How to make sure your Web efforts grow your business

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

“In the Internet industry, the easy thing to do is give a client exactly what they ask for. The right thing to do is to give them what they need to achieve their goals,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “I find that when I ask the deeper question of ‘what do you expect the (insert web technology or service here) to do for you?’ the answer is usually a form of ‘grow my business.’  I rely on a seven-stage method to deliver the Web technology and marketing expertise to deliver those growth results.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about the sequence of steps that creates a high-performance Web presence and drives business growth.

Is there a reliable recipe for the best Web results?

Based on our more than 16 years experience and evolution of serving clients, our team has developed a Web methodology consisting of seven stages, with each successive stage building upon the previous one and providing feedback for the continual improvement of the entire Web program. Depending on the industry, business model and other dynamics, a specific business may need to incorporate just few or the full range of elements in each phase to accomplish their goals. Generally, however, each stage needs to be addressed to build and maintain a robust Web presence that competes and performs well.

What are the seven steps of Web success?

1. Envision. This is the ‘Business and Marketing 101’ that needs to be complete before any Web design, development or technology issue is addressed. You need clear answers to questions including: What is your Business brand and personality? What are your goals and objectives for your Web presence? Who is your target audience and what makes them click, or what are your customer personas? What actions do you want to elicit with your Web assets? This step is the foundation that all later steps must be aligned to and built upon.
2. Design. In this stage the styling, design and architecture of your Web presence is created that strikes the perfect balance of brand personality, message, visual communication and user interface to resonate with your target audience and entice them to perform the desired action. Much more than layout, color and imagery, it is a purposeful, strategic blend of science and art applied to your business’s online identity.
3. Build. Now the design is applied to the appropriate platforms and devices for your business needs. Web functionality and features are developed to create the best user experience and technology integrations are connected both on the public facing and administrative facets of your Web presence. As this stage is completed, you have a ‘live’ website from which to launch your online growth initiatives.
4. Attract. In this step, the basic Web marketing tactics appropriate to your business model and markets are developed and deployed. This includes search engine optimization; paid search advertising including pay-per-click, display and retargeting campaigns; email marketing campaigns; and online initiatives to attract targeted attention and traffic to your business.
5. Examine. This essential stage ensures that the right tracking and analytics are implemented so that your key performance metrics can reliably guide ongoing marketing and business decisions. Regular research and testing rooted in this step will confirm current validity of the elements in all the stages, signal needed adjustments and guide incremental as well as dramatic gains in ongoing results.
6. Connect. More advanced outreach and web interconnectivity is deployed in this stage. Content marketing and syndication utilizing both written forms of communication, such as articles, press releases and eBooks as well as visual multi-media such as videos, webcasts, podcasts and interactive apps are the tactical tools used in this step. Establishing a corporate blog is a natural part of this stage and creating presence and active engagement in social media puts you in touch with your audience wherever they connect to your topic or brand.
7. Engage. This is the most often missed step that can powerfully differentiate a business’s growth results. Here your workflows, communication, measurement and management are linked together with marketing automation, lead qualification and customer relationship management technology. Streamlining the processes in this stage will help you efficiently move your leads into sales and further into satisfied repeat customers and referrals to new customers.
Web technologies, best practices, the latest networks, trends, tools and ‘shiny objects’ do change, often rapidly, in this digital age. These seven steps and their strategic considerations provide a consistent, grounded framework in such a dynamic environment. It is important to have a solid core established in each stage before moving on to the next one when developing your business Web presence and to evaluate your best next steps.
Consulting this end-to-end methodology will cause you to ask the right questions and take a holistic, strategic approach to each aspect of your business’s Web presence, better understand how one interconnects with the rest and help you create the Web presence that brings your business the best growth results.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com.
For more info on Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology and case studies that illustrate results visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

How to keep a true aim on the moving target of SEO

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

Caffeine, panda and penguin are terms that seem unrelated to most businesses, but for digital marketers they have induced flurries of action and emotions ranging from pride to panic. These are the code names given in the past few years to three major updates of Google’s website search ranking algorithm.
Businesses that were hit by these updates typically suffered losses in Google rank from being in the top three on page one to getting buried on page 50 or beyond, search engine traffic dropping by more than 70 percent overnight and significant losses in revenues. Each update created a fundamental shift in how Search Engine Optimization tactics either benefitted or harmed a business’s ability to be found — and more importantly, found at the top of the results — in Google searches by their target customers.
“Search Engine Optimization and Marketing are dynamic and rapidly changing specialties that businesses need to keep pace with,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “The key to staying ahead of the curve is to have a comprehensive and connected strategy with your marketing, website and SEO.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your online marketing and SEO driving top search engine results, leads and sales growth for your business.

How do I stay ahead in SEO?

The recent SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle, one of many Web industry educational events, offered practical insight and in-depth education on the latest search marketing trends, technology and best practices. One session featured a Q&A with Matt Cutts, Google’s most known insider and spokesman on search quality and algorithm matters. This very popular session revolved around the impact of Google’s latest algorithm update, called Penguin, and what kinds of SEO behaviors and tactics are being either rewarded or demoted in their search engine rankings as a result.
This scenario of face-time with Matt Cutts has been featured at search industry conferences for many years. While the tactical details keep changing, the central message Cutts delivers is the same: Google continuously seeks to return the highest quality and most relevant results to people for the keywords they use in a search.
As SEO practitioners of varying ethical orientation develop practices for attracting high search rankings and traffic for their client’s websites, Google’s algorithm adjusts to keep those results relevant and offer credible answers for searchers. What was once seen as a SEO best practice could now be a very real detriment. So it is essential that the person you entrust with the SEO for your business is not only a competent tactician, but is up to date with today’s best practices.

