Category Archives for Growing Business

Bad Website Design – How NOT To Design a Website

I was recently asked by a good friend to evaluate a website. I will not reveal the identity of that website because I have no desire to embarrass anyone. That means that my 'subjective' observations won't mean much (but they are brief), but my objective observations are very easy to understand, The website turned out not to be merely a poor website, but one of the worst aspects of bad website design I have ever had the misfortune to encounter,

When you read this, bear in mind that someone has paid hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars for a website design doesn't work on any level. 

Evaluation Setup

  • Primary Desktop Browser: Chrome
  • Secondary Desktop Browser: Opera
  • Internet Speed: NBN Broadband 32Mbps Download
  • Mobile: iPhone 6 Safari Browser
  • PC Displays: BenqGL2460 24-inch display (big screen) and HP Laptop 16-inch display

Subjective Viewpoints

This is purely a ‘how it looks to me’ viewpoint.

Desktop

The site looks old fashioned and amateurish; there is nothing in the layout to suggest professional design skills have been applied. Colors clash and the most valuable real-estate on the landing page, the upper part, is essentially useless and guaranteed to get people to just scroll past it – it says nothing of value.

Mobile

It seems a bit quicker than desktop to load, but again, the layout is dysfunctional and wastes   space. The text on the slides is unreadable which makes it even worse than the desktop version That’s the subjective viewpoint – let’s move onto objective measurements.

Objective Observations on the Bad Website Design

Speed

On the laptop and desktop, first load into the browser took in excess of 20s. That will simply kill visitors’ interest. The page is very bloated indeed, at 15.8Mbyte. Normal professional practice is around 1MB to 2MB (preferably not near the 2MB mark!).

A site can have a measured long load time of even 6s without upsetting visitors as long as it’s mostly populated inside 2s. This site presents two rotating red dots while loading – not good practice.

The server response time is also poor at 3.8 s – almost 20 times slower than recommended. This may be due to the hosting  facility and/or poor site structure. We don’t recommend (Bad Hosting Company) hosting anyway as we have found support to be poor in general.

Bad Website Design - On Site SEO

There is none. This is very, very important as this is required so that search engines can recognize what the site is about. Here are the key deficiencies:

  • There is no meta description on the page, which is a strong sign of bad website design. This is the ‘snippet’ that search engines pickup to describe your page. Without it, Google just picks a bit of text and uses that.  This is very detrimental to ranking.
  • No highest-level heading tag <h1>. Again, this tells search engines what your site is about at the highest level and it’s simply missing.
  • No Open Graph tags. This means that when your page is shown on sites like LinkedIn, images and text are not what you want them to be.
  • Keywords: There is no particular keyword to tell search engines what your site is focused on. Again, not good for ranking.
  • Images: Apart from the incorrect (very large) size of the images, they have no ‘alt text’ which search engines read to determine what they are about. Again, bad for ranking.

At this point we stopped looking for more html issues.

Site Structure and Usability - More Bad Website Design

Site visitors want to identify what they are looking for and get there with one click.  Take a visitor going to xxxxxx.com who is looking for ‘xxxxxx Refill Services’.

First, he/she sees it on the landing page with an icon, but there is no link except to ‘all our services’.

Further reinforcing the bad website design, under the collection of services icons there is a section of three images with links to other services – this is truly confusing.

Next on the page we see a section with the company’s mission. This is another confusing placement, and an inversion of normal content hierarchy. It sends the visitor scanning the page with uncertainty as to what’s next.

So, let’s assume the somewhat confused visitor is very patient, (which is very unlikely) and now clicks onto the ‘All Our Services’ button – what’s next? – Nothing on the subject matter. Your visitor now definitely leaves.

If the visitor had been looking for ‘xxxxxx Services’, then after clicking the ‘All Our services’ button, he/she does indeed see a description of that service – and another clickable link to another page for the information.

On a score of 1 to 10 on usability we would score this site a 3 at best.

Recommendations to Correct the Bad Website Design

The site needs to be completely redesigned with rationalized and organized content, product/service categorization, proper menus and calls to action, proper keyword selection, and on SEO. Never design a site without on-site SEO - it's just not worth it.

We also suggest changing the host to a more helpful entity which can provide. We have a design process available for the customer to engage with if he/she works with us.

A Bit of Fun - Some REALLY REALLY Bad Website Design

I was looking for a useful external link for this page, and came across a great article with examples of the worst website designs 2020 which you can find here.

From that list here is number one - feel free to laugh at this monstrous example of bad website design at the Yale School of Art. It's beyond bad - would you send your child there to learn anything at all?

Offer: Evaluation of Website Design

Would you like an honest evaluation of your business website free?  We'll do it free for the first five applicants each month.  Call us!

