Small Business

Small Business and the Health Care Bill

by Joe B on November 10, 2009

Thanks to Arkansas Small Business and Technology Center Director, Herb Lawrence for sharing this article from WSJ online about how the health care bill may effect small businesses.

The article.

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Converting Visitors to Customers

by Joe B on October 30, 2009

While SEO (search engine optimization) is the method of making your site rank for search engines, the real goal for a business website is not just to be found but to convert it’s visitors into paying customers.

What are some reasons that people who find you and visit your site, don’t become customers?

  • When they find you, you didn’t offer what they were looking for (or at least they didn’t see it). You can overcome this obstacle by creating targeted, focused landing pages. If you have several services or types of products, create a page for each one that is really focused and optimized on that one product or service. You may have fewer visitors to that particular page but, the visitors who do go to it, are going to find exactly what they are looking for. Your website will more than likely have a lot more pages when you do it this way, but, that is what you want. More pages that are targeted landing pages.
  • Call to action is not clear. Once your visitor has found what they are looking for, what is the next step? Is it to call you, email  you, order from you? You need to make it clear what action it is your visitor needs to take next. Make it really easy to contact you or order from you. If you are asking your visitor to fill out a form, don’t ask for too much information on their first contact with you. People will balk at filling out detailed forms just to do business with you. Make sure you have a good phone number listed as well as your address. Even if you work from home, people like to know you actually exist more than just on the internet.
  • Lack of trust. Building up trust for your business is very important. This is where participation in social media can play a role. Build relationships and communicate with people on Facebook and Twitter. Let people get to know you a little bit. Gather testimonials from your current clients and put them on your website. When you use social media, take part in the conversation. Don’t just broadcast what you are doing. Comment on what other people are doing. Basically, be relevant and sincere. Trust takes a little time, don’t wait, start now!
  • Fear. Some visitors to your website will not heed your call to action out of fear. They don’t know what you expect from them. This may be because they don’t know how much your product or service will cost. It may be because they don’t know enough about your product or service. It may be because, as we discussed in number the last poin above, they just don’t know if they can trust you. The more information you can provide, the more you can overcome fear.

    If your prices depend on, say, the size of the job or market fluctuations, or whatever, you can always state that your price starts at whatever your lowest price is. This lets your visitor know what the starting point is and will help their comfort level. We have found that some businesses do not like to post prices because they may want to change their prices. Talk to your web designer about a content management system that allows you to make changes to your site without fear of losing information or messing up the design. If your website designer insists on making all of your changes and charging you for them, you may want to find another designer. However, if you prefer that the designer make the changes, it is not unreasonable for them to expect to be paid for the time it takes to make them.

Look at your website and see what you are doing, or not doing to get your visitors to covert to customers. Getting them there, is not enough!

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Is Your Website Effective?

by Joe B on October 29, 2009

Let’s face it. Most websites out there are still a brochure on the internet. Why is that? Because, that is what a lot of business owners ask for. They don’t want the trouble or expense of making frequent updates.

In this day and age, that is a crazy! With content management systems (CMS), website owners can easily make updates themselves and have a much more effective website.

A website that is up to date, search engine optimized and user friendly can be the most effective marketing tool available. Think of the things you can do:

  • Tell about current specials
  • Blog about what your business is doing
  • Let people know about special events
  • Change prices
  • Create a buzz about new products and services

Even by writing this blog article, I am adding value to the Wharton Website Design and Marketing website because I am adding valuable information that is useful to small businesses.

Beyond that, you can incorporate social media into the mix to get the word out even more.

In the internet marketing biz, more information is more, or rather, more valuable information is more. By using CMS you can try out different campaigns, target different markets and add a lot of value to your website.

Get rid of the old fashioned, boring brochure style website. Make your website better than that! Make it a great tool in your marketing arsenal.

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Not Afraid of Hard Work

by Joe B on October 19, 2009

By Christi Dicus Wharton

My Grandpa, Frank Dicus

My Grandpa, Frank Dicus

My Grandpa is 93 years old. He was a very successful businessman. One thing he used to say that has always stuck with me is “Nobody every died from hard work.” He knew that because he worked very hard and his businesses succeeded. He also worked very smart.

Many people are looking for a way to “get rich quick” or a “silver bullet” for success. Think a website is a silver bullet for success? It’s not. Now, you may be wondering why I’m saying that, seeing how we design websites for small businesses. It’s because it’s the truth. There are no silver bullets.

A website is a tool. It can be a very useful and helpful tool if it used correctly. Facebook business pages are tools. Also very useful if used correctly. Unfortunately, you can’t just put up a website or business page and people will come. You have to work to:

  • Keep them up to date
  • Keep them relevant
  • Keep them fresh
  • Keep them useful

Technology has made all of our lives easier, but in the world of business, hard work is still a highly valued commodity.

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Update to Windows 7?

by Joe B on October 14, 2009

From AP we hear today that Microsoft is issuing a record number of patches as part of it’s regular monthly update. The updates are fixes for Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000 and even Windows 7, which doesn’t go on sale to consumers until Oct. 22! And, most of the fixes are designated as “critical,” the highest designation.

The best advice I know about Microsoft products is to never jump on board in the beginning. It usually takes them a while (sometimes years) to get things worked out. It seems they kind of gave up on Vista. We use both Microsoft and Apple products with the bulk of our work being done on a Mac.

It just gets a little confusing with Microsoft and all of their versions of all their operating systems. There is the home version, the professional version, the multi-media version and on and on. Wouldn’t it be easier to do it like Apple and make one version with everything?

I’m just saying.

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What Would You Say?

by Joe B on October 2, 2009

We went to the Chamber of Commerce 1st Friday breakfast this morning. Every business gets 1 minute to say something about their business. This is a fun exercise. When you sit down at your table there are always lots of flyers and brochures on the table. Many of the business representatives refer to the flyers on the tables which give more information about their current sale or event or services, etc.

