Launch Your Website On A Shoestring Budget Simple Ideas For Big Impact Launches Now that websites are at the heart of almost every successful business, it is essential that companies treat their website launch with the same professionalism that they give to their business planning. Unfortunately, most start-ups don’t have the resources or experience to make the launch a successful event. This book offers a solution that will appeal to bootstrappers and mega sites alike. Continue Index Websites are the center of most businesses. To get the best out of your website launch, follow these simple ideas. Big budget launches are a myth. Use the basic features of the Internet to get your message out there and attract loyal customers to your business. Here’s the topics you can expect to learn about: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. Who’s Going To Remember You? Your Product Or Service As A Marketing Tool Demonstrate, Trail and Give Your Value Away Offer Tons of Inclusive Value at Sign Up Get Your Customers Involved Can You Separate Product From Promotion? Essential Elements of Your Site How You Create Buzz How To Turn Your Survey Into A Promotion Building Your Ecosystem of Evangelists Promote The Higher Good of Your Business Promote From The Inside Out Keeping Up The Early Momentum Recommended Reading List Who’s Going To Remember You? In a previous ebook, I quoted some statistics that only about 9% of your customers will remember you after they have bought a product. If this is true, then you are going to have to work really hard to stay connected to your customer. This doesn’t necessarily translate into working longer hours but it will mean becoming very selective about how you choose to identify yourself. Picking your company name and brand/identity is important but not quite as difficult as you think. The first myth that we need to debunk is that you don’t have to tell people what you do. If you are a dry cleaner then you do not need to call yourself “Premium Quality Dry Cleaners.” When choosing a name, try avoiding using words like “quality” or “best” to describe yourself. “Quality Cleaners” sounds like a place I wouldn’t think has quality cleaning. Instead of choosing a literal name, choose a name that will be remembered. Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and eBay and all names that have nothing to do with the company’s business but they are memorable. If you’re in any doubt, then you’ll be interested to know that Zoots is the name of the fastest growing dry cleaning company in New England. When registering your domain, always go with the .com option if you can. If it’s not available, consider changing your name. If you can’t, then use the .biz domain. Domain names don’t have to be short if they are memorable. An old favorite site that I used to visit was called www.webpagesthatsuck.com. It’s long but it’s so memorable you’ll always type in the correct URL. Logos can be tricky. Choose simple logos that can easily be translated into web and print. When it comes to designing a logo, try steering clear of the old spiral and the swoosh. Visit Enormicom.com, Logo Hell and Swoosh No More if you want a humorous reminder of how so many corporate logos end up looking the same. Try doing something original so that your audience will think, “now there is something I haven’t seen before”. Simplicity is the key. It generally is not necessary to tell the entire business mission in a logo. Keep things clean and easy to remember for everyone’s sake. Make sure everything connects with your business. If you are selling ‘websites with exceptional usability’ then make sure it doesn’t take 8 minutes for your graphic rich website to load. If you are selling consumer goods, then make sure each item has a price, unique identifier (e.g. SKU number), and order button at the item and a way to calculate shipping to the customers door. Think about these things, your customers do. Your Product as a Marketing Tool It cannot be said enough, the quality of the product is the best marketing. All the money in the world cannot sustain a bad product. When a product is good, it speaks for itself. The quality, workmanship, packaging, price and associated support all tell the customer what kind of company they are dealing with. Good experiences with products lead to happy customers and happy customers often tell their friends about those experiences. How often have you heard a unprompted referral from a friend, “we had a great meal at this new restaurant, you should try them” or “I was test driving their new 2004 model and I was impressed.” These are powerful contributors to getting prospective customers to try out your products or services. A good example of this is software. Very often a new release of an application will be given to a select few “geeks” in the industry to test drive before large scale marketing begins. Apple and Microsoft are masters of this concept. Not only is it a good way to get free feedback from the core customer group but it helps seed a referral campaign that will have more credibility than regular advertising. The product does the work, not a multi-million dollar campaign. If you’re a small company this can also work for you. Release a new product or service to a select group of people and then get their feedback. Ask them how they would rate it and if they would be willing to tell others about the product. If they say yes then give them the permission and tools to do that and help