Home Page Design and Cross Platform Branding

Creating A Simple Website

I built a website last week for a local company, SafeSure Plumbing and Heating Ltd.

When putting together a simple commercial site like this one, there are a few things that I like to see in place, particularly for the trades:

  • A prominent telephone number – as that is how the site should work for them; by people calling them, not by emails. See picture, above.
  • A logo, which obviously needs to appear on every other platform that they use, from letterheads to social media.
  • In the header of the home page there needs to be a tagline. This is part of their unique selling proposition and, like the logo, this should become part of their cross-platform branding.
  • A limited amount of text, which should be set out to be as easily readable as possible. Unless you can hook a visitor within just a few seconds they will never read the text anyway.
  • A bulleted list of the company’s services. Again, the idea is to supply as much easily digestible information as possible.
  • A prominent mention of where the business is located and operates. In this case Luton – Beds, Herts and Bucks.
  • Good quality images that help to transmit the site’s message quickly. In this case I used an image slider with 3 slides, timed at 5 seconds. Each slide also contains a very brief and simple text message; see above.

The point of getting these things onto the home page, or other landing pages is to answer the WIIFM question (What’s in it for me) as quickly as possible; before the visitor makes the snap decision that they can probably find what they want more effortlessly elsewhere.

WIIFM is the question each of us asks every single time that we land on any website for the very first time. The only exception would be if a site already came highly recommended, or if we already knew what we would be getting; as we would with a website like Youtube.

Cross-Platform Branding

I have already alluded to cross-platform branding, but even today when so many marketing professionals bang on about the importance of branding there are still very many companies who fail to do it.

Bigger outfits are all using a wide range of web properties; the company website, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google+ for starters, but not all of them are creating headers that tie all of their web properties together with recognisable branding.

In fact, because of the huge differences in the way the various platforms are displayed on PCs, Tablets and mobiles it’s not that easy to create a clear commonality of appearance from one to another. Some major compromises have to be made.

Take a look at http://www.safesureplumbing.co.uk , https://www.facebook.com/safesureplumbing and https://twitter.com/safesureplumb to see what I mean.

You will notice that Twitter in particular looks somewhat different to the others when looked at on the PC, but this becomes necessary in order for the mobile display to make any sense at all.

Notice too that, as best I could, I secured the SafeSure Plumbing name across platforms, though it had to be truncated for Twitter and became ‘safesureplumb’.

I have also setup Google My Business and Google+ for them, but this has yet to be verified by Google and is therefore not yet viewable.

Here’s a video that I did a little while back on the topic of cross platform branding.

Business Networking Review

Do you ever go and out and attend business networking events? Ever considered it?

The last I heard around 9% of UK businesses invest time and money in business networking events, and mine is one of them.

I started my website design business in around July of 2014 and networking has been my main source of prospecting.

I began as a complete unknown. That is to say, I did not bring clients with me from a former company, I didn’t start part-time and build up slowly and I don’t have premises that are likely to draw enquiries from passing pedestrians. I have had to do things the hard way, since for a good while I was practically invisible from a business perspective.

Of course, business networking has not been the only marketing tool at my disposal; I have used mailshots, flyers, cold telephone calling, social media and blogging as well; each with its own dollop of frustration and slivers of success. However, it is networking that has begun to yield the most consistent and interesting results.

I was warned from the outset that networking – the weekly attendance of meetings consisting of other local business people, all touting their wares – was a slow burn. And so it has proved to be.

I was also informed by old-hands and have discovered for myself that the real trick to networking is not to treat every meeting as a pitch-fest. Instead, expect to build relationships; even friendships, over a longer period and be sure to set time aside, away from the organised events, to have one-to-ones with individuals/companies that may be of interest to you.

This I have done (example here) and there have been a couple of surprises that have come out of it.

Firstly, I have been taken aback by the degree to which people open up in one-to-ones and tell you all about their businesses circumstances and travails. People are often very honest. For some a one-to-one seems almost like a confessional and they appear almost compelled to tell you about their turnover, weaknesses, staffing arrangements and future business plans. Some of those spilling the beans even include people working in rival businesses.

