Lead or Follow – Which Requires Most Courage

I enjoy working as a hospitality consultant with business owners who take a role in their business on a daily basis.  They tend to be businesses where traditions [Perhaps down through generations] are plain to see.  There’s a connection, a closeness between the business and the local community.  The owner generally has a real feel for how their customers like to be treated.

That said, although those long-standing traditions are being observed, there is also a potential failure to move with the times.  Perhaps right now, that’s okay because your regular trade will continue to come in and thus the business ticks along.  What happens if that regular trade comes under threat – a new rival, a shift in the marketplace.  What happens if your regular clients just get tired of the same thing every time they come and are looking for new experiences?

In this case it is okay for the business owner to take a step back and to trust that following good people around them could lead to amazing positive results for their business.  Taking a restuarant as an example, how often do you change your menus – is it too often?  Where do you capture really positive meal experiences that your team have had when dining elsewhere and have you considered if those experiences would sit well in context with the style of restaurant you operate?

A common misconception is that leaders are the ones who dictate the strategy and systems and that they set clear direction based on their own beliefs and in the above case, traditions.  We can all name the examples for those iconic individuals.  Why?  Because they are also unique in their own rights.

As an operator of a family business, we need to be sure that we are taking time to see what’s happening around us and keep pace with the market.  There are countless ways that this can happen but what I always encourage teams I support is to start with a simple exercise that requires just a few things – two flipcharts, two markers, your team and open minds.  On one page, you list all the things that you enjoy as a customer when you go out yourself to a restaurant (If that’s what your business is).  You then ask for all the things that drive you nuts when you go out, because let’s face it, those of us who work in the industry are the ones most likely to pick up on service that could be better.  Then we invite the team to identify if they are doing everything that is great, or if it’s possible that on occasion, the items that drive you nuts exist in their business too.  Try it for yourself and you’ll be surprised by the results.

Having opened up everyone, particularly the business owner, to the concept that the business might not be perfect, a couple of clear actions can be discussed and agreed and let me tell you this; if you involve your team in coming up with the solutions you are bringing them into the loop and they will be invested in helping see through your new actions.

This makes many of my clients uncomfortable.  They feel it is relinquishing control and that their role is to be the leader and their fear is that initiatives like this could make them a follower.  A true leader is a person who can create a sense of collective responsibility, a common cause and something that everybody supports fully.  It’s not easy, and like any process of change management requires careful planning, control while it’s happening and measurement so the successes or shortfalls of expectations are picked up right away allowing real-time change.

When was the last time you stepped back to measure just how great your team are?  After all, you assembled them.  At some point you saw them as the next person who would join your organisation and bring great things in their role.  How proud of them are you now that you have seen them grow and develop in your team?  Will you trust them to help you and “Follow” their ideas to help build your business together?

Is Control Bad

As a business consultant I find it is vital to immediately establish standards with any business I support.  Since when did it become wrong to want to be in control of what’s happening throughout your business?  Is micro-managing really that bad a thing?  Before the weekend, have a think about this:

Sometimes the reason my clients were not seeing the results they wanted from their business was because they had not taken control of daily tasks and actions.  They had allowed other people in the business to find their own way of doing things (READ: The easy way) and then allowed it to become the norm because they were afraid of being labelled a control freak.

As with everything in life, balance is vital in running any business.  The way in which we put across the importance of carrying out tasks in an efficient and consistent manner will often do nothing more than let the team member who was previously left to their own devices know that you genuinely care about how your business is running.  Better yet, they will see you taking time to help them develop and you’re stright away into winning loyalty through those actions once you handle it correctly. The manner in which you put your message across will determine whether you get stuck with the label of being a “Control Freak” or not.  Besides, it’s okay to be a control freak if you’re doing it in the right way.

When you see a member of your team doing something incorrectly with a customer order for example, SUPPORT them.  We all make mistakes, so this isn’t about embarrassing your employee, that solves nothing.  Instead, wait until the interaction with your customer is over and then speak to your team member about WHY they should carry out that same task differently next time.  Help them to understand how it’s better for the customer and also how it makes them more professional too.  Make them part of the solution and brush past the fact that there could have been a problem, then work with them to see if the interaction with the guest can be put back to your consistently high standards before the transaction is over.

