SmashingRed™ Web & Marketing

Websites and Marketing Solutions for Smart Small Business.

The SmashingRed Blog

Jay Gilmore on Websites and Marketing for Small Business.

I’ve Upgraded to WordPress 2.5: I Killed a Website Now to Kill the Blog!

March 29th, 2008

So, recently I killed the SmashingRed Website. I figured how the hell would I ever get around to building a new one if the old one was still up. Now I have just updated to Wordpress 2.5 and as I look at the lack of content, lack of traffic, lack of focus and a mess of categories, I have decided to kill the blog.

I will bring it all back new and with less crap, more openness, more real ideas, more helpful information and more frequent postings.

Blog, meet pillow. Hold still. Don’t fight.

Missed Customer Service Opportunities Cost Money

May 22nd, 2007

A new deli-restaurant opened recently in the neighbouring South Shore town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. On their grand-opening weekend, Tracy, Georgia and I got in the car and went for the 15 minute drive down the shore to try it out. The decor was chic (for Lunenburg) and clean and new. We ordered a couple of sandwiches and some side salads to take out. The sandwiches were terrific—near perfect.

Couldn’t Wait to Return

Since our first visit we had looked forward to going back for another great lunch experience. Since they are a bit of a drive (by South Shore standards) I called in our order to take home.

Everything was ready when we arrived and it looked great. But when we got home, got settled and took that first bite of the sandwiches it was a great let-down. This brand new restaurant gave us bread that had the texture of being bagged for three days. They were awful! It was so bad that we were almost confused. I thought, “I have to let them know—I can’t let them do this to someone else.”

My Call to Action

I called the restaurant and asked to speak to the Chef (I couldn’t remember her name). When she came on the phone I introduced myself and explained our experience. I said that we tried the same sandwiches two weeks ago and said that if this was our first experience we likely wouldn’t come again. She then took a direction that didn’t seem to jive with the call. Here I was giving her an opportunity to win me back or offer me some type of legitimate explanation and she instead told me, “We have been trying out different vendors for our bread.”

What? I was baffled, I don’t care where the bread came from. Dry bread is dry bread. That aside, I had gone out of my way to let her know there was a problem and she basically did nothing to convince me to come back or even thank me for bringing a problem to her attention. Most (near all) customers would just say forget it and not bother to call.

Complainers are Often Customers who Care

Do you have customers calling with a complaint and you miss an opportunity like this where you can thank an unsatisfied customer and turn them into a long term patron? All it would have taken would be to offer to replace the bad sandwiches. How much does that cost? Compared to attracting new clients it is nothing. In addition, the opportunity missed made me think that she didn’t care about the food, her customers or business. I don’t imagine this is true but that is tough impression to kill.

Every Complaint is an Opportunity

Repeat: Every complaint is an opportunity. To do better; To keep an interested customer; To improve service; To refocus attention back to the details and the experience;

Those few people who do complain should be rewarded for helping you make your business better. Ignoring them will ensure that they never become evangelists or mavens who spread the word about your business. In fact ignoring the efforts of a complaint will most certainly stop referrals dead in their tracks.

CSS Naked Day! Does Your Site Work With Its Clothes Off?

April 5th, 2007

Does your site work with its clothes off? Can you read or navigate the site without the background images?

CSS Naked Day celebrates the separation of content and style by showing just how functional a site is without its fancy colours and image based navigation system. April 5th marks the annual event for web designers who subscribe to developing sites that work well, with or without styles.

I’ll have my clothes back on tomorrow!

Okay, Okay! For those who really know, this site is in need of a redesign anyway. I’ll get to it soon!

Web Standards Mean Quality for Your Business

March 14th, 2007

I haven’t written about web design here for a while because I wanted to focus on ideas on business and marketing. Yesterday I found a great article about web standards I felt compelled to share, as it expresses the reason I am so dedicated to building sites based on standards.

Try to Drive on Poor Design

There are too many graphic designers and desktop publishers come webdesigner who have gotten into the business of developing websites. What they, at best, provide their clients with is a pretty-porcine—made up to look nice on the outside and full of fat.

More Than Internet Explorer

These people are not cheats or used-car swindlers, they are almost worse. They are oblivious to the fact that their is more than Internet Explorer; that some people use assistive technology to view the web—or a mobile device; that some people turn the images off; that some people don’t use Flash or Javascript; that some people don’t have broadband connections. Or even worse sometimes someone else has to try and fix or change the code in a site only to have to spend hours trying to figure out what the hell they were doing. I have likened this to taking your car to a bodyshop to fix the engine and the ignition system. They might make things look nice but try to drive it.

