A Lesson in Pricing – Courtesy of My Dogs’ Vet

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Milo is awfully grouchy at that vet for ripping 12 teeth out of his head!Earlier this week we had to take our dog, Milo, into the vet to have his teeth cleaned. We’ve owned him for 2 years and haven’t had him in for that work since we got him – we knew it was time.

So I dropped the eager little guy off in the morning and got a call later that morning from the doctor just to let me know he was going under and she would be starting soon. She also told me “a couple” of his teeth will need to come out. Ok, not a problem.

Later that afternoon I went in to pick him up and was chatting up the lady behind the counter about all they did to him, only to find out they didn’t pull “a couple” teeth – they pulled 12! Yes, 12 little doggy teeth. She said a lot were pulled because of overcrowding, a common problem with Pugs. The real kicker in all of this is they charge you per tooth they rip out! PER TOOTH! That was the most expensive line item on the bill. More than the doctor’s fees, more than the anesthesia, even more than the drugs they sent us home with!

Could you imagine what would happen if we charged per word of copy we changed or per line of code we changed?!?

Yes, Mr Johnson we removed 14 words and added 10. That will be $6,394.

The backlash would be huge and we would be out of business! Yet, when I tried to explain this to the lady behind the counter she acted as if no one had ever questioned this process of charging per tooth.

With this pricing structure what would stop the doctor from just ripping all his teeth out and really raking me over?

I guess my point is, if you’re in there and you’ve already got your hands dirty and can take care of additional items at that time – don’t charge me for each additional item! I can guarantee you will have happier, more satisfied customers exiting your facility.

Beginning of the End for the Blogosphere?

By | Business Intelligence, Westward Strategy | One Comment

Two items really caught my eye this morning in my daily RSS feeds and I thought I would share them with you.

I love getting things from Marketing Profs. Of all my feeds I read more items from theirs than any others I receive. Today the one that really caught my attention talks about the frequency of blog posting. For those of you already running a blog, I am sure you have heard the “You must post everyday” mantra. It’s like the USPS’ “wind, rain, sleet or snow” mentality.

However now that may actually be harming not only your blog but the lifespan and validity of the blogosphere. Whoa! Pretty big impact there for that two sentence post on your grandmother’s cat or to share that YouTube funny of your cousin falling down. Don’t get me wrong, I laugh at people that fall down too (everyone does it), but now posting just for posting’s sake is out.

My favorite points are… well, all of it really. All of it is extremely valid and supported by good quality data. But if I had to pull out just a couple items it would be #4 and #5. I’m actually surprised that Seth Godin hasn’t followed his own advise, because his feed was one of the first ones I turned off because he was flooding my NetVibes page. The second was an acquaintance who chose to use his blog to publish all of his Twitter updates. Sorry, I just don’t care how many hits your kid had in T-ball. Don’t get me wrong, when this person chooses to write it’s amazing, he is extremely knowledgeable in our industry, and I have learned a lot from him. I just don’t have time or the energy to get through all the other noise.

I love Marketing Profs because they don’t publish information every day, but when they do publish all of it is valid and relevant to me and I know there will be at least one thing I will read from beginning to end.

My second point here, #5 from their list, is very scary. If we can not find a way for those thought leaders and executives to utilize the blogosphere, let alone contribute to it, it will become the domain of amateurs and hacks very quickly. It will be completely written off as a viable marketing tool, let alone a viable information funnel for incoming and outgoing messages.

Are we already starting to see the beginning of the end? If 49% of marketers say they have no plans to use blogging in the next year and RSS fatigue is swallowing many hyperactive bloggers, how long will it be before we see the white light at the end of this blogging tunnel?

This is the first time I have actually seen a date put on it… Extinction Timeline: 1950-2050 (pdf). So mark your calendars everyone and enjoy the next 15 years, give or take.

The Power Behind Word of Mouth Marketing

By | Search Engine Marketing, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized, Web Design | No Comments

Word of Mouth Works Worldwide
OCTOBER 9, 2007

The unbiased opinion is trusted around the globe.

There are more marketing channels aimed at consumers than ever. Yet more than three-quarters of consumers surveyed worldwide find that consumer opinions are the most effective form of advertising, according to a Nielsen study.

Nielsen surveyed Internet users in 47 markets in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East on their attitudes toward many types of ads, including television, branded Web sites and consumer-generated content.