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Sydney Business Web – Finalists in the Bx Business Excellence Awards

We are honored and delighted to be finalists in the Bx Annual Business Awards - Marketing.

Thanks for the votes and consideration to everyone concerned. We are absolutely over the Moon with this. Congratulations to all the other entrants and finalists.

The awards will be made at a ceremony  in December.

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Small Business and Cold Calling – Some Cold Facts

cold calling

Cold Calling - Should We Be So Dismissive?

Cold Calling - Most of us hate Cold Calls - Should We?

Last week, I decided to place my finger on the pulse of small business by doing some cold calling. I'm an engineer and manager by profession and inclination, so I always find cold calling hard on my psyche. I always get through it though by using the following rules:

Rules for Cold Calling

  1. 1
    Always make sure to have a specific offer for a specific client type - never, ever call anyone blindly.
  2. 2
    Be brief, professional and to the point
  3. 3
    Research each lead so that you are familiar with the nature of the business and why it needs what you offer
  4. 4
    Always be polite and respectful
  5. 5
    Always be crystal clear - rehearse your call until a friend or colleague tells you it's good to go
  6. 6
    If you irritate someone - apologize sincerely and sign off. Never call that business again. 

My Cold Calling Preparation for Hairdressers

Choosing the niche for cold calls

I decided that instead of my usual customer base of professionals (builders, architects, tech companies etc), I would focus on one type of local business. To that end I chose hairdressers because they are often passionate about their business,  have a very localised operation and competition can be tough.

Choosing the Offer

We have currently offered a one-off set of 24 unique, custom built websites with hosting for a year, SSl and 4 pages all included. We will also install Google Maps, contact forms etc.  We think that this is  a great deal.

Choosing the subniche for cold calls

Clearly, we need not to call hairdressers who already have good web presence and websites - that's just being an unwanted pest. So we decided to call only hairdressers who have no website at all. We found 25 such businesses, all represented on GMB - Google My Business.

Getting the Business Information before cold calling

Before making each call, we extracted information from GMB - the address, the owner's name if possible, the number of reviews and star review rating, and how long ago the last review was made. Here's a typical display I work from (click for full size):

Cold Calling gmb business check

Cold Calling GMB Check Data

Warning for Wannabe Reluctant Cold Callers

Set yourself a time frame to make your calls. Like you, I find it daunting and my brain is enormously creative in the ways it gets me to delay starting - there's always yet another technical task to complete or some aspect of preparation not ready nand suddenly - 'I'll do it tomorrow'! remember - procrastination is the thief of opportunity.

Why We Hate Receiving Cold Calls

The fact is, we hate cold calls because the majority of them are concerned with something we never wanted, don't want and will never want. For instance, we are a reputable and experienced SEO provider and yet we get at least 6 calls and two dozen emails every week selling us services we sell ourselves- irritating.  That's why we do research before calling anyone!

The Cold Calling Scam Alert Radar

We remain receptive to calls offering things that might really be useful for our business - but because our scam-radars are always on high alert, whoever calls needs to be crisp, professional and fast to get back our automated response 'go away' (politely). The fate of a call to us or a call we make to someone else is decided inside two seconds.

Our Findings on a Sample set of  25 Cold Calls to Hairdressing Businesses

  • 25% of the business listed without websites had gone out of business (!!)
  • The mere mention of 'Website' or 'SEO' was toxic and caused very pleasant people to get rid of the phone as though it burned! 
  • Five percent of businesses told us they were 'very busy' and would never need online help

So - we weren't able to find any business on that round of cold calling, but having said that:

  • Normal success rates for cold calling activities are 1% to 2.5% so on a sample of 25 we were not likely to find any business
  • All the people were polite and open to talking until we mentioned the dread word 'website'
  • We had not pre-warmed these leads in any way - more on that later.

This quotation really says it all: 

"“Doing cold calls is like taking your suitcase and going door to door trying to sell something. There’s always someone crazy enough to buy, but most of the doors are not opened” - Leadfeeder

So Why did I make Those Cold Calls?

That's easy to answer. I wanted to get a feel for some local businesses that have definitely suffered through Covid, to see what their awareness of online business was. I did not expect much but  did convey my excitement at the offer I was making and how much they might benefit. The calls kept me in touch.

Will I be Making More Cold Calls?

Yes, but only about ten per day or 200 per month in various industries. That should give me two convertible leads per month from cold calling. It take a little time to prepare for each call, so as a main method of marketing, in the sector we are in, it's not the best investment in time.

Why Should I Tolerate Cold Calls at All?

Because a small percentage of those calls might be really useful for you and the people making the calls are also just trying, like you, to make a living.  Believe me, for some unknown reason that defies logic, it takes a deep breath and some courage for most people to pick up that phone and start calling. At least show a little kindness- and I am pleased to say that most people do.

