So there I was. Standing in front of a room of 150 or so small business owners stumped by a single question. Probably the most astute question a small business owner could ask about the web.
"How can I get a results oriented website on a tight budget?"
I had just spent the last two hours doing something I preach to others not to do: identifying a problem without giving a solution. Worse than that, I was stumped to think of one.
I had just spent the past two hours, or more like the last 10 years, teaching about the ins and outs of a results oriented websites. It's not about having a website, it's about getting results - and 95%+ of sites don't get the job done.
Today the conference gave me two hours to deliver a 45 minute talk. So I invested the extra hour reviewing attendees' websites. We must have looked at a dozen offerings. Most were down right brutal. Even the owners were ashamed to give out their web addresses. A few looked respectable, but didn't really have any horsepower under the hood. None were promoted properly. None got any real traffic. None generated any appreciable returns.
This was typical of the scores of times I had done this presentation before. The hope was that by revealing all the vital components you need to make a site successful: traffic, engagement, brand, conversion, retention, process improvement and innovation, they could go out and build their next site the right way.
But no one had ever asked the question. How?
I stumbled to find an answer. "Well, maybe you will luck into finding a good resource charging budget level prices." I knew that wasn't likely. No one I had ever seen could consistently build a comprehensive web strategy and solidly execute while only charging budget level fees. The experts are too expensive and the skills are too diverse, like those help wanted ads for the mythical super webmaster; graphic design, UX architect, front end development, back-end programming, search engine optimization, social media, and the list goes on.
Anyone who was competent in all those areas was charging north of five figures. Most small organizations have less than $10,000 to invest.
Then an option popped into my head. DIY.
Could a non-technical, web developing & marketing novice really pull off all the things needed to build a results oriented website? Or at least a better foundation for online success than the budget level web experts that traditionally were hired to build small business websites?
The modern tools for developing a website are amazing, greatly reducing the level of expertise needed to build the essential components of a results oriented website. There are also some good marketing tools that can help us get an appreciable amount of traffic without years of experience in search engine marketing, social media, email marketing, etc.
Ultimately no tool can replace the years of experience of a seasoned web team, but the right tools can give us a good start. They can give us a foundation years ahead of the norm for small business websites. A site that actually gets the phone to ring, orders to be placed and one that the staff will be proud to tell the world about.
The key is focusing on the right strategies and the right tools.
A couple months after the conference, we built this concept into a training course: Build your own Results Oriented Website in a Day.
We ran the class four times, and it went fairly well, but like any beta, there were some rough areas. The biggest challenge was the state of the tools. They proved not to be as novice-proofed as I had hoped. We found that too much of the day was spent helping people over several technical hurdles and not enough on strategy and how to's. We decided to shelf the class until the tools had improved.
That day has come. The primary platform, Drupal, has become significantly more usable in version 7. The pending launch of Open Enterprise for Drupal 7 makes this powerful platform considerably more accessible, particularly for promotional business and non-profit sites. On the marketing side, the SEO Tools suite streamlines the tedium of traditional search engine marketing workflows and new integration recipes give us a quality straightforward map for leveraging social media.
We have revamped the course as a two-day event, as we found it was too much information for just one day. Day One is about building your site, Day Two about marketing and advanced strategies.
To kick things off we are also offering a free, abridged version of the course, split into four parts and held once a month from October to January at the LevelTen Offices and Training Center. Oh, and by the way, the tools are free also. So now it looks like we have the answer to How can I get a results oriented website on a tight budget?.
Photo by Phoney Nickle