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It’s Blogging, not Rocket Science

Many small business owners have severe writers block.  As i discuss in another post recently titled “The problem with (and solution to) Blogging for Entrepreneurs“, an effective way of getting a blog rolling is to use your own personal voice when doing so.  However, even that seems like a herculean task to someone who is wearing as many hats as most small business owners are.  Who has time to blog when you are the CEO, CFO, primary technician, head salesperson, chief janitor, cook, bottle washer, and everything in-between?

Ultimately, though, if that is what is going through your mind… you are over thinking it.  Your blog posts don’t need to be epic opuses of perfectly written text and seamlessly integrated images.  They just need to be… written.  With that in mind, lets look at the bare bones essentials of a good blog post:

Catchy title: think of the way newspapers would write headlines.  That is the title for your blog post, a headline.  Make it short, make it catchy and most of all make it concise.  Nobody wants to read a post if the title doesn’t even show up on their screen without a carriage return.

Some content: notice i said “some” not “a lot” or even “great”.   Again, it does not need to be perfect.  It just needs to be.  I read an article from a sports reporter in the star telegram today about the cowboys and he wrote “I am not hear to say…” and he gets paid to write for a living!  Don’t stress about anything except getting it written.  All else can be forgiven… except if there is too much.  The cardinal sin of most bloggers is too many words.  Keep it short.  If it needs more than a few paragraphs to get the idea out, write a second post and make it a series.

Nice picture: find a good, inexpensive (not free), image to include in your post that sums up the idea in one picture.  It should be easy to view at multiple sizes because your content could and will be viewed on all kinds of different screens.  It should also not be free because, well, there is no such thing.  You might get away with adding a pic from google images for a while, but sooner or later you will get the dreaded cease and desist letter or worse get served with lawsuit papers.  Just pay the buck it costs for a stock image that is web sized and keep on blogging.

Thats it.  Write, post, repeat and you will see lots more inbound traffic to your website.

The 5 Biggest Questions You Didn’t Ask Your Web Designer

Multiple racks of servers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The internet really is the weird world of the geek.  From DNS to WYSIWYG there is a unique language that only geeks seem to understand.  Unfortunately for the small business owner, they have to exist in that space… and it is not a normal environment for regular humans.  We pride ourselves at Your-Web-Guys in being a bridge between the weird world of the geek and the otherwise normal world of the average human.  So in that pursuit, I give you the 5 most important questions you should ask your web designer, but probably did not.

Question 1: Do I own my website?

Seems like a pretty straight forward question, doesn’t it?  I mean, it is your website, right?  RIGHT?!? Unfortunately it is not always a straightforward answer.  Many design firms will retain copyrights to your website or the intellectual property that it consists of.  Some will own your domain and you don’t even know it.  For the small business owner, a website just works… the details are for the geeks to deal with.  That’s fine… for a while.  But when you need to move or try to sell your company or any of the myriad things that need to happen during the lifetime of a small business it can bite you in the rear end.  Take a few moments to ask your web people if you own the website that they made for you.  It might surprise you to find out.

Question 2: Who owns my domain?

Something that many small business owners don’t understand is that their website (the files, data, and email) and their domain (the .com or .net etc) are different.  Not only are they different, but they have different parts that can be provided by different vendors.  For instance, the website and the email can be on different servers so your website is hosted by XYZ Hosting Ltd and your email is through ABC Exchange Servers Inc.  There are lots of other parts that can be done through different companies, but the most important is the registrar.  The registrar is who has to be paid to continue to use the domain.  Godaddy and Network Solutions are a couple of the larger registrars currently, but there are literally thousands of others.  If you cannot login to a control panel and pay for additional time to own your domain, don’t worry, you still might own it.  The actual owner of a domain is in what is called the whois data.  You can search for your whois data many places but this is the website we use.  Just click that link and enter your domain name to find out what is in your whois data.  One of the whois listings is the Registry Admin info.  If that has your email address in it then you own it, no matter what the registrar info says.  With that being said, it might take some effort to get access to it, but it is yours and yours alone… at least until whoever is paying for it currently stops doing so.

Question 3: Where is my website hosted?