I sincerely believe that the fact that 25% of the businesses we called were no longer operating had no website or SEO - they could have been helped at a very modest cost. This applies to many businesses.

Putting Cold Calling in Context

Cold calling is said to be 'dead' by many, but that really depends how you look on it. In many of our marketing activities, we use email and monitor the link clicks, which are often a good indication of interest - and only then do we cold call, so the lead may be said to be warm rather than cold.

The amount if time it takes to prepare properly for cold calling can be restrictive, and the more effort it takes, the bigger the psychological toll is taken when the methods fail. However, cold calling instills a sense of reality in the marketer, an experience that cannot be obtained from the detached process of emailing. As such, it's a very important training tool when it comes to understanding customers and the market.

The Toxic marketplace for Cold Calling

If you are going to try cold calling for your business (and we recommend you do for the reasons given above), then do see if you can construct a narrative avoiding toxic words and modes of expression. 

Final Words

All we can say is - good luck and God Bless!

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Email Marketing – Is it suitable for your business?

Email Marketing: In one guise or another, we've been in business a long time, and we're pretty damn sensitive to how people feel when they receive unsolicited calls and emails. In our current business, the problem is acute. Just about every business owner in Australia, including us of course, receives a torrent of unsolicited, time-wasting, low quality offers of websites and SEO' every single day.

We really do know how you feel about this. We try hard - really hard - to be polite to the people who call us as we're having dinner and ask us yet again '...am I talking to the owner of "Sydney Business Web ?" Would you like to be on first page of Google?" (sic). 

We try hard because we know that the poor sod on the other end of the line is just trying to make a living, as we are ourselves. However, as a justified exception, when we receive scam calls, we have endless fun asking "where's my free toaster?" and "do you realize you are speaking to a police officer?"! But that's a different although very funny story (we love winding up scammers!).

Why do People Use Email Marketing?

Like me, you probably go through your email pile every morning and delete everything you don't recognize, unless it has a really striking headline relevant to you and your industry  (and even  then it almost always disappoints you anyway). You also delete everything with a heading like 'SEO proposal', 'Pay for results only', page 1 of Google', and 'free webinar will make you millions'! I can't even write these things without laughing.

So why do people do it? Why oh why oh why? Well here's the thing:

The Upside of e Email Marketing

  • On average, across all industries, marketing emails have an open rate of 16% and a click-through rate of  7% (You can verify these numbers here. So if you send out ten thousand emails, you are going, on average, to get seven hundred sets of eyeballs on your offer. At a conversion rate of only two percent, that means 14 sales. if you are selling high value items at  $1000 each, then this is a money-making strategy. Obviously the numbers differ for low value items. And if you are a clever marketer, targeting customers who might really need your product with a genuinely great offer, the conversion will be far higher - maybe as high as 7%. 
  • Email marketing is cheap. A SMTP (don't worry about that if you don't know what it is  - it's geekspeak) account can give you up to three hundred free emails a day (we're thinking of our own new account with Sendinblue). Of course, you need to set everything up and may need some help with that.
  • A good SMTP account allows you to use mailing lists, add to them automatically, track clicks and upsell and resell. It's a very useful tool for business! 
  • It's not as brutal on the marketer as cold calling
  • SMTP accounts can be linked securely to your own email addresses and to many superb marketing tools such as competition platforms, lead generation platforms and more. The graphical and tracking facilities are not something you want to reinvent!
email marketing

New Email Marketing Panel on Sendinblue

The image above of a Email Marketing  Stats Panel at Sendinblue (click for full size) shows:

  • Contact ID Details
  • Email Open Rate %
  • Email Click Rate %
  • Unsubscribe Rate % (ALL marketing Emails must have this option)
  • Complaints
  • Bounce rate (emails that do no longer exist usually)
  • Date of Email sending

You will no doubt have noticed the SMS facility in that image, but as we haven't used SMS for marketing (yet?) we offer no comment. 

The Downside of eMail Marketing

Email marketers use SMTP email integration ( and other geeky methods) with providers such as Sendinblue and MailChimp because they need website infrastructure that's  set up to send thousands of emails a day, and they need the additional features for list management, sending downloads for newsletters etc. 

It's also safer to work through an SMTP platform than through your own domain, because mass email always runs the risk of getting your IP blacklisted - and suddenly none of your business emails are being delivered because the Spambots are blocking them.  Getting your business IP off a blacklist can take days or weeks, which can obviously damage your business and brand. 

