader (I have a lot of evidence to the contrary) but because I learn a lot and would love it if others could learn from my mistakes. More about that later....

So, here's my new post about Keeping up with the Joneses. A fantastic spectacle to me is the enormous number of  people staying completely in tune with our new Internet-based social infrastructure. Writing blog entries, tweeting, and posting status updates on Facebook and LinkedIn. They are online nearly 24/7 and always have something to say (some of it is even informative!). These people make me feel tired and weary because by day I manage a software company and by night I have an incredible family with whom I love spending as much time as possible. There's just not enough time in the day, right?

Cheers to those who can do it!  Groundswell - web content management dataAnd then there are the rest of us....

Recently, Josh Bernoff (co-author of Groundswell) posted that only 24% of online users actually create content. I believe this is up from a couple years ago when I read his book (unfortunately, I can't look that up right now because one of my former colleagues, Colin Clark of tribeswell, still has my book). So 1 of every 4 people create content. That means about 75% of us are simply consumers or readers. That makes me feel a little better, I guess. Yet, I still can't get away from the fact that it's been over nine months since my last post.

A lot has happened in those nine months, though. We went from a company who's outlook was somehwat bland to one who has enormous potential and a very solid, admirable customer base. Since then, we've nearly doubled the number of websites using our web content management system, added new product lines and features, and we've drastically improved the way we serve and support all of our customers - all while retaining over 95% customer retention in a crappy economy! Yet, even with all of that I'm sure I could have written more blog posts. I guess sometimes we want to keep up with the Joneses and sometimes we just need to step back and do a little reading and planning. Consider that my last nine months.

Farenheit 451 - technology leadership learningOK, back to the fact that I want to create a new blog about technology leadership and just discuss learning from my mistakes. One of my favorite books, still in my posession and dogeared in just the right places, is Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. There is a scene where the fireman, who no longer puts out fires but burns books instead because they are banned, meets a former librarian. The librarian utters one of my favorite quotes and one by which I live my life every single day:

"Listen. Easy now," said the old man gently. "I know, I know. You're afraid of making mistakes. Don't be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. ...."

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Website Marketing (Part 3 of 3)

Posted 8:54 PM by

Basic website marketing consists of three core parts: visibility, engagement, and conversion.

Today's topic is conversion. Once you get people visiting your site and engaged in your content, your job is to get them to convert. But before we dive in let's define the term conversion as it applies to your website.

Website marketing conversion funnel - MarketpathA conversion is an action a visitor takes within your website that leads to them give you information or money. The action could be:

  • Buying a product or service
  • Downloading a white paper
  • Making a donation
  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Watching a video
  • Reading a case study
  • Playing a game

1) Start with a Goal


The desired minimum outcome of any conversion is grabbing some sort of information from your visitor - a name, email, phone number, geographical area, etc - preferrably information you can use to contact them. The best outcome is your visitors making a purchase, becoming a member, volunteering their time, or some other result that benefits your organization.

You should start with a goal. If the goal is not for the user to purchase something then what information do you want to collect from them? Keep in mind that people shy away from giving personal information so you should collect the absolute minimum you need to satisfy your goal. You cannot expect people to freely provide their information.

The most basic goal is to generate an online sale. If you don't sell directly on your website, though, your goal may be a little less obvious. An example goal is to collect a name and email address and add the visitor to your newsletter. Or perhaps, you want to get a name and phone number for individuals ready to buy. Whatever the goal, be sure to keep it simple.

One other very important consideration - you need to determine how the completion of this goal fits into your sales cycle. Does the visitor become an unqualified lead? A warm lead? An motivated buyer?

2) Give

You can't expect visitors to simply give you information without getting something in return. Unless I am highly motivated, I will not give you my name, phone, address, or email to see a few screenshots of your product. The give needs to equal or exceed the take.

Product sales are easy. You get the visitor's information and money and they get a tangible asset. But if I want to get the visitor's name, email, phone, and address I better be giving them something of significant value, such as a research paper with valuable statistics or a video tutorial on how to solve some challenge.

But here's the problem. Website visitors have an expectation that most information derived from websites should be free. After all, they've been handed free information for a decade and a half. So your offering should have obvious intrinsic value.

3) Keep It Simple, Stupid

Website marketing - conversionK.I.S.S. - this is a phrase from my 11th grade geometry teacher. Not only a very smart woman, she was quite capable of breaking down complex concepts into simple illustrations or equations. Keeping it simple means to make your calls to action simple and obvious. Take this start now button, for example. This would fit very easily on a page that discusses some type of maintenance product or program, such as a lawn care treatment program.

