Monday, June 24, 2013

Are Times Harder for Small Business?

When Constant Contact asked small business owners if it was more difficult to run a small business now compared to five years ago 59% said yes. Most cited the economy and keeping up with technology the main challenges that face businesses today.

But online tools were cited as pluses to head off the competition that comes from direct sources as well as big business. The online tools were cited as not only leveling off the playing field between big and small businesses but also were considered more affordable tools to get the word out there to customers than yesterday's marketing sources.

And while more businesses are using email and social media to market to prospective customers, 23% state it's difficult to keep up with technology. These businesses are at risk of losing to the competition. Many of today's customers look to the personal contact that they receive through social media and online marketing. Building those kinds of relationships and being available to customers takes time away from the ordinary day to day business of the swamped small business owner.

That's when a web consultant can step in and manage your online media marketing. Posting on a regular basis to social media, responding to your customers requests and inquiries, and handling newsletter campaigns increases your customer base and sales and costs less than yesterday's marketing initiatives.

And with the new marketing tools 58% of small business owners say that their businesses will be thriving 5 years from now---optimism that can't be beat.

Source: Constant Contact Survey

Monday, June 17, 2013

5 Ways to Annoy your Website Visitors

Have you ever left a site that had exactly what you were searching for but couldn't deal with the website antics themselves? Hopefully a good web consultant will let the customer gently know that certain web design offerings detract from the products and services that the customer wants to get out there. I recently had to complain to Amazon about their website. I couldn't shop their offerings because of distractions in the sidebars. Even the big guys need to focus on the real reason for the website and that is to sell and give information on products, not demonstrating a mastery of web bells and whistles. Here are a few things to avoid when you're looking at web design:

  1. Ads that drop in and around. I recently came on a site that surrounded me with advertisements. The ads dropped down from the top of the screen and surrounded me from the left and right sidebars. The ads then followed me as I scrolled down the screen. I immediately left the site. This website reminded me of those physical stores where you are surrounded by sales people talking in each of your ears only this one has the added component of someone dropping down from the ceiling.
  2. Flashing that doesn't stop. Vegas neon works fine in Vegas but really detracts from a positive web site experience. If you feel that your side bar must flash then include a timer so that the flash doesn't  continue for the entire time that the customer is on your site. Certain people with disabilities are unable to withstand some of the flashing lights. You probably would like these people to be your customers too. Is the Vegas style even appropriate to your services and products?
  3. Music that auto plays---or worse yet auto plays and doesn't have an off option. I've seen sites that offer business products with auto music. Imagine being in a quiet office and the boss asks you to price paper. Would you really spend much time on a site that blares the Rolling Stones at you as you browse?
  4. Drop down menus that don't work. With recent programming enhancements there has been a rash of websites that have lightning fast menus. Barely have you moved your cursor when you find yourself on a new page with little knowledge of how you got there. Web people may find these lightning fast menus efficient with their nimble web ready fingers and super up to date equipment. But most customers don't fall into the web expert category. Solicit feedback from your customers and redesign accordingly.
  5. Those fading fonts. Designs are constantly evolving and one of the trends is toward lighter fonts. Keep in mind that the population is aging. Also remember that there are people out there in your potential customer population that are color blind. Fonts need to be readable by everyone that views your site. Include verbiage so that even the blind can be potential customers.
Your website should reflect what happens in your physical business (or if you had a physical business). You want to greet customers to your site, allow them time to browse, and offer plenty of information to make choices. And don't forget to be there for them when they have questions or want to buy. Just as you wouldn't install a disco ball in your physical store to show off your construction skills, you shouldn't add needless bells and whistles to show off web construction skills. Sometimes less is so much more---more in sales and that is what it is all about.  

What annoys you when browsing?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Search Engine Optimization

Even if you opt to put up a website yourself, you should consider hiring a professional for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is lengthy process that requires constant diligence otherwise you'll soon find your business getting buried in competitors.

The more venues you have up and active on the internet, the more the opportunity to appear on a customer's search,. So take every opportunity that you have available to put your name out there. Take advantage of Facebook postings, Pinterest, Blogs, latch onto Manta, Yellowbook, and other sites in addition to your own website. This allows customers to see your name from these sites.

Unfortunately all this work doesn't guarantee that you'll come out front in the race to the top. Your site map will need to be developed and submitted in the the format that the search engines require (normally XML). Specific product pages for some sites should be submitted separately on an ongoing basis  The net is a constantly moving target and unless you are diligent and have the time you're likely to be reduced to page 2 or 3 of  a search---a less than optimal situation.

There are, of course, many other ways you can get your business name near the top of the search engines. Simply posting your website and other pages and submitting your sitemap won't get your information out to potential customers though. We can help. Contact us.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Need Web Help? Just Ask.

Cole Porter Festival Website designed by Blue Heron Moon Web Consulting
It seems that everyone is struggling to make ends meet these days. And, more than ever before, people are striking out on their own after being unable to find a job in the area.

This has created two types of opportunities---one for people who need to get their name out there so that they can drum up some business, and the other for companies and individuals who need services at the same time they struggle to make ends meet.

If you're considering doing a website or social media on your own but wondering how to fit it into your ever time stressed business, why not consider hiring an independent web consultant?

Joining your customers in the online community can increase your sales in as little as 6 months. Contact us to see just how we can help you attain your online marketing goals.