Why isn’t covering the SEO basics enough?

The SEO building blocks of appropriately using of keywords, metadata and link strategy used to be the complete tactical toolset, but are now just the first steps. In a very simplified nutshell, three recent major Google algorithm updates addressed these ‘Quality of search’ experience issues:

  • Caffeine: Focused on recency or ‘freshness’ of information available, incorporating rapidly updated content such as Facebook and Twitter posts. This heralded a new tactical approach to Social Media and SEO.
  • Panda: This focused on the quality of the user experience, including page design and user interface, website content quality seen from human versus algorithmic ‘eyes’ and site usage metrics that signal usefulness and popularity of a website with searchers. This caused a paradigm shift for SEOs to balance tactics with design, development and audience communication or consumer psychographics measures.
  • Penguin: Focused on quality of content and particularly on devaluing websites containing linking schemes, duplicate content and using blog and article networks that post low-quality content with commercialized links. This creates a major change in the kind of linking tactics a business can successfully use and significantly changes content marketing distribution and syndication throughout the Internet.

These algorithm updates increasingly emphasize that implementing SEO in a silo is a sure path to online marketing failure. Your SEO experts now need to be Web strategy experts. They need to have a strong understanding beyond classic optimization of all your marketing elements including how they interact and how to strike an ongoing balance among them to align with search and marketing best practices.

Where does this fit in my overall sales and marketing strategy?

There are many technical complexities and best practices to stay abreast of in SEO and online marketing. That said, it is essential that your SEO implementation is driven by a strategy that is connected with your Web design, website functionality, customer service and audience communications strategies both online and offline.  Be sure that any Web marketing partners clearly communicate the tactics they use on your behalf, and that all your online tactics promote the best possible user experience of your brand and business.
The people in your Web audience are more important than search engine crawlers because they are the ones who can get excited about your brand, share your message, lift your legitimacy in today’s search engines and become your customers.  As we are seeing through recent search algorithm updates, technology is enabling search engine crawlers to ‘see’ and evaluate experience more and more like their human website-visiting counterparts. So the best way to win the SEO game is to present a Web experience that wins the confidence, trust and business of your customers.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com. For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

How to incorporate mobile-optimized marketing into your business

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

In the U.S. today, industry studies show that 47.7 percent of mobile phone users are on a smartphone. This represents more than one-third of the population, and that number is forecasted to approach two-thirds by 2016.
Not surprisingly, mobile marketing and advertising are following suit, showing growth rates of 53 percent year-on-year in 2011 as the adoption of mobile technology empowers the growing “smartphone class” of consumers. So it’s alarming to see concurrent studies reveal that 79 percent of mobile advertisers don’t have a mobile-optimized website.
“While business need to get smart quickly about their mobile presence and promotions, they need to fight the trendy urge to just quickly grab the mobile ‘shiny object,’” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of the Web design, development and online marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “Smart and successful companies will take a strategic approach to incorporating mobile as an important element in their online marketing.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to get the best business value and results when adding mobile to your marketing mix.

What are the strategic foundations for going mobile?

First and foremost, you need to have a solid core Web presence. Mobile is an advanced phase of a business website. Just whipping up a mobile site so you can check that off the list is short sighted and detrimental to effective integrated marketing.
Once your core website is functional, search optimized and effective, you can attach a mobile site to that asset in a mobile-optimized and mobile results-oriented manner. These can be developed quite effectively in tandem, but rarely will a shiny new mobile site make up for a shoddy main website.
In order to build the right mobile site for your business, you need to do your strategic homework up front. Simply resizing your website content for mobile screens is the classic wrong approach.
To build a mobile site correctly, you need to first analyze your target customers, their buying cycles and online interaction personas. You’ll find there will be distinct differences in the circumstances, priorities and information needs between your customers on a desktop computer versus those accessing your online brand through a mobile device. These strategic insights will lead you to very distinct tactical choices in keyword selection, user interface items and possibly even different conversion actions associated with your mobile Web presence.
Knowing what your customers are seeking in their mobile interactions will assist you in building a tailored and effective mobile experience for them — one that brings them more quickly to the business results you desire. Beyond the mobile site design, this guidance will positively influence your ongoing mobile marketing and ensure it complements and supports your other online and offline marketing initiatives.

What comes after building the mobile site?

