If Your Clients Are On the Web, Why Aren't You?

When your company doesn't have a website, it implies your company is a fly-by-night. A traveler. A mom & pop working out of a pick-up. Is that really the image you wish to convey? Why do I think you don't have a website? I see the e-mail addresses of my e-newsletter subscribers.

Over 2/3 of my newsletter readership's e-mails are internet service providers such as: aol, yahoo, gmail, sbcglobal, etc. They should be 100% company e-mail addresses. I was holding off shooting this missile across your bow but I've had 300 new members in the last 45 days and the situation hasn't improved.

Let me cut to the chase with some basic tips, then we'll go back and revisit the WHY you should have a website.

Tip No. 1 - Pick and reserve a proper domain name
Reserve a domain name that reflects your company's name. The closer the better. The easier to remember the better. (The domain name is the thing you type after the www. It's also called the URL.)

Make sure it has a ".com" ending. Not a ".biz" or ".org". If you use ".org" you will be unleashing the non-profit police. They are greatly offended when a for-profit business adopts the ".org" extension. You've been warned.

My former consulting firm made that mistake with our first web site. Man, did we receive a lot of angry e-mail. It was like we had danced on hallowed ground or something. We actually received several angry phone calls on the matter. We were accused of being con men.

The problem with ".biz" is that very few sites use it so people have trouble remembering it. They will keep typing yourURL.com and getting the wrong company.

When I set out to pick my domain name, I registered 10 domain names. Nine of the 10 were some form of contractor coach. The 10th was Filthy Rich Contractor. After doing an extensive field research (drinking with friends and bowing down to my graphic artist' and her husband's superior marketing sense) we went with the FRC name.

Am I violating my own recommendation, you ask? Yes and no.

My company name had zero recognition. I was starting from scratch. So I went with the funny, easy-to-remember option. Now my problem is that I'm affectionately known as the filthy rich contractor guy and not the Contractor's Business Coach.

The top priority is being remembered. Check. The second priority is controlling your brand. Oops. I'll get over it. Anyway, either option will work fine. Company name or semi-humorous, easy-to-remember name.

Reserving your domain name is easy. There are several services that do it. I used www.GoDaddy.com because I remembered that site name. It cost $9.95 per URL per year. It will tell you whether the domain name is available. Reserve the ones you might want and pay with a credit card. It's that simple.

I've let go of about half of the ones I had reserved. I hold onto the others to keep some options open. You may want to also.

Tip No. 2 - Create a proper e-mail
Get an e-mail address that is either: yourfirstname@yourcompanyURL.com or firstinitiallastname@yourcompanyURL.com. Mine is ron@filthyrichcontractor.com. The other option was rroberts@filthyrichcontractor.com. Your choice depends on two things:

  1. How many people in your company will have e-mail addresses?
  2. Does formal or informal convey a better message?
  3. Mine is informal because that's how I want you to view me. A friend. A confidant. Someone you can trust. Not some stuffy shirt MBA. I mean, I am. I just don't want you to think that. So, I use Ron. If I was competing against ma & pa, I'd go with rroberts@filthyrichcontractor.com. See the difference? Set yourself apart.

    Tip No. 3 - Put up at least a simple site IMMEDIATELY
    Okay, I can hear what you're saying. I don't know anyone who programs websites. Easy problem to solve. Find an 18 or 19 year old. Ask them if they have any friends who have put up a website.

    Call the local high school, find the computer teacher and ask her if she has any recommendations. Call the local community college and ask if they have a bulletin board where would-be programmers would post their contact information.

    Get in touch with the computer programming department and see if those teachers know anyone. Call your local vo-tech. Trust me. Finding a youngster who will program your site cheap is easy.

    Create a simple site that includes your contact information, a little story about your company's history, and the types of clients you serve. Don't go overboard on the services you provide. One of the main things your prospects are checking for, consciously or not, is whether you are customer focused.

    If you site screams ME, ME, ME, you've painted the wrong picture. Even a simple site needs to project the impression that you are in touch with your customer's needs and are committed to meeting and exceeding them.

    Fortunately, you are in construction. I rarely see a customer-focused contractor site. You have more room for error.

    Tip No. 4 - Pack your site with useful information
    Now, if you've already got a website up and it is pretty much like I described in tip No. 3, time to raise the bar a little. Don't try to pitch your services. Don't try to close sales. Your prospects are going to your site for the same reason you go to sites:

    1. Find out if you are legit.
    2. Find your contact information.
    3. Get helpful information relating to their problem.
    4. Get a feel for how you think and communicate.

    You may not be aware that's what you're doing when you surf around, but it is. Same with your prospects.

    So, once you've taken care of the contact information, share the story of your company. Make it interesting. Put in a touch of drama. Be funny. Do whatever you can do to catch their attention and entertain them. You are trying to start a relationship. Give them information and guidance that helps them make a good decision. Not the decision to hire you. Just a good sound decision.

    Your ultimate goal is to convince them that you are a friend and an authority. People buy from friends and authority.

    Revisiting the Why
    A website is considerably cheaper than almost any other form of advertising. This point was driven home to me this morning when a friend kept insisting that my site must cost a lot to maintain. Hardly.

    I spend less than $200 a year in hosting and registration costs. I spent less than $2,000 getting the entire thing programmed including three significant updates and the blog. I spend about $120 a month on special web services (the online audios, the automated e-mail server, registration with Yahoo, etc.).

    Granted, I wrote the content and do the run-of-the-mill updating but it's very cheap to maintain and update. Far cheaper than any other type of advertising, including driving word-of-mouth referrals, the second most cost-effective lead generation method available.

    Over time, websites build momentum. I'm now averaging over 50 new visitors a day and about seven sign up for the newsletter. My sales funnel slowly fills with minimal effort on my part. That is, if you consider writing this newsletter minimal effort and I tend to view it that way.

    Used correctly, websites can really propel your company forwards. They will not replace a great lead generation system nor proper selling technique, but they can really, really position you above and beyond the average contractor.

    If you add interactive components such as a blog, which is super easy to maintain, or a periodic newsletter, your traffic will grow significantly over time...and so will your quality leads.

    One story to demonstrate the perceptual impact of a solid website.
    One day, many years ago, the American Management Association called my consulting firm and wanted to hire us to lead some high-end leadership retreat.

    They told us they had been reading our site, which was packed with content, and they were convinced we would be the perfect company to carry out an expensive five-day seminar for their clients.

    The call was received by Jim. Jim used to work at a huge, public and onsite seminar company THAT WAS OWNED BY the American Management Association, the very same company that was calling in.

    He asked them why they weren't using their own in-house group and the caller told him the main office didn't think their seminar company had the skill or talent to meet the needs of the special audience.

    When asked the caller why he was sure we were capable of meeting their needs, Jim was told that he could tell after reading our website because any company capable of putting together that website HAD TO BE HUGELY SUCCESSFUL AND REALLY BIG!

    Ha! The joke was on the caller. We were 6 people and generated less than $1 million of revenue a year. The seminar company had a permanent staff of over 70 and generated over $30 million a year. We both used the same set of trainers because they worked independently.

    Jim managed not to laugh out loud. Got to give him credit for that.

    Here was the owner of our competitor calling in, stealth like, to hire us because they didn't believe their own group could pull the seminar off and the ONLY REASON the caller believed this was the quality of our website.

    Think a professional website doesn't matter? Better get at least a little one up.

    Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.

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