Keep in mind, I am not a geek – even though I play one on TV.  But it still surprises me how many small business owners don’t know that their website exists on an actual, tangible machine connected to the internet, much less where that machine is physically located.  Most of the time it is not important information, but it is a good idea to know something about the hosting company that manages the server your website is on.  Things to know include where it is, who is running it, what other websites are hosted on it (do they host online gambling sites or other things you might not want your company associated with), what are their terms of service, and a whole lot of other information that is important to at least be familiar with.  You don’t want to be caught wondering why your website is down if there is a massive earthquake or other disaster near your data center.

Question 4: How long is the contract?

You would think this is a no-brainer, but most of our new clients do not ask about the term of the contract or how long they are committed to being with us.  Keep in mind that the internet is the wild wild west.  There are no standards or industry leaders.  In fact there isn’t much case law for lawyers to fall back on if things get hairy.  Because of this, it is very VERY important for the buyer to beware.  I have seen 10 year terms on maintenance fees.  I have seen contracts that lock the client into paying but does not limit the amount they have to pay.  In other words the company can raise their rates at any time and you would still have to pay it.  I have seen contracts that have such convoluted cancellation procedures that there is no way you could cancel without planning a year in advance if ever at all.  These techniques are in place because the small business owner does not understand the internet much less the company that is providing their website to them and too many companies take advantage of that fact.  In this day and age when your website is absolutely mandatory, take a few minutes to read the contract.  It will always be a good idea to do so before you sign… especially in the wild west world of the geek.

Question 5: Are there any surprise fees?

I recently had a prospective client tell me that he got lured into doing business with a company because their initial setup fee was so low.  A couple of years later when he needed his logo updated and a few other modifications done he got an invoice for almost twice what the initial fee was for creating the website in the first place.  No warning, just the invoice came in a few weeks after the work was done.  He was stuck.  The work had been done so he couldn’t tell them not to do it, but if he had known there would be a fee at all, much less a huge one, he would have gotten someone else to do it.  This is just one example.  From overage fees (yup, just like your cell phone provider) to upgrades to normal maintenance, if they can charge for it, some companies will and many times will over charge for it too.

If you don’t know some or any of this information about your website, ask your provider to explain.  If you can’t get a straight answer out of them, give us a call.  We can figure it out for you and we wont even send you an invoice for doing so.

The Problem With (and Solution To) Blogging for Entrepreneurs

Everybody knows content is king.  It’s one of those phrases you hear when folks are advising a small business owner to blog more in order to get more traffic to their website.  Problem is most small business owners aren’t good at writing.  They are good at doing whatever their company does, but many have trouble writing blog posts that convey their knowledge of it.

One big problem most entrepreneurs face when trying to blog, is carving out time to do it.  I will cover that in a future post, but in the mean time lets talk about the other big problem… where to start.

What could I possibly write about that would be a good blog post for my company?

At Your-Web-Guys.com we advise our clients to write blog posts from four main topic areas.  They should blog about their industry, their company, their clients (ie case studies), and their… selves (sorry for the bad grammar, I’m trying to keep the theme going here).  Lets look at each one in more detail:

