Powering Business Sites with WordPress

I’m going to tell you a story you’ve probably heard before and it goes like this:

You have a friend who has a shop, a restaurant or a yoga studio. He has heard about the wonders of the Internet and one day, he asks you to help him set up a website for his business.

This is how it plays out in the beginning of your career, but the truth is, nothing really changes and soon enough, you have a new client.

It doesn’t matter if you do it as a favour or for money, you are going to pour your heart and soul into this project because you want them to succeed.

So what do you do?

  • You install WordPress.
  • You find a theme.
  • You paste some content.
  • You tweak the template here and there.
  • You make the client validate the site based on his aesthetic taste.
  • You listen to the client’s meaningless feedback.

The result? The site is online but not really making a difference for the business. The client will never be happy with the website and will say things like:
– “Why didn’t you create a Facebook page? Everybody is on Facebook!”
– “Why am I not the first hit on Google?”
– “What do you mean with which keywords? All of them!”
– “That green is not green enough.”
– “Why isn’t it as cool as this other website?” And then proceeds to show you Amazon.com.

I told you before this was a classic scenario and I’m sure that many of you have experienced it at least once.

A Better Approach

In order to succeed we need to change our attitude and our process. We must be mindful to never detach the business goals from the online presence. This happens way too often and it’s a source of frustration for many businesses that try their hand at online channels.

Let’s take a step back, take a pad of paper, a sharp pencil and let’s work old school:

  • Define reasonable goals.
  • Identify checkpoints and metrics.
  • Measure and improve.

First thing’s first – Business sites

Business site are websites designed to support a traditional business. These businesses primarily serve local clients in the area and they can afford investing a little bit of money in online marketing activities.

Define the goal

The first thing you should do when you acquire a new customer is to ask a simple question: “What do you need the website for?”

Let’s try it all together, repeat after me: “What – Do – You – Need – The – Website – For?”

This is where you’ll get the most surprising answers: To get new clients, to get visitors, to save money on advertising, to sell stuff, to have a URL for the business cards, to compete with Facebook or I don’t know, they told me I needed one!

Your first job is to clarify the goal of the website with your client. It won’t be easy, life isn’t easy. Life is simple, not easy, right? So, the first step is to help your client find out what the primary goal of their website is.

Define checkpoints and metrics: The Growth Funnel
The Growth Funnel is a business tool that serves as a framework to break down the entire relationship businesses have with their customers. It helps us identify where our weak points are and how we can improve our business. It’s a simple 6-step funnel that goes as follows:

Awareness

As soon as people know the shop is open for business we have met this goal. How do we do this? We could, for instance, put flyers up in the neighbourhood. Would that make people aware? Yes. Would that scale as the business grows? Not really. What is the equivalent of flyers in the online world? Display advertisement, local directories, Chamber of Commerce sites, Yellow Pages, Google AdWords, Google Search.

Acquisition

Can we consider people acquired when they visit the website? This is a classic mistake. It’s true if you have an online business, but not when you have physical business location. People are acquired when they call a phone number, they send an email or even better, when they walk into the shop.

Activation

People are activated if they become customers. They can buy something, take their computer in for repairs, lease a big copy machine.

Retention

People are retained if they come back and purchase again. Some people may sign a service contract for support, they may simply take another computer in for support and so on.

Referral

Customers are so happy about the service they tell other people and bring in more customers. They can also be invited to do so by a well-designed referral program.

Revenue

The final goal of every activity is to generate revenue in a sustainable and long-term way.

WOW, I though this was about websites and WordPress and we are all business here. As I said, first thing’s first, there is no business site without a business. Never detach your online strategy from the business you are trying to serve.

Now that we have all our steps in place, what do we do?

Landing pages 101

Imagine you go camping and you are looking for a pocket knife. You go to a shop and what do you ask for? A pocket knife, right?
Good, so the man at the counter shows you this knife, a luxurious kitchen knife, extremely well-designed and well-balanced. Wow, it’s an amazing knife, but would you take it with you to go camping? Of course not.
Oh, sorry, says the guy, you’re going camping, right? Then he shows you a top-of-the-line pocket knife with every tool under the sun and then some.

So why do you always settle for the first two options when you set up a website: A site so beautiful that it is basically useless or a website so packet with features that you can barely find what you are looking for.

Websites are tools, they need to be useful. Then they can be beautiful and eventually full of features. But first of all they need to be useful.

A business site, to be useful, needs to do one job and one job only: Get people through the door. How? By providing enough information, trust and reliability to the visitor and we do that with powerful landing pages.

100% of the traffic we care about comes from another site. They can be coming through display advertisement, directories, partners but most of all from Google AdWord or Google organic search. Direct traffic is not so important for conversion because if someone knows how to reach your website directly, then they are already willing to walk in the door.

In order to convert visitors into customers we need to have killer landing pages, each one of them sharply refined down to the very last pixel.

What do we need on every landing page?

A phone number
Big, easy to spot and clickable. Don’t shake your head, this is the most valuable thing you can put on the site. People trust phone numbers and will call. The phone number must be marked up in the code and clickable.

The address of the shop
Make it prominent. Don’t put a map, put an address and eventually a link to Google Maps. Maps slow down the page and nobody will ever use that map. People can click on the address if they need to.

Opening hours
It’s very important if you want people to show up. Phone numbers, addresses and opening hours must be marked up so Google can pick them up and show them on maps and local business listings. There are plugins that can do the job for you. For instance WordPress SEO by Joast does all of this.