If you get your email provider's IP (web address) blacklisted with your low quality emails they will often shut down your account after a couple of warnings. But they can see it coming - they count the number of rejected emails, bounced emails, complaints and unsubscribes and their tolerance levels are very, very low and they all keep a constant measure of your 'reputation' that you must act on.

Which Businesses Should Use eMail Marketing?

The answer to this is any and every company. As proof of this, 

business types for email marketing

Businesses Using eMail Marketing: Data available at Smartinsights.com

Conclusions and Remarks

if your business is not using eMail marketing, you are almost certainly losing out. However, you will need to identify your customers and not blindly spam every address you can find. You need an ethical code of conduct, genuinely good offers and a tight control over the whole process.

Your spam complaints need to be kept to less than 0.5% and you must never contact those customers again, or the ones who unsubscribe. Your follow-through must be immaculate and your website must have a well designed sales funnel.

This has been a very, very light overview or Email marketing and we will provide a much more in-depth viewpoint when we have time. Hope this gave you a little insight. We have more articles on online marketing for you to explore. Happy Selling!

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Website Chatbot – Does Your Business Website Need One?

What Happens on Your Business Website Moment to Moment? - Does  Website Chatbot Help?

The first thing we are going to say here is that...

There is no substitute for website speed and organization - which provide a great user experience. 

if  visitors can find what they need on your website within a few seconds and with minimal clicks, then you probably don't need a website chatbot. But how many business websites satisfy those criteria?  When visitors don't find what they need - fast - they simply leave.

Fix Your Business website Speed and before even thinking about a Business Website Chatbot

If your website takes longer than a handful of seconds to visibly load, then don't even think about fancy enhancements like website chatbots - fix your business website first. if it takes your visitor more than two clicks to find what he/she is looking for on your website - again, forget the enhancements - fix your business website first.

What Do Customers Need on Business Websites?

Requirement

Solution

Eye-Magnets that get customers to the information they need

Purposeful, eye-catching  visuals with links to content

Fast access to information

1) Website speed, speed and more speed.

2) Professional topology design - never more than 2 clicks to get to what you need

Information not on the website

Chat line (live) or Business Website ChatBot, contact button with form or email link - EASY to see.

Quotations / Estimated costs

Ticky-box form with price calculator; 'request quite' button, or Business Website Chatbot to leave email or phone.

So Why Use a Business Website Chatbot?

Because many people who visit a website don't even want to click once - they want to talk to someone or even something NOW! A business website chatbot can fulfill that need if designed well. Furthermore, a good business website chatbot will be based on AI (artificial intelligence) and will learn and develop more natural dialogue as it is trained by the data generated by customer interaction.

Consumers undoubtedly prefer talking to real people, but when you are not available, a business website  chatbot is a pretty good substitute and it will improve your conversion of visitor to buyer. In other words, it fills a niche on your business website and as such it can be very useful indeed.

"The companies that have failed to integrate chatbots into their business could be missing out on not only pleasing their customers but also growing their sales. By 2023, chatbots are expected to drive more than $100 billion in sales, according to an estimate from Juniper Research. - Mobilemarketer

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Why a Business Website Specification is Vital

Always have a business website specification before work begins

Business Website Specification: This brief post should bring vast amusement to experienced website developers and business owners and managers. We've all been there - right? Well, almost all. A customer wants a website. As he discusses it with his/her developer, a wealth of hitherto unknown requirements and capabilities are exchanged, and notes are made.

More importantly though, an even bigger volume of business needs are simply not raised because the customer has not yet formulated and expressed his/her ideas. 

At this point, the website developer thinks he understands the customer and proceeds with the design. he/she may even include a couple of prototypes for the customer to choose from, and that helps a bit but not a lot for a complex business website -there's more to online business than looking good.

What is a Business Website Specification?

A Business Website Specification is a document agreed and signed off by the developer and the customer as the description of:

a) How the business website will look
  •  Colors: Corporate colors should complement logo
  • Layout: An example website may be used as an approximate guide
  • Images: quantity per page, supplier, customer supplied
  • Menus
  • Header content 
  • Footer content
  • Product images, price presentation, shipping methods and interfaces
  • Social media links
  • Blog options
  • Sidebar content
  • Galleries and sliders
  • Mobile specific changes e.g. omit some large items
  • Additional customer requirements
  • Special content sections - concertinas, sliders, delayed content and whatever the developer may offer or the customer requests.
  • Fonts


b) Business Website Pages
  •  Topic specific pages 
  • Page content (user content or commissioned content)
  • Page images
  • Page internal links to other pages and posts for SEO purposes
  • Page external links for SEO purposes
  • Additional customer requirements
  • Blog requirement - categories and display


