5. Web Strategy with Jon Hollenberg
TRANSCRIPTION: THE CUSTOMER-CENTRIC SHOW PODCAST
with Mel Telecican (Customer-Centric Coach)
Episode 5. Web Strategy with Jon Hollenberg
You are listening to the customer centric show with Mel Telecican where we talk with successful business owners and experts to share smart ways to attract more customers with profits and freedom by thinking about customers first. Now here is your host Mel Telecican.
Mel: Hello and welcome to another episode of the customer centric show. Today I am joined by Jon Hollenberg, managing director of Five by Five, an Australian web design business that makes beautiful websites for medium and large sized businesses. John has been creating great looking high performing and user friendly websites for 17 years. In this time he has built over a 1000 websites working with brands like Qantas, Jetstar, Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge. With this experience and as author of love at first sight. That sight as a website. John is the man that people turn to for web strategy, consultation. E-commerce and more. Welcome to the show John.
John: Hey Melissa thanks for having me.
Mel: Great to have you on board today. In the website design business there are a lot of moats in the competitive market. What makes you stand out from the rest?
John: Great question. It is a very competitive place and there are lots of I guess different pressures that have come into market place over the years offshoring and the barriers for website designer are not that high. So that well people are not ready for that space. So really we have tried to differentiate. It is really approaching websites around the user interface and the design. So having very sort of strong expertise in that regard and really backing that up with good solid robust coding. Mobile responsiveness, we use tool called Wordpress. That’s is 100% web developing on. And then back that up with some good customer centric in near and then 10 years later we are still building websites.
Mel: Fantastic. Not everyone can say that we have been around for that long and especially that sort of clientele that you have attracted, I think it speaks volumes about what you are doing. You have mentioned in your website that having a beautiful website is important. Not just pretty but beautiful. Can you tell us a little bit more around your thinking on that?
John: Our approach with the website is that you really want to give some sort of emotional response because that’s what people really resonate with and design is a very good way of doing that. So if you can have a beautiful, functional website, layout that represents your business and paints really awesome picture about your product services and on top of experience some can expect that it is tremendous way to differentiate in the market place and really elevate your business against your competitors.
Mel: Ok so I have got a question for you around. We were talking before the show about a client of yours that you believe is really customer centric. Can you share that story with us?
John: Yes, so her name is Tania and she was actually one of the first clients going back many years ago. She was working in a desk job in government agency down in Cambraugh. She do 8 to 10 dollars in the cubicle every day. But her real passion was really hung in and sitting up on the kitchen table every night and selling. She makes these beautiful sort of hand crafted bespoke bridal accessories like veils, clutches and purses. So, she just sit there at the kitchen table and sell in the hours of the morning. What we did was helped her build a site to really just sell these products and get her exposure. So you can imagine the bridal market is really competitive. Its cut through and a small startup you know that hasn’t got enough budget and is a through around for advertising. So her approach was to meticulously document everything that she did, everything inspired her and beautiful things she was surrounded with, whether it was fashion or the bridal industry that she was so focused on and she documented that all in the book. So in the blog on the weekend she sit up these sort of bridal shoots and go down to the park and really you know try to paint a story about her range that have just come out or whatever and it didn’t take her too long to get a real following online in the bridal market which then turned to exposure offline. So, she started getting featured in all these magazines publications like you know real bride and that sort of stuff and it was because of that blog with tremendous amount of content that she was generating and creating and it is helpful content. So it was like how to tie a bow and all that sort of stuff that is very helpful I guess when it come to a bride or bride to be. I know when I was getting married to my fiancé. She spend a hack of ton online doing researching that sort of stuff. So that’s really how she has managed to deliver tremendous amount of value through her website and through her blog. The end result is lots of search engine traffic. So, you can go to google and say or type in bridal head pieces city and her website, you can imagine the Sydney bridal market if fiercely competitive and in small business working from the kitchen table has managed to make that sort of impact on the bridal market. It is testament to what is actually possible with a good looking site and a ton of content and content that is actually really helpful and something that people are interested in.