“The fact that consumers think opinions posted online are as trustworthy as brand Web sites speaks to the power of online reviews and recommendations,” said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at eMarketer.

“It also means that marketers need to focus as much attention on what consumers say about their brands online as they do on creating the brand Web sites themselves,” Ms. Williamson said. “The easiest thing to do is to make consumer feedback an essential part of every brand Web site.”

Types of Advertising Trusted by Internet Users

Continue Word of Mouth Works Worldwide Article

In-house or Outsourcing?

By | Business Intelligence, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | No Comments

Does a website created by in house IT or “graphics” people save money or cost money? Using your in-house people to create your corporate website could save a couple thousand dollars. It can also cost you tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales.

Many CEOs think that the worst thing about having their website created in-house is its appearance. Most likely, a poor appearance is the least of your worries. Chances are your in-house people don’t know how to address your target audiences, incorporate your marketing strategies, emphasize your areas of specialization or worst of all, fail to recognize your unique selling proposition or competitive advantages.

Even if your in-house people consider all these points, do they know how to optimize the site so it can be found in a search engine? Do they know the latest techniques to make your site search engine friendly and optimized? Do they know how to properly market your website on the internet?

Will they employ the latest web standards when they build your site? Do they know web industry best practices to developing a site? Do they know the best information architecture for a website?

You should ask yourself, “Is this beyond the scope of their job requirements”? It is understandable to have employees wear many hats, especially in a small business, but having someone design or build your website in-house when this is not their primary function not only harms the final project outcome, but also devalues your employee.

Having experience in web design or search engine marketing is not the same as being a web designer or internet marketer.

Another aspect to consider is time. You’re asking an employee to split their time between their regular job duties and this new project, which can greatly hinder their ability to launch the site in a reasonable time frame. How many potential clients or sales can you afford to turn away while your website sits incomplete or displaying an “Under Construction” message?

A website that has an unprofessional appearance and doesn’t deliver your marketing message to your target audience can lead your prospective customers to think that your company is unprofessional and unable to deliver quality, cost, delivery and technology solutions. A company with a well-designed website that has relevant and well written content seems like a much better choice.

RFP – Random Friday Post

By | Business Intelligence, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized | No Comments

I attended a web seminar earlier this week where the presenter actually used the image below in a slide. I don’t even remember what he was trying to illustrate and quite honestly I ducked out of the webinar early because, well, it was bad. I mean bbaaaaddd.

I think it may have been to illustrate sales process flow.

Too Complicated Sales Process Image

1) If your sales process is this complicated you might want to hire someone to help you fix it.

2) Never, ever, ever use an image like this to illustrate anything… ever. Period.

Have a great weekend!

The Struggle Within – Selling SEO Inside Your Own Organization

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Tips and Tricks | No Comments

We had a client approach us recently who was very interested in natural search optimization and search engine marketing. They are a mid-level marketing manager who recognizes the benefits and advantages of implementing an SEO strategy. However, they also recognize their own limitations in knowledge and time. Knowing they couldn’t effectively manage this internally, they began seeking our help. The problem was they needed to sell our services to the C-level execs. More than that we needed to sell SEO to the C-level execs.

We knew we could go in there with all the facts, figures, and evidence to support what we do, but we also knew it wouldn’t benefit us and it wouldn’t benefit our contact. We would be seen as an outside source with just another pitch and the contact would be seen as inept by their supervisors. Prior to meeting the executives we worked closely with the marketing manager to help them sell SEO as a critical marketing initiative to the executives. What we provided them with is more or less included in the following boiled down list.

Do Your Research (or have someone do it for you)
You’ve got to be able to talk the game if you have any hope of selling it. Even though it is time consuming, find as many authoritative SEO sites as possible and do your reading. Visit forums and blogs to find other people in situations similar to yours. Put yourself out there and ask questions.

Show and Tell
Within your organization get out there and talk to people about SEO. Some times people’s eyes glaze over when they hear that term so soften it up by talking about internet or search marketing. Talk to the people that matter outside of a formal meeting – water coolers, coffee makers, all the usual places they might hang out.

List the Advantages
Create a list of all the advantages a search marketing campaign can give your organization over your competitors. Initially you will use this list for your own information, however later you will use this in formal meetings with your execs. There are numerous benefits of SEO, but keep your list under five items.

Understand Management’s Pain Points
Do every thing you can to understand management’s objectives and find the pain points that relate to the advantages list you created previously. They probably will not talk about those points in the same way you might so listen carefully. Where applicable interject with the benefits of SEO as they relate to those pain points.

