How to: Deliver a Web Design Project

“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” ― John Lennon

The most important think when embarking on a new web design project is your relationship with the designer or agency who will deliver it. Selecting the wrong one will leave you with an expensive paper weight which may look good but will do nothing for your business.

After delivering many web design projects for all sizes of businesses through Puddle, its key to first understand the requirements of the business and how it needs to be fed enquiries or sales in order to grow.

Here’s 8 important points to consider when your working on your next web design project. Following these will ensure your site its focus is on your customers ability to use it and your business strategy.

1. Trust
You need to trust your designer/agency implicitly to deliver you a website which not only looks good but is also a marketing machine for your business. Prior to taking them on, look at their past sites, how did they perform? talk to a couple of their clients.

2. Content is King
The content of your site is just as important as design, if not more important. Tone of voice, the words you use and the information you give will determine how relevant it is to the visitor. Also from an SEO perspective there’s a lot of work that needs to be done at the outset to ensure your keywords are in position to maximise your SERP position. People visit website for information and answers to questions not to evaluate how cool your website is.

3. Don’t follow the crowd
I remember from my Bradford College days. “Form follows function”. The most important thing is to deliver the content your visitors want and an easy way to respond to it. The rest will fall into place.

4. Problem solving
A web design project is about problem solving. No doubt you may have an existing website. From that a good designer/agency can understand what’s not working and offer up solutions to overcome those issues. This leads into your business, services and culture too. Understanding this fully opens up many possibilities that you may not have thought of and can sometimes lead to highly profitable income streams.

5. The hard work starts when you launch
Just launching a new website is the beginning of the journey. Just because it’s there now doesn’t mean people will flock to it. You need to drive traffic to it, you may need to restructure the homepage, you may need to work on your social media, your SEO or Google Adwords. The hard work starts when your site launches. If you don’t immediately get enquiries as soon as you launch it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your new site.

6. Simples
The main goal of any site is to acquire sales or enquiries by some means. Don’t get distracted by adding something superfluous that’s just not needed.

7.Push for innovation
When the day comes to launching your site and you’re not a little anxious about it. You’ve not tried to push it enough. If you’ve produced something in the same way as your competitors you will look the same as them. Push the boat out and think of new innovative ways in which to deliver the same content but a new and engaging way. Then you will have something to tweak and change over time to encourage more visitors to buy or enquire.

8. It’s all about the journey, not the destination
There’s not many marketing channels where a client can have so much influence on how something looks and works so enjoy it. A website can be designed from scratch to be your biggest earner.

Do you have any other tips for when embarking on a web design project? have you as a client experienced when things go wrong? have you been left with a website that pretty much needs starting again? I’d love to hear from you.

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By Steven Burles

How to: Optimise Your LinkedIn Company Page

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” ― Winston Churchill

Did you know that LinkedIn according to Experian Marketing Services, received 94M total U.S. visits in December 2012, an increase of 40% in traffic compared to December 2011.

That’s a huge audience for any B2B products or service provider. Having said that many companies don’t utilise everything that they can do on their own ‘Company’ page.

Did you know you can now create a default Services/Product page and duplicate its content and tweak for audiences in different locations? This is fantastic if what you sell is global and differs between countries. Say if you we’re a language translation company for example. You can talk about your translation services in the language appropriate for the country your targeting.

LinkedIn Location Page

You also have the option of adding in up to 3 (646x222px) images and it will display a rotating banner on your page. This could be used to…

  • Customer Testimonials – link to a page with more
  • Webinars – Give the time, date and location where they can join in
  • Case Studies – Add in the clients logo, testimonial and a link to the full version
  • Blog Post – Highlight a latest post you’ve produced
  • Slideshare Deck – Link them off to where they can view your latest deck
  • Video – Promote a video and link to where they can view it
  • Landing Page – Drive traffic to a page where you can collect their email address in return for an ebook
  • Social Channels – Let them know where else they can keep in touch with you

LinkedIn Company Page

There’s more, from your sales and analytics data you’ll be able to tell which products/services are selling the best. So why not ensure they are at the top of your service list and sell more. Your able to select which services is highlighted and also change the order of any other services.

LinkedIn Company Page

To top it all off your able to add a YouTube video to your page as well.

LinkedIn Company Page

Now do you use all of these functionality’s on your LinkedIn Company page?

So, just on one page that you can edit there’s 4 areas in which you can promote yourself on LinkedIn. I’d be interested to see some examples out there and any specific successes you’ve had since working on your Company page.