I know that is extreme but it is why I am a developer. It is that I am passionate about giving organizations what they really need—a site that works under most conditions, for most users and will result in positive change.

Well Developed Code Just Makes Dollars (at least, in part)

While I don’t want to suggest that code above all else is what I focus on but I want to make it clear that every project that I work on gets the same attention to detail and quality as the last. And, although I learn more every day, it is clear to me the benefits of following the standard for quality as expressed by the aforementioned article.

What About your Industry or Field?

Are there standards in your Industry that benefit your customers? Does it make your business better or is it better to make something that looks nice but falls apart at the seams on first bend?

Are You Open for Customers?

February 28th, 2007

ClosedThe other night I was driving home from the grocery store and noticed two women walking up to a restaurant to find in frustration that it was closed—at 6:30 in the evening. I know that this little European sandwich shop closes at 4:30PM because I had done the very same thing as the two women.

The problem is that I am sure they we are not the only three people to have found this place closed when we wanted to eat there. How many others have walked up to that dark door to see the sign and shake their head in frustration? How many have gone back?

For a new business this is a risk. If the first experience someone has with your business is frustration you may be losing them for ever. None of their marketing materials indicate the hours of operation, just this sign on the front door. If the owners had published the hours in their newspaper ads, in their brochure, or on their menu that they have at the local bank, and this was occurring only to random walk up traffic, it might be less troublesome.

For a newer service or retail business to set hours based on some arbitrary notion either lifestyle or the hours you wish to work, you may be doing a serious long term disservice to yourself. Hire and train more staff to work later until you find out what hours you are actually busy. Measure your customer patterns and market to fill in the gaps. Don’t limit yourself based on you. Be open when the majority of your customers can come to you. Be at the service of your customers and reward them for walking up to your doors by being open to sell them what they came to buy.

Job Posting(s): Web Designer and Web Developer Freelance to Full Time!

December 1st, 2006

SmashingRed Web & Marketing is growing and I am looking for some great people.

I am currently seeking candidates for the following posts:

  • Web Programmer
  • Web Designer

Successful candidates will be willing to work on freelance jobs in the short term to demonstrate work habits, qualities and more. As I am freed up to focus on sales and management, more and more work will become available and opportunities for those up to the challenges will grow with your experience.

Ideally candidates will be from Nova Scotia and able to travel to the South Shore but I won’t turn down amazing talent in other areas. One of the aims of SmashingRed is to develop local web design and development talent and while I appreciate the huge financial benefits to working with offshore companies etc., I am committed first to opportunities for Canadians.

SmashingRed builds usable websites using only the latest development and design practices. Standards-based development in (X)HTML with CSS (no-tag soup) using PHP and unobtrusive Javascript when necessary. In addition, I have recently turned to the MODx CMS/PHP framework for the basis of all small to medium projects. This new CMS/PHP framework is unlike any other custom or Open Source CMS project out there.

For more information please contact me. And watch this post for updates and more information.

Focus On Action. Now!

November 29th, 2006

Yesterday, I said that you were a marketer and that one of the ways to take hold of your marketing was to do something now. While that is a bit of an oversimplification, I want to discuss the “do something now” as one of the ways you can improve your business overnight.

Like many small business owners, I struggled with being the person doing all the work but what made things worse was procrastination by perfectionism. I would fail to do anything for fear of not doing it perfect.

It took me a change of view to see that doing nothing was to fail and that by doing something, even imperfect, that I would be gaining experience, customers, free-time, and more. Even if the action taken had negative results, at least it had results. From those results I can make new plans that should allow positive results or at least highlight a course of action that ought not to be taken.

So, if you have unmade decisions you should:

  1. Start that blog.
  2. Hire that assistant.
  3. Revamp/Redesign your website.
  4. Send out that letter campaign.
  5. Develop that process.
  6. Fire that dead weight.
  7. Call your customer list.
  8. Revise your plans.
  9. Develop that new service.
  10. Launch the new line.
  11. Find a partner.
  12. Align with the competition.
  13. Buy the competition.
  14. Rent the new office.
  15. Invest in the new equipment.
  16. Give your employees an extra day off.
  17. Take that vacation.
  18. Stop hours of surfing.
  19. Quit smoking.
  20. Renew your gym membership.
  21. Read a book on productivity.

Do something. To do nothing is the failure.

What do you need to do? 

You Are a Marketer–Whether You Like it or Not

November 28th, 2006

Some of you may already know this but just to reiterate: you are a marketer. And, to make it even more powerful, your competition are marketers. And, to really bring it home, some of your competition are better at it than you.
Small business owners all to often think that they offer a product or service to the world but the fact of the matter is their success or failure can almost certainly be attributed to the ways in which your company, your brand , and your people and your customers and prospective customers interact.