Having a live and functional mobile website is the starting point, just as establishing a main business website is the beginning-point of marketing online. Next is developing the right mobile marketing strategy for your mobile site in order to generate the results you want.
Defining the desired result for a mobile customer is key. Depending on the profile of your mobile target customer, these results could be sales transactions, a request for quote or information, a phone call to your company or an appointment scheduled. Some organizations might even consider viewing a specific Web page, downloading a file or engaging with a mobile custom app as desired results of target customers’ mobile visits.
Aligning the metrics to track the correct results then developing a marketing strategy that drives desired mobile attention and action are the next steps. Studies show that customers on a mobile device tend to be in a later buying stage — narrowing choices, seeking price comparisons, or obtaining directions to get to a store compared with conducting initial general research about a product or service. It has also been shown that typical mobile customers are more heavily affected by local dynamics, such as where the closest solution is to getting what they need at that moment.
When you have a clear picture of your mobile customers’ situations and immediacy relative to your product or service, you can key in on different tactical elements of your online marketing to best reach and serve them. Keywords relevant to their situational mobile searches, ad placement on specific websites, local directory listings and enhancements, integration with social media profiles, platforms and custom apps are tactics that can be tailored to your mobile-specific marketing plan.

How does this all work together?

Although your business’ mobile website and marketing might have slightly different emphasis, metrics and content because of the focus on the mobile segment of your target audience, it is essential to make the connections between your mobile Web presence, your overall Web marketing and even your traditional marketing initiatives. Integrating campaigns and proper communications between those implementing them will promote consistency of messaging and quality of experience for your customers throughout all their touch points with your business — mobile, desktop and traditional.
Making the effort to strategically develop and connect marketing channels while ensuring best practices in mobile and all other marketing tactics is a distinguishing factor of successful businesses. A strategic approach, defined and aligned goals and the use of correct metrics to gauge performance will transform a simple mobile presence into a powerful marketing asset for your business.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com. For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

How to make sure you are building your website with the marketing end in mind

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

“One of the most difficult client introductions I experience is when a CEO comes to me for help after having invested a significant amount of money in a website, only to find that the site itself prohibits effective digital marketing,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.  “This is a harsh reality for any business to face, yet it is all too often the ‘norm’ and often requires a costly rebuild to create the correct website that can be marketed and grow a business.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to ensure that the right items are in place from the start when building your business’s website.

Why is the way a website is built so important?

Business websites today are not only the first impression of your business to the world but a critical tool in marketing your products or services and delivering leads and sales. To effectively compete, a business website needs to be easily found via search and deliver a visitor experience that informs, assures and influences.

Here are some major considerations to address before you start building your company website, so you end up with a web presence that is capable of and fit to deliver the business growth performance you expect.

Ensure core code fitness

There are a variety of ways that websites can be coded. Some approaches result in more efficient and consistent processes and rendering of a website. The way a site is coded can dramatically affect the time it takes to load or view a web page. Load time is a key element of any search engine’s algorithm. The faster your website presents itself, the higher up on the list of search results it will appear.

There are a staggering amount of development intricacies involved in programming the features and functionality of a website. Proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires code-level arrangements and additions to enable the optimization that makes your website competitive in search engines. Knowing that the finished website will be marketed via SEO and other digital marketing tactics alerts the development team to anticipate and allow for the integrations, arrangements and ongoing code updates the website will need.

How does your developer plan to accommodate your website for the digital marketing tactics you will use? If he or she can’t answer this specifically, you should be interviewing a different website development company.

Keep it device agnostic

Most search engine spiders and Apple iPhone and iPad devices do not read Flash code well, if at all. Yet Flash is a very popular way to accomplish impressive visual design used by many Web designers.

Today, a website built entirely or mostly with Flash design may look fantastic, but it is severely crippled in its chances of being found by your target audience, especially those using an i-device. If your Web design must incorporate Flash, what is the plan to present an equally impressive visual experience to your non-Flash-reading website visitors?

This same audience accommodation principle applies to your website visitors who use a mobile device. The visual and functional experience of your business by visitors using a mobile-device grows more important each day as more and more people are using smartphone, tablet and mobile technologies. Your website’s presentation and feature functionality need to be tailored differently to a mobile visitor. What is the website development plan to not just accommodate but elate your website visitors’ mobile experience?

Build website flexibility

SEO and digital marketing are ongoing processes with dynamic, ever-evolving tactics and best practices. Web marketers need to access, update and publish changes to web pages quickly to take advantage of and stay on top of market dynamics that affect your business. These types of items include keyword refinement, pricing changes, call to action alternatives, message and page layout edits, timely campaigns and promotions, etc.

Access to editing and updating website content is mission-critical to effective Internet marketing. Integrating a Content Management System (CMS), to your website enables this. Insist that a web content management system be a part of your website development. Some CMS systems are more SEO friendly and more administrative user friendly than others. Take care to select a CMS that accommodates your Internet marketing needs in an easy-to-use format.

Incorporate cross fit integration

Points of integration that need to be considered for optimized development of a website include data-processing platforms or eCommerce shopping carts and payment modules. Each has critical security measures that are required to make your business a trustworthy online store or information bank.

Another basic business website integration to plan for is your Customer Relations Management (CRM) platform. Determine what type of information integration you will need and how this will be accomplished as part of your website development requirements.

Social media platforms, including blogs, social networking profiles and content syndication channels can be greatly enhanced with proper integration, capability for RSS feeds, etc. Enabling and achieving these connections with your website design may require extra development effort but is a key differentiation in effective web marketing.

In today’s digitally marketed world, as you understand the strategic importance that your website has in your ability to grow your business, it is clear that your website needs to be purposefully developed with fitness for SEO, user experience and Web marketing.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

You’ve Got Leads. Now What?

