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Are you asking the RIGHT questions?

By on Jul 13, 2015 in Site, Strategy

People ask the wrong questions. And web designers don’t realise it. Can the internet bring in loads of business? Yes How? This is the RIGHT question – and no one asks it. Typically, the web designer doesn’t know. He has two options: baffle with bullpoop, or lie. Mostly, they’re honest and well-meaning fellows, and they go with baffling. Web designers are not business people. Web designers are not only not business people. They are not marketers or writers, either. And they certainly have no idea whether or not an idea will fly. Now THAT is the right question: and by the time the desperate and starry-eyed entrepreneur approaches the web designer with a question, the poor designer: a) assumes they’ve done whatever research bona fide researchers and marketers do before investing a month’s salary into something, and b) feels too sorry for them to turn them away. When they promise traffic, they know it CAN be done, and they really want to reassure their prospect that they’re not a complete idiot for having their particular crazy dream. (Everyone’s entitled to a dream, surely? I used to think so. No more. We’re only entitled to dreams that make our lives and those around us better. Otherwise they’re nightmares.) The web is home to almost everyone in the world. Certainly, it’s home to everyone you want to sell to: everyone who can afford a computer. But a website doesn’t guarantee traffic. Or anything else, for that matter. You need words, because that’s all Google can read. And you need words in your prospects’ inbox – not just somewhere out there, on the big wide web. So what words are you using to reach the people you want to help? And how are you using...

Client contact reluctance

By on Jun 19, 2015 in Strategy

A successful business needs three simple things: Leads – people who need what you do Sales – if you’re not selling, you’re not in business Follow ups – keeping the customers you have is much cheaper than getting new ones each month Leads come from – well, everywhere, in my experience. Most of our work at aXent comes from referrals and networking, which is absolutely fantastic. But the work we do is to generate leads for our clients using a range of online tools – websites, blog articles, social media, Google ads and email marketing. Unfortunately, that’s where our job ends, and yours starts. Leads need to be called back – preferably within half an hour! As part of a project I’ve been working on with the Academy of Small Business, we reviewed the conversion rates of over 600 000 leads generated by Google Ads campaigns over a two year period. Just let that number sink in for a while … 600 000 leads. We wanted to see how many of those leads converted into sales, since we knew the leads we high quality, interested potential buyers. How many do you think got a call back? I’ll tell you how many didn’t: 400 000. That’s nearly half a million sales with no chance of closing, just because the person who got the lead didn’t pick up the phone. This got me wondering … why would people just leave the money on the table like that? I know I’ve been guilty of doing that, too. And I was curious. Peter Carruthers, small business guru and founder of the Academy of Small Business, explains the phenomenon in more detail – and I’ll link to his explanation as soon as it’s live. But today I had an experience that gave me a different perspective. I was given a lead to build a website. As is (becoming) my wont, I called to find out what the client needed. What he needed as a call back on Monday, so we booked a time and I diarised it. In pen. Then I gently asked if I could send him an email with an overview of what we do, how it works, and some questions to think about in advance of Monday’s meeting. And he laid into me. He shouted and stormed and said that if I was going to be that pushy,  could just forget the whole thing! And then he slammed the phone down on me. Now, I have been called many things, but pushy is not one of them. If anything, I’m usually accused of being too soft. I unloaded my drama to my sister, who told me she’d just had a similar experience with a customer who changed his email address without telling her, then yelled at her for not guessing that he had – and what the new one was! And when I told my fellow writer, she said she’d had a similar experience this week, too. Is something in the air? Possibly … The truth is we don’t know what happened to any of those people, or why they chose us to let loose. We do know it almost never happens. Which means the problem probably isn’t any of us. Maybe those guys just had a really bad day, and we happened to be the last straw. But altercations like these are the exception, not the norm. Our job is to keep doing our jobs – and not take it personally. And to keep picking up that phone. We’ll learn infinitely more by doing than by reading about it, or avoiding it altogether. And with enough of these altercations under the belt, we’ll become Lead Ninjas! I hate confrontation of any kind, and I’ll usually run a mile rather than face a show down like this one. Which is probably my reason for not picking up the phone more often than I do … just in case. I’m working on it – and it’s paying off! What keeps you from calling back? And what strategies have you put in place to deal with your call back reluctance? Let’s hear your...

