Is Your Website a Beautiful “Hotel Nowhere?”

Lately it seems I’ve been explaining to more and more people about Internet Marketing. You see, for some reason, folks think that IM (Internet Marketing) is really all about putting up a great looking website. It’s not – it’s so much more than that.

In fact, although a website is a crucial piece in the online marketing puzzle, you can still beat the best-looking website with great online marketing. And what still surprises me is after all the education, all the articles, all the proof, people still think, “If you build it (better) they will come!”

Sorry to disappoint folks – but that’s a dangerous assumption.

— Just Do It Over

For instance, I was just speaking with a prospective client; they were explaining to me their newly developed site was not working for them as they had hoped. During their explanation, they told me they had a ‘solution’ for their problem – they were going to replace all or part of the site with Flash elements.

I politely explained to them Flash wasn’t necessarily going to solve their problem and what they had on their hands was a beautiful ‘Hotel Nowhere’ website, lost in the Internet Wilderness. A ‘do over’ wasn’t going to solve their problems. Permit me to explain my analogy – I think you’ll like it.

— Hotel Nowhere 101

A Hotel Nowhere website is beautifully designed one, it may have some Flash animation, perhaps some cool rollover images, maybe even active menu buttons that pop up and disappear as you move across them. It’s likely to have shading and other graphical elements that are visually appealing. And it’s probably got some words written on it too…but they’re secondary to the ‘look.’

The #1 problem with these types of websites (and some are not as bad as the image I painted above) is that they all suffer the same affliction…

They’ve been built in the middle of the Internet Wilderness!

Now let’s think about this for a moment. What good does it do to knock down your nice shiny new ‘Hotel Nowhere’ website and build another one in the same spot if no one knew about the last one?

If your Hotel Nowhere website is ‘out there’, how do you expect people to find you? A real hotel needs roads leading up to the hotel, it has tour guides, maps, TV shows promoting vacations at the resort, radio adverts telling people about the next special, advertising in the nearby towns, agents and reps out there talking it up and generally promoting it and creating buzz.

In other words, your ‘Hotel Nowhere’ (your website) needs to be promoted and connected to the rest of the world AFTER it’s been built. Simply knocking it down and building another is a waste of time!

— Going from Room to Room

If we continue the Hotel analogy, you need to know your lobby is your main page (usually index.html or default.html) and it’s where guests arrive once they’ve been brought to your hotel. By the way, the bus or coach analogy is a good one for search engines – think traffic and you’ll start to see the imagery.

So you have people in your lobby. If you expect them to stay you’d better give them a darn good reason to ‘stick’ around. And if you want them to explore your hotel you need to give them a map. Oh yes, and more importantly, you will need to ensure that they can get from room (page) to room.

It sounds goofy, but many sites are built with no ‘doors’. A door is a link between pages. I know, you think that I’m wrong – sure You can click on the button and be taken to a page. But did I tell you that search engines are visually impaired?

They don’t see the picture buttons or the image maps like you do; they look for text so they can ‘read’ it. If your doors are not described via text links too, you can expect a lobby full of visitors for about 2 seconds before they get back on the bus and leave.

— Going from Hotel Nowhere to Hotel Somewhere

Building the site should be the second phase of the project – the first phase should have been creating the architectural Internet Marketing plan. However, this is often not the case and the I.M Architect (consultant) is usually ONLY called once the client realizes they have a ‘Hotel Nowhere’ website on their hands!

The good news is that even if you have done things ‘backwards,’ it can be remedied quite easily, and a good I.M Architect (consultant) can work with your designer and other web resources directing them accordingly for proper changes.

In addition, a good I.M Architect will also help you develop other strategies and tactics for connecting your website to the rest of the world and into your overall Internet Marketing plan. Then, and only then, will you start to significant differences. Your once Nowhere website will have become a found Somewhere site.

Online There’s a Sucker Born Every Second

The great P.T Barnum once said “There’s a sucker born every minute” and with the advent of the Internet those same snake oil salesmen, con artists and charlatans are back – this time with the power of technology to ‘prove’ their rakish claims. So now (paraphrasing P.T) ‘There’s a sucker born every second…online!”

For instance, if I gave you the very best oil paint, the best brushes and the best canvas do you believe you could be Picasso or Van Gogh? Of course not – they had great creative skill learned patiently over their lives. In fact, if memory serves, Van Gogh couldn’t even afford the best tools and yet was still able to produce beautiful (if somewhat strange) artwork – now that’s skill.

I’m sure you’d agree the tools do not make the master. Yet every day on the Internet we are bombarded with claims of push-button success – mastery at the push of a button. Admittedly the allure of this dream is tempting, who wouldn’t hope for such a thing, but we need to temper our fantastic wishes with a healthy dose of skepticism.

We give too much ‘authority’ to technology – probably because many of us simply don’t understand the details. Some newer technology is so fantastic it almost seems like magic. However, I can assure you after more than two decades of working with computers there is no magic.

But what has that got to do with online and Internet Marketing – a great deal actually. A computer is a finite state machine; this means that the rules of its operation are fixed – even if obscure. It simply cannot deviate from the rules encoded within it.

So I ask you, do you really think someone ‘out there’ has cracked the code required to express a sunrise, or write real heartfelt poetry? What about defining the rules for creating a news story, or a love story?  And just in case you think they have – remember this – once defined, the rules are finite. Imagine the same sunrise every day… how boring!

Now I agree and accept we can define basic templates and to some degree there is ‘filler’ content that we can auto generate – but the real meat of any story, any copy, and any creative piece needs a person to inject it with life. Computerized language parsing is one thing, but true creative expression – now that’s an art form beyond the scope of a PC.