Mel: Yeah John thinking about bridal and buying those sort of things. Generally people would like to see and feel and touch those things. So selling online I would expect is very difficult with that imagery. How important is imagery and alongside that storytelling that you told over the blog.
John: Yeah, especially in that market, it is very image focused. The photography will make or break a site. So, she recognizes that. She take beautiful photos, it is all taken on digital SLR. She has educated herself around that, yeah so highly important but I think that follows through any small business. Photography is a big factor in terms of making a site look awesome.
Mel: Yeah and I am just thinking you know I guess with her business, she can perhaps people you know considering that she got all that extra content like how to videos or how to use around you know all those other elements that sort of value adds for those people with probably the other things that they are going to need to do as well as searching for the hand bag or that veil.
John: Yeah big time and it is still touch point. So, having that literally video is face to face time with the prospective customer. So you are building up that rapport and that trust and that knowledge. So it’s win win.
Mel: Fantastic, that’s a great story. Thank you for sharing that one. What do think when it comes to websites, why should people employ someone like yourself rather than try and do it themselves? What’s the advantage?
John: Great question, good questions, I get asked a lot. I guess it is really about…it comes back to, you certainly do and get back what you pay for. There is many different ways to get a website opened. You can employ your 14 year old nephew to do that. You can go offshore and get a 500 dollar website you know quite easily. I guess our angle is spend some good solid money and get a good quality site built by a team of professionals. People who do this day and day out. People would actually communicate and tell you why they are doing something. The benefit of working with a team is you get the combined strength of lots of different skill tests from say project management. Graphic designer, UI developers, copywriters, photography, video, all that sort of stuff. So there is no single breakpoint even working with a freelancer. You are only working with one individual. So there is a lot of emphasis on the client to drive the bigger picture with strategy and all the different pieces that go into that. So in my opinion working with a team, you are going to get biggest return on investment.
Mel: Yeah, Great and what do you think of the biggest mistakes that are made? Not just with people who try to get their own work done by themselves. What do you think are the biggest mistakes or obstacles people should avoid when setting up their website?
John: Great question. There is a lot of mistakes that people are making out there. If I had to summarize that down, I probably say people are not using the right platform. So, typically a website would be built using a thing called a CMS or content management system. Essentially that’s a bit of software that allows you to login to a secure path of the website and you can manage the text and the photos and the graphics and then search videos and do a lot sort of stuff through a secured browser based environment. So an average customer can get in there with little bit of training. Get upto speed and feel comfortable in the driver’s seat. So, there is lots of different content management systems on the market and our approach is as I mentioned earlier, we use Wordpress. So Wordpress is what they call open source. It drives about 20% of all websites on the internet. The benefit of using open source is it can be shaped, molded and adapted to any different sort of requirements. The other great thing is there is lots of different people out there that are supporting it. So you are not tied to any one company. If you are not happy with the customer service that you are receiving, you can pack your bags and bundle up your website. You can move it around. So, you are not tied to any one company. The other great thing is google apps, they love wordpress, it takes care of a lot of the search engine optimization and all that sort of stuff that they are looking for. So that would be one thing.
Mel: Can I stop you there and ask you why that is important? When you say that google responds well. What do you mean?
John: Okay, so wordpress built in to the general sort of structure or the spicy functionality is that it takes care of a lot of the on-site optimization. So, search engine optimization is the process of making your website more physical in the eyes of let’s say google or some of the minor search engines. Essentially you need to go through a checklist and make sure that you are doing what they want you to do. So that would be things like making sure that there is a title tag on each page. That title tag is reflective of the actual content. So that resides on that page. You have got things like menu descriptions. You have got things like permanent links which is the actual address of that specific page and the structure of that. So wordpress handles that really well and our experience is we do re-design and we might even convert like and old site into wordpress. Within a week that site is ranking a heck of a lot better than it did in some sort of priority content management system. So, google is giving the big robust thing. I love it.
Mel: Hmm interesting. Thanks for taking that side step there. For our listeners it is always good to have that depending on where runs knowledge at just to make sure everyone's clear on the conversation that we are having. So, thank you for that.
