Business Tips

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. 

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!

5 Seasoned, Local Business Owners Give Advice on What It Takes To Run a Business

Building a business is tough. As SBDC consultant Steve Imke says: “It’s not for everyone. There are easier ways to make money.” It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The Pikes Peak SBDC is committed to helping businesses of all sizes in the Pikes Peak region grow. So we decided to tap the experts, asking them for advice on what it takes to run a business in this current Colorado Springs environment.

We feature an all-star lineup of successful business owners in the Colorado Springs area. We tried to include a variety of businesses: businesses from the trades, digital, law, and education. If you are thinking about starting a business, or growing your business through the SBDC’s free consulting and affordable workshops, take notes from the pros.

Here are the 5 pieces of advice from successful, long-standing businesses in our area:

There are a number of factors in running a successful business. First you must identify the market for your business. Are your products or services needed? If so, by whom, what and where? Once you identify the need for your business you must do basic market research in order to build a business plan. Creating a business plan helps clarify your strategy, gives you key areas to focus on and a road map to follow. This plan will allow you to understand your gross margin, cost of goods and your end game, net profit. From these vital areas you can identify your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). Just like the gauges in a car tell us if the battery is charged or the engine is running hot or cold. KPI’s allow us to monitor the strategic indicators of a businesses’ health. Finally, one individual characteristic that I noticed with nearly every successful business person or individual that is great in their field…discipline! Learn the art of self-discipline!! This will help you push through the challenges a business brings.

Succeeding in business in today’s climate is challenging. Most industries are saturated with other businesses with the same target market and are offering the same product or service. A business owner should determine early on what makes them special or unique and focus on those areas. As with most things in life, this can be a very experimental and frustrating task. Define what your core values are and then decide how to translate those values into the business. Being a female attorney in a formerly male dominated profession, it has taken some time to determine what makes my business different from the many other law firms in the area and determine what value I can offer my clients. Find your niche to stand out among your competitors and provide extraordinary customer service, some days will not seem like good days, make the good days count.

Build your reputation with communication: Word-of-mouth is a powerful lead generator – or lead killer, and it’s all based on how your client perceives their experience with your company. Great communication can mean the difference between a happy and an unhappy customer, and it relies on these three things: method, timing, volume.

Method: Choose the method of communication that best fits your customer, whether phone, email or in-person. Don’t know what they like? Ask them. Skip email for sensitive conversations. You can always follow up with an email summary if you need it in writing.

Timing: Proactive communication builds positive impressions. Touch base on a regular basis with clients, even just to check in. It’s better for your business than waiting to hear from them.

Volume: Particularly in a high-tech field, we work hard to keep clients informed but not overwhelmed. Pay attention to how your clients react (or don’t) to your efforts, and calibrate the amount of detail they get accordingly.

Quality communication is art, not science. Try new things. Admit when you didn’t hit the mark. Don’t let imperfections get you down. Like most things in business, your communication reputation is a long-term game.

Being a company that has been in business since 1955, we have seen our fair share of volatility in our industry. The key to our success is having the ability to pivot to the need of our consumer based on the current economic climate. In the most recent housing crisis we focused on building our service department as new homes declined. To keep our business running we kept our costs and prices low which attracted and retained new clients. The focus with new clients is maintaining a sterling reputation, which is accomplished by employing qualified candidates that have the same passion to provide consistent quality service that is expected of us. To separate ourselves from our competition we encourage our employees to be creative and provide us with recommendations on how to improve our current processes. As a management group we always think long term but focus on what is necessary to be successful each and every day.

The definition of small business success is debatable; however, there are some undeniable desired qualities. Successful business owners identify quality products/services that the community wants or needs, even if the community does not realize it yet. Next, the entrepreneur creates a detailed list of the reasons the “why” is more important than the “what”. This list/plan maintains the passion, excitement, dedication, and honesty necessary to be a successful business owner that community members will recommend. If a small business owner is not passionate about his or her product or service, how can he or she expect someone else to be enthusiastic about it? Successful small business owners are positive risk-takers that provide the best product or service at a reasonable price. A few additional necessities of a successful business are making smart hires, focusing on what the company does best rather than spreading too thin, and mastering the budget to avoid going into debt.

Remember, the SBDC is committed to helping you grow. If you’d like guidance or help growing your business—sign-up for our free consulting and affordable workshops.

We’d love to meet you.

Citation? Blacklink? Whaaa? 4 SEO Tips from COS Locals


Hello Small Businesses!

As you know, marketing is an essential part to owning a small business in Colorado Springs. However, as we all know marketing has expanded past traditional mediums (billboards, radio, television, etc…) and encompasses a variety of newer, digital methods (Facebook Ads, Adwords, Snapchat, etc…).