This comes back to your credibility.  Will you do what you say you will do?  We’ve all heard every business owner in the early days talking about how they want to be better than their competitors, they want to develop a winning team around them and want to create an environment that’s fun to be involved in.  I promise you, that without being a “Control Freak” when it comes to standards you will fail.  By demanding attention to detail and consistency and that all tasks are carried out to an agreed best practice, you will have happy customers, happy staff and normally a healthy business too.  The best way to make this the culture in your business is to lead by example and always do what’s right, not what’s easy.

When people form a negative impression it’s often more about the body language or your tone of voice used.  The message can get lost in a sea of negative non-verbal communication.  Worse again, you risk being labelled a hypocrite if your team know that you don’t hold yourself to those same high standards or believe that the same rules don’t apply to you as you are the boss.

Deliver your message in a positive way, help answer “Why” it should be done differently and always listen to what your employees have to say as feedback.  That’s not a bad thing, is it?  Think about ways in which you could improve your business by establishing more specific operating standards and then taking time to coach them into your team.  If you need some help, or just some ideas, give me a call and I can share some successful strategies.

Business Success – Taking a great idea & turning it into a successful business

Working as a business consultant I find that most of the business owners I work with are “Ideas people”.  They have a vision for something they would like to do that will fulfil a need that they perceive in the market.  It might be providing services, facilities or products.

Those businesses got successful by focussing on those original goals and in most cases the business owner was responsible for doing all the work themselves, at least in the early days.  You could say that they were their own brand.

Entrepreneurs excel at identifying and meeting those gaps in the market.   Once the business is off and running they move on to new ideas which may be to expand or diversify in their existing business or to explore opportunities with a different business altogether.  At that point they need to rely on the people who they bring in to the business to keep the core activities on track and they need them to be able to operate to the same high standard that they performed at themselves when carrying out those roles.

I spend a lot of time with my clients developing systems and structures to replicate the actions that they carried out instinctively as they got their business off the ground.  We don’t just document them, but also train all team members and measure performance.  A good idea will get a business live and transacting, but consistently high quality service delivery, customer interaction and product quality are essential to ensuring that the business survives if a local competitor decides to replicate your idea – and possibly does a better job at it.

Empowerment is also vital.  Working with business owners to address problems in their business I often hear them say things like “I wouldn’t have done it that way”.  I have news for you, if you took the time to explain to your team how you would do each task or approach particular stumbling blocks, they will have a better understanding of WHY it’s important to follow those standards.

The solution is simple:

  1. Plan every task required in your business
  2. Prepare a method and rationale for each task
  3. Provide your team with great training and feedback
  4. Produce measurement criteria to keep everyone on track

Things work better when everyone involved is really focussed on their core activities and feel that the work they do is really important to the organisational goals for the business.  By getting your team performing more in the way you would if you were carrying out the task personally, it will help you find the time to come up with more ideas and possibly starting a new business if you don’t have to be involved on a day to date basis in your current enterprise.

Internet Marketing: 11 things to think about when redesigning your website

In the course of my work as an internet marketing consultant I often get asked for my advice on how best to approach a web redesign project. It is really important to protect the performance of a successful website that just requires a new look!

  • Keep Your Current URL Structure

Where possible keep your current URL structure.  This means that if the contact us page of the website current exists at www.mysite.com/contact-us don’t change it to www.mysite.com/contact.

If your widgets are currently to be found at mysite.com/catalogue/widgets don’t move them to mysite.com/widgets

Make a list of all your current website pages to make sure this doesn’t happen. A Sitemap generator such as http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ is a useful free tool for getting this information. You should not need to change URL’s at all if your website only needs a ‘Facelift’ in terms of graphic design and you are not adding or removing products or services.

  • Map old pages to a relevant section of the redesigned website using a permanent 301 redirect.

If you are getting rid of old services or downgrading their importance and absolutely need to move or remove the URL, decide where you want to send visitors and search engines that are looking for the old page.  Prepare a document  of all your old/defunct URLs and specify what the new URL will be or where you want to re-direct people who have book-marked the old page or search engine spider that are trying to crawl it.

  • Make sure each page has a purpose

This is fundamental to a successful website and to the implementation of an effective internet marketing strategy. If you are adding new pages to the website make sure they have a purpose. What content will you be adding to the page and what is the purpose of that content? Will visitors find it useful?  Unless it is a form of some type the content on a page should exceed 75 words. If you don’t have more than that to say you possibly don’t need the page.

  • Prepare a Tender Document for your Web designer

Prepare a document for your website designer that includes all of the expectations and requirements that you have in relation to the website, such as the points above and how you need the website to perform for you – i.e. that the goal of the website is.

