Does Modern Design Destroy Your Content Flow?

Does Modern Design Destroy Your Content Flow?

When a person visits a website, they are almost always searching for a very specific piece of information.  

As writers and domain owners,we are always quick to assume that we know what that one thing is- people are here because they want to buy our products and services.  However, that’s rarely the case…at least not initially.

For instance, you stumbled across this blog post while navigating the Upstate Synergy website.  Does that mean you have your checkbook in hand ready to become one of our clients?  

Of course not.  You want to see who we are as a brand first, how well we know the digital marketing realm and what solutions we offer.  And even then, that doesn’t mean you’re here to buy anything.

 

Again- you’re looking for some type of specific information.

 

 

So in order for us to have any kind of chance at turning you into a paying customer, our first and foremost goal is to figure out what kind of information you’re really looking for.  The truth of the matter is that it could be almost anything- the possibilities are virtually endless.

That tells us that in order to have great website content, we need to foresee just about every possible need our customers could have when they visit us.  We try to do that by-

– Closely watching our website’s metrics and seeing how visitors travel through the site

– Posting contact forms on almost every page to make it easy to get fast answers

– Using FAQ sheets and other compact layouts to get lots of information in small spaces

– Studying feedback in email and surveys to see what info visitors can’t find easily

– Straight-out asking for direct feedback from our current clients

And guess what?  We still have large bounce rates at times.  That’s because you can’t account for every possible scenario that would cause someone to visit your website.  The best you can do is to keep asking questions and study your visitors to have a more complete picture of their needs.

 

 

Discovering Roadblocks in the Buyer's Journey

Now, you may be wondering why we go to such lengths- don’t we know our own business and our customers?

Of course we do.  That’s not the real problem here.

The real problem is that we know our business too good.  And you have the exact same problem.  You’re so close to the everyday operations that you can’t fully see the buyer’s journey from start to finish.

Let’s work through a practical example- 

A visitor arrives at your homepage.  This person falls into your ideal demographic, they can afford your product and they actually need it.  They’re an ideal customer in every sense of the word.

Yet, this person doesn’t enter your site on a product or information page- they happen to catch a link in search to your homepage.  So they’re looking at your header image, links to different categories and some type of headline.  Maybe there’s a few other pictures worked in there or a call to action as well.

The reason this ideal customer came to your site, however, was to see if they can make an online purchase/deposit with a credit card and then receive one of your products/services through a non-standard way.  Maybe they want to have a co-worker come by to talk to you about the purchase before making a final selection or set a delivery date sometime in the future.

They look on your homepage for that info.  It’s not there.  Then they visit your products page.  The info isn’t there either.  Next they try your FAQ, your contact page and a few more areas- the information they want is nowhere to be found.

So what does this ideal customer do?

While we’d love to think that they’d just call us and ask, modern consumers usually find their backspace key instead.  They’re off to another website with the same question.

 

Spotting the Content Dilemna

You may have noticed these days that major brands are actually using a lot less content on their main pages.  This is actually for two reasons-

1) Short, bold statements really stand out to the average consumer.

2) Modern search Optimization focuses heavily on visitor actions.

However, if you look at some of our pages closely, you may be surprised at how much content we packed in there while still keeping a minimal look.  For instance, our Lunch w/ Friends page has almost 800 words of content, but most of it is hidden in the accordian section.  We achieved similar results on the homepage with sliders, multi-layer text areas and other formats.

Now, you may think, “Nobody ever reads that stuff.”  

That’s not true though- almost nobody ever reads that stuff.  And we’re fine with that, as long as the one unique person with a specific question can find their answer quickly…or spot our contact form on each page that talks about legendary fast response times.

Along those same lines of thinking, every single page of your website should have a “Learn More” button included in each section.  While you or I may get excited over the small summary paragraph, we don’t want to alienate those who need more information and aren’t ready to reach out yet.

That means your website’s sitemap should look like a pyramid where every main page starts with a major category and then branches out for every specific need/problem.  Every time you introduce something new, then you should also provide 2-3 additional pages to talk about the different aspects of it.

The Modern Content Layout

Do you see that sexy hunk of modern muscle car above?  It pained us to put a sub-header over it because it is so darn beautiful.  That’s the new 2017 Mazda RX7.

Let’s knock out a quick examle for using Mazda USA and an example-

The home page would has some great hero images with  snappy text.  We’d also see our standard product pages, an about us (Why Mazda), a dealer page, shopping tools and a link to some testimonials.

We already know that the average buyer is going to be looking for things like fuel efficincy, overall horsepower, available colors, etc.  So they did well by working all of that information in on the homepage or the first landing page for each vehicle.  That’s essentially where the pyramid starts- going from the homepage to the eight different models that Mazda sells.