John: Yeah sure that’s cool. To loop them back to the mistakes question I think, another big problem that businesses are facing. That is actually to understand the bigger picture where strategy and I sort of highlighted this in the example of Tenial with bridal accessories earlier and she was sitting on the mountain of knowledge and all it took for her is to share some of that in the form of great quality content that looked awesome and was super helpful. She was able to get tremendous results from that. That’s essentially what google want. They only want great content. So, it’s really about formulating a web strategy based on market leadership. So, being the go to person online with new specific industry or need or whatever. So, that’s really where you are going to find a lot of success but know to web strategies are the same and they can consist of lots of different social platforms or traffic channels or e-mail solutions or whatever but I guess at the heart of it. It needs to be a good looking website that contains ton of quality content and I find not a lot of businesses sort of get that.
Mel: Is it that John you think that perhaps they think that message is clear but it needs more detail or maybe more angles like you are saying the video or just different styles of presenting the content.
John: I think it is just a fact that every small business still thinks that you can knock out by a five page website that might give a bit of an overview of your business or a bit of your products and your services and some contact details and expect that to be sitting there in number one position in google and certainly that is not the case now. It’s about like I said that market leadership having an active blog providing a ton of valuable content being in that mindset where you are open and transparent. You share a lot because that’s really where the world is headed. So information is pretty much free. Anyone can find anything that they want. So you may as well be the person in business that’s providing that information.
Mel: Do you think some business owners would be fearful about sharing that content considering that perhaps they are competitors in that space or looking out what they are putting out there?
John: Yeah big time. I can understand that. But like I said information is free. You can figure out how to do anything in this world. How to build anything. How to reverse engineer anything.
Mel: It’s worth it.
John: Yeah. You better be the person that is providing that info and providing that value. A lot of the time people just want to be educated. They don’t want to do it themselves. So, similar to the website design business. You can figure out how to build a wordpress blog and then install a theme and customize that theme and do all that sort of stuff. But a lot of the time people just don’t want to do it. They want an expert and professional to do it. So I am more than happy to share everything that we do in our processes and systems and all that stuff more often that people are knocking that out and wanting assistance with that.
Mel: So you mentioned before that some people come to you and it is like a redesign. So do you have people that come to you either they have created it or they are not getting the result they wanting and they come to you to optimize it or they are coming to you from other places.
John: I think a lot of the time it is very difficult to go in there and get results from old style sort of legacy sites. So our approach would be to do a ground up rebuild but even before that we go through a date dive strategic consultation with typically spend sale like an owl with a business. Really getting into that understanding of what the business actually does. How the business is unique. What is the target audience that they are trying to attract? Some of the characteristics and demographics around that. Fears problems and desires. Where customers are coming from at the moment. A bit about the competitive landscape and what does success look like to them? So twelve months down the track, you make this investment, you re-build your website and put on this web strategy of how you are going to define success and put some metrics arounds that. So we found that it is a really useful process to go to because it gets everything out of the table. It gets everyone's expectations out. We really get into the depth understanding of their business and that’s what form the foundation and the plan of execution really.
Mel: So we talked about blogs, we talked about videos, is there any other content that you can think of that or an example of a business that you know is doing really well with something you know extra I guess. What are the options they have in terms of sharing their knowledge?
John: Content is just limitless and I find it really good approach. So within my business I am essentially doing the sales facing work. We have a team that takes care of the delivery and implementation. For me every time when I get asked a question when I say present a proposal or even a pre-proposal sort of meeting, I take a note of that and then I try to answer that in a blog post because the logic behind that is if that individual has asked that question then I am sure ten other prospective customers would also think that in their head. So I might as well answer that upfront because that’s how people essentially use google now. They go onto google and say, what’s the difference between an open source CMS vs a paid CMS and try to answer that you know in a blog post. So even just using that approach, businesses have an infinite amount of content that they can create and there is no reason why you can’t tell your team every time they get asked the questions as well, so to drop that down and before you know if you got a 100 new specific pages on your blog or frequently asked questions in the section on your website and you got lots of very helpful content that google would just suck up.