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

Companies invest great amounts of time, effort and capital on building the right website to resonate with their target customers and convert those targets into leads for the business.  “Building and marketing a great website that generates volumes of leads often comes with the next-level challenge of efficiently managing those leads to quickly convert to sales,” advises says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to connect the right technologies to effectively manage your leads and close sales faster.

What are the critical elements I need to manage my lead to sale process?

Standing alone, a business website typically processes a new lead from a quote request or a contact form submission by sending an email alert to someone, and perhaps storing those form submissions in the administrative back end of the website. Unless a lot of detailed, accurate and disciplined manual documentation is maintained about each lead, the ability to track them through to the sale and see key metrics such as best performing lead sources, campaigns, etc. is lost. Critical business decisions could then be made based on faulty information and opinion. The technology exists today to eliminate this risk, at investment levels that accommodate most sizes of businesses.

In order to stay competitive in today’s business climate, intelligence needs to be exchanged between marketing and sales that streamlines the progress of leads through your sales funnel and enables more, better and faster closed sales.  The way to enable this is by integrating your website with a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system and a Marketing Automation platform.

What does CRM and marketing automation do?

A CRM system is your repository of collected, and real-time information on all leads, customers and contacts related to your business. It acts as your marketing and sales process database and can categorize and segment your contacts on a wide variety of items for use in reporting, and grouping for specific action. CRM Systems can be proprietary and stored within a business’s IT infrastructure, or accessed via the ‘Cloud’ through a variety of providers. CRM can focus only on sales process aspects, or expand to cover end to end (marketing and lead gen through invoicing and collections) functions.

Each business applies customization to a CRM to serve their unique needs and procedures. In addition to housing your valuable prospect and client information and serving it up as needed, data from your CRM gives you objective insights to your marketing, sales and business performance.

Marketing automation grew out of campaign and email marketing beginnings, and has become the current standard of best practices. Today, enlisting just an email sending tool without using the advanced features of marketing automation is like driving blindfolded on a busy interstate: Your chances of getting to your destination (customer acquisition) without wrecking your brand integrity are extremely slim. The missing piece that marketing automation provides is the live, real time ‘sight’ into the ongoing actions of the target audiences interacting with your business.

Marketing automation allows you to communicate, evaluate and accelerate your leads through your sales funnel. Email (and even print) communications to your audiences with customized, relevant information, triggered from their ongoing behaviors are efficiently managed using marketing automation. This integration enables specific and more effective lead nurturing without requiring large amounts of time and staff that a stand-alone tool would.

Further, lead qualification and scoring is greatly enhanced with marketing automation’s ability to monitor your audiences’ ongoing interaction with your website. Specific characteristics and actions can be ‘scored’ to identify buying-stage and readiness for sales contact. Alerts and workflows can be triggered at any number of points in this progression. An immediate feedback stream of all this data to your CRM and to your marketing and sales team is a key benefit of marketing automation. They now know who is reading your messaging and can prioritize their responses based on the content you are sending that they are engaging with.

How does this integration help me sell better and faster?

In an integrated system, leads generated from your online properties are automatically fed into your CRM, with critical marketing data attached including: lead source, campaign info, keywords used, where the lead came from online, etc. Leads generated through outbound sales can also be entered directly into the CRM for a real-time and holistic view of your business’s sales pipeline. Live dashboards and reports on key performance indictors can be accessed immediately to assist sales management and communication.

The initially gathered data is augmented through your marketing automation platform with each lead’s specific ongoing engagement with your company including: web pages visited over time, emails received, opened and clicked on, articles and other content consumed, conversations and in-person touch points documented on the path of that lead becoming a customer. Post-sale relationship information is also kept including proposals presented, closed or lost – and why. This enables data-driven evaluation of sales initiatives, campaigns and tactics.

Consistent lead ‘scoring’ and tracking can trigger appropriate workflows and responses within your organization. Your sales reps can be alerted immediately of a lead’s sales conversation readiness in their specific area or product of interest. Sales can then intelligently focus on those ‘warmer’ leads, while marketing continues to nurture leads that are in earlier buy cycle stages and separate unqualified and non leads to maintain branding integrity, and save sales reps from activities that waste time and cause frustration.

An integrated lead management system of your website, CRM and marketing automation puts your sales team in position to connect with the right leads at the right time with the right information, thus closing sales faster, more easily and more often.

<< For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

How much for a good website?

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

There is a wide variety of opinion on what makes a solid business website, and what a business should expect to pay for one. “The evolving formats and functionalities in a Web presence can parallel a businesses’ growth from a small start up to a mega-corporation,” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions, “A business’ needs will drive the complexity required for its website, and the budget to support it. But the key question to ask is ‘What is it costing your business to not have a web presence on par with the expectations of your target customers?’”

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about how to right-size your website expectations for your Web budget.

How much do I really need to spend on my website?

The real question to ask is: “What could the ‘right’ website produce over and above my current website.  If the answer is anything more that what you currently have, then you need to ensure that your website is developed in a manner that delivers the right digital results to help your business succeed now and as your business grows.

What’s the difference between a $10, $25k and a $50K website?

In a nutshell, as a price point on a website increases, so does feature functionality, control and strategic readiness.  Features include user interface items like site search, navigation options, applications integration to CRM, inventory management, marketing automation platforms, etc., financial transactions processing, and capacity for content variety (images, sound, video, downloads, etc.).