This is all very handy, since to a small extent, if you play your cards right, you will get the opportunity to model other people’s success and avoid their mistakes.

The second thing that surprised me a bit, though it probably should not have, is the potential commercial value of spending time with direct, or near, rivals. By doing so I have not only rapidly learned that others are having identical challenges to the ones that I am having, but it has frequently been the case that serious working relationships, partnerships, or even actual paying jobs have been offered or suggested during one-to-ones.

These kind of opportunities generally don’t arrive in the early weeks of an individual’s networking journey, but for me they have steadily come along, just as those experienced networkers told me they would.

So, where has business networking got me at six months in?

Well, for a start I now know lots of local business people in and around Luton. I know who to call when I want any particular services done well.

Further, it’s a source of free snippets of advice from experts in other professions and trades and occasionally services are on offer at mate’s rates.

I have had paying business from networking; some of which has come right out of the blue, and the leads are growing in number too. In addition, I have developed a good working relationship with at least one company and there is a full-on strategic partnership in the offing between myself and two other small companies. We are going to team-up on a major on-going project.

My conclusions to date are that, as advertised, networking really is a slow burn, but it does work. It is also the case that like my old school reports used to say ‘he could try harder’. If there is one thing that is better than networking once per week, it’s networking two or three times per week. That will have to be my mission; at least in the short term.

The thing is. I am not in love with networking, it generally means getting up early in the morning, travelling to a venue and polishing the week’s elevator pitch as I go. It can be a little tedious and it does occupy quite a bit of time and it costs money, but the upside is that I am no longer invisible in the local business community and I have work coming in and that makes it worthwhile.

If you are new to networking, or are considering doing it, but are apprehensive, feel free to contact me and ask any questions – especially if you are local. We could even meet up.

PS. If you read this far remember that tweets and likes are a major help to any blog 🙂

Let’s All Read Less And Learn Faster

Did you know that in the last 10 seconds there has been more written and published online than in all of the rest of mankind’s recorded history?

No? Fair enough, I just made that up.

Yet there is a similar, less preposterous statistic out there which we’ve all read at some time or other. I cannot be bothered to Google the accurate version out of contempt. I mean, there would be no such statistic if the words ‘original material’ were to be inserted into the sentence, would there?

I do a fair bit of book reading over the course of a year. How about you?

If I think back to my late teens it tended to be a conscious attempt to self-educate; to try to bridge what I saw as an education gap and to become a little more literate. To that end I read quite a few classics and at one time I even inflicted War And Peace on myself. It’s about some Russians, you know?

As I got older; convinced that my reading age was not going to get any higher, I transferred my book buying allegiance over to non-fiction. This time it was less about being more literate and more about being less ignorant. In this respect I think that the high-water mark was a book entitled The History Of The World. It began in Africa’s East Rift valley and for me ended when I got fed up with Hittites smiting the Canaanites on a very long and tedious timeline. Or was that the bible I was reading?

You can see a pattern, though, can’t you? The theme is aspirational. I tend to buy books not just for my amusement, but to learn as well.

Books For Business

Now, not for the first time, I am currently working within my own business. And like many who follow an entrepreneurial path I am now veering towards reading business books, only. These books often follow a similar format, which covers what the author has learned about business, what he has learned about sales psychology and what he has learned about motivation. Usually these teachings are enumerated into a number of steps which help to form the title of the book and are accompanied by some quotes that have been lifted from some famous quotes website, or other.

By the way, on the subject of quotations, can I request that nobody ever mentions Albert Einstein’s quote about us only using 10% of our brains, ever again. The great man was a physicist, not a neuro-scientist. He was speculating, not stating a fact. His speculation was wrong.

The problem that I have with the majority of business books that I read is that they are (a) regurgitating a lot of what others have already written (not quite plagiarism) and (b) overly long.