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By Steven Burles

How to: Project Management Using Gantt Charts

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” ― Allen Saunders

Project management is a huge part of running any business. It needs to be extremely easy to use and fast. This is supposed to be a timesaver not more admin.

Over the years I’ve used all sorts of ways to manage projects, from excel spreadsheets to online interactive Gantt Charts. My favourite method though is working online with something that can be contributed to by the client and my team. I’ve favoured one tool for a while, Tom’s Planner.

Tom's Planner

Tom’s Planner is a great tool. Easy to use, a little fiddly on iPad but usable. I can share it with as many people as I want and allocate different levels of permissions to each.

Teamweek

However there’s a new tool on the block. Its called ‘Teamweek’ and I’m really enjoying working with it. Some of the key features are that it has an iPad app that works great for touch. You can also display it on your TV so if you have a big LCD screen in your office you can display your project timeline for all to see.

Not only that but it integrates with Basecamp which is our preferred Project Management system that we’ve been using for years. It can pull in all your projects data such as to-dos, team and clients. A Gantt Chart is what I always thought was missing from Basecamp but with the addition of Teamweek it pretty much fills this gap.

Do you use Teamweek? do you like it? or do you have an alternative? I’d love to hear about it.

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By Steven Burles

How to: Turn LinkedIn into your Referral Machine

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” ― John Lennon

As a long term subscriber to the ‘Giver’s Gain’ philosophy. I find the best way to get business for myself is to get business for others. This can be as easy as asking a client at the end of a meeting if there’s anything else you can help them with or is there anyone they particular want to speak to.

This is where LinkedIn comes into its own. Sure we all have many, many connections but do you actively review them and see if you can pair any of them up with each other? Imagine your sat at your desk and a notification comes in from a supplier. The notification says…

“Hi Steve, I was just looking through my LinkedIn connections and remembered you wanted to speak to someone within X company. Well it just so happens that I’m connected with the Marketing Manager over there. I’ve been in touch with him and he’s happy to take your call”.

Now if you received that, I’m sure you would be extremely happy with the potential lead but also you would feel compelled to return the favour. If you can periodically work this type of referral technique into your weekly or even daily schedule. Soon enough you’ll have created an army of professionals actively looking to get you leads. Remember for every lead you refer your getting 2 in return. The pair your referring to will both be happy with the connection, one is getting a lead and the other is getting what they need done by a highly recommended source.

I’d be interested in any other ways you work with LinkedIn? and how successful it has been for you?

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By Steven Burles

How to: Make the most out of an Exhibition or Trade Show

“The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.” ― Carl Sagan

At Puddle we have lots of clients who spend quite a considerable amount of money on exhibitions the UK and around the world. Now for that sort of investment your looking to get as much out of it as possible on the day and 6-12 months down the line.

One of the best ways we’ve found to ensure you have continuous communication with potential clients further down the line is to email them. This means gathering their email on the stand then sending some worthy material out when your back in the office.

To gather this data I have a few simple rules to follow. First, do not give them a pen and ask them to fill in a form. You’ll get spelling errors, handwriting you can’t read not to mention the admin job that awaits you on your return to get the details into a spreadsheet. The best way to collect information, especially email addresses is digitally.

Campaign Monitor Enlist

We use a piece of awesome email marketing software called ‘Campaign Monitor‘. Very similar to MailChimp, Aweber etc but it just has that extra polish and is simple enough for anyone to be able to use. The best thing is though they have an App for iPad called ‘Enlist‘. This allows you to create a custom form, brand it and hold it there on your iPad. Mr potential customer comes along, fills in his details and they are sent directly to your email marketing database. No admin, no errors. Just ready to be used.

I would just add though that your rate of getting signups on-stand will improve hugely if you offer a prize draw. Doesn’t have to be anything mega expensive, maybe £50 vouchers, or a free product for example.

Now the most important part of attending an exhibition or trade show is the follow up. Prior to going to the show have an email template ready to go, thanking the delegates for stopping by your stand. Direct them to your website and further info about your products/services. Then as soon as you return from the show, get the emails out and start on a regular campaign to keep in touch with those people. So when they are ready to buy your ‘Front of mind’.

I’d be interested to hear about any other techniques you’ve found useful at your own trade show or exhibition. How does yours differ from mine?

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By Steven Burles

How to: Time management for email addicts

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ― Mark Twain

This morning I was chatting with a colleague of mine and she was telling me about how she wondered where her day went. Starting work at 6-7am and working through until 8pm and wondering what she had achieved during that day. She went on to explain various distractions, phones, emails, firefighting, referring clients to others etc.