Control items include how easy it is to access and edit your website and interface with the information flow it holds. Hosting and IT access, a web content management system (CRM), SEO access, and data collection and export or synchronization with integrated applications are examples of these.

Strategic readiness of a website includes: dedicated aesthetics that enhance your brand, SEO friendliness of the site structure, interconnectivity with your other marketing initiatives, and flexibility of your website to scale as your business needs develop (for example:  if you need it to, can the site handle 10 orders in May, 10 thousand in June and 10 million by July?).

There are many relatively lower price point “template” website packages that a business can use, but this will be within a specific set of limited parameters in all of the above areas.  For small business start-ups these often might be a good initial choice for a first website.    With their low costs, they are affordable for small businesses and can act as a “billboard” for their company in its initial start up stage.

As companies grow, so do their customers’ expectations of the businesses’ Web presence. These expectations call for an online experience well beyond what most templates can cater to.   This is where companies must rely on specific, design elements exclusive to a brand, more dedicated control of technology, and the ability to access, edit and scale become necessary as a business grows.   At this point the templated web designs become like a toddler sized suit on a teenager.  They just cannot give your business the best fit or professional presentation.  Some businesses take time to reach this need-level. Others, in order to compete, need to accommodate an enterprise scale with their first website.

As your business grows and needs more than an elementary web design, the investment required increases in order to support custom programming, allow ecommerce and application integration, ensure the level of professionalism in user-interface and administrative functionality, as well as offer the features and integrity of a higher caliber website.  It is not uncommon for a website that is developed for enterprise business results to require a starting investment in the tens of thousands to multiples of six figures.

The focus needs to be on the return you are expecting for your web investment.   If your website and the results it brings are strategic to your business, then that website needs to be developed, maintained and supported accordingly.

How can I get the most for my money with my business website?

Here is a quick checklist of things to look for and consider when shopping for a website design or development partner:

  • First and foremost, determine your goals and results expectations of your website.  Use these in a measurable way to gage the promises and the performance of potential and ongoing web partners.
  • Use an experienced professional. Relatives and friends that aren’t tenured web professionals typically don’t deliver the results your business needs.
  • Ask for Case Studies. Portfolio examples alone of ‘Wow’ imagery and impressive visual design are one thing.  Tangible improved results to the business are the true measure of great design.
  • Ask what ongoing SEO-readiness is part of their normal website build process.  Are they aligned to building a site equipped for you to market it successfully after it is launched?
  • Ask for details on website hosting requirements and access. What are the downtime risks and recovery processes?
  • See a live demo of the site’s administrative editing and access proposed by potential web partners. How easy and quickly can you (not them) make changes, and what kinds of changes additions etc., can you make?
  • Compare apples to apples, and understand the options. This can be a complex process, and often a great approach is using a ‘consulting’ engagement to determine the best scope and needs for your website.  It can save you a lot down the road by helping you make fully informed decisions and asking the right questions at the start.

These insights will help you make the right-sized investment in your Web presence best suited to deliver ongoing success to your business.

<< For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

How “social” do you need to be?

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

If you have heard any of the buzz on the street lately, you are aware that social media is here to stay, and the businesses that leverage this channel and participate strategically can reap rewards. “While it is true of social media marketing today that, ‘if you’re not in, you’re out’,” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions, “A very valid question is; how ’in’ do I need to be?”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to get the most out of social media, and what the right social moves are to achieve it.

What business results should I expect from social media?

The key to realizing a specific business’s ‘reward’ from social media, is defining and understanding your realistic expectations, finding your strategic fit, implementing the tactics that align, and taking a disciplined approach to daily social media activity.

Businesses need to understand that only in specific situations will social media tactics deliver straight-line results of leads and sales.  It is possible, but the circumstances required are not a viable reality for many businesses.  Indirect influence on leads and sales is where social media can be a key contributor to business growth.

Business results that social media is best poised to deliver include:

  • Brand reputation management – you can listen and act to guard your businesses.
  • Target market intelligence – trends in needs, uses and attitudes about your brand and can be learned by simply listening.  Participating in response can earn you customers.
  • SEO performance improvements for your website – Search engine algorithms now include social media engagement.  Linking, keyword and search results benefits are also outcomes of properly optimized social media.
  • Brand and expertise positioning – through many avenues to present your brand and offer expertise that feeds top of mind awareness and brand preference.
  • Influencer marketing – social media allows you to identify and align with key people online whose word of mouth (or word of keyboard) can exponentially motivate your target customers.
  • Crisis Management – An opportunity to quickly and broadly distribute messaging.
  • Public Relations – Social Media can be considered the Public Relations of the 21st Century.
  • Encouraging visits to your website – and eventual conversions.

The right social media strategy will be unique to every business. Developing this strategy involves the Marketing 101 exercise of knowing your target customers, discovering where they are online as well as who and what motivates them.  Once you have defined this, the right expectations, tactics, metrics, measurement tools, and workflows triggered from those metrics can be determined and selected for your social media strategic plan.

What are the must-do tactics in Social Media?