How many people, when it was their time to speak, pointed to their website for more information? None! I didn’t actually look at every flyer, but most did not have web addresses on them. How helpful would it be to say,” Hey, we are having a great sale this week, see our flyer on your table and go to our website at . . . ”

On your flyer (if you want to clutter up the table with yet another flyer), you list your website, and you tell your website address when you speak. When people go to your website for more information about your sale or event, they find what they are looking for! While they are on your site, they notice you have a blog with some interesting articles, you have a Facebook page where they can become a fan and receive updates and get to know you better.

What would you say?

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How Did We Live Without the Internet?

by Joe B on September 30, 2009

I may be dating myself here, but I remember those days.

When we wanted to take a trip, we went to the travel agent and booked flights and hotels, and hoped they knew the best spots. We never knew about the unique little resort by the lake unless our travel agent knew about it. We didn’t have any idea what really great restaurant was in the area unless we heard about it from our friends or neighbors. Now, we just go online and check out the flights, compare prices and purchase and print our tickets. Now, we just go online and we can see pictures of the hotels and resorts with their rates on their websites, we can see menus and reviews of the area restaurants on their websites, and find out if there are any special events happening in the area.

When we broke a piece of mom’s wedding china that has been discontinued, we were sad. We couldn’t go online and get a replacement on Ebay or Replacements.com. We may not have even known that there was a place in our own home town that sold older pieces of fine china. Now, we just go online and look for her china pattern, how much it cost and can have it replaced before she even notices it missing.

When we wanted to know our bank balance, we waited for our bank statement and then subtracted any checks that we had written since the statement was printed. We couldn’t go online and see what our current balance was from anywhere in the world.

When we wanted to call the new store that just opened up, we had to call information to get their number or wait for the new phone book. Now, we can just go online and look up their phone number and even get information about their products and any sales they might be having and a map to their location, all on their website.

When we wanted to buy a house, we had to go to the real estate office and look through their out of date MLS books with the small black and white pictures. Now, we just go online and find houses for sale with nice color pictures and sometimes even virtual tours. We don’t have to deal with whatever Realtor greets us at the door. Now, we can go to the agent’s personal website and read about them. We can see what kind of experience they have, read testimonials and see what their interests are so we can find one that we want to work with.

These are but a few examples of how the internet has changed the world. Has your business changed with it? Does your business have a website that is up to date and has information about your great products and services? Does your business have a website at all? It’s hard to believe that we are fast approaching 2010 and there are still businesses, large and small, that do not have websites.

If your business has a website, keep it up to date. If your business doesn’t have a website, get one. Don’t let your competition leave you behind.

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7 Elements of a Great Website

by Joe B on September 29, 2009

A great website can be an invaluable asset to a small business. In today’s world, often if you are not on the internet, you are invisible to a large percentage of your potential customers. So, as a small business owner you must have a website. Not only should you have a website, you should have a great website. Here are 7 elements of a great website:

Visually appealing

A clean, uncluttered design will let your content shine. It is recommended that you use dark letters on a light background because this makes your content much easier to read. Use pictures and graphics wisely. Don’t clutter up your site with a lot of extra “pretties.”

Easy to navigate

Visitors to your website should be able to find information easily and without a lot of extra clicks. Navigation should be easy to understand and easy to use.

Informative

People who come to your website are looking for information. A great website is informative. It tells about you and your business. It makes what you do clear and uncomplicated. Take the time to make your content informative and easy to understand.

Up to date

Have you ever found exactly what you were looking for on the internet and then found out that the company website has not been updated in years and what you found is no longer available? How about websites that have “under construction” on pages for years. Lose the “under construction” signs. If you have a page that isn’t ready then just don’t publish it.

One of the best ways to keep your site up to date and fresh is to have a blog. Of course, if you have a blog, you need to keep it updated and fresh as well.

Search engine friendly

Don’t just guess about keywords. Do some research. Find out if people are actually searching for your keywords. Use your keywords (or phrases) wisely. Don’t go black hat and just repeat your words over and over. Make your content keyword rich and informative. Some time spent getting this element right is well worth the effort.

Loads fast

Make sure all of your graphics and pictures are optimized to load fast. People just won’t wait around for your site to load, so don’t make them. Back to the visually appealing aspect, if you don’t overload on the pictures, and the pictures you use are optimized, you are doing it right!

Clear calls to action

Don’t make your visitors wonder what you want them to do. Make it easy to contact you or call you or whatever it is you want them to do. Once someone makes up their mind to do business with you, don’t make them go searching for a way to contact you. Make it really clear and really easy.

These are just some of the elements that make up a great website. Your website is an important tool in your marketing arsenal. Make it the best it can be!

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Facebook Page as a Business Webpage?

by Joe B on September 25, 2009

I’ve noticed a lot of businesses putting a profile page up on Facebook (not a fan page) and relying on that as their web presence. While it is good to have a presence on Facebook, it is not good to rely on a Facebook profile page to be your only online resource. Even as I was thinking about this, I came across this article on Hubspot:

Thinking About Using Facebook as Your Company Webpage? Think Again! by Carol Ortenberg

She explains it very well!

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Ignore At Your Own Risk!

by Joe B on May 18, 2009

caution

Recently we posted information about a survey that indicated that most Americans believe small businesses will lead the U.S. to a brighter future. We then referred you to a great blog post by Direct Capital with ways that businesses could benefit from the stimulus package. Well, Direct Capital has taken it one more step and posted tips for small businesses in creating a recession strategy with the warning, “Ignore these tips at your own risk.” Here is the article:

Small businesses: Ignore these tips at your own risk

Photo by Rocketeer

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