Each major category page also has content that’s light any airy.  We love the negative space to make each photo the star, plus they have some handy tools to learn about the specifics.  The layout of each vehicle page matches the exact process a salesman would present the car inside a dealership- so that’s perfect for the buyer’s journey.

However, you can’t forget about the car fanatics of the world either.  They want real information.

For instance, what’s the rear differential on the Mazda 3 sedan?  What’s the recommended mileage for changing the transmission fluid?  Does it require premium unleaded?  

One the Mazda USA site, this problem is loosely handled by providing product brochures, spec sheets and numberous other resources at the bottom of the homepage.  But is that the best way to ensure that the customer sees it?  

Definitely not.  It personally took me over eleven minutes to find answers those three basic questions.  

So while Mazda did well with “read more” and “learn more” buttons for each section, the information shared is simply too generic to meet all customer types.  We hit four different dead ends trying to answer basic questions and had to completely start our search over in other areas of the site.

Don’t forget, we’re talking about a specific car from a specific company that we’re already in love with.  If this was an example for printer paper or life insurance, we would have given up after 10-15 seconds of looking.  

Nobody earns 11 minutes of patience in cyberspace- not even Mazda.  After all, he new 2017 Ford Viper is even more gorgeous.

 

 

What’s the moral of the story here?

While your website may be beautiful, it’s probably not optimized for customers anywhere near as well as you think.  That’s a huge problem that can’t be fixed through design, navigation or different layouts- it takes real content that gives specific answers to questions that we may not have even thought about yet.

If you take one thing away from this article, it’s to find new ways to listen to your customers about what’s really important to them.  Then find logical ways to complete the buyer’s journey from homepage to contact, and remember that each of us will likely want to take a different path during that process.

Websites are not meant to be “one size fits all.”  That’s called a sales pitch, not a brand experience.

Be sure to let us know if we can help.

 

 

Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

Never hire a website designer?  What kind of idiot would actually say that out loud?  Before you start throwing rotten tomatoes at your screen, just hear me out…

After all, if you want a great cup of coffee, then you would visit the best coffee shop in your town.  If you need a new suit, then you go to the premiere tailor around.  So why wouldn’t you hire a website designer to help you build a great website?

To put it simply, a freelance website designer is good for only one thing- coding HTML into websites.  And for the sake of argument, let’s say that you do need a website built.  Should you hire one then?

No.  Heck no.  Don’t even think about it.  That’s a big mistake Mister.  Do not hire a website designer and expect random miracles.

Why?  The initial coding elements of your website are a minor part of the overall picture compared to things like design, branding, marketing, search optimization and customer engagement.  The vast majority of web designers don’t know about any of those things, so they’re definitely not the one you want leading your online face lift for the masses to see.  Choose a creative design firm instead.

If that’s not enough to sway you to never hire a website designer, then here are 27 more things to consider-

Do You Know Content Marketing?

1) Can you speak in HTML, PHP or Klingon?

Let’s start with what websites designers are actually good at; programming in languages like PHP and HTML, plus brushing up on their Star Trek lingo for this summer’s Comic-Con.  Since you don’t speak these languages though, then you’re going to have no idea how to make any adjustments.

2) Do you care about customer service at all?

Besides, have you ever asked a website developer for help understanding something?  That’s like asking Gollum from Lord of the Rings for fashion advice…there’s simply no answer to the equation.

3) Are you a genuine WordPress expert?

Let’s say that you do hire a website designer and they deliver you a site as promised.  Now what?  Do you know your way around WordPress enough to actually turn an empty domain into a place that potential customers would want to visit?

A website designer is a person who takes instructions and works with code to make your idea come to life.  But well over 90% of them now very little about how to attract customers or make a website become popular.

4) Do you enjoy overpaying for imaginary services?!?

Besides, most of today’s web developers still work on an old-school monthly-rate plan, which means that you pay for your website up front and then shell out a large chunk of change each month for site maintenance and other imaginary services.

Well, guess what?  You don’t need to pay someone to sit idle and collect monthly fees for absolutely nothing.  Don’t EVER hire a website designer under these conditions without spelling out exactly what they’ll be doing for you each month

5) Do you enjoy being frequently lied to?

Now, we’re not saying that website designers are liars, because most of them have the best intentions in the world when they say that they can design your new website from top to bottom in a few weeks.  But again, they’re thinking about code and the bare minimum of back-end stuff to make something qualify as an actual website.  All of your content marketing, lead banners and images in place are a completely different story.