Mel: I guess when I speak to business owners the blog thing sometimes don’t from there and they say I am not a writer or I don’t feel confident from what you are saying it sounds like things that you are talking about on every day level is just exactly what you just need to be get down on paper.
John: Yeah it’s about leverage. So one to one sales conversation is very inefficient. Whereas you answer the question a month and put it on your website and that’s there forever. It's evergreen content and people can consume that content. They can solve their problems for many years to come. So it’s a much more leverage way of approaching things.
Mel: Okay. I am just wondering we talk on the show regularly about the importance of keeping existing customers and also getting new ones. What would you say website design does better or it is just about an approach in terms of keeping customers or getting new ones?
John: Yeah so obviously websites work well for lead generation. For a customer retention, I think it can work really well by staying in front of mind. Probably using external tool website. Example of that would be my marketing. So obviously it is regularly communicating with your list. Whether it is monthly sort of update, quarterly newsletter, whatever that comes in different shapes and sizes and that really what you are doing and that really is driving traffic back to your website. So website really forms that central hub of the web strategy and tool like email marketing which is great. It allows the business to stay in front of mind really funnels that traffic back. Second thing that really sort of comes to mind is something like google marketing. Are you familiar with that Melissa?
Mel: Not actually, I would like to hear. Yes.
John: Okay so that’s built in to the google adwords platform. So google adwords is the responsive links that you see say maybe the top two or three links of the search page and then down the right hand side. Business is a pain to be there, essentially you can trigger your ad when someone tops in a specific keyword phrase and they click on the link and they go through to a specific page on your website and it’s a pay per view system so they advertise on the page when someone physically comes to your site. So when they come through to your site, what you actually do is put little thing called on cookie on that in the system and it is a unique identifier to say job logs express some level of interest in my content. So then what I am going to do is I want to follow job blogs for the next 180 days and have my ads displayed on various websites out on the internet. Such as big news publication like city morning or something like that. You can actually file that individual around and have your ads displayed on these biggest sites in the hope of recapturing that lead of prospect and try to find back to your website. Even if they don’t click, it’s a really powerful branding technique because they consistently seeing your logo, your brand, your message over and over again and they see that for the next 180 days. It doesn’t cost anything for that ad to actually be displayed. You are only paying if someone physically clicks. So it is a really good low cost way of staying in front of mind. So when you combine these different retention strategies, it is super powerful and the end result is when people say I keep seeing your ads everywhere and you don’t know. You can define how many times your ad is displayed on that sort of stuff. But yeah it is really powerful.
Mel: I have seen yours like that because I have done a bit of research on your business and I am sure people who are listening would see the same thing. It’s like I know I was looking at that site but how come is it popping up everywhere. So that’s for businesses, that’s brilliant, it’s that extra touch point that you were speaking of earlier in and just re-connecting to people in front of mind and you know if they are looking and still continuing to search for that sort of thing then you will be highly likely to be that business.
John: And you can wave that into Facebook as well. So they have Facebook re-targeting and similarly basic principle. You place cookie there, it is called pixel and have the sponsored post show up in your news feed. So it is just another way of staying in front of mind with that individual.
Mel: That’s great. That’s real gold in there. It’s always great to be speaking to people like you because it is such a changing landscape. Isnt it? And knowing what is new and what is effective. I guess it is always those things that are consistently effective. But just being on top of these new approaches that become available or is it new? Am I a bit late to the party?
John: The google re-marketing has been around for I think maybe five years now possibly and we have been using it for few years and since that it probably generates few clicks on month but it is the impression it is the branding of those ads. I consistently get people saying you know I saw your ad on the website of Melbourne whatever that source, I am advertising there, they think we have got really deep pocket and huge advertising budget. But in fact it is really strategic. It is only being served up to individuals that have expressed some level of interest.
Mel: I didn’t know the name of it, it all makes sense now. You placed it together for me. Thanks for that John. Let’s talk about recommendations and referrals. Is there any capacity to build business through website that can aid that? You know I took regularly about the value of being able to get your customers to refer you on. Do you have any insight into how you can best do that?