  • Their Industry
    This is the easiest one for most small business owners. It’s pretty obvious what I mean here… topics that are about the industry of your company.  Things like changes in the industry or new trends or styles.  Even new equipment or techniques might be interesting to your clients/prospects, especially if you are planning on using those items/processes to add value to what they purchase from you.  Tips and tricks, best practices, and even DIY (do it yourself) posts might be good for your specific situation.  Some entrepreneurs baulk at these kinds of posts, but at Your-Web-Guys, we have found that giving away the milk still sells the cow because most folks don’t want to deal with the complexities of milking.  For instance, we will tell you exactly how to set up and integrate social media platforms with your website… but once you see how complex it is to do so, you will probably hire us instead.  If not, good on you… let us know when you run into trouble.  Zig Ziglar once famously said “if you help enough people get what they want, they will help you get what you want” and we know this is true
  • Their Company
    Not quite as obvious, but probably just as important is information about your company.  Things like new products and offerings should be blog posts, basically anything you would think is worthy of a press release should be posted to your blog first.  In fact, the press release should have a link to the post most of the time.  Also, don’t forget new facilities or vehicles or even events/expo’s you might be attending. Most importantly, you should always blog about promotions and specials you might be running, and don’t delete them once the promotion is over.  If you delete the post then any traffic you might be getting from it is deleted too.  Remember, search engines list web pages, not web sites.  Delete the post, you delete the listing.
  • Their Customers
    One of the most effective uses of a blog is to post information about your customers and how your company and its people/services/products have specifically helped them.  Sometimes referred to as case studies, these updates can explain exactly what the customer was needing, what solution your company was able to provide, and how that solution specifically resolved the customers’ pain point.  It is even better if you can include a testimonial from the client at the end.  Talk about effective marketing!  We employ this technique on our own blog at Your-Web-Guys, we call it our portfolio
  • Their… Selves (Again, sorry for the bad grammar, it is intentional)
    So probably the least obvious of all is this one.  People do business with people, not companies.  One of the things that big businesses have been trying to do is to humanize their company.  Giants like BP and IBM are constantly trying to put a face on their big corporate identity.  This article on the Constant Contact blog is about humanizing marketing in general and goes into more detail.  Small businesses don’t have this problem most of the time.  In fact, most entrepreneurs try very hard to make their companies look larger than they really are.  When it comes to marketing this is not the best idea.  So blog about yourself, your kids, your employees, their weddings, their kids, grandma’s cookie recipe, and just about anything else that will help to humanize your business.  They may not get a ton of search engine traffic and you might not even want to put them on the home page of your website, but your prospective clients and social media circles will eat it up.  Best of all it is a normal update, so google, even though it might not list it on a page that will get you a ton of new business, will see it and see that your website is updated on an ongoing basis.  That is literally more than half the battle when it comes to SEO.

So there you have it, the four topics that just about any small business or entrepreneur can use to help get them started blogging.  But what do you think?  Are there any good topics that you have found which gets your writer’s block unclogged?  Let me know in the comments, I would love to discuss it with you.

From Hero to Zero, Dallas Cowboys and the Sales Cycle

Orlando Scandrick at the Dallas Cowboys training camp in 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sales, like football, is a psychological exercise.  The term “Hero to Zero” is used in many sales rooms at the beginning of the month.  As the sales manager wipes all the units sold on the board off from the previous month and writes the new month’s name at the top he will say “everyone who was a hero last month is a zero this month”.  That is not just a catchy phrase.  And it does not only apply to the month.

Look at the roller coaster that was the Dallas Cowboys 2014 season.  Almost every other week there was a challenge that threatened the season.  From that first loss to the 49e’s to Romo’s injury to the sorry play by the entire team on thanksgiving nothing was ever a gimme.  Through it all the team went from hero to zero each week.  They went to work and no matter how bad the previous game was, they came to play their hardest at the next one.

Even from play to play each guy has to have a very short memory.  He might completely screw up the last play, but he has the potential to make the game changing play on the next snap.  We salespeople need to think that way too.

In one Cowboys game this season our corner back, Orlando Scandrick,

totally whiffed on a ball and let the receiver he was covering make a huge touchdown.  It was a really bad play and could have cost us the ballgame.

As the offence took the field to try to answer the previous drive, the camera showed the Cowboys sideline and there was Scandrick screaming at the defensive line trying to motivate them.  I thought “the nerve of that guy… he just screwed the pooch and he has the gall to yell at his teammates?”.  If it were me I would be sitting quietly in the corner hanging my head in shame.

The offence did their part and then the defense, with Scandrick, took the field for the next drive.  It was the final drive of the game.  If the defense did not stop them then the game was lost because of that bad play by our corner back.  Scandrick, who I thought should be in a shame spiral by now, was motivated instead.  I watched with incredulity as he used the previous screw up to his advantage.  He was aggressive, he was fired up, he was running all over the place trying to make a difference.  I was mesmerized.

His tenacity paid off… he intercepted a would-be game winning touchdown pass in the end zone and won the game.

That is when the term “hero to zero” finally made sense to me.  It works both ways; hero to zero and zero to hero.  Even though you might have made the biggest sale of the year, it is just one sale (hero to zero).  In the same way if you have a horrible sales call and can’t close a drawer much less a deal, it is temporary (zero to hero).  You have to forget about it and do it all again.  Each call you make, each appointment you run, each person you meet, is another chance to be a hero.  If you are in a slump then it is just in your head.