If you hire a website designer with the sole intention of driving sales or attracting new customers, then that’s the very first question you should ask- can you prove that you can do that kind of stuff?

6) Do you follow the latest SEO algorithm trends?

If you do then that’s great, because your web designer almost certainly doesn’t.  He has to keep up with new programming languages and the latest apps/tools instead.  That means you’ll have to do a lot of reading on Moz and HubSpot for hiring a website designer.

There’s another inherent problem here though- and that’s Google’s inherent love towards innovative online businesses that strive to make customers happy.  If you hire a website designer that’s not studying these trends and continually expanding their strategies, then you’ve already lost before your website is even built. 

And don’t even get me started on those “specialty website design firms” that essentially sell everyone the exact same website over and over again- the automotive world wastes billions of dollars every year on websites that will never, ever draw customers because of poor design and horrible SEO.

7) Do words really matter at all?

Most website developers will quickly volunteer to write your website’s content for a nominal fee, and then turn around to do one of two things-

·         Hire a writer from India for $2.36/hr., who sub-contracts it to a gal in Pakistan for 1/4th that amount

·         Write the content themselves…which makes the Pakistani look like a true poet in comparison

Either way, none of these people are brand experts that can help you drive in conversions.  And if pleasing customers and making sales isn’t a priority, then there’s no sense in having a website to begin with.

8) Can you create an effective banner ad?

Since sites like Canva and BeFunky make it easy for almost anyone to get their art on, then maybe you can crank out a decent looking banner all by yourself.  But do you know how to upload it and link it to your squeeze page?  Can you configure it with your lead generation software?

Probably not…and neither can your web designer.  That’s why you never hire a website designer to handle creative aspects of your domain (HINT- which should be the ENTIRE FREAKING WEBSITE!)

Do You Know Web Design?

9) Do you like people who overstate their credentials?

Unfortunately, most website developers earn a bad rap because people have no idea what they’re looking for when hiring a professional.  So here’s a little cheat sheet-

  • Web developers install themes and write code
  • Programmers create apps, often from scratch
  • Designers make pretty page layouts & graphics
  • Copywriters and bloggers handle your site’s content
  • Marketers focus on traffic and generating leads
  • Analysts dig deep into the data to find insights

Very rarely will one person have some serious skills in all of these areas since each can take decades to master.  That’s why you hire a digital marketing team instead of a web developer.

10) Do you prefer face to face business meetings? 

If so, then your boss will either laugh or cry when the “website guru” you hired shows up in the board room wearing cutoff jeans, a tie-died tee shirt, and flip flops.  Either way; you’re probably in for an ear-full from the VP of Common Sense after the meeting adjourns.

Not that web designers can get dressed up for a meeting, mind you…that’s not really the point here.  You need a firm representing your brand online that understands business, marketing, sales projections, customer loyalty and all that good stuff that really matters.

11) Does your company work late-night?

If so, then hiring a website developer may not be such a bad idea after all.  That’s because a large portion of the top web geeks tend to work well into the night and sleep until noon…just because they can.

Between that and Halo tournaments, that’s essentially why it takes three weeks for you to get a simple answer.

On the bright side though, if you hire a foreign web designer then his nights are your days so everything works out perfectly!  That is, as long as you have enough time to overcome the language barriers.

12) “It puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again!”

What, you don’t like random pop culture quotes forwarded to your inbox sixteen times a day?  Then let’s hope that you didn’t accept your web developer’s Facebook request…that’s where the real magic happens!

Seriously though, coders are a special breed that don’t always march to the same drum cadence as the rest of society.  That doesn’t make them any less dependable, mind you, but most are simply not made for the board room.

13) How important are overall results anyway?

Let’s say your boss is a big AC/DC fan and he wants the song “Highway to Hell” to auto-play on your homepage as soon as new visitors arrive.  Sounds like a pretty terrible idea, right?

Well, too bad for you that the web developer you just hired could care less about what may seem like a good or bad idea.  Their only job is to build a site and get paid…they could care less about results.  And once your boss realizes that heavy metal misses the demographic , guess who gets paid all over again?  Cha-ching!  Time to hire a web designer all over again.

Go ahead and click play though- you know you want to.  Better to get it out of your system now.

14) Hey look, the homepage is giving some random 500 error…

Oh, you actually believed that random web developer when he said that you can call him day or night?  Sorry friend, but it’s a Buffy the Vampire marathon weekend and definitely not a good time.  Maybe try back next Tuesday when his mom will be there to pick up the phone…

Seriously though, you want to hire a website designer that has a long history of great customer service.  At times it will fell like you’re married to your design firm since they play a vital role in practically everything your company does.  So focus on your relationship early and makes sure all lines of communication are wide open.