Here are some quick ways that you can take hold of your marketing and make things happen:

  1. Make a plan based on your actual goals for the business.
  2. Target the right people. For that matter target someone. Don’t try to market the same way to all people.
  3. Schedule your marketing activities. Mark out what activities need to be done when in order to remove the haphazardness and stress of what to do next.
  4. Plan the whole cycle! If you are going to be doing a huge campaign to have people call in, you had better make sure that the people who answer your calls know what to do or you could wind up wasting money.
  5. Do somthing. Now! Just becuase you haven’t the perfect plan doesn’t mean you should wait for it to arrive. That costs money.
  6. Good marketing costs nothing. That means that if your marketing efforts are working they generate revenue and are an investment. Just becuase some marketing is expensible at tax time doesn’t mean is should be treated as such in the day-to-day.
  7. Be consistent. Market regularly. The biggest and best way to grow your business is to never stop marketing and to be doing the same things until those things stop working.
  8. You are not the customer. Just because you have read the same boring sales letter for the last 5 years doesn’t mean you should change. If it still brings in money, keep on sending it out. When it stops, then you can change it.
  9. Your front line employees are marketers too. The lasting impression about the type of service or response from on of your employees is more powerful than most other marketing.

There are hundreds of other ways to take hold of your marketing. Tell me what yours are.

Small Business Website Development or Small Business Marketing

October 16th, 2006

SmashingRed has been around for over a year and a half now and I have learned lots. I have worked with a number of clients to help meet their objectives and goals and continue to do so in the future.

Help Smart Small Business Get the Web Right

In the past few months, working on website projects and development of new systems and strategies for building better websites, faster, I realized I forgot why I started this company: To help smart small business get the web right by intelligently integrating it into their business and achieve their goals.

I am not sure that I know how to say what I want to say about the marketing information void that exists, but I see time-and-time-again, local and big businesses going under or struggling. You cannot just hang up your shingle in a competitive marketplace and expect to build a business.

Why Does a Website Developer Care About Small Business Marketing?

Websites are a facet of marketing. It doesn’t matter what they do—whether they educate people about your company, inform visitors about your products and services, sell things online and etcetera. And, just like good customer service or your beautiful sign, or your telephone directory ad, it must contribute to turning visitors into customers. Marketing is nothing more than leading people to choose something that you are offering.

Expand or Contract?

My conflict is deciding whether to expand the idea of SmashingRed into a marketing consultancy or sharpen my focus onto just building great websites.

The reason to even consider this is that unlike big business, small business don’t have marketing departments or marketing teams. To make matters worse, most adfirms-come-marketing consultancies, are more interested in winning awards than building actual measurable value for their clients.

Small Business Owners Search for the Starting Line

Many of my small business clients don’t know where or how to start actively marketing their business—they don’t know what segments make up their market, they don’t know what a segment is; they don’t know what emotion their customers are fulfilling by using or buying their product; they don’t know that people and business make decisions based on emotions; they don’t know how to write a compelling message for a campaign; they don’t know what a campaign is; they don’t know how to focus on prospects. How can I then expect my clients to write compelling copy to put onto their website if they don’t know these things? How can I even deliver the success that I promised if all the design and development of a great website is then filled with words and images focused on the wrong thing? The answer is I can’t.

Take Control or Change Vision

So, I either have to take control or let go of the idea of building websites for Small Business that get the web right. One thing is certain, I am passionate about helping Small Business achieve their goals. The question is how far do I take it?

What do you think? Stick to Websites or Take on the World?

Word of Mouth Marketing: The Real Truth from a Software Guy

August 24th, 2006

I was just reading Robert Scoble who had pointed me to this post by Eric Sink who writes one of the best Marketing articles I have read in a while. In it, he explores how a business can get people talking about their product.

Where Sink’s article really wins is that it explains the benefits of market specialization in with a clarity that takes it from the abstract to the concrete. He takes you through an example of satisfying all members of a small group can be more effective than a small group of a large segment. This completely jives with all the talk of the Long Tail—the theory that suggests that the sum of the small segments can be more profitable than the single large segment.

One of the observations I have made working with small business is that almost every one of them relies on word-of-mouth as a business strategy. They say that they work mostly on referrals. But their marketing begins long before that. It relates to how the sales process works. It relates to the results of the product or service. It relates to the follow-up and customer service. It relates to how all that delivery meshes with the promotional activities work.

Let me know how you are marketing? Are you relying on word of mouth as a strategy? Have you been brainwashed into splatter marketing by throwing your product or service into the marketplace and hoping it will stick?

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