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How to See Immediate Results From Your Website

By Tim Fitzpatrick |  SBDC Consultant + President of Rialto Marketing

"Your website is the workhorse of your marketing plan. Virtually everything you do from a marketing standpoint will drive people back to your website."

Tim Fitzpatrick |  SBDC Consultant + President of Rialto Marketing Tweet

Your website is the workhorse of your marketing plan. Virtually everything you do from a marketing standpoint will drive people back to your website.

Yet, most businesses make many common mistakes with their websites. Be honest, are you committing any of the following mistakes?

     You don’t clearly communicate what you do?

     You are using images that don’t reflect your business and what you offer.

     You use insider language or technobabble.

     You have way too much text.

     It’s not clear what action you want a visitor to take once they land on your site.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. You can quickly address any of the issues above by implementing the tips below.

If you choose to implement these tips, your website will become a critical element of your marketing strategy.

Here are the essential elements you should have on the home page of your website.


1. The Above The Fold Trilogy

The above the fold portion of your website (the header) is the part visitors see on their desktop before having to scroll down the page. It is the most valuable real estate on your website, and you must take advantage of it!

The job of your website header is to get visitors to read the rest of your website. To accomplish this, you should answer three questions above the fold:

     What do you offer, or what do you do?

     How will it make my life better?

     What do I need to do to buy it?

Peoples attention spans are super short. Your goal is to have any visitor be able to read and understand this information within five seconds.

2. What Are The Stakes?

What does your customer have to lose if they don’t buy from you? That’s what the stakes section needs to answer. You can easily create this content by answering the following three questions.

     What problem is your customer having that you can solve?

     How is that problem making them feel?

     Why is it wrong for them to be burdened with this problem?

Here’s an example of the stakes content for our business (marketing consulting & digital marketing services).

“Are you tired of spending money on marketing and seeing no results? We understand how frustrating this can be, but marketing your business shouldn’t be a constant challenge.”

3. Trust Building Elements

Your customers aren’t looking for a hero, they are looking for a guide to help them solve their problems. One of the characteristics of a guide is credibility.

You can easily establish credibility with customers on your website by adding a few of the following elements.

     Customer testimonials.

     Certifications/Affiliations/Accreditations

     Logos of current/past clients.

     Results you’ve achieved for clients.

     Awards you’ve won.

4. The Plan

It’s vital to demonstrate your company is easy to work with visually. The plan section of your website will accomplish this.

The goal of the plan section is to provide your customers with a path they can take to work with you. Ideally, this should be 3 steps, but no more than 4.

For example, a plan for a financial advisor might be:

     1. Schedule a Consultation

     2. Get a Financial Plan

     3. Enjoy Your Retirement

5. Value Proposition

Customers don’t buy your product or service, they buy the results they can achieve from them.

What benefits will your customer experience when buying from you? This is your value proposition. Your website should list 3 to 4 results or benefits a customer will experience when they do business with you.

6. A Clear Call to Action

People don’t typically take action unless they are told to do so. This is why it’s incredibly important for you to clearly spell out what action you want a potential customer to take.

Your call to action should be all over your website. Don’t be afraid of having it in too many places. “Learn more” and “Get started” are not clear calls to action. Here are examples of great calls to action.

     Buy Now

     Schedule An Appointment

     Get a Consultation

You should also offer something of value on your website for visitors that aren’t quite ready to buy. Things like ebooks, cheat sheets, or checklists can be offered in exchange for a name and email address. Now you’ve collected a lead you can nurture via email until they are ready to buy.

7.  Additional Elements

In addition to the six elements above, you may want to consider incorporating some of the following “bonus” elements as well.

     Video

     Core Products/Services

     Target Markets You Serve

It’s amazing how many businesses don’t have these elements on their websites. By incorporating them on your website, it will make all the difference in the world.

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Make these changes to your website, and I’m sure you will generate more leads and get more customers in short order.

Tips for Securing a Business Loan

By Jackie Gonzalez |  SBDC Consultant + Business Banker, ABC Bank

"CASH FLOW not REVENUE is KING! In commercial lending the focus is on the cash available to service the debt (cash flow)."

