I was standing in the cereal aisle last week and suddenly found myself thinking about my clients at Cerulean and the problems they face with marketing these days. It’s is not unlike the wall of cereal that loomed in front of me. Most cereal is not that good for us. It’s too… something. Typically, it’s too sweet or full of fake sugar so it has no calories but it’s even worse for your health, or it tastes like eating twigs (although I can only guess what that’s like). Some, claim to be heart healthy because they included processed oats. Others are high in protein because they put some over-processed nuts inside along with all the preservatives. Some are blatantly just candy in cereal-defined spoon-size shapes. Marketing (and for now I am specifically thinking of websites and social media) has become like that wall of cereal.
I remember when I first learned how to put together a website. It was many years ago when my 15 year old son taught me how to use Dreamweaver and explained a bit of PHP and HTML and all about tables. It was just enough for me to be dangerous and so I took off on my own designing site after site, mostly for my own odd interests, like the History of Computing (all the way back to the Antikythera mechanism). Every once and a while I had to call my son in to help me out of a jam, but mostly, I got it.
It was easier to learn web development then because the choices for the non-coder types like me were limited. And social media? That used to be easier for the same reason. Fewer rules and less choice.
Those summer days are over.
Cerulean focuses on the entrepreneur and small businesses that need expert help at a cost they can control. Many of these small businesses take on their own web development and social media, and that often works fine for a while because the initial web set-up and design can be made easier with Weebly and Wix and other drag and drop web-apps. But there are drawbacks to those my clients quickly discover. And then they call us. Here are a few.
Limited ability to make layout changes. You are stuck with one of their templates. Sometimes this is fine, but as you grow you may see the limitations of this. Also, sometimes the app discontinues the template, and you will have to change template (on your time and expense).
One price per website (plus the add-ons that you will need). For a small businesses that won’t change much or won’t need multiple websites, this can be fine. But, you may not realize that a hosting account you buy yourself through Bluehost or GoDaddy for instance, can host multiple domains (called add-on domains) under one host fee. If you want or need multiple websites (for instance, one for the spouse or a different business or for your short stories, etc.) paying a hosting service and adding a free WordPress theme will save you money.
The Add-On problem. With web-app sites (like Wix, Weebly and others—and I don’t mean to pick on those), you will need add-ons. If you are inexperienced, you will soon discover that you need a few extras like backup, caching, an SSL certificate, e-commerce and pay gateways, lead generation, domain privacy, site migration, maintenance, more back-up space, extra email addresses, and more. The thing is, you don’t know you need these things until you do and then you will need to figure them all out.
The Content Problem. And this goes for any website whether it’s through Wix or Squarespace or hosted on GoDaddy. It’s not that hard for anyone to drag and drop text and image boxes into a web template or use a WordPress theme. The problem is content, usability, lead generation, SEO and about 50 other things. You may know your business, but can you write about it in a way that gets reader’s attention? Don’t say yes too quickly, because research says you can’t. Do you have a design-eye? Do you know how to create popups and lead magnets? None of this is particularly hard. We’re all smart people here. There are just a lot of little things to understand and figure out. The issue is time, and it takes so much longer than you think.
But this is not about Wix or Weebly or Squarespace, web development and social media have become major undertakings. Again. Things have moved backwards—what was once complicated and needed coding skills, morphed into easy because there were fewer options and pre-designed templates, and has now evolved back into being a big drain on time. And that’s costing you money.
Do you know how often Google changes their SEO algorithms and how you do SEO on your website? Do you know that Google AdWords and keyword auctions are far more complicated than they sound? Facebook changes policies as often as most people do their laundry. Instagram and Pinterest now accept advertising—but how that works for you and your particular business can be a bit of a mystery. Is it all worth it? Well, that’s a good question. The general answer to that is, yes, but.
The Maintenance Problem. WordPress websites you create yourself need maintenance. Security, theme, WordPress, and plug-in updates are constant (weekly!) and if you don’t pay attention to them they can bring about a security breach or introduce malware into your website (and you may not even know it until you are blacklisted or your website get’s wiped out). You also need to have an SSL certificate, do regular backups and manage those to make sure they are happening, manage security issues by limiting login attempts and blocking password hacking. You also need to know how to update carefully or things like bad plug-ins can crash your entire site and what do you do when that happens? Are you familiar with things like C-panel and FTP? Do you know how to move a domain and when you can move a domain? How about how to migrate a site to a different host?
Yes, there is support out there for all of this. You can spend time on the phone with various support people and chat. You can Google search everything and more than likely find an answer—if you know what you are looking for and have the time. I just wonder how much time you have to be constantly reading about how to manage the latest Facebook advertising rules or how to write better content that sells and how to read analytics that will tell you if it’s working. The information is all out there on about a million websites. So, start reading.
I’m in this business and I can’t keep up. I know about WordPress and the idiosyncrasies of plug-ins and themes. I know that to be effective at branding your business and selling your services you need to be putting content of all kinds out across multiple channels, platforms and touch points.
Don’t you love the word touch-point? Those two words sum up marketing.
Here is the bottom line to all this ranting about a wall of cereal and so much choice. You can’t do all this yourself because it would consume your day. So unless you want to spend your evenings and weekends consumed with web maintenance, hosting problems, new product examinations that could, maybe, make your business grow faster, or explain SEO (again) so you can change it on all your websites—you need help. You need to toss those things over the fence to the experts that can keep up with this stuff and can do it all a lot faster than you.
Will it cost you some money? Yes, but probably less than you think and you need to weigh your time costs if you are doing this yourself. What else could you be doing to bring in more money and increase sales?
I’ll tell you that in another post.