At the top of the digital marketing realm is search engine optimization, easily the most important… arguably the most confusing. We’ve assembled a team of the top SEO experts in Colorado Springs: Kainen Braun from Kainen Braun Marketing, Allan Todd from Page Cafe, Tyler Noe from Page Canvas, and Craig Mount from Classy Brain.

These individuals deal with search engine optimization and the Google algorithm daily. This means that they have a first-hand look at what they’ve seen drive rank for local search so far in summer 2016. They have kindly provided the top 4 SEO techniques that are currently working… just for you. 

Tip #1- Long-Form Content

Kainen Braun- Kainen Braun Marketing

Every day you use a billion dollar tool and you didn’t even realize it. Google Search is a savvy monster when it comes to information and the ability to deliver it in the form of results. Search engines are built for the user (so Google can sell ads to the user of course!), but with that in mind… Google is becoming very knowledgeable. It has data from every industry and every market in every nook and cranny of the United States. It knows what keywords and topics that make users happy because it can see results across markets and industries.  Bottom line: Google wants to make Google look good, so it's entire algorithm is built around one goal: connect users with the content they crave in one click.  If Google can do that, then people keep using Google and they make googles of money. 

This means that if you are a small business owner and you aren’t showing the search engine that you know what you are talking about with your business, it will never know! You can quickly establish relevance within search engines by creating web pages, blog posts and social media posts that describe your business and address your customer’s questions.  Better yet, create content that anticipates what users are, and will be looking for. A plumber, for example, would do well to create content via blogs and social media in the Fall about how to prevent pipes from bursting.  This approach places the plumber top of mind when people begin winterizing their homes as it gets colder. It's not enough to be awesome at what you do, you need to publish content that proves it. 

Pro-tip: Once again, search engines can only see what you show them. Take the effort to describe your services, as well as provide tips to show the bots you are an expert in your industry - 500 words minimum on each page. Having trouble coming up with ideas? Try using Buzzsumo, Quora, Reddit, Google Trends, Auto-suggest data on Amazon, or even your competitors content. 

Tip #2- Backlinks

Allan Todd- Page Cafe

A backlink” is a link to your website from another website.   Backlinks are a key factor in improving the visibility of your website in online search.  Google views backlinks as a "vote of confidence” in the creditability of your website and the more credible your website the higher your website will rank. However, not all backlinks are valuable.  Google looks at the creditability of the website sending the backlink and assigns a value to backlink.  If the website sending the backlink is not credible in Googles eyes, then the backlink is essentially worthless.  

If a backlink is from a highly creditable website then this one backlink can be much more valuable that hundreds of backlinks from low quality websites.  So the goal is to get backlinks from the most creditable websites possible.  

In addition, it really helps if the backlink is from a website that is in a similar category to your website.  For example, a lawyer should seek backlinks from other local attorneys or related legal services like investigators, mediators or court reporters.  A backlink from a travel blogger to a lawyers website is got going to impress Google. 

Pro-tip: Seek out links from customers, vendors, partners and even friends who have websites that are related to your business.  One more thing... NEVER purchase links.

Tip #3- Citations

Tyler Noe- Page Canvas

Citations are a listing of your name, address, and phone number on any website. For the most part, they live in online directories.  Ensuring that your business information is correct and that you are listed in the proper category for your citations is a positive indicator to Google Maps specifically that you are relevant option for your targeted keyword phrase. To check which NAP listings are most important for your industry, simply Google your primary keyword phrase and look at the top 20 directories that appear in the search results.  Begin going to each, try to find if your business is already listed, and either edit / correct the existing information or create a new profile and listing including all important business information.

Pro-tip- having trouble finding the right category? Look at whomever ranks on the first page for your keyword phrase and find them within the top 20 directories you just Googled. Copy their category and edit your business! Also, try using tools like Moz Local or Whitespark to help!  Researching your competition and where they succeed can help you find success within your own business.

Tip #4- Google Reviews

Craig Mount- Classy Brain

Make sure your online reputation is congruent with your offline presence. If you give dynamite customer service, ask people to share their experience on Google. Reviews are a great way not only to show other people interested in doing business with you how great your business is, it’s also a great way for you to show the search engines that you are a great business.

I see a lot of business owners confused about the multiple review platforms available– start with Google. Often, this will be the entry point people use to see your business online.

If you get a bad review, don’t worry! If you respond to the review in a professional manner it can actually benefit your business. You show other users you care about your customers and their experiences in your business.

Pro-tip- Use Whitespark’s free review handout generator! It is a flow chart that shows customers exactly how to leave a review at a business on Google Maps.


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Citation? Backlink whaaa? If any of this was confusing we apologize! If you need help with the basics feel free to attend one of the SBDC’s regular digital marketing workshops or take advantage of our free consulting and meet with one of our SEO specialists. Otherwise, there you have it– the best SEO techniques currently working for local business.

We look forward to your success!