Website tips, what works

What are you doing to make your website work for you? Here is a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way, and we’ve implemented ourselves…

1) Get a website champion – someone who is really living the website, thinking about it in the shower, staying on top of what’s out there and going on. Let them try to become the leading website for your industry.

2) Use search friendly websites and blogs; does your developer know how to make a friendly website for search engines? What about your blog?

3) Outsource the development of your website, but don’t give up on point 1, you need your own internal website champion; they don’t need to know how it all works, but they need to have a vision;

4) Utilize both on-site and off-site blogs or other social networking tools (twitter, etc). A blog on your website is great, and essential, but you also need other reputable sources – so create an off-site blog. Get your staff into blogging on their own sites. If they’re professional related, consider sponsoring their own private blogs (i.e. pay for them to have their own domain name through a company like

5) Create a regular posting schedule for both your regular website content and your blogs. Set calendar reminders, rotating staff schedules, whatever is appropriate, but keep content fresh and current. It doesn’t have to be multiple posts per day — just whatever you set yourself to, try and keep it regular. Once every other week is even fine, if you can maintain it.

6) Relevant, relevant, relevant — keep your posts relevant to your readers. Don’t post for the sake of posting, although you want to keep to some form of a schedule; but when you say something, have something to say. One trick is to get one-ahead. Use the advance publish tools to let you post for the following week – always post next weeks blog, and you’ll always have some grace room.

Why wait?

I just completed browsing an interesting entry over at On Startups: Wimps Wait which is suggesting that releasing a product is more important than waiting. I believe, as in many things, there is a balance in the middle. Here is the takeaway I suggest from the blog.

  1. Your product will never be to the point of you being comfortable at releasing it. You need to realize the point of diminishing returns on further tweaking it;
  2. Revolutionaries release, wimps wait — be the first to market!
  3. It is better to have customers with a half-way product that they accept, then a perfect product that hasn’t been released (i.e. zero customers);
  4. You will be more reluctant about the times you didn’t release;
  5. At the end of the day, “just ship it” — do your best and then let it go;
  6. Take a look back and realize just how many times you thought you did work out all the bugs, all the time spent, and at the end of the day, customers will were unhappy or found bugs — will waiting on your release for two more months really make a difference;
  7. To succeed, you must release — product in development doesn’t bring in revenue;

At the end of the day, be it product or service, you need to understand when you have done your best, and that more time will not significantly improve your product/service, and you just need to let it go into the marketplace and see how well it does. Be ready to adapt and change as necessary. Fix bugs, rework contracts, etc. But a few grumpy clients are better than none when you’re starting out.

Unsolicited Resumes

A business associate of mine was describing a new leveraging of the Linked In technology. The concept is simple, use Linked-In to discover the name of key people: recruiter, directors, principles, etc., for the company you’d like to work for and directly submit your resume to them via e-mail or postal mail. The rationale behind this is that often when submitting your resume through the proper channels on the corporate website, or via Monster/Dice/etc your resume may be automatically filtered out because of some negative keyword. However, by directly submitting a resume, it will increase the likelihood of it being read by a human and therefore you have a higher chance of being contacted.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, I cannot count the number of times I’ve received a unsolicited resume, for a position we don’t have or have then need for. It frequently makes me wonder how much they really want to work for my company, instead of just “some” company.

I guess the reason for the offense is my perspective of the hiring process:

1) You should be looking for a job position which specifically matches your skill set;

2) You should be looking for a company which matches your work culture/ethic;

3) You should want to work specifically for our company for a specific reason. If it came down simply to businesses (title, pay, etc., all the same) I want you to have a reason to want us.

Sending out an unsolicited resume says that you’re willing to take anything from anyone – that it really simply comes down to price. But the reality is most people leave their jobs for reasons other than money. Sure, we all would like to get paid more. But frequently there are other underlying problems. If pay is what will make you choose me, then you might simply leave when it suits you.

What are your thoughts? How have you received resumes lately?

Virtual Office Space

During the beginning startup phase of a business, it is essential to manage startup costs. Many entrepreneurs want to go with the corporate image, complete with the business cards, and fansy business furniture. This is based on two important things: (1) the corporate image is important to may industries; (2) the owners pride.

The first point is very valid, there is a need to present a professional image to receive the confidence from prospective customers. The second point is important to note simply from a self-realization standpoint. You need to understand that some decisions are less about rationality, and more about personal feelings.

