What Does Your Website Say About You?

Read on for a preview of this month's COSE WebEd Webinar: "What Does Your Website Say About You?"

First impressions are everything. For example:

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    • You walk into a store to get lightbulbs, head straight to the lighting aisle, except they’re not there. You walk up and down the surrounding aisles, look around for help and don’t find what you need. You get frustrated. You leave.
    • You’re interviewing candidates for the position of an administrative assistant and one shows up late, dressed in dirty, torn gardening clothes. You conduct the interview but have trouble looking past how they’re presenting themselves and wonder if you can consider them fairly for the position.
    • You sign up for yoga classes and arrive at the first session only to find it’s a bodybuilding fitness program. This isn’t what you signed up for. You get frustrated, leave and tell your friends about your experience.

    Now ask yourself: Do you go back to that store next time you need lightbulbs, look past the appearance of the candidate vying for the corporate office job, continue paying dues to that yoga instructor?

    Chances are, you’ve answered no. You turn somewhere else to get what you need because we have options and there’s always a chance we’ll find a better experience elsewhere.

    With more than 1.8 billion websites currently available online, the same can be said about your website. In the age of digital, people are more likely to discover your brand online, making your website the first impression for your business.

    Because of this, it’s critical to understand that your website strategy needs to be part of your overall business plan. Your site must convey and provide the same experience, service and message as your physical business, because the first impression your site creates will result in deep-rooted thoughts and feelings that are difficult to change. Just like those offline examples, we as consumers have unlimited options to get what we need and have the experiences we desire.

    So, what can you do to create the right first AND last impression on your website, so you don’t lose leads and customers? Let’s take a closer look and consider what does your website say about you?

    Navigation
    The most important part of any website it that it is easy to use. If your site is slow, difficult to navigate and not mobile responsive you will lose people before your site has a chance to even load. In fact, 40 percent of people will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load (Econsultancy) and 48 percent of users who arrive on a site that isn’t working well on mobile, take it as an indication of the business simply not caring (MarginMedia).

    What poor navigation says about your business:

    • You don’t value your visitors’ time.
    • You don’t understand your audiences’ pain points.
    • You’re unwilling to pay for faster website hosting.
    • You don’t get the importance of mobile and are out of touch with your customers.
    • You don’t care about your audience

    What it should say:

    • You respect your customers’ time and will get them what they need quickly.
    • You know how to address their pain points and have mapped out a simple way to address them.
    • You’re willing to invest in your customers because you care about their needs.
    • You take time to understand your customer and go to great lengths to meet their needs.
    • You care about your audience.

    What you can do:

    • Get a website speed analysis at GTmetrix.
    • Revisit your site map to ensure it addresses your customers’ needs, not just yours.
    • Keep your navigation simple so your customers have no trouble finding the information they need.
    • Leverage your Google Analytics to see what devices users are accessing your site with, pages they’re visiting and the bounce rates across your site.

    Aesthetics
    Despite the age-old advice, people do judge a book by its cover. Fair or not, the candidate who showed up underdressed for the interview, starts off at a disadvantage. We tend to act and judge something by what we see.

    In turn, a poorly designed website is not going to make a good first impression. Every design aspect that goes into your website; your logo, typeface, color palette, imagery, iconography, layout, etc., must be strategically selected and placed. Forty-six percent of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of a company. (Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab)  

    It’s critical to remember that your site is a channel that represents your brand and should remain consistent with your established identity and other marketing efforts. Think about the design used across your marketing efforts and ensure you’re providing a connected design experience on your site.

    What poor design says about your business:

    • You don’t care about how you look.
    • You don’t spend money to improve your business.
    • You aren’t aware of or connected to the rest of your organization.
    • You don’t care about your customers.

    What it should say:

    • First impressions are important to you.
    • You take pride in what you do.
    • You care about the small stuff and are willing to invest in your business.
    • You are innovative and current.
    • You care about your customers

    What you can do:

    • Stay on top of trends.
    • Conduct audience research and determine what resonates with them and how your competitors are presenting their brands.
    • Pay attention to the details.
    • Look closely at every marketing effort and determine how to consistently represent your brand across channels/

    Content
    Customers are researching solutions to their needs online and connecting with your brand as a result of their search efforts. In most cases, prospects are 57% of their way to a buying decision before they connect with your sales team. Your website must: deliver the core messages of your brand, provide solutions for your customers, demonstrate why your offerings are better than the competition and showcase proof of this. Make sure your site is well-written, easy to understand and delivers to your customers’ needs.

