5 Challenges with Offshore Development

The world is getting smaller and it’s easier than ever to hire people from other countries. Websites like oDesk make it easy to find developers, Skype and email make it inexpensive to communicate and PayPal makes it convenient to pay them. So, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, a lot.

It would be easy to think that this article, being written by a domestic web development company, is just a lame attempt to discredit offshore developers since we can’t compete with them on price. I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with offshore development, it’s just important to understand the potential pitfalls before engaging in it. If you are someone who has the experience to overcome these pitfalls, then offshoring may be for you. If not, you might be better off with a domestic development company. You might pay more but some times you do get what you pay for. (more…)

Everything You Do Is Marketing

Most small businesses get by without putting very much deliberate thought into marketing. A lot of business owners will proudly proclaim that they don’t do any marketing; they get all of their business from referrals. This is definitely something to be proud of since it means they have built a business and have happy customers. That’s a huge accomplishment.

On the other hand, it’s likely they are severely limiting their growth potential. Most small businesses can only grow so big by relying on a passive flow of customers from referrals. When times get tough, this strategy is especially debilitating because it doesn’t offer a lot of avenues for proactively bringing in new customers. A good marketing strategy will help your business grow and it can make your business recession-resistant, if not recession-proof. It’s also empowering because you are taking deliberate, proactive steps towards reaching your business goals.

The thing is, you actually already ARE marketing your business in a variety of ways, even if you aren’t doing it intentionally. The shirt that you choose to wear to work, the car that you drive to a client’s business or the way you keep your reception area are all forms of marketing. They create an impression in the minds of your customers and prospects. Are they creating the impression you want?

This is the essence of “branding”. What impression does your business create in the minds of its customers?

If you aren’t creating an impression proactively, then it will occur by default. Everyone is going to form an impression of your business, it’s just a question of how actively you are participating in the creation of that impression. Unfortunately, default impressions are often not the best impression you could create because they are usually made up of unconscious or low effort decisions. For example, you wore a casual shirt to work one day because you didn’t think you had any meetings scheduled for that day. Too bad that was the day that a big new prospect decided to make an impromptu visit! Or, you’ve left your website the way it is for 3 years because you just haven’t found the time (or money) to update it. How many prospective customers stopped by your website during that time and got a less than favorable impression of your company?

Building a great brand starts with deciding what impression you want to create and then filtering everything you do in your business and everything that your customers or prospects see or hear about your business through that impression. Give deliberate thought to all of it and make changes where it makes sense to do so. Change your sign. Clean up the reception area. Create a uniform dress policy. After that, the question is “what else can you do?”. Does it make sense to advertise in some way? Do you need new business cards or a logo? Is your website sorely in need of help?

It’s not always clear what will create the most bang for your buck when it comes to marketing your business. Like so much of business, it can be trial and error. A good marketing person will be able to advise you on things that have worked for other businesses like yours. This should give you a head start and perhaps help you avoid common pitfalls. But ultimately, you will have to take some risks and spend some money to see what really works for your business. If you do, you will eventually develop a strategy that enables you to acquire new customers at a cost that is less than what you earn from those customers. At that point you have a formula for growth.

May all of your pains in business being growing pains!

Case Study: Impulse Advanced Communications

We recently launched a new site for Impulse Advanced Communications, a local voice and data services provider, and I thought it would be educational to review the project and look at the results of putting into practice all the things I’ve been writing about here for the last several months.

First of all, it’s important to realize that Impulse is an awesome company. We’ve been a customer for over 10 years and have come to depend on them for everything from our phone system, to our Internet connectivity to the data center space that provides a reliable, high performance home to many of our and our client’s servers. So, we can’t take all the credit for the success of this project. (more…)

Customer Centric Marketing

The first order of business in marketing (and in sales) should be to create a relationship with your prospective customers. If you can create a connection with them that enables them to begin to trust you, then you are on the way to getting a new customer. Fundamentally, they must believe (trust) that your product or service will meet their needs.

