Last week, I emailed the BBC…

…to ask if they wanted a new website.They said no. But that’s to be expected, right?

All too often, companies waste time, effort and money pitching products and services because they don’t understand who their target clients should be.

Are you getting it right? Here are a few things to consider:

Take a good look at yourself

Know your limitations as well as your unique selling points. Ask yourself what you could comfortably offer a client and what you would struggle to deliver. Think cash flow, think people-hours, think resources and logistics.

If you couldn’t fulfill a large-scale multinational order, should you be pitching to multinational companies? If you only have three members of staff, should you really be pitching for a job that will require 200 person-hours each day?

Be realistic and don’t push yourself or your business to the point of collapse; if it seems impossible, it probably is.

Choose your targets wisely

Make a wish list of potential clients and whittle them down by asking yourself important questions, such as:

  • How much do they need the product or service you’re offering?
  • What kind of budget are they likely to have available?
  • What relevant experience do you have in their sector or industry?
  • Is a contract with this company logistically viable; where are they based?
  • Do you have enough cashflow and resources to fulfill their potential demands?
  • Do you have any existing contacts that could help to facilitate a meeting/pitch?

Research, research, research

Before spending any time planning a pitch, find out as much information as possible about your prospective client. One simple phone call could save you from planning a pitch to a company that is already in contract with one of your competitors.

This is where your networking skills are invaluable. Talk to your contacts and find out everything they know about potential leads. The more information you have about your target client, the better your pitch will be.

Better use of time

Once you have an accurate picture of your business’ strengths and weaknesses and you know exactly who your target clients should (and shouldn’t) be, you’ll find that your attempts to drum up business are much more efficient.

If you would like some help developing your online offering, get in touch with us at Group Dane. We’re offering free digital consultancy to UK SMEs.

Oh, and of course I didn’t really email the BBC. That would be silly – my research revealed they have a wonderful website already!

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Get it on(line)

As shocking as it may sound, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) still don’t have a website. Almost as jaw-dropping, many SMEs that do have a website don’t consider it to be crucial to business performance.

Believe it or not, this revelation is actually good news (…for you at least). In fact, the silver lining on this cloud is so heavy it’s about to crash to your feet. After all, the shortcomings of other businesses are opportunities for you.

Where do you stand?

Whether or not you have a product that can be sold online doesn’t matter. Your website should be used to engage with your customers, tell them what you offer, build your brand personality and, perhaps most importantly, shout at the top of your voice “I’m here!”.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What do you do when you want to find a product or service? If you’re like me (and 90% of the population), you Google it. What would a potential customer find out about the types of products or services you offer if they fire off a Google search?

If you don’t have a website, chances are customers aren’t going to be able to find anything out about you. Not only are you invisible on the web, but to many potential customers, you don’t even exist.

Here’s the good news

While many of your competitors continue to operate as though the web isn’t relevant to them, you can seize that huge portion of the market that relies on it to source (an often buy) products and services.

Just remember, if some of your competitors don’t have a website right now, it’s only a matter of time before they do. Get in there first.

Group Dane is offering UK SMEs a spot of free website consultancy. If you’re keen to maximise your company’s online performance, get in touch for a chat. We’ll give you some pointers on what your next steps should be.

Get Up Stand Up

It’s not just Bob Marley who thinks it’s important to stand up. More and more organisations are discovering the benefits of replacing traditional sit-down meetings with “scrums” or “huddles”. But let’s not use either of those bingo terms; we prefer to just call them stand-up meetings (catchy, eh?).

Not only do stand-up meetings save time and space (you can hold one almost anywhere), they also help increase motivation and promote productivity. Bear with me.

Ok, so this does sound like a new-age fad, but stand-up meetings aren’t a new concept at all. Actually, some military leaders in World War I held their meetings standing up for the same reasons.

At Group Dane, we’ve come up with the S.T.A.N.D. principle (Status, Time, Action, Need, Decisions). Here’s what that means for us:

Status

When you’re standing, no matter who’s leading the meeting (whether it’s a team junior or a director), everyone is equal. How many times have you been sitting in a meeting looking up to the person talking, or looking down to the people listening? Not only does this give you a crick in your neck, the body language shouts “status”.