    What a poor content experience says about your business:

    • You don’t know who you are and what you can do for me.
    • You lack focus and purpose.
    • You’re no different than your competitors.
    • You don’t care about your customers.

    What it should say:

    • You know who you are and what you’re good at.
    • You can help me with my problem.
    • You have a proven track record of helping people like me.
    • You care about your customers.

    What you can do:

    • Clearly communicate who you are as a business and what you offer to customers.
    • Identify what makes you stand out from competitors.
    • Showcase testimonials and wins from satisfied customers.

    Are you providing a positive experience for your customers through navigation, design and content?

    We’ve seen how the first impression your site creates can result in deep-rooted thoughts and feelings that are difficult to change. The difference between a negative and positive website experience will determine how your customers feel about your brand. So, what does your website say about you?

    Jamie Gyerman is associate director, optimization at Akhia Communications.

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    Next up: View from the Top: What I Want Next

    View from the Top: What I Want Next

    Northeast Ohio has been enjoying a wave of positive local, national, and, yes, even international media attention of late. Between the spotlight on Cleveland’s hosting of the Republican National Convention, the Cavaliers’ NBA Championship win, the opening of the beautifully renovated Cleveland Public Square, and Ohio’s crucial role in the upcoming presidential election, there has been no shortage of media stories about our people, our community, and our economy.

    Northeast Ohio has been enjoying a wave of positive local, national, and, yes, even international media attention of late. Between the spotlight on Cleveland’s hosting of the Republican National Convention, the Cavaliers’ NBA Championship win, the opening of the beautifully renovated Cleveland Public Square, and Ohio’s crucial role in the upcoming presidential election, there has been no shortage of media stories about our people, our community, and our economy.

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    Beyond the flashy headlines, though, Northeast Ohio is experiencing a genuine revitalization—a strengthening regional economy, growing job and housing segments, and the lowest unemployment levels in a decade. Yes, things are looking up. According to rethinkCleveland.org, $8 billion in new development has been invested in the city from 2011-2015, and there are numerous large-scale development plans in the works.

    As small businesses play a leading role in economic development, we asked several COSE members to weigh in with their thoughts on where to focus the region’s resources next. This might come as no surprise, but they had strong opinions.

    RELATED: View a list of our members’ most anticipated Northeast Ohio projects that are in the pipeline

    Mike Baach

    Philpott Solutions Group

    What I Want Is: A Culture Shift

    “The recent development in the city is incredible,” says Mike Baach, president and CEO of Philpott Solutions Group in Brunswick that employs approximately 50 people. “The influx of investment, the creation of business activity and commerce—it benefits us all. Any resources spent on economic development activity can create a turnover of those dollars many times over.”

    That doesn’t mean that there isn’t more that can be done in Northeast Ohio. Specifically, Baach is looking for a jobs and culture shift. He wants a greater investment in what is required to get a great paying job.

    “Economic development, coupled with an able-bodied workforce, is essential for continued growth,” says Baach. “We need a culture shift that goes against social norms and encourages and respects the decision to go into trades and manufacturing versus the college path,” he says.  “These are high-paying, skilled jobs, and there is not only demand but funds and programs in place to train people.  We just need to encourage people to enter those programs.”

     

    Sharon Toerek

    Toerek Law

    What I Want Is: A Seat At the Table

    “Focusing economic development dollars on downtown Cleveland was the right starting point,” says Sharon Toerek, principal at Toerek Law in Cleveland. “You have to start in the center city—making it attractive for residents, businesses and visitors—and then ideally you can begin to capitalize on that momentum.”

    What’s important going forward is that small business owners get a seat at the table as future projects are discussed, she says.

    “I’d like to ensure that small businesses are seen as a priority and completely integrated into the economic fabric of the region,” says Toerek.  “Small business must continue to have a seat at the table along with government and corporate leaders when establishing economic development priorities. COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership are doing a great job of giving small business a voice, and now small, middle-market, and enterprise-level corporations need to work together to keep things moving in the right direction.”

    Oh, and one more thing made her list. Toerek’s wants big business to make a significant investment in small business. “I’d like to see enterprise-size companies get in the game by participating in small business entrepreneurship – whether by investing directly in small businesses or creating and funding programs that help establish and encourage entrepreneurs,” she says.  “Big companies should be taking calculated risks in communities that are important to them through mentoring and investments in small businesses.”

     

    Deborah Rutledge

    Rutledge Group

    What I Want Is: Community Development

    Deborah Rutledge, COO at Rutledge Group in Cleveland, is pleased with the development of the CLE brand.