Who wants to start a business?

By on Apr 23, 2015 in Strategy

I’m excited. I spend my days wrangling words, and yet I can’t find the right ones to convey just how excited I am. You see, my passion is helping small businesses not just survive, but thrive. That’s why I’ve dedicated my life (so far) to telling your business stories on social media, the web, and via email. Until now, that is. You see, marketing is only one small part of business success. There’s a whole lot more to it. So much more, in fact, that it’d be great if each of us could have our very own personal business guru to mentor us. Wouldn’t that help? That’s why I’m excited! Because now we can. Peter Carruthers is South Africa’s small business guru. When it comes to entrepreneurship, he gets it. And because he cares about small business at least as much as I do – probably a whole lot more – he has harnessed his wealth of experience in this area into a six week course on starting a business that doesn’t fail in the first year – like 50% of businesses do! But here’s the kicker: it’s FREE! And it’s going to be free forever. And  it’s so easy to attend – you don’t even need to leave your laptop. Let me guess: you’re excited now too, right? Click here to check it out, and register for your own free training. And if you care about small businesses like we do, please send this to someone who could use a helping hand. Here’s to your ongoing...

SEO basics: is your title impressive enough?

By on Nov 20, 2014 in Articles, Social, Strategy

Your title sucks. No. we’re not talking about the string of letters behind your name. When we talk about site titles in terms of HTML and search ranking, we’re talking about the text description that appears in the top left hand corner of your screen (or on your browser tab if you use Chrome, like me ;)) when you load a specific page. Do you see it? On this page it says, “SEO basics:  is your title impressive enough?” How long is your title? The web is one of the (many) places where size really DOES matter. If the site title is too short, it won’t be extremely effective in search results. While a very long title is also not effective, titles of between 140 and 170 characters tend to yield the best results. The current title (see below) is just 66 characters long. Using unique titles on each page will further improve search rankings by casting a wider net (see what I did there?). A good web copywriter can help to address this issue. Call me. Vanessa Davies is the head writer, senior designer, social media adept and business owner at aXent Associates. Online marketing, blogging, home education, lifelong learning, optimal nutrition and personal growth are high on her list of priorities. You can follow Vanessa on Twitter or...

Clay Shirky: How social media can make history

By on Oct 26, 2014 in Articles, Social

Clay Shirky’s work focuses on the rising usefulness of networks — using decentralized technologies such as peer-to-peer sharing, wireless, software for social creation, and open-source development. New technologies are enabling new kinds of cooperative structures to flourish as a way of getting things done in business, science, the arts and elsewhere, as an alternative to centralized and institutional structures, which he sees as self-limiting. In this insightful talk he unpacks the impact of the internet as media. “Media, the media landscape that we knew, as familiar as it was, as easy conceptually as it was to deal with the idea that professionals broadcast messages to amateurs, is increasingly slipping away. In a world where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap, in a world of media where the former audience are now increasingly full participants, in that world, media is less and less often about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals. It is more and more often a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups. And the choice we face, I mean anybody who has a message they want to have heard anywhere in the world, isn’t whether or not that is the media environment we want to operate in. That’s the media environment we’ve got. The question we all face now is, “How can we make best use of this media? Even though it means changing the way we’ve always done...

Are you making these 5 mistakes online?