Time

Nobody likes to stand up for longer than necessary, so standing meetings help to cut down on wasted time. Every moment you spend at work is being paid for by someone, so keeping meetings short may give your clients better value for money.

Action

Standing is naturally more dynamic than sitting and this will be reflected in the actions that come from the meeting, as well as the tone and outlook of the team.

Need

The fact it’s standing up means people will only call meetings when they’re needed. How many meetings have you sat through that weren’t essential?

Decisions

You’ll find that opinions are expressed much more concisely and decisions are made more efficiently when you’re standing up.

So, all of this sounds great in theory, but will it work in practise? Well, according to a study by Professor Allen Bluedorn, of the University of Missouri, stand-up meetings are about a third shorter than sit down meetings, but the quality of decision-making is about the same.

The next time you have a team meeting, why not try it standing up? In the mean time, stay tuned for our next blog on why travelling on skateboard is more efficient than walking…

10 great tips on writing for the web

Content is one of the most important aspects of your website. The copy (words) you choose is the main vehicle for your message, which after all is the whole purpose of your website. Follow our top ten tips to help you choose your words carefully…

1. ATTENTION!

Capture your audience’s attention as soon as they reach the page. Consider what’s in it for them and reflect this in your copy. What will they get out of reading on? Use descriptive, eye-catching and thought provoking headings to lure them into the rest of your content; try using questions and relevant key words.

2. Keep it relevant

One good way to avoid waffling is to imagine you’ve just bumped into a friend you haven’t seen in a while, but they’re in a rush. You need to tell them something, so you need to get straight to the point. The average visitor stays on a web page for around 30 seconds, so make sure you tell them everything they need to know in that time frame.

3. Start at the end

Don’t make your audience have to trawl through paragraphs to find out what they need to know, because they almost certainly won’t. Start with the conclusion or summary, then use the rest of your text to elaborate.

4. Know your primary audience

Understand your target audience and write with them in mind. Use an appropriate tone and keep their needs at the heart of your copy. What do you have that they want? Give it to them or at least tell them how they can get it.

5. Consider secondary audience

Although you’re writing predominantly for your target audience, where possible, avoid using jargon that could alienate potential secondary and tertiary audiences.

Oh, and remember to always clearly explain/spell out any acronyms or abbreviations on all pages you use them.

6. Make it snappy

Stick to just one idea per paragraph and keep them short to break up the text. Remember that people typically don’t read web pages, they scan them.

7. Time to get personal

Using you, we and I adds relevance to your copy and helps to build a more personal, friendly relationship with your audience. After all, if you can’t trust your friends…

8. Formatting

Wherever appropriate, use short bulleted lists rather than chunks of text. Most web users read the top two and bottom two bullet points before the rest, so put your key points there.

9. Proof is in the pudding

You’ll be the pudding if you don’t carefully proofread your copy, then proofread it again. If possible, ask someone else to do the final chek (oops).

10. Call to action

You have your audience’s attention, so use it wisely. Think about what you want your audience to do next. Make sure you offer clear calls to action. Here’s an example of a good one:

For more help with writing for the web, visit Group Dane.

Beautiful website with GSOH WLTM you…

We judge a good website a lot like we choose a partner. Looks, personality and sex appeal are all important. Oh, and a good sense of humour from time to time can be attractive too.

Looks

How many times have you been told not to judge a book by its cover? Well, the honest truth is that we all do it occasionally. Make sure you’re happy with the design you choose for your website because you could be stuck with it for quite a while. A good way of deciding if the design is right is to imagine yourself as your business and your homepage as a mirror. Take a good look, because to your customers your website is your business personified.

Personality

The old adage “content is king” is still true. You want to engage your visitors, so you need to connect with them through your words, images and videos. This content forms your voice, so speak up nice and clearly. Choose your words carefully and remember to lead the conversation in the right direction. Here’s your chance to humanise the website and establish or reinforce your brand personality.

Sex appeal

Ever heard the expression “sex sells”? When it comes to web development, sexiness is usually a winning ingredient. Using a fancy parallax or some clever jQuery might be just the features you need to beat your competitors in the sexiness stakes. Keeping up to date with the latest functionality on your website shows your visitors that you’re forward-thinking and fresh.