A 2011 Marketing Sherpa study cited the top three ‘most effective’ social media tactics as:

  • Optimizing social media sites to improve search engine rankings
  • Building one to one relationships with bloggers, and other social influencers
  • Moderating company branded social networks

Content marketing through social media (distribution, sharing, and commenting) were the other most effective tactics cited.  The lowest ranking ‘most effective’ tactic was outright advertising on social networks.

The best place to start is by establishing business profiles in the social networks relevant to your audience and strategy. These will most often include, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and content distribution and bookmarking sites like YouTube, StumbleUpon, SlideShare and Google Plus.

This is just the start.  You must commit to keeping these profiles updated, fresh and relevant.  The right timing of updates varies among businesses and social media, but not updating guarantees failure.  Relevant participation includes offering advice, insights, tips, expertise, response to comments and questions, special promotions, and exclusive values related to your business and your target customer.  Relevant, successful participation is rarely a continual barrage of outright or veiled sales pitches.

How much do I really need to put in to social media?

Just a few years ago, a big selling point for social media was, ‘It’s essentially free!’ This is a dangerous and false statement.  Social media is a marketing channel with unique but real ‘costs’ of participation.  You may not be paying for your profile or message space, but to be effective, social media requires resources of time and talent in developing, delivering, tracking, monitoring, responding appropriately and adjusting campaigns.

eMarketer’s 2011 study of forecasted investment in social media in the next three years showed: 87 percent of businesses plan to spend more than 5 percent of their digital marketing budget on social tactics, 55 percent of businesses plan to spend over 10 percent of their budget, and 28 percent will spend over 20 percent of their budget on social media tactics.  This reflects the investments in resources that are a reality of effective involvement in today’s social media arena.

Because the nature of social media is an open two way communication, just ‘broadcasting’ messages cannot be your entire strategy.  The ability to offer competent, prompt response and engagement is critical to social media success.  It can also affect the bottom-line success of a business, so you can’t entrust this to an intern.

A recent statistic by Conversocial illustrates this point by revealing that 88 percent of social media users interpreted a business’s action or inaction in responding to social media comments and inquiries as a reflection of their ‘true colors’ in customer service.  They further said that inaction would make them ‘somewhat less’ or ‘far less‘ likely to do business with that company.

Effective social media marketing requires strategy, expertise and dedication. Enlisting expert assistance to help develop and even implement your social media marketing strategy (either in-house or partnering for this expertise) can streamline the process and place you competently into the right social circles to help grow your business.

<< For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Online resolutions you should make for 2012

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

It’s the time of year when we reassess and make resolutions, and it’s a great time to set goals for growing your business. “Today’s reality is that the online space is the preeminent place where business research, communications and transactions occur, even for the most niche enterprises,”  says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about the most important actions that companies should be taking to get to and stay on their “A-game” online.

What are the smartest online resolutions for my business this year?

There are many vital facets of a business’s online presence, initiatives and technologies that affect bottom-line outcomes. In truly effective enterprises, these are aligned, interconnected and coordinated. Here are 12 top areas to consider and act on to keep you in the game, and winning it, in 2012:

1. Plan Your Online Strategy

The first question to ask: Is your web presence and online activities strategic to your business?

If the answer is no, then you’re likely risking extinction. If the answer is yes, then what is your online strategy? You absolutely need one. Develop goals, a plan to reach them, and ways you will measure progress and success.

2. Invest in Your Growth

The web is significant to business success today and is often a core business asset. Competing successfully requires investment of time, talent and money. This investment in your growth can be cost-effective, but when done right, it is usually not cheap. Core business assets rarely are.

3. Conduct a Competitive Analysis

How does your website (and your brand online) stack up against your competition? There are many tools to that can help uncover this information.  Start by simply searching your brand name, products or services in any of the search engines (and social media platforms). What you find may be surprising, and may even lead you to re-define what you consider ‘the competition’.

4. Review Your Optimization

Online optimization best practices are always evolving. Now is a great time to initiate periodic reviews of: Are you leveraging the latest best practices? Are your current keywords still the best choices? Are you optimizing in a coordinated manner across all your online footprints (videos, blogs, platforms, profiles, content syndication)?

5. Web Designs Have a Shelf Life, Check Yours.

If your website design is over a few years old, not only is it likely to be functionally dated, but the visual and interactive presentation is likely to be perceived by visitors as ‘a step behind the times.’ Your web presence (on all platforms and profiles) is often your business’s first impression, and could be your last if the message it portrays is: ‘We’re not up to speed with the competition and the industry.’ Internet-users continue to grow more sophisticated in judging your professional credibility via the web. If your website design is more than three years old, it warrants a review.

6. Assess the Human Element

Conduct a usability study on your website and other online properties. This insight from real people compliments algorithmic analytics. It can help you see the forest for the trees and fine-tune your best online presentation.

7. Go Mobile

Offering a mobile website is no longer an option. Over 50 percent of internet users are accessing the web via a mobile device (including phones, iPads and tablets). Smart businesses will ensure their target audience can access them from any device. Really smart businesses will develop their mobile presence with the unique dynamics of mobile usability and mobile marketing best practices in mind.

8. Be Strategically Social

The correct social media strategy and engagement level is different for every business. Brand monitoring, reputation management and relationship building take a front seat to overt sales in this arena (other than placing paid ads in these media, which can be a great targeted opportunity). Examine your social media engagement to ensure you can listen and appropriately respond to your audience, and that you add real value to the group.