  • Copyright

Include in the tender document that once the website is paid for that it becomes your property. Make sure the domain name is also registered in the name of the company and not the developer. This is hardly ever an issue anymore but better safe than sorry.

  • Google Analytics Tracking

Don’t forget to include your current Google Analytics code in the new website. Don’t create a new one –you don’t want to start from scratch. Make sure the company owns and has access to the Google Analytics account. I had a client who told me they had previously lost 5 years’ worth of analytics data when the google account was closed by a disgruntled employee of the website developer.

  • Check for broken links

You should do this regularly anyway but specially after going through a redesign.  Use W3 Schools link checker. http://validator.w3.org/checklink

  • Don’t move server

This one is fairly self-explanatory. Don’t move server at the same time as making other major changes to your website.

  • Link Canonicalization

Ensure correct link canonicalization is in place. E.g. www.mywebsite.ie & http://mywebsite.ie

  • Responsive Design

More and more people are accessing the internet on mobile devices and tablets. Make sure that your website design is responsive. Find out more in this blog article on responsive website design.

  • XML Sitemap

Create and submit a new XML Sitemap to tell search engine crawlers what pages are contained in your website. Use the link above to create it. Find out how you can submit it to Google here

Internet Marketing – Launching a New Website – Advanced Preparation

Internet marketing strategies generally involve significant investment in a company website. Launching a new website or upgrading an existing one can be a difficult process and many business owners struggle to manage the process successfully.  Even if you have a great website designer, it can be difficult to transfer your vision onto the screen and even the savviest of business people can find themselves overwhelmed by the process.

In addition to managing the technical side of developing a new website, business owners must also go through the process of deciding on and creating the content for their website.  They must develop the correct marketing messages for their business and decide how to convey those messages on their new website.  As a result of all of this many business owners end up compromising on the vision they had for their company website and the functionality that they wanted from it.

Here are some top tips on how to save you some heartache and get the most from the process.

  1. Before you invest in a new website development project or website upgrade look at your internet marketing strategy and where your website fits into it. What are the business goals that you are trying to achieve and where does your online presence fit into that?
  2. Set specific goals for your website. Decide what you want customers to do once they visit your website?  Is it an e-commerce site – you want to make a sale? Do you want potential clients to download an eBook, sign up to a newsletter or fill out a contact form?  Once you set the goals of your website you can use them as reference points when making decisions on the functionality and structure of the website.
  3. Prepare an outline of the structure.  How are you going to organise your website?  By product? By service?  By location? What pages do you need and how do they relate to one another?  When you are doing this, keep your goals in mind. You want potential customers to find your essential products and services easily, and then convert in a streamlined way as possible. There is no point in having your eBook five pages deep and only accessible if visitors follow a specific path.
  4. Integrate your other online marketing platforms. How and where are you going to integrate your blog – social media Pages etc. into your website?
  5. Standard pages.  Don’t forget that there are certain pages that you will need to include.  These include a CONTACT US page and a PRIVACY POLICY if you are using tracking software to monitor the success of the goals you have set for the website.  You may also wish to include things like a PRESS page, TESTIMONIALS, TERMS OF BUSINESS, SITEMAP and or a GALLERY.  Adding additional pages to the structure of the site once development has begun can add to the costs incurred and may compromise the functionality of the site.
  6. Research. Find examples of websites that you like, in terms of colour scheme, style, functionality and layout.  They don’t necessarily need to be from your own industry but will give your web designer a good feel for what you are looking for.

I have managed the building of many websites on behalf of clients, working as an intermediary between the company and the website designer.  The relationship is similar to that of an architect working with their clients and building contractor. Knowing what you want your website to do for your business and being clear on how it fits into your overall internet marketing strategy will mean that you will get more from the time you spend with your developer and can concentrate on building a website that achieves your goals and looks great too!

We haven’t covered the content side of developing a new website in this article – I’ll shed more light on that particular subject next week – it’s a favourite of mine!

Internet Marketing Blogs – Top 5 to Watch in 2014

Uncover the best internet marketing blogs. There is a lot of great content to be found on the web, in fact there is so much that it can seem overwhelming. Time is precious and it can be difficult to know what blogs you should follow to keep up to date.  Here are my top 5 favourite blogs, covering various important elements of interent marketing.

