Business consulting and marketing. What are the do’s and dont’s concerning you online business. Including my own experiences with my own business and what I have seen.

Why wait? Part 3 “My website is not ready.”

Why wait? Part 3
“My website is not ready”, is a very common excuse why people don’t market or start driving traffic to their site. In this there is no reason to wait unless you have no intention of succeeding.  Some business owners believe that they will lose more then they gain by releasing a site that is not up to the standards they set in their own minds.  I am not saying that you should start advertising a broken site or a site that cannot fulfill an order. That would be useless.  You may not gain customers because of its looks but you have started the long road to establishing your presence on the Internet. The sooner you start the less money you spend on catching up to where you should be, in relation to your competitors, when your site is finally finished.

You must remember and accept that your site will never be finished in your eyes.  You will get comments all the time about how you can improve your site and what you are doing is wrong.  Some will be valid and others will be just personal opinion. Unless, the comment says your site is down or “I cannot complete the transaction”, do not take the comments to seriously.  Make a note of the comments and look into it later. Talk to your project manager, webmaster or developer and ask about these comments.  Any one of them would be happy to go over the pros and cons of these comments and make a list of additions to the next release of the website. Being in a perpetual mode of development never allows you to expand your business.
 
I have had clients get advice from any number people at least 3 times a week.  The advice would come from a friend, spouse, stranger or another business owner.   And every week it was the same thing.  “Let’s change this, and let’s change that.”  Sure, but every change was a sacrifice of some other function of the site or a waste of time and money to develop.  At the end of the year we had a lot of changes and actually moved backwards in online visibility. We had spent so much time and money fixing the perceived problems, that the budget for marketing was zero. On top of that, the additions or corrections that were made earlier that year, where we spent a lot of time and money on, was available for free and supported by the developer on the next upgrade of the program software.

I always believed that you should fight the urge to constantly change the site. The only frequent changes to the site should be, content.  Most people like consistency and sense of stability. Release your first version of the site and start driving traffic right away.  You will fund all the improvements you want through the monetization of your site.  As you set you rhythm of advertising and marketing and get to know your traffic, you begin to see what your website’s strengths and weaknesses are.  And major flaws that need to be corrected right now.   Remember, there is no guarantee that you will make your money back on advertising but you will learn a little bit more about your site and what does and does not work for you.  This is essential to understanding what will be worth putting into the next version of your website and what is merely optional. You are now laying the foundation of improving your internet business without sacrificing your online presence.

“It’s all about the R.O.I”

Value of Antivirus and security

The best antivirus solution is often prevention.  I’ve done disaster recovery for quite a few years in this industry and some of my client’s disaster is the result of a virus of some kind.  Most of the time its a virus that seems to defeated its purpose of being hidden and slightly urging the unwitting user to click on something he or she finds worthwhile. Other times it’s a particularly vicious virus the holds the computer hostage to download a very deceitful antivirus program that does nothing but bring more harm to the computer and ultimately the user.
Many users depend the belief that they do not surf to questionable websites and therefore not at risk.  However, that is not the case these days and one does not have to go to questionable website to get a virus or Trojan horse in their computer.
Most common ways computers get viruses is through overt action, a person clicks on a popup or request to install a plugin or software that seems to be a useful tool or download manager.  These items should be viewed with great skepticism and turned down before agreed upon.  Many items that should not automatically agreed to are tool bars, plugins of any kind, download managers, dialers, antivirus requests, and many others.
My solution is prevention with a good antivirus program that is well reviewed and tested.   Key to any good antivirus solution is more than just scanning the computer for something you already downloaded or installed but has to be aggressive in its detection of items trying to install itself or changing the way the computer operates.  Generally this includes, real time virus scanning, firewall, malware detection, parental control, and privacy protection.
Over the years I have used many different antivirus solutions and not having much money in the past or felt that it wasn’t worth paying for a legitimate copy has cost me a lot of time and money and I strongly believe that you get what you pay for with antivirus programs.  After you install you operating system or turn on your brand new computer for the first time the next install must be a good antivirus product.  Really the first thing I do is uninstall whatever antivirus that came with the computer.  Not one time have I ever seen those products work effectively.  Always, remove that product and install something worth it.  I have always had good success with the following;
Bitdefender
NOD32 from Eset
Kaspersky Lab
Webroot
AVG.
My favorite that I have been using for almost 4 years now is Bitdefender Total Internet Security.  Bitdefender provides me with all the security I mentioned above and has never failed me.  As a system admin, IT support admin, disaster recovery consultant and developer, I expose my computer to all kinds of risks and it is crucial that my computer and all its data remain secure.  And this is where security is part of having a good antivirus solution. This keeps your valuable data from getting into the wrong hands.  Like, passwords, credit card information, personal information, and PC access.
When it comes to business, a particularly vicious virus can steal your customer’s information, destroy your reputation and bring your business to a standstill in one day.  It all can even happen in hours.

