Category Archives: Website Design

Your Website – To Rent or To Own

Today’s marketplace has undergone so many changes in the last ten years that the pace of that change can at times seem breathtaking. Strategies for marketing your company and its products and services, while having similarities to the past, require a different approach, an online approach. You still must identify and quantify your target market. You still need to build trust. And the concept of a Unique Selling Proposition (or USP) still applies as it is imperative that you are able to convince people of the “why you.”

What has changed is the how.

Websites have been around for a long time. I remember talking with business owners who said the only reason they built a website was because everyone was doing it and you just had to have one to be legit.

While having to have a website is still the case, its function as a key weapon in your marketing arsenal has grown dramatically, so much so that it is the most important marketing investment that you can make.

Almost every purchase decision, whether an individual consumer, or the purchasing manager of a major corporation, begins with a search online. Whether that search is using the name of a business that you learned of through a referral, or whether you are simply trying to find companies that provide what you’re looking for, it begins by doing a search. Google, having become one of the largest U.S. companies in capitalization, dominates this area of marketing, and it is estimated that there are as many as 4 million searches per second around the globe!

So, when you’re building a website, to forget to take into account its ability to be found by people searching online, is basically throwing your money away.

You have two choices when building a website, you can rent your website or you can own it. Just as any other business asset you invest in, it is important to determine which is best for the future of your company.

Examples of website platforms that you rent are SquareSpace, WIX, Weebly, GoDaddy and others. These offer you the ability to create your own website and have the following features: (this is based on conversations with many entrepreneurs who went this route)

  • Up-front investment is little or nothing
  • There are many templates to choose from
  • Can customize within the template’s framework
  • Monthly hosting fees are generally much higher
  • Must continue to host with them or the site is taken down
  • Shopping cart and e-commerce is available
  • Can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself, through the dashboard
  • The focus is on making it fast and easy to build a website, not on whether the website can be found in an online search
  • Lead generation is also not the most important aspect of these alternatives

Examples of website platforms that you own are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and others. These typically require the expertise of a professional developer as there are many options, and hence flexibility, in the design and functionality of the website. The following are the features of these options:

  • The up-front investment can be sizeable
  • Just about anything can be done with respect to design
  • There are hundreds of applications that have been developed to work with these platforms, making website customization easier and with a higher level of functionality
  • Monthly hosting fees are much lower
  • You have the option to host your website wherever you wish because you own your site
  • You can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself without being a programmer. This is done through the dashboard
  • If the template is built correctly, the website should be able to be found in online searches
  • The website should be able to pay for itself through the leads that are generated from it
  • You can actually build “equity” in your website, by adding original and valuable content, and since you own the website, that content remains yours, not your hosting company’s.
  • Social media can be seamlessly integrated into the site
  • You are in charge of your own destiny

The bottom line is, what do you want your website to do? If it is just to be an online brochure, then certainly renting a website can work. If however, you want it to be an asset that provides a return on the investment, to be a key component in your overall marketing, then owning your website is really the only way to go.

Remember this: You can build a beautiful website, but if no one can find it, it’s like having the most impressive billboard in the middle of a desert, it sure looks nice but nobody sees it.

How Mobile Is Your Website?

Our mobile society always on the goYou’ve been there. You’re searching on your mobile phone for a store that has a particular brand of caulk that works well on concrete. You find a website on Google and you click on the link. What comes up is a very tiny version of the store’s regular website, which is impossible to read, let alone click on the Contact Us page to inquire whether they have the caulk you need in stock. So, what do you do? You expand the page to blow it up to where it is legible and then you find yourself scrolling left, right, up, down only to realize that you’re lost on the page. What’s left is to shrink it back down to locate that darned Contact Us link. And, hopefully you haven’t been doing all this while driving.

This is a plain lousy experience and one that makes you want to find somewhere else to shop.

So, does this happen when prospective customers come to your website on their smartphones? Do they have this same kind of bad experience? Are you losing sales because your website is not mobile ready? Did you realize that Google will now start ranking your website lower than your competitors’ sites if it is not mobile ready?