  1.  Website Usability

This is fundamentally important and often overlooked, which is why it is top of my list. Businesses often focus so much on how they want their website to look, that they forget to take into account how it should function. Website usability is fundamental to the success of any website. Find out how the design, layout and content of a website affects it usability and ultimately its success.

http://www.nngroup.com/articles/

  1. Google Analytics

This is my favourite and a no brainer as far as I am concerned. Analysis how customers interact with your website is crucial to its success. Keep on top of new tips, tricks and functionality by following Google’s own blog.

http://analytics.blogspot.ie/

  1. Search Engine Optimisation

The internet is alight with search engine optimisation blogs but my favourite is the SeoMoz blog. Now known as Moz.com, I find it helps to keep up with what is going on, best practise and changes to the Google search algorithm that significantly impact ranking. It’s also ‘white hat’ oriented so it will keep you and your websites out of trouble. Some of the articles are opinion pieces and not all the ‘experts’ agree with each other, so bear that in mind before taking any content that you read here as gospel.

http://moz.com/blog

  1. Facebook Marketing

I love the Agora Weekly Pulse, a weekly roundup of the best Facebook marketing and advertising blogs each week with their key points in bullet form. An excellent resource to stay on top of what the Facebook Marketing experts are saying each week, without having to follow each individual blog.

http://www.agorapulse.com/blog

  1. E-Commerce and Inbound Marketing

I wanted to include blogs in these areas, but to be honest all the bloggers that I follow occasionally, such as Shopify and HubSpot include a hard sell with their content that I dislike, this is not to say that the content is not worthwhile. The result being a name-check but no link :-)

I hope this has proved useful and that you will learn loads to help you in your internet marketing efforts in 2014.

Goals, Actions and Results

A goal is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”.  We hear it all the time, we must identify goals or we will lack direction.

A strategy is defined as “A plan of action/s designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim / goal”.  This makes sense and we can all relate to the need for planned actions in achieving our goals.

A system is “A set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organised scheme or method”.  For me, the only thing I would add to this would be to ensure that all other people involved in helping you to achieve your goals needs to fully understand the system you have chosen that will strategically help you to achieve those goals.

In businesses I work with in my role as a hospitality consultant, I find that we often focus on the long term goals.  Goals are important, but what impact will you see by trying to ensure that TODAY every person in your team that is helping you to achieve that goal is sticking to the plan (Strategy) and carrying out every task or process (System) in accordance with your standards?  Will it improve performance, results, consistency?

A widely over-used phrase would be that running a business is not a sprint, but a marathon and I understand why that holds water.  I can relate immediately to the stamina requirements.  However, we all know the importance of getting a good start, right?  Your goal should have milestones along the way.  In the early stages you need to be able to display to your team that you are meeting those milestones.  That builds confidence in the systems and strategy that have been chosen by you (Either independently or collectively with your team) to achieve that goal.  It builds credibility but more importantly, it creates a winning attitude and winning is a habit.

If you are not measuring the results of your planned systems / procedures, if you are not measuring results at milestones then there is a risk that you will miss opportunities to adapt and change for the better.  What I mean is, if your system and strategy are being executed perfectly but you find that you are slipping further away from your goal – who is going to take responsibility for changing the systems, evaluating the strategy or indeed re-assessing the realistic likelihood of achieving the goal?

Equally important:  Without measurement, how do you intend to track progress towards achieving your business goals?

In a Five Minute Friday it’s impossible to unwind this any further but hopefully it is a timely mind check as we start a new calendar year.

How do I identify the Colours Used on my Website?

Matching colours can be tricky. There are at least four different ways of identifying a colour:

RGB is based on the projection of light.  It is a colour model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colours.

A hex colour is a six-digit hexadecimal number used in website coding and other computing applications to identify a colour. The bytes represent the red, green and blue components of the colour.

Therefore hex colours and RGB are methods of identifying on-screen colours. There are different methods for identifying colours for print.

Pantone is a system for matching colours, used in specifying printing inks, it is generally used to identify corporate or brand colours.

Although a significant proportion of the world’s brands identify their colours using the Pantone system, the majority of the world’s printed material is produced using the CMYK process; this is done by mixing various amounts of 4 colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black.  Most of the Pantone system’s spot colours cannot be replicated using CMYK, the Pantone system uses 13 base pigments plus black and white mixed in specified amounts.

 

All of this underlines the fact that colours on screen and in print do not necessary correspond and exporting one to the other can cause issues. Pantones don’t necessarily work for digital print or for websites, and RGB and hex colours are unreliable ways of identifying a colour for print.

