I hate to see people pay good money for a website only to end up with something they can’t use. But unfortunately, I’ve seen this more than a few times.

Most recently, I had someone call me about his 1-year old website. It didn’t seem to be bringing him any new business.

We talked about pushing traffic to a site via social media, urls in marketing material, on business cards….the usual stuff. I told him I’d evaluate his website and let him know what I thought.

Initially, the site looked alright. Lots of white space. No can-you-make-this-any-harder-to-read reverse type. Looked fairly user friendly. True, I didn’t see any copy talking about their niche or how they helped clients, but that’s a matter of copy rewriting and positioning. Otherwise, I didn’t see anything glaringly horrid.

Then I went through the site. Slowly. Very slowly. Not cause I wanted to but because the pages loaded so slowly I had no choice. It was painful. If I were a visitor to this site rather than evaluating it, I would’ve been long gone. Video links that went nowhere. Contact emails that came back as “undeliverable”. Copy heavy pages without reasonable breaks or subheads to let you quickly scan copy. No clear positioning that told you how this firm could help solve your problems. A blog with posts that were either press releases or articles gleaned from other resources. No original viewpoints or commentaries or anything you couldn’t get somewhere else. A downloadable pdf that didn’t download. And to top it off, the website wasn’t designed to be responsive. So viewing it on a mobile device was a nightmare.

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Now it was easy to see why this website wasn’t converting any business.

Rather than a customized website that was specifically designed and built to convert business, this business owner had purchased a site that was really a template. The contact page had a form with boxes that weren’t at all relevant to his business. Some of the photos made you wonder what the firm did. The overall impression was one of a website that had been thrown together without much thought as to how it should work. Or what kind of user experience a visitor would have.

If you’re going to shell out a substantial sum of money for a custom website, that should be what you get.

So before you hire a firm to develop your website, make sure you do the due diligence you’d do (do…do…do…do!) for any other significant financial commitment. Read testimonials from previous clients. Review sample work to see what types of sites the company has designed for other clients. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting and what you’re paying for.

I once had a client who came to me with a new website that had no copy. True! They had paid for….and gotten….a beautifully-designed website with almost no copy — certainly no positioning statement or anything that set them apart from the competition. They had a shopping cart with no copy and no instructions on how to purchase items, and no idea how to maintain or update the site themselves (no, it wasn’t WordPress). I felt so bad for them. They had paid a lot of money and gotten an unusable (but beautiful) website. They came to me for social media help but I couldn’t do anything with that until I wrote them some web copy. At that point, they had run out of money and abandoned the business. It was very sad.

This is probably the perfect place to throw out a pitch for my new web design and development company. I recently partnered with two of my favorite colleagues to launch What A Great Website. Check us out if you’re thinking about doing a new website. We make sure that all of the issues I’ve brought up in this post do NOT happen to you!

I didn’t want to leave. Honest. I really loved the bag I found on your site. It was the color I’d been looking for for months and a style that always works for me. But I hated your website. Your website made me do it.

Was that a mistake?

Was that a mistake?

Make It Easy

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to have a better, cooler, more desirable product these days. If your potential customer finds it too difficult to purchase from you, you’re going to lose a sale.

The Internet has spoiled us. We expect to find what we’re looking for quickly. Once we find something we like, we expect to be able to buy it easily. If your website doesn’t’ allow that to happen, we’re gone. To the next best product. As long as the e-commerce process is quick and easy, we can be swayed. So much for loyalty.

If you want visitors to your website to stay there long enough to purchase an item or two, you just need to make it easy. It’s not brain surgery. It’s simply good design, clear copy and smart navigation.

That means no guessing as to where a visitor has to go next to view products, ask questions about sizes or returns or anything else…..or make a purchase. Clear, concise copy with easy-to-to read, easy-to-find directions, in highly visible bars or buttons or a different color type, might be just what you need to kick your numbers over last month’s sales high.

If you’re not sure if your website provides an outstanding user experience, go through it as though you’ve never seen it before. Find a product. Compare it to other products offered on the site. Go to checkout and buy it. Fill out the order form info. Make sure it’s smooth, seamless and swift. If it’s not, you need to go back to the drawing board and make some changes in your online selling process. Cause if the purchase process is difficult for you, it will be equally difficult for potential customers.

Professional web designers and developers know what it takes to create websites that keep visitors engaged. Clean, uncluttered pages with appropriate images that draw the eye where you want it to go …..whether it’s to a purchase page, a link to get more information, a place to ask a question, or a button to share what you’ve found with friends or colleagues. Professional copywriters can write clear, compelling copy that grabs visitors’ attention, keeps them interested and guides them through the purchase process.

Make it easy for people to do business with you. They’ll come back. They’ll also tell their friends about their purchases. It’s free advertising. And all you did was develop a website that works.

Interesting blog title I’ve chosen — you may say. With good reason. My last blog post appears to be dated January, 2013. It really wasn’t (my last). There were more between the beginning of 2013 and mid-2014. I seem to have lost them. Long story….and not very interesting.

So rather than belaboring boredom, suffice it to say that my “new site, mid-year resolution” (I don’t make them in January…too much pressure) is to ramp up my blogging. To more than a few times a year. With a WordPress site, there is simply no excuse for not blogging regularly. It’s pretty brainless. All you need is something to talk about….something I’ve never had a problem finding.

When I consult with clients on how and when to blog, I’m very clear about the importance of consistency. It’s right up there with interesting content, relevant keywords, and writing that speaks directly to the reader.

Aside from the fact that blogs are a fabulous way to develop and share new material for content marketing, the freshness of a new post is something that you-know-who loves. Big time!