One of the primary skills that good sales people use to develop a relationship with their customers is active listening. Active listening means that you actually feed back what you hear a prospect say so that both of your are certain that you have heard what they said. The act of repeating or summarizing what a prospect says to you is in itself a powerful nonverbal communication. You are telling them with your actions that you pay attention, that you hear and understand them and that you are able to focus on their needs instead of just your own. These are powerful messages to transmit to a prospect and they will typically reward you by giving you their business if you indeed have something they want or need. (more…)

Market Testing & Validation

When we sit down to develop a new website for a client, our conversation always begins with the goals of the company. Nine times out of ten, those are marketing and sales goals – they want to generate more leads and get more customers. As a result, our first conversation revolves around the marketing message which of course is driven by who the target customer is. All too often, this becomes a guessing game. Many companies simply don’t know, unequivocally, who their target customer is and what their primary needs and primary concerns are. Here’s a simple exercise than you can do that will net great benefits in the areas of brand, marketing message and target market. (more…)

6 Ways to Market Your Business on FaceBook

FaceBook recently surpassed Google in terms of the average amount of time people spend on the site. Marketing your business on FaceBook is already a great way to get exposure and it will become more and more essential over time. Here are some tips on getting started.

  1. Create a FaceBook Page. This is the first step and every business should have one. Fill out your Page profile completely and make sure to add a link back to your website (this will help with your SEO). Once you’ve created a page, you should make it more attractive by creating a custom tab that all new visitors will see. Creating a custom tab requires adding a FaceBook app that enables you to either insert custom text and graphics or link to another web page that you’ve created elsewhere. The latter option is the best way to go as it allows you to make any page on your existing website into a FaceBook tab on your FaceBook Page. Here’s a tutorial on how to accomplish this. (more…)

Why Have a Blog?

Clients regularly ask us whether they should have a blog or not. In general, my answer is yes, though there are some exceptions. Here’s why… (more…)

6 Tips to Successful Web Development Projects

I’ve seen research that shows that more than 50% of development projects fail. Given the number of projects we inherit from other web developers due to unhappy customers, I would say the figure is at least that high. This doesn’t apply to small websites such as a simple “brochure” site or a WordPress blog. However, when a project becomes more sizeable and has custom programming, it can easily fall apart before it’s done. In the last blog entry, I talked about the primary reasons this occurs. Here I’ll give some tips on how to avoid problems and have a successful outcome.

  1. Make an informed decision regarding the web developer you choose. In addition to reviewing their online portfolio, have them actually show you the back-end of some of the projects they’ve developed. Check their references. Don’t accept references only for clients they’ve worked with in the last year. See if you can talk to some clients they’ve had for several years. Better yet, get a mixture. (more…)

Why Web Development Projects Fail

A story I hear far too often from prospects is that they just fired their previous web developer. You might think I like hearing this because it means our competitors are falling down which is good for us. I actually hate hearing this story. For one, I feel bad for the person standing in front of me who just spent good money and now feels it was a partial or total loss. For another, when web developers leave unhappy customers in their wake, it makes our whole industry look bad. If we’re not careful, the general public perception of web developers will eventually rival that of used car salespeople.

(more…)

7 Steps To Better Email Newsletters

If you want your email newsletter to be opened and read, follow these simple tips…

  1. Frequency of Emails. Current trends show that emailing between 1 and 3 times per month is the optimal number. Less than that, and you may lose opportunities. If you email more frequently, you run the risk of annoying your customers and having high unsubscribe rates. Having said this, different businesses will have different optimal emailing frequencies. To discover your optimal frequency, track metrics like click-through rates, bounce rates and unsubscribe and spam complaint rates. Of course you should also look at the results of your campaign in terms of conversion rates for website forms and sales (if you sell online).
  2. Email Subject. The subject of your email can make or break your open rates. A good subject can get as much as 80% of your readers to open it whereas a poor subject can lead to a less than 1% open rate. How do you construct a good subject? Don’t try to sell. Subject lines like “Shop Early and Save 10%” or “Holiday Sales Event” are among the worst performing. On the other hand, subject lines that simply describe the contents of the email, like “<Company> Sales & Marketing Newsletter April 2011”, do the best. This may be counterintuitive, but it’s backed by statistics from some of the largest emailing companies. Read the research on the 20 best and worst performing subject lines. (more…)

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