A word of warning though – don’t go overboard with the technical wizardry. Pick a few of your favourite technical features and try to hold back on using too many gimmicky tricks at any one time… remember it’s a functional website you’re looking for, not a circus!

When it comes to choosing the right website for your business, it’s not a quick thrill you’re after, it’s a serious long term relationship. So make sure you make choices that are right for your business now and in the foreseeable future.

For more information about improving the looks, personality or sex appeal of your website, get in touch with Group Dane.

10 great tips on search engine optimisation

So, you’ve got a great website with carefully crafted content and a pretty design…now all you need to do is sit back with a coffee and wait for visitors, right? Unfortunately, not. But don’t cancel that coffee, because the good news is that search engine optimisation (SEO) isn’t rocket science.

Grab your Americano and take a look at our top ten tips on search engine optimisation.

1. Check yourself out

…And I don’t mean stand in front of the mirror. Find out how the land lies at the moment for your site. Where do you appear in search engine results when you enter logical key words? Use Google and a couple of other search engines to see how you perform. There’s also a great free tool on www.alexa.com that dashboards your search engine performance. Check it out.

2. Keywords are…well, key

Keywords are the words people will use when looking for your website, so think long and hard. What words and phrases will target your audience?

When you’ve decided on your keywords, make sure you have a generous sprinkling of appropriate words and phrases throughout your site. But be careful! Make sure keywords flow naturally with the rest of the content – don’t forget that the site’s function isn’t purely to attract visitors – your copy needs to be easy to read and functional.

You should think about making sure your keywords can be found within titles, content, URLs and image captions. Oh, and don’t forget your head (title tag and page header are crucial hangouts for your keywords).

3. Don’t look back in anger!

…Link back with joy. Make sure visitors can find everything they need on your website. Do this by thinking about typical user journeys – link as many pages as possible to other relevant pages on your site. But remember to be logical and don’t bombard your visitors with too many links –  they may get dizzy and leave.

Search engine optimisation isn’t just about building new links. It’s important to look after the elderly content on your website too. Where appropriate, link your new stuff to relevant archive content which can add a bit of hit power with little effort.

Remember to give your links appropriate anchor words, which increases the ranking of the link….let’s say goodbye to “click here”.

4. Tag! You’re it!

It’s essential to have “ALT” tags on all of your images. Spiders are blind to images, even if you have text embedded within them, so help the spiders out and jam a few great keywords into your ALT tags.

You can even double up your efforts by adding visible captions around images.

5. Treasure the map

Adding a site map with links to all major sections and pages on your site can help spiders to search your site. It also gives visitors and at-a-glance view of your whole site and helps them to reach your content in fewer clicks.

6. Friendly URLs

They don’t have to smile and hold doors open, but your URLs should be friendly to search engines. Make sure you cram in a couple of keywords and don’t worry too much about them being too long (size isn’t everything). You can make it easier for search engines to understand your URLs by adding dashes between words (something-like-this).

7. It’s good to share

Not only will it make you feel warm inside, but sharing links will also increase the value search engines put on your pages. Find a few non-competitor websites and ask if they would be interested in linking to your site if you do the same for them.

A word of warning though, make sure any sites you link to are reputable. By linking to another website you’re endorsing their content.

8. Content is king!

Fresh content is still king when it comes to search engine optimisation. If you’re expecting visitors to return to your site (repeat visits boost your ranking!), you need to give them an incentive. Keep your content interesting and update it as frequently as possible.

Don’t forget those keywords, now!

9. Not so Flash!

Where possible, avoid using Flash! Pretty it might be, but it doesn’t allow you to link to single pages or break it down into keyword-friendly segments.

If I can’t talk you out of using a Flash-dominated homepage, you can claw something back for your SEO by adding links, captions and any other appropriate copy elsewhere on the page.

10. Going social

Drive traffic to your site and get links out there using social media. Use the most popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Linked in, to distribute links outside of your site. Let’s not forget that the world’s second largest search engine is YouTube!

Blogging is also a great way to establish links out there that will drive traffic back to your site, after all you’re reading our blog right now!

Simple eh? Well, there is a little bit more to it than that, but I reckon you’ve probably finished your coffee. If you’d like to find out more about search engine optimisation, visit Group Dane.