More than any other type of reading, I consume business books in order to gain some kind of advantage. I rarely find them riveting, or a really good laugh. When I buy them I am looking for magic bullets, in effect, or more realistically some useful action points to educate and inspire me.

And to be fair, most well reviewed business books do offer these valuable little nuggets, but boy do you have to dig for them!

I understand why authors pad out traditionally published books; it’s because they have to be seen to be delivering value for money, but is that really what is happening? Are consumers really saying to the publishers, ‘Here’s $7. I would like a dollars worth of great information and $6 dollars worth of time wasting’?

What is the alternative to irritatingly long books? Well, a while back a friend and I half considered creating a website on which people could post executive summaries of well known books. At the time Booktrimmer.com was an available domain name, whilst cutthecrap.com was already registered. In any event, it turns out it has already been done. Just do a Google search for ‘book summaries’.

Here is an executive summary that might have appeared on my site:

The History Of The World – Man came out of the trees in East Africa. He was a hunter gatherer. He invented farming, which made city states possible. He realised that taking another city state by force could be profitable. This is called ‘empire building’. He does this for the next 10,000 years, inventing ever more clever tools as he goes.

OK, as précis’s go that is a bit brief and tongue-in-cheek flippant, but you get my point.

So, do you long for authors to cut to the chase? Would you sometimes rather have somebody else read the book for you and tell you what it’s about? Do you agree with Daniel Priestley who in his book Entrepreneur Revolution said that it’s ‘time to stop reading books and write your own’?

Oh! And lastly, do you have any book summaries that you would like to share? In all seriousness I would like to receive them.

Webwisa The Brand

Who remembers Stuart Baggs ‘the brand’ from the UK’s The Apprentice?

In 2011 Stuart was one of Lord Sugar’s apprentice candidates who allowed his boasts to expand so much that he became a laughing stock. This included describing himself as a brand. Possibly not entirely his fault; given his age and the fact that the television company appears ever anxious to supply enough rope for these individuals to hang themselves.

Branding is something that everybody talks about these days and something that smart business owners are expected to get right from the off.

Get yourself a business, a logo and a USP, tie them down in a form that is recognisable across media platforms and hey-presto you have the beginnings of a brand.

Brands don’t need to be nationally or internationally recognisable, unless of course your business model demands it. There are plenty of small businesses in Luton, where I live, that put up logos, signage and billboards that I frequently recognise.

Branding Never Seems Urgent For Many

The thing about branding, though, rather like social media and blogging is that the benefits are not immediately obvious. The power of branding kicks-in as your business becomes established. My business is only about 6 months old, so I could hardly call it a brand.

Branding requires consistency, particularly in the internet age. You not only have to use your logo on your letterheads and website, but also on the various social media platforms as well.

This is easier said than done, unless you are willing to pay a graphic designer to knock something up for all of the main social sites that you use (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, etc.) as well as your website.

This will mean re-sizing and re-designing your header for each platform and then seeing what they look like on laptop, tablet and smartphone. It can be quite expensive.

Me? I have yet to pay to have this done, though I have lashed-up my own quick attempts in Photoshop. The results are not spectacular (meaning not very good), though I am using my owl logo throughout, similar colours throughout, plus the tagline ‘building websites that build business’.

You can see what I have done, below. I am aware that they all need work.

http://www.webwisa.com  http://www.webwisa.com/blog  http://twitter.com/webwisa http://facebook.com/webwisa

Even these less than satisfactory efforts put me way ahead of most small businesses. Go to Facebook, enter something like ‘restaurants in Luton’ in the search box and see how far down you have to go before the businesses returned by the search have no Facebook cover picture at all.

Below is a video that I made a little while ago that highlights the problem.

So, if you are a new ‘do everything yourself’ outfit how far down the line are you with your branding? In the long run it does count. And it counts in the short term as well if you are looking for stellar progress.

Training With The Sales Masters Guild

I spent a couple of days last week training with John Kettley’s Sales Masters Guild in Stevenage.