Jackie Gonzalez |  SBDC Consultant + Business Banker, ABC Bank Tweet

Commercial bank lending is based on risk.  The higher the risk the business poses to the lender, the harder it will be to borrow.  The following tips are designed to help you present your best case to a commercial lender and increase the chances of getting the loan your business needs. 

1.     Evaluate the business – In commercial lending there are specific criteria by which your lender will evaluate your business and intangibles that may apply.  View your business through the Lender’s eyes. Know your credit score, is your business profitable, are your customers paying on time,  do you have a good reputation in the community?  Google your business, see what others are saying about you.  This will be one of the first things your lender will do when they start working on your loan request. 

2.      Repair any deficiencies you can —  Knowing what the lender expects and knowing where your business might be lacking will help you repair these deficiencies before applying for a business loan. Explain any seasonality in your business, improve your receivables management, and ensure there are no mistakes on your business and personal credit report.

3.     Make sure financial statements are in order – Make sure your financial statements are complete, correct, and in order.  Include a balance sheet and income statement.  Consider having your accountant review your financial statement to anticipate any issues a lender may raise. Understand what your financial statements say about your company.  No one expects you to be an accountant, but you should be able to explain any significant fluctuations in revenues and expenses.  

4.     Be prepared to specify how much you want to borrow and what you will use the proceeds for – Will the loan be used to purchase new equipment or capital expenditures?  Expansion or hiring? Increase in inventory? Expansion into a new facility?  The lender is required by regulation to ensure that loan proceeds are being used for legal purposes, that’s why they are so nosey! 

5.     Develop a concise business plan – Develop a plan that clearly illustrates where your business is now and how a new loan will benefit your business.  Discuss strategy, goals, and tactics.  Provide background on management, both owners and non-owners, if applicable.  Discuss your competition, marketing plans, regulatory barriers, and cash flow projections. 

6.     Be prepared to put your own money in and to personally guarantee the loan – Lenders want to share the risk, not own it entirely.  If you are expanding into a new facility, purchasing equipment, or starting a new business, you will need to have some of your own cash into the project.  If you are not willing to invest in your business, why should the bank?  Anyone who owns 20% or more of the business will be required to personally guarantee the loan.  Make sure all owners/partners are prepared before applying for a loan.

7.     CASH FLOW not REVENUE is KING! – A business owner often looks at revenue when discussing how much the business is “making”.  In commercial lending the focus is on the cash available to service the debt (cash flow).  For instance if your business has $1MM in revenue but is paying out $950,000 in costs and expenses the cash flow is $50,000 not $1MM……………..BIG difference! 

8.     Speaking of…do not try to “hide” your businesses success at tax time – Business owners can often encourage their tax prepares to include as many deductions as possible to reduce their tax liability, but that can come back to haunt a business owner.  As a business owner you should discuss with your accountant the implication of the way you file your tax returns.  It may save you a few bucks in taxes but also may prevent you from obtaining a loan in the future.

 

There are more lenders than ever before willing to lend to small businesses and many lenders can be found with a simple online search, but do your research.  Some lenders (such as online or peer to peer) may be a quick easy fix but can also cost substantially more than working with a lender in your market. 

Are You Ready for Big Wage Changes in 2020?

By Reanna Werner, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP |  Co-Founder, HR Branches

"On January 1, 2020, we are going to wake up to two significant wage changes that will impact most Colorado small businesses."

On January 1, 2020, we are going to wake up to two significant wage changes that will impact most Colorado small businesses. Are you prepared for these changes?

What’s Changing?

 

  • Hourly Employees:  Colorado Minimum Wage- Colorado minimum wage has been on an increased schedule of $.90 per year for the past 2 years. In January 2020, you will see the third and final $.90 minimum wage increase. Effective January 1, 2020, Colorado Minimum Wage will be:
    • Colorado Minimum Wage- $12.00/ hr
    • Colorado Tipped Employees- $8.98/ hr

*Denver increased its local minimum wage to $12.85 per hour effective Jan. 1, becoming the first local government in Colorado to set its minimum higher than the statewide level per a new statute passed by the legislature in 2019.

  • Salaried Employees: Minimum Salary Rate (Federal Overtime Rule)- The minimum annual salary for exempt (salaried) employees is going to increase in 2020. Effective January 1, 2020, the Federal minimum salary rate will be:

    • $684 per week (or $35,568 per year)
    • $107,432 for highly compensated employees 

*Don’t forget that in addition to the minimum salary level, you must meet the duties requirements. 