John: When I think of web strategy I always try and relate back to what works for us. Because that’s really about what we call eating your own dog food. If it doesn’t work for us then why would we implement it with client business? And our website really is an authority and credibility piece. So in my business a lot of our work is actually generated from offline referrals and really the website is a tool that someone is going to go and they are going to do the research. They want the boxes ticked in their mind where the right people are for the job. They liked the look of our work, they liked the content that we are creating. So that’s really how referrals fit into our business. So the other thing that we come across a lot is people using cheap and amateur hosting and so I will define what website hosting is like your bit of real estate on the internet. It’s where all your physical files reside and that is sitting on the server that is connected to superfast connection to the internet. Hosting range in dramatically in terms of cost and service. This sort of look back to word press being open source. So open source means anyone can use it and manipulate it. It means the code is really available. The application of using word press is it can be exploited quite easily and readily which means that you might end up with some spam links and stuff in the footer of your website and malicious code can get injected if word press isn’t kept up to date and secure. So you have got at least plug in built in word press, they need to be kept up to date and secure. So what a good host would do is they would keep word press upto date for you. They would keep all plug-ins upto date and secure. There would be proactive security monitoring and it should be in some cloud based solution. You get daily backup and all that sort of stuff. You really need to make sure that if you are building a wordpress website, you are ticking those boxes because one day host will go offline or might get hacked and your site would be violated and you won’t have any backup or re-course and for the difference of you know like cheap hosting might cost 5 dollars a month compared to say 30 to 40 dollars a month. The impact on your business that situation like that might have is certainly not worth the savings that you get from some sort of cheap hosting provider. So I am really passionate about that. Also some general customer service, you need to pick up the phone and talk to one of these low cost hosting providers. They are just horrible in times of hours and hours on end. So it really just comes back to how much value you put on your time when you do need to lean on your hosting provider. So, that’s the little thing I am really talking about.
Mel: Yeah I can see the reasoning behind it. Saving those few dollars for a lot of people. You know they are looking to save those cost values in one area not to be scrimping and saving on.
John: Exactly. What we found in the years is that medium sized business or even a small business on average. They need to still have an ongoing relationship after the website is delivered and it makes sense because then it is not a certain to get style sort of approach. It is what we like to call continuous improvement approach where you are tweaking and refining and really learning from how people interact with your site and it results you’re getting and also your business might involve and change. So, your website should reflect that. So what we are typically bundling is some sort of monthly plan where we would give you a certain allocation of time we bundle in the hosting and it is based in one stop shop, you pick up the phone, you get your problems solved and you have got someone to lean on when things do go bad.
Mel: And just being able to look at that site. See what is working and what is not and optimize that. Is that what you are saying? Is this continuous improvement approach?
John: Exactly. So you can do things through analytics. Analytics exactly is a lot of useful data. I think people can get too caught up in the mechanic of that and for me, I am really about results and what are the lead inquirers coming in through the website. So I guess for me in the design perspective, you really want to be focused around conversion. So conversion is when someone picks up the phone, they fill out the form and make purchase from your website. So it is far easier to double the number of conversion. So work with the traffic you got. Try and tweak and evolve your site to get more people essentially raise their hands.
Mel: Actually that brings me to a question I have been interested about e-commerce businesses. You know shopping carts and things like that. I have read a little bit about shopping card abandonment. Does that happen a lot in your business that you come in contact with? And that how do you try and rectify that?
John: Yeah sure. A lot of these bigger players, they split test to the sun comes down. They are all about numbers and they are dealing with big numbers. So small little incremental improvements are going to make an impact on the bottom line. For the average smaller business. I think it really just comes down to the technical knowledge and resources that they have got. But even just really simple things. So I give you an example, say someone comes through to shopping cart, they add something and they actually check out and they pay for it. The actual confirmation page that they see next after the successful transaction have gone through, shouldn’t be simple line of text saying thanks your request is being process. Should actually be a video of a business owner saying that our team is working really hard right now, we have received your order, and it is currently being lovingly put together packaged, we are going to run it down to the straight post and this is going to be the post this afternoon, If not, tomorrow morning, and that should be video from the business owner or the person in charge with that customer experience and as such as simple thing to do. People know exactly what the next step is, they have seen the human being, they know that you guys are real and you are not going to take that money run and so many businesses don’t utilize the power of video and if you can put in little videos like that, every step will away. You are going to add tremendous amount of trust and fuzziest when people interact with your website and your brand.