After all, “It’s all about the R.O.I”

Cost per mile

I recently got a brake job, bought tires, oil changes for both cars, all in this past 2 weeks.  And I realized that this isn’t just the cost of ownership but there is a cost per mile that I must be aware of when I use my car for work.  So today I decided to look up my costs for all the maintenance and hard costs that go into using my car for work and how relates to my bottom line.

Including my gas, tires, brakes, oil changes and $.10 depreciated value of my car, my cost per mile is $.32 per mile.  As a consultant I have a few clients all over the city of Los Angeles and this becomes a very hard figure to pay attention to.  Now, when I take a job I have to consider, not just gas, but all my maintenance.  Let’s say my client is 50 miles away.  Cost per mile is ($.32 x 50)2 = $32 round-trip, times 5 days per week at $160 per week.  That is a tough number to accept but it’s hard to deny.  With all small business owner these itemized costs need to be taken into account to maximize profits and understand whether that new client or project is worth the time and energy.

“It’s all about the R.O.I”

Why Wait?

Many times in business and sales many business owners believe in the slow and steady approach.  Believing that things will come around in due time and there is no need to take unnecessary risks.  However, the businesses around them and their competition more often than not do not follow that approach.   
The definition of risk is; “Exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.”  One can argue that merely starting a business is your biggest risk of all, yet so many business owners shy away from proper marking and advertising and knowingly put their biggest investment at risk.

I can’t emphasize more the number one reason why you shouldn’t wait.  Your competitors aren’t going to wait.  There is only one thing that a business person should be thinking about, is how can I establish a larger share of the market.  If you are selling flowers or cell phones it’s the same.  I want to sell more than the next guy.  New business owners are sometimes idealists and believe that there are plenty of customers out there for everyone and there is no need to be that aggressive.  I strongly disagree.  There may seem to be a lot there now but as time goes and the economy changes people begin to settle and grow accustom to one or two particular companies or in some cases marketing techniques.  The longer you wait the more entrenched your competition gets in your market and eventually starts taking your customers. 

Why wait until you have no choice to do marketing with few options.  Start marketing while you still have the flexibility to try different things and roll with the punches.  No one marketing plan is going to make you wealthy overnight but a handful of well vetted ideas and strategies will give you the best chance to keep up with or stay ahead of your competitors.  Put aside some money that you can afford to put into a marketing budget and actually spend the money.  You may not get all your money back but you will learn soon enough what works well and what to avoid in the future.  Remember that not marketing campaigns are not one size fits all and one marketing technique may work well for one person but not for you.

The most common reasons I have heard people comment on why not to invest into a good marketing campaign, over the years, have been:

  • I don’t understand how it works.
  • Too expensive
  • I’ll wait till my website is looking the way I want it
  • I can do it myself
  • I make enough money right now
  • I’ve tried everything already

Today I will cover the first one.  I don’t understand how it works.  Like anything new, of course you don’t understand how it works.  You won’t know until you do your research and due diligence, so you can make an informed decision.  There are new marketing strategies and gimmicks appearing all the time and only a few if not less are actually worth the time and effort.  Doing simple searches, using your favorite search engine, on the different marketing techniques or gimmicks you discover will help you figure out what is worth your time and what is not.  At the end you will find that only one or two will best suit your needs.  Others may as well but may not be obvious yet.  After all, you are still learning your business and discovering the different ways to promote your business. 

Now when you find something that’s worth it, it’s time to understand it a bit better. You should be asking yourself questions like; How does it work exactly?  Am I being charged monthly or yearly for this service?  Is there a contract involved?  Do I get tech support, when I am stuck?  Is this a PPC, PPI, percentage or flat rate?  If it’s so cheap what is the bigger angle?  Who else uses this service? And the last and biggest question you should ask what is there method of promoting you site. 

Some advertising companies are legitimate and use ethical marketing techniques, while others may use what we call a black hat approach.  Black hat refers to the darker side of internet technology and such practices can get you in trouble with your ISP, hosting company and even your billing company.  But most of all it could get you banned on Google and yahoo. The biggest red flags for such risky marketing is outlandish guarantees like; 100’s of thousands visitors per day instantly, first page placement on Google in only a few weeks, extremely cheap email marketing campaign for sending millions of emails and check if you are sending payments for this service outside of the US.