Don’t Give Up
People are resistant to change and fear the things they don’t know. Through education and repeated discussion you can break through their fears and show them the benefits of a strong SEO strategy so by the time you bring in an outside company to manage your search engine optimization campaign the execs are comfortable making an informed decision.

Expense or Investment?

By | Business Intelligence, Westward Strategy | No Comments

How you view your website and other marketing initiatives from a business perspective may determine your return on investment before you even begin. Many corporations view marketing as an expense albeit a necessary one. Marketing budgets are often among the first to be trimmed and more often than not web marketers are the first to be shown the door.

In truth marketing is an investment in your company. What you put into it determines what you get out of it or your return on that investment. When things are not going well, for whatever reason, the last thing you should be doing is trying to bury your head in the sand and make your company as small as possible.

With that being said, sometimes it is difficult to know where or with whom you should invest your marketing dollars. It can be even more difficult when you begin to investigate online marketing initiatives and companies. The web is largely the wild west of marketing. It has very few rules and even fewer lawmen (or law women if you prefer). If you put your project out there, whether it be a complete website redesign or a natural search optimization campaign, you’re likely to get all kinds of people knocking down your (virtual) door. You might receive bids for $500 and $50,000 on the same project for the same work. So how do you tell the snake oil salesman from the real deal? First thing you can do is eliminate the outliers, the extreme lows and the extreme highs.

If you are requesting a redesign of your 10 page website and they are telling you it is going to be $60,000 turn tail and run! Otherwise you’ll be taken for a ride. Same thing for the $200 bid – you probably won’t get the quality you’re looking for. Other than that go with the company you feel the most comfortable with.

For more information I invite you to review this post from Forty Media on setting your web budget. The most valuable points are the bullets at the bottom.

  • In the current market, $5-10k is a good price range for a simple, custom-designed website. If you have unusual needs requiring custom software or configuration, that might get up into the $10-15k range. (If you’re on a tight budget, you may be able to get a decent site from a talented freelancer for a good amount bit less, though you’ll be trading one set of risks for another.)
  • If you’re looking to build a custom web application, expect the final pricing to land in the tens of thousands of dollars. The exact pricing will depend on the scope and nature of the project itself.
  • Logo design and web design can be two very different things. If you don’t have a logo already, consider getting that designed by a corporate identity designer before starting the web project.
  • Remember that you get what you pay for. Set your budget, and then find the best possible firm that can work within your budget. The bigger your investment is, the better (in theory) the return will be.

Tables are Dumb (part II)

By | Business Intelligence, Uncategorized, Web Design, Westward Strategy | No Comments

So in the first part of my little rant here, I discussed the training, or lack thereof, of designers and developers and how it has ingrained in them the techniquess more often than not used in today’s coding of websites and applications. Today I will cover the argument that they do not have enough time to learn new ways of coding.

This argument comes up more often than the first. Interface developers always complain they never have enough time to learn new standards of practice. Let me put it this way – are you saying you don’t have the time to give your clients a greater return on their investment? You don’t have time to advance your skillset to make your job easier, less time consuming and more consistent? If you answered yes to these questions send all your clients to us and stop reading now. (Hey, it’s worth a shot!)

In all seriousness though, if you could be guaranteed of the above benefits, why would you not want to start learning these techniques? How many times have you had to wade through dozens if not hundreds of pages to change all the font tags or scoured nested tables to find all of the content to update? On average our sites that are built using structured markup and divs use just 200 lines of markup and that could easily be cut by a third if we weren’t so damn picky about the format of our code. Mind you, that is just the markup and does not include the content.

Need to change a heading style – no problem! Just load up the CSS and change it in one place! Put your waders away and stop straining your eyeballs, one change in one place and you’re done!

Now is it easy learn these new rules and syntax? Hell no! But it’s not rocket science either. Just like anything it takes practice and dedication to get it perfect. My suggestion – start small. Start by stripping out all the presentation markup for your content. Take out all the deprecated font tags and spans that have no structure. Replace with paragraphs, headings, and unordered lists. Create a simple stylesheet and link it to your page. There you go! You’re on your way to becoming a css guru. Call me when you’ve reached zen master level and we’ll do battle.

Next time I will discuss all the benefits of your new skill set and where to go to get information on your path to enlightenment. Join me!