When she had finished I asked her. “Do you look at your email first thing in the morning?” she said yes. I then explained to her how I too used to be in the same situation. A daily barrage of going from one thing to another and not achieving anything during the day. After reading several books on ‘Time Management’ it finally hit home with me.

Couple of great books to read are…

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Now, my email doesn’t get looked at until around 11am. Then I only give myself a limited amount of time to respond to only urgent messages. I’ll then leave it again until around 4pm. Your not expected to be at the end of every email, every second of the day.

By removing the constant ping of emails and me waiting at the click of a button to read them. I now have a chunk of time to work on my business. For most, the morning is the best and most creative time of the day. So this is when I do most of my ‘blue sky’ thinking, blogging, personal projects. My afternoon slot is then taken up with working in the business and cracking on with whatever tasks I have set myself.

I recommend for just 1 week, don’t turn your email on until 10-11am. Make a list of what you want to achieve before the week starts and watch yourself motor through those tasks.

Have you managed to take hold of your day? or are you still a slave to email?

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By Steven Burles

Survey your clients on a regular basis

“In one survey, respondents listed Princeton as one of the country’s top ten law schools. The problem? Princeton doesn’t have a law school” ― Alexandra Robbins

As business owners, we’re always looking to improve our customer service. This area of business is incredibly difficult to track as it usually translates into a feeling of confidence from the client to yourself.

This doesn’t mean we can’t get better at it though. Your existing clients are your best source of free information about your business and how to improve it. They’ll tell you what you are doing well, what your not, what they are struggling with and could do with some help on. In order to get this information you need to survey your clients on a regular basis. Immediately after completing a sale or project is the best time. But periodically surveying them is also a good mindset to get into.

Using a service such as ‘Survey Monkey’ allows you to quickly get together a short questionnaire, like the one below. I would always recommend around 5 questions, it doesn’t have to be war and peace. And often I find offering an incentive just increases the amount of returns I get. So offer them a free iTunes Voucher, discount off their next purchase, whatever your comfortable with.

Here’s an example of 5 questions you can include in your survey…

  1. What one thing do you think we did particularly well when delivering your project?
  2. What one thing do you think we could improve on in the future?
  3. Is there any other aspects of your business that you think we could help you with?
  4. Do you think our process of delivering a project worked well? how could it be improved?
  5. Can you provide us with a ‘testimonial’ that we can include in our literature?

And as an added bonus question, ask them if they can refer you to 3 other businesses. If after making contact with them they turn into business they will receive a reward. This is a great bolt on to your ‘New Business’ efforts. Its generally quite easy for a client to refer you to 3 other businesses. Even if they don’t turn into business. You’ve just extended your network. I recommend this is done via LinkedIn.

Now the most important thing to remember when surveying clients is to act on the data once you get it back. There’s no point in just reading it and saying ‘That’s interesting’. Feed this back into your team. Decide how it can be implemented back into your product/service and make it happen.

I’d be interested in what other questions people use to survey their clients, do you have a different method of doing it?

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By Steven Burles

How to: Business to Business Marketing

“Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.” ― George Burns

Business to business marketing or B2B is any activity which results in the marketing of products or services from one business to another. This is different from B2C or Business to Consumer which is aimed directly at the general public. So for example this could be anything from a burger to car insurance.

But how do you market to potential businesses online?
How do you turn this into real enquiries or sales?
How can you track this activity so you can see where your investment is working and where it is not?
How do techniques differ over different industries?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring this area in more details with a series of posts aimed at helping you kick start your online activity, track it and ultimately start bringing in leads or sales.

Initially these are the areas I’ll be covering…

  • Analytics
  • Conversion Optimisation
  • Social Media: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
  • SEO: On and Off-Page
  • Email Marketing
  • Ongoing Testing and Monitoring

I would very much like to hear from business owners with your own suggestions for some of the topics you may be struggling with that I can include during this series of posts.

I’ll also be giving you the opportunity to talk to me in more detail via Google+ Hangouts on a regular basis. So please if your not registered already, get yourself on Google+.

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By Steven Burles

How to: get new business from LinkedIn

“There are no random acts…We are all connected…You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind…” ― Mitch Albom

LinkedIn I feel is sometimes overlooked as a place where you can get real business from. Some people just use it to connect with colleagues, clients and suppliers and do nothing else with it. But by investing a little more time and integrating some other systems it can be a really useful channel for acquiring new business. Its especially good if you perhaps a sole trader who doesn’t have much contact outside of your office.