them make referrals. Offer a free trial or demonstration to your core customer base and let them become your evangelists. We’ll discuss this in detail on the next page. If you want to know more about the dynamics of how referrals work and how trends start read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and Creating Customer Evangelists by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. Referral marketing is not just about asking our friends, "Do you know anyone who you can refer me to?" This is a sophisticated plan to create reciprocal interest in making referrals. By pursuing referrals in an organized and structured way, you can turn your existing customer base into active referral networks. You can get an in-depth look at how to create a referral network in Drawing Horses, available on my website and blog. Keep in mind, your website is part of the product. If it is sub par, then customers will think similarly of your products. This goes for all your marketing collateral and product packaging. Customer support is very much a part of the overall product experience. Dell has made it their business to make customer service so good that it makes you forget that their products are probably not the fastest or most innovative in the industry. They have chosen to deliver a “good enough” product and bolstered the experience by making the customer experience unforgettable. Demonstrate, Trial and Give Your Value Away Getting the product or service in the hands of the potential customer is almost a requirement of a successful sale. With so many products and services competing for the business these days, it is imperative that you let the potential customer try before they buy. Demonstrating doesn’t have to happen in an expensive live show in a flashy Las Vegas conference center. If it’s a software product allow a risk free download with a trial period to allow prospects to feel out the applications features. If it’s a service, offer a free 30 minute session or consultation to give your potential customers a peak at what you offer. The most important part of the “trial” is having the right people be the first time trial group. Identify your early adopters and give them the freebies. Think of your friends who always have the latest and coolest stuff. They are fast or early adopters. They want to be at the technological cutting edge by embracing the newest and most innovative products. Every product category has a group of early adopters associated with it. Companies like Apple and Sony know this and often ensure their products are distributed to these people before any marketing is done. Research shows that these cutting edge technophiles are often the cause of trends. If they love something they talk about it and because they are seen as masters of what is new their not-sofast-adopters will follow behind them. By demonstrating your product to informed and connected people, you will be able to start a wave of adoption without having to hire a huge sales force. If you are using your website as the primary sales tool, be very clear on how an order is placed. Make sure the site is simple and easy to use. This sounds obvious but you will be amazed at how often it is difficult to place a website order. Don’t forget to cover all the bases. Show people how it works, how to order, how to pay etc. Don’t expect that they will know what to do when they get to your website. Whenever possible. involve customers in demonstrations To keep costs low, go on a road show to your most likely audiences offices or locations. Tape or photograph your presentations and demonstrations and use them as sales collateral on your site. Several years ago I delivered workshops and seminars to over 1,000 people as part of a marketing campaign for a new online advertising solution. The positive impact was astonishing the company became know as a leader in the industry. The best part was that the seminar cost very little to host. Far less than traditional advertising would have cost to generate that same response and brand recognition. Another way to garner attention for your company is to organize seminars on a topic closely related to your service. For example, the guys at 37signals.com, the creators of a web-based project management tool, give seminars on how to build web-based application using their own tool as the role model. The seminars attract visitors from around the world and because they now charge for the one-day event, they are now a source of revenue for the company. Offer Tons of Inclusive Value at Sign-Up If you have ever been to a lecture by Edward Tufte you will know what I mean by inclusive value. A one day lecture by Tufte costs about $400. On walking in, you are presented with three large hard cover books and a series of posters. The retail value of these books is at least $200 if not more. They are so beautifully printed they are the keepsake of many a booklovers collection. That's providing real value. When I coach my clients, I send them a series of "must-read" books free as my gift to them and a letter suggesting ten original ideas they can use to make a change in their business. Think of 10 things you can do for your paying customers so that they will see that the money is just a small hurdle to a great relationship. Get Your Customers Involved Your customers may be your best sales force, by involving them you, will not only deepen the relationship you have with them, but you can also encourage referrals. Surveys, a