c) Business Website Functions (User Business Website Specifications)
  • Shop functions - payments, similar products display
  • Contact forms and contact methods
  • Clickable links to other pages and other sites
  • Popups for email capture 
  • Popups for brochure and data sheet downloads - where and when these popups happen and how they look
  • Clickable contact links
  • Voice search options
  • Document download functions
  • Event Calendars
  • Appointments systems
  • Document uploads
  • Competitions


d) Hidden Website Functions (Technical Business Website Specifications)
  • Fast Caching options 
  • Image optimization
  • Security Options including SSL certificate
  • Google Pixel
  • Facebook Pixel
  • Other pixels


e) Onsite SEO
  • Meta data options for posts and pages  (snippets) and products
  • keyword optimization for content
  • Local or national business structure
  • Name Address Phone options for business structure
f) Training and Documentation and Support
  • User manual contents
  • Training hours
  • Warranties
  • Support contract.
f) Off Site Services and  Products that every website needs in some measure
  • Hosting - the host is where your website exists
  • Domain - your website domain is where it all begins
  • SEO - if you need your business website to rank on Google - you need SEO - links, guest posts, press releases and much more. Caveat Emptor! This is a field replete with scams so be really careful.
  • High quality Images
  • Social media pages and servicing
  • Social media advertising
  • YouTube Channel
  • Google my business page

At first, this looks like a lot to some customers who 'just want a website'!  But that's the problem, even a relatively simple business website is ultimately complex beneath its surface. Color is important, correctly placed buttons are important, content is important,  good servers are important, website speed is important, meta data is important - and so on. 

Clearly, a simple two page website is nothing like as complicated, but a business website can be very complex and without a business website specification the job will sometimes be half done to the client and completed in the eyes of the developer - "another 45 products? -  a popup to capture emails? - a maintenance manual? -  an email reminder for abandoned carts? - GST? Shipping system? logo? - the list of what can be overlooked is endless. 

Designer Reticence 

One of the problems in this field is designer reticence to specify a website properly. Many want to use cookie-cutters to keep costs down and others just assume they know what the customer wants. these are avoidable problems.

Customer Reticence

The owners owners and managers of medium to large sized businesses are most often the most informed and easiest to negotiate with. They understand that more functions cost more money and will pay for competent business website specifications, competent project management and a high quality end product.

Start-ups and solopreneurs often need a good deal of convincing that the website they need will cost a lot more than they imagined. Then, a small, hungry agency that needs the business sometimes makes a dreadful error and promises a website that cannot be delivered for the money available - and spends weeks developing and losing heart, developing and losing heart, killing his/her own business in the process. 

Over-Promising

This is a serious problem when it occurs.  On occasion,  due to a lack of a business website development specification, the developer promises to deliver something which  he / she (and sometimes no one else) cannot deliver! The descriptions are vague and and the implementation is difficult or not realizable.

One example of this might be an interface to a diamond supplier. There is software available to implement this, but it is complex and beyond the scope of what many designers feel comfortable with. A business website specification is essential.

How do I Simplify a Business Website Specification?

If you are a customer, you simply make a detailed list of all your requirements, get some example websites and then discuss it with the developer. It is up to the developer to offer you more options and write the specification which you both sign off at the agreed price. 

To Help You to Prepare

We prepared a downloadable document, '16 Questions to Ask a Web Designer'. You are free to download and use.

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Google Featured Snippets

Google Featured Snippet

What Are Featured Snippets?

Google Featured Snippets - we noticed ours for the first time today and obviously, we're delighted. The image above shows our snippet, the result of a Google search for 'Business websites Sydney', which is what we've optimized our website for. But what is a Google Featured Snippet and how did we get it?

"Featured snippets are selected search results that are featured on top of Google's organic results below the ads in a box.
Featured snippets aim at answering the user's question right away (hence their other well-known name, "answer boxes"). Being featured means getting additional brand exposure in search results." - quoted from MOZ

Do Featured Snippets Help Business?

Yes. Featured pages have a far higher click-through rate than unfeatured pages. According to research by Search Engine Land, featured snippets get 8% of all clicks for the search term in question - and that can be a lot of business.

How do I get  Featured Snippets for my Business Website?

  1. Have some results in Google's top 10 i.e. page one.  This seems to be the first filter.
  2. Make sure you website is free of penalties, has unique, high quality content and is properly structured for SEO internally. This means consistent and correct use of meta data - meta descriptions, titles, headings, and alt text, titles and captions on images. Be Meticulous!
  3. If appropriate, use question and answer formats on your target pages. 

The whole purpose of Google Featured Snippets is to provide searchers with fast, simplified and clear answers to queries - so make sure your target page is fast, to the point, properly structured and ranking somewhere on page 1.

How Does Google Read The Data for the Featured Snippet?