15) Are you looking for results-based quality?

Surely by now you’ve seen a little bit of a pattern forming here…it’s not just in your head.  The average web developer knows absolutely zero about actual design, marketing, search optimization or your customers, so they can only deliver a mere fraction of what you’re looking for.

That’s what I’ve been saying all along here; do not hire a website designer if you’re looking for the total package.  Such a person doesn’t exist in the modern world unless you’re looking to spend $150/hr for the next 18 months.

Can You Afford a Rockstar Designer?

16) What if I want to work directly with a top-level programmer?

Here’s a little secret for you- the rock star programmers in today’s world are earning comfortably in the six-figure range creating apps and future technologies.  The few that do develop websites are often either-

·         Making their own custom themes and affiliate sites, or

·         Earning a huge paycheck with a top-tier agency/corporation

Either way, there are only a small handful of top-tier website developers out there that still build websites from scratch.  The rest use platforms like WordPress or Joomla.

17) Okay, but what if I want a website built from scratch anyway?

Well, that is the way to go if you are a large company with 6+ figure online sales and millions of web views per month.  Clean code from a professional will easily pay for itself in no time, plus save you countless headaches.  So in this one very specific case, you need to hire a website designer…through a design firm.

Why? Remember how arrogant Tom Cruise and his fellow fighter pilots were in the movie Top Gun?  In real life, a superstar coder is likely going to be five times as self-righteous and twice as quick to defend their excellence.  

These types of work relationships almost always end badly without that designer being on premesis and working as a part of a team.  Think epic proporations bad.

18) Do you take deadlines even halfway seriously?

Was Picasso given timelines when creating a masterpiece?  Heck no…and he didn’t even know C+ Basic.  So when you’re braving the world of programmers and building something from scratch, there’s no such thing as a timeline for actual launch.  You can be given estimates, but definitely not any sort of deadline.

To be fair, you can experience this type of setback with any reputable design firm if communication breaks down or you simply like watching underlings dance in terror.  That’s why you never want to hire a website designer without properly vetting them first- grab the phone and call a few of their previous clients directly.  Just because their site is pretty doesn’t mean it didn’t finish six months late and $15k over budget.

19) What if I just skipped using a web designer completely?

Oh, you mean like one of those free website builders that allows you to launch a complete website in 15 minutes?  That’s a great idea…except that they absolutely, positively suck.  Not only do they vastly overcharge you on a monthly plan to move forward, but the “plug and play” coding is also a jumbled mess that the search engines hate.

So if you’re going to be a do-it-yourself type, then buy a premium WordPress theme and find a highly rated foreign WordPress expert on Upwork to install it.  This will save you a small fortune if you can serve as your own tech support and figure out the content/marketing elements on your own. 

20) Wait- there are cheap AND talented foreign website developers?

Definitely, and you can find some world-class developers from Pakistan, India and similar regions for less than $200 a week for full time work.  But be warned; there are many language and cultural barriers that will drive you absolutely nuts if you don’t know what you actually need completed.

These are super-friendly, hardworking people that really aim to please…just be prepared for quite a long trial and error period.  If you do hire a website designer from overseas, then it would be a great idea to start with a consultation from a reputable digital marketing firm here in the USA (hint, hint- that’s us!) and have them manage the project with your cheap labor.

21) Are you a true patriot?

Of course you are…so why are we talking about hiring foreign web developers and putting some hard working American college graduate out on the streets?  You should be ashamed of yourself for even entertaining the notion!

Then again, what’s more American than saving money on business expenses?  There are certainly pros and cons to hiring individuals overseas so I’ll let you decide how to proceed there.

What About Other Online Factors?

22) How versed are you on finding and optimizing keywords?

These days, it is almost impossible to appear on the first page of the search engines for your major keywords by accident.  Ranking a website is a process that’s both time consuming and highly technical; plus it takes a creative flair and a solid understand of consumers to execute correctly.  So this person with a multitude of talents either needs to be on your staff (likely for six figures), or it can be part of a creative team working on your behalf.

For you to hire a website designer that has all of these skills though, it will be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Unfortunately, the only way a designer becomes the total package is by sheer experience working with a number of leading companies and start-ups while wearing a number of different hats.  And quite honestly, these types of folks usually get hired by major corporations before you’ll ever find them.

23) What is your actual end goal with web design?

Most people would answer this question by saying, “I want to make more sales or gather more leads.”  That’s what we all want from our websites.  But the only way to achieve that is by having a fully optimized website that engages your customers and answers their most pressing questions.

Remember that getting the customers to your domain is only half the battle…the rest is convincing them to stick around and actually experience your brand.