Let’s look at some research from Media Post:

What does this mean today, and what could it mean in six to twelve months?

  • “mobile commerce has surged ahead of desktop in terms of time spent shopping, with mobile accounting for 59% of online shopping time in the first quarter of 2015…”
  • “In the first quarter of this year, mobile’s share of retail spending growth increased 53% year over year, compared with increases of 9% for desktop retail e-commerce…”
  • And according to James Printing of Kansas City (, 42% of brand research is conducted on phones and tablets

The use of smartphones and tablets for shopping and research is expected to grow dramatically in the next year. Although purchases on smartphones and tablets still lags behind desktops, with the primary reasons being security concerns and the ability to see the products in detail, those issues will be resolved quickly with larger phone screens and enhanced mobile security.

Any website development company worth their stripes is creating new sites that are what’s called “mobile responsive.” This means that your site will render differently on mobile devices than it does on desktops, making the experience much better for visitors coming to see what you are all about.

What’s more, you will not be penalized by the major search engines for having a non-responsive website, and all the hard work you’ve done to maintain that search visibility will still be in place.

I would love to know your thoughts, or if you just have questions, let me know.



So How Do Your Customers Show They Love You?

Customer love is the food of business

February is the month for LOVE. I am pretty sick of the constant use of  “I ‘heart’ chocolate” or “I ‘heart’ foreign films” or even “I ‘heart’ you!” Can’t you just say the word, LOVE? Wouldn’t it be great if all of your customers would break into simultaneous voice singing, “I Got That Lovin’ Feeling?” Would make you feel pretty darn good about what you’re doing, right, even though I think if every single one of your customers says they “love” you, maybe you’re not pushing the limits of your offering enough.  Think about that one – although maybe that’s fodder for another blog post.

As a key component of every Strategic Marketing Plan I write, I like to interview several customers of my client to see not only what they thought about the “purchase experience” but also about how they first found my client and if they would recommend their products or services to others.

Recently, as I was contacting customers for my client, I ran across one who literally gushed love for my client’s work. Everything they did was “exceptional” and when I asked if there was anything specific she could say that would have made the experience better she said, “Absolutely not, they did everything I asked plus things I didn’t know to ask. I really believe in these guys!” Wow, nice testimonial huh?

This, of course, got me thinking about how to really leverage this recommendation, make it something special, bring out the human side.  How could I make this even more powerful than just putting her comments in a “Testimonials” section of the website.  Of course, Video!!

There’s no doubt about it, video has come of age and with the technology and software available to everyone, the price has gone down as well.  It is my belief that a marketing strategy which incorporates the use of relevant video, especially on the website, is and will continue to be successful.  Here’s why:

Why Video?

  1. Pictures are worth a thousand words, videos are worth a million
  2. It is a great way to put a human face to an inorganic thing called a “company.”  It is a way to show there are real people that work here.
  3. If your customer is giving a testimonial, they are also real people with real problems that you solved.
  4. It is a perfect way to incorporate storytelling.  Read my blog, “How to Use Storytelling in Your Marketing Message.”
  5. Search engines, in particular Google since they also own YouTube, love video and now incorporate video into their “blended search results.” As Benjamin Wayne says in his article “How To Use Video SEO to Jump To The Top of Google Search Results,” Google will index 100% of all website videos and you are 53 times more likely than traditional web pages to receive an organic first-page ranking.

So, now we’ve determined that video should be something you implement on your web presence, but how can this be executed?

Executing a Website Video Strategy

  1. Why not have a video of that incredible testimonial we mentioned above?  Give your customers a powerful way to show they love you.
  2. Be sure that you are not “selling” but rather educating or providing content that viewers will value and want to come back for more.
  3. Try the method of the interview, where someone off camera is asking questions.  The person on camera will likely be more at ease when providing answers.
  4. Be sure to rehearse what you are going to say so it doesn’t ramble on
  5. Be brief and concise. Keep the videos to 90 to 120 seconds, nothing more because no one has that much time.
  6. Release new videos over time, not all at once, to derive the most search value.
  7. Make sure that the videos utilize proper descriptive titles, proper keywords, a text transcript, links to related material and useful metadata so the video can be indexed by the search engines.