I must admit that this surprised us a bit! The data you see in our Google Featured Snippet is from two three separate sources on the landing page of our website:

  1. The page meta description (snippet)
  2. The new slider we'd placed on the page just a  few days ago (our slides of business websites we have completed)
  3. A Bordered block of text and images below the slider (the photo of me)

This is one of those cases that a slider really benefited us in more ways than one!

Wishing you well in the online wars for business!

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What Does a Small Business Need Most – Business Development or Just Plain Selling?

business development

What Does a Small Business Need Most – Business Development or Just Plain Selling?

During my years in the corporate world, I witnessed significant misuse of the term ‘business development’ and of the people who carried the title associated with this activity – business development manager.  I really thought I knew my way around such corporate-speak terms and to an extent, I suppose I did, but when I entered the world of small business on my own, my understanding changed quite radically.

The lessons I have leaned these past few years have had a profound effect of my understanding of business and business processes. In this post I’m going to focus on Business Development vs Sales.

Starting a Business and Needing Leads

Unless you are positioned to receive leads from your previous employer’s, then no matter how needed and how good your offering is, no matter how well you have differentiated your products and services, the most critical task you face is acquiring  customers. Once you have an established customer base, opportunities multiply, but until then, you NEED SALES ABOVE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT.

Many of you may disagree with me, but I speak now as the owner operator of a small business, where gaining a sale this month means paying the rent this month! All start-ups and young business go through this phase unless they are prepared to experiment and use up the founders’ savings (which we know all about!).

Sales is not synonymous with Business Development

When we started our business, we did appreciate this, but we made mistakes anyway. Our plan was to pay for leads and win work to cover current costs while we were busy with business development by spreading the good news about our products and services online. And here’s the problem:

Paying for leads in some businesses is the fast road to hell!

Here’s why:

1. Paying for leads to survive becomes a major preoccupation because you write a quotation for every lead which takes a lot of time. So, business development comes to a grinding halt.

2. On websites where you pay for leads, many, if not most the leads come from people with little intent of buying (from anyone) – they are tyre-kickers.

3. On websites where you pay for leads, almost all of the customers are looking for the lowest prices and so even when you spend a great deal of time analyzing their business needs and presenting a professional quotation, they go straight to the bottom line and your effort is wasted. There are strategies for dealing with this, such as including options that only add to the visible cost when ticked, but for generally low value clients, this is simply a waste of time.

We did acquire one very valuable long-term industrial customer over 12 months during which we paid for approximately 100 leads. We also acquired a few more companies and charities who we love working with and who have provided some referrals. But as an overall exercise, the whole period can be written off as a 95% waste. Which brings me to my next point:

It all Depends on what type of Business You Are

At Sydney Business Web, our products and services are for the long term and require close cooperation with our customer. For instance, when we provide SEO services (just one of our offerings) we do an analysis of the competition that our customer’s business faces, how strong or weak its on-site SEO is and where the company needs to grow.

This is complex, but we are well equipped to deal with it both by experience and academic qualification. We don’t sell these solutions to companies that require a $250 miracle’ – and that pretty well describes many of the customers we’ve encountered on paid leads site.  But that doesn’t mean that paid leads are useless for every business or that evrything should stop whie you pursue your business development program.

Companies That Can and Should Use Paid Leads

There are many businesses that are needed by customers in a hurry. For example:

  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Glaziers
  • Locksmiths
  • Gas fitters

These businesses have common factors:

  • To be found on the web at all, they need to rank very high for their category, or they need continuous expensive advertising online.
  • Once they are found, they must be extremely fast and easy to contact
  • The work is short term and often there is no repeat business unless the business manages itself online extremely well and stays in touch with customers throughout the year,
  • To some extent, urgency can overcome price sensitivity
  • The intent to purchase for most searches on the web is very high – often, people don’t search for a domestic electrician unless they need one now.
  • The work is generally B2C rather than B2B.

This is quite different for an architect or a web designer, as should be apparent because these companies simply cannot rely on price-driven short term leads - their business development program and networking should not be delayed for short-term gain. 

What Paid Leads Offer – and what they really do

The company we contracted with presented us with leads that we were promised only went out to five companies.  In practice, we were told by several persons that as soon as they pressed the ‘Go button’, their phone rang and rang and rang! We leave you to draw your own conclusions!

The next problem was that every single lead that popped up on or phone for work in Sydney was simply gone before we could press the response on our phone. This caused endless frustration. When we complained about this, we were offered ‘auto-submit’ on some quotes but then found that the quotes submitted for us were generally for jobs that no one else wanted.

