By Gabriel Shaoolian, CEO and Founder Blue Fountain Media. Gabriel Shaoolian began Blue Fountain Media in 2003 as a one-man web design shop and has grown it to a thriving business with nearly 100 employees and a client roster that includes P&G, Harper Collins, Oprah, NFL, Publishers Clearing House, the United Nations, OppenheimerFunds and the United States Mint. Shaoolian is widely regarded as an expert on doing business online. He has been singled out as a Dell Trailblazer and was even recognized as a “Cool, Single CEO.”
As the CEO of a company that designs, develops and markets websites, I have the opportunity to meet many individuals who have successfully created and grown thriving businesses.
In building their core businesses, this group tends to their core businesses; they tend to be meticulous about how they build, how they market and how they oversee the overall performance of their companies.
When it comes to doing business online, though, many of these same entrepreneurs abandon all sound business judgment:
- They think they can get away with a bargain-basement website
- They put up a website and then neither update it nor monitor its performance.
- They build a website and then do nothing to drive qualified traffic to the website.
They all make the mistake of thinking that doing business online doesn’t require the same professionalism, the same dedication and the same complexity of doing business offline.
Mistake No. 1: Failing to Invest in a High Quality Website
When potential clients come to my office, I am often amazed at how little they understand about what goes into building and designing an effective website. Specifically, they have no idea of what a quality website should cost.
“My nephew says he can build me a website for $1500. Why are you talking about way more than that?”
The fact of the matter is that creating a well-designed website requires a combination of compelling design, strong messaging, functionality and ease of navigation. The website should be not just an extension of the company brand, but an enhancement of that brand.
Most importantly a well-designed website should to convert visitors into customers and customers into repeat customers.
All of this requires the combined efforts of highly trained professionals who not only understand design and technology, but who are strategic thinkers who understand how to maximize the online arm of your company’s overall business strategy.
While this may mean that the initial outlay may be substantially higher than what you may pay for your nephew’s website, I think you will find that your return on investment in a professionally designed and executed website is well worth the initial investment.
Mistake No. 2: Failing to Monitor the Performance of Your Website
Let’s say you have a store and you have invested a great deal into advertising your business. The advertising pays off because you see lots of cars pulling up to your parking lot and people are streaming into your store.
Then you notice that almost everyone who walks into your store just looks around for a few seconds, they make a face and walk out the door without buying anything, without even really looking at what you had to offer.
Let’s say that this is happening with nine out of every 10 people who walk in your door.
Any business owner who saw this would think to themselves “Hold on there. There is something very wrong in my store. Maybe I’m not displaying my products well. Maybe my prices are crazy?”
The main thing the owner would do is take action. They understand that if people keep walking out, they are going to be out of business very quickly.
This is exactly what’s happening on the web!
If the majority of your visitors come to your website and then leave within a few seconds (called a “bounce” on the web), then your website is failing you.
You may find this hard to believe, but the average website has a bounce rate of over 50%. For many sites, it’s much worse. What is even more amazing is that many businesses have no idea of what their bounce rate is.
Anyone doing business on the web who isn’t closely analyzing user behavior is out of his mind. There are many companies offering web analytics, but Google Analytics is both informative and free. By installing Google Analytics, you will learn:
- Where your visitors are arriving from
- Where they go after leaving your site
- From which pages do visitors tend to leave your site
- Your bounce rate
- How long your visitors are staying on your site
- How many pages your visitors are looking at
- Which specific pages are they going to
- What percentage of your visitors are taking positive actions
- Filling out a form
- Buying your products
- Requesting a quote
- Seeking customer service
Armed with this information business owners are in a much better position to make intelligent decisions about revamping their website.
Failing to Drive Traffic to their Websites on an Ongoing Basis
Many business owners take the Field of Dreams attitude with their websites: “Build it and They Will Come.”
They think that by building a great website, traffic to the site will magically appear and grow. This just doesn’t happen in the real world. The only way a website can make sense as a business generator is if it is getting a high volume of qualified, targeted traffic. By this, I mean visitors to your site who are most likely to be interested in your products and services and those who have the financial wherewithal to purchase such products or services.
The most effective ways of driving qualified traffic to use a combination of pay-per-click marketing and search engine optimization. While each of these topics is worthy of its own column, both involve identifying the keywords people will use when searching on the web for the kind of goods or services your business provides.
An experienced, professional web marketing team can work with you to identify those keywords and to set up an ongoing marketing plan that will deliver that highly targeted audience to your website.
In theory, doing business online is not rocket science. The idea is to build a website optimized to turn visitors into customers and then market that site in a way that delivers to your site a high volume of qualified traffic.
While this may seem simple, it takes a highly professional web design, development and online marketing team to make your online business work for you. Doing business online is not for amateurs!