Search and Refer
For example, I follow the BNI method. If I get you some business you’ll then want to get me some business. As BNI members are trained to give specific referrals each week I get a list of the people and companies my fellow members would like to talk to. All I then need to do is enter those names into LinkedIn. If I know them I send a message. If I don’t someone else I know may know them so I’ll ask for an introduction. If I have no connection whatsoever I’ll then use my Pro Membership with LinkedIn and send them an InMail. This method has enabled me to bring visitors to the group and get referrals for my fellow members without actually doing that much work.

Groups
In addition to reaching out. Groups are a great way for you to build an audiences of like-minded folk. I run a group called ‘Digital Marketing UK’ that posts advice, tips and questions on digital marketing. This group now has over 2k members and is growing at a rapid rate. The main plus point is the strict rules with which the group is managed. One of the main ones being that recruitment agencies aren’t admitted to the group. This ensures it doesn’t become a job board. I’ve made countless connections with members of this group and some has turned into real business.

How do you use LinkedIn to get new business?

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By Steven Burles

How to: Optimise Google Places, I mean Google+ Local

43% of all internet searches include a local keyword, and 86% of those searches translate into a visit or a phone call.

For localised SEO Google Places is fantastic. This is a free tool that will really could get you on the first page for local searches. You may have noticed that some Google Places listings actually click through to Google+ accounts. This is Google’s attempt to increase usage of Google+, which for you the business owner is great as it allows you to offer your potential customers a much richer experience of your business. In short, if your competitor has a Google Places Page and a Google Plus for Business Page they will rank higher than you.

Below you’ll find some of the areas that we’ve seen make a significant difference.

First off you’ll need to register for a Google account if you don’t have one already. But you can do this during signup so when your ready head off to Google Places for Business and get started.

1. Fill in the form
Once your registered you’ll be presented with a simple form which awaits your business information. Go ahead and fill in your details, don’t be tempted to miss anything. Things like business hours, photos (not just one add several) and videos all add to the ‘completeness’ of your profile. Be as thorough as possible, not just what is required.

Quick tip: ensure when entering any business details ie address, telephone etc they are consistent with details you’ve maybe used to sign up to a directory, blog or even your own website. This is called a citation (citations are mentions of your business). Its extremely important and can lift your position.

2. Keywords
As with anything online having the correct keywords in place that you want to appear for is very important. But that doesn’t mean stuffing them in here, there and everywhere. Doing this makes you look like your a spammer and will go against you in the eyes of Google. For example avoid placing keywords in the ‘Business Name’ field, unless its actually part of your company name.

By all means though use the ‘Description’ field to strategically insert your primary keyword/phrases.

3. Service Area
The service area allows you to specify whether customers come to your place of business or if you go to them. This 2nd option allows you to set an area that you cover rather than a single office location. However we’ve seen a decrease in rankings when this 2nd option has been used. So we recommend sticking with the first option and putting in a single office location.

4. Encouraging Reviews
Reviews are one of the best ways to increase your local search. It’s also the way that takes the most effort. Don’t be tempted to write reviews yourself, Google tracks IP’s and will know if you’ve sat at your desk and fired out 10 reviews. Even if these are genuine reviews that you’ve received on LinkedIn. Don’t enter them yourself. You need to encourage your clients to do it for you. The following are several ways to achieve this…

  • Send a message out on your social media channels asking clients (presume your following your clients, if not, why not?) to leave a review.
  • On your next eNewsletter have an image banner again asking clients to leave a review. Ensure it links through to your Google Places/Plus page.
  • Put an image banner or CTA (Call to Action) on your website asking clients to leave a review.
  • Put a sign up next to your cash register, a link on your business card or flyers.

5. Get verified
To verify you are who you say you are. Google will send out a small postcard in the mail. Usually this will take between 2-3 weeks to arrive so look out for it. Once received you’ll need to log back into your Google Places account and enter the PIN number found on the postcard. Until you do this your Places page won’t go live.

Now that your business appears on Google Places. How is it affected by Google Plus? Well, Google Plus Local works on a 30 point scoring system. Predominantly based on customer reviews of your business. For businesses that are B2C ie restaurants  clubs, pubs etc this makes reviews of your business extremely important to where you will be placed. So the emphasis is on reviews, reviews and more reviews from genuine customers/clients.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences of optimising your Google Places pages. Can you share any points in addition to the ones above that would benefit others?

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By Steven Burles