    “All the new hotels and entertainment centers will serve us well economically in the long run,” she says.  “Building up the brand of CLE helps attract more residents, businesses and travel to the city, which can have a huge impact on the economy.”

    And now that Cleveland has made an investment in its entertainment neighborhoods downtown, it’s time to start looking farther out, she says.

    “Although the recent progress in the city is great, the surrounding neighborhoods and inner-ring suburbs are not yet seeing the positive effects,” Rutledge says. “I hope future economic development planning includes improvements that spread out into the communities.”

     

    Tim Reynolds

    Tribute, Inc.

    What I Want Is: More Forward Momentu,

    Tim Reynolds, president of Tribute, Inc., in Hudson, wants to keep the momentum the region gained during the past several months moving forward.

    Reynolds believes that one thing Cleveland’s hosting of the RNC proved was the region can handle big conventions and large-scale events.

    “The region can benefit from increased convention business,” he says.  “As we look forward, travel, tourism and convention business will be a real contributor to the economy.”

    And, striking a similar note as Rutledge, this will also necessitate investment in neighborhoods that surround Cleveland.

    “It’s important to invest in neighborhoods that make a significant difference in not only the physical landscape and overall economic condition, but that create conditions where a quality workforce is available for area businesses,” says Reynolds.

     

    Next Steps

    A lot of development has taken place in Cleveland of late with a lot more to come. We asked our sources to give us their take on what they’re most looking forward to. View a rundown of their responses.

     

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    Next up: What to Know About Small Business Succession Planning

    What to Know About Small Business Succession Planning

    Thinking about stepping away from your business? Here's what you need to know.


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    Next up: What's Your Value? The Value of You and Messaging that Works

    What's Your Value? The Value of You and Messaging that Works

    We talk a lot about understanding the value of your product or service but it is important to also explore your value. Do you really appreciate what your product or service does for your clients? Do you believe you are pricing it appropriately? It is really easy to decide for your clients how much they can afford or wish to pay. However, that is not the best way to price your product/service. 

    We talk a lot about understanding the value of your product or service but it is important to also explore your value. Do you really appreciate what your product or service does for your clients? Do you believe you are pricing it appropriately?

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    It is really easy to decide for your clients how much they can afford or wish to pay. However, that is not the best way to price your product/service. And here’s why:

    Chaos

    You'll make it really hard to keep track of what you are charging if your pricing varies by client. You want to have a standard and usual pricing for the vast majority of clients. Unique pricing should be few and far between and only when the case makes a lot of sense. An example would be offering a first time discount when you strongly believe there will be a lot of follow up business later. This is best done when there is a contract for long term work. That way you are guaranteed to receive the revenue, and the discount makes sense. It’s like a good faith gesture.

    Devaluation

    You run the strong risk of devaluing your product/service. This is risky. You are, in essence, trying to get into the head of your prospect and make decisions for them about what they value and what they can do. If you’re wrong (and there’s a strong chance you will be) the result is that you have actually told your prospect that your product/service is worth less than it should be. That is the belief they will have moving forward. It doesn’t instill confidence and it doesn’t guarantee they will hire you.

    Failure to Grow

    When you do this you make it really hard to grow. You end up spending your time on underpriced work. Moreover, you can get yourself into a cycle where you can’t get to the right-priced work. You’ll end up frustrated and disappointed. This can even lead to re-evaluating your worth internally. You know, when you are underpaid for too long you can start believing that it’s all you are worth.

    Not only is this dangerous but it is also unfair to you and your clients. If we stay with the premise that you have a quality product or service, then undervaluing it serves no purpose. If you come across a prospect who can’t afford what you have to offer, they just may not be a qualified prospect. Don’t automatically move to the position of lower your price. The long term impact of that decision can be devastating to your business.


    Want to hear more on this topic? Attend "The Value of You and Messaging that Works" at the Small Business Convention! This workshop will be presented by Diane Helbig of Seize This Day Coaching and Matt Brower of Hey Now! Media on October 21 at 4:00p.m.

     

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    Next up: Why a Personalized Marketing Approach is Essential in Today’s World

    Why a Personalized Marketing Approach is Essential in Today’s World

    It’s easier than ever today for a business to quickly and efficiently reach a mass audience. Here are a few tips to help your business make a personal connection during your mass marketing efforts.

    In today’s business environment, marketing to the masses is becoming easier and more cost effective. With social media, an optimized website, and an email newsletter, any business can reach a large audience efficiently.