24) Who’s going to hold your web developer accountable?

Hopefully you’re not the type that listens to some fast talking salesman and then says, “Sure, let’s run with it!”  Since you don’t personally know website design or the many other skills it requires to make a website rank favorably, it will be impossible for you to hold a web developer accountable or even guide them in the right direction.

That means you either need someone on your staff that understands tech or you need to partner with a firm that has earned your trust through delivering actual results.  If you just hire a website designer off the streets though because you saw their spammy ad on Facebook, there’s very little chance that they’ll have your best interests at heart.  After all, they’ve already proven that they have a quantity over quality mentality.

25) Who’s keeping an eye on your competitors?

Large corporations spend millions of dollars per year analyzing their competitors and creating campaigns to counter their rival’s latest moves.  And on a smaller scale, you should be doing the exact same thing with your website and everywhere you keep an online presence.

Is the guy who writes website code the best person for this job though?  Not by a longshot…you’d be better off hiring the average 7th  grader to take on the job.  At least you can keep them focused with a juice box.

26) How do you measure success and failure online?

When a website visitor stumbles on your website, how do you know whether they had a great customer experience?  Where’d they even come from?  What do they want?  Is anyone actually paying attention to this sort of stuff?  You need answers to these difficult questions and very few website developers are qualified to be the one interpreting it.

If this is starting to sound like a broken record, that’s because you should never hire a website designer that doesn’t talk about conversion rates, click-through rates, time on site and all the other metrics that mean your customers are actually being engaged.

27) Why are you so negative about website developers anyway?

Like I’ve mentioned several times already, I have nothing against web developers since they are essential for both my business and yours.  I just want for it to be crystal clear in your mind that website development is a very small (although important) aspect of your complete online presence.  Web developers are generally weak at copywriting, photography, graphic design, search optimization, lead generation and marketing…which are all vital to your success.

So you absolutely, positively need to hire a website designer…but you don’t want that person in charge of your overall campaign.  Would you recommend an awesome mechanic to be the next VP of Marketing at Ford or Chrysler?  Of course not- the same principle applies to hiring web developers.

Have any good horror stories from hiring a website developer?  Did I miss something in my list?  Feel free to share away in the comment section below.

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Lunch with Friends CampaignDo you ever get the feeling that if you could only talk to some of your ideal customers and show them that you’re the real deal; that it could really change things in a dramatic way?

I was thinking about that today when I realized that I have more clients in Los Angeles, Detroit, or Chicago lately than I do in Spartanburg County.  Sadly, my local networking has really been lacking in recent years because I stay so busy with larger national clients.  At the same time though, I started Web Synergy years ago because I wanted to impact local businesses right here in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Asheville…so it’s time for some serious changes.

I decided to start a new “Lunch with Friends” campaign for Spartanburg County and the surrounding cities, and it basically works like this-

  • Visit my online calendar and choose a date to sit down for lunch together
  • When we meet I’ll answer each and every one of your online marketing questions
  • I’ll help you create an action plan to optimize your website and fix any issues
  • We will also look at the fastest way for you to start gaining new customers online
  • I’ll waive 100% of my consulting fees as well…just pick up the check

What am I looking to gain from this?

As I said, I would prefer to have all of my clients locally within the next few years.  I would rather help you out today for free and make a new local contact to network with, or possibly even gain your business.  But either way, you’ll receive my expertise and we both walk away big winners.

So if you’ve been wondering how to significantly boost your online presence, this is the perfect time to learn about search optimization and online marketing from the top authority in the southeast.  I’m looking forward to meeting you soon!

How to Land Almost Any Job on Upwork

For the past decade, I have consistently been one of the highest grossing freelance writers on Upwork (formerly Elance and oDesk), the largest freelance job site around. In four of those years, I was the #1 individual in the world for the writing category, and I can...

Use Content to Build Links & Your Brand in 2018

Content isn’t just something nice to have – it’s one of your most tangible brand assets. Use content to build effective backlinks that are going to stick, and actually benefit your business and brand. Content-oriented link building is some of the most effective link...

Does Modern Design Destroy Your Content Flow?

When a person visits a website, they are almost always searching for a very specific piece of information.   As writers and domain owners,we are always quick to assume that we know what that one thing is- people are here because they want to buy our products and...

Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

Never hire a website designer?  What kind of idiot would actually say that out loud?  Before you start throwing rotten tomatoes at your screen, just hear me out… After all, if you want a great cup of coffee, then you would visit the best coffee shop in your town.  If...

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Do you ever get the feeling that if you could only talk to some of your ideal customers and show them that you’re the real deal; that it could really change things in a dramatic way? I was thinking about that today when I realized that I have more clients in Los...