John’s organisation exists to teach business and sales skills to start-ups and to more established businesses. In the case of start-ups this is obviously often much needed, but the same can be said for older firms too.

If you don’t believe that last statement, then maybe you should read the E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber.

I first met John and one of his associate trainers, Olivier Carion, at a 4N networking meeting in the Icon hotel, Luton. I was impressed enough to invest in a couple of days of education.

Day One – Business Breakthrough Day

Part of the first day was spent having the vital importance of establishing a USP for a business driven home to us.

Everybody knows about having a unique selling point (or proposition), but how many really develop a marketable USP? Not me. Not yet.

Many businesses know that they offer a high quality service, but it helps greatly if you can distil that down to a single memorable phrase that others can carry forward for you by word of mouth.

Establishing an effective sales funnel, SWOT analysis and time management were other topics that also got an airing.

In the case of time management, there cannot be many small businesses that allocate time slots very effectively from day one. Certainly not mine, but I’m working on it.

Day Two – Sales Techniques

The second day was a lot of fun and focused on sales technique and delving into the fascinating realm of sales psychology.

I have had plenty of exposure to this before, having read such books as Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman, The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy and The Unfair Advantage by Duane Lakin, in particular.

All recommended books, by the way.

However, it’s one thing to read about this stuff and quite another to actually stare into somebody’s eyes and watch how they move when you ask them to describe something, imagine a scene, or to remember a familiar sound.

This is exactly what I did when I was asked to sit opposite Nosheen Lone of TekOne Technologies and quiz her on any subjects that I could think of that would stimulate these responses.

The result was very telling and gave a powerful insight into how the likes of the police, clever salesmen and showmen, such as Derren Brown, can operate.

I could observe how when Nosheen’s eyes moved up in one direction she was describing a scene, if they moved the other way she was constructing a scene. When they lowered she was using auditory recall, or lower still and she was imagining how something felt at a physical level; kinaesthetic recall.

In other words, to some extent I could read what she was thinking. At least, I could see how she was thinking.

Scary stuff. Though, it would clearly take a lot of practise to become skilled at it and to really use it to your advantage.

How could you use it to your advantage? Well, most people are biased towards one type of thinking or other. So, if you know that somebody is an auditory thinker, you would know that he tends to hear past conversations, rather than view scenes.

When selling to that person you would then use phrases like, ‘I hear what you’re saying’, or ‘Let me tell you what we think.’

With visual thinkers it might be, ‘Can you see what I mean?’ or ‘What is your view of that?’ There are alternatives words that can be used  for Kinaesthetic thinkers. Are you beginning to grasp my point?

The purpose of all of this is to mirror the other person and build rapport, or in the case of the police they can tell when somebody is lying. If the eyes tell them that a suspect is constructing a mental image, as opposed to recalling one, then they are probably not telling the truth.

Read Duane Lakin’s book, detailed above, if you want the full picture of this. Or should I say’ if you want to hear more’?

All in all, I would say it was two days very well spent. Especially if I take into account the interesting people that I met and the business contacts made. For example; Want to know someone who can teach you to become a trainer in Fire Walking? I now know a man who can.

Would I consider signing up to the guild’s twelve month Project Blueprint – We 100% guarantee, you will double your income within 12 months as you Build a business that works… ?

Yes, I am considering it.

Green Screen Video For Your Website

The Value of getting To Know Businesses In Your Area

I spent an enjoyable hour today with ex-BBC television and radio presenter Stephen Rhodes, learning about his video production company, Bullet Point Media.

I went to visit Stephen because as website designers ourselves it is extremely useful to have an understanding of other businesses local to us that offer services which are complimentary to our own.

I came across Bullet Point Media at an exhibition for SMEs which took place just last week at the brand new Centre Parcs in Woburn Forest. I was impressed with the quality of the green screen offering they have, which is to say the ability to superimpose people over a digitally positioned background of choice.