One area which has seen a significant boon is the virtual office space. This enables your small business to have a physical presence, even though you really don’t need to be in a real office space. This fits for business where you work out of your home, or perhaps out of your car. Take the mobile bookkeeper, or event mobile carpet cleaning service. How about an application developer or consultant who works from their home office. Yet, some of the benefits of a real office space come in handy, such as the professional receptionist to answer and forward your calls, available office or conference room space, package delivery and even hourly administrative assistants to help you.

These services are becoming more popular and their rates have remained very affordable. From around $99 to $300 you can have these services to provide your company an excellent, professional image – and also removes your home address from many business forms and paperwork.

I highly recommend you look into a virtual office space for your next startup.

Paint a picture

One of the best ways to grab the attention of prospective clients is to paint them a mental picture of the end results. They don’t need to know the how, that is your job, they want to know what your product or services means to them. At the end of the day, what is the benefit to them. The process is something which can be discussed later. First off, can they see the end results benefitting their company.

You need to paint a mental picture — say that you’re a janitorial service, you could perhaps paint the picture that your company is distinctive in that due to your services, the restrooms will look and smell as comfortable as home. That is a mental picture that will stick with you. Perhaps the opposite picture will stick clearer in your head. The descsision maker doesn’t need to know about the five organic cleaning materials and rare earth minnerals you use to keep the place smelling just right — they want to know about the end results. There may be time for technical questions, such as “how do you accomplish that”, and you had better know the answer – but first sell them on what it will look like.

Are you the sales manager too?

A great post over at Young Entrepreneur discusses that fact that in most small businesses the owner is the key sales person at the company. And while most of us are more interested in the product that we’ve developed, or the service we provide – we are the de-facto sales person. And as the business grows it is very easy to become overwhelmed with the business end of the company and neglect sales. However a continued focus on sales in the key to sustainable growth — or even to stave off attrition.

Evan Carmichael, quoting Sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer, outlined 7 reasons why the principle is the best sales person. It is worth looking at. And yet we still try to expand out business by hiring a sales person to hand this duty off to. We have and have failed twice at it! The key to this is what Jeffrey calls his 7.5th point — even with a sales person, the principle still needs to champion and lead-by-example the sales portion of the business. In a entrepreneurship video I watched a few years ago, it showed an interview with the founder of Netscape, back when they were a viable company — and people actually purchased Internet browsing software. In there, the principle spoke about how he monitored and personally trained his first sales person. And that he took an interactive and proactive approach to training and leading his first sales person – a process he repeated until he had a very size-able sales team.

So, how have you handled selling your company lately?

Building a moat

I just completed reading I like big moats and I cannot lie over at Fool.comand was really impressed with the idea. This is a concept I have understood and practices without every putting a term to it. I have been a part of networking groups which discuss this concept, and barely scratch the surface. In this article Rich Greifner quotes Warren Buffet regarding a term Buffet himself coined: the economic moat.

In other words, what distinguishes you from your competition. What sets you apart? If you cannot describe why you’re business, product, idea, etc., is different from the next hot-shot product, idea, business, service – then you’re just another face. What makes businesses successful is that they can provide something significantly different. Not just another marketing hype of better, faster, cheaper – or perhaps smaller, intimate, personal attention. Those are nothing new. I have a great deal of friends who have their own bookkeeping business. They do a great job at distinguishing themselves apart from larger firms, yet they really have nothing compelling between other small 1 or 2 person firms. They play the, small, agile, personal, flexible card — typically of small start-ups. Yet they really bring nothing new to the table. If they have good references, resume and experience, then I would choose on price alone — and that is a very bad place to be. Small businesses cannot afford to be in the commodity business.

Back to Buffet, he says that when he is evaluating a business to invest in, the key is a large sustainable moat. They key is sustainable. Is what sets you appart something that will fade? Can it be trumpped by a competitor? What are you doing about it? I may be selling a high rise appartment complex and if my speil is that it is the highet, with 360 degree views around Silicon Valley. That is a nice selling point, however it is not sustainable. It will eventually be trumped by a larger building or something that obstructs the view.

As you evaluate your small business – there needs to be something unique about your business that sets you appart from both your competitors, and your peers — as well as a sustainable plan to ensure that remains the case. A drug company can release the next miracle drug and then be off-the-market when the generic form is released, or you can be the next Merck which is constantly investing more in R&D and has one of the largest portfolios of patents. That would show sustainability in innovations.

What is your sustainable moat?

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