So why am I telling you all this, because it was only yesterday I received yet another ‘exciting new offer’ for some silver bullet claiming to put my online promotional efforts into the stratosphere through automated content creation and syndication. Knowing that quality content creation is king, and being a curious sort I followed the link – plus it always pays to keep an eye out for good examples of marketing.

Anyway, what I found (and I won’t name the product) is a well packaged and well presented idea…with one hell of a big hole in it – it downplayed the importance of the quality content creation aspect. It minimized the absolute requirement for creative skill and allowed the prospect to believe that the tools would make the master – “Just push this button and out pops a masterfully written article for syndication…” Hmmm.

This tool will syndicate your content to a myriad of possible publication venues (which is fantastic.) It will help you learn with resources and support (which is wonderful)…but what it cannot do, what it could never do – is overnight make you into something that you are not. Learning any skill takes time, ability and patience (and for each person it’s unique.)

So the next time you are offered a ‘cure-all’ for your online Internet Marketing success which includes automatic content creation, remember this: GIGO – “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” And using technology to publish garbage more effectively doesn’t improve its quality – it’s still garbage, there’s just more of it!

And lastly, Marketing 101 tells us to aim for uniqueness and differentiate ourselves from the pack. Does a rules-based auto-created piece of content sound like it will make us different from all the others doing precisely the same thing?

That’s my 2 cents worth for the day

PS. I ghostwrite and copywrite for a limited number of select clients. If you’d like to get in touch we can see if there’s a good fit.

Marketing Your Business on Twitter

Twitter is a real time micro-blogging platform that uses very short messages to share information. It’s format is similar to SMS text messaging without the fumbling thumb typing.

 

What I’ve been asked — more than a few times lately — is this:


“How can I use this social media platform to market my business?”


Here’s a few simple, yet powerful ways to put the power of Twitter to work for you:


Continue reading “Marketing Your Business on Twitter”

How Your Small Business Can Survive a Trade War

Game match king 59197According to the news and various experts, a global trade war would be bad. Very bad. And while it’s unlikely the trade war would directly impact most small businesses, it’s safe to say … INDIRECT IMPACT is assured.

A trade war can affect sales, reduce revenues and ultimately push many small businesses under unless they take special measures to mitigate the impact.

The following 16 recommendations will help navigate the turbulence of a trade war and help your small business survive … and hopefully thrive!

Continue reading “How Your Small Business Can Survive a Trade War”

68% of your customers leave because of this …

Man coffee cup 6335The #1 reason your customers walk out the door, never to return is simply this:
they feel unappreciated.

Business Is Personal

That’s right, a stunning 68% stop doing business with you because they feel you don’t care! That’s almost 3 out of 4 clients who take business personally
.

The Data Proves It

  • 9% leave because of price issues
  • 14% leave because of quality issues
  • 5% leave because they change their purchasing habits
  • 4% of your customers leave because they simply move away
  • 68% stop doing business with you simply because they feel unappreciated!

You don’t lose the majority of your customers due to high prices, or poor quality. You lose 68% of your customers simply because you don’t pay enough attention to them!

What Can You Do About It?

The absolute easiest and most ‘hands-off’ way for you to pay attention to them and boost your bottom line each and every month – a simple tactic that only a handful of smart business people use – is this:

Step 1: Contact your customers on a monthly basis.

Step 2: And there’s no better way to stay connected to your customers and clients than a monthly newsletter!

Not exactly rocket science but it’s true. The simple reason this works so well is because your customers or clients have already spent money with you (they trust you.) And they’ll spend more money with you if you let them, and if you give them a reason to do so. You can’t simply sit back and hope that people will remember your business next time they need your product or service.

OK, I’m sure you’ve heard the same thing over and over again from every marketing expert. I bet you’ve even considered publishing a newsletter (you may even already do so), but if you’re like most business owners, you just can’t find the time to ever get one published, or get one published regularly … and it’s most likely the writing that ‘gets in the way.’

No doubt about it, coming up with interesting articles and content is hard work, and unless you have lots of extra time on your hands, it’s easy to keep putting off publishing a newsletter until “tomorrow”.

But of course, we all know “tomorrow” never comes

Yes, that’s the big problem: Who has time to write a monthly newsletter — how do you make a newsletter fun, enjoyable and useful for people to read without making it a full-time job?

Problem solved … Outsource it to a professional writer!

When you hire a professional writer a few things happen:

  • You get your time back – priceless!
  • You stop worrying your newsletter won’t be published on time
  • (And) You can rest assured your schedule will be kept
  • You can focus on running your business
  • You will reduce (or stop) customer loss
  • And by default … MAKE MORE SALES/MONEY

It’s win-win all around.

Of course, it helps to know a trusted source that can help you with this project. It’s not something you can just throw together. You need to consider the format, the content balance, the tone, the style, the images and more…

And I’d like to help you with that. 

I’ve been involved in publishing since 1986. Since then I’ve written, created and published numerous traditional print and digital media for clients. I’ve been the associate publisher for two of Canada’s leading aftermarket auto magazines, written (conservatively) over a million words for clients, and NEVER MISSED A DEADLINE. I’ve had 3 business books reach best-seller status online and my client work has earned praise, front page coverage and more importantly raised their revenues and reduce client attrition.

Contact me for a friendly discussion about your writing needs

And when we connect I’ll also share a few business building follow-up secrets that most marketing consultants don’t want you to know.

I look forward it.

James Burchill