Basic information about what people are looking for.
If you have a set of products or services, every product must have a dedicated page, with a clear call to action, like call or send an email.

These are basics, but just try to remember how many of the sites you visit do these basics right.

It should go without saying you need a responsive theme because if you cut off your mobile visitors you are out of business in no time.

A clear call to action
Define your call to action and put it on the landing page. It must be one and one only. Don’t pack landing pages with links and stuff. Just tell people what to do to contact you. It can be a phone call, or sending an email.

Measure all things

You cannot improve anything if you can’t measure it. So let’s start by measuring things. A few metrics are easy to measure, others are very difficult. We are dealing with a local business so we just need to focus on those easy-enough metrics that can be leveraged and make a real difference. Who is the king of online metrics? Exactly Google Analytics. We are going to see Analytics a lot here.

Acquisition

How many people call, send emails or walk into the shop and more specifically how many of them are coming from the website?

Three ways to have a pretty accurate estimate:
– Ask new clients how they found out about you.
– Have a full event tracking on Google Analytics. When people click on the email address or the phone number, track it.
– The hook: If you mention a special discount on your website, have people who walk in mention it.

Retention

One of the best ways to keep your customers engaged is to offer them a newsletter. Email marketing is really powerful. WordPress offers many ways to engage your readers via email:
– Jetpack offers email subscription to your content.
– Mailchimp for WordPress is a powerful plugin that integrates Mailchimp with your website, allowing you to have powerful email campaigns.

Once again, it’s very important to measure not just how many emails you send, the open rate and the click rate. What really matters is how many people come back to the business. Measure everything!

Design – Test – Verify – Improve

Here comes the most powerful advice of all: Test your assumptions. I know you are skilled developers, talented designers and amazing code poets but don’t take anything for granted when it comes to business sites. You know your audience but most of the time you know nothing about your client’s clients. Try different designs, different flow, and most of all iterate often on landing pages.

Design – Test – Verify – Improve – Iterate Fast.

Rethink business sites. Next time you have to deal with a business site remember these three things:

  • Define reasonable goals.
  • Measure all the things.
  • Online and offline go together.

One more thing…

Don’t be afraid of offering seemingly old-school solutions to your clients. The only thing that matters is offering valuable support for the business they’re running. Most of the time, they’re still stuck in the 70s. Taking them to 1995 with a solid email marketing strategy connected to their site can be a real game-changer. You don’t need ello for that!

Author: Luca Sartoni – Copy editor: Andrea Zoellner

LAUNCHub long weekend: my tips on pitching

LAUNCHub is a 9M Euro Seed & Acceleration fund, based in Sofia, Bulgaria, supported by a mentor-led program that invests in startup companies, mainly from the ICT sector from Bulgaria and the region. Our investments range from EUR 30K to 200K per company and we also provide guiding mentorship.

Last January I was invited but LAUNCHub to present “Work Hard, Play Hard, Pitch Harder”, my interactive workshop about public speaking and idea pitching. I went to Sofia and spend an amazing long weekend mentoring excellent startups.

Enjoy the video and checkout the complete video gallery of the event!

Tech Events – January 2013

The Europas – Berlin 22 Jan 2013

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The Europas are a celebration of the most exciting early stage enterprises in the EMEA region and the ecosystem around them. In breaking the awards in a variety of categories we seek to highlight the bright lights disrupting their respective industries in increasingly innovative ways.

I’m covering the event for Heisenberg Media. Stay tuned to see our pictures and feel free to use them! Just remember we distribute our content in CC-BY so you only have to mention us and link back.

The Europas: Link

Startup Live Vienna – 25-27 Jan 2013

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In a unique atmosphere, people from various backgrounds come together, get to know each other and develop early business drafts to a level where they are presented to investors. Participants can either pitch their own business idea, or help a presenter develop their project. The main objective is to form interdisciplinary teams whereby ventures are pushed to the next level.

I will be part of the mentors. See you there!

Startup Live Vienna: Link

Scott Berkun: an open letter to speakers

After “An Open Letter to Conference Organizers“, Scott Berkun published a very interesting “Open Letter To Speakers“. If you are a speaker at any public event, I’d suggest you to read it:

Your mistakes on stage are your own fault. You are a performer. Good performers don’t blame their tools. If your laptop flakes out, or your movie won’t play, you are responsible. If you have special needs, let the organizers know early and ask for a rehearsal. If you can’t get one, simplify. If at the rehearsal the tech guy is on drugs, or the organizer seems overwhelmed, simplify. It’s your show and you will be judged regardless of where you point fingers. Practice and prepare accordingly. Have a simple 5/10 minute fallback version of your talk you can do even if the there’s no electricity.

You can find the entire letter on Scott’s blog. You can also follow Scott on Twitter and I strongly suggest to read his books. Enjoy!

Switch Conference – Porto 16 and 17 April 2011

This weekend I was supposed to attend the Switch Conference in Porto, Portugal but unfortunately I won’t be there for a couple of issues I cannot procrastinate.
I’m really sorry to miss the opportunity of attending a conference that sounds really cool and packed of great speakers and friends.

“SWITCH is a two-day event that gathers people with different background experiences to discuss technology, science, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation in a network-friendly environment.

I was also supposed to present my latest Ignite Talk, “Symbolic Violence and Social Media” at Ignite Portugal tonight, but I’m missing that too. I really hope there will be other chances in the near future.

All my congratulation to Ricardo Sousa and all the Switchconf Staff for the excellent job they are doing and all the best wishes for their conference. next year I won’t miss it!