9. Critique Your Website Content

Ask a client or colleague to read through and critique your website. Was their experience and understanding what you meant for them? Content analysis and refinement is also essential when updating your website. Plan and prepare your content right alongside the design process so it is ready to make your best first impression at, not after, your website’s debut.

10. Use Content Marketing

Develop ways to regularly generate content (a blog and articles like this one are a great start). Then deploy this content in measurable and optimized ways both on and offline. Content is critical to differentiation and success in digital marketing.

11. Connect Your Integration Efficiencies

When you integrate web analytics, web content management systems (CMS), Customer Relations Management (CRM), and marketing automation, it enables quick, accurate insights to online performance metrics. It also creates the dynamic connection needed for nimble web and email marketing, lead nurturing, and sales process workflows. Time and money-saving integrations are a cornerstone of successful digital-age businesses.

12. Measure and Manage the Right Metrics

A myriad of tracking measures are available to scrutinize your online performance. A successful online campaign is not necessarily one that gets the most impressions, clicks or visits. Those that convert the most leads, receive qualified proposals and become sales are usually the true winners. Use your online strategy to define the goal of tactic, and select the best metric to indicate and benchmark that success. Whether you utilize in-house resources, or partner with experts, addressing these 12 online resolution areas will prime your business for success in this digital age.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Who should own your website?

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

In every business’s growth plan, performance goals are set for specific business units with corresponding resource budgets allocated to support the plan. It used to be assumed that anything “tech” was under the purview of the IT department. So responsibility for building and maintaining the first corporate websites naturally evolved in the IT area.

“As digital tactics have become major channels in business marketing today, key ‘tech’ performance requirements have shifted,” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.  “A critical element in today’s business growth plan is to make sure resources, ‘ownership’ and accountabilities are properly aligned when it comes to your website.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to align the accountability and ownership of your business website to bring your business its best results.

Who should ‘own’ my business website?

Companies excel when marketing generates leads and sales. Increasingly, this lead generation and customer acquisition is accomplished by leveraging the company website as a tool, a facilitator, or a direct driver of results.

Businesses that are not using their website to its fullest potential as a lead and sales generator are missing out.  It is only a matter of time before not addressing the situation will allow competitors to pass you by, and put you out of business.

For most businesses, website results expectations have transitioned from the IT realm to the marketing realm.  If you are expecting marketing to deliver web business results, then marketing has to have the ownership to enable their accountability

How does IT technical expertise contribute?

The technical knowledge and skill base of IT and Marketing professionals is still an “apples and oranges” type of scenario. However, the skill sets of today’s digital marketers and IT professionals are closer than in the past, such that they can coexist, communicate and complement each other on the same corporate team, in pursuit of the same company goals: leads, sales and growth. Most marketers are not tech experts.  IT professionals aren’t typically marketing experts.  However, because of the very technical nature of digital marketing, a good relationship between IT and marketing needs to exist to ensure successful web results.

Marketing will be best at the dynamic and continuous iterations of market messaging, content and design that drives digital channels including online advertising, web page optimization, content marketing, and social media marketing and integration.  An essential tool to enable your marketers to “market” your website is a Content Management System (CMS). This tool facilitates quick and easy messaging, styling, and implementation of proper coding for tracking, analytics and user experience functionality.

IT is best positioned to set up and deploy the infrastructure of your business website to help it optimally deliver the results that marketing (and you) expect to gain from it. IT support for a business website is often essential in implementing the recommendations of webmaster tools and other website monitoring discoveries. These include implementing ongoing redirects that avert SEO error penalties in the search engines, preventing hacking attacks and spamming to your site, and seamless handling of website stress loads (like ensuring the bandwidth to allow thousands of holiday shoppers to purchase through your website shopping cart simultaneously.)

How do I bring this all together?

Unfortunately, I have seen marketing and IT divisions within organizations that are non-communicative and even adversarial. A common factor I see in these instances is a perspective of territorial resources, misaligned expectations and communication barriers.

I have also seen many examples of great collaboration between IT and Marketing arms of a business that uncover opportunities for educating each other on the dynamics of their respective specialties, and discover ways to implement better, track better, interpret metrics better and produce much greater business results though best utilizing each other’s talents.

Executive clarification of the lines of responsibility, creation of the resources to fulfill that responsibility and enabling the means for cross-functional communication with IT and Marketing will improve your business results.  Often a business may find that it is not able to quickly or economically accommodate the time or staff necessary to synergize IT and marketing with respect to driving website results. This is where partnering with a firm that specializes in digital marketing (and is fluent in the technical language involved) can alleviate overhead costs and streamline the integration of technology and marketing that brings next-level business results from your website.

In my experience, I have seen that businesses who are getting the best web results have assigned website accountability to marketing, and have forged a synergistic relationship between marketing and IT.  This relationship allows IT to help evaluate, set up and implement the tools that marketing needs to produce great results.  It also alleviates a burden on IT to keep up with the constant flux of digital market dynamics and focus on the IT infrastructure central to the business.  Most importantly, the relationship provides for the communication and cross training that assures mutual understanding of each team’s processes and contribution to the company’s goals.