The Death of Keywords in 2018

I need to ask you an important question here- and be honest.  How much do you really focus on keywords these days? Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and you have to promise not to tell anyone about this.  Not even those self-proclaimed SEO gurus that...

Building the Ultimate Dealer Website for Selling Cars

Building the Ultimate Dealer Website for Selling Cars

Although it’s been on my to-do list for quite some time now to reach out to a few of the local Spartanburg car dealerships with horrible online presences, I simply haven’t had the time lately to try and add additional clients.  But since I’ve been writing sales copy for automobiles for practically 1/3rd of my life, I decided to take a look today just to see how my competition has been treating our local auto lots.

I can summarize what I saw in one word- ouch!

The best way to measure the area car websites is to do a basic Google search for “buy used car Spartanburg”.  Not surprisingly, GoUpstate had the #1 ranking since many of you are still paying for advertising, which you need since your sites are not properly optimized for consumers.  The number two dealership in the results was Family Auto of Spartanburg– which seems downright shocking.

Now, I don’t know the good folks that run this business, but the website loaded extremely slow, the text formatting was horrible, and the individual cars listings didn’t even load properly.  When you click on a particular vehicle, it pops up a single photo with the car’s information lower on the page…but when you try to scroll, the website in the background scrolls instead.  This means that their customers can’t even get basic details about the vehicles they’re looking at or see the price.

To make matters even worse, it was designed by a Greenville company that claims to only build automotive fleet websites; and yet they’re killing this poor business by not giving potential customers any reason to ever call the dealership!

Now remember, this is the highest ranked used car dealer in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  What does that say about the rest of the Spartanburg automotive websites out there that rank below this one?

I’ll tell you what it says- double ouch, especially since almost 90% of all car buyers do preliminary research online before ever buying a vehicle.

That means by being poorly optimized for online sales, you’re likely selling to less than 10% of your ideal market each and every month.  The vast majority are driving to Greenville, Asheville and Charlotte simply because that’s where they are finding great vehicles on the net.  These consumers don’t even know you exist…even though they likely drive right past you every single day!

So if you’re the owner or general manager of an automotive dealership here in the Upstate, let me tell you real quick how to properly sell vehicles online-

1) Start with a gorgeous homepage. Grab some stock art of the top 3-5 nicest vehicles that could possibly be sold on your lot and place them on a slider at the top of the page.  Then on each photograph, give bullet points about your sales process, your simple financing options and how hard you work to serve the Upstate.

2) Nail down your navigation. Customers should be able to easily find vehicles by class, price range, mileage, fuel economy and even color…and these search elements should be visible below your homepage slider as well.  You should also have a financing page, a company history, current specials/promotions and a map of where your dealership is located.

3) Make Listings Pop. When it comes to actually listing vehicles on your site (and promoting it out to other sites like Auto Trader and Cars.com), more is always better. Consumers want to see the mileage, the options, recent service inspections and a thorough description…plus at least 25 photos taken from every possible angle inside and out.  A short video is also a massive plus since it lets them hear the vehicle and it gives you a new way to rank.

4) Write Awesome Descriptions.  That thorough description I mentioned- this is what actually sells cars online these days. Talk about the highlights (low mileage, one owner, maintenance receipts, great paint, etc.) while minimizing the negatives (rust, worn interior, etc.).  Here’s a quick bonus tip as well- NEVER use the stock description of a vehicle.  Google sees it as duplicate content and naturally penalizes it in the search rankings, so you’re better off having no information than something copied from the manufacturer!  This is true for every industry.

5) Drive in Leads.  You want to catch customer information as early in the viewing process as possible, so every description page should have a button that says “Schedule a Test Drive for this Vehicle!” Then they can submit their name, email address, phone number and preferred appointment time without ever speaking to a sales rep.

6) Encourage Connections.  Likewise, every page on your website should have the following elements- (a) your phone number and address in bold, (b) an clever opt-in form to generate leads and (c) something that creates urgency.

7) Learn to Convert.  Every online lead should go straight to a sales rep in real time so a personalized email can be sent. For example, it could read, “Hi.  This is Scott with ABC Autos.  I saw that you were interested in the ’06 Camry with 43k miles; it’s a really beautiful, great driving car.  Are there any questions I can answer for you before your scheduled appointment?”

8) Strong Community Outreach.  Dealerships also need to be huge in giveaways these days…but it’s actually nowhere near as expensive as you’d think. Have people opt in for a free oil change, a monthly drawing for an iPad or something similar, and build a loyal following using this strategy on social media.  You can also host contests where friends of friends do the voting…which means that your best customers become brand ambassadors on your behalf.