Shortly after that, we abandoned ship and terminated the service – almost a year after we should have done. Mea culpa! Now we are undertaking a focused business wevelopment programn in the manner we should have from the beginning – building relationships and providing value continuously to our customers and contacts. This was an expensive lesson for us. As an aside, here are some notes on the services we have used We won’t name them, but if anyone needs to know confidentially, we will assist – just call or email us.

Paid Listing Services – what they offer and what they really do

When a company is not ranking on Google and needs orders fast, a listing site can fill the gap for a while. Thus, when someone types in ‘builder Caringbah’ it’s possible for your company to rank on a listing site that is highly ranked.

The trouble is that most listing sites, even the best-known ones are just not trusted, and people skip over them. These sites tend to be general purpose listing sites that accommodate everything from architects to zoologists. We’ve broken that pattern with this and set up a new geo-referenced site for the building and  trades industry only.

We did this because we found that despite a professionally designed placement and high ranking on Google, we did not gain even one inquiry in six months from our listing.

Part of the problem for local business is that when somebody searches for a ‘plumber near me’ – they want a result now – not the privilege of reading a list of local providers (to an extent).

Other Solutions to the Ranking Problem

We have analyzed a good deal of data and found that local businesses with related activities are missing out greatly through lack of interconnection. For instance, if a customer needs a plumber, finds a plumber’s website and also needs a local electrician, why can these two businesses not cooperate and make each other visible on each other’s sites? Why can local builders not have a contact forum where they can speak with local architects where they can exchange project information? The answer is – they can – and we have made that possible.

Conclusions on Business Development vs Paid Leads

1. If your business needs business development because your products and services are designed for long-term relationships then paid leads will mainly waste your time.

2. If your business is for urgently needed services, and you are not ranked on Google, then test a paid lead service for a month. If the return is not worthwhile, dump it. Even if the cash ROI is positive, ask yourself how much time you are spending on quotes for ‘tyre kickers.’

3. In our experience, paid listings on general purpose listing sites do not work, at least for businesses such as ours. Others may differ and I am extremely interested to hear your experiences and opinions.

4. Ranking high on search engines, and particularly on google must be a business priority – control your own fate.

5. Don’t sacrifice business development for lead-chasing. Business development will bring you a sale pipeline that is at least partly self-filling, whereas paid leads will eat your time and slow down the growth of your business.

Warning:  This article describes our experience and opinions honestly and openly. Nevertheless, other equally honest and experienced people will doubtless disagree with us in some ways.  So don't take this article as advice - Please consult a range of opinions before acting on any of our statements and do the best job you can of deciding which solutions are best for your business. If you would like to ask us questions, please start the discussion on Linkedin or Facebook. We welcome all your inputs.

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Creating New Opportunities for all Companies in the Building and Trades Industries

Building industry opportunities

Huge Opportunities in The Not – So Connected Building Industry

Companies in the building industry are not exploiting the vast potential of audience sharing and intelligence exchange. This represents a huge opportunity for local companies across Australia in the building, support and renovations arena. Whether you are a builder, electrician, plumber or carpenter, a landscaper, interior designer, insurer or any other part of the building industry, this opportunity is for you.

Building Projects: Become the Next Link in the Chain of Business

One example of what we mean: When a builder finds a new project, that’s just a link in the chain. Within the project, there may be a need for project electricians; when electricians are hired, there may still be a need for plumbers – and have landscapers even been approached yet? Every small and medium company misses out on work through not being interconnected and visible to other industry companies – being the next link in the chain.  By the time they find out about these opportunities - if they ever find out - they have already been taken. Being connected is of the essence today.

This is true of larger projects, but it is also acutely true of micro-projects, where customers land on a supplier’s website and still need other suppliers.  For instance, a customer who finds a plumber’s website might need an electrician – and visa versa. A customer who finds a builder’s website might need an interior decorator. The opportunity for local businesses to help each other is vast.

Interconnections in the Building Industry

Exploiting Online Opportunity in the Building Industry 

A) Building Industry Grapevine Interconnections

What we need to do, as a start, is to connect industry players directly for discussion, and information exchange on an ‘industry dedicated grapevine’ platform.  We have created that platform already. As the platform grows, we will add additional functions and facilities using your feedback.

That platform is Building Leads Sydney and it is free to join and list your company. It offers the following:

  • Unique and exclusive to the Australian building industry – all involved companies and entities
  • Comprehensive company listing
  • Discussion forums private and public
  • Discussions on a topic by topic basis
  • Job and project postings
  • Amplifies your online presence with an attractive, searchable B2C platform
  • Connects you to companies right across the industry
  • Acts as an effective industry grapevine

That's one form of industry interconnection, and we hope you use it and win work through it. But the next method we advocate and provide for will usually give faster results for smaller companies - that's our Banner Exchange Project.