Assigning responsibility and resources for website presence and performance to your marketing team will free up your IT team to better focus on the infrastructure management items that are mission critical to operating your business.   A healthy IT-Marketing relationship and the right tools for the job will allow your marketing experts to use the best digital marketing techniques to grow your business.

<< For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

How to get results from ad dollars you’ve already spent by using retargeting

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

John Wanamaker, founder of Philadelphia’s historic Wanamaker’s department store, once said, “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted – I just don’t know which half.” In online marketing today, metrics can tell us exactly which dollars spent on pay-per-click advertising clicks wound up converting to a lead or sale and which may have been ‘wasted.’ “On average less than 3 percent of online shopping search clicks today end up in a lead or sale ‘conversion,’” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “However there is a tactic available that can recoup results from that lost 97 percent.”

SmartBusiness spoke with Hourigan about how a company can get better mileage from and literally resurrect results from their spent PPC dollars.

What is this ‘Resurrection’ paid search tactic?

The tactic is interchangeably called ‘Retargeting,’ ‘Remessaging’ or ‘Remarketing,’ and it works in a similar manner as other paid search advertising campaigns. Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter and numerous online ad service networks support this campaign format. A code is put on pages of your website that places a ‘cookie’ with people as they visit your site.  Then as they are browsing around the Web, your retargeting campaign shows them your specific text or display ads to them for up to 30 days later (This is typically the life of a cookie before it expires).

How does Retargeting save ad-spend?

Retargeting focuses on searchers who have indicated an intent and interest in your product or service through their initial click to your site. Retargeting ads keeps reminding them of you, which not only promotes a targeted branding message, but also gives them a quick and easy way to convert into a lead or customer further down their searching and buying cycle. For that 97 percent that did not become customers on their first click, case studies have shown significant ‘view-through’ conversions (people returning to your site later directly and then purchasing). The really great part is that, as with any Pay Per Click campaign, you only pay for click costs. So anyone exposed to your retargeting ads who comes back your site later directly does not cost you another dime in advertising expense.

I have a case study that highlights the powerful influence of retargeting, where the retail business   tracked the sources of their online customers over one month. 85 percent of their customers who were exposed to retargeting ads returned directly to their site to make a purchase, which means they only paid online advertising click-costs for the 15 percent that clicked through the ad to buy from them.

What are the best ways to use Retargeting?

You can get as granular as you need to with retargeting campaigns, and you should. You can set the campaign up to trigger when a person lands on any page of your website, on just the home page, or on specific pages. Many businesses have distinct product or service areas so drilling down to specific product or service pages and creating a retargeting campaign on that specific topic will tend to have the most closely matched and best performing results.

For example, if you sell collegiate team flags and a searcher visits your University of Florida flag page, you can set your retargeting campaign to show Gators-specific retargeting ads (vs. rival Florida State University Seminoles themed ads) and even bring them directly back to your Gators product page when they click.

Another recent study of online shopping behavior shows that 71 percent of customers fill a shopping cart and then abandon it. Consumers find this a great way to conduct comparison shopping with all information at hand (prices, availability, shipping, taxes, product, numbers, etc.). When a shopper does not buy right away, and continues to ‘Google’ and shop for a specific product of interest, retargeting gives you the opportunity to present them with a discount code or other incentive to return and purchase from you. This is also a great way to encourage online shoppers (while they are in the shopping mode) to consolidate multiple item purchases with you versus breaking up their order among slightly different priced alternatives.

As shopping online becomes more popular and as online shoppers become more adept at purchasing on the Internet, retargeting offers a key way to stay in your online shopping targets’ top of mind. Using retargeting as part of a seasonal or holiday advertising effort can significantly improve the results.

Knowing the habits of your target customer will help you craft the best strategy for using retargeting as a paid search tactic. Determine the pages on your site that signal lead generation or purchase intent, and then match a retargeting ad message to these. This may call for several separate campaigns (for example: if you sell shoes, pages on men’s work boots versus specific brands of women’s running shoes).

Evaluate the incentive you choose to bring shoppers back. Is a price discount best, or free shipping, or another enticement (including just the reminder of you and an easy one-click way to get back to their shopping cart on your website). Test these to find the best performers. A great benefit of paid search campaigns is that changes can be made instantly and tests can quickly render meaningful results.

Are there any dangers, and how do I avoid them?

Retargeting is a paid search tactic, so the same principles of paid search apply. In addition to thoughtfully crafting your retargeting campaign, triggers and content, you need to be on your A-game with bidding strategies and knowledge of the tools and platforms you use in deploying retargeting.

Another point to consider is:  Do you want to stop retargeting when your target purchases? Depending on your product, this may be a good idea. It may even be a trigger for next step (next product need) retargeting messaging. Many tools have been developed that allow you to control the frequency of retargeting messages, when to start and stop them, and other aspects that address specific customer situations.

The specialized tactic of retargeting is evolving, and as with most Internet tools and tactics, at a dynamic pace. I highly encourage partnering with an expert who not only knows what they are doing in this area, but who can synergize this among all your online marketing tactics, as well as harmonize with your offline advertising.

When implemented correctly, retargeting can bring greater returns for your ad dollars spent, and turn that average 3 percent conversion into a much higher number of leads and sales.

<< For details on the case study mentioned above, click to: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/retargetingsuccess.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.