What To Do?

  • Review all employee wages. The easiest method is to pull a basic wage report out of your payroll system (if you have one). Review how they are paid (hourly, salaried or tipped), what they are paid and determine whether any changes need to be made. 

  • Increase all minimum wage worker’s pay to Colorado’s required minimum wage, if necessary.

  • Increase salaried employees’ wages or change wages to an hourly rate that meets FLSA requirements, if necessary.

  • Communicate with your employees about any changes they may see on their paycheck and why. 

  • Update Colorado Minimum Wage employment poster.  The poster should become available on the CO DOL website on January 1, 2020: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/posters 

The Value of Acquiring and Retaining a Business Consultant

"The reality and value of a GOOD business consultant is that they don’t get caught up in the “Forest for the Trees” mindset."

Ron O'Herron - Pikes Peak SBDC Consultant Tweet

A business professor once stated to his class that the definition of a consultant was “a person who rides down from the top of the hill after the battle is over and shoots all the wounded.”

Another definition that has circulated in the business community is, “A person who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is and then charges you for it.”

Although opinions and mindsets will vary, the truth and fact of the matter is that a good business consultant can and will add significant value to the overall operation and growth of a business!

A strange but true story and example of a value-added Business Consultant relates to a serious problem that existed at a nuclear power plant. Their trouble was detected in one of the reactor transmission lines, which was becoming very costly and creating a possible safety issue.  A consultant was called in and after studying the problem for several days and meeting with numerous operations engineers, he provided a solution. On a diagram of the reactor and transmission lines in question, he drew a symbol for a strategically located special type of monitoring/relief valve.  The device was obtained and installed as suggested by the consultant. Immediately the problem went away, cost savings were realized, and the safety threat was eliminated. Upon receiving the consultant’s $75,000 invoice for work performed, the Chief Engineer was shocked and questioned the consultant. The explanation was quick, factual and simple…$25,000 was for the specialty valve and the balance was for knowing where to locate it!

The reality and value of a GOOD Business Consultant is that they don’t get caught up in the “Forest for the Trees” mindset…they don’t bring any industry specific “paradigms” to the table.  What they do bring, however, is an ability to listen, ask questions, think outside the box, analyze and provide value-added solutions to the desired growth direction of a business, its owners, and its employees.

The Business Consulting World has an array of consultants and consulting firms.  Some are generalists, while others specialize in a given field.  The vast majority of these consultants aspire to a “one-stop shopping” process, in that the process and methodology that they use, will work for any business. However, once again, the reality is that every business has its own personality…the personality of its owners, managers, employees, products and services offered, market or industry and equally important, their customers and clients.  Without a good understanding of all these operational areas and how they affect the business, a consultant’s suggestions and advice is “wishful thinking” at best!

So with all that said, making the decision “to use or not to use” a business consultant rests on the shoulders of the owner of the business.  A GOOD Business Consultant has “been there and done that” and their methodology and number one objective is helping you and your employees grow the business and be successful, by analyzing the past, dealing with the present and planning for the future!

Jay McKeown

Jay grew up near Chicago and received a BA in German and Commercial Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990. He obtained his MBA in International Management from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 1992. From there, he moved up the Bay Area and joined Bank of America, where he spent 11 years working in Corporate and Private Banking in San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. Jay and his family moved to Monument in 2006 to have a better quality of life. He spent 5 years at Wells Fargo and then has been with BBVA ever since.

Jay has been involved on several volunteer boards:  Tri-Lakes YMCA in Monument, the Tri-Lakes Health Advocacy Partnership, Monument Academy Charter School Board of Directors and Jacob’s Well Missions. Jay is a New Life Program mentor for the Springs Rescue Mission and a Pikes Peak SBDC consultant.  Jay has been married 25+ years to Karen – a native Northern Californian.

The McKeown’s are active RVer’s for six months of the year, volunteering at Tri-Lakes Cares, preparing meals for its clients, and serving coffee and donuts on some Saturday nights at their home church. Jay’s hobby is scale-modeling — building navy vessels from the 1800’s through WW II.