As a consultant, it is my job to make sure that I have recommended or purchased the right talent or service for the job.  I do my best to make sure that my client understands the risk and rewards of what they are buying and if they care to know how it works.  As a business owner you should know your traffic and understand how your marketing projects work.  This way you can make an informed decision to continue the service or end it.

It’s all about the R.O.I

Seminar at the Pomona FairPlex

I’ll be doing a seminar at the Computer Fair in the Pomona FairPlex, Saturday, Feb. 20 2011, at 11AM and again at 1:30PM.  My topic will be 

Getting the Most from Your Online Presence

I hope to bring worth while information to those who need it.

Why wait? Part 2

Next most common reason I’ve heard why people don’t advertise and market their site is; “It’s too expensive”.  Well, some business owners don’t quite say that exactly but it’s usually a version of that phrase.  For example;

  • “As soon as I am making more money, I will start advertising”
  • “That price is too high, I will wait till it gets cheaper”
  • “Advertising costs too much, when word of mouth is free”
  • “All my costomers just look me up”.

Let’s start with “As soon as I am making more money”, one of the biggest cop outs of the list.  Now, don’t get me wrong I completely understand that most small businesses are running on a shoe string budget and they have to always cover payroll, rent, taxes, stock, and other items.  This is referring to the business owner that has money coming in but wants to wait until he or she hits that magic number in the bank to justify spending money on advertising.  This magic number almost always keeps moving higher and higher and the business owner always seems to find a way to spend that “extra money” on something else.  It may be in goods, improvements or employees and not uncommonly perks.  Whether the business owner knows it or not, it is a self-sabotaging goal.  I’ve seen business owners really mean it and want to advertise with that extra money but something always comes up and when things get tough, in time the money is gone and the business is in dire straits and looking to advertise with no money in the coffers.

“That price is too high; I will wait till it gets cheaper”.  This is the favorite among brokers of ad space, traffic and Pay Per business models.  This concept is good only with non-time sensitive products.  For instance I would by Christmas ornaments after December 25th because, I know the season has past and the product will get cheaper.  But under the same example, if I am competing in a Christmas tree competition, and buying the winning ornament after Christmas doesn’t win me the contest. I have saved money but lost the contest.  Sometimes the advertising game is the same.  I have seen sites wanting thousands of dollars per week for adverting spots and 2 years later only asking for a couple hundred dollars.  But what happened and why has the price changed in my favor.  The difference is traffic.  That same site no longer has the traffic volume or quality, like before, due to the fact that trends change and high traffic sites come and go.  Obviously, at one point the value of the ad buy did justify the cost, according to someone familiar with that website.  I want to be clear, I am not saying just because the cost of the ad buy is high it must be good.  Not at all.  You must do your due diligence and understand what you are buying.  If the ad buy doesn’t work out well, find out through the website representative, why it was so bad and look closely at the purchase funnel of your website.

Other well-known advertising sites that were once affordable or worth the money have been, Google ad words, Google ad sense, consumptionjunction.com, break.com and any number of tube sites and various tool bars for web browsers.  Although all of those were once a well worth the money and effort, now they are either way too expensive for the small business owner to get involved or rotte with malware and bad press and you don’t want to have anything to do with them now.

“Advertising costs too much, when word of mouth is free”.  This is a great one and the most reliant on human kindness.  This method is tried and true and takes a very slow and steady approach.  This marketing technique keeps the knowledge of the business with the same group of people.  With absolutely no hope of going beyond a particular set of customers.  This works well only with customers that will only accept word of mouth to visit a business, one such business is a barber shop.  Not a hair salon, beauty shop, or hair stylist.  Many men care a great deal about their hair cut, not only about the quality of hair cut but the atmosphere as well.  Certain men know that with shorter hair the more obvious the mistake will stand out.  Basically, it’s a guy thing.

“All my customers just look me up”.  This is a reasonable misnomer, but a false positive.  Many website owners and store owners believe that each customer that searches for them by name is a new customer and the marketing is done.  Not true, any website you search for by name will show up at the top, 9 out of 10 times.  But you are preaching to the choir.  These are people that heard of you already or have some reference to you from the start.  These people don’t count.  You need the customers that don’t know who you are, to find you using the search term they know already.  They are searching for something specific and will click on the stores or websites that come up first.  Those are the business they will become familiar with and you need to be there as well to be competitive.  It’s great to have repeat customers but new customers becoming repeat customers will make your business thrive.  And when the economy is bad your advertising and search engine marketing will keep bringing in more money than word of mouth or simple look up on the yellow pages.

“It’s all about the R.O.I”