Come on, this is yours or your customer’s chance to be a star, use video to really boost your marketing message and get results.

All my best,


Your outsourced Chief Marketing Officer

Leave Them Wanting More: 5 Steps to Making Sure They Come Back


In my varied past, I spent some time on stage as a professional opera singer, a wonderful and enriching experience.  One thing I learned was that during the curtain call when there was applause (assuming you got applause), you never wanted to let the applause die down before leaving the stage.  Really it was ideal to leave when the applause reached its apex and therefore leave the audience wanting more of you.  They were never quite satisfied and probably would be talking about you for some time after leaving the show.  It’s the same reason that no matter how hard you scream for an encore, you never get to hear that one more song.

You may wonder how this relates to an effort to market and promote your business.

Let’s make sure that we’re not confusing what someone wants with what someone needs.  If you start to leave people needing more, than your product or service is not providing what is necessary to sustain the consuming experience and it is likely that you will lose that customer.  Meeting the market’s needs is fundamental to having a product or service that is worth anything at all.

What I’m emphasizing here are wants.  A fundamental rule learned in every Economics 101 course is, “Man has insatiable wants and desires.”  The statement didn’t say insatiable needs.  Every human on earth has basic needs: we need to eat, we need to work, we need adequate health care, we need shelter, we need clothing, etc. Meet the needs and you’ll be okay, but probably not hugely successful, nor will you likely be able to sustain much growth.

What is imperative is that you are able to find how you can leave your customers or clients “wanting” more.  And this really begins with their initial exposure to you, say through your website, and goes clear through the lifecycle of that consuming experience.  Seth Godin in “Embracing Lifetime Value” reiterates how important it is for you to be able to quantify the value of that lifetime experience in order to understand what resources need to go into the relationship. You can then keep them coming back for more.

So, how do you make sure that your customers or clients leave with what they need but leave definitely wanting more?

  1. Make sure your website landing page tells them exactly what they need to know, no more. I believe that it is imperative to give enough information to fulfill the promise of the ad or email that drove them to your site’s landing page, but there is no reason to go beyond that.  If they need more information, provide an easy means for them to contact you so you can enter into a direct dialog, either by phone or chat, which as most salespersons will tell you, is how you can overcome objections and secure the sale.
  2. Try to invite questions that will cause them to engage with your site, with your brand or with you by picking up the phone. The key to consumer loyalty is the ability for them to directly engage in your brand.  Many marketers profess that companies no longer really have control over their brand with the new social media tools. You may as well accept this fact and make it as easy as possible, plus it will help you learn about what your customer needs or maybe even wants.
  3. Regularly add new, relevant content to your website so people will want to come back and see what’s new. This seems so obvious but I can’t tell you how many business owners build a really nice website and then never touch it for months and months.  Not a good idea.  Fresh content will also help improve search results.
  4. Make sure you are enhancing or adding features to your product or service, something your competition isn’t. This also seems obvious but it’s easy to become somewhat complacent as you start to have some success and forget about what improvements could be made to what you offer.  Always be innovating. 
  5. Constantly tell them how much you appreciate their business. Everyone loves to be appreciated and I believe this is rapidly becoming a lost art.  Loyalty comes by making sure to say “thank you.” Reward loyalty through offers that entice them to come back.  Make it lucrative for them to refer you to their network of contacts. 

Leave them needing more and you’ll lose them.  Leave them wanting more and they’ll come back.

Let me know your thoughts.

It’s Just Touch and Go

What, another landing page blog!?