Again, I recommend reading Robert Bly's bookThe Copywriter's Handbook - A Step By Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells. Bly provides a great section on writing headlines and captivating taglines. You could easily apply this to calll to action buttons or links.

4) Measure


Once you have crafted your conversion goals, what you want to get from your visitors, then you'd better be sure to measure the results. For those visitors that convert, where did they come from, what other pages did they look at on your site, and how long were they on the site before they converted? Also check out the bounce rate or the drop off pages (i.e. where are visitors leaving your site). Those areas should lead you to improvements that keep visitors from abandonment.

My most important bit of advice on measurement is to not over analyze the results - at first. If you get 500 visitors each month and two leads, then it probably isn't worth the effort to create a bunch of reports detailing every aspect of their journey. But, if you have 50,000 visitors a month who, on average, visit up to three pages on your site and you only get two conversions, then definitely over analyze what's going on.

Paralysis by analysis is just a matter of perspective.

5) Report

If you have the resources, put together a weekly or monthly report that ties revenue to your website conversions. This may not be easy if you're a small business but if you are able to do this, then you'll have a clearer idea where you should spend your marketing dollars. Also, if you can tie revenue directly to leads originating from the website who then became customers, you will have great ammunition convincing the powers that be to spend more money.

 

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Website Marketing (part 2 of 3) - Engagement

Posted 7:19 PM by

Basic website marketing consists of three core parts: visibility, engagement, and conversion.

Today's topic is engagement. Once you get people visiting your site you need to give them a reason to stick around for a while and come back. You can accomplish this through good content and intuitive usabillity.

Content: Traditional Web Pages

 

Traditional web pages within your site serve several purposes. Here are a few: to deliver information, to tell a story, and to get someone to perform some sort of action (like making a purchase or downloading a white paper). The question you should ask for each page is "What is the goal of this page?" What do you want visitors to do? Do you want them to perform some sort of action? Do you want to build your brand by delivering entertaining or informative content? This is where you start. Figure out the goal of each page and you will have a strong foundation for the page content.

In Garr Reynolds' book, Presentation Zen, he suggests crafting your presentation offline - which means no computer. This gives you more freedom to craft your message and doesn't bind you to the constraints of a computer-based program. So, grab a notepad or find a white board and layout your page based on the goals you defined.

With an outline and plan in place, you can begin writing or hire someone to do the writing for you. As you write, keep your core audience in mind. Should you spend the first third of the page discussing the chemical composition of hydrochloric acid or just get to the point that it is used during the production process of your very sheik PVC furniture? The answer depends on your audience.

I would recommend reading Robert Bly's book called The Copywriter's Handbook - A Step By Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells.  This book contains a great deal of tips and pointers on writing great copy and also includes a lot about persuasive titles and headlines.

Content: Social Media

 
Social media provides many platforms for less formal communications with customers and prospects. Social media, by nature, is .... well ... social. It is a conversation between two or more people. One of the most cost effective tools you can add to your communications and marketing arsenal is a blog. Blogs provide a place for visitors to return again and again as long as you provide content worthy of their return.

Blogs can be used to drive traffic to your website with search optimized keywords and they can be used to build expertise in a specific industry. They can also be used to provide greater visibility into the happenings of your organization. Again, your goals need to be set before starting a blog but once you have one or more in place, have at it! Let your visitors leave comments and be sure to respond to those comments. This creates a two way dialog.

Other social media tools you can use are those that already have mass appeal, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I won't go into any detail how to use these tools but they can provide another mechanism for reaching out and engaging customers and prospects. I would highly recommend reading groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. This will give you a lot of insight into how social media can work for you and in what circumstances you may want to use it.

Social media is simply another way for you to connect to others. It can provide a richer, more meaningful experience for everyone if it is used properly.

Usability

When a visitor lands on your page, the paths they can take should be very clear and intuitive. If a visitor has to work too hard to find what they're looking for, they will most likely leave. Make it easy. People find things when a website has a familiar navigational structure broken down into sensible chunks. 

One of my favorite websites is all about bad websites - Web Pages That Suck. Here's their page on web pages with bad navigation. If you can avoid their list you might be safe.

Adam Brand, VP Creative and Client Services for Marketpath, maintains a blog called Great Website Content: Balancing Form and Function. Adam provides a lot of insight into what makes a great website. Although he doesn't post often, his entries are still worthy of a read.

The Bottom Line

Once you get visitors to your website, you need to provide engaging content that either gets them to do something or keeps them coming back. There are many different ways to do this through good copy and strong usability.

At the end of the day we want commitment and want to ask our customers and prospects "Will you marry me?" Of course, we want them to say "Yes!" So, make it worth their while and engage them.

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