Keren LernerKeren LernerApril 5, 2018
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7min885

You’re in business. You’ve been in it long enough…no longer do you have to do quite so much sales and hustling. 

While you’re a professional who knows what they are doing, the new world of business can often seem a little trickier to navigate.

Direct mail could work, but many report it doesn’t provide the return it once did. Cold calling is soul destroying, and it starts the business relationship in an awkward, and somewhat ‘pushy’, way.

Advertising is expensive and often ads are ignored as many filter them out when they are seeing so many messages online and across social media.

So, what’s working now?

The answer is your track record, your reputation in the industry, your network, and whatever form of marketing you’ve tried and tested. So, things are good, and perhaps you’re thinking “I don’t really need to get my hands dirty with all that social media nonsense. Why should I redo my website again? We had it done four years ago and it looks fine. I’m quite happy being a digital dinosaur!”

Can’t I just continue to ignore things? 

Sure, coast along, but more and more savvy surfers are looking and comparing your site to others. Sure, you can continue to rely on the trusted best sources of new business – referrals, repeat business, heavy spend on Google Adwords – but within each of those there are risks…

Referrals

Nowadays, people ask for referrals online. It’s a first-come-first-serve bun fight, and you can easily get lost in the mix. However, if you have a good relationship with a strategic partner, they can be very convincing, meaning a much higher chance of an intro.

But if people have received two or more recommendations for a service, comparison behaviour ensues. They check out the websites, they Google each option, they check out your profiles, and ultimately, they judge you.

I have seen people do this over and over again, and they choose the company they feel has the best website and track record. They go for whomever seems switched on, knowledgeable, and active.

Repeat business

Eventually your customers will make new contacts and relationships, and those businesses may be more prominent, more visible, and show their expertise more than you do. It’s risky to take these existing relationships for granted. If you lose some of them to competitors who are not letting themselves slide backwards, your business may not be in such a wonderful position anymore.

Those people who have businesses offering services like yours can easily look better than you, and will be able to get in front of your customers too.

Why? Because they have certain things in place:

  1. A website which is visually appealing, easy to navigate, written to attract your target audience, mobile friendly, and has clear messaging.
  2. Indicators of success online: well-written client case studies, reviews, testimonials, stats, and independently published articles.
  3. Activity that shows they’re in business and they want to be: their social media is updated frequently, you can see they are interacting and engaging with others, and they have an approachable tone of voice in the way they have written their website.

Google Adwords

Many businesses have been using these for years. The reason it works is because of numbers. But as site visitors get more discerning, they will start to ignore these, or choose to do their own due diligence. Conversion rates also increase when you have landing pages in place that are relevant to what people originally searched for and this can take some significant planning.

Three Steps to Success

An audit

You can start by taking a good look at how you’re appearing online. Google yourself, your business, and the people who work for you, and check what’s coming up. Is it in line with who you are and what you stand for? Has it been recently updated? Do the updates make sense? Is your core message shining through? Does it inspire people to contact you? Make a few notes on what can be improved?

It’s better to clean up what’s already in place before you add any more enhancements.

Awareness

The next thing to do is learn. A little or a lot – it’s up to you. There are some basic truths that you can read about in six minutes. If you own a business, it’s your responsibility to not let things slip away. Book a short 45 minute training session so you can see examples of this in action, and learn to recognise the good and the bad.

Outsourcing

Unless you transform entirely into someone who takes this up as their speciality, the next thing you need to do is find the people and the resources to implement these changes. Make sure that they’re capable – hence the need for a little awareness – and hire/outsource to someone who takes on board your values, key messages, and the purpose of your business.


Keren LernerKeren LernerAugust 8, 2017
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10min428

In a Google-first world, an out of date, bland or generic website can be a very significant business liability. While the positives of any website are easy to track – in the form of inbound enquiries, low bounce rates and even customer feedback, what about the negatives? Perhaps the business’s reputation precedes it, and so some customers and prospects are happy to overlook any failings of the website. But what about those that are not? How many times have customers been lost before the sales process even begins? Or when potential A-player candidates thought not to apply or even refused an interview after checking out the online presence? For busy business owners, it can be easy to miss the signs. And that is where the employee voice is key.

Employees are totally tuned in to the issues affecting clients and the messages the business needs to present to the outside world. As Keren Lerner, Founder and Managing Director, Top Left Design, explains, employees’ impressions of the company’s marketing, including the website and social presence, is a vital indication of the state of health of the organisation. It is time to listen.

Online Presence

A good website will easily communicate a business’s ethos, objectives and deliverables through a mixture of strong design and layout, shaping, branding and good copy. Yet while for any small business it is the owners that define the company’s voice and vision, the temptation to abdicate responsibility to someone who was not part of that initial business vision can be an expensive mistake. Marketers have all the skills and techniques required to create an engaging website, packed full of social media feeds and content – but they don’t have the love.

The result is that while the business is innovative and inspirational, the public image is generic and bland. Yet business owners are often oblivious – unless someone is brave enough to make the point!

But who?

More often than not, it is employees who are best placed to flag website problems; the people on the front line who are often struggling to meet goals due to the inadequate online presence.

If any individuals are too embarrassed to point prospects, suppliers or friends towards the website or resistant to using dated social media profiles there is clearly a problem with the online presence. If these same individuals do not feel able to share that situation with the business owner, it could indicate a very real lack of collaboration and communication internally.

How can a business owner ensure employees are empowered to share their concerns and, if necessary, trigger a website refresh or redesign?