What do you think?  Think Scandrick is a hack?  Do you think I am?  Let me know in the comments below, I would love to tell you why you are wrong.

What I learned about Sales by watching the Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This season has been a wonderful surprise for all Cowboys fans.  We have trudged through years of rooting for a team that is the very definition of mediocre.  But that all changed this season.  Though it was never a sure thing.

We watched the first game play out with dread, thinking that it was going to be another looooonnnnggg season.  Then there were a few rays of hope.  We won the next couple against other mediocre teams… and then we beat the Saints.  Everyone in Cowboys Nation thought it must be a fluke. The Saints were good. Top tier even (at the time at least).  We should not have won that game… should we?

It was similar to going to that appointment that you didnt think would even show up.  Not only do they show, but they close right there at the first appointment.  You think, it was just a fluke… those situations are so rare, it’s not something to expect, right?

Even though the Cowboys were 4 and 1, there was simply no way we were going to win against the reigning superbowl champs.  Especially in their notoriously loud and hard to play in home field.  But lo and behold, our beloved though much maligned Cowboys stepped up and beat the friggin’ TAR out of the Seahawks, and in their own stadium no less.

It wasnt a fluke!  We were cautiously excited… we had been let down before.  It’s just like when you get two of those rare deals that are easy to close back to back.  You start thinking that maybe you are just that good.  That maybe every deal is going to be that easy from now on.

Then Romo got hurt in a loss to the lowly Redskins.  To add insult to injury (literally) they are one of our most hated division rivals.  Another loss to the very good Cardinals and we collectively resolved to watch another disappointing season.  Then the Giants, another hated rival was beaten and we were up again… maybe, just maybe, we could make the playoffs.

Kindof like that slump you go through in sales every now and again.  Nothing is working, every deal is hard to close and takes a ton of follow up.  Lots of disappointments and few successes.  You get a deal every now and again, but they are all hard to come by and you are working far harder than you were before to get less money.

Back to the Cowboys, we all started doing math… how many wins will it take to get the wildcard spot.  We probably wouldn’t win the Division – the Eagles were charging ahead and playing very well.  But surely we would get the wildcard spot… right?  Definitely- we just had to beat the Eagles on Thanksgiving.  It was going to be the game that would make or break the season.

Full of turkey and dressing we all gathered around the TV to watch with baited breath.  it was going to be a tough game, but we all knew our ‘Boys would give it all they had.  Three hours later we were sick to our collective stomachs.  The indigestion was not from overeating, it was from the sorry sad lackluster play of our team.  The Eagles beat us badly – it was a total route.  The season was over.  Only one game would be played against the Bears before we got trounced by the Eagles a second time.  The math was looking bad too.  Even with a 10-6 record we might not make the playoffs, even as a wildcard.

Now this is similar to when that slump turns into a full on drought.  Nothing closes, even setting appointments is difficult much less closing them.  No sales, no prospects, no money… no anything.  Its bad when things get like this.  You start to wonder if a regular job wouldn’t just be easier.

The Cowboys beat the Bears pretty easily as we knew we would, but the Eagles game at Cowboys Stadium would be hard to watch.  We did watch though… we always do.  Much to our surprise we won!  We could win the division!  It would take a lot of work, the wildcard was probably out because the NFC is crazy this season. So we had to shoot for the division championship or go home.

Then Christmas came early.

The Eagles got p’wned by the Redskins.  The Redskins!  All we had to do to win the division was win our next game.  Problem was the next game was against the Colts.  The Indianapolis friggin’ Colts.  Even though they had the same record, they were a better team.  It was gonna be tough.  We Cowboys fans figured we would loose that game, but win against the Redskins and then we would watch to see if the division would be ours.  We surely would not clench or even control our own destiny.

Everyone knows how that game turned out.  The mighty Colts came to Dallas and got their rear end’s handed to them.  We clinched the division.  It was such a shock that many are still talking about how good the Cowboys have been this season.

So how does that relate to sales?

Check back next week for the conclusion… From Hero to Zero, Dallas Cowboys and the Sales Cycle.  In the mean time, tell me what you think.

Are the Cowboys a fluke?  Does all this smack of psycho-babble?  Tell me in the comments below.  I would love to tell you why you are wrong!