Monday, March 23, 2009

Just the FAQs

Quick show of hands: how many readers have visited a web site that sports a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page? 

How often have you found the information you needed in an FAQ page?

For various reasons of physics, time and distance, there is no tallying this poll.  So we’ll have to venture guesses on the results, which are:  

a) Most, if not all, have visited web sites that have FAQ pages.

b) Rarely, if ever, have you found the information you needed in an FAQ page.

FAQ pages sprang from well-intentioned efforts to create a unique identity for web sites, which began life as little more than online brochures.  Easily edited and updated, the FAQ page is a way to keep sites up-to-date and give them more currency.

In some cases, like government sites, technical applications and procedural information, FAQ pages can be very useful because the alternative means travelling through a maze of sources to find answers.   

However, for many SMEs, FAQs can do more harm than good. 

It’s not that FAQ pages can’t be a source of useful information, but they are a victim of circumstance.  If an FAQ page has too many questions, visitors do not want to spend time hunting for one that relates to theirs.  Too few questions and the information is too sparse or general to be of real value.  (While FAQ search functions sometimes help to find the right information, they are also the source of the dreaded “No Results Found for ‘widgets’ ” sort of message – remember, customers love to bail from your site if they get frustrated.)

The content of your web site should answer anything that prospective customers ask repeatedly.  Strategic calls to action will encourage those with exceptional questions to contact you for answers - and become qualified as customers.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Recession is Over, Happy Days are Here Again!

Remember, you read it here first.  But, be warned, the title of this post may or may not be true.

Using catchy headlines that really don’t have anything to do with your real message is a way of getting people to click through to your web site.  But does it work?

Every web searcher is looking for a solution to a want or need.  One is looking for sports scores, another for new tires and another for information on the lifecycle of newts.  But, they have a problem with the sheer number of results they receive when they conduct a search.  From the multitude, which search result is going to give them the right solution fastest? 

It’s like choosing a path through a forest.  You want to get to the other side as fast as possible, but you must choose from countless trails and you are not sure which one is the shortest.

It’s why web searchers, once they click on a search result, will probably scan the resulting page instead of reading all the content.  They are looking for confirmation that they are on the right path to a solution.

But how do they determine they are on track?  They scan for the term they searched.  From the search results for the “life cycle of newts”, you would probably choose from those that repeat your complete search phrase.

It’s why catchy headlines don’t always work.  It might get people to your web page, but for the wrong reasons.  Their frustration at not finding what they expected could reflect badly on your company.

You need to build clear paths to your web site that potential customers can find when they search for companies and products like yours.

Anyone arriving at this page because they read the headline and were searching for good economic news probably clicked away in disgust when they realized this was not the path they wanted.

But you still read about the end of the recession here first!

By Stephen Da Cambra

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Web 2.0 - The End of Surfing

“Web surfing” is one of those early internet terms, like “information superhighway”, that now seem so anachronistic; so five years ago.  Web 2.0 has changed the way people use the internet. 

Instead of surfing, where web users went where the wave took them, they are more like web jet skiers, going where they want to go and using an accelerator to get there.   

What is Web 2.0?

It’s the second generation of the internet. The web’s coming of age as a collaborative communications medium where the message isn’t “pushed” to web users, but “pulled”, authored and edited by them. 

So what?

Web 2.0 means doing business differently on the web. 

Web 2.0 users want what they seek and nothing else. 

For example, before Web 2.0, if you wanted a pair of red leather gloves, you probably used the following process to find them on the web:

  1. Think of all the stores in the area that might carry gloves.
  2. Enter the name of the first store followed by “.com” into your net browser.
  3. Hope the store has a web site. 
  4. If it did, you would go through pages of merchandise, looking for gloves
    1. then leather ones
    2. then red, etc..
  5. You would repeat steps 1 to 4 for the next store.
  6. And the next store.
  7. Then you would call the winning store, hoping they have the right size.
  8. Put on a jacket and drive to the store.

For Web 2.0 users, the process is:

  1. Google “red leather gloves”. (Go ahead, click it, but be sure to come back!)
  2. Choose the most appealing results until you find something you like.
  3. Ask your friends on Facebook what they think.
  4. Order online.

Web 2.0 users are savvy and they know they can find what they want and avoid everything else.  They don’t want to go through your web site looking for what they need.  They don’t have to surf your wave.   

Fortunately, Web 2.0 means you can know precisely what your customers are looking for on the internet and, even better, you can give it to them in a number of ways.  When you do, get ready for the jet skis.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Secret of Internet Marketing Balance

“Balance” is becoming an increasingly popular word.  Instead of careers, some of us now pursue a work/life balance.  Long ago, many of us ate what we pleased and suffered the consequences of not eating a balanced diet.  There’s even Balance TV.

The word’s popularity is well justified; too much of anything is not good and balance keeps everything … well … in balance.


Marketing is no exception.  Taking time to develop a balanced marketing mix will increase the payoff from your marketing budget. 

The right balance is especially important for internet marketing.  Unlike most other forms of marketing and advertising, there is no lag between message and action on the internet.  In seconds, a web surfer can go from not knowing of something to owning it.  The lack of mediating time between messages and customer conversion can make the consequences of unbalanced web marketing more severe than with other forms of marketing.

Fortunately, the secret to balancing your web marketing is simple – balance your web marketing goals.  The ultimate goal of any marketing is to increase sales – no balance needed.  On the internet, making a sale or generating a business lead results from completing a chain of three main goals:

First goal: To be found.  Your company or product needs to be found when potential customers search for it.  If your web site does not rank highly in search results, it is invisible to potential customers.

Second goal: To be chosen.  Search results are crowded with competing messages.  Customers will choose the result that addresses their needs most directly.

Third goal: To convert the visitor.  On retail sites, a conversion is a sale.  Your conversion may be different – provide a quotation, arrange a consultation or get customer information.  Whatever it is, it is the ultimate goal of your web marketing.

Not keeping the goals of internet marketing in balance creates a weak link in the chain – and you know what they say about the strength of a chain.
By Stephen Da Cambra

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Websites & Business Plans - What's in Common?

Every entrepreneur is familiar with business plans.  Even those who, at this very moment, are saying “I don’t have time to write out a business plan”, have a business plan.  It may exist only in their head, it may be abstract, but it’s there and it’s a plan.

Paring it down to the very basics, a business plan outlines:

  • What is your service or product?
  • How will your business be funded?
  • Who will buy your service or product?

Whether it’s every three months, six months or every year, business plans should be updated to reflect changes in the business. 

We always have an eye on our product.  Production, distribution and the competition change frequently and it’s wise to keep those changes current in the business plan.

Investment, sales and revenue are constantly (daily? hourly? by the minute!?) under the microscope and, in a relevant business plan, are always open for review.

Just about the only thing that doesn’t get revised in a business plan is the “Who”.  For some reason, once we complete a “market study” and “demographic profile”, we don’t change our business plan as it relates to our customers.  It’s as if they and their needs never change.

In reality your customers, their needs and their position in the buying cycle are always changing and so should your customers’ profile in your business plan. 

Indeed, instead of focusing on issues surrounding product and funding, if you wrap your business plan around your customer, the product and funding issues will start looking after themselves.

It’s the same with your website.  If you design your website around your target customers, giving them what they seek when they visit, the problem of converting them into paying customers will not be as daunting.

The web gives you unprecedented tools to know how potential customers look for what they need, where they are in their buying cycle and what it will take to get them to buy from you.  

By Stephen Da Cambra