Open Communication

In today’s increasingly collaborative working environment and culture, switched on business owners should be proactively encouraging employee feedback. These individuals are not only working with customers and prospects, suppliers and partners, but also playing a key role in expanding and building the team to support business growth.

Of course, no business owner wants to be continually deluged with random comments about possible improvements to certain areas of the website, or one-off pleas to add a Snapchat account. Instead, feedback needs to be part of an overall business plan. Opening the discussion and planning a meeting where all employees are asked to bring their views on the current website and ideas for improvement is a positive step. It not only demonstrates to employees that their opinions are valued but also ensures key messages are included within a brief for a new marketing and website strategy.

From customer feedback to the quality of competitor websites, this open forum is an invaluable opportunity to combine the owner’s voice with the expectations and experience of employees – and reinforces a strong company culture built on shared values and objectives.

Employee Commitment

Employee input should not start and finish with the open discussion; they need to be part of the on-going website development. Today’s websites are a world apart from the original static brochure style sites, with their lists of products and services. Sites now are live, dynamic and interactive, designed to bring customers, prospects and partners back to the company again and again through the use of innovative content and thought provoking discussion to build long-term engagement. Organisations need to use the skills, expertise and experience of employees to continually enhance this dynamic environment – from live links to active social media profiles to creating new content, such as blogs and eBooks.

Building on the initial discussion by creating a brief, appointing a company to help with the development, setting a deadline for the launch and defining plans for continual updating – all with a clear timeline – are key to ensuring the project retains momentum.

It is also worth a business owner including a number of employees within the development process. Adding those individuals with strong experience of the target audience – such as the Head of Sales or Relationship Manager – to the discussions on design, content and social profiles with the web design agency can be very valuable both to the initial development and longer term. These are the individuals whose expertise will play an important part in creating the articles and blogs required to build long-term customer engagement. It is their social media activity that will drive prospects and potential recruits to the website. Getting their buy in up front, ensuring they are trained to update blogs and so on, will be vital to ensuring they are truly committed to this website – rather than perceiving it to be just one more task on the list.

Conclusion

Given the change in business culture that has occurred over the past decade and the shift towards a more collaborative model, the majority of owner-managed businesses will recognise the importance of better employee/management communication.

The website should be one of the most important – and obvious – indicators of a business’ culture; an exact and precise lens not only into the organisation’s business activity but also the beliefs and passion that inspired the owner to found the company in the first place. Those businesses that have opted for a generic web presence are not only failing to present the company in the best possible light; they are potentially undermining staff morale and confidence.

Consider the website as a flag; a real indicator of business culture. And welcome the employees’ perspective. They want a website that is a true business showcase, something they can proudly present to prospects and customers, suppliers and potential recruits. Actively encouraging employees to share their opinions will support the creation of a website and marketing plan that truly reflects the business and market expectation. This open attitude will also improve employee morale and reinforce a powerful business culture.

Allow that employee voice to be heard.

Interesting Links:


Keren LernerKeren LernerDecember 30, 2016
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6min309

Silence on social media is no longer an option. Every year, finding a business that isn’t on social media becomes less and less likely, probably because so many of us have accounts for personal use, too. Social media is fun after all – it’s a great way to network online and create noise about your business. But keeping up a presence on social media can drop down the list of priorities for many businesses, especially if it begins to feel like a chore. Keren Lerner, Founder and Managing Director, Top Left Design shares five social media resolutions that small business owners should be making to ensure they make time for perfecting their social media strategy.

Plan how to incorporate social media into your schedule – even when you’re busy

Introducing social media tools to do the work for you can seem like an obvious time saver. But in order for your social media strategy to really fit in with your schedule, it needs to firstly mean something to your business, while complementing other priorities of the working day. For example, you might set aside half an hour each week to add in the next few days’ content. Most people schedule their tweets in advance, but remember the less automated they sound, the more engagement they’re likely to get!

Make final curation a priority

There are a number of tools for curation: Flipboard for your smart phone and Feedly for your desktop, for instance. These tools allow collation of all your favourite blogs in one place – with them you can get into the habit of skim reading headlines and opening only those posts you feel would be interesting to your followers. When sharing these – through Buffer, for example – clicking one button opens up a pop-up, allows you to confirm a picture, prewrites your headline and shortens the URL. From there, you can choose which channels to send the article out to, add your own comment and, if sharing on Twitter, a couple of hashtags too.

While it’s using automation, it’s still personal – you have chosen the article to share, and you retain control over what was written to accompany it.

Be spontaneous

So, you have now scheduled a lot of your content, but being truly active on social media doesn’t stop there. Make a habit of interacting with the content of others, too. Look at your social channel activity while waiting for the bus or in between meetings to see what others are sharing.

Look at who is commenting on your posts, reply to them and interact with their content. This allows you to intercept some of your shared content with the ‘real you’. The idea is, eventually, you’re going to start meeting some of these people and having real life conversations with them about business!

Become a pre-planner

It’s an obvious one but actually very few people do this effectively. If you get help, make sure you have the final sign-off on what gets put out there. Create a two-week calendar that includes all planned pre-approved images, blog shares, publishing dates and event-related activity, and stick to it. Once you have all these things in place, you will see that many of your image shares and blog posts can be prescheduled. Then, make sure you repeat step two – check in and see what the reaction has been to your pre-planned content.

Inject the human factor

Even with all our tools for scheduling posts and measuring stats, social media activity really only works for those who acknowledge there are people out there behind the social profiles who both follow and interact with them.

It’s not about getting ‘likes’ and retweets, it’s about making a connection with others – and bringing them into the real world whenever the time feels right!

Interesting links:




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