Mel: That’s gold John and absolutely customer centric. It is just making that connection. It’s not all of a sudden we will give you all this support like you said the women fuzzes along they way making sure you are engaged involved and delivering all these content for you and then thanks for that. We have got commitment and we are under way. That is just taking it to the next level and doesn’t have to be difficult right?
John: It can be uploaded from an iPhone, it can be upload through youtube and just embed on a confirmation page. That is as simple as it needs to be.
Mel: Great advice John, before we finish up I have got a quick couple of questions for you, what would you say is your top tip for small and medium sized business owners. What they can be doing with their website to exceed customer expectations? I think that might be your answer right.
John: It just create awesome content. It just really go above and beyond to solve people problems and opportunity would just keep representing itself for you.
Mel: And that your business is 5x5. Is there something that you can share with us? Something called in the works that you know your customers would love.
John: Yeah I have actually started an interview of published a book called love at first sight. So anyone that is looking to get a website built, which is really like a no BS guy to getting a website filing. I have got a chapter in there about how to actually brief a website designer. That is something that a lot of people actually struggle with. There should be questions that I should be asking and people don’t really know what they are getting into when they start this process. So, the book is really a good foundation to get your head around the web strategy. How to partner with someone, what are the tools I should be using, what is the content that I should be creating. How is that content optimized and what are the technical things I need to do when launching my website to get the most out of it?
Mel: Where can people find your book and your services?
John: Sure. So if you go to www.fivebyfive.com.au/book. You will find that there. You can print a hard copy. It is available in Kindle. There is a link on that page to the Kindle version. Alternatively I will give the audio version 100% free of charge. So you can download it, you can put into your iPhone, you can listen to it in the car when you are jogging or whatever. So, yeah plenty of eyes to grab that content.
Mel: Excellent John. Thank you so much. I have learned a lot today and I am sure I our listeners as well. So thanks again for you time. Really great to have you on board. All those details would be in the show notes. Thanks John.
John: Pleasure Melissa.
Thanks for listening to the customer centric show. For additional smart ways to attract more customers, profits and freedom, head on over to the website www.customercentricshow.com.
Online Growth Strategy
Jon Hollenberg is the Managing Director of Five by Five, an Australian web design business that looks after medium and large sized businesses. Jon has been creating great looking, high performing, user friendly websites for 17 years. With over 1,000 websites under his belt and having worked with brands such as Qantas, Jetstar, Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge he is the go-to guy for web strategy, consultation and creation.
Jon Hollenberg started life doing web design but now leads a team of talented designers, developers and content marketers delivering powerful web solutions. They believe a website should be a beautiful extension of you and your business. Jon’s team of web designers work with motivated small business owners who turn over more than $500K+ in revenue.
Jon believes that the ultimate result is a website that generates gets the phone ringing your inbox full of enquiries. This leaves the customer feeling confident to grow their business.
During my conversation with Jon, he shares:
- The effect of eliciting emotional response through web design
- What ‘helpful content’ does for business positioning
- Why businesses should invest in excellent web development over DIY
- The common mistakes in web design & content
- How to select a web designer
- The website platform for the best Google search results
- Why metrics count in strategy
- Creating an efficient sales conversation with web content
- ‘Retargeting’ marketing explained; and
- Ways to personalise post-online sales and increase customer retention
Selected links for this episode
Jon’s example of a customer-centric business:
- Handmade bridal accessories www.percyhandmade.com
“Be in that mindset where you’re very open and transparent. Information is free.You may as well be the person and the business that’s providing that information” Jon Hollenberg
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