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    While this creates more opportunities, it also creates a big challenge. The age of digital marketing has made marketing less personal. How do you stand out when your potential customers are getting inundated with email newsletters and social media content?

    In 2017 and beyond, the need to personalize your marketing efforts is critical if you want to maximize your return on your marketing investment. The goal of personalization is to create an experience that shows you understand each customer’s personality and can anticipate what he or she might need from you going forward.

    There are many ways to approach personalized marketing. Here are a few ways to get started:

    Gather ‘personal’ information and develop buyer personas
    The key to personalizing your marketing is to gather data and information about your customers and prospects. Utilize historical buyer behavior, surveys, focus groups and one-on-one discussions to gather demographic data, purchasing habits, content preferences and interests in your solutions. This information will help you develop buyer personas that group certain sets of customers into logical categories.

    Segment your e-newsletter
    If you are using an email marketing tool such as Constant Contact or MailChimp, great! Many businesses will send a monthly newsletter to all customers and prospects. The issue with this is that in most cases, the messaging doesn’t resonate with the recipients—it’s either too general or contains content that doesn’t apply. Consider segmenting your email list, leveraging your buyer personas, and sending separate newsletters to each segment.

    Use an ‘old school’ approach to connect with your customers
    With everyone moving to digital and impersonal marketing methods, there are more opportunities to leverage “old” techniques to complement your marketing. Some ways to do this include writing handwritten thank you notes, making personal phone calls, and creating more opportunities for in-person interaction, whether it be at tradeshows, lunch meetings and events.

    Showcase your company’s personality
    There is a saying that people work with people they like and trust. This saying also holds true for companies. Showcase your company’s personality publicly through social media and other digital marketing avenues. A few ways to do this might be to publicly recognize employees, showcase team volunteer efforts and share testimonials and examples of your work.

    These are a few examples that are relatively cost-effective and straightforward. Some companies go well beyond these techniques, including designing a robust website that has custom landing pages and fill-in forms. However, by taking these steps to personalization, you will be able to better target your content and your solutions to meet the needs of each customer.

    Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions.

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    Next up: Why a Political Action Committee is important and the power of your involvement

    Why a Political Action Committee is important and the power of your involvement

    Primary election season is in full swing, Iowa and New Hampshire have cast their ballots, and Ohioans will march to the polls on March 15th to have their say.  Now, more than ever, the business community needs to be proactive in helping candidates for office work towards common sense solutions in the areas of workforce, workers’ compensation, tax, regulation, health care, energy, economic development, and labor.  

    Primary election season is in full swing, Iowa and New Hampshire have cast their ballots, and Ohioans will march to the polls on March 15th to have their say.  Now, more than ever, the business community needs to be proactive in helping candidates for office work towards common sense solutions in the areas of workforce, workers’ compensation, tax, regulation, health care, energy, economic development, and labor. 

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    Individually, you may choose to support candidates through your contributions and your vote.  While the right to vote and your perspective on the issues are crucial, many still believe their voice is not heard throughout the process.  So, what role does the Greater Cleveland Partnership Political Action Committee (GCP PAC) play in amplifying the voice of business?

    Stated simply, the GCP PAC is a non-partisan, member-driven tool that unifies businesses of all sizes and industries in our region and aids us in educating key decision makers on the issues that are important to you.  A Political Action Committee provides our members with the means for concerted political action.  And, the dollars contributed through the GCP PAC are used to provide support for state and local governmental leaders campaigning for election who share your interests.

    The GCP PAC provides an avenue for you to make a meaningful impact on the process and by collectively mobilizing efforts (and, your engagement), GCP PAC creates synergy.  Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts and our strength in numbers allows us to lead the conversation on public policy matters in Ohio.

    Interested in learning more about the GCP PAC or how you can get involved in our advocacy efforts?  Visit the GCP PAC website here or e-mail advocacy@cose.org.

    Please note individuals, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships and sole proprietorships can legally make contributions to a PAC.  Contributions must include itemized allocations by partners in partnerships or members of a LLC.  Ohio law prohibits other corporate political contributions. 

    Your participation in the GCP PAC is completely voluntary and you may contribute as much or as little as you choose.  Donations are not tax-deductible and will be used for political purposes.  An individual may contribute up to $12,532 annually to an Ohio Political Action Committee.  You may choose not to participate without fear of reprisal.  You will not be favored or disadvantaged by reason of the amount of your contribution or decision not to contribute.

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