B) The Building Industry and Trades Banner Exchange Project

Our Banner Exchange Program facilitates direct interconnection between ‘partner companies’, bringing you leads from other companies in the building industry that are not in competition with your company.  Sydney Business Web is adding companies to its database for this project.

Building industry trades interconnections

Every building industry company on our database will have access to a range of local companies they can ‘partner’ with directly and gain access to each other’s web traffic through our Website Banner Exchange. We will negotiate with whichever company you want to partner with, and strictly limit the mutual partnerships so that you always benefit from uniqueness. This of course means that every single partnership possibility is unique, valuable, and exclusive.

So when a customer finds an electrcian, they can also find a plumber and a landscaper - without going back to the search engine. This is a very powerfulway for compamies in the building industry to leverage their web presence and win more business. 

This is what we offer your company:

  • Negotiate your banner space on your chosen partner company website
  • Design your banner around your company logo
  • Negotiate your partner company’s banner space on your website
  • Add the banners to each website as agreed with links to each other’s site.

FAQ

1. What if my business doesn’t have a website?

Talk to us – our website division are specialists in designing high conversion websites – Sydney Business Web

2. Can you place banners on all types of website?

We work with almost all website types. We’ll consider every site on its own merits. If you are not sure, contact our website division admin@sydneybusinessweb.com.au and we’ll get right back to you.

What does the Listing on Building Leads cost?

The listing is free.

What will the Building Industry Banner Exchange Program cost?

  • Banner design $75 up-front
  • Negotiation and agreement with partner company: $75 one-off. This fee is paid once only so if your preferred company does not want to exchange banners with you, there will be no further fee for further negotiation with other companies you like.
  • Banner placement on your chosen partner site: $120 one-off. The banner is linked to your website.

What else can you help my company with?

We offer:

  • Targeted, organic traffic generation with SEO
  • Logo design by an award-winning artist
  • Conversion optimized professional websites and eCommerce websites
  • Social media strategies.
  • Website traffic analysis

We're all about winning business oin the building industry and trades. We work on customer flow from acquisition through to conversion – on and off site. Whether you need to connect to your industry and/or to end users/customers, which is what this article is about, or you are connected but people are not acting on your website – we can help professionally, starting with a free assessment.


About the Author

Keith Rowley, the joint owner of Sydney Business Web and Building Leads Sydney,  is a business manager and systems engineer. He holds advanced degrees in business and engineering from Bond Australia and the UCL in the UK respectively. He has 30 years managerial and executive experience and started Sydney Business Web to help local companies succeed online.


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Original Art for Your Website and Business Adds Value and Style

Art for Websites and Business Premises

Original Art: Google Search results for "Artist Hettie Rowley"

Are You Serious About Your Company's Identity? Do You Need Original Art?

Whether or not your company and website will benefit from original art is a matter of identity.  if you are a drop-shipper selling cheap knick-knacks, then this will not help you. 

But what if you are a furniture seller, an interior designer, a proud company with a board room visited by senior clients and consultants? That's a different story - original art can make a real difference.

What if you are a family firm, proud of your history and your founders, and the ethos with which you do business? That's also a different story.

What if you are a restaurant that aspires to creating genuine and unique ambiance? That's a another different story.

Get the idea?

If you Want Your Business to Have a Unique Identity, Use Original Art

When you enter a restaurant, or a boardroom or a website or a hotel, or a car showroom or any other business, you look around! What you see around you makes an immediate and indelible impression and with original art, than can be an impression that captures customers.

  • Cheap artwork looks cheap and makes you look cheap
  • Computer artwork looks synthetic - cheap plastic goods
  • Stock images make you look like a used car salesman of the worst type
  • Real artwork stands out and gives your company the imprimatur of integrity and success - especially if it's by a bona- fide award winning artist,

It's Not Just About Original Art and Snobbery - It's About Identity

it's very common these days to hear such things as "yes, I can get something like that from China" or "I want the cheapest". That might be fine for buying a plastic cutlery set, but it really won't do your business any good! 

Art can be a significant contributor to creating a solid company identity. You can use it on your website to great effect, on your printed materiel and brochures, on your videos and social media

Beautiful Original Art in the workplace benefits your staff and business 

"...reduce stress at the office, increase creativity and productivity, enhance employee morale, broaden appreciation of diversity, and encourage open dialogue? Art in the workplace promotes all these fundamental needs -- and even more -- for any successful business." Bizjournals

The Role of Your logo in Corporate Identity

Your business' logo design is also a piece of original art on which you should not skimp. You don't need to spend thousands, but you do need an original art logo that says to the website visitor - 'This is us and we're unique. Your  logo should be congruous with your corporate color scheme and create an indelible impression. Original artwork will complement this, overall creating your brand identity. For that, you need a real artist.

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