9) Keep Conversations Going.  Finally, start a fun-loving blog about events here in Spartanburg, customer testimonials and other light reading. This gives you something to post to social media between advertising each new car that you add to your inventory, and it drastically increases your natural exposure.  You’ll also use this content for email blasts to keep customers engaged well after their purchases, all the while helping you sell more vehicles.

This is the exact formula I use for all of my national clients, and it equates to an average of 30-40 additional used car sales per month over their previous totals.  Just take a moment and do the math- what’s the average commission times forty worth to your bottom line?  Because that’s what you’re losing out on every single month by not fully optimizing your website for consumers.

The best news of all is that online rankings for car dealerships in Spartanburg, South Carolina is wide open for anyone that’s serious about selling more cars and trucks; there simply is no serious competition out there at this time.  And as long as dealerships turn to those self-proclaimed “experts” in Greenville that can’t even make a car ad display properly, there will be a golden opportunity in place to really dominate the local market.

So if you’re ready to start flooding your showroom with foot traffic and sell a heck of a lot more vehicle every month, I would be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss how we can make that happen- just fill out the enclosed contact form for a completely free evaluation.

Does Online Marketing Work for Restaurants?

Does Online Marketing Work for Restaurants?

I had an interesting conversation with a local restaurant owner in Costco the other day as he tried to push his enormous cart of mozzarella, spices and tomato base towards the checkout counter.  As a former Italian restaurant owner myself, I knew his story without even having to ask- his vendor undoubtedly messed up and good old Costco is always a solid last-minute bail out for our kinds of businesses.  I could instantly feel his pain since I was in the exact same position myself dozens of times.

After sharing war stories for a few minutes about incompetent delivery drivers and the perfect blend of cheeses for pizza, the owner asked me if I knew anyone that would be interested in buying his restaurant.  He explained that while the business was still profitable, it seemed like his customer base had continually shrunk over the past five years even though he’s remained highly competitive on his pricing and delivered a great product.

Then I told him what every restaurant owner needs to hear- online marketing is essential for every restaurant in the Spartanburg area, regardless of how big or small they are.
Why?  Think about this for a moment.  How do you order a pizza these days?

For my family, we hop on our smartphones, look at the current specials and then submit our order online…and that’s how over 70% of America does it these days.  That means if you’re still handing out flyers, placing newspaper ads and using other forms of traditional marketing these days, only 3 in 10 people are even noticing you.

For example, my family loves Sidestreet Pizza over in Tryon.  Besides the long wait times, I honestly couldn’t say a single negative thing about it.  The service is great.  The food is great.  I love the atmosphere.  Yet, I haven’t eaten at Sidestreet in at least 4 years.  But I’ve ordered from Dominos, Papa Johns and The Pepperoni Express in Inman dozens of times since then, all because they have a solid online presence and I can see their specials quickly.
Are franchises like Pizza Hut better than Sidestreet?  I don’t think we even need to dignify that with an answer.  But the big chains are making a huge effort to cater to today’s consumer and that simply makes them more relevant.  People will literally settle for food from an inferior brand simply because that’s what they see in the search engines.

And as I explained this to this restaurant owner in Costco the other week, he sort of hung his head in defeat since he didn’t know anything about internet marketing.  Even if I built him a great website, he said, there was no way possible that he would be able to keep up with updates and things that would make him stand out.

He also mentioned that cost was a major issue…and I realized that he wasn’t just trying to sell his pizza restaurant; he was on the verge of going out of business completely.  That’s the only reason why I’m not sharing his name or his location (yet).  Stay tuned for updates though, because I am actively working on his search optimization as we speak.

Now, I could completely relate to his situation.  When that bad ice storm hit Spartanburg back in 2003 and my restaurant was without water/power for over a month, I had no idea how to get my customers back fast enough for it to really make a difference.  I was underwater in debt and the idea of a website would have been laughable for me just like it was for this person.  But then again, I didn’t know back then what I know now…and you can’t ignore that 70% of all consumers perform a Google search before heading towards a local restaurant.