blog, a discussion forum for feedback and ideas, are all ways to connect with your customers and get them involved. They also tell you how to speak to them without the marketing mumbo-jumbo. This can be really important when you are planning a marketing campaign. Recently we ran a survey for a technology company and asked the customers how they would describe the company’s value in one sentence. The results were amazing and gave us a new perspective on what the customer saw as value. This allowed us to rewrite the promotions, advertising and positioning statement with the new core values in mind. There is evidence suggesting that almost 40% of visitors to your site will not buy because it is too difficult to order. These statistics, when combined with the average abandonment rate of about 60% for security and “buyers remorse” reasons, make the case for an easy to order process very strong. Involving your customers reminds them that you are around and that you can be approached if there is a problem. What’s important is to remain authentic and personal. Dealing with customers in a mechanical way will only give them the impression you are interested in their money and not in the relationship. This extends to promotional writing. Focus more of your email newsletters and website content on stories about customers, and less about branding the company as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Refrain from all temptations to use jargon in any communications. This is a major turnoff for most customers. Can You Separate Product from Promotion? Is it possible to build a separate site for marketing from the product website? It’s an interesting idea that I think has merit. The first thing to understand is that a “promotion” site can be an actual website or it can be a platform to springboard your promotions from. Some examples of this are blogs, discussion boards, networking groups and clubs and high trafficked profile pages on certain networking sites. Promoting yourself or your business can be separated from the working website where customers are transacting with the company. There is a fundamental difference between the transactional environment and the relationship environment. Both are critical to developing a positive experience for the customer but they do it from completely different angles. Promotion is a trust building process that encourages strangers to become part of a relationship. Imagine a straight line with transaction on the one end and relationship on the other end. Most companies tend to fall into the trap of focusing all their energy on the transaction. They then lose the opportunity to build relationships which lead to greater loyalty and higher per average spending. The trick is to balance all efforts between the two. If a process is too relationship orientated then the business side gets a little wishywashy. The reverse is true of processes that are too transaction orientated. These subtleties can be addressed in the following way three ways: 1. Focus on the benefits of being part of a relationship with the business. Show the customer through examples, case studies, testimonials and trails that there is more to be gained from the relationship than just a transaction where money exchanges hands. Downplay administrative requirements and reduce any unnecessary steps in the transaction or registration process. Make buying something really easy so that the customer feels comfortable doing it again. Always be honest and transparent. There is nothing that destroys a relationship quicker than giving the customer false information or tricking them into the transaction. This also goes for outgoing promotions like email, online ads, and direct mailings. 2. 3. Essential Elements of Your Site Wherever possible, without making the site too cluttered, include help buttons and explanations for how to do things. If you need the customer to download or upload information, then explain to them the easiest and fastest way to do so. Include links to longer explanations and FAQ’s to ensure that a customer never feels abandoned during the transaction. Make ‘buy’ or ‘subscribe’ buttons very clear to see. Use traditional button shapes that the customer would recognize immediately as the action buttons. Avoid flashing, unconventional buttons that may confuse or irritate your customers. Action buttons, like BUY, SUBMIT or REGISTER should also be placed in the same place on the page in each page. Traditionally this is the bottom right hand corner of the page. Remove any cryptic elements from your checkout process and make the checkout process simple. There are hundreds of great books out there on how to simplify your website. Included in this book is a list of recommended books on these and other related subjects. Read them, web usability is not something you can leave up to your web designer. It’s too important to be ignored. Here are some other suggestions for making your website simple, understandable and effective: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Give customers several ways to contact you and send you feedback. Make these links obvious and give them clear instructions on how best to deal with problems. Don’t forget to include information on billing and shipping. These can be areas of much concern for your customers and many a transaction has gone bad because of lack of information. Calculate costs upfront, no surprises please. People want to know what the shipping will be before they buy the product or service. If possible, show screenshots of the buying process. This especially true of technology products and services. Show products and pricing clearly with as much detail as you can add. The more information you give the customer the more likely they will complete their order and not abandon their cart. How You Create Buzz To launch successfully, it’s a good idea to have the support of an influential group. The results are a fast and cheap way to get your message out to a highly targeted audience. In more technical viral marketing terms, this could be described as ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, which aligns the company's messaging and launch with the major network influencers and trendsetters to seed broader opinion and eventually, purchase behavior. Effective word-of-mouth advertising campaigns will attract the attention if influencers and trendsetters who initiate the trends that are followed by the mainstream. To seed these viral campaigns, I suggest working with several well connected people in your network to announce and support your plans to their broader network. Make your offering relevant and worthy of discussion. If you can, make your message and proposition one of these things: humorous, useful, educational or cool. Read Unleashing The Idea Virus by Seth Godin or Creating Customer Evangelists by McConnell and Huba for more on this topic. Here is a list of ideas that will help get the virus started: • Develop a blog and publish a constant stream of interesting information. Focus it on issues affecting your customers or your industry Once in a while mention your product or service and encourage visitors to check it out. Muster your friends and family to help you spread the word and start the buzz. Get them to write you testimonials and forward your business details to others. Add press releases to PRWire, and if you can afford it, hire a PR consultant. Allow customers to per-order or register for a trial of your product or service. Gather customer feedback and use it to craft new marketing messages Call as many of your loyal customers and ask them why they remain loyal. Use that information to improve your promotions and your products. • • • • • How To Turn A Survey Into A Promotion A survey is more than an information gathering exercise. It is an opportunity to speak with your customers and deepen relationships with them. Furthermore, it reminds your customers that you are interested in what they think and that you are still around. There are studies that show that companies that survey their clients have a hire loyalty rate than those that don’t. Ask customers to tell you what they think. Communicate with your customers on a regular basis. Once you have interviewed, surveyed or had a discussion with them, follow these steps to making it valuable for the company: • • • • • Use their testimonials where appropriate Prompt them to tell friends or forward your emails and newsletters Circle back and tell them what you did with their feedback Show them something tangible that they helped create (feature, design change, pricing change) Speak to at least three groups and associations about issues and solutions affecting your industry and customers. Sharing this information will encourage others to share their ideas and concerns. Thank them for being a customer and ask what you can do to improve the relationship. Divide at least one product or service into bite-size chunks that can be marketed in an inexpensive and fun way to encourage more involvement. Invite your most enthusiastic customers into an elite program. This might be a customer advisory board, a VIP lunch with the CEO, or an invitation to beta-test new products or services. • • • Building Your Ecosystem Of Evangelists The people that get on board quickly with new trends are called early adopters. By focusing your direct personal attention on these people, you can begin to build a loyal group of supporters and potential clients. These early adopters will influence the subsequent group of followers commonly referred to as the ‘early majority.’ Even more important, be cautious not to spend time trying to convert the naysayer. You should always be focusing on working with those who have a positive view of the company and immediately understand the potential benefits of working with you. Converting argumentative members on the other side of the fence is a waste of time. Building your ecosystem may involve doing any one of these things: • • • • Tell journalists that you have a great story and then give them one. Find the most appropriate journalists by searching for your competitors stories and then approaching the same journalists. Offer at least one case study to an industry trade magazine about a successful customer relationship. Join several related interest groups and become an active member. Promote The Higher Good Of Your Business Its relatively easy to get caught up talking about yourself and your company. It is equally as easy to focus your communication solely on the products and services you offer. Try turning this around and start selling something not directly related to your products or service. The first step is to understand what the greater value of your company might be. Are you an outstanding model of fairness in the workplace? Have you achieved social changes through your services? Is there a larger picture that you are just a small part of? Here’s an example. In the early days of the Internet everyone was confused about what it would mean for their business. I working with a company that was selling online advertising. This was made difficult by the fact that very few people even had a website never mind a desire to advertise it. We decided to create a series of ongoing lectures and workshops aimed at demystifying the web. The workshops were open to anyone but we focused our invitations on our core group of potential customers. Within a short period, we became known as the guys “that made it all make sense”. The workshops were a huge success and we eventually were turning people away for lack of space. The spin-off was a constant pipeline of potential customers that were coming to us rather then us going to them. We solved a problem and that made us the company that people wanted to work with. Try promoting a unique way to work or a refreshing perspective on an old topic. It allows you to extend yourself into your prospects’ space without the resistance that we so often meet in sales. Resolve that not all your future presentations will be focused solely on yourself, the company or the service or products. Promote From The Inside Out Without a doubt, the best marketing you can do is to have awesome customer support. The experience of working with a customer focused company is delightful because it is a rarity. Don’t be mislead by your competitors claims that they have massive CRM and support platforms to deal with their customers. Good customer support does not come in a box or off a server. Truly excellent customer support is about getting the basics right. Answering all phone calls and email promptly, dealing with complaints, and returns efficiently, or not haggling over a $5 charge with your customer. Give them something they were not expecting, good manners. Also remember that your best opportunity to speak to your customer is when they are shopping or interacting with your site or company. The user interface is an opportunity to promote products and draw them deeper into the site. Amazon.com is the all time champion of this strategy. In their brief history, they have done almost no traditional advertising. Instead they choose to make the experience of shopping with them very memorable. They also encourage higher spending by suggestion similar products, offering discounts for larger purchases and offering free shipping on almost all purchases. Use can also use functional and technical communication to mention new features, services and products. In fact, the features themselves can be a promotion all on it’s own. Keeping Up Your Early Momentum Our experience of most service companies is the very opposite to what they are working towards. The holy grail of successful business building and establishing trust with the customer is being destroyed before a real connection with the customer is even made. In our high-speed, informed marketplace, the customer is no longer restricted in choice or information. Technology also allows consumers and business customers to filter out the flakes and focus on products and services that interest them. Mass marketing is falling short of providing consumers with the information they need and is obscured by the noise of the thousands of other brands competing for their attention. So how do you avoid burning out your customers with promotions and communication? Aoid becoming another one of these companies with a website focused on providing an “experience” not a transaction. Always be thinking, “Is this idea going to strengthen my relationship with the customer or am I just doing it to make a buck?” All the direct marketing, online marketing and branding seems to be nothing when compared to the idea that we could create a single highly emotional gesture shared between the company and the client. If you can design a customer experience that will literally put a tear in the eye of the customer then we are doing something powerful. I don't mean a superficial emotional idea. I mean a real action that connects the client and the company on an emotional level. Find out ways you can do good things for your customers that connect them together on an emotional level. Recommended Reading List Designing Visual Interfaces by Kevin Mullet, Darrell Sano Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug Why We Buy by Paco Underhill Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman Designing for Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman About The Author Richard Banfield lives in Boston, MA with his wife and two boys. Richard is a business development specialist with a focus on growing profits for early to mid stage global companies. He has delivered high-level business strategy, global marketing campaigns and materials to clients in the US, UK, Europe and Africa. He has lectured on the subjects of marketing and online advertising and has authored guides to sales, account management, global business development and marketing strategy. Other publications by Richard: Drawing Horses: How to Set Your Business Up For Success From The Start Read Richard’s blog, Fresh Tilled Ideas Free articles and presentations are archived in the blog How you can promote better marketing: You can send this to a friend or colleague Create a link from your website or blog to the Fresh Tilled Soil website www.freshtilledideas.com To contact Richard directly use email@example.com Copyright This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.