So if you’ve been lax with your blogging efforts….for whatever reason — summer’s too nice to be inside, you don’t like working on your laptop in the park or at the beach, you’re TOO BUSY! — step up to the plate. Fall is almost here. Actually a lovely time of year to sit outside and develop some content for your blog.

See you at the park. I’ll be blogging on my iPad.

So much info. So little time.

The entrepreneur’s dilemma. Consuming great quantities of information and still finding time to have a life…..or sleep.

I’m an information junkie. And an entrepreneur. So I get the dilemma. But I’ve figured out how to handle it. One word (not plastics!): vet. Two more: very carefully.

Find the experts. Seek out the top people — the thought leaders — in the industries you’re following. Check out the keynote speakers at the conferences you follow or attend. Read the newsfeeds where they’re being quoted. See what they’re blogging, posting to YouTube, sharing (Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), talking about in TED Talks.

Then cull your list of experts down to a few “must follow’s”.

It’s tough to follow all the experts in a given field. The Internet gives us constant access to a lot of bright people sharing all types of information. If you’re trying to grow a business, it can quickly become overwhelming.

Find the pros who offer knowledge and advice that hits home for you. Then consume as much as you can. And get some sleep.

Stuck on a creative project? Struggling to come up with the right phrase or a “this works!” layout?

Try this.

Turn on the TV. Find a movie. Now turn off the volume.

Shaking your head and saying “huh?” Maybe. But give it a few minutes.

Without audio, you’re forced to supply the sound yourself….or at least imagine what the sound might be.

You’ll find yourself creating dialogue, thinking about what music is playing…..even adding sound effects. You’re stretching…..and coming up with the creative elements missing in a silent film (or video since this also works on your computer or mobile device).

So next time you’re stuck, turn off the sound. It works.

I love to network…which means I’m always meeting new people. And lately I’m meeting more and more who are starting new businesses.

Despite the headline, I don’t see this as “you’re doing WHAT?” but rather “good for you!”

Why not? If you’ve been laid off, or your hours have been cut, what have you got to lose (OK, health insurance, but there are local groups working on that to help small businesses even as I type).

Actually, if you’ve been dreaming about being your own boss, this could be the perfect time.

There are a gazillion resources: support groups, meetups, tweetups, free webinars and seminars, and articles everywhere online filled with advice on starting your own business.

Not convinced? Google the word “entrepreneur” and see what comes up. I just did. 117 million results.

Think of it this way: our economy is cyclical. Always. This is just a longer “cycle” than we’ve seen in a while.

Building a business is challenging, no matter what the economy looks like. There will be lots of problems to deal with. But there will always be solutions. And you’ll be learning from all of them.

If you’re willing to stretch a little….and work your tail off (probably what you do working for someone else anyway), what’s holding you back?

I’ll close by sharing a new business that just launched last week. It’s called Chicago Canine Concierge. The entrepreneur is my daughter, Tracey. And I’m super proud of her….especially since it’s her second business.

Way to go, Tracey Gold!

I’ve been consulting with a client for several months on how to use social media. Last week, she told me that social media just wasn’t working for her business. Why? Her Facebook “like” number was stuck and hadn’t budged for weeks. 

I couldn’t argue with that. It was stuck. Even though there’d been some increase in the number of businesses that “liked” her, those were pages and aren’t included in the number of “likes” you see (a problem we wish Facebook would address).

However, I wasn’t surprised by any of this. Quite frankly, this client isn’t comfortable marketing on Facebook.

Asking others to “like” her page? No way. Commenting on other people’s posts doesn’t seem genuine to her. The whole “let’s connect and engage here” premise feels forced and phony.

End of story….good-by social media and good luck? Not quite.

We hadn’t discussed LinkedIn. Seems that the professional, one-on-one connecting that is LinkedIn is a different story. Here my client has seen success. In fact, one connection has led to three projects in the past two months. A connection that would never have occurred had she not been on LinkedIn. 

Takeaway: not all social media tools are right for all businesses. Find the ones (or one) that work for you, and stop worrying about using ALL of them. If you’re getting new business, whatever you’re doing is working. Keep it up!

Every once in a while,…usually if I’ve got a lot going on…I fall back into micro-manager, I-can-do-it-myself, don’t-need-any-help mode. Doesn’t work. Never really did.

So I’ll share a few tips to hopefully spare anyone else who suffers from the same malady.

Delegate. Outsource. Hire someone who’s an expert.

Stick with what you do really well. And don’t waste time trying to do something because you:

• think it’s so easy there’s no reason you can’t do it
• always wanted to do it anyway
• don’t want to spend the money.

Trust me. All you’ll accomplish is wasting time that could be spent working on billable projects. And that, in the end, is why you’re in business anyway. Isn’t it?

Time’s tight. You know you need to stay visible, but finding the time to market is a challenge. Especially in the summer when you’d rather be at the beach. Even moreso in late summer, when you notice the days getting shorter and your outdoor time slipping away.

So here’s a tip to make the most of your marketing efforts:

Next time you write an article, pull some of the copy to use in your next newsletter and a blog post. Expand a little here or there so it’s not exactly the same. Then see if you can pull out 140 characters (max!) for a tweet. Or a Facebook post.

Makes so much sense, doesn’t it?

Have fun at the beach. You’ll thank me for this in February!

It was a very good week.

Nope. No giant checks in the mailbox. No interviews in major publications. No fame. No fortune.

But I learned a lot.

From a stellar event where I met interesting people who talked about things I wanted to hear.

From a fascinating speaker who held an audience rapt with stunning images, colorful storytelling and a bit of theater — all spun together in a wondrous web of creative vision.

It was a week of taking in and reaching up. New ways to look at the world around me. New ideas to share. Unlimited possibilities.

Yep. It was a really good week.