Some pantones do convert to CMYK, so you should ask your graphic designer to ensure to use one of those colours when they are creating your logo and brand identity, you should also ask them who to supply Pantone and CMYK details at the time they are working on your brand identity, so that you can to use them as references when printing, depending on what method of print you are going with.

Free Tool to Identify Colour Used on a Website

So how do I identify the hex colour used on a website?  I use a great free tool to for this. It is a toolbar extension called ColorZilla, it is available for Firefox and Chrome, here is the link to it in the Chrome store will give you the RGB and Hex colour used on any website and much more to boot.

I hope this article was useful, feel free to leave your comments on our Facebook Page if you liked it!

What is responsive web design and why do I need it?

Web design that adapts content layout in response to the device that it is being viewed on is the essence of responsive web design.  Web designers and developers have had to change tack in how they handle mobile browsers.  Initially, mobile websites using a subdomain such as m.mydomain.com with reduced content and a single column were seen as best practice.  This thinking has changed as mobile Smartphone technology has developed.

Responsive web design adapts to the device.  Customers on the website see the same content, at the same URL whether they are viewing it on an 1800 pixel desktop computer or on a 320 pixel Smartphone.  The layout of the content will be very different though.  Another advantage is for the client, as they only need to post content to the website once and no longer have to edit it for a mobile specific website.  Given the growth in mobile internet usage it also makes sense to concentrate on one message and one website.

Internet usage on mobile smart phones and tablets has grown exponentially, it is growing faster than desktop; and will overtake it in the near future.  People browsing the internet on their mobiles expect the same great content as those browsing at their desk at work and if your current web design doesn’t allow your website to display in a usable way on a Smartphone, you could be missing business opportunities.

So how does responsive web design work?  Thanks to CSS web developers can now define how content will render based on min/max device and display width/ height and on device orientation e.g landscape.  CSS allows up to 13 different factors to be taken into consideration and because of these multiple factors CSS media queries work better than a simple screen resolution detection system.

In Ireland we are ahead of the curve in terms of our mobile phone usage, there are more active mobile phones in Ireland than there are people.  You only need to look around you on a bus or train or in a café and you will see people all around browsing the internet on their mobile phone.

Responsive web design is just one of the important factors that you need to consider when developing a new website. If you are developing a new website or redeveloping an old one – talk to us – we have lots of project management experience in this area and we can also help to recommend the right developer for your project, be it an e-commerce or a corporate website.

Why is Professional Website Copywriting so Important?

Why is website content so important? We get asked this question all the time, and I suppose the answer hasn’t changed for some time. Having professional content on your website is important for two reasons:

  • You need to deliver your marketing messages to website visitors and effectively convey your Unique Selling Point’s to maximise conversions
  • The way your website will rank in the search results partly depends on the strength of your keywords and how frequently you have used them in the areas of your site that are crawled by search engines.  Search engines use algorithms that will seek out the frequency of those keywords in your content and add that to the number of times that your site has been visited and again further to check how often people have linked to your site through recommendations or backlinks

It all starts with content in this process because all search engine algorithms use Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI. Latent Semantic Indexing is the discovery process for finding related terms and phrases in a document or group of documents; it is a mathematical equation that relies heavily on the context in which any given word is used. For example, if the term “flat tyre” is used in a document, some semantically related terms would be: car, vehicle, repair, wheel, tyre pressure, and wheel brace. You can see that all the words in the list are related to the term “flat tyre”.

How Do I Optimise My Content?

As a business creates content for their website or other online platforms, there is often an overriding goal to have this newly created content found by search engines, however it is important to bear I mind that content needs to be written primarily for your customers. There is no point in ranking highly if none of the visitors to your website convert to sales.

In order to write good website copy businesses need bear two fundamentally important things in mind. Website copy needs to be compelling enough for visitors to the website to generate conversions and the backlinks that are the recommendations that also contribute to your site being found in search, and it also needs to contain the keyword rich content that will satisfy the requirements of LSI. Finding the correct balance is where a good website copywriter comes in.

How Can EzSales Help?

Well, that’s easy.  We help our clients to develop strong keyword strategies and then we assist them in developing great website copy that will balance the need to convert website visitors to customers, while at the same time optimising content for search through LSI.  We will work on the overall content for the main pages of your website and can also assist in developing weekly or monthly blog posts to keep your content fresh.

After all, if you are committed to marketing your services on your company website, you’re going to be working on great new content all the time, right?  Why not work smarter rather than working harder?  Talk to us today about our professional website copywriting services.