Please indulge me for just one more post about how best to convert visitors on your website. I have had a number of my readers comment that they appreciated the subject so much that they wanted more. It isn’t really surprising. Thousands of dollars are wasted each day in email and Adword campaigns that drive lots of traffic but no conversions. Regardless of how you define a conversion, or what you want someone to do when they come to your website, it is the conversion that ultimately rings the cash register, right? Are you concerned that your visitors are doing the old “touch and go?”

I enjoyed attending a webinar the other day by Tim Ash of SiteTuners titled “The 7 Deadly Sins of Website Design and What to Do About Them.” He did such a great job of illuminating some very common design mistakes that I will do my best to sum up what his hour and a half webinar covered.

Sin #1
An Unclear Call-To-Action

Since the call-to-action is the actual conversion, it has to be extremely clear, even stupidly clear. The key here is “please don’t make me have to think too much.” If it takes too long for the visitor to figure out what to do, they will get frustrated or confused and hit the “back” button. Also, there are times where competing visual elements demand so much attention that the call-to-action is lost. Be sure that the call-to-action is obvious and it’s best if it’s above the fold.

Sin #2
Too Many Choices

Tim provided a great example of a Home page that had 146 clickable links! What exactly is the visitor supposed to do? For the sake of simplicity it is best to reduce the amount of detail so early in the process. The visitor doesn’t know you, therefore give them only what they need to know then provide sub-pages that they can go to for more detail if they choose. This grouping of choices into higher level categories will reduce confusion.

Sin #3
Asking for Too Much Information

This is especially true when someone is completing a form to be contacted or to receive a whitepaper, or sometimes even as the part of a shopping cart. If you ask for a lot of extraneous information (many times just for the purpose of gathering marketing information) it becomes too personal or it is not appropriate. If the process is too imposing or takes too much time, you’ll also lose them. Ask only for information that is absolutely necessary. If you don’t need a zip code, don’t ask for one. Reduce the number of fields in the form to the bare minimum which will also simplify. You can always get more details later, once you have established a level of trust.

Sin #4
Too Much Text

“Do I really have to read all of this?” How many times has that happened to you? We humans have very short attention spans especially online. In this case, less is definitely more. Unless you want your visitors to suffer some serious information overload, create very clear headlines and sub-headings in bulleted format. Use imagery if you can (only please, no overused stock photos). Most of all, put the important stuff, what you want them to know, first.

Sin #5
Not Keeping Your Promises

Every visitor to your website is there with a clear intent and in a particular frame of mind. They arrived because your email or pay-per-click ad gave them the expectation that they would find what they were looking for. The worst thing you can do is go back on that promise. Many times, because of a disconnect upstream, expectations are not met, and the “back” button is hit, only with vigor. Be sure you are representing what your ad talked about by repeating ad text or keywords. Provide clear access to information. Remember, your brand is a promise, keep it.

Sin #6
Too Many Visual Distractions

This used to be a huge problem back when Flash animation was all the rage. You would go to a website and be inundated with so much color and movement you’d thought you were having an epilepsy attack. Be clear about where on the page you want your visitor to look. Gratuitous graphics is like a visual assault, it interrupts the whole experience. I’ve seen websites where I can’t even separate content from navigation from branding. It’s just a hodge-podge. Studies have indicated that actually boring can convert better because there is no competition with the call-to-action. If your web designer is frustrated with boring, let them cut off their ear and be an artist!

Sin #7
Lack of Credibility and Trust

When a visitor comes to your website their first question is, “why should I trust you and buy from you?” Be prepared to answer that question and calm their concerns. You can do this with clearly displayed endorsements, trust symbols or social proof. In some cases, companies have featured the trust mark so prominently that is carries a heavier weight than the brand. Now that makes a statement: you are more concerned about your customer than you are about blowing your own horn. Whenever you can, use client logos and make sure you are providing generous money-back policies and guarantees.

My thanks again to Tim Ash and the folks at SiteTuners.

If you follow these guidelines and avoid these sins, your website visitors will not do the “touch and go” but will do the “touch and stay for a while and maybe even spend some money.”

As always, I welcome your comments.