I don't often blog about our accomplishments, but I wanted to this time. We recently rolled out an update for one of our clients, coordinating major upgrades to their technology platform (the application itself that drives their business), deployment process (how we get that application to their servers), and an entirely new marketing site. Needless to say, it was big deal and we've learned something about marketing and technology.
At one of my events this week, there was an great discussion on ways to keep "filling the funnel" during the busy season. We all have those times when we forget about nurturing prospects and business development because we're heads-down working in our business. That doesn't mean marketing has to stop. As a business owner, you're always marketing anyway - why not let your conversations lead right into your online efforts.
Well, maybe not literally, but I started to really focus on getting things done after a great presentation by Nicole Spracale, a management consultant and executive coach I met during my involvement at the Tempe Chamber. The presentation was about time management and productivity and, at the time, I was struggling to get everything done because so much was happening at once. After the presentation, I started looking for a to-do list manager that worked for me.
When you embark on the journey of creating something, it's important to remember your audience. Whether it's coming up with a great blog or presentation, a re-designed or completely new Web site, or a brand new product or service, it's important to keep in mind that, without an audience, you're really just talking to yourself.
It's becoming just as important to be able to connect with your customers directly through their mobile devices as it is to have a company Web site. That's great, but it's not for everyone and building a mobile app isn't as simple as converting your existing Web site or application into a mobile app. Planning, methods for the app to obtain and share data, and the mobile app itself all need to be created.
When it comes to a Web site, there are many avenues to choosing the right design. We specialize in custom designs unique to each client. In some cases, either due to budgetary constraints or simply because custom design doesn't make sense, we get involved in a project where a pre-made template is purchased and used for the Web site. Each project is handled differently and there is often some confusion on what it means when purchasing a template versus a custom design.
We've all seen it: sites that offer a complete Web site, ecommerce store with zero coding! Sounds pretty great, right? Cut out the middle man, build and maintain your own site - who wouldn't want to do just that. Ignoring the technical facts that there is still quite a bit of coding happening behind the scenes and ultimately the same kind of code is generated, you often give away your intellectual property rights and waste your valuable time maintaining the site instead of doing things that will help your business grow.
Every business owner knows a Web presence is a necessity and getting it done right is paramount (though what "right" is will vary depending on who you talk to, but that's another article). Just as important as getting it done, however, is long-term maintenance. Just like a new house built from the ground up, Web projects require maintenance to keep them running smoothly.
I, as founder, owner, and CTO of Sol Minion Development, was recently elected to a seat on the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. This is a great honor and it made me think about the impact joining the Chamber has had on my business. To be perfectly honest, without the Chamber, I wouldn't have a business.
I was in a meeting regarding a possible and the inevitable question came up regarding how estimates work. As I've mentioned in the past, we are a custom development firm and don't perform project work on a fixed bid because application development, especially redesigning existing applications, always comes with a surprise or two - usually small, but sometimes not so small. The response I received was eye-opening: "I don't like surprises."
Many small businesses look at a Web site as little more than a necessary cost of doing business. We've heard, more than once, "nobody comes to us because of our Web site" from business owners. The truth is that customers may not come to you because of your Web site, but they will use it to gauge whether they can trust you and to find out more about the products or services you can provide.
If you're managing your own Web site or managing sites for clients, chances are you're trying to find a way to keep your site secure. It's getting difficult to go just a week without catching wind of some hacking scandal from the news. There's also a good chance your site is built using either Joomla or WordPress, which is great because there are a variety of extensions available for both platforms to make it easier to keep your site safe.
By now you've probably heard about Google's latest change wherein they start taking into account your site's responsiveness, perhaps even received an email from Google regarding your site's current standings. What isn't clear is precisely what the impact to your site and your site's search ranking could be. The bottom line is if one out of five visitors to your site is using a mobile device, your site traffic could see a significant reduction.
Having just celebrated our third full year in business, I started to think back on what brought us to this point. In our current, high-technology, low-interaction world, I find the basics often fall by the wayside. Our marketing plan consists of meeting other small business owners, listening to and getting know them, and cultivating relationships. To that end, I've spent a lot of time learning what to do (and what not to do) in terms of etiquette, introductions, and being a "connector".
Today's a big day. Three years ago, I jumped ship from the corporate world and began exclusively building my own company. There's been some speed bumps along the way, but I've spent the past three years building relationships with small businesses in the Tempe Chamber and getting involved in the business community. Some of those efforts centered around educating small business owners on the difference between Web designers and developers and the "cookie-cutter" approach vs the custom design approach to crafting an online presence.
Sol Minion Development was recently recognized as one of three finalists for the Tempe Chamber's 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, alongside BioStress Imagery and All About Compression (the recipient). After the Beacon Awards ceremony, I was discussing what we did differently from other Web companies. Let's face it, there are a lot of choices for Web design and development firms, but we do stand out because we are actively protecting our client's data and educating them.
It sounds like part of some obscure riddle, but the reality is that ecommerce has grown to encompass more than just an online store. There are more ways to get in front of your potential market and the post-launch marketing is more important than ever. Consumers want information, they want fast and accurate delivery, and they want to save time. Here are a few channels for stores of any size.
When you talk to an architect about building your dream home, you can get a rough idea of the cost by providing some preliminary information. It's not until they dig into specifics - the kind of countertops, number and size of bedrooms, and other important details - that they can provide you with an exact number. The same is true when creating a custom Web site or application. Estimates are often based on little more than an hour-long conversation and a few general examples.
In our last article, we talked about cyber liability insurance, why we carry it, and why it's important for our clients that we do. Now, I'd like to examine the anatomy of a data breach - we'll use the recent Target hack - and look at what the costs would be if it happened to a theoretical small retail store.
You're elated. You've just launched your company's new Web site. Then the euphoria wears off. What happens if someone breaks through the security? What if your data is stolen? What if your customers' data is stolen? How much will it cost to fix? Don't panic. Life happens and there are ways to protect yourself, your business, and your customers.