Since I definitely don’t want any other local restaurant owners to feel this way, here’s a quick cheat sheet of simple things you can do to drastically increase your online presence on a tight budget-

  • Build a Facebook and a Google Local business page, and start a campaign for people to like your page. My favorite for restaurants is giving customers a $3 off coupon or a free side item for following you on social media…and you’d be amazed how quickly it will be shared and deliver traffic to your doorstep.
  • Take the time to register on at least a dozen directory sites like the Yellow Pages, Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon), TripAdvisor, etc. Create complete profiles there and offer a special unique to each website, and be sure to add some photos of your mouthwatering food.
  • Ask your best customers to leave reviews for you on those directory sites in-house for an instant $1 off their check total per person (per review). If you’re doing this regularly, then you can simply raise your menu prices by $1 and all the reviews are free.
  • Build a restaurant website using one of the free online tools or contact me to create an affordable website for you. Then add the essentials- great photos, a full menu, daily specials, directions via Google Maps, a food blog, etc.
  • Use the same tactic to get customers to opt into your email marketing campaigns; just give them a great one-time special to share their email addresses.
  • Once you’ve completed the social sites, directory sites and your own personal website, start sharing fun facts about Spartanburg, cool photos, daily specials and other information people wouldn’t mind reading.
  • Likewise, every time you post a blog or a new special, share it straight to your social sites for people to see it. Then send out a weekly email recapping what you’re doing for customers.

Now, you may be thinking that most of those things are far outside your comfort zone, which is exactly what the restaurant owner inside Costco told me as well.  But then I asked him- how many times a night do you have to tell your younger employees to get away from their smartphones?  Fifty?  A hundred?  Every one of them is a social media genius- they just don’t realize that their talent for wasting time online can actually become a massive resource from a business standpoint.

And honestly, I do not recommend the free website builders like Weebly since they are hard to customize and rank effectively.  But if you have to choose between doing nothing and launching a basic website…go the free route every single time.  While it certainly can’t hurt, the help it could deliver is enormous.

So if you can’t afford to hire me right now, then put your youth to work knocking out the above list and improving your online presence.  You will be absolutely amazed at how quickly it makes a difference…I’ve seen restaurants go from on the verge of closing to being on track for $50k+ months in a matter of weeks.  It just takes a substantiated effort of communicating with your customers and giving them reasons to pay attention to you online.

If you have any questions about how to market your restaurant online or you need a little more guidance on making your location profitable; then feel free to contact me through my online form to set up a consultation.  Since restaurant management will always be in my blood and I love having the chance to make a difference here in Spartanburg, the initial consultation will only cost you lunch.  Hopefully you know somewhere good to eat.  =)

Five Tell-Tale Signs of a Neglected Website

Five Tell-Tale Signs of a Neglected Website

If you’re like most business owners in the digital age, then you probably measure you’re website’s effectiveness by the number of customers that it delivers to your doorstep.  The more daily foot traffic that mentions seeing you online, the more time you invest on creating a great web-based user experience.  And that’s great IF your website is creating fresh leads on a regular basis.

On the other hand, the #1 reason why business owners neglect their online presence is because they are not receiving an influx of customers from it, and then they illogically assume that it is because people are not looking online for that type of product/service.  We all know that’s inaccurate though since people use their smartphones for everything these days.  Just look around you…people are likely visiting your competitor’s websites while they’re inside your store shopping.

If you’re not sure if you’re one of our local Spartanburg faithful that’s neglecting their website presence, then here are five things you should be doing routinely-

Posting Fresh Content

Every time you post new content to your website, it’s like sending a distress beacon to Google that says, “Hey, look at me…I care about my customers.”  And in turn, the search engines will begin to visit your website more often to ensure that your readers can always access the most recent content from the search engines.  The beautiful thing is that fresh content doesn’t have to be elaborate articles either- it can be new product descriptions or new services/items, video and photographs, or even updates to existing pages.

Changing Your Homepage

Likewise, changing up your homepage even a little bit can have profound effects on your customers.  That’s why all the big businesses switch up their homepage graphics frequently; it keeps the site feeling new and fresh without changing the actual navigation.  So even if it’s just adding some new photos to your slider or adding a few banners, these changes really do matter in the grand scheme of things.

Social Media Updates

Whenever a consumer visits you on social media, the very first thing they do is look at the last thing posted by your company.  And if the date is several months old, then that tells them that you’re not very interested in communicating with them.  The crazy part is that you can post anything on social media to keep those engagement levels high- it can be anything from store branding to photographs to news content and local information.

Using Outdated Contact Forms

If a customer has to look at your website for more than three seconds to find your email address, phone number, store location or hours of operation, then you are seriously neglecting your website.  In fact, this is the number one reason why consumers leave a website shortly after visiting it for the first time; they simply do not have the patience to hunt down information that you should display on every page.  So if you’re guilty of this, fix it immediately.

Offering Very Little Core Content

Likewise, there is absolutely no excuse for not having great descriptions of what your business does, what products/services are available and why consumers should trust in you.  This is the core of any great website, yet all of us come across horrible domains every single day that can’t answer even basic questions.  Since this type of content also highly influences how well your website ranks, it is absolutely critical for your long term success.