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November 2008

When wood turns digital

Since I took (roughly 4 years ago) the first feeble steps into web design and web marketing I've had Statcounter embedded in every page I've made to track web statistics.
(Some say I should work more with Google analytics and don't ask me why but I constantly loose my way in the Google reporting, so although Google is tracking my websites too I still prefer to check "my Statcounter" on a daily base).

The beauty of a system like Statcounter is that you see which keywords or key phrases are used most at one point in time. When you check these on a regular base you will start to notice trends in what your web visitors are in to.

A few months ago I noticed an increase in the phrases and words about repairing/restoring design parquet floors (at that time the 'credit-crunch' started to lift its ugly head a bit higher and 'don't move - improve' started to become the new buzz-word). When you - like me - manage your own website (with or without the help of a blog-platform) you are then in the ideal position to write more dedicated pages or articles on the very subject that is so sought after.

Which (of course) I did: two new wood-guides appeared on our informative website dedicated to the repair and/or maintenance of original parquet floors.
And hardly in no time at all did one of them become the most popular and most frequently found as entry page of our whole 'static' website (including our webshops and FAQ & News site our web presence now counts 311 pages - 'only' 60 of them built in Dreamweaver).

In the guide I'd listed products we use and recommend with links to our new secure webshop and slowly we saw an increase in online orders for those particular products.

In my mind the only things missing was how to entice those reading the wood guide to become a subscriber to any of our AWeber (aff) email lists? Last week I thought I'd found the perfect solution: turn the whole context of the guide into a handy and printable PDF-file anyone interested in this could request through an AWeber webform.

Using one of my favourite simple software programs, ScreenSteps (aff) the PDF wood guide started to gain even more 'work-in-progress' pictures and more elaborate tips on how to do this or that when repairing a rediscovered design parquet floor. And with one click of the button it was exported as a perfect Ebooklet (PDF-file), ready to be attached to the first follow-up message of my new AWeber email list.

Until I mentioned this 'project' to my good friend who immediately took it one simple step further: put a price on it and sell it. Now don't take me wrong, he nor I are greedy persons looking to squeeze every penny/pence out of everyone who comes looking for information - far from that.
This simple step further is based on perceived value: turning information into knowledge or as Ed Rivis would say: Shrink Wrap Your Brain.(aff)

So I added more to the 'digital wood product' (another PDF on cleaning and maintaining your design parquet floor, our maintenance leaflet, our report "Things not to expect of your wooden floor, and even our first Ebooklet - which we sell also - "The Benefits and Advantages of Natural Wooden Flooring" and designed two new pages on our static website with images of and info on wood species mostly used in those original parquet floors), decided on the price and combined Paypal to turn AWeber in the delivery vehicle of our first digital wood product.

Ecover7steps (And Saturday I found myself another - about to become another of my favourite - simple pieces of software Quick 3D Cover)

Launched the whole new Ebooklet concept with all those extras added to it this Monday and low and behold: within 4 days the first order has come in ;-)

Now I know that's nothing world-chocking to some of you who are used to earning 6 to 7 digit figures during a 'launch' - I'm taken my own pace and am very comfortable with the formula we are using to build trust with our prospects in this simple and effective way.

For us, as a NCO - New Customers Only - business, in rather economical difficult times it is becoming even more essential to find ways to 'copy' the non-NCO businesses "tactics": offering a first trust building item that turns a prospect into a client to start that all important life-time value.

And since that is very hard to do with real wooden floors (free trial?) we are turning wood into digital products.

(And it is fun to do too.)

Effective marketing = problem - solution - benefit

Don't you just love great and simple marketing examples? Those ones you really wish you had thought of yourself (or wish you could use the same for your own business?)

What is proper marketing in fact?

  • Knowing what problem your prospect/client has
  • Introducing your business' solution for that problem
  • Highlighting the main benefit of your solution for your prospect/client

Simple, not?

Effective, proper marketing goes one step further: it gets that message across in the most simple way.
How often do you receive long sales letters that indeed recognises one of the problems you might have (and which business hasn't problems or 'pains'), puts forward a solution for that problem (with a ongoing list of features etc) and ends with a promise of plenty benefits for you.
One of the problems most business owners have is: we're all pressed for time.

Having to read through a whole sales letter to find out exactly what the solution and those benefits are takes time (I know, there are some really good long sales letters out there that can capture your interest from the word go - but they are rare and more exception than rule, no matter how long or often you study everything from the copywriters-gang).

Last week I received a piece of proper and effective marketing it put a smile on my face and made me reach for the phone almost immediately. (And I did thought: how on earth can I turn this example into something for our own business, this is just so great and so simple!)

A half A4 rather sturdy postcard landed on the doormat. When I turned it over - the card had landed in such a way it showed the simple address label on the white card, no other markings, message or anything on that side - I was presented with a 'comic' strip of only three images:

  • The problem
  • The solutions
  • The benefit

(And a very clever hole at the top of the card with another call for action: Hang me up, you may need me soon)

(do click on the image to see the enlargement)

I took two actions: I called them to ask if they also solve a specific underfloor problem some of our clients have (removing that terrible tacky, sticky old fashion bitumen adhesive) - which they do - and pinned the card to a wall in our 'office' part of the showroom.
We might need it soon!

And of course the marketing department/marketing bureau (whoever they might be) receives my K.I.S.S.-award.


Calling a spade a spade

Recently I had a discussion with a professional web designer about this phenomenon 'blogs'. To be honest, it was not the first discussion I had on the subject and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last one too.

We were talking about SEO and attacking traffic to websites, specailly for small businesses. As always I mentioned that blog really stands for Better Listings On Google (thanks Kent ;-)). Now, I didn't expect to have to explain that to a professional web designer, but I had to. And I went on to tell him my preferred name for a blog: a dynamic and interactive web presence.

'Cos what is a web presence? In my humblest opinion it is any page, article and even notes that are present on the World Wide Web. No matter if that presence is created in Frontpage, Dreamweaver or on a blog platform. And I should know - I 'only' own 7 dynamic web presences, three Dreamweaver web presences and manage several (in both shapes) for others. And all can be found on the web (and end rather high on the search engine results I must say).

Mentioning my 7 'blogs' got his attention.

"Really? How many readers do you have? You see, that's the problem for too many small businesses who want to start a blog - they never can attract many readers, specially when they're not in the service industry. I tell them not to bother most of the time and to concentrate on a normal website or webshop."

No, I didn't see. I did see something else though - an 'old-fashion' perception of this phenomenon blogs.

Are the number of readers any blog attracts really important? Is that the only purpose some web professional web designers think a blog has?

Our own business blog - Wood You Like's FAQ & News site - attracts as much visitors as our main 'static' website, daily. Of course those visitors cross over to our main site or our webshop and vice versa: it is all part of our 'web - presence'.
Does this FAQ & News site have many 'readers' or RSS subscribers? Not according to Feedburner, 'only' 27 on average.
But that is not the purpose of this web presence created on a blog platform: it is created to have a simple and effective way to publish tips, advice, news and answer questions from visitors.

Of course, if many more small businesses would embrace this phenomenon of 'blogs' - the most simple, effective and self-manageable tool to create a web presence, what would be left for the professional web designer to do?

Spades_2My friend the web designer is still shaking his head I think, wondering why my meaning of a spade is different than his.

(For the free report "The 7 key reasons to use a blog platform for your business website", visit the "1 plus 1 makes 3" dynamic and interactive web presence. You can request the report from the box on the right menu bar)