By on Oct 22, 2014 in Articles, Social, Strategy

With the whole world coming to play in the playground we call social media, it’s starting to get pretty crowded. Just like a real-life playground needs some basic rules of engagement to keep Little Jimmy from bopping Suzie on the nose, and encourage Josh not to launch himself from the top of the jungle gym – again – certain basic conduct guidelines have emerged over the last few years in an attempt to keep the peace and reduce misunderstandings. The “rules” are not cast in stone, of course. It’s not as if Facebook is going to refuse to post your content if you don’t adhere to these rules … but perhaps the world would be a simpler place if they did. However, regardless of a particular social channel’s usage guidelines and etiquette-managing algorithms (or lack thereof), these five guidelines will help you not to look like a palooka when you share content online. (Which is a good thing). Are you breaking these five rules of social sharing? 1. Repeating yourself Yes, I know. You’re only using social media to get your brand out there, right? So of course you want to get the biggest bang for your social sharing investment. And that means telling as many people as possible, as often as you can, about your amazing product. Or does it? The truth is that even though social media users have a short attention span, flitting from one article to the next without a second glance, and forgetting what they’ve read almost as soon as they’ve read it, if you bombard their social feeds with a similar message over and over again, they will start to notice. And get annoyed. And leave. The best you can hope for is reduced engagement. A more likely scenario is that they leave or even block your posts. Fail. You don’t want that. Solution: Share interesting, relevant, diverse content on a regular basis. Include humour, case studies, meaningful tales and light-hearted banter. You’re creating a like-minded community of fans, after all. Invest in that outcome and you’ll see results. 2. Using too many exclamation marks (or too few) ‘Multiple exclamation marks,’ he went on, shaking his head, ‘are a sure sign of a diseased mind.’ – Terry Pratchett in Eric According to the literary genius Terry Pratchett, a person’s sanity is inversely proportional to the number of exclamation marks they use. So if you’re regularly using a whole string of these excited little punctuation points, perhaps it’s time to consider professional help. Probably not, but it certainly is worth dialling the excitement back just a bit. An exclamation mark is a wonderful tool for conveying energy, excitement, emotion, urgency and passion. But in much the same way that, when your mother shouted at you all the time as a kid, you learned to tune her out, eventually too many exclamation marks become a blurry fiction in the mind of your reader. Your excitement is diluted by the fact that no one could possibly maintain that level of energy all the time, leaving your reader to undervalue your use of punctuation – and possibly your entire communication. Of course, you’re not a mindless, monotonal robot with no emotional variance whatsoever, you’re a real human being and your communications online need to convey that. If you’re genuinely excited, incensed or impassioned, your trusty exclamation mark is their to make that clear. Solution: use exclamation marks sparingly – if at all. There is a place for a little excitement and urgency in your communication, but err on the side of conservatism and avoid using exclamation marks as far as possible. 3. SHOUTING By now, even the least literate internet user ought to know that using only capital letters in any written communication is the online equivalent of shouting. It’s rude. Don’t do it. Keep your voice down and communicate like a balanced and reasoned individual. Solution: STOP SHOUTING. Plain and simple. 4. Not proofreading We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: write, PAUSE, read, revise, repeat. No matter how seasoned a writer you are, it’s always possible to make a mistake. When you’re typing fast, or if your subject matter engages your passions, or if you simply happen to be a human being (as some of us are), errors creep in and because we’re so invested in the material, it’s easy to miss them. So take a step back, give yourself a little cognitive bandwidth, then come back and review what you’ve already written. Be brutally honest and make the changes your copy – and your readers – deserve. Better yet: hire a professional proofreader. An objective third party with a passion for language can be your greatest ally when it comes to crafting error-free content.  5. Not being original Yes, I know. Writing takes time. Posting to social media takes time. Engaging your audience takes time. You’re time-strapped as it is, right? And it’s hard: knowing what to say, when to say it and how to express it is an art, and sometimes even thinking about it all can be a little overwhelming. But it’s important to do it, and more important to do it right. Part of getting the content right includes being original. You can always curate content – share engaging and relevant information from around the web – and you should. But, at least some of the time, you need to be...

Great content writing, combined with a marketing strategy based on decades of online marketing success form the foundation of a potent relationship marketing plan.