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There is absolutely nothing new about green screen technology of course, but Bullet Point’s prices are very reasonable, particularly given the post-shoot editing that comes with it and the expertise and years of professional experience that Stephen is able to bring to his work.

Web designers and marketers are very familiar with the advantages of video when it comes to websites. Not only can they sometimes illuminate what otherwise might be a dull site, but they are known to pack the biggest punch when it comes to sales impact. Ditto information delivery and training material.

Recent studies have shown that sales can be increased by up to 80% when video is involved and similarly bounce rates on web pages can be reduced substantially.

Bounce rate is the way that Google measures engagement with your website. If you arrive at a page and then immediately clear off again without first clicking on anything you are said to have ‘bounced’. A high bounce rate is generally a bad thing and Google are likely to penalise you by sending less traffic to your site as a result.

So, I was keen to have an extended chat with Stephen to find out a little more about his company and the way they work. What I really wanted to know was if they were a company that I would be happy to recommend to my clients.

It turns out that they are and a lot of other local firms would agree.

Bullet Point Media’s YouTube channel testifies to the fact that they have worked with an awful lot of companies and other organisations in and around Bedfordshire. Furthermore, I was shown videos that have been created to showcase the work done at Luton Borough Council.

Unexpected Technology

What I had failed to realise whilst at the Woburn Forest exhibition is that green screen is not the only style of video that Bullet Point Media do. Stephen pulled up examples of traditional face-to-face television type interviews, which worked all the better because the interviewer was a professional of long standing.

In addition, Bullet Point will also shoot movies on location over extended periods. However, as with any filmmaker, the key to keeping the price of a movie down is to write it cheap. Meaning, a simple talking head video will obviously come out a lot less expensive than three days spent filming at separate locations.

The coolest thing that I came across during my visit was when Stephen was proudly showing me a movie he had done for a classic vehicle hire company. One of the opening shots was clearly taken from an extremely elevated vantage point and I was intrigued to know how they had got it. After all, this was a video created for a local firm, not something that had the full might of Stephen’s former employer behind it.

The answer? They used a radio-controlled quadcopter with a camera mounted on it.

Probably I should have known, after all Google are threatening to use them to deliver mail here in the UK – they already do in the States – but somehow the notion that small companies might be using them to deliver video services had not occurred to me.

All in all, I am impressed and recommend that you take a look at Bullet Point media’s website if you think that professional video is the way to go for your business, or other project. Particularly if you are even remotely local to Eaton Bray.

How And Why To Add An SSL Certificate To A Website

Google Moves To Enhance Data Security

In 2014 Google announced that it would offer ranking boosts to websites that use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates to increase the security of data being passed too and from them.

For  the time being having a lock symbol and https, as opposed to http, at the front of your page URLs is only a very minor ranking factor, but it will carry more sway with Google over time.

When I first looked at getting an SSL certificate for Webwisa I was shocked at the prices I saw and the apparent complexity involved in garnering an understanding of which type of certificate to choose.

3 Levels of SSL Certification

However, it seems that at it’s simplest (and I haven’t researched this very thoroughly) there are just three different certificate types, which I have outlined in the video on this page.

Each type offers a high level of data encryption; the certification process differs in the amount of checking into the website itself that gets carried out.

Mind you, it seems to me that even if you had a website that offered online shopping the bulk of the security would be taken care of by the chosen payment gateway. Meaning, that if you have your website integrated with, say, Paypal or WorldPay, then that is where the real security matters hinge – after you have diverted your customer to their servers to handle the payment.

That said, even if your site visitors are not passing their credit card information to you, there might still be other stuff that gets transfered between their browser and your server that they would not want bandied around; their name, address and company name, for instance.

So, overall, more websites with greater security has to be a good thing IMHO. It means you can feel more confident about sharing simple details about yourself on websites that you have decided to trust.

The video, below, explains a bit more about the lock symbol and it demostrates how, by clicking on the lock, you can look a little deeper into the certificate that